The Forerunner of All Things: Buddhaghosa on Mind, Intention, and Agency

Paperback | September 25, 2013

byMaria Heim

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Scholars have long been intrigued by the Buddha's defining action (karma) as intention. This book explores systematically how intention and agency were interpreted in all genres of early Theravada thought. It offers a philosophical exploration of intention and motivation as they areinvestigated in Buddhist moral psychology. At stake is how we understand karma, the nature of moral experience, and the possibilities for freedom. In contrast to many studies that assimilate Buddhist moral thinking to Western theories of ethics, the book attends to distinctively Buddhist ways of systematizing and theorizing their own categories. Arguing that meaning is a product of the explanatory systems used to explore it, the book paysparticular attention to genre and to the 5th-century commentator Buddhaghosa's guidance on how to read Buddhist texts. The book treats all branches of the Pali canon (the Tipitaka, that is, the Suttas, the Abhidhamma, and the Vinaya), as well as narrative sources (the Dhammapada and the Jatakacommentaries). In this sense it offers a comprehensive treatment of intention in the canonical Theravada sources. But the book goes further than this by focusing explicitly on the body of commentarial thought represented by Buddhaghosa. His work is at the center of the book's investigations, bothinsofar as he offers interpretative strategies for reading canonical texts, but also as he advances particular understandings of agency and moral psychology. The book offers the first book-length study devoted to Buddhaghosa's thought on ethics.

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Scholars have long been intrigued by the Buddha's defining action (karma) as intention. This book explores systematically how intention and agency were interpreted in all genres of early Theravada thought. It offers a philosophical exploration of intention and motivation as they areinvestigated in Buddhist moral psychology. At stake is...

Maria Heim is Associate Professor of Religion at Amherst College.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.68 inPublished:September 25, 2013Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199331049

ISBN - 13:9780199331048

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Table of Contents

AbbreviationsIntroduction1. Constructing Experience: Intention in the Suttas2. The Work of Intention: Mental Life in the Abhidhamma3. Culpability and Disciplinary Culture in the Vinaya4. Making Actions Intelligible: Intention and Mind in StoriesConclusionBibliographyNotesIndex