"The Questions of Milinda: How To Use a Philosophical Classic and (perhaps) find a Literary Gem."
My goal is practical—How shall an intelligent reader make use of the remarkable though forbidding work, The Questions of Milinda (Milindapañha)? The Pāli work can seem discouragingly heterogenous. My guide is intended to overcome that, seeking to facilitate productive (and even potentially transformative) encounters with the text. It is divided into two parts, each part emphasizing distinct ways of approaching (sometimes overlapping parts of) the work. In Part One we will consider how to think about two features that are said to make the discourse (kathā) of Nāgasena aesthetically captivating (citra), the use of illustrative examples and arguments. In Part Two, we shall explore a small section of the work which constitute a complete dramatic unit, so to speak, and one which is worthy of being taken up “as a work of art,” to borrow T. W. Rhys Davids’ characterization. As I read it, the text contains a drama concerned with the nature, salience and even tragedy of thought. I conclude with a discussion of the text’s own meta-poetic suggestions for readers and the practice of wise reasoning as a way of reading and a way of life.
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