Self, No-Self, and Salvation

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Vincent Eltschinger, Isabelle Ratié, 2013
Self, No-Self, and Salvation: Dharmakīrti′s Critique of the Notions of Self and Person. (BKGA 75.) Wien: VÖAW, 2013 (order online). (382 S.)
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From very early times, the Buddhist intellectuals have made the notion of a self existing over and above the bodily and mental constituents one of their main targets. Their critique first culminates in Vasubandhu’s treatise against the Buddhist personalists (early 5th century CE). The eighth-century philosophers Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla provide another milestone in the history of the mainstream Buddhists’ critique of the self and the person: their Tattvasaṅgraha(pañjikā) contains the most learned and elaborate treatment of the subject (at least before Karṇakagomin’s and Śaṅkaranandana’s Nairātmyasiddhi monographs). But how have Dignāga and Dharmakīrti (6th century [?]) contributed to this heated debate? The present study attempts to answer at least in part this question by offering a monographic account of Dharmakīrti’s position regarding the self. The book’s introduction deals with Dharmakīrti’s view of the self as the paramount expression of nescience. Chapter 1 is devoted to his critique of the two main expressions of Buddhist substantialism, viz. the Buddha-nature teachings and Personalism (pudgalavāda). Chapter 2 presents his way of undermining the non-Buddhists’ arguments in favour of the self. Finally, Chapter 3 provides a detailed account of Dharmakīrti’s most original contribution on the subject, viz. his demonstration that the (belief in the) existence of a self makes salvation impossible.

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