Paul G. Hackett

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online March 2012 | | DOI:

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From the very inception of the tradition, debate has figured prominently in Buddhism. Perhaps as a result of the multireligious environment of India in which Buddhism developed, or as a natural outgrowth of the analytical emphasis found in its meditative techniques, critical inquiry into the beliefs and assertions of oneself and others resulted in numerous instances, types, and theories of debates over the long history of Buddhism both in India and in the countries to which the tradition migrated. Indeed, there exists a wide range of activities over time and cultures that could be described as “debate” within Buddhist traditions. From the earliest days of his teachings, the Buddha was both confronted by the other religious teachers of his day and often challenged to defend his religious teachings against his rivals. In later centuries, the role of philosophical debate in Buddhist traditions expanded, both as a procedure for disputation with non-Buddhist systems of thought and as a formal mechanism for resolving sectarian and monastic disagreements, as well as one’s own critical engagement with the Buddhist doctrines. Thus, with regard to debate in the Buddhist traditions, one can speak of three kinds: inter-religious debate, intra-religious debate, and pedagogical debate. Instances of the former two can be seen from the time of the Buddha himself up to the present day, while the latter appears to be a unique development of the later tradition, particularly in Tibet. The literature of the Buddhist tradition is rife with texts both recounting debates, as well as preparing Buddhist adherents for participation in them. While all forms are deployed on one level or another in service of the larger project of the Buddhist agenda, such debates have taken forms as loosely construed as outright contests between proponents employing magical skills as much as logical reasoning to highly formulaic exchanges in which a breach of form and etiquette was as much a failing as a display of faulty reasoning.

Article.  4213 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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