On Philosophy
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On Philosophy

Notes on Buddhist Philosophy

Dependent Origination

Important: Please read the Disclaimer at the foot of this article

Uncertainty (Anicca)

The “truth” that things change.

This is the “axiom of Buddhist Philosphy”. The only thing take as “a given”. Every other concept follows from this axiom.

Ignorance (Avijja)

The belief that (some) things don’t change.

Formations (Sankhara) or “Things”

Things composed or formed of other things.

There can be no “things” without ignorance. A “thing” achieves its “thingness” from certainty. For a “thing” to be “a thing”, that quality (“thingness”) which make it “the thing” should remain unchanged.

At the same time, there can be no ignorance, without things. To believe in certainty, one has to believe in “the certainty of some thing”. Without that thing, certainty has no meaning.

Consciousness (Vinnana)

A flow of things believed to be unchanging, changing.

As long as the set of things believed to be constant stay constant, all things appear to be constant and fixed. However, the moment when (inevitably) something changes, all things appear to move from one state, to a new state. Creating a flow.

Dependent Origination (Pratityasamutpada)

When two or more concepts depend on the existence of all others for their own existence. Where one cannot exist without all the others.

For example, things and ignorance dependently originate.

This is superficially similar, but different from the concept of “causality”. When we say “A causes B” (e.g. The grandmother causes the grandson), the A many exist without B (as many women might not have grandsons). But when we say “A and B are dependently originated”, A (or B) cannot exist without B (or A).

Also, in some sense, dependently originated concepts might be said to be logically equivalent.

Dissatisfaction (Dukkha)

The feeling of unsatisfactoriness/disappointment/dissatisfaction, when things believed to be certain, turn out to be uncertain.

Disclaimer

Many concepts of Buddhist Philosophy transcend language.

Hence, on the one hand, “language aides” (like notes, glossaries and dictionaries) are superfluous for proper understanding and “internalisation” of these concepts.

On the other hand, it is challenging to study most topics (Buddhist Philosophy included) without some books and some conversation. Both of which require language.

On the third hand, especially with Buddhist Philosophy, what one “understands” through language might be misleading. Or even blatantly wrong. Hence, language and language aides, like this set of notes, must be approached with caution. At best, they are vague sign-posts. And not destinations.

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Articles on Philosophy by Nuwan I. Senaratna

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Nuwan I. Senaratna

Nuwan I. Senaratna

I am a Computer Scientist and Musician by training. A writer with interests in Philosophy, Economics, Technology, Politics, Business, the Arts and Fiction.

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