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Providing a rigorous analysis of Buddhist ways of understanding religious diversity, this book develops a new foundation

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The Buddha and Religious Diversity
 9781135100391, 113510039X

Table of contents :
The Buddha and Religious Diversity
Copyright
Contents
Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
Introduction
Part I A cross-cultural and interreligious interpretation of the typology exclusivism-inclusivism-pluralism
1 A new framework
1.1 Introducing the framework
1.2 A non-essentialist definition of OTMIX
1.3 A more precise concept of inclusivism
2 Pluralism and degrees of openness
2.1 A new intermediate position: pluralistic-inclusivism
2.2 A new characterization of generic pluralism
Part II Exclusivism
3 Clarifying the concept of exclusivism
3.1 Are we all exclusivists?
3.2 Other possible misunderstandings of exclusivism
3.3 Is the Buddha an exclusivist for rejecting many doctrines and practices?
3.4 Did the Buddha have an exclusivist mindset?
4 Is there liberation outside Buddhism?
4.1 Are the four foundations of mindfulness the only way to attain liberation?
4.2 The exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha
4.3 Challenging the exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha
Part III Inclusivism
5 Retrieving the early Buddhist position
5.1 Further arguments for a non-exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha
5.2 The concept of paccekabuddha and the origins of exclusivism
6 Are Buddhists inclusivists or exclusivists with inclusivistic attitudes?
6.1 Clarifying the traditional Buddhist approach to religious diversity
6.2 Kristin Kiblinger on Buddhist inclusivism
6.3 Clarifying the concept of inclusivism and inclusivist-minded Buddhists
Part IV Pluralistic-inclusivism
7 From inclusivism to pluralistic-inclusivism
7.1 Clarifying the concept of pluralistic-inclusivism
7.2 Other traditions as representations of the Dharma
7.3 Was the Buddha omniscient or open to new knowledge about the Dharma?
8 Beyond Buddhist inclusivism
8.1 Why inclusivism contradicts Buddhist spirituality
8.2 One or many ultimate goals?
8.3 The multiple ends that the Buddha accepts
Part V Pluralism
9 Was the Buddha a pluralist?
9.1 Pluralism as a relativist ideology: Richard Hayes on the Buddha’s lack of pluralistic sentiments
9.2 Pluralism as a dialogical attitude: would the Buddha accept Diane Eck’s concept of pluralism?
9.3 Pluralism as a view: why the Buddha cannot be considered a pluralist in this sense
10 Applying John Hick’s model of pluralism to the Pāli Nikāyas?
10.1 Introducing Hick’s pluralistic hypothesis
10.2 Some similarities and differences between Hick’s pluralism and the Buddha’s pluralistic-inclusivism
10.3 Hick’s appropriation of the Buddha’s teachings undermines Buddhism
Part VI Starting a dialogue between the Buddha and other models of religious diversity
11 A comparative appraisal of Hick, Heim, and the Buddha
11.1 Overview of the three models
11.2 Is Mark Heim’s model more sensitive to difference?
11.3 Is Hick’s model explanatorily more powerful?
Appendix
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Citation preview

ROUTLEDGE STUDIES IN ASIAN RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY

The Buddha and Religious Diversity J. Abraham Vélez de Cea

This manuscript provides the clearest evaluation I’ve seen of philosophical options for relating truth-claims of one religious tradition to the claims of other traditions. It is also the most rigorous and careful analysis of Buddhist ways of understanding religious diversity I’ve read, creating a more philosophically developed grounding for Buddhist understanding of religious diversity in our time. More broadly, the book pioneers a fresh way to understand religious difference that could change how we all think about religious truth. John Makransky, Professor of Buddhism and Comparative Theology, Boston College, USA The book develops a new framework for understanding the relationship between different religions from a Buddhist perspective, in a way that very fruitfully contributes to the literature on inter-religious dialogue. It illuminates many key issues in comparing religions, making key distinctions in a helpful way and developing a useful new and refined set of categories. Peter Harvey, University of Sunderland, UK

The Buddha and Religious Diversity

Providing a rigorous analysis of Buddhist ways of understanding religious diversity, this book develops a new foundation for cross-cultural understanding of religious diversity in our time. Examining the complexity and uniqueness of Buddha’s approach to religious pluralism using four main categories—namely exclusivism, inclusivism, pluralistic-­inclusivism and pluralism—the book proposes a cross-­cultural and interreligious interpretation of each category, thus avoiding the accusation of intellectual colonialism. The key argument is that, unlike the Buddha, most Buddhist traditions today, including Theravāda Buddhism and even the Dalai Lama, consider liberation and the highest stages of spiritual development exclusive to Buddhism. The book suggests that the Buddha rejects many doctrines and practices found in other traditions, and that, for him, there are nonnegotiable ethical and doctrinal standards that correspond to the Dharma. This argument is controversial and likely to ignite a debate among Buddhists from different traditions, especially between conservative and progressive Buddhists. The book fruitfully contributes to the literature on interreligious dialogue, and is of use to students and scholars of Asian Studies, World Religion and Eastern Philosophy. J. Abraham Vélez de Cea is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Eastern Kentucky University, USA.

Routledge studies in Asian religion and philosophy

1 Deconstruction and the Ethical in Asian Thought Edited by Youru Wang 2 An Introduction to Daoist Thought Action, language, and ethics in Zhuangzi Eske Møllgaard 3 Religious Commodifications in Asia Marketing gods Edited by Pattana Kitiarsa 4 Christianity and the State in Asia Complicity and conflict Edited by Julius Bautista and Francis Khek Gee Lim 5 Christianity in Contemporary China Socio-­cultural perspectives Edited by Francis Khek Gee Lim 6 The Buddha and Religious Diversity J. Abraham Vélez de Cea

The Buddha and Religious Diversity

J. Abraham Vélez de Cea

First published 2013 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2013 J. Abraham Vélez de Cea The right of J. Abraham Vélez de Cea to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Vélez de Cea, J. Abraham.  The Buddha and religious diversity/J. Abraham Vélez de Cea. pages cm – (Routledge studies in Asian religion and philosophy; 6) Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Buddhism–Relations. 2. Buddhism–Doctrines. I. Title. BQ4600.V45 2013 294.3′35–dc23 2012027587 ISBN: 978-0-415-63972-9 (hbk) ISBN: 978-0-203-07263-9 (ebk) Typeset in Times New Roman by Wearset Ltd, Boldon, Tyne and Wear

To the four most important women of my life: my mother Luisa de Cea, my wife Nathalie Dietrich, and my two daughters Laura and Julia.

Contents



Acknowledgments Abbreviations



Introduction

xii xiii 1

Part I

A cross-­cultural and interreligious interpretation of the typology exclusivism-­inclusivism-pluralism

11

  1 A new framework

13

1.1  Introducing the framework  13 1.2  A non-essentialist definition of OTMIX  18 1.3  A more precise concept of inclusivism  21   2 Pluralism and degrees of openness

28

2.1  A new intermediate position: pluralistic-­inclusivism  28 2.2 A new characterization of generic pluralism  35 Part II

Exclusivism

43

  3 Clarifying the concept of exclusivism

45

3.1  Are we all exclusivists?  45 3.2  Other possible misunderstandings of exclusivism  48 3.3  Is the Buddha an exclusivist for rejecting many doctrines and practices?  52 3.4  Did the Buddha have an exclusivist mindset?  56

x   Contents   4 Is there liberation outside Buddhism?

61

4.1  Are the four foundations of mindfulness the only way to attain liberation?  61 4.2  The exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha  64 4.3  Challenging the exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha  67 Part III

Inclusivism

79

  5 Retrieving the early Buddhist position

81

5.1  Further arguments for a non-­exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha  81 5.2  The concept of paccekabuddha and the origins of exclusivism  91   6 Are Buddhists inclusivists or exclusivists with inclusivistic attitudes?

105

6.1  Clarifying the traditional Buddhist approach to religious diversity  105 6.2  Kristin Kiblinger on Buddhist inclusivism  113 6.3  Clarifying the concept of inclusivism and inclusivist-­minded Buddhists  117 Part IV

Pluralistic-­inclusivism

123

  7 From inclusivism to pluralistic-­inclusivism

123

7.1  Clarifying the concept of pluralistic-­inclusivism  123 7.2  Other traditions as representations of the Dharma  127 7.3  Was the Buddha omniscient or open to new knowledge about the Dharma?  134   8 Beyond Buddhist inclusivism 8.1  Why inclusivism contradicts Buddhist spirituality  145 8.2  One or many ultimate goals?  156 8.3  The multiple ends that the Buddha accepts  158

145

Contents   xi Part V

Pluralism

165

  9 Was the Buddha a pluralist?

167

9.1  Pluralism as a relativist ideology: Richard Hayes on the Buddha’s lack of pluralistic sentiments  167 9.2  Pluralism as a dialogical attitude: would the Buddha accept Diane Eck’s concept of pluralism?  173 9.3  Pluralism as a view: why the Buddha cannot be considered a pluralist in this sense  178 10 Applying John Hick’s model of pluralism to the Pāli Nikāyas?

184

10.1  Introducing Hick’s pluralistic hypothesis  184 10.2  Some similarities and differences between Hick’s pluralism and the Buddha’s pluralistic-­inclusivism  187 10.3  Hick’s appropriation of the Buddha’s teachings undermines Buddhism  193 Part VI

Starting a dialogue between the Buddha and other models of religious diversity

201

11 A comparative appraisal of Hick, Heim, and the Buddha

203

11.1  Overview of the three models  203 11.2  Is Mark Heim’s model more sensitive to difference?  209 11.3  Is Hick’s model explanatorily more powerful?  214

Appendix

222



Notes Bibliography Index

226 242 246

Acknowledgments

This book would have not been possible without the help of many relatives, friends, and teachers in Spain, England, Sri Lanka, India and the United States. I sincerely apologize for not being able to thank all of them by name. However, I cannot fail to mention Luis O. Gómez, Charles B. Jones, Ruben Habito, and Paul Knitter. This work is the culmination of a long process that started in Spain in 1992, when I asked the late Professor Raimon Panikkar for advice about the best way to study Buddhism and promote Buddhist–Christian dialogue. Panikkar was a comparative theologian rather than a Buddhist scholar, but he knew Buddhism quite well and insisted that I should study Buddhism according to international academic standards and combine knowledge of the original languages with deep first-­hand knowledge of Buddhist spirituality. I cannot thank Panikkar enough for encouraging me to study Buddhism in this comprehensive way and become first a critical Buddhist scholar with more than book knowledge of Buddhism so that I could better contribute to Buddhist–Christian dialogue. I am also extremely grateful to all the members of the department of Theology at Georgetown University, where I spent four years (2002–6), first as postdoctoral fellow and afterwards as visiting assistant professor. Everybody there was kind to me and helped me to grow in one way or another. However, I would like to mention Peter Phan, Chester Gillis, and specially Francisca Cho, for their friendship and example both as scholars and human beings. Without them I would not have been able to adjust to America and pursue my scholarly career in the English speaking world. Likewise, I am indebted to the department of Philosophy and Religion at Eastern Kentucky University for believing in me despite of my unusual international background and offering me a tenure-­truck position in 2006. I would like to thank Jay Garfield (Smith College) and Springer for giving me permission to include a previous version of the first two chapters published in the journal Sophia. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to all those who made suggestions to improve parts or the whole of this book: my colleagues at EKU Todd Gooch, Minh Nguyen, and Kathleen Hill, Jeffrey Richey (Berea College), Peter Harvey (University of Sunderland), John Makransky (Boston College), and Mark Heim (Andover Newton Theological School).

Abbreviations

All references to the Pāli Nikāyas are to the edition of The Pāli Text Society, Oxford. References to the Aṅguttara, Dīgha, Majjhima, and Saṃyutta Nikāyas are to the volume and page number. References to Udāna and Itivuttaka are to the page number and to Dhammapada and Sutta Nipāta to the verse number. A. D. Dhp. It. M. Miln  S. Sn. Ud.

Aṅguttara Nikāya Dīgha Nikāya Dhammapada Itivuttaka Majjhima Nikāya Milindapañha Saṃyutta Nikāya Sutta Nipāta Udāna

Introduction

This book examines the Buddha’s approach to religious diversity. I understand approaches to religious diversity in terms of openness. I distinguish between openness in theory (views) and openness in practice (attitudes). Thus, each approach to religious diversity involves views or theoretical claims about other religions and attitudes or practical dispositions towards them. More specifically, approaches to religious diversity presuppose a view or claim about whether other traditions contain what one’s own tradition considers the most important reality, teaching, ideal, value, concern, revelation, truth, etc. Likewise, approaches to religious diversity involve a set of attitudes or practical dispositions to accept, respect, and dialogue with other traditions. I speak about four main views (exclusivism, inclusivism, pluralistic-­ inclusivism, and pluralism) and three main attitudes (exclusivistic, inclusivistic, and pluralistic). These views and attitudes can be combined in different ways. For instance, someone can have an exclusivist view of religious diversity, e.g., salvation is unique to Christianity, and at the same time display inclusivistic and even pluralistic attitudes. Although the aforementioned categories are common among Christian theologians of religions, this book proposes a new interreligious interpretation of each category, thus avoiding the accusation of intellectual colonialism. I contend that the Buddha’s view of religious diversity is best understood as a form of pluralistic-­inclusivism and his attitude as pluralistic. I contrast this interpretation of the Buddha with the prevalent Buddhist approach to religious diversity, which tends to combine a sincere inclusivist attitude with an exclusivist view of liberation and the highest stages of holiness. The purpose of this book is to provide the most accurate and charitable interpretation of the Buddha’s approach to religious diversity. Whether such interpretation will encourage Buddhists to practice more interreligious dialogue and be more open to learning from other traditions is independent of the hermeneutical goal of this book. I do not have a hidden agenda and my goal is neither to tell Buddhists what they should do, nor to twist the meaning of Buddhist texts so that they can fit progressive Western sensibilities. Rather, my main concern is to lay out the interpretation of the Buddha that is most consistent with the Pāli Nikāyas.

