Tusar Nath Mohapatra

Buddhism as Process Philosophy

Posted on: January 19, 2009

One of Buddhism’s main philosophical components is its ontology – the study of how things exist. A common misunderstanding is that Buddhists believe that ‘things don’t really exist’ or that ‘nothing exists’. In fact Buddhists believe that nothing exists by its own nature. All produced phenomena exist in dependence upon other phenomena – every cause is itself an effect of another cause.

A table does not exist by virtue of it’s innate ‘tableness’. It exists due to the timber and the joiner, and its possessing a flat surface, a certain number of legs etc. It also exists by identification with the ‘tableness’ that is present in the minds of the observers (but not in the table itself!). Tracing things further back, the timber exists in dependence upon acorns, soil, sun, rain etc, and the joiner exists in dependence upon his mother, father and the midwife.

In Buddhism, relationships such as cause and effect, structure and components, observer and observed are regarded as more fundamental aspects of existence than actual ‘things’. Even the mind is not a thing or a substance. The technical Buddhist term for the mind is the ‘Mental Continuum’. In western terminology we would regard Buddhism as a Process Philosophy.

Buddhist psychology is intended to be used for improving our state of mind. It is an applied science and is not usually presented as an abstract or academic discipline, because in order to understand it Buddhists are supposed to ‘walk their talk’. Practices include meditation, visualisation and mindfulness throughout the day.

When nineteenth century Europeans first studied Buddhism they were impressed by the rational aspects but were perplexed by some of the powerfully emotive and sometimes disturbing symbolism and visualisations. They ascribed these ‘tantric’ aspects to the corruption of a rationalistic philosophy by later mixing with primitive folklore and Shamanism. Then along came Freud and Jung.


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Tusar N. Mohapatra

Director, Savitri Era Learning Forum
SRA-102-C, Shipra Riviera, Indirapuram, Ghaziabad - 201014 (UP) India + 91 96500-65636
Aadhaar No. 3628 2075 7337
SELF posits a model of counselling and communicative action as an instrument in order to stimulate the public sphere. The model aims at supplementing the individual’s struggle for a successful social adjustment with more aspirational inputs so as to help one take an informed and balanced attitude towards life as well as society.
Savitri Era of those who adore,
Om Sri Aurobindo & The Mother.

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