What the Buddha Thought

What the Buddha Thought

by Richard Gombrich
Pub. Date:
Equinox Publishing


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What the Buddha Thought

In What the Buddha Thought, Richard Gombrich argues that the Buddha was one of the most brilliant and original thinkers of all time. Intended to serve as an introduction to the Buddhas thought, and hence even to Buddhism itself, the book also has larger aims: it argues that we can know far more about the Buddha than it is fashionable among scholars to admit, and that his thought has a greater coherence than is usually recognised. It contains much new material. Interpreters both ancient and modern have taken little account of the historical context of the Buddhas teachings; but by relating them to early brahminical texts, and also to ancient Jainism, Gombrich gives a much richer picture of the Buddhas meaning, especially when his satire and irony are appreciated. Incidentally, since many of the Buddhas allusions can only be traced in the Pali versions of surviving texts, the book establishes the importance of the Pali Canon as evidence. The book contains much new material. The author stresses the Buddhas capacity for abstraction: though he made extensive use of metaphor, he did not found his arguments upon it, as earlier thinkers had done. He ethicized and radically reinterpreted older ideas of karma (human action) and rebirth. Similarly, building on older texts, he argued for the fundamental importance of love and compassion, and analysed fire as a process which could stand as a model for every component of conscious experience. Morally, the Buddhas theory of karma provided a principle of individuation and asserted each individuals responsibility for his own destiny. To make the book completely accessible to the general reader, the author provides an introductory section of Background Information, for easy reference.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781845536145
Publisher: Equinox Publishing
Publication date: 01/15/2009
Series: Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies Monographs Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 916,124
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Richard Gombrich is founder and Academic Director of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, and Chairman of the UK Association for Buddhist Studies. Before his retirement in 2004, he held the Boden Chair of Sanskrit at Oxford University and a Professorial Fellowship at Balliol College for 28 years. He supervised nearly 50 theses on Buddhist topics, and is the author of 200 publications. He continues to lecture and teach at universities round the world.

Table of Contents

Background Information
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: More about karma, and its social context
Chapter 3: The antecedents of the karma doctrine in brahminism
Chapter 4: Jain antecedents
Chapter 5: What did the Buddha mean by "no soul"?
Chapter 6: The Buddha's positive values: love and compassion
Chapter 7: Assessing the evidence
Chapter 8: Everything is burning: the centrality of fire in the Buddha's thought
Chapter 9: Causation and non-random process
Chapter 10: Cognition language nirvana
Chapter 11: The Buddha's pragmatism and intellectual style
Chapter 12: The Buddha as satirist brahmin terms as social metaphors
Chapter 13: Is this book to be believed?
Appendix: The Buddha's appropriation of four (or five?) brahminical terms

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What the Buddha Thought 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What were the antecedents to the Buddha's philosophy? What did he contribute to philosophy? Says here that the Pali canon gives the oldest and most reliable view of what the Buddha said, but the orthodox commentators took it too literally, failing to notice that the Buddha enjoyed irony and that he spoke to the cultural presuppositions of his interlocutors. We see the Buddha's positive values of love, kindness, sympathetic joy, and equanimity as paths to nirvana; his redefining the notion of karma to make karma central to ethics and ethics central to his teaching; and what he meant by lack of self and by nirvana. The book is never dull but also not always easy, not least because the author frequently refers the reader back to some previous chapter, forward to some other chapter, or sideways to something else he's written. Still well worth reading.