2   Introduction The Pāli Nikāyas contain some of the oldest texts of the Pāli Canon, and, arguably, the most reliable texts to identify what the historical Buddha may have taught. These texts have been preserved within Theravāda Buddhism, an ancient form of Buddhism that flourishes today primarily in South and Southeast Asia with more than 100 million followers. This book, however, demonstrates that there is a substantial difference between the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas and the Buddha of Theravāda Buddhism. This book suggests that exclusivist interpretations of liberation and highest holiness characteristic of Theravāda Buddhism are a later development in the history of Buddhism inconsistent with the teachings of the Buddha in the Pāli Nikāyas. This book is bound to be controversial because it challenges the “orthodox” or prevalent interpretation of the Buddha’s teaching among Theravāda Buddhists. Prevalent interpretations tend to present the Buddha as someone who displays a genuine inclusive attitude that accepts and respects whatever is true and good in other traditions, yet he is not really open to them because he considers liberation and the highest stages of spiritual development exclusive to his teaching, i.e., Buddhism. On the other hand, the alternative interpretation I develop in this book suggests that, for the Buddha, liberation and highest holiness are not sectarian or tradition-­specific concepts, and therefore, they need not be interpreted as being the monopoly of Buddhist traditions. I also suggest that, unlike many Buddhists today, the Buddha would be open to other traditions inside and outside Buddhism because he did not claim to know everything about the Dharma, and therefore, he could not have known beforehand that other traditions unknown to him from other historical and cultural contexts contain either teachings unrelated to the fundamentals of the holy life or teachings that are not conducive to the ultimate end, i.e., nirvana (Pāli nibbāna). The Buddha’s hypothetical openness to new representations of the Dharma in other traditions unknown to him, however, would not be uncritical but rather constrained by the ethical and doctrinal standards found in the Pāli Nikāyas. That is, for the Buddha not all the doctrines and practices would be true, equally valid, or soteriologically effective. While prevalent interpretations of the Buddha are not conducive to violence and persecution of the religious other, neither do they foster interfaith dialogue and interest in learning about other religions, let alone learning from them. The assumption is that since Buddhism already possesses all that really matters from a soteriological standpoint, spiritual dialogue with other traditions is unnecessary. Interreligious dialogue might be useful for developing friendships and preventing conflicts among religious communities, but it is ultimately dispensable from a spiritual point of view. On the other hand, the more pluralistic interpretation of the Buddha, if plaus­ ible, has the potential to change the way many Buddhists relate to other traditions inside and outside Buddhism. The interpretation of the Buddha developed in this book has two important practical implications for Buddhists. First, it makes it possible to be truly open to new knowledge about the Dharma in other traditions inside and outside Buddhism without thereby betraying the Buddha’s teachings. Second, it legitimizes the existence of new representations of the Dharma in the

Introduction   3 future, i.e., Abhidhamma and Mahāyāna teachings, without having to posit unbelievable stories about the Buddha teaching certain texts in heaven or in different countries and historical periods. There are two books that overlap to some extent this book: Buddhist Attitudes to Other Religions, edited by Perry Schmidt-­Leukel (Germany: Editions of St. Ottilien, 2008); and Kristin Kiblinger, Buddhist Inclusivism: Attitudes Toward Religious Others (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2005). Buddhist Attitudes to Other Religions contains excellent chapters by a variety of Buddhist scholars (John Makransky, Kenneth Tanaka, Peter Harvey, Alexander Berzin, Nathan Katz), and Christian theologians (Perry Schmidt-­Leukel, Paul Knitter, Kristin Kiblinger, John D’Arcy May). Although these chapters discuss different Buddhist traditions, none of them is devoted to the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas. Only the introductory chapter “Buddhism and its Others,” by the Christian theologians John D’Arcy May and Perry Schmidt-­Leukel, quotes several texts from the Pāli Nikāyas. However, the interpretation of the Buddha underlying the chapter by D’Arcy and Schmidt-­Leukel is exclusivist. For instance, after quoting Maurice Walshe’s translation of Dīgha Nikaya I.151, which contains a criterion to differentiate between the teachings of the Buddha and those of other schools, the authors suggest that the Buddha understood the salvific path in exclusivist terms.1 This book, on the contrary, challenges exclusivist interpretations of the Buddha and contends that exclusivism is a later scholastic development. D’Arcy May and Schmidt-­Leukel acknowledge that the criterion found in Dīgha Nikaya I.151 “does allow, at least in principle, for the possibility that the Noble Eightfold Path—or essential features of it—could also be found within other schools.”2 However, D’Arcy May and Schmidt-­Leukel fall short of saying that the Buddha did not have an exclusivist view of the salvific path and claim that inclusivist views of the salvific path originated in later Buddhist scholasticism.3 In contrast, this book argues that both exclusivist and inclusivist readings of the Buddha are inconsistent with the Buddha’s teachings. Finally, D’Arcy May and Schmidt-­Leukel wonder whether the Buddhist tradition provides “any resources for going beyond the traditional exclusivistic and inclusivistic options.”4 This book, however, contends that the Buddha’s advice to critically investigate teachings—including his own teachings—until it is seen that such teachings are wholesome requires the adoption of a pluralist position that keeps an open mind free from dogmatic constraints. Thus, unlike D’Arcy May and Schmidt-­Leukel, this book suggests that the Buddhist tradition possesses important resources for more pluralistic attitudes toward other religions from the very beginning. The second book that overlaps this one to some extent is Buddhist Inclusivism: Attitudes Toward Religious Others, by the Christian theologian Kristin ­Kiblinger. Like this book, Kiblinger’s book is about Buddhist approaches to ­religious diversity and uses categories common among Christian theologians of religions. However, despite this similarity, there are five fundamental differences between Kiblinger’s book and this one.

4   Introduction First, this book focuses on the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, and, by extension, on the Theravāda tradition. Conversely, Kiblinger’s book focuses on Buddhism in general with special emphasis on Mahāyāna traditions and concepts. Kiblinger devotes less than 13 pages (!) to the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, discussing him together with Aśoka’s edicts, and without clarifying that the prevalent Theravāda position combines an inclusivist attitude with an exclusivist view of liberation and highest holiness. This book, by contrast, is entirely devoted to the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, and it distinguishes clearly between the position that Theravādins who follow Buddhaghosa’s commentaries attribute to the Buddha and the position I attribute to the Buddha. Second, we use different frameworks to understand the most common views of other traditions. While this book proposes a cross-­cultural and interreligious typology, Kiblinger tends to use the Christian understanding of the typology exclusivism-­inclusivism-pluralism, which focuses on the question of salvation. Kiblinger understands inclusivism primarily as a form of syncretism, that is, as diverse strategies to reinterpret and incorporate elements from other traditions into the home tradition. I find this concept of inclusivism as a form of syncretism problematic because syncretistic strategies to critically appropriate elements from other traditions can be deployed not only by inclusivists, but also by exclusivists, pluralistic-­inclusivists, and pluralists. Third, whereas Kiblinger assumes that Buddhist inclusivism in general is less than ideal and ultimately untenable, I consider the prevalent Buddhist position a perfectly consistent combination of a sincere inclusivist attitude with an exclusivist view of liberation and highest holiness. I do not object to the inclusivist attitude characteristic of Buddhist traditions, only to their exclusivist view of liberation and highest holiness. Kiblinger fails to distinguish between attitudes and views, assuming that Buddhists have not thought enough about their “inclusivistic” moves. I distinguish clearly between inclusivist attitudes and exclusivist views, suggesting that exclusivist views are a well-­thought-out product of later Buddhist scholasticism. Fourth, while Kiblinger criticizes the single-­end approach of most Buddhist traditions, and tends to equate such an approach with closed forms of inclusivism, I defend the single-­end approach, question exclusivist and inclusivist readings of the Pāli Nikāyas, and propose a reconstruction of the Buddha’s view of other traditions as a representative form of pluralistic-­inclusivism that is genuinely open to new representations of the Dharma. Fifth, Kiblinger’s book encourages Buddhists to develop an approach to other religions structurally similar to Mark Heim’s multiple-­ends approach. This book, on the other hand, limits itself to the retrieval and reconstruction of the Buddha’s approach to religious pluralism, without encouraging Buddhists to do anything, and arguing that Heim’s idea of multiple salvations is inapplicable to the Pāli Nikāyas because it undermines the Buddha’s concept of liberation. This book can be compared to the building of a house, the Buddha’s ecumenical house. The first part of the book locates the neighborhood in which to build  the Buddha’s ecumenical house. The book begins by outlining a new

Introduction   5 cross-­cultural and interreligious framework to understand the most common approaches to religious diversity (Chapters 1–2). Having chosen the neighborhood in the first part, the second part begins the actual construction of the Buddha’s ecumenical house. Before pouring the foundations, I remove everything that is in the way, namely, those expressions and passages in the Pāli Nikāyas that might be used to justify exclusivist interpretations of the Buddha (Chapters 3–4). Having deconstructed exclusivist readings of the Pāli Nikāyas and having poured the foundations for a more pluralistic interpretation of the Buddha, the third part begins building the structure of the house, that is, the third part begins the reconstruction of the approach to religious diversity that is most consistent with the Pāli Nikāyas (Chapters 5–6). Having poured the foundations and constructed the bare structure, the fourth part discusses what windows and roof best fit the house. The windows face not only backyards with trees and flowers similar to those found in our own backyard, but also backyards with different trees and flowers. The house allows for a single roof or ultimate goal of the spiritual path, not for a variety roofs or multiple salvations (Chapters 7–8). The fifth part inquires about the size of the door, that is, about the specific kind of openness to other traditions that can be attributed to the Buddha. Is the door so big that it may endanger the structure of the house, making it collapse eventually? Or is the door only as big as the structure permits it to be? Must the door be always wide open or should it be locked to certain things? The fifth part contends that the Buddha is genuinely open to other traditions, yet such openness is constrained by nonnegotiable ethical and doctrinal standards (Chapters 9–10). The sixth part compares the Buddha’s house to other houses built by contemporary ecumenical architects. That is, the final part puts the Buddha in dialogue with two current models for religious diversity, namely, those of Mark Heim and John Hick (Chapter 11). Although there are many tools and materials in the Buddhist warehouse, that is, many Buddhist texts and traditions, this book focuses on the Pāli Nikāyas. Although I do not have anything against Buddhist syncretism and mixing architectural styles, what I wish to do with this book is to build an ecumenical house for the Buddha Gotama as he is depicted in the Pāli Nikāyas. I am not so hermeneutically naïve as to equate the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas with the historical Buddha, but it remains true that no other collection of Buddhist texts is historically and linguistically closer to the Buddha Gotama. Thus, the book is faithful to the architectural style of the Pāli Nikāyas and builds an ecumenical house for the Buddha Gotama. The architectural style of the Pāli Nikāyas need not be the style of any particular Buddhist tradition. In fact, comparative studies of the Pāli Nikāyas and their Chinese counterparts, the Āgamas, suggest that they both belong to a period in the history of Buddhism that predates the existence of Buddhist schools. ­Nevertheless, it should be acknowledged that the style of the Pāli Nikāyas resembles the later style of Theravāda Buddhism, the tradition that has preserved them. This, however, does not mean that the Pāli Nikāyas are exclusively Theravādin texts or texts that should be authoritative only for Theravādins. The

6   Introduction Pāli Nikāyas, as well as the Chinese Āgamas, can be authoritative for all Buddhist traditions precisely because they do not belong to any of them; in this sense, they are not sectarian texts. Reconstructing the Buddha’s approach to religious diversity in a more pluralistic way is not only more charitable and consistent with the Pāli Nikāyas but also more compatible with Buddhist spirituality. In other words, being genuinely yet critically open to other traditions inside and outside Buddhism is more compatible with Buddhist spirituality than the prevalent Buddhist approach to religious diversity. For instance, as I understand the simile of the elephant’s footprint (M.I.177–84), the Buddha would not like his disciples to make absolute claims about the three Jewels without having seen for themselves the truths of such claims, i.e., until they have seen with their own eyes the big elephant in the open. If something can be inferred from this simile, is that the Buddha would like his disciples to keep an open mind, at least until they attain enlightenment and see by themselves the truth about the Buddha, the Dharma and the Saṅgha. This openness requires the cultivation of intellectual humility and inquisitiveness, that is, it requires the abandonment of dogmatic attitudes that claim to know what they actually do not know, i.e., what can and cannot be found in other forests. That is, whether other forests are devoid of big elephants (exclusivism), or whether other forests have elephants exactly like those already found in the Buddha’s forest (inclusivism). A true disciple of the Buddha would take the simile of the elephant’s footprint more seriously, would avoid dogmatic assumptions, and would actually explore other forests before reaching a precipitated conclusion about the kind of elephants that can and cannot be found outside one’s own Buddhist forest. Exclusivist and inclusivist interpretations are less compatible with Buddhist spirituality than the pluralistic reading I advocate because they do not help Buddhists to cultivate the intellectual humility and inquisitiveness recommended by the Buddha. Quite the contrary, exclusivist and inclusivist readings reinforce dogmatic attitudes that lead many Buddhists today to make claims about other traditions inside and outside Buddhism without actually knowing much about them. Without having explored the forests of other traditions and without having known any big elephant by themselves, many Buddhists already “know” that big elephants do not exist outside their own school of Buddhism or, if they exist, they cannot be really different from the big elephants found in one’s own tradition. This a priori “knowledge” about the absence of big elephants in other traditions or about the similarity among big elephants across traditions shows the opposite character traits that the Buddha wanted his disciples to cultivate. Rather than intellectual humility and inquisitiveness, the a priori and, therefore, dogmatic “knowledge” about other traditions that many Buddhists exemplify in their lack of proactive interest in interfaith dialogue and learning presupposes ignorance and arrogance, at least in the form of the conceits “I am superior” or “I am equal,” traits that, for the Buddha, ultimately hinder profound spiritual growth.

