SOAS University of London

Centre of Buddhist Studies

Do Buddhists Believe the Moon Is Still There When Nobody Is Looking? Reflections on Realism, Anti-realism, and the Looping Structure of Buddhist Thought

THIS EVENT IS ARCHIVED
Prof. Robert H. Sharf (Berkeley)

Date: 15 May 2018Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 15 May 2018Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Paul Webley Wing (Senate House) Room: SWLT

Type of Event: Lecture

Abstract

Early Buddhist teachings maintain that the “material” world in which we live emerges in tandem with, and is dependent upon, mind and discriminative consciousness. In short, there is no world outside of mind—a position that is sometimes associated with anti-realism or idealism. Yet early Buddhist attempts to unpack this insight often rely on entities or principles whose existence is, in some sense, independent of mind, such as dharmas and karma; scholiasts seem to feel that some such “real” or mind-invariant elements are necessary to account for our experience of intersubjective coherence and stability. The resulting tension between anti-realist and realist perspectives does not go unnoticed by Buddhist scholiasts; the complex history of Buddhist thought might be seen as an ongoing attempt to grapple with this metaphysical riddle. This lecture will look at competing Vaibhāṣika, Sautrāntika, Madhyamika, and Yogācāra responses to this problem. Our focus is not so much on the scholastic details, but rather on teasing out the underlying paradoxical or "looping" structure with which the Buddhist exegetes are struggling.

The following three seminars will explore this looping structure in more detail, drawing from Western philosophy, quantum theory, and Chan/Zen Buddhism.

Recording

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Do Buddhists Believe the Moon Is Still There When Nobody Is Looking? Reflections on Realism, Anti-realism, and the Looping Structure of Buddhist Thought

Bio

Robert Sharf is D. H. Chen Distinguished Professor of Buddhist Studies in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as Chair of Berkeley's Center for Buddhist Studies. He works primarily on medieval Chinese Buddhism (especially Chan), but has also published in the areas of Japanese Buddhism (Shingon and Zen), Buddhist art and archaeology, Buddhist modernism, Buddhist philosophy, and methodological issues in the study of religion. He is author of Coming to Terms with Chinese Buddhism: A Reading of the Treasure Store Treatise (2002), and co-editor (with his wife Elizabeth) of Living Images: Japanese Buddhist Icons in Context (2001).

This lecture is part of the Jordan Lectures series in Comparative Religions. All events in this series are free and all are welcome.

Organiser: SOAS Centre of Buddhist Studies

Contact email: ld16@soas.ac.uk