Vasubandhu’s Relativism about the Buddha’s Causal Concepts
Jonathan Gold, Associate Professor of Religion, Princeton University
The great Indian Buddhist philosopher Vasubandhu (fourth/fifth century) critiqued his contemporaries for their profuse ontologies, which he felt they had developed out of a naively reificationist reading of Buddhist scripture. The present paper is a study of the section from Vasubandhu’s Commentary on the Treasury of Abhidharma (Abhidharmakośabhāṣya) in which he explains, and argues against, Vaibhāṣika realism about the four qualities of conditioned things: birth, stability, ageing and impermanence. Throughout this section, Vasubandhu argues against the conditioning factors while at the same time showing how it is often necessary to read the Buddha’s words as referring to unreal objects. These views entail one another, and together display, via Abhidharma analysis, an approach to Buddhist doctrine that is generally associated with the Mahāyāna. Vasubandhu’s Yogācāra interests are seen to hover in the background.
|Monday, January 25, 4:30 pm
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