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The Buddhist Philosophy in brief

By Devik Balami at
buddhist philisophy

The philosophical investigations and studies that unfolded following the Buddha’s Nirvana in various Buddhist schools across India are commonly referred to as Buddhist philosophy. The Buddhist philosophy spread throughout Asia as Buddhism spread across the continent. Buddhist philosophy has also been thoroughly represented in various Buddhist arts like buddha statues, manuscripts and Buddhist shrines by many artists from a number of Buddhist nations across the centuries.

The Buddha’s primary concern was to end the pain and suffering of human existence i.e. Dukkha. The path to the ultimate elimination of Dukkha consists of Karma (ethical actions), meditation and Prajña (direct insight) into the nature of things as they truly are. In the earlier days of Buddhism, in India and subsequently in eastern Asia, Buddhist thinkers have sought the understandings of Buddha’s teachings not just from the revered teachings of the Buddha but through various philosophical analysis and rational thinking. These thinkers have covered various topics as ethics, ontology, logic, epistemology and phenomenology in their study of Buddhism.

buddhist philosophy

The Buddhist philosophy is primarily derived from different Buddhist teachings like the Four Noble truths, Eightfold Paths and the Middle Path to name a few. Various topics in Buddhist philosophy have often been the focal point of debates between different schools of Buddhism like Mahayana tradition, Vajrayana Tradition and Theravada school of Buddhism. Regardless of these disputes, the goal of Buddhist philosophy has always been to achieve nirvana and the need to study and investigate the nature of the world. Buddhist philosophy also talks about the solutions to the problems of the living beings that are within themselves not outside. The wisdom from this philosophy encourages the followers to embrace compassion as all phenomena are impermanent and do not constitute a fixed entity. It discusses about how suffering or Dukkha arises from attachment. The ending of attachment albeit voluntary, leads one to the true path of liberation from Dukkha. Pleasure is another topic discussed by the Buddhist Philosophy as pleasure lures us into something that we never want to do. One should look for happiness rather than pleasure as desire for pleasure will bring nothing but suffering in life.

Some philosophical doctrines of Buddhist philosophy are:

  1. Momentariness
  2. Relative Existence or No Self Nature
  3. No Atman (No Self)
  4. No God
  5. Dependent origination
  6. Karma

The Buddha intended his philosophy to be practical in everyday life and aimed them for all the creatures to attain happiness. While he abridged his metaphysics, he did not expect anyone to embrace them purely based on their faiths but rather to prove the insights and knowledge for themselves as he emphasized on seeing everything clearly and understanding them from within. It is not easy to achieve this; instead one should have a disciplined life and a clear commitment to liberation from suffering.

One may consider Buddhist path as a philosophy, its epistemology; claims of knowledge has been made but how can they be known to be true? But Buddha maintained that his teachings could be well verified by direct insights and reasoning. Anyone who is willing to consider them and follow the necessary path of self-discipline would be able to do so. The later teachers have validated this by adding that the others could reach the same level of insights as they have expanded upon his basic teachings with impressive intuitive depth and intellectual rigor.