Introduction   7 A more pluralistic interpretation of the Buddha avoids this problem. Being open to the possible existence of new representations of the Dharma inside and outside Buddhism facilitates the cultivation of intellectual humility and inquisitiveness. This openness to other traditions is critical (inquisitive), firmly rooted in one’s own tradition, but intellectually humble, i.e., without assuming beforehand that big elephants are exclusive to Buddhism or at best similar to the elephants already found in my Buddhist tradition. I anticipate two main reactions to the more pluralistic interpretation of the Buddha this book advances. First, the traditionalist reaction, which will probably dismiss everything I say without actually reading the book. For many traditionalists, I will be wrong simply because the Pāli Nikāyas do not state literally that liberation and highest holiness may be found outside the Buddha’s teaching, or by definition, that is, because my readings conflict with the Theravāda commentarial literature. For the Buddha of traditionalists, all philosophies and religions except Buddhism are instances of wrong views, and only Buddhists attain liberation and highest holiness. The Buddha of the Theravāda tradition and the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas teach the same thing, and the reconstruction I propose is to be politely but firmly explained away; for instance, as a well intentioned yet ultimately unsuccessful attempt to make the Buddha’s approach to religious diversity more palatable to Westerners. Traditionalists will accuse me of distorting Buddhist texts and misunderstanding the Buddha’s approach to religious diversity. For traditionalists, the Buddha literally teaches that the four foundations of mindfulness are the only way to attain liberation from suffering, and that the four ascetics or four highest stages of spiritual development are only found among Buddhists. This book questions such exclusivist readings and shows why they are problematic. Traditionalist interpreters will probably remain unconvinced by my exegesis of key Pāli texts and will quote other texts in which the Buddha makes negative remarks about other schools; remarks that taken out of context seems to apply universally to all non-­Buddhist traditions anywhere and at any time. For instance, traditionalists will use the simile of the blind men and the elephant (Ud.6.4) to justify that overall, the Buddha viewed all non-­Buddhist teachers and teachings as lacking in wisdom. While the Buddha knows the elephant and does not dispute with others about its nature, non-­Buddhist teachers are blind and their teachings provide a quite limited knowledge, i.e., only one part of the elephant. That is why teachers argue with each other. This reading, however, is questionable. In order to determine whether the view of non-­Buddhist traditions underlying the simile of the blind men and the elephant applies universally, it is necessary to realize that before comparing other teachers to blind men, the Buddha speaks only about the teachers that were living in Sāvatthi at the time he was there. It should be noted that these teachers are described as holding different views (nānādiṭṭhikā) and as depending for their support on views (nānādiṭṭhinissayanissitā). The Buddha’s concept of “view” (diṭṭhi) is associated with negative mental states such as craving and ignorance about the nature of the psychophysical constituents of beings, i.e., the five aggregates. These teachers

8   Introduction argue with each other because they hold extreme views, that is, views that presuppose the absolute existence or inexistence of a self/Self somehow related to the five aggregates. These views are extreme in the sense of approaching the extremes of being and non-­being, eternalism and annihilationism, absolute existence and absolute inexistence. Without approaching these two extremes, the Buddha teaches the middle way of specific conditionality or dependent origination, i.e., things exists, not in absolute terms, but rather due to the confluence of multiple causes and conditions. Thus, the context of Ud.6.4 indicates that the Buddha’s negative evaluation of other teachers applies only to teachers who hold extreme views, not to all non-­Buddhist teachers anywhere and at any time. The Buddha does not make a universal exclusivist condemnation of non-­Buddhist teachers but rather a specific claim about teachers holding a particular kind of views, extreme views. The underlying view of non-­Buddhists traditions is not exclusivist. Whoever abandons “diṭṭhi” in the sense of extreme views will see the Dharma and will no longer be compared to the blind. Assuming that only the Buddha and Buddhists see the Dharma or the elephant is not warranted by the context of the text and misses the point, which has to do with rejecting extreme views because they lead to endless disputes, not with rejecting all non-­Buddhist traditions at all times and places. The second reaction I anticipate is the postmodernist reaction. Postmodernist interpreters will find my reconstruction of the Buddha’s approach to religious diversity not pluralistic enough. I suggest that the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas displays pluralistic attitudes, but in terms of view he is a pluralistic-­inclusivist. That is, the Buddha would be open to new representations of the Dharma with nonnegotiable ethical and doctrinal standards. Yet, the same Buddha who would be open to other traditions with nonnegotiable ethical and doctrinal constraints encourages his disciples to keep an open mind until they see for themselves the truths he teaches. Thus, there is a tension in the Pāli Nikāyas between the Buddha’s advice to his disciples to keep an open mind until they see for themselves the truth of his teachings, which requires the adoption of a pluralist view free from dogmatic constrains, and the nonnegotiable ethical and doctrinal standards underlying the Buddha’s approach to religious diversity, which allow for a pluralistic-­inclusivist view. This tension raises important questions for Buddhists today. Would the Buddha prefer his disciples to adopt a pluralistic-­inclusivist view with nonnegotiable ethical and doctrinal constraints out of respect for authority and tradition, or rather a truly pluralist view free from any dogmatic constraints? What would be the Buddhist thing to do, to remain in the safe shore of pluralistic-­inclusivism or to cross the Rubicon towards the uncharted waters of pluralism? What would it be the Buddha’s advice today, a time in which we face conflicting claims of truth inside and outside Buddhism? Would the Buddha recommend dwelling in the comfort zone of one’s own tradition or investigating further the available evidence until we see for ourselves? Should Buddhists be pluralists to the point of being open to new representations of the Dharma that contradict key ethical and doctrinal standards found in the Pāli Nikāyas and other Buddhist texts? There is not an easy answer to any of these questions.

Introduction   9 The postmodernist reaction poses a dilemma between the cultivation of intellectual humility and inquisitiveness on the one hand, and faithfulness to the ethical and doctrinal standards that constitute the Dharma on the other. In other words, the postmodernist reaction poses a dilemma between Buddhist spirituality and doctrine, orthopraxis and orthodoxy. This, however, is from the perspective of the Pāli Nikāyas a false dilemma. For the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, right spiritual cultivation and right view are intertwined and both are indispens­ able to progress toward liberation and highest holiness. Those who sympathize with postmodern sensibilities will suggest that emphasizing Buddhist spirituality over orthodoxy is the Buddhist thing to do. For the Buddha, doctrines are like a raft, mere skillful means to cross over to the other shore of liberation and highest holiness, not to be misused to foster dogmatism and attachment to views. Likewise, postmodern Buddhists will say that avoiding dogmatic attitudes and attachment to the Dharma is best facilitated by an open mind free from nonnegotiable ethical and doctrinal constraints. However, I am not sure this postmodernist approach to the Dharma is consistent with what the Buddha teaches in the Pāli Nikāyas. It is true that doctrines are like a raft, but this does not mean that all rafts are equally valid and that all doctrines are equally true as long as they work. There are some materials that are more useful than others to build a raft; some materials are just useless and some rafts sink eventually. Similarly, some doctrines possess more truth-­content than others and some doctrines are simply false and harmful. The perfection of wisdom may not be found in any doctrinal formulation, but this does not render all doctrines unnecessary, let alone equally effective. There is a middle way between traditionalists and postmodernist approaches to the Dharma, that is, between dogmatic adherence to orthodoxy and the postmodern relativization of all doctrines including Buddhist ones. The Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas seems to represents such a middle way. This middle way integrates doctrine and spirituality, orthodoxy and orthopraxis, without falling into the traditionalist extreme of dogmatism and attachment to doctrines, and the postmodern extreme of spirituality without any ultimate truth-­content whatsoever. For the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, there are specific instructions and materials to build a raft, such instructions and materials are indeed found in his teaching-­and-discipline, but they need not be understood as exclusive to Buddhism or the particular representation of the Dharma found in Pāli Nikāyas. There are in principle other representations of the Dharma that may lead to liberation and highest holiness, but the traditions in which such representations take place cannot be determined a priori, i.e., before knowing such traditions and experiencing the truth and goodness that they may contain. Because we cannot know beforehand which traditions contain true and soteriologically effective representations of the Dharma, the Buddha provides ethical and doctrinal standards, which serve as criteria to discern between teachers and teachings. The nonnegotiable ethical and doctrinal standards not only serve as criteria to discern among rafts but also to keep the raft of the Dharma afloat and flowing, thus preserving its timeless truth.

10   Introduction The interpretation of the Buddha I propose maintains a creative tension between Buddhist spirituality and doctrine, that is, between the cultivation of intellectual humility and inquisitiveness on the one hand, and faithfulness to the fundamental ethical and doctrinal standards of the Dharma on the other. Other interpretations resolve the tension in favor of one of the two poles. Postmodernist interpretations favor Buddhist spirituality to the detriment of Buddhist doctrine, which is reduced to skillful means without truth-­content. Traditionalist interpretations may lead to narrow-­mindedness and dogmatic claims about Buddhism and other traditions that prevent practitioners from cultivating key aspects of Buddhist spirituality such as intellectual humility and inquisitiveness. The interpretation of the Buddha I propose can be understood as a middle way between traditionalist and postmodernist approaches to the Dharma. The Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas does not preclude Buddhists from cultivating intellectual humility and inquisitiveness, but such cultivation is critical and firmly rooted in the ethical and doctrinal standards he teaches. Being genuinely open to new instructions and new materials is possible provided that they do not sink the raft built with the teachings of the four noble truths, selflessness, and dependent origination. Buddhists who endorse this middle way approach to the Dharma can remain open to new instructions and new materials found in other traditions inside and outside Buddhism as long as they are helpful to keep the raft of the Dharma afloat and make it more effective to sail across the waters of suffering in the twenty-­first century.

Part I

A cross-­cultural and interreligious interpretation of the typology exclusivism-­ inclusivism-pluralism

1 A new framework

1.1  Introducing the framework Is the typology of exclusivism-­inclusivism-pluralism genuinely cross-­cultural and applicable beyond the borders of Christianity? Is a reformulation of the typology necessary to clarify the nature of the most common approaches to religious diversity found not only in Christianity, but also in other religions? This chapter suggests that a cross-­cultural and interreligious interpretation of the typology exclusivism-­inclusivism-pluralism is indispensable to better understand the most common approaches to religious diversity found across cultures and religions. A revised version of the typology exclusivism-­inclusivismpluralism also has the advantage of facilitating cross-­cultural comparison and interreligious understanding. In order to make the typology exclusivism-­inclusivism-pluralism truly cross-­ cultural and interreligious, an expansion and reinterpretation of its components are necessary. The typology exclusivism-­inclusivism-pluralism was originally used by Alan Race to describe three views about Christian salvation.1 However, it is possible to reformulate Race’s typology in a way that is not tradition-­ specific and as referring not only to different views about salvation but also views about the existence of the most important reality, goal, or value mediated or instantiated by the religions. As a way of testing its cross-­cultural and interreligious validity, the typology is reconstructed in dialogue with Christian theologies of religions and early Buddhist thought. While this new and expanded version of the typology can be applied to Buddhist and Christian traditions, further testing and fine-­tuning will be required from scholars competent in other traditions. Since this constructive proposal helps to understand what defines diverse Christian theologies of religions with the help of early Buddhist thought, it can be considered an exercise in comparative theology. However, the proposal does much more than clarifying the nature of Christian theologies of religions from a comparative perspective. The proposal refines the categories of what was originally a Christian typology in order to provide a truly cross-­cultural and interreligious framework to better understand and compare the most common views of religious diversity found not only in Christianity, but also in Buddhism and other religions.

14   Exclusivism-inclusivism-pluralism The reason for focusing on the typology of exclusivism-­inclusivism-pluralism as the starting point of this constructive proposal is that despite numerous criticisms,2 Race’s typology continues to be the most popular. There are alternative typologies, but they have not been as successful as Race’s typology.3 There have been two recent Christian attempts to rehabilitate Race’s typology, one developed by Paul Hedges and the other one by Perry Schmidt-­Leukel. Hedges interprets each element of the typology as open, fluid, and representing a disposition that allows for a number of different approaches. Hedges does not think each element of the typology represents a single approach that can be defined once and for all, as if it had a fixed essence.4 Consequently, Hedges prefers to name each element in the plural (exclusivisms, inclusivisms, pluralisms). Moreover, Hedges understands the typology as descriptive, heuristic, multivalent, and permeable. In his words: the typology should be seen as descriptive (it tells us what positions have been taken, not what the positions should be), heuristic (it gives guidelines to help understand the complexity of ideas and their relationships), multivalent (each category is not a single approach, but a spectrum of related approaches), and permeable (people may express ideas that spill over several of the categories, rather than as prescriptive, normative, defining, and closed.5 For Hedges the typology is still viable and “the various criticisms either misconstrue the original typology and its intention, or can be met and answered.”6 Similarly, for Perry Schmidt-­Leukel, the typology is still useful. Unlike Hedges, Schmidt-­Leukel does not interpret the typology as a phenomenological description, but rather as “a logically precise and comprehensive classification”7 that can be applied to all religions, not just Christianity. By comprehensive, Schmidt-­ Leukel means that the typology represents all possible logical positions regarding the existence of P, a property mediated by religions. Specifically, Schmidt-­Leukel defines P as “mediation of a salvific knowledge of ultimate/transcendent reality.”8 According to Schmidt-­Leukel, the four answers to the question about the existence of P in other religions are: (1) atheism/naturalism, (2) exclusivism, (3) inclusivism, and (4) pluralism. He defines the four positions as follows: 1 2 3 4

P is not given among the religions. P is given among the religions, but only once. P is given among the religions more than once, but with only one singular maximum. P is given among the religions more than once and without a singular maximum.9

I agree with Hedges’ understanding of the typology as descriptive, heuristic, multivalent, and permeable. However, I also find helpful Schmidt-­Leukel’s

