Asian Philosophies / Edition 5

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From the Preface: "What are the main ideas that have shaped Asian cultures? What are the fundamental values that have guided the lives of Asian peoples over the millenia? How have the great thinkers of Asia thought about these ideas and values? This book is intended to answer these questions, enabling us to understand the principal philosophies of the great Asian traditions." Asian Philosophies carefully and sympathetically presents and analyzes major Asian philosophical and religious traditions, continuing to use the best scholarship in the field.

Key Features:

  • Quotations and examples taken from each tradition's sacred texts
  • Review questions and annotated bibliography at end of each chapter
  • Important illustrations and maps which aid in student comprehension
  • Glossary of terms, and pronunciation guide for Sanskrit, Chinese and Japanese words

NEW to this edition:

  • New chapter on historical perspectives and features of Indian philosophy
  • New chapter on Perfection of Wisdom tradition
  • Historical timelines for each philosophical and religious tradition
  • New material on theistic developments
  • Updated scholarship on Jainism
  • Expanded coverage of Mimamsa within Indian philosophy
  • Updated historical introductions to Sarvastivada, Madhyamaka, and Yogacara chapters
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780131951839
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall
  • Publication date: 8/7/2006
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 5
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.01 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

In This Section:

I. Author Bio

II. Author Letter

I. Author Bio

John M. Koller is a Professor of Asian and Comparative Philosophy at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His research areas include Buddhism and Psychoanalysis, and Philosophy of Religion. He is the author of more than fifty journal articles and chapters in edited books as well as five books. In addition, he is the recipient of several prestigious teaching awards: Selected Outstanding Educator of America, 1975; Named Outstanding World Philosopher, 2005; Wm. H. Wiley Distinguished Faculty Award, 1986; and Rensselaer Distinguished Teaching Fellow, 1990-92.

II. Author Letter

Dear Colleague,

Asian Philosophies introduces students to the main questions and methods of philosophy through a careful consideration of the major Asian philosophical traditions. It was written to help students answer three important questions. First, what are the key ideas that have shaped Asian cultures? Second, what are the fundamental values that have guided the lives of Asian peoples over the millennia? Third, how have the great thinkers of Asia thought about these ideas and values?

In trying to answer these questions, students learn how to think about and answer their own important philosophical questions: Who am I, What is the best way to live? What can we know? Thinking along with—and sometimes against—the great philosophers stimulates them to think more deeply and carefully about their own philosophical questions.

When I first started teaching, at St. Thomas University, my students and I examined only Western traditions, adopting as our guides Plato and Aristotle, Descartes and Hume and Sartre and Wittgenstein, philosophers who both I and my teachers at St. Thomas and the University of Chicago had found exciting. I learned that helping students find inspiring guides from among the great philosophers really opened their minds to the joys of philosophy.

Later, after my immersion in Asian philosophies at the East-West Center and the University of Hawaii, I was able to help my students choose as philosophical guides great philosophers from among the Asian traditions as well. At the University of Hawaii I was fortunate to have terrific teachers. Professors Chung-ying Cheng and Wing-tsit Chan introduced me to Chinese philosophy. Professor Kenneth Inada introduced me to Buddhist philosophy and Yasutani Roshi introduced me to zazen. Professor S.K. Saksena guided me through the intricacies of Indian philosophy for two wonderful years. Professors T.R.V. Murti, Kalidas Bhattacharya, and D.M. Datta were postgraduate mentors in India, while Professor George Artola and Babu Krishnacharya helped me learn Sanskrit.

In my books and articles, as in all of my teaching, I have tried to pass along to my students what I have been fortunate enough to have learned from my teachers, my colleagues and students. My experience in teaching at a variety of colleges – as diverse as St. Thomas, Chaminade College, Colorado State University, Rensselaer Polytechnic, and SUNY Stony Brook – has convinced me that teaching is primarily about motivating students to inquire and helping them learn, not about passing along information. Asian Philosophies attempts to help students ask and answer the big questions of life, which despite significant cultural differences are basically the same everywhere.

Studying the great philosophical traditions of Asia, makes it possible for us to understand these traditions’ carefully considered answers to the most important questions of life, answers that are supported by profound insights and good reasons. Because these answers have guided the thought and action of the peoples of Asia over the centuries, they provide the basic clues to the guiding ideas and values of Asian societies today. And in today’s world, where the very future of humankind depends upon understanding and cooperation among people with diverse values and ideas, it is imperative that these values and ideas be understood.

I would be delighted to hear from anyone teaching or studying this book, and will gladly respond to your questions and concerns. And, of course, I would appreciate any suggestions for improvements. My email is

With my very best wishes,

John M. Koller

Professor Emeritus

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Table of Contents

Pt. I Indian Philosophies
Ch. 1 Dominant Features of Indian Philosophy 3
Ch. 2 Historical Survey of Indian Philosophy 9
Ch. 3 Vedas and Upanishads 14
Ch. 4 The Jain Vision 27
Ch. 5 Society and the Individual 41
Ch. 6 Self and the World: Samkhya-Yoga 49
Ch. 7 Knowledge and Reality: Nyaya-Vaisheshika 61
Ch. 8 Reality and Self: Vedanta 72
Ch. 9 Theistic Developments: Vishnu, Shiva, and Kali 86
Ch. 10 Islamic Thought 92
Ch. 11 The Continuing Tradition 108
Pt. II Buddhist Philosophies
Ch. 12 Historical Perspectives 121
Ch. 13 The Life and Teachings of the Buddha 133
Ch. 14 Interdependent Arising 151
Ch. 15 Sarvastivada 166
Ch. 16 Madhyamaka: The Middle Way Tradition 178
Ch. 17 Yogacara 195
Ch. 18 Buddhism in Japan: Zen 208
Pt. III Chinese Philosophies
Ch. 19 Basic Characteristics of Chinese Philosophies 237
Ch. 20 Historical Perspectives 241
Ch. 21 Confucianism 252
Ch. 22 Taoism: The Natural Way of Freedom 268
Ch. 23 Neo-Confucianism: The Grand Harmony 285
Ch. 24 Recent Chinese Thought 304
Glossary 322
Pronunciation Guide 327
Index 331
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