Classic and Contemporary Buddhist Works

Omniscience and the Rhetoric of Reason

Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla on Rationality, Argumentation, and Religious Authority

“Sara McClintock breaks new ground in the much-discussed relationship between rationality and religion. The study is an excellent example of critical philology combined with a stunning capacity of answering in clear and philosophically informed ways the question of what does it all mean?”—Ernst Steinkellner, University of Vienna

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440 pages, 6 x 9 inches
$36.95
ISBN 9780861716616

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ISBN 9780861719310
Mon, 01/21/2013 - 12:35 -- wisdom

The great Buddhist scholars Śāntarakṣita (725–88 CE.) and his disciple Kamalaśīla were among the most influential thinkers in classical India. They debated ideas not only within the Buddhist tradition but also with exegetes of other Indian religions, and they both traveled to Tibet during Buddhism's infancy there. Their views, however, have been notoriously hard to classify. The present volume examines Śāntarakṣita's Tattvasaṃgraha and Kamalaśīla’s extensive commentary on it, works that cover all conceivable problems in Buddhist thought and portray Buddhism as a supremely rational faith.

One hotly debated topic of their time was omniscience—whether it is possible and whether a rational person may justifiably claim it as a quality of the Buddha. Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla affirm both claims, but in their argumentation they employ divergent rhetorical strategies in different passages, advancing what appear to be contradictory positions. McClintock’s investigation of the complex strategies these authors use in defense of omniscience sheds light on the rhetorical nature of their enterprise, one that shadows their own personal views as they advance the arguments they deem most effective to convince the audiences at hand.

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