A new framework   15 reformulation of Race’s typology. In fact, I think that Hedges’ open and fluid understanding of the typology is compatible with having more accurate definitions. Any typology requires and presupposes some working definition of its basic components. A more precise working definition of the concepts of exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism does not necessarily entail a fixed essence and a single approach as Hedges seems to assume. Schmidt-­Leukel’s framework is illuminating, and his attempt to clarify and reaffirm Race’s typology is worthy of careful consideration. However, I do not think that Schmidt-­Leukel’s reformulation of the typology is comprehensive enough because it fails to take into account pluralistic-­inclusivism, which is neither inclusivism nor pluralism. Thus, I reject his claim that “for logical reasons no further choice is left.”10 Similarly, I reject Schmidt-­Leukel’s definition of P in terms of salvific knowledge of ultimate/transcendent reality because it does damage to most Buddhist traditions. Buddhists can define P without necessarily affirming or denying an ultimate/ transcending reality. For instance, many early Buddhist texts tend to define P in terms of the four noble truths, or the dependent arising and cessation of suffering, which involve many more things than insight into the ultimate nature of reality. Even if P were defined by all Buddhists in all contexts as insight into the ultimate nature of reality, such nature need not be interpreted either as an ultimate/absolute entity or as a transcendent reality beyond the universe. For instance, Nāgārjuna would reject both that emptiness is an absolute entity and that emptiness is a transcendent reality beyond the universe. Although my constructive proposal builds upon the philosophical reinterpretation of the typology developed by Perry Schmidt-­Leukel in 2005, I introduce substantial modifications in his framework. Unlike Schmidt-­Leukel, I interpret approaches to religious diversity in terms of openness. This openness manifests in views (openness in theory) and attitudes (openness in practice). By openness in theory or views it is meant claims about the existence of OTMIX among the religions. The acronym OTMIX stands for “our tradition most important X.” The letter X stands for whatever functions as the most important in a given context and for a particular tradition or set of traditions. The most important can be a teaching, a value, a reality, an ideal or a goal. Accordingly, X may have many different referents: God, ultimate reality, salvation, liberation, the fulfillment of the spiritual path, the highest truth, supreme goodness, holiness, and so on. I distinguish between four main kinds of openness in theory or openness to the existence of OTMIX among the religions: (1) tradition-­specific (exclusivism); (2) openness to similar instances of OTMIX (ordinary inclusivism); (3) openness to new/different instances of OTMIX, but limited by nonnegotiable doctrinal constraints (pluralistic-­inclusivism); and (4) openness to new/different instances of OTMIX, but without nonnegotiable doctrinal constrains (pluralism). These four kinds of openness in theory presuppose distinct views or claims about the existence of OTMIX among the religions. These views can be formulated as follows:

16   Exclusivism-inclusivism-pluralism 1 2 3

4

Exclusivism: OTMIX exists, but only in my religion. Inclusivism: There are multiple instances of OTMIX in other religions, and they are similar to the instances of OTMIX found in my religion; there are not new instances of OTMIX outside my religion. Pluralistic-­inclusivism: There are similar and different instances of OTMIX in other religions, but they are constrained by nonnegotiable doctrinal claims found in my religion; the new instances of OTMIX must be consistent with the instances of OTMIX found in my religion. Pluralism: There are similar and different instances of OTMIX in other religions, but they need not be constrained by nonnegotiable doctrinal claims found in any religion; the new instances of OTMIX may challenge, contradict, and even supersede the instances of OTMIX found in my religion.

Depending on the actual referent of X, we may formulate the four main views about the existence of OTMIX differently. For instance, if value in general is considered the most important, then we may formulate these four main kinds of openness as follow: (1) there is nothing really valuable in other religions (exclusivism); (2) we can find valuable things in other religions, but they are similar to those already found in one’s own religion (ordinary inclusivism); (3) we may find new valuable things in other religions, but they must be consistent with the doctrinal claims of one’s own religion (pluralistic-­inclusivism); and (4) we may find new valuable things in other religions, but they need not be consistent with the doctrinal claims of one’s own religion (pluralism). A religion may hold several views of OTMIX depending on the referent of X. For instance, evangelical Christianity may be considered exclusivist if the referent of X is salvation, and inclusivist if the referent of X is general revelation, truth or goodness. However, some traditions may define OTMIX in absolute terms, and then the referent of X does not change from context to context. In this case, a religion cannot be said to hold more than one view of OTMIX. For instance, if X in OTMIX is defined as always referring to salvation, then evangelical Christianity tends to be exclusivist, and it does not make sense to say that it is exclusivist in some contexts and inclusivist in others. The aforementioned views of OTMIX are associated with a particular attitude toward religious diversity (openness in practice). I distinguish between three basic attitudes: exclusivistic, inclusivistic, and pluralistic. What differentiates these attitudes is not a set of philosophical or theological claims about the existence of OTMIX among the religions, but rather a set of dispositions toward religious diversity in general. Specifically, each attitude involves a distinct disposition to accept, respect, and interact with other religions. Exclusivistic attitudes fail to accept the existence of other religions or, at best, accept them as a matter of fact, never as a matter of principle. This exclusivistic “acceptance” may lead to tolerance in the sense of forbearance of other religions and political correctness, but not to respect for them. At worst, this disrespect for other religions may lead to discrimination against their members, often leading to conflict and violence in the name of religion. People with exclusivistic

A new framework   17 attitudes tend to perceive other religions as a threat or as a source of evil. Accordingly, interaction with other religions is avoided as much as possible, and when interaction with them is proactively sought it is usually to counteract their influence, challenge their teachings, or to better proselytize their members. Inclusivistic attitudes accept the existence of other religions with ambiguities and with a tendency to instrumentalize them. That is, other religions are perceived as mere skillful means or stepping stones toward one’s own religion. Other religions may contain elements of truth and goodness, but such elements are somehow lacking and in need of fulfillment by the truth and goodness found in one’s own religion. Unlike people with exclusivistic attitudes, those with inclusivistic attitudes genuinely respect other religions, truly appreciate the elements of truth and goodness found in them, and do not discriminate against their members. Interaction with other religions is not avoided but it is considered dispensable. Interfaith dialogue is encouraged among scholars and representatives of religions, but not among ordinary practitioners. Although interaction with other religions need not be related to missionary activities, it tends to be patronizing and paternalistic. That is, people with inclusivistic attitudes “know” better what other religions are really about, and do not hesitate to tell their members what they miss and should do. Pluralistic attitudes accept other religions as a matter of principle unambiguously and without necessarily assuming that they are skillful means or stepping stones toward one’s own religion. Like inclusivistic attitudes, pluralistic attitudes genuinely respect other religions, truly appreciate their teachings, and do not discriminate against their members. However, unlike inclusivistic attitudes, pluralistic attitudes consider interaction with other religions indispensable. People with pluralistic attitudes proactively engage other religions through dialogue without necessarily seeking agreement or conversion. The ultimate goal of interreligious dialogue is not conversion or agreement but rather building bridges of understanding and harmonious communication among the religions. Interpreting theologies of religions in terms of different kinds of openness allows us to quickly identify the overall nature of a theology of religions and make important predictions about the most likely views and attitudes to be expected from them. Overall, the greater the openness in theory is, the deeper and more genuine the dispositions to accept, respect, and interact with other religions will tend to be. The typology, however, does not entail that the more openness to religious diversity the better. This is a value judgment that does not follow necessarily from this typology. For some people the openness characteristic of pluralist views and pluralistic attitudes will be excessive, threatening, and eventually conducive to relativism; for others it will be the most consistent with the data we possess about religions. Likewise, for some people the openness characteristic of exclusivism will be sectarian, and that of inclusivism parochial or narcissistic, while for others they will be the only logical outcomes of believing in the absolute truth of certain propositions. Be it is as it may, the typology is intended to be descriptive, a heuristic framework to clarify and quickly identify the nature of the most common approaches to religious diversity found across religions and cultures.

18   Exclusivism-inclusivism-pluralism Sometimes there might be inconsistencies between the views of other religions and the attitudes toward their members. Sometimes exclusivist views can appear together with inclusivistic attitudes, and inclusivist views with pluralistic attitudes. This simply indicates that theory and practice, beliefs and conduct do not always coincide, not that the basic framework is defective. The combination of views characteristic of a category with attitudes characteristic of other categories also suggests that religions cannot be simplistically considered exclusivist, inclusivist, or pluralist in their approaches to religious diversity. Religions are not monolithic, and in practice, there are many possible combinations and in-­ between positions. A comprehensive account of all possible positions and combinations is beyond the scope of this study. This study focuses on the views and attitudes that can be attributed to the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, which represent the earliest Buddhist approach to religious diversity. My contention is that later Buddhist approaches to religious diversity tend to combine an exclusivistic attitude with an exclusivist view of OTMIX. The Buddha’s approach to religious diversity, however, is best reconstructed as a combination of a pluralistic attitude with a pluralistic-­inclusivist view. I begin this reconstruction of the Buddha’s approach to religious diversity in Chapter 3.

1.2  A non-­essentialist definition of OTMIX The first modification I introduce in Schmidt-­Leukel’s framework is a non-­ essentialist definition of P. In order to achieve this goal I replace P by the acronym OTMIX (our tradition most important X) or simply by X (most ­important reality, goal, teaching, ideal, value, concern, level of spiritual development, revelation, etc.). Instead of defining X in essentialist terms as referring always to the same thing across traditions, for instance as “mediation of a salvific knowledge of ultimate/transcendent reality,” I prefer to leave X open to multiple interpretations. The specific referent of X depends on the context and the traditions we are considering in each case. Although X always functions as the most important in a given context and for a particular tradition or set of traditions, X may stand for many different things. For instance, X may refer to God, ultimate reality, salvation, liberation, truth, goodness, sainthood, holiness, the Dharma, the order of the universe, the spiritual path, wholesome mental states, and so on. X can be viewed either as existent or as inexistent. If existent, X can be understood as existing only in one religion (exclusivism) or in many religions (non-­exclusivism). If existent in many religions, X in other religions can be similar to X in one’s own religion (inclusivism) or sometimes different. If X in other religions is sometimes different from X in one’s own religion, X can be interpreted as constraint by nonnegotiable doctrinal claims, those of one’s own tradition (pluralistic-­inclusivism) or as not necessarily constrained by nonnegotiable doctrinal claims (pluralism). The only thing that the diverse interpretations of X share, is that in all of them X plays a similar role, namely, being the most important in a given context and

A new framework   19 for a particular tradition or set of traditions. My definition does not presuppose a universal essence common to all religions and all contexts. That is, X needs not be understood univocally as denoting exactly the same reality in all cases. This however, does not imply the fallacy of equivocation because X always stands for that which functions as the most important. Stating that OTMIX exists in many religions is insufficient to be a pluralist. While all pluralists are non-­exclusivists, not all non-­exclusivists are pluralists. The non-­exclusivist camp can be divided into three positions: inclusivism, pluralistic-­inclusivism, and pluralism; they all state that OTMIX exists in many religions. Only exclusivism claims that OTMIX does not exist outside one’s own religion. The four positions of the typology should be differentiated from the position of atheists and agnostics, who may use the typology without necessarily assuming that something corresponds to X in reality. Thus, the typology can be used by everybody, by those who believe in the actual existence of X (the four positions of the typology), by those who do not think X exists in reality (atheism, naturalism), and those who do not/cannot know whether X exists in reality (agnosticism/skepticism). The validity of the typology does not depend on the ontological status of X and what satisfies X. In other words, the validity of the categories does not require the existence of X in reality. The interpreter only needs to presuppose the existence of a concept that functions as the most important in a given context and for a particular tradition or set of traditions. Whether X and what a tradition considers OTMIX in a given context correspond to something that exists in reality is not a necessary assumption of the typology. For instance, when X stands for a transcendent reality, questions about whether X actually exists, and questions about whether X is in fact one, many, both, or neither, are left open by the typology. Similarly, the validity of the typology does not depend on the diverse understandings of X across religions. In order to speak about X and different instances of OTMIX among the religions, we need only a functional equivalence: being the most important in a given context and for a particular tradition or set of traditions. This functional equivalence is not an essence. Different religions may interpret what satisfies X differently, and even within a single religious tradition X may be understood in a variety of ways depending on the context. For instance, in some contexts, Buddhist texts understand the most important as the ultimate end of the spiritual life, which can be defined differently by different Buddhist traditions as liberation from dukkha, as attainment of non-­abiding nirvana, as becoming a Buddha, as realization of emptiness, and so on. However, in other contexts, Buddhist texts may understand X not as the ultimate end, but rather as the spiritual path, the ultimate nature of reality, the order of the universe, the highest stage/s of spiritual development. In the Pāli Nikāyas, the earliest Buddhist texts, I have identified six different concepts that may stand for X: the Dharma11 (Pāli dhamma), nirvana (Pāli nibbāna), the noble eightfold path, dependent origination, the four noble truths, and the four highest

20   Exclusivism-inclusivism-pluralism practitioners (stream-­enterers, once-­returners, non-­returners, and worthy ones; Pāli sotāpatti, sakadāgāmī, anāgāmī, and arahant). The diversity of what satisfies X even within a single religion is not unique to Buddhism. In some contexts, Catholic texts may understand the most important as God, sometimes defined in a personal sense as father or as the intelligent designer; in other contexts God appears in more metaphysical terms as the transcendent, the creator, the first mover, the final cause, and so on. Yet, in other contexts, Catholics may understand X as salvation, which can be defined in diverse ways including holiness, perfection, existence in heaven, beatific vision, and analogical participation in the Triune God. A non-­essentialist definition of OTMIX is intended to achieve three goals: (1) increasing awareness of the complexity of X even within a single religious tradition; (2) encouraging interreligious interpreters to listen carefully to what other traditions have to say about themselves before projecting onto them a foreign understanding of X; and (3) allowing traditions to define X in their own terms. In other words, a non-­essentialist definition of OTMIX tries to foster cross-­ cultural comparison and interreligious understanding, minimizing the imposition of foreign categories upon other traditions as well as the distortion of their teachings. Maybe some traditions define OTMIX as Schmidt-­Leukel defines P, that is, as “mediation of salvific knowledge of an ultimate/transcendent reality,” but this does not have to be necessarily the case for all religions. Most Buddhists traditions would object to a definition of their experience or their teachings as “mediation of salvific knowledge of ultimate/transcendent reality.” For instance, as Christiopher Ives states Zen thinkers have represented their religious “experience” not as a perception of a special object of experience, but as a shift in their mode of experience (from a subject-­object mode to a “non-­dual” mode) through which the discriminating self-­conscious experience “drops off,” leaving no sense of being a subject over against the experienced object.12 Similarly, Mādhyamika thinkers in the Geluk tradition would object to a description of emptiness as a transcendent reality, and would claim that strictly speaking, there is no ultimate reality, but rather emptiness understood as an absence, which is technically called a non-­affirming negative.13 Likewise, the concept of salvific knowledge is problematic for most Buddhist traditions because the concept of skillful means (upāya) somehow implies that what may be salvific knowledge for a practitioner at a given point may not be salvific knowledge at a different stage of spiritual development. If any knowledge might be at some point salvific, defining X as mediations of salvific knowledge is not very illuminating within a Buddhist context. Even Buddhist traditions that understand salvific knowledge as the three higher knowledges (Pāli abhiññā) that the Buddha experienced during his enlightenment14 would object. For Buddhism, not all “salvific” or, to use

A new framework   21 Buddhist terminology, not all “wholesome” (Pāli kusala) mental states are instances of knowledge, let alone knowledge of an ultimate/transcendent reality. For instance, the first higher knowledge of early Buddhism is knowledge of past existences, the second is knowledge of the workings of karma, and the third is knowledge of the four noble truths. Neither the first nor the second higher knowledge can be considered knowledge of anything ultimate or transcendent. The third higher knowledge is not insight into one reality, but rather knowledge of four different realities or truths. Even the knowledge of the third noble truth is not necessarily understood by all Buddhists as knowledge of an ultimate/transcendent reality called nirvana.15 Which realities are ultimate and whether there is an ultimate reality are disputed questions within Buddhist scholasticism. The existence of an ultimate/transcendent reality is not something that all Buddhists accept, and even those who accept such reality do not understand it in the same way. For instance, some may understand the ultimate reality as nirvana, others as the Dharma, others as Buddha-­ nature, others as clear light, others as emptiness, and others as dependent origination. It would be misleading to subsume all these different understandings under the label “ultimate/transcendent reality.” Whether one calls such ultimate/ transcendent reality God,16 the Most High, the Eternal One, Reality in itself, the Mystery, etc., does not change things dramatically; it remains mostly a monotheistic approach, not necessarily a Buddhist one. A non-­essentialist definition of OTMIX avoids the aforementioned problems, facilitates interreligious understanding, deep listening, cross-­cultural comparison, and allows for diverse interpretations without falling into equivocation. On the other hand, Schmidt-­Leukel’s definition of P somehow imposes upon religions a particular interpretation of X as salvific knowledge of a transcendent reality. A non-­essentialist definition of OTMIX is in principle applicable to all religions. When two or more religions are compared, the interpreter will have to develop working definitions acceptable to all of them, or if actual members from different traditions participate in an event requiring a specific definition of X, then they will have to forge a working definition together.

