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date: 20 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The great Indian Buddhist philosopher Vasubandhu (fourth/fifth century) critiqued his contemporaries for their profuse ontologies, which he felt they had developed out of a naïvely reificationist reading of Buddhist scripture. The present essay is a study of the section from Vasubandhu’s Commentary on the Treasury of Abhidharma (Abhidharma-kośa-bhāṣya) in which he explains, and argues against, Vaibhāṣika realism about the four qualities of conditioned things: birth, stability, ageing, and impermanence. Throughout this section, Vasubandhu argues against the conditioning factors while at the same time showing how it is often necessary to read the Buddha’s words as referring to unreal objects. These views entail one another, and together display how the doctrines and interpretive methods of the Vaibhāṣika are mistaken and non-Buddhist.

Keywords: Vasubandhu, Abhidharma, conditioning, Buddha, Buddhist, impermanence, Vaibhāṣika, scripture, change, Abhidharma-kośa-bhāṣya

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