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Buddhist Studies | Philosophy | Religion


This article explores how two influential 8th-century Indian philosophers, Śaṅkara and Kamalaśīla, treat the threefold scheme of learning, reasoning, and meditation in their spiritual path philosophies. They have differing institutional and ontological commitments: the former, who helped establish Advaita Vedānta as the religious philosophy of an elite Hindu monastic tradition, affirms an unchanging “self” (ātman) identical to the “world-essence” (brahman); the latter, who played a significant role in the development of Buddhist monasticism in Tibet, denies both self and essence. Yet, they share a concern with questions of truth and the means by which someone could gain access to it, such as what, if anything, meditation contributes to knowledge and its acquisition. By exploring their answers to this and related questions, including how discursive and conceptual practices like learning, reasoning, and meditation could generate nonconceptual knowledge or knowledge of the nonconceptual, this essay shows the difficulty of separating “philosophical” problems of truth from those related to self-transformation or “spirituality,” as Michel Foucault defines the terms. It also reassesses, as a framework for comparison, the well-known contrast between “gradual” and “sudden” approaches to the achievement of liberating knowledge and highlights them as tensions we still struggle to resolve today.

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Original Citation

David V. Fiordalis
One or None? Truth and Self-Transformation for Śaṅkara and Kamalaśīla.
Religions, 2021, volume 12, issue 1043, 29 pages



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