1.3  A more precise concept of inclusivism The second modification I introduce into Schmidt-­Leukel’s framework is a more precise concept of inclusivism. I distinguish between inclusivism as a view (openness in theory) and inclusivism as an attitude (openness in practice). Here I focus on inclusivism as a view. Since Race understood the term inclusivism as referring to a view or theology of religions, I find it confusing to use the term in other unrelated senses. There are two senses of inclusivism I discard. First, inclusivism in a hermeneutical sense: we cannot interpret other religions except through our cultural and conceptual lenses, and always from a particular perspective. I fail to see how someone cannot be an inclusivist in this hermeneutical sense. Yet, the fact that we are all inclusivists in this hermeneutical sense has

22   Exclusivism-inclusivism-pluralism nothing to do with holding an inclusivist view of OTMIX. Pluralists, pluralistic-­ inclusivists, and exclusivists alike understand other religions in this hermeneutically “inclusivist” way, but they do not have an inclusivist view of OTMIX. Second, I discard the use of inclusivism as a form of syncretism, that is, as a set of strategies to critically incorporate (include) elements from other religions into one’s own home tradition.17 Again, this is not characteristic of inclusivism as a view of OTMIX. One could be “inclusivist’ in this syncretistic sense and yet advocate an exclusivist or a pluralist view of OTMIX. Thus, given that the hermeneutical and syncretistic usages of inclusivism are not unique to those who advocate an inclusivist view of OTMIX, I limit myself to use inclusivism as a theology of religions, that is, as a view about the existence of OTMIX among the religions. Such a view of OTMIX correlates with a particular kind of openness; specifically, with openness to what is similar. The inclusivist is open to the existence of OTMIX in other religions, but qualifies such existence by saying that the instances of OTMIX found in other religions are similar to those already found in her/his religion. This kind of openness to what is similar presupposes two statements: (1) “there are multiple instances of OTMIX in other religions,” and (2) “they [such instances] are similar to the instances of OTMIX found in my religion.” The inclusivist assumption is that the instances of OTMIX outside one’s own religion are not new. In other words, the inclusivist claims that OTMIX exists in many religions, but rejects a priori the existence of new instances of OTMIX. Whatever OTMIX is found in other religions must be similar to OTMIX in one’s own religion; there are no surprises, whatever is found in other religions is already found in one’s own. According to Schmidt-­Leukel’s definition, inclusivists claim that “P is given among the religions more than once, but with only one singular maximum.” However, the affirmation of a singular maximum is not an adequate criterion to define inclusivism as a view of religions. First, it is possible to hold an inclusivist view of OTMIX without affirming a singular maximum. Inclusivists may claim that OTMIX is given among the traditions many times without necessarily believing in a maximal instance of OTMIX. For instance, I can say that the knowledge of God found in other religions does not add anything new to the knowledge of God found in my religion without necessarily claiming that my religion possesses maximum knowledge about God (I John 4:12; John 1:18). Second, it can be argued that the historicity of traditions and the limitations of the human mind make impossible to claim any maximal instance of OTMIX among religions, at least when X involves human knowledge. Even if there were maximal instances of X among the religions, one would have to admit that the reception and subsequent interpretation of such a particular instance is not maximal, at least in the sense of being conditioned by the nature of our minds and dependent on a variety of historical and cultural factors. Third, the term “maximum” is ambiguous; it can be understood in quantitative and qualitative ways. For instance, in the New Testament the concept of pleroma (fullness, fulfillment) seems to be qualitative (John 1:16), (Eph 4:13;

A new framework   23 1:10; 3:19), (Gal 4:4), (Col 2:9). However, many Christians speak about the fullness of revelation in Christ as if Christianity possessed all soteriologically relevant revelation in a quantitative sense. Similarly, some Christians view the ethical and spiritual teachings of the Bible as absolutely true in both a qualitative and a quantitative sense, whereas other Christians consider such teachings as absolutely true only in a qualitative sense, without necessarily thinking that the Bible exhausts all moral and spiritual truth. If we had to define inclusivism in terms of a singular maximum, we would have to clarify first whether we use the term in a qualitative or a quantitative sense. Schmidt-­Leukel’s definition of inclusivism in terms of a singular maximum is also problematic when applied beyond Christianity, specifically Buddhism. For instance, inclusivist interpretations of the Buddha may argue that he does not claim to express the Dharma as a singular maximum, even less as the only singular maximum. The Buddha’s teaching would be a particular instance of the Dharma that is sufficient to attain liberation from suffering. Since the Buddha himself acknowledges that he did not teach all he knew,18 his teachings cannot be said to exhaust the Dharma and therefore be a maximal expression of it. Early Buddhism is in principle compatible with the existence of many non-­maximal instances of OTMIX, which in this context would stand for the Dharma. Before the teaching of Gotama Buddha, there were other Buddhas, and there will be more Buddhas in the future. If Schmidt-­Leukel’s definition of inclusivism were correct, then one would have to consider the Buddha a pluralist because he is not exclusivist, yet, he does not consider his particular instance of the Dharma a singular maximum. The rejection of a singular maximal instance of OTMIX and the acceptance of several non-­maximal instances of OTMIX do not render the Buddha’s view pluralist. It might be objected that the Buddha understood the noble eightfold path as a singular maximum. The noble eightfold path, however, is a particular representation of the Dharma sufficient to attain liberation. The noble eightfold path is not a maximal representation of the Dharma because the Dharma includes the four noble truths, not just the fourth truth or truth of the noble eightfold path. Moreover, the noble eightfold path or the spiritual path in general can be practiced with different degrees of intensity and fulfilled through different meditative venues. That is, not all those who practice the spiritual path do so in a maximal way. Buddhism speaks about different kinds of practitioners and liberated beings.19 Only Buddhas could be interpreted as maximal instantiations of enlightenment and the spiritual path. Even if the noble eightfold path and enlightenment are instantiated by Buddhas maximally, they remain non-­maximal representations of the Dharma. Since the maximal instantiations of the spiritual path and its culmination can be interpreted as non-­maximal representations of the Dharma, inclusivist interpreters of the Buddha may claim that his inclusivism is still non-­ maximal. In order to accommodate this inclusivist interpretation of the Buddha Gotama, it would be necessary to distinguish between maximal and non-­maximal forms

24   Exclusivism-inclusivism-pluralism of inclusivism. Maximal inclusivism would correspond to Schmidt-­Leukel’s definition of inclusivism (P is given among the religions more than once, but with only one singular maximum), and non-­maximal inclusivism would correspond to traditions that accept multiple non-­maximal representations of OTMIX. Since affirming or denying a singular maximum does not render someone a pluralist as Schmidt-­Leukel’s definition suggests, we need a more precise definition of inclusivism. I have characterized inclusivism as making two statements: (1) “there are multiple instances of OTMIX in other religions,” and (2) “they [such instances] are similar to the instances of OTMIX found in my religion.” The first statement helps to differentiate inclusivism from exclusivism, and the second marks the distinction between inclusivism and the other two forms of non-­exclusivism, i.e., pluralistic-­inclusivism and pluralism. For the inclusivist, OTMIX in one’s own religion includes all the others instances of OTMIX found in other religions. That is, the instances of OTMIX found in other religions are similar to those already found in one’s own religion. In other words, I define inclusivism as a view in terms of openness to similar instances of OTMIX in other religions. What differentiates the inclusivist view from other non-­exclusivist views is that the inclusivist believes in one instance of OTMIX, the one found in one’s own tradition, that somewhat includes the instances of OTMIX found in other religions; instances of OTMIX outside my religion are similar to those already found in my religion; they are not new. In this regard, there is not much difference between maximal and non-­maximal forms of inclusivism: both claim that only one instance of OTMIX includes the others. The difference is that maximal inclusivism assumes a singular maximum, and non-­maximal inclusivism does not accept maximal instances of OTMIX. The specific form in which OTMIX in one’s own religion includes all the others can be interpreted in at least two different ways. Critically appropriating a well-­known distinction found in contemporary Christian theology, we may speak about constitutive and representative20 inclusivism. By constitutive inclusivism, I mean a form of inclusivism that views one’s own instance of OTMIX as that which causes or makes possible all the others. On the other hand, representative inclusivism does not consider other instances of OTMIX necessarily derived from one’s own instances of X. Other instances are re-­presentations, similar manifestations of OTMIX that are not made possible by X in our religion. Both constitutive and representative inclusivism view X in one’s own religion as the only yardstick to measure all the other instances of X in other religions. However, constitutive inclusivism not only asserts that one’s own instance of X is the criterion, but also that other instances of X would not exist without X in one’s own religion. For instance, most Christians believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection is constitutive of salvation; there would not be salvation in other religions without the unique and universal mediation of Jesus Christ. There is “one Mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus” (1 Tm 2:5); “once and for all” (Heb 9:12). On the other hand, the Buddha’s representation of the Dharma at a

A new framework   25 particular time and place does not constitute other representations of the Dharma in other traditions. Inclusivist interpreters of the Buddha would claim that he is a representative inclusivist: the means of liberation found in other traditions are representations, instances of X similar to those found within Buddhism. Other instances of X are not caused by the existence of the Buddha and his rediscovery of the Dharma.21 There were multiple instances of X before the Buddha Gotama, and there will be many more after him. Yet, this acceptance of multiple instances of X before and after the historical Buddha does not make Buddhism pluralist. It might be objected that the new definition of inclusivism I propose is not necessary. According to this possible objection, in order to fix the problems that Schmidt-­Leukel’s definition of inclusivism generates, it suffices to substitute “singular maximum” by “uniquely superior way.” For instance, the Christian theologian Kristin B. Kiblinger endorses Schmidt-­Leukel’s framework, but modifies his definition of inclusivism thus: “(s)alvific knowledge of a transcendent reality is mediated by more than one religion . . . but only one of these mediates it in a uniquely superior way . . .”22 Substituting “singular maximum” by “uniquely superior way” avoids the two problems I have pointed out in Schmidt-­Leukel’s definition of inclusivism, that is, speaking of a uniquely superior way does not presuppose a controversial term open to quantitative and qualitative understandings, and it can be applied to both maximal and non-­maximal forms of inclusivism. However, the “uniquely superior way” definition creates other problems. First, defining inclusivism in terms of affirming that only one religion mediates X in a uniquely superior way is misleading because it entails that anyone making claims of superiority about one’s own religion cannot be a pluralist. However, like inclusivists, pluralists and pluralistic-­inclusivist do make claims of superiority. For instance, Schmidt-­Leukel himself affirms that a pluralist “will be open to find out whether the other’s faith is one that contains the same soteriological potential as one’s own or whether it might turn out to be essentially inferior.”23 The stereotype of pluralists as relativists who do not make claims of superiority is inaccurate, but nevertheless reinforced by some pluralists. For instance, the book The Myth of Religious Superiority: A Multifaith Exploration was edited by the pluralist Paul F. Knitter and contains contributions by other pluralists including John Hick and Schmidt-­Leukel. Since the book challenges the “myth of religious superiority” and the editor and the contributors seem to be all pluralists, it might seem natural to conclude that those who make claims of superiority cannot be pluralists; they must be either exclusivists or inclusivists. This conclusion, however, is incorrect because pluralists do make claims of superiority, at least about their pluralist position. Second, the “uniquely superior way” definition of inclusivism is misleading because it seems to suggest that pluralists are less committed to their own religions. This, however, contradicts what many pluralists say about their deep commitment to the truth-­claims of their home traditions. For instance, Paul Knitter, John Hick, John Cobb, Raimon Panikkar, Diane Eck, and many other pluralists

26   Exclusivism-inclusivism-pluralism continue to define themselves as Christians despite their openness to other religions. Like inclusivists, pluralists privilege their home tradition and consider it better than other religions, at least in some regards. Pluralist Christians may be more humble than inclusivist Christians and qualify the absolute truth-­claims of their home tradition. Nonetheless, the fact that the aforementioned pluralists remain Christians seems to presuppose a view of Christianity as somewhat superior to other traditions in some regards, which does not preclude the acceptance of other traditions as superior in other regards. The third and most important problem that affects the “uniquely superior way” definition of inclusivism is that it can be applied to inclusivists, pluralistic-­ inclusivists, and pluralists alike. If making claims of superiority and being firmly committed to the truth-­claims of a tradition are not the monopoly of inclusivists, it does not seem possible to define inclusivism in terms of a belief in “only one religion that mediates P in a uniquely superior way.” Anyone committed to a particular religion will view his or her own religion as uniquely superior, either absolutely (exclusivism, inclusivism) or at least in some regards (pluralistic-­ inclusivism, pluralism). Someone may try to solve the third problem generated by the “uniquely superior way” definition of inclusivism by distinguishing between two distinct ways in which the superiority claims are made. Accordingly, the difference between inclusivists and other non-­exclusivists would not lie in making or not making claims of superiority, but rather in the way such claims are made. For instance, unlike a maximal inclusivist, a pluralist would never make claims of superiority in an absolute way. As Raimon Panikkar puts it, . . . it [pluralism] will never proclaim: “The true belief is x.” It will always confess: “I believe x to be true” (the true belief ). The “I belief ” cannot be severed from belief. Nevertheless, this does not prevent me from affirming that I believe that others are wrong and even that their views are so harmful that I may feel obliged to combat particular errors—although not as absolute evils.24 However, this attempt to save the “uniquely superior way” definition of inclusivism does not succeed because making absolute claims of superiority is not what defines all inclusivists. Non-­maximal inclusivists do not speak of a singular maximum among the diverse instances of X, but rather of several non-­maximal yet sufficient instances of X. These non-­maximal inclusivists do not make superiority claims in an absolute way. For instance, inclusivist interpreters of the Buddha may argue that his teachings are not absolute because they had a beginning and they will have an end. Similarly, the claims of superiority that Buddhist inclusivists make about the Buddha, the Dharma, and the community of noble disciples are not absolute, but rather dependently originated and ultimately empty. Thus, given that not all inclusivists make absolute claims of superiority, what differentiates inclusivists from other non-­exclusivists cannot be the absolute or non-­absolute ways in which they make such claims.

