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Denying DivinityApophasis in the Patristic Christian and Soto Zen Buddhist Traditions$
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J. P. Williams

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198269991

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198269991.001.0001

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The Buddhist background

The Buddhist background

(p.40) 3 The Buddhist background
Denying Divinity

J. P. Williams

Oxford University Press

The Buddha's teaching of no-self, impermanence, and especially of the extinction of the self (nirvana) have historically been all too susceptible of construal as nihilism. Modern scholarship, however, has done much to restore a positive sense to them: the Buddha insisted that his work was to teach liberation, and his negations are not metaphysical but psychological, an alarm-call to ethical and meditative action to free oneself from greed, hatred, and delusion. Insofar as the Sinitization of Buddhism affected the apophatic elements of the tradition, three major trends may be noted: the influence of Taoist apophasis, and greater stresses on kataphasis and on phenomena. This chapter turns to the Mahayana and especially to the work of Nagarjuna. But first, since it has been already noted that the Buddha's concern was soteriological and therefore practical and not primarily philosophical, this chapter pays more attention to the meditative tradition that lies at the heart of Buddhist practice.

Keywords:   Buddha, meditative tradition, Mahayana, Nagarjuna, no-self, impermanence, self, Buddhism, apophasis, kataphasis

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