Indian and Tibetan philosophy

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-F086-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 21, 2024, from

2. Buddhist and Jaina philosophy

As was the case for Hindu philosophy, Buddhist and Jaina Philosophy in India tended to proceed through commentaries on already existing texts. Jainism was founded by Mahāvīra and is best known for its method of seeing every issue from every possible point of view (see Manifoldness, Jaina theory of). The principal Buddhist traditions that incorporated significant philosophical discussions were those that tried to systematize doctrines contained in various corpora of texts believed to be the words of the Buddha (see Buddhism, Ābhidharmika schools of; Buddhism, Mādhyamika: India and Tibet; Buddhism, Yogācāra school of). An important issue for Buddhist thinkers, as for most Indian philosophers, was analysing the causes of discontent and suggesting a method for eliminating unhappiness, the cessation of suffering being a condition known as nirvāṇa (see Suffering, Buddhist views of origination of; Nirvāṇa). A doctrine of special interest to the Mādhyamika school was that everything is conditioned and therefore lacking independence (see Buddhist concept of emptiness). Some Buddhists developed the view that the conditioned world is so transitory that it disappears and is recreated in every moment (see Momentariness, Buddhist doctrine of). In the area of epistemology and philosophy of language, some Buddhists repudiated the Hindu confidence in the authority of the Veda (see Nominalism, Buddhist doctrine of).

The Buddhist tradition gave India a number of important philosophers, beginning with the founder of the religion, the Buddha (fifth century bc). The first important Buddhist philosopher to write in Sanskrit and the man traditionally regarded as the founder of the Mādhyamika school was Nāgārjuna (second century). A key commentator in both the Ābhidharmika schools and in the Yogācāra school was Vasubandhu (fifth century). Two key Buddhist epistemologists and logicians were Dignāga (fifth century) and Dharmakīrti (seventh century). Buddhism disappeared from northern India in the twelfth century and from southern India a few centuries later. In the twentieth century, there has been an effort to revive it, especially among the community formerly known as ‘untouchables’. A remarkable leader of this community was Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar.

Citing this article:
Hayes, Richard P.. Buddhist and Jaina philosophy. Indian and Tibetan philosophy, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-F086-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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