A new framework   27 On the other hand, my definition of inclusivism avoids the problems that affect the “uniquely superior way” definition. Specifically, my definition is not misleading: it does not suggest that among those who accept many instances of X among the religions, only inclusivists make claims of superiority and are deeply committed to their home traditions. More importantly, my definition applies exclusively to inclusivists. Moreover, it is applicable not only to maximal and non-­maximal inclusivists, but also to any inclusivist regardless of the way s/ he makes superiority claims. Overall, what defines inclusivism as a view is neither making superiority claims about a uniquely superior way nor stating that there is only one singular maximum among the instances of X. Rather, what defines inclusivism as a view is the kind of openness to OTMIX in other religions, openness to similar instances of X: “there are multiple instances of OTMIX in other religions, and they are similar to the instances of OTMIX found in my religion.” In other words, what defines inclusivism as a view is affirming that only one instance of X, that of one’s own tradition, already includes all other instances. Instances of X in other religions are already found in one’s own tradition; foreign instances are similar to the instances of X found in the home tradition.

2 Pluralism and degrees of openness

In the first part of this chapter I expand the typology exclusivism-­inclusivismpluralism with a new category called pluralistic-­inclusivism. Historically, pluralistic-­inclusivism came into existence after pluralism. However, since pluralistic-­inclusivism originated as a reaction to the insufficient openness of inclusivism and the excessive openness of pluralism, it seems accurate to place pluralistic-­inclusivism between the two. In the second part of this chapter I propose a new interpretation of pluralism in terms of non-­dogmatic openness to the existence of different instances of OTMIX in other religious. The dogmatically constrained openness to difference characteristic of pluralistic-­inclusivism represents an intermediate position between the openness to what is similar characteristic of inclusivism and the non-­dogmatic openness to difference characteristic of pluralism.

2.1  A new intermediate position: pluralistic-­inclusivism The third modification I introduce into Schmidt-­Leukel’s reformulation of Race’s typology is a new intermediate position between inclusivism and pluralism. Following the terminology preferred by Mark Heim and Jacques Dupuis (a member of the Society of Jesus), who are the most influential representatives of this approach to other religions, I call this intermediate position pluralistic-­ inclusivism. The alternative typologies developed by Paul Knitter and Paul Hedges in 2002 and 2008 respectively also introduce a non-­exclusivist position besides inclusivism and pluralism. Knitter, in the context of Christian attitudes to other religions, speaks about replacement, fulfillment, mutuality, and acceptance models.1 Knitter’s typology overlaps to a great extent with Race’s typology. The replacement model is similar to exclusivism in that both tend to evaluate negatively other religions. Although moderate forms of exclusivism acknowledge that there is general revelation in other religions, only one’s own religion provides salvation, and eventually it should replace all the other religions. The fulfillment model resembles inclusivism in that both tend to perceive truth and goodness in religions, though only one’s own religion is destined to fulfill the others because its greater truth and value already includes the lesser truth and

Pluralism and degrees of openness   29 value found in others. The mutuality model is akin to pluralism for its tendency to view all religions as equals; this equality is not to be understood in a relativistic sense, but rather in the sense of having similar rights, legitimacy, and independent value. The main difference between Knitter’s and Race’s typologies is the addition of a new category, the acceptance model. For Knitter, a great variety of thinkers fall under the category of acceptance: ultra-­particularists such as George Lindbeck and Joseph DiNoia, and moderate particularists like Paul Griffiths, Mark Heim, Francis Clooney, and James Fredericks. What unites all the aforementioned thinkers seems to be their acceptance of religious diversity as a matter of principle, their emphasis on respecting difference and paying careful attention to the particularities of religions, and their concerns about both inclusivism and pluralism. Likewise, Hedges, also in the context of Christian approaches to other religions, introduces a fourth category, which he calls “particularities.”2 The other three components of Hedges’s typology are the same as those of Race’s typology, although in plural form: exclusivisms, inclusivisms, and pluralisms. Hedges explains the category “particularities” as follows: . . . particularity is a post-­modern theological approach to other faiths. It rejects the idea that such things as “religion”, “reason”, or “religious experience” exist as cross-­cultural and universal categories. Rather, each culture has its own particular structure, discourse and expression, for which these terms may not be valid. It rejects pluralism, which it sees as speaking of universals; regards inclusivism as incoherent, because it tends toward a view that every “religion” is essentially similar in nature; and is not exclusivism, because that may not be what is within God’s plans.3 Like Knitter, Hedges mentions diverse thinkers under the label “particularities”: Gavin D’Costa, George Lindbeck, Rowan Williams, Kevin Vanhoozer, Lesslie Newbigin, Joseph DiNoia, John Milbank, Alister McGrath, Paul Griffiths, and with some reservations Mark Heim. What all these thinkers seem to have in common is their postliberal outlook and their postmodern criticism of universal categories and metanarratives. These thinkers reject the rationalistic and egalitarian tendencies of pluralism, which they tend to perceive as a modern, pseudo-­ religious metanarrative contrary to the Christian self-­understanding. Thus, behind the call for respect for differences and attention to the particularities of religions, there is a common interest in safeguarding the uniqueness of Christianity, which for them cannot be understood as one religion among others without simultaneously undermining fundamental Christian claims. My contention is that neither the acceptance of religious diversity nor attention to the particularities of religious traditions can serve as criteria to differentiate among exclusivism, inclusivism, pluralistic-­inclusivism, and pluralism. As an alternative criterion to differentiate among diverse theologies of religions, I  propose four main kinds of openness to the existence of OTMIX among the

30   Exclusivism-inclusivism-pluralism religions: tradition-­specific openness (exclusivism), openness to what is similar (inclusivism), openness to similar and different instances of OTMIX, but with dogmatic constraints (pluralistic-­inclusivism), and openness to similar and different instances of OTMIX, but without dogmatic constraints (pluralism). Acceptance of religious diversity alone does not help to differentiate exclusivists from inclusivists, and pluralistic-­inclusivists and pluralists. For instance, many evangelicals accept that there is general revelation in other religions, but that does not mean that they accept religions as a matter of principle. Similarly, official Catholicism accepts the existence of salvation in Christ outside Christianity as well as some elements of truth and goodness, “rays of light” and “seeds of the Word.” This, however, does not mean that official Catholicism accepts other religions as a matter of principle. The Catholic declaration Dominus Iesus, dated August 6, 2000, when Pope Benedict XVI was known as Cardinal Ratzinger, makes this point clearly when it criticizes “relativistic theories which seek to justify religious pluralism, not only de facto but also the de iure (or in principle)” (Dominus Iesus: 4). On the contrary, both pluralists and pluralistic-­inclusivists agree in accepting other religions as a matter of principle, and in viewing religions, not as something provisional and instrumentally valuable, but rather as intrinsically valuable and irreducible to stepping stones toward other religions that will fulfill them in the future. Things get more complicated as soon as we transcend a Christian context. For instance, like pluralistic-­inclusivist and pluralist interpreters of Christianity, inclusivist interpreters of Buddhism and Hindu traditions accept religious diversity as a matter of principle. Some people might try to solve the problem by distinguishing among different types of acceptance. For instance, following Paul Knitter, some people might describe the acceptance characteristic of ultra-­ particularists as a “good neighbor policy” and as “good fences make good neighbours.” This somewhat passive acceptance of religious diversity would contrast with the proactive acceptance characteristic of pluralists, who are more inclined to engage other traditions through dialogue. The problem is that official Catholicism and two of the most important representatives of pluralistic-­inclusivism, i.e., Heim and Dupuis, are also proactive and show an unmistakable interest in interreligious dialogue. Another inadequate criterion to differentiate among theologies of religions is the emphasis on respecting difference and paying careful attention to the particularities of religious traditions. Some people may use respect for difference and attention to particularities as mere excuses and politically correct ways of advocating what, at least in practice, amounts to exclusivism. For instance, ultra-­particularists such as DiNoia and Lindbeck overemphasize the differences among the religions so much that interreligious communication and understanding become virtually impossible. In this regard, like exclusivism, ultra-­particularism ends up, at least in practice, discouraging dialogue and hindering any significant learning from other traditions. Religions are utterly incommensurable; they are rooted into different cultural-­linguistic contexts with

Pluralism and degrees of openness   31 radically different circumstances, goals, and experiences. Thus, although ultra-­ particularists do not consider themselves exclusivists, in practice their position leads to the “exclusion” of other religions, though not out of arrogance, disrespect, and ignorance, but rather out of humility, respect, and awareness of differences. On the other hand, moderate forms of particularism, which I associate mainly with Heim, Griffiths, Clooney, and Fredericks, display genuine interest in interreligious learning and dialogue. This genuine openness to interreligious dialogue and learning allows us to infer that Heim, Griffiths, Clooney, and Fredericks are perhaps best interpreted as pluralistic-­inclusivists rather than as particularists. For instance, although sharing a similar postliberal and postmodern outlook, Heim’s model does not rule out the possibility of interreligious dialogue to significantly enrich one’s own tradition with the contribution of other religions. Pluralistic-­inclusivists tend to be suspicious of inclusivism, perennial philosophy, and some forms of pluralism that talk about a common ultimate/transcendent reality and a similar goal across religions. More specifically, pluralistic-­inclusivism tends to challenge the insufficiently open inclusivism of Karl Rahner and official Catholicism, the perennialism of Huston Smith, René Guénon, Frithjof Schuon, Ananda Coomaraswamy, and the “identist”4 pluralism of John Hick, Paul Knitter, and Wilfred Cantwell Smith. For pluralistic-­inclusivists, speaking about a common mystical tradition or religious experience, a single religious end, and one ultimate/transcendent reality to which all religions respond differently conditioned by their respective cultures and languages is simply not the case. Although pluralistic-­inclusivists do not necessarily consider similarities irrelevant, they prefer to stress the differences among the religions and their particularities. Moreover, for pluralistic-­inclusivists, discourses about a common transcendent reality and a similar religious goal overlook what makes each tradition unique and special. By overlooking the particular and focusing on the universal, the identity of religions is somehow distorted; that is, the particularities that actually constitute the identity of religions are marginalized and no longer part of the “truer” universal identity of religions. This emphasis on respecting difference and paying careful attention to particularities helps to distinguish pluralistic-­inclusivism from inclusivism, perennial philosophy, and “identist” forms of pluralism. However, there are forms of “differential” or “deep” pluralism5 that resemble pluralistic-­inclusivism in their respect for difference and attention to particularities. For instance, the pluralism of Raimon Panikkar affirms the insurmountable differences among traditions and religious ends; Panikkar also rejects the possibility of a universal theory of religions and considers a pluralist system a contradiction in terms, no longer pluralism, but rather a subtle form of inclusivism. Given that emphasis on respecting difference and paying careful attention to particularities are common to pluralistic-­inclusivism and differential or deep forms of pluralism, we need another way to define pluralistic-­inclusivism. I propose to define pluralistic-­inclusivism in terms of openness to the existence of

32   Exclusivism-inclusivism-pluralism OTMIX among the religions. Specifically, I define pluralistic-­inclusivism in terms of openness to different instances of OTMIX in other religions, but with dogmatic or nonnegotiable constraints. This particular kind of openness can be formulated as a view about the existence of OTMIX among the religions. This view presupposes three statements: (1) “there are multiple instances of OTMIX in other religions,” (2) “such instances are sometimes similar and sometimes different from the instances of OTMIX found in my religion,” and (3) “the different instances of OTMIX found in other religions are constrained by nonnegotiable doctrinal claims found in my religion.” The first statement differentiates pluralistic-­inclusivism from exclusivism, the second from inclusivism, and the third from pluralism. Simplifying, the pluralistic-­inclusivist position can be summarized as affirming that “there are multiple similar and different instances of OTMIX in other religions, but they are constrained by nonnegotiable doctrinal claims found in my religion.” The openness of pluralistic-­inclusivism is constrained because the new instances of OTMIX found in other religions must be by definition consistent with the instances of OTMIX found in my religion. This consistency by definition is intended to protect the identity of religious traditions against uncritical syncretism and excessive transformation. Some transformation and some enrichment with elements from other religions are acceptable provided that the identity of the home tradition is preserved. This requires the selective and critical appropriation of the new instances of OTMIX found in other religions. Distinguishing pluralistic-­inclusivism from inclusivism in terms of openness resembles Paul Griffiths’ distinction6 between open and closed inclusivism. However, in my account what separates pluralistic-­inclusivism from inclusivism is not openness to any elements from other religions in general, but specifically openness to new instances of OTMIX in other religions. Everybody, even exclusivists and closed inclusivists, can be open to differences among the religions, learn something from them, and incorporate elements from other religions that are consistent with the home tradition. However, the openness characteristic of pluralistic-­inclusivism is not simply openness to difference, but specifically openness to different instances of OTMIX, the most important. In other words, pluralistic-­inclusivists are open to elements from other religions that are both different and related to OTMIX, not just different. For instance, pluralistic-­ inclusivists are open to spiritually and soteriologically meaningful knowledge about OTMIX in other religions, not just intellectually interesting knowledge about other religions. Not all open inclusivists are pluralistic-­inclusivists. However, all pluralistic-­inclusivists are open inclusivists. The concept of pluralistic-­inclusivism should not be mistaken with the concept of open inclusivism. This specific kind of openness to the existence of new instances of OTMIX in other religions is what makes the Jesuit Jacques Dupuis a pluralistic-­inclusivist. This is important because it implies that not all pluralistic-­inclusivists must be moderate particularists, have a postmodern outlook, and believe in multiple salvations. In my account, the category pluralistic-­inclusivism applies not only to

