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In this paper, we want to bring together two issues for their mutual illumination: (i) the particular use of that hoary Indian dyad, “nāma-rūpa”, literally, “name-and-form by Buddhaghosa, the influential 5th c Theravāda writer, to organize the categories of the abhidhamma, the canonical classification of phenomenal factors (dhammas) and their formulaic ordering;1 and (ii) an interpretation of phenomenology as a methodology. We argue that Buddhaghosa does not use abhidhamma as a reductive ontological division of the human being into mind and body, but as the contemplative structuring of that human’s phenomenology. This phenomenological methodology expressed in his application of nāma-rūpa is expressed as a set of contemplative practices; we compare this approach to some of the processes explicated within the 20th c Western Phenomenological tradition’s predominantly metaphysical teleology. We suggest that Buddhaghosa’s use of nāma-rūpa should be seen as the analytic by which he understands how experience is undergone, and not his account of how some reality is structured. We can learn from Buddhaghosa something about both how experience is to be analyzed, and how that analysis has a clarificatory purpose not tied to the espousal of any particular ‘view’ of reality.


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