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


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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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 are investigated 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 pays particular 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 Jataka commentaries). 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, both insofar 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

About the Author

Maria Heim is Associate Professor of Religion at Amherst College.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents



Chapter One: Constructing Experience: Intention in the Suttas

Chapter Two: The Work of Intention: Mental Life in the Abhidhamma

Chapter Three: Culpability and Disciplinary Culture in the Vinaya

Chapter Four: Making Actions Intelligible: Intention and Mind in Stories





Product Details

Heim, Maria
Oxford University Press, USA
Religion Eastern-Buddhism
Religion & Theology | Buddhism
Publication Date:
6.1 x 9.1 x 0.7 in 0.7 lb

Related Subjects

Religion » Comparative Religion » General
Religion » Eastern Religions » Buddhism » General
Religion » Eastern Religions » Buddhism » Theravada

The Forerunner of All Things: Buddhaghosa on Mind, Intention, and Agency New Trade Paper
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Product details 272 pages Oxford University Press, USA - English 9780199331048 Reviews:
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