Pluralism and degrees of openness   33 those who advocate multiple ends like Heim, but also to those who advocate a single end like Dupuis. Overall, in this framework what differentiates the categories of inclusivism and pluralistic-­inclusivism is not primarily a matter of greater acceptance of other religions or a greater attention to particularities, but rather a matter of  greater openness; openness to different instances of OTMIX in the case of pluralistic-­inclusivism, and just openness to similar instances of OTMIX in the case of inclusivism. This distinction between inclusivism and pluralistic-­inclusivism in terms of openness helps to clarify the position of Dupuis, who Knitter discusses under the fulfillment model despite the fact that Dupuis accepts as a matter of principle the existence of OTMIX in other religions. Either Knitter’s distinction in terms fulfillment and acceptance is problematic, or it does not capture Dupuis’s position adequately. On the contrary, my distinction in terms of openness captures the position of Dupuis adequately. Moreover, unlike my distinction in terms of openness, Knitter’s distinction in terms of fulfillment and acceptance cannot be applied beyond Christianity. For instance, Indian forms of inclusivism tend to accept other religions as a matter of principle without having the need to fulfill them in the future, at least not necessarily. Likewise, my distinction between inclusivism and pluralistic-­inclusivism in terms of openness helps to clarify the difference between old and new forms of inclusivism within Christianity. On the contrary, Schmidt-­Leukel’s definition of inclusivism in terms of many instances of P with only one singular maximum fails to capture the substantial differences between old and new forms of inclusivism. The new and more open pluralistic-­inclusivism differs from older forms of inclusivism in at least three important aspects. First, pluralistic-­inclusivism shows a greater respect not only for differences and particularities, but also for the value of religions, which is intrinsic and definitive, not instrumental and provisional like in traditional Christian inclusivism. Second, pluralistic-­inclusivism views interreligious dialogue and learning as more than just a means to fulfill and evangelize other religions. Interreligious dialogue and learning are also ends in themselves, which can make important contributions to the knowledge of OTMIX in one’s own religion. Third, pluralistic-­inclusivism is open to the existence of new and different instances of OTMIX in other traditions, whereas traditional inclusivism is open only to similar instances of OTMIX in other traditions. Like inclusivism, pluralistic-­inclusivism can be maximal or non-­maximal, constitutive or representative. There are several possible combinations. For instance, from the pluralistic-­inclusivist perspective of Jacques Dupuis, Christianity is understood as asymmetrically and uniquely superior to other religions; the truth and grace found in other religions are “completed” and “confirmed” by the Christian revelation.7 Dupuis’ pluralistic-­inclusivism is constitutive yet non-­ maximal. For Dupuis, Christ is “clearly asserted to be God’s decisive revelation and constitutive savior.”8 Yet, the fullness of revelation found in Christ is not to be understood in a maximal way, which Dupuis calls quantitative fullness.

34   Exclusivism-inclusivism-pluralism Rather the fullness of Christ is non-­maximal, what he calls qualitative fullness: “it is of a singular intensity, but it does not “exhaust” the mystery. Therefore, even though it is unsurpassed and unsurpassable, it remains limited. It still remains unfinished and will remain so until the completion of revelation in the eschaton.”9 It is this limited, unfinished yet qualitatively full revelation found in Christ that allows Dupuis to speak about other religions “contributing positively to the enrichment of Christianity.”10 Here, however, there are some tensions and ambiguities, which I interpret as derived from dogmatic constraints. For instance, Dupuis perceives intrinsic value in other religions and speaks about enrichment of Christianity with the contribution of other religions; however, he qualifies these claims in a way that resembles the fulfillment theologies of older inclusivism. Dupuis seems to advocate a subtle form of maximal inclusivism when he says that the contribution of other religions to Christianity is not to be understood “in the sense of filling a void which the fullness of Jesus Christ would have left open and which would remain to be filled.” Similarly, Dupuis seems to endorse a subtle form of fulfillment theology when he says that: whereas other religious traditions can find, and are destined to find, in the Christ event their fullness of meaning—but without being absorbed or dispossessed—the reverse is not true: God’s self manifestation and self-­giving in Jesus Christ are not in need of a true completion by other traditions.11 Thus, Dupuis’s pluralistic-­inclusivism is still associated with dogmatic assumptions characteristic of fulfillment theologies, assumptions that restrain his openness to other religions. Although the acceptance of religious diversity and the call for transformation and mutual enrichment that one can find among pluralistic-­inclusivists are genuine, their openness to other religions is constrained by nonnegotiable doctrinal claims.12 For instance, Dupuis and other pluralistic-­inclusivists use the Trinity, specifically the Holy Spirit, to justify the possibility of Christian learning, transformation, and enrichment with the contribution of other religions. However, they end up backpedaling, setting a priori limits to the manifestations of the Spirit in other religions, somewhat subordinating the Spirit to the Logos, and advocating theological frameworks that in practice hinder deep learning, transformation, and enrichment. As Knitter says, “The ‘Spirit-­centered’ approaches that Dupuis and others advocate do not, in the final analysis, seem to allow the Spirit to say anything really different from what was said in Jesus.”13 If Schmidt-­Leukel’s definition of inclusivism were correct, we would have to state that the pluralistic-­inclusivism of Dupuis and others qualify as forms of pluralism. However, in my account, accepting the existence of new instances of OTMIX in other religions is insufficient to speak about pluralism. Pluralistic-­ inclusivism is different from pluralism and its non-­dogmatic openness to other religions. While pluralistic-­inclusivists accept unambiguously religious diversity, their openness to other traditions sets nonnegotiable limits to what can and

Pluralism and degrees of openness   35 cannot be found in other religions. On the other hand, pluralists accept unambiguously religious diversity too, but unlike pluralistic-­inclusivists, their openness is not constrained by nonnegotiable doctrinal claims.

2.2  A new characterization of generic pluralism Pluralism in Race’s typology is a claim about the existence of salvation in many religions without the necessary mediation of Jesus Christ. In other words, pluralists in the original typology are those who accept the existence of multiple, independently valid spheres of salvation. This position is mostly associated with the Christian philosopher and theologian John Hick. In 1995, Mark Heim challenged Hick’s pluralist position. Instead of advocating many independent paths leading to the same salvation, Heim proposed the idea of multiple salvations. Heim labeled his position pluralistic-­inclusivism. In 2005, David Ray Griffin questioned Heim’s limited understanding of pluralism, accusing him of conflating pluralism in general with a particular version of it, namely, with what Griffin calls “identist” pluralism. In order to clarify what characterizes the position of all pluralists, Griffin distinguished between “generic” and “specific” pluralism. Griffin speaks about two kinds of specific pluralism: identist and differential. Identist pluralism assumes the existence of one salvation and one transcendent reality common to all religions. On the other hand, differential pluralism, which Griffin also calls “deep pluralism,” does not assume necessarily that all religions talk about the same salvation and one ultimate reality. While the pluralism of John Hick, Paul Knitter, and Wilfred Cantwell Smith can be considered identist and soteriologically convergent, the pluralism of John B. Cobb and Raimon Panikkar can be considered differential and not necessarily convergent. The fourth modification I introduce into Schmidt-­Leukel’s reformulation of Race’s typology is a new definition of pluralism. By pluralism it is meant “generic pluralism,” what defines someone as a pluralist, what a pluralist position has in common with other pluralist positions independently of the specific forms pluralism may take. According to Griffin, what defines generic pluralism is the acceptance of two affirmations, one negative and the other positive: The negative affirmation is the rejection of religious absolutism, which means rejecting the a priori assumption that their own religion is the only one that provides saving truths and values to their adherents, that it alone is divinely inspired, that is has been divinely established as the only legitimate religion, intended to replace all others. The positive affirmation, which goes beyond the negative one, is the acceptance of the idea that there are indeed religions other than one’s own that provide saving truths and values to their adherents.14 Griffin’s definition of generic pluralism improves our understanding of pluralism, but it is nevertheless insufficient to differentiate among the positions of

36   Exclusivism-inclusivism-pluralism inclusivists, pluralistic-­inclusivists, and pluralists. As an alternative, I propose a new interpretation of generic pluralism. In my account, what distinguishes pluralism from other positions is not the acceptance of many religions that provide independently valid means of salvation, nor the acceptance of many salvations. Rather, what separates pluralists from non-­pluralists is a matter of openness to other religions. While pluralistic-­inclusivists are open to other religions with nonnegotiable doctrinal constraints, pluralists are open without nonnegotiable doctrinal constrains. Thus, I define pluralism in terms of non-­dogmatic openness to the existence of similar and different instances of OTMIX in other religions. Griffin’s definition of generic pluralism is problematic because it can be endorsed by non-­maximal forms of ordinary inclusivism and pluralistic-­ inclusivism. For instance, both inclusivist and pluralistic-­inclusivist interpretations of the Buddha Gotama would reject absolutism and would not affirm that only Buddhism can provide saving truths and values to their adherents. The Buddha Gotama accepted the existence of previous instances of the Dharma that were valid independently of the existence of his teachings. In other words, the Buddha Gotama did not create, but rather rediscovered the path leading to liberation from suffering.15 His teachings were a particular instance of the Dharma, which remained the case whether or not there were Buddhas and Buddhism in the world.16 Likewise, the Buddha accepted the existence of self-­enlightened beings (paccekabuddhas) who did not belong to Buddhist traditions nor relied on Buddhas or Buddhists to attain liberation. Thus, the Buddha taught one among many independently valid representations of the Dharma. Like other particular representations of the Dharma, the Buddha’s representation was not maximal yet it was sufficient to attain liberation. The concept of non-­maximal representations of the Dharma allows for two possible interpretations of the Buddha’s position: either as an instance of pluralistic-­inclusivism or as an example of ordinary inclusivism. That is, either as accepting or not accepting representations of the Dharma that are different from the representations already found in the Buddha’s teachings. Likewise, Schmidt-­Leukel’s definition of pluralism is problematic. Claiming that “P is given among the religions more than once and without a singular maximum” can also be endorsed from the perspective of many inclusivist and pluralistic-­inclusivist interpreters of Buddhist traditions, which would accept many non-­maximal yet sufficient instances of OTMIX inside and outside Buddhism. Since neither Griffin’s nor Schmidt-­Leukel’s characterization of pluralism allows us to differentiate among the position of inclusivists, pluralistic-­ inclusivists, and pluralists, I propose to define generic pluralism in terms of non-­ dogmatic openness to other traditions. The pluralist position can also be formulated as a view that involves three statements: (1) “there are multiple instances of OTMIX in other religions,” (2) “such instances are sometimes similar and sometimes different from the instances of OTMIX found in my religion,” and (3) “the different instances of OTMIX found in other religions are not constrained by nonnegotiable doctrinal claims found in my religion.”

Pluralism and degrees of openness   37 The first statement separates pluralistic-­inclusivism from exclusivism, the second statement marks the difference between inclusivism and pluralistic-­ inclusivism, and the third statement distinguishes pluralism from pluralistic-­ inclusivism. Combining the three statements, the pluralistic-­inclusivist view can be summarized as follows: “there are multiple similar and different instances of OTMIX in other religions, but they are not constrained by nonnegotiable doctrinal claims found in any religion.” This new definition of generic pluralism in terms of non-­dogmatic openness helps to appreciate the fundamental distinction that exists between pluralistic-­ inclusivists and pluralists. Like pluralistic-­inclusivists, pluralists accept the existence of new instances of OTMIX in other religions. However, unlike pluralistic-­inclusivists, pluralists do not think that the new instances of OTMIX found in other traditions are necessarily constrained by nonnegotiable doctrinal claims, those of one’s own religion. Pluralists understand and evaluate the new instances of OTMIX found in other traditions with the standards and doctrinal claims of their own traditions. This is unavoidable. However, unlike pluralistic-­inclusivists, pluralists do not consider such standards and doctrinal claims unchangeable dogmas, i.e., nonnegotiable. Both pluralists and pluralistic-­inclusivists are open to the existence of OTMIX in other religions in a limited and critical way, that is, both presuppose standards and doctrinal claims by which other instances of OTMIX are measured. This is important because the stereotype about pluralists as being uncritically open to other religions to the point of lacking standards and falling into relativism needs to be revised. Pluralists do have normative criteria and make doctrinal claims like anybody else. In this regard, pluralists are no different from exclusivists, inclusivists, and pluralistic-­inclusivists. What distinguishes pluralists from others is that they do not understand their standards and doctrinal claims as nonnegotiable, that is, as dogmas that can never be challenged and contradicted. Pluralists are not dogmatically constrained; they can reinterpret their doctrinal claims and modify their normative criteria if necessary, even the most sacrosanct ones, provided that they discover new evidence that requires them to do so. Thus, generic pluralism is not defined by openness to the existence of new instances of OTMIX in other religions, which is something that pluralists have in common with pluralistic-­inclusivists. Rather, what defines pluralism is a non-­ dogmatic openness, the absence of nonnegotiable constrains. Pluralism is open to the existence of new instances of OTMIX in other religions, but with a qualifier: OTMIX is not necessarily constrained by nonnegotiable doctrinal claims and normative criteria. Pluralism can be interpreted as making two affirmations, the first one positive and the second one negative. The first, positive affirmation states that there are new instances of OTMIX in other religions. This claim is based on an inductive reasoning: we have already discovered new instances of OTMIX outside our own tradition; consequently, it seems logical to expect new discoveries in the future. However, this first affirmation is not sufficient to differentiate pluralism

