43. We Beg to Differ: the Buddhists and Jains

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An introduction to philosophical developments in Buddhism and Jainism up to the time of Dignāga in the sixth century AD.



Further Reading

• P. Balcerowicz (ed.), Jaina Epistemology in Historical and Comparative Perspective (Stuttgart: 2000).

• K.N. Jayatilleke, Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge (London: 1963).

• K. Potter (ed.), Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, 19 vols (Princeton: 1977-2015), vols. 8-10, 14, 17.

• P. Williams, Mahāyāna Buddhism: the Doctrinal Foundations (London: 2009).


Keith Brady on 6 September 2017

What's the new title music?

Is it available on the usual music sources?

In reply to by Keith Brady

Peter Adamson on 7 September 2017


Hi there - I have put links to all the music intros under "Links" which you can see at the bottom of the page.

Kim Knightley Jr on 17 March 2018

Permanence and change

Do any branches of Hinduism incorporate a synthesis of permanence and change? Like the Jains do?  

In reply to by Kim Knightley Jr

Peter Adamson on 17 March 2018

Permanence and change

Well, in a sense almost all of them do. I mean, it is perhaps only the Jains who make a big deal out of affirming - from different perspectives - these antithetical positions. But apart from the Buddhists and Vedantins (who respectively reject stability and reject change as mere appearances), I guess that pretty much everyone we covered wants to say that there is both stability and alteration in the world, so for example you can get that out of the cosmology of Samkhya whcih has and active and passive principle interacting to produce a changing world that has enduring substances. Also think about atomism: there you have enduring/permanent particles or underlying substances that however enter into new combinations and produce novel macro objects.

Prashant on 20 November 2018


This may help in my research work.

Drilou on 6 April 2019

"Principal" Buddhist texts

I just finished listening to your India series and very much enjoyed it. One highlight for me (among others) was learning about Buddhist logic. It's fascinating to me that something seemingly so fundamental and universal can be coherently constructed in such a different way, and might still lead to changing our understanding of logic in the future.

Now, say that before delving into Dignaga I wanted to get a decent grasp of Buddhism by reading into its founding texts, but assuming I don't quite have the constitution for the full 200 000 pages of the Pali Canon... Is there perhaps a selection of texts generally considered to be the most important, or any selection you could recommend? Hinduism seems so much more manageable, with its Vedas and 13 "Principal Upanishads".

I'm also wondering the same thing for Jainism.

In reply to by Drilou

Peter Adamson on 7 April 2019

Readings in Buddhism and Jainism

Well as you might imagine there is a wide selection of translations for early Buddhism, so much so that there is a whole Wikipedia page for them. I obviously don't know all of these but might steer you towards the one by Gethin since he was one of our interview guests! I'm not sure what precisely to recommend on the Jains though material is quoted in our further reading sections on the relevant episodes. Maybe others will have a good tip here, I would like to know too!

Background on 5 November 2019

Buddhists and God

One thing that I'm failing to grasp is that Buddhism focuses on liberation through nirvana which can only be reached through suppressing desires etc or else the process of samsara (rebirths) continues. However, if they don't believe in an absolute truth or God (whatever you might want to name it), then why are even 'desires' a problem for them and suppressing them is so important? What is their yardstick of morality?
Secondly, regarding the rebirths in the Hindu tradition and that in the next cycle you sow what you reap in the previous one. But then between two cycles, would the middle one be a product of the good or bad you did in the previous or the deciding factor for the upcoming one?
This might be a really basic question but it isn't making sense to me. If someone can explain me I'd be glad!

In reply to by Background

Peter Adamson on 5 November 2019


The reason they are concerned about desire etc is not because of morality, really, it is because of suffering: the initial line of thought (as encapsulated in the Four Noble Truths) is that suffering is bad and there is a way to avoid it, namely eliminating desire. If the starting premise is that suffering is something we want to avoid, that seems pretty uncontroversial!

As for the second question I am actually not sure whether karma can have longer term effects, like life 1 affects life 3 skipping life 2, but I think the usual assumption would be that each life is affected or even determined by the immediately previous one.

Background on 5 November 2019

Brahma, Heraclitus and Ibn Arabi

First of all, I just want to thank you for opening up minds by educating masses.
Secondly, I just wanted to pen down and share what I thought was a significant similarity between the philosophy of Hinduism regarding Brahma and that if Heraclitus and Ibn Arabi of Islam. All of them talk about aphorisms. We are and we are not in the sense that in reality there is only one existence and that is God, we are only His manifestation hence we are and we are not. It's amazing how it all ties together when you think about it.
However, please correct me if I'm wrong!

hydra on 7 February 2024

Question on karma

How is it that Buddhist believe in the transmigration of soul if one of their core beliefs is the denial of the existence of soul?

In reply to by hydra

Peter Adamson on 7 February 2024


That's a good question! We do get into it in the podcasts but the basic answer is that just as you seem to be existing over time during this life even though you have no "self," so you can seem to continue existing into further lives through the causal connection between one momentary bundle of states and the next. 

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