On Being Mindless : Buddhist Meditation and the Mind-Body Problem

Paul J. Griffiths, Indian Books Centre, 1999, Reprint, xxii, 220 p, ISBN : 817030606X, $30.00 (Includes free airmail shipping)

Contents: Introduction. 1. The attainment of cessation in the Theravada tradition. 2. The attainment of cessation in the Vaibhasika tradition. 3. The attainment of cessation in the Yogacara tradition. 4. The attainment of cessation and the mind-body problem. Glossary. Appendices. Notes. Bibliography: texts. Bibliography: works cited.

"Indian Buddhist philosophers say that it is possible to achieve by specific meditational techniques, a distinctive 'altered state' which they call 'the attainment of cessation'. In this state, the stream of mental events is temporarily brought to a complete halt: the practitioner becomes mindless.

The possibility and desirability of such an altered state was extensively discussed by Buddhist thinkers in India. In these discussions, they were compelled to consider the causal connections between the mental and the physical, and thus to clarify their positions on what in the west has usually been called the mind-body problem.

On Being Mindless presents these discussions to an English speaking readership for the first time, including analysis and translation of texts not previously available in English and, in some cases, of material not available in any western language.

Opposing fashionably relativistic approaches to non-western philosophical traditions, Paul Griffiths critically comments upon the analyses of mindlessness given by Buddhist thinkers. He maintains that "the functions, nature, and limits of rationality are conceived similarly in all cultures" and rejects "that humility which, all too often in those western academic circles where the study of Buddhist thought is carried on refuses to take its material with philosophical seriousness". On Being Mindless is a study in cross-cultural philosophy which should do much to increase awareness among western scholars of the precision and subtlety of Indian philosophical thinking. It may also encourage western philosophers to look beyond the barriers of their own culture and language for serious philosophical analysis."

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