38   Exclusivism-inclusivism-pluralism from pluralistic-­inclusivism. What distinguishes pluralism from other positions is precisely the second, negative affirmation: the new instances of OTMIX found in other religions are not necessarily constrained by nonnegotiable standards and doctrinal claims. Being a pluralist is first and foremost a matter of non-­dogmatic openness. No matter how many salvations you recognize and how many paths to liberation you admit, if you are not free from nonnegotiable doctrinal constraints in your openness to new instances of OTMIX in other religions, then you are not a pluralist. This new definition of generic pluralism avoids the confusion between pluralism and the claim that there are many independently valid spheres of salvation among the religions, which is not necessarily a pluralist claim. Many forms of inclusivism, e.g., perennial philosophy, neo-­Hinduism, can endorse such a claim. More specifically, generic pluralism should not be identified with John Hick’s identist version of pluralism, by far the most popular and criticized of all. Claiming that there are many independently valid spheres of salvation among the religions, each one attempting to grasp in their culturally conditioned ways the same ultimate/transcendent reality, and each one capable of generating the same spiritual transformation, does not define the position of all pluralists. Conflating Hick’s interpretation of pluralism with pluralism as a whole is very common even among experts in theology of religions. For instance, Mark Heim goes as far as to claim that the “assumption that there is and can be only one religious end is a crucial constitutive element of ‘pluralistic’ theologies.”17 Conflating Hick’s specific version of pluralism with pluralism in general has led to the neglect of other forms of pluralism. In fact, the pluralism of John Cobb and Raimon Panikkar continues to be either misunderstood or virtually ignored in most discussions of pluralism. If the acceptance of many independently valid religions leading to the same goal does not define generic pluralism, the acceptance of many independently valid religions leading to diverse goals cannot define generic pluralism either. Both positions can become specific forms of pluralism, but they are not pluralist positions necessarily. As we have seen, the first position can also be endorsed by inclusivist interpreters of the Buddha, and the second one by pluralistic-­ inclusivists like Heim. We need something more than a plurality of paths and goals to speak about pluralism. That something more is a non-­dogmatic stance. Defining pluralism in terms of non-­dogmatic openness to new instances of OTMIX in other religions makes pluralism qualitatively different from both inclusivism and pluralistic-­inclusivism. The pluralist discovery of new instances of OTMIX in other religions is substantially different from the discovery of similar, already known instances of OTMIX or the discovery of new instances of OTMIX that must necessarily fit into a preconceived theory. The pluralist discovery might be compared to a scientific discovery; it is a breakthrough, it adds something substantial to what we already know. On the other hand, the discovery of inclusivists and pluralistic-­inclusivists is more like the verification of a scientific theory; even if we find new evidence, it confirms the truth of what we already know. For instance, from a Christian perspective, what the Holy Spirit

Pluralism and degrees of openness   39 reveals in other religions does not contradict God’s revelation in Jesus; it might be different, but not really that different; it must be consistent and never surpass the fullness of Christ’s revelation. Similarly, from a pluralistic-­inclusivist interpretation of the Buddha, the elements of the Dharma found in other religions might be different, genuine aspects of the Dharma, but by definition they can never be contrary to or excel the Dharma as it is taught in the Buddha’s teaching. While pluralism allows for new knowledge that may revolutionize one’s own religion, inclusivism and pluralistic-­inclusivism permits new knowledge that leads at best to a fuller comprehension of what is already known. The new knowledge characteristic of pluralistic-­inclusivism cannot contradict previous knowledge, it can only clarify it. Continuing with the former analogy, inclusivism and pluralistic-­inclusivism may lead to a fuller, more detailed, more justified knowledge of a scientific theory, but without ever going beyond the current scientific paradigm, which is perceived as nonnegotiable and unchangeable. On the other hand, pluralism allows not only for such a fuller understanding of the existing paradigm, but also for the discovery of revolutionary new theories and new scientific paradigms. By defining generic pluralism as non-­dogmatic openness to new instances of OTMIX, I avoid the problem that affects Griffin’s understanding of generic pluralism and Schmidt-­Leukel’s definition of pluralism: their definitions can be endorsed by pluralists, inclusivists, and pluralistic-­inclusivists alike. On the contrary, my definition of generic pluralism applies only to pluralists. Furthermore, the new definition of generic pluralism is also useful to avoid the confusion between pluralism and identist versions of pluralism. While all pluralists can be characterized as displaying a non-­dogmatic stance, not all pluralists speak about a common transcendent reality and a similar religious goal across religions. Finally, the aforementioned definition of generic pluralism helps to differentiate pluralists from pluralistic-­inclusivists who may accept the existence of new instances of OTMIX in other religions without being genuinely open to them. Unlike the dogmatically constrained openness of pluralistic-­inclusivists, the openness of pluralists is not dogmatically constrained. Only pluralists are open to the existence of OTMIX in other religions without setting nonnegotiable limits to what can and cannot be discovered outside their own religions. Most importantly, pluralists do not put dogmatic limits to the personal, doctrinal, and practical implications of such discoveries. The pluralist openness might be excessive and even dangerous for pluralistic-­inclusivists, but it is what ultimately differentiates pluralists from them. Relating pluralism to a non-­dogmatic openness to religious diversity is not unprecedented. In fact, I am indebted to Raimon Panikkar for this insight. Panikkar’s work is a clear instance of pluralism in this sense of non-­dogmatic openness to other religions. It is not a coincidence that the beginning of Panikkar’s “Sermon on the Mount of Intrareligious Dialogue,” which is in the first page of his book Intrareligious Dialogue, reads: “When you enter into an intrareligious

40   Exclusivism-inclusivism-pluralism dialogue, do not think beforehand what you have to believe.”18 This is what I mean by non-­dogmatic openness. This openness, however, does not mean that pluralists lack deeply held convictions, it simply means that they do not consider such convictions unchangeable and nonnegotiable by definition, i.e., dogmatically. Again, Panikkar’s “Sermon on the Mount of Intrareligious Dialogue” captures the commitment to one’s own tradition that is compatible with non-­dogmatic openness: “Blessed are you when you do not give up your convictions, and yet you do not set them up as absolute norms.”19 Many people, including John Hick, have interpreted Panikkar as an ordinary inclusivist because he uses Christian terminology in his understanding of other religions. This interpretation, however, would be inaccurate if what defines pluralism is not the language or the tradition from which someone speaks, but rather a particular kind of openness to other religions, i.e., openness without dogmatic or nonnegotiable constraints. As I understand Panikkar, the unknown Christ of Hinduism is not the Christ known to Christians, that is, he is not referring to similar instances of what Christians call Christ, but rather to new and non-­dogmatically constrained expressions of Christ outside Christianity. The terminology is Christian because for Panikkar we can only speak from a particular tradition or hermeneutical standpoint. That tradition or standpoint may be enriched by the insights of other traditions and standpoints, but it is nevertheless always situated. There are no vantage points in the encounter of traditions. Panikkar’s terminology may be primarily Christian, but he acknowledges that Hindus may know Christ through other names, and the aspects of Christ they know are not necessarily known and constrained by the doctrinal claims of Christianity. I am aware that the 1964 first edition of Panikkar’s The Unknown Christ of Hinduism can be considered an instance of open inclusivism. However, as Dupuis has pointed out,20 the 1981 second edition of the book as well as his later writings are unmistakably pluralistic. Yet Panikkar’s pluralism, as Heim acknowledges, is substantially different from the identist pluralism of Hick, Knitter, and Cantwell Smith. As Heim has rightly pointed out, Panikkar’s pluralism “stands out apart from them on several key points.”21 A key difference between Panikkar’s pluralism and that of Hick, Knitter, and Cantwell Smith is that Panikkar’s pluralism is not identist both at the ontological level of religious objects and at the soteriological level of religious ends. Another key distinction is that Panikkar’s unknown does not entail a crypto-­Kantian understanding of Christ where Hindus and Christians would be referring ultimately to the same transcendent reality through different names. The names are different, and the reality they signify is not necessarily the same. Yet what these names signify is not entirely different. If the unknown Christ of other religions were the same, it would not be unknown, and if it were utterly different, we would be unable to use the term Christ. Extrapolating Panikkar’s insight, I claim that the new, non-­dogmatically constrained instances of OTMIX found in other religions are not absolutely different because then we would not be able to identify such instances as new instances of

Pluralism and degrees of openness   41 OTMIX. Yet the new instances of OTMIX in other traditions are not absolutely similar because then they would be already known to us and included by the instances of OTMIX found in one’s own tradition. Perhaps an example will help to clarify this pluralist insight. The pluralist is like a biologist who accepts the existence of new, unknown forms of life. This claim is the result of an inductive reasoning; we have found new forms of life outside our known habitat in the past; therefore, it seems reasonable to expect new forms of life in other habitats. When we discover a new form of life, it is not exactly like anything we know; otherwise, it would not be new or unknown to us. Similarly, when we discover a new form of life, we realize it is not utterly different because then we would not be able to identify it and recognize it as an unknown form of life. By using the concept of life across different habitats, we do not need to assume that life as found in my habitat is exactly as it is in other habitats. Likewise, we do not need to assume that life possesses a universal and absolute essence, and that whenever we use the word life it must refer exactly to the same thing in all habitats. That would be akin to the inclusivist position. Furthermore, we can use the term life without assuming a Platonic essence that is instantiated in different habitats. Yet, the lack of a Platonic essence does not entail that the habitats are utterly different and incomparable. Some biologists may limit themselves to accept many different habitats, each one with their own standards to define what life is. This would be similar to the position of ultra-­ particularists. Other biologists may learn from the rich diversity of habitats important new things that help to better understand the unique type of life prevalent in their home habitat, but also present in other habitats. This would be akin to pluralistic-­inclusivism. However, there is another option between universalist and particularist interpretations of life, between inclusivist and pluralistic-­ inclusivist views of OTMIX. There might be family resemblances and functional equivalents that allow us to compare and find unknown forms of life in other habitats, new instances of OTMIX in other religions. The genuinely open study of these new forms of life can certainly improve the understanding of life prevalent in our habitat, but it can also challenge, contradict, and even supersede such understanding, giving rise to new paradigms or at least to a greater awareness of the limitations of our knowledge.

Part II

Exclusivism

3 Clarifying the concept of exclusivism

In the first two chapters I transformed a well-­known Christian typology into a cross-­cultural and interreligious framework to understand better the most common views of other religions. I redefined the concepts of exclusivism, inclusivism, pluralistic-­inclusivism, and pluralism in term of openness to the existence of OTMIX or “our tradition most important X”, where X stands for whatever functions as the most important goal, reality, teaching, concern, value, etc., in a given context and for a particular tradition or set of traditions. We saw that not all forms of inclusivism accept necessarily a singular maximum among the many possible instances of OTMIX. Thus, in order to improve upon Perry Schmidt-­Leukel’s concept of inclusivism I distinguished between maximal and non-­maximal forms of inclusivism. I further subdivided inclusivism into constitutive and representative in order to differentiate a typically Christian form of inclusivism from other forms of inclusivism. I reinterpreted David Griffin’s concept of generic pluralism—what defines the position of all pluralists—as a non-­dogmatic openness to the existence of new instances of OTMIX in other traditions. This chapter clarifies the concept of exclusivism and asks whether the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas was an exclusivist for making truth-­claims that entail the rejection of contrary doctrines and practices found in other traditions. The first section challenges the concept of exclusivism advocated by Alvin Plantinga and Gavin D’Costa, which considers exclusivists all those who make truth-­claims that “exclude” other truth-­claims. The second section further clarifies the concept of exclusivism by distinguishing between the exclusivist view, exclusivistic attitudes, exclusivist ways of thinking, and specific exclusivism. The third section argues that the Buddha is not an exclusivist for rejecting specific doctrines and practices found in other traditions. The final section contends that the Buddha did not have an exclusivist way of thinking even though he often applied a black or white logic while rejecting the claims of other traditions.

3.1  Are we all exclusivists? The question of whether or not the Buddha was an exclusivist depends on our definition of exclusivism. In Alan Race’s typology, the term exclusivism refers

46   Exclusivism to a Christian soteriological claim: there is no salvation outside Christianity. In our account, exclusivism is a view about the existence of OTMIX among the religions. The exclusivist view claims that OTMIX exists only in one’s own tradition, never in other traditions. Exclusivism as a view presupposes a particular kind of openness to other religions. The openness characteristic of exclusivism is tradition-­specific. Exclusivists are open to OTMIX but only in their own tradition. The exclusivist assumption is that nothing related to OTMIX can be found in other religions. For this reason, the exclusivist view is often associated with exclusivistic attitudes that discourage interactions with members of other traditions, unless it is for missionary and apologetic purposes. However, the Christian theologian Gavin D’Costa and the Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga have proposed a broader concept of exclusivism. For these two thinkers, exclusivists are not those who hold a particular view about the existence of OTMIX among the religions. Rather, anyone who makes truth-­ claims incompatible with other truth-­claims is an exclusivist. Since all religions believe in something that is incompatible with the beliefs of other religions, it follows that all religions are exclusivist: they exclude as false the beliefs of other religions that contradict their beliefs. Thus, since for D’Costa and Plantinga everybody makes truth-­claims that exclude others, exclusivists cannot be accused of being more intolerant and irrational than others. For D’Costa and Plantinga there is nothing morally wrong or epistemologically questionable with being an exclusivist because we cannot help it, we cannot but exclude other truth-­claims whenever we affirm ours. The fact that we are all exclusivists in the sense of excluding propositions contrary to our beliefs is for D’Costa the main reason for rejecting Alan Race’s typology of exclusivism-­inclusivism-pluralism: “the terminology conceals the fact that all the different positions are exclusive in a very proper technical sense.”1 Thus, for D’Costa, there is not a substantial difference between the various views of other religions; pluralism and inclusivism are, for D’Costa, ­variations of exclusivism. Accordingly, D’Costa, who originally considered himself an inclusivist, now defines himself as an exclusivist.2 Similarly, Plantinga understands exclusivism in a propositional sense: the exclusivist holds that the tenets or some of the tenets of one religion— Christianity, let’s say—are in fact true; he adds, naturally enough, that any propositions, including other religious beliefs, that are incompatible with those tenets are false.3 For Plantinga, being an exclusivist in this sense is