DIY: Questions to Ask a Buddhist

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Questions to ask a Buddhist

Study course in Buddhist philosophy

Richard P. Hayes (Dayāmati Dharmacārin)

Retired professor of Sanskrit and Asian philosophy.

engage encourages the vigorous self-directed study of Buddhism. Doing it DIY means that you become proficient in Buddhist dharma and reasoning so that you don’t have to depend on others for answers to basic and valid questions about the dharma. This is what the Pali suttas calls being “independent in the dhamma.”  So when you get what sounds like a doubtful interpretations of the dharma (i.e. a pile of horseshit) you are already versed enough in the dharma to refute said dubiousness (i.e.pile of horseshit). Moreover, you equip yourself with a knowledge of the dharma that’s not based on blind faith and fear, but reason and philosophical depth. But it’s up to you to do the work.

I highly recommend this free, self-directed course in Buddhist philosophy and reasoning. Dayamati (Richard Philip Hayes) is a Ph.D. scholar in Sanskrit and Indian Studies, which means that his interpretation of the dharma is not only scholarly, but grounded in the context of Indian history and culture.  This is not to say that I agree with everything he says, but his knowledge and reasoning are formidable.

Get the complete course here: http://www.dayamati.org/queries/

About the course

This is designed to be a study course that takes Buddhism seriously on a philosophical level by studying its arguments with an eye to seeing which arguments hold up well and which fail to be fully convincing. It is not meant to be an exegesis of Buddhist scriptures or a doctrinal history of particular schools, but a systematic discussion of issues. The principal sources of information on the issues discussed are Indian Buddhist treatises, but there are occasional discussions of those issues as they were treated by Tibetan and East Asian Buddhists, as well as by non-Buddhists in various cultural settings. Although all of what is dealt with here with has been discussed by Buddhists in the distant past, it is hoped that the topics chosen have universal appeal and are still of philosophical interest today. While many of the arguments studied were initially made long ago, an attempt has been made to illustrate them with examples that people living in today’s world can readily find relevant. In short, this course is based on the conviction that if Buddhist philosophy was ever worth examining seriously to assess its merits and shortcomings, it still is.

How to use the course

The course is divided into several modules. It is not necessary to go through the modules in the order they are presented. If, for example, you would prefer to begin with the module on Personal Identity instead of the module on Metaphysics, there should be no problem. Within any one module, however, the material was written to be read consecutively; some content in the later pages of a module may refer to content in earlier pages. At the end of each module there are questions for discussion. Please feel free to leave comments anywhere along the way, but especially in the comments space after the questions for discussion. I will do my best to interact with your comments and to respond to any questions you may have.

About me

The name on my birth certificate is Richard Philip Hayes. Members of the Triratna Buddhist Order know me as Dayāmati Dharmacārin. I received a doctorate from University of Toronto’s Sanskrit and Indian Studies department in 1982. I taught comparative religions and Indian philosophy at University of Toronto in MIssisauga before taking a position in 1988 in the Faculty of Religious Studies at McGill University, where I taught intermediate and advanced Sanskrit and several courses in Buddhist thought. I returned to my native New Mexico in 2003, teaching Asian philosophies in the Department of Philosophy at The University of New Mexico until I retired in 2013. I now live with my wife Judy and our dogs and cats in Jemez Springs, NM. (The cat looking at the image of Amida Buddha in the photograph is called Doris.)

In addition to about three dozen academic articles, book chapters and encyclopedia entries, I wrote a book on Buddhist epistemology and philosophy of language called Dignāga on the interpretation of signs (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1988) and a book of essays on Western Buddhism entitled Land of No Buddha: Reflections of a sceptical Buddhist (Birmingham, England: Windhorse Publications, 1998).

Other research and writing projects that I have been involved with over the years are the following:

  • Contributing editor to a Buddhist quarterly journal called Spring Wind: Buddhist Cultural Forum
  • 1990–94 Assistant editor of Journal of Indian Philosophy
  • 1991–98 Subject editor for Indian and Tibetan philosophy section of Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • 2002–05 Subject editor for Indian Buddhism section for CurzonRoutledge Encyclopedia of Buddhism
  • 2003–05 Consulting editor for Buddhism articles in the second revised edition of Macmillan Encyclopedia of Philosophy
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