Here, a central tenet of MahÄyÄna Buddhism, the doctrine of expedient means, is defended in light of the Quinian doctrine of ontological commitment. The need for such a doctrine arises because of significant disparities between MahÄyÄna Buddhist teachings and those of TheravÄda Buddhism, which are historically prior. In particular, the <i>Lotus SÅ«tra</i> deploys the doctrine to explain why the Buddha had taught multiple vehicles (ways to enlightenment) when there is in fact only one, the Buddhaâs own way. It is argued here (1) that at least some Buddhist apologetics have been directed toward defending the Buddha against an accusation that he lied; (2) that the <i>Lotus SÅ«tra</i> does not deny that the Buddha lied, but rather that he spoke a falsehood; and (3) that although it is unclear whether the Buddha can be defended against an accusation of lying, it is provable that he spoke no falsehood in preaching multiple vehicles. The proof depends on the logical regimentation of MahÄyÄna and TheravÄda views as formal languages with disparate discriminative resources. On this basis strict limits can be derived for the number of vehicles to which the users of each language are ontologically committed. The upshot is that the MahÄyÄna Buddhist can claim that her theory supersedes the earlier teachings without having to deny the truth of those teachings; they were true because they were assertible in the theory of enlightenment in which they were originally presented.
Philosophy East and West – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Sep 17, 2014
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