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Śāntarakṣita on Personal Identity: A Comparative Study
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1 Śāntarakṣita on Personal Identity: A Comparative Study Wenli FAN Department of Philosophy, The Chinese University of Hong Kong Email: wenlifan@outlook.com Introduction There is a perennial and universal concern about the “self”. The question of “who I am” is a necessary step on the path of self-awakening. The Ancient Greek aphorism "know thyself" was inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi and has been widely praised everywhere. Within the philosophical scope of the “self”, the problem of personal persistence or personal identity has attracted a great deal of attention and been discussed extensively in the western philosophical tradition. The problem is as follows: how can we ensure that those “I”s that exist at different times, play different roles, present different appearances and have different thoughts are the same person? For example, I am a scholar; I am a daughter; I used to love ice cream; I currently do not eat anything cold; I wore long curly hair last month; I wear short straight hair now. What makes it reasonable to refer to these various existences as a single “I”? In other words, when we use the term “I”, to what do we refer? Despite discussion on this topic since the beginning of western philosophy, philosophers have not achieved consensus on these questions. In the last century, western scholars began to seek resources from eastern culture to obtain some evidence for their position or inspiration for new thoughts. Buddhism is an excellent means of exploring this problem because it has struggled for more than two thousand years with the problem of no-self (anātman). Many comparative studies emerged during the trend of comparative philosophy, which aims to find resources and inspiration in one cultural or philosophical tradition to solve problems in another. For example, Steven Collins investigated the discussion of no-self in 2 Theravāda Buddhism in light of personal identity in his book Selfless Persons.1 Mark Siderits comparatively studied this problem in analytical philosophy and Buddhist tradition in his Personal Identity and Buddhist Philosophy, with an emphasis on the views of Madhyamaka Buddhism.2 Many other philosophers have discussed this topic, including Matthew Kapstein3 , James Giles4 and Evan Thompson5 . Although philosophers regard Buddhism as an important source of inspiration, most discussions continue to involve general Buddhist ideas on this topic. Buddhist philosophers have offered various opinions and detailed arguments on this problem while following the basic Buddhist position of no-self. These discussions are worthy of further examination. In addition to the aforementioned perspectives of Theravāda and Madhyamaka Buddhism, Śāntarakṣita’s defense of no-self is an excellent example of an analysis of this subject. Śāntarakṣita was an important Buddhist philosopher who lived in the 8th century. He studied and worked as the abbot in the famous monastic university of Nālandā. In his writings, Śāntarakṣita manifests an extensive knowledge of Buddhism as well as a wide variety of other Indian philosophical traditions. He is regarded as a towering figure in 8th -century Indian philosophy and is compared to Thomas Aquinas in western philosophy. In the Tattvasaṅgraha (henceforth TS), he summarizes the main philosophical topics under discussion during his time, examines the ideas of other schools, and provides his answers from a highly syncretic Buddhist perspective that combines the ideas of several different Buddhist schools. In addition to the verses of TS, we have a detailed commentary from his disciple Kamalaśīla, namely, Tattvasaṅgrahapañjikā (henceforth TSP). These verses and commentaries not only provide insight into the philosophy of that time but also offer different modes of thinking that may help us to solve philosophical questions of our time. In this paper, I will investigate Śāntarakṣita’s view of no-self and compare his idea with Katherine Hawley’s discussion of endurance, perdurance and stage theory, which provides a 3 good example of contemporary views of the self. I will provide arguments against endurance theory from a Buddhist point of view. Furthermore, I will show how Śāntarakṣita’s view is similar to and different from perdurance and stage theory and how Śāntarakṣita’s perspective advance contemporary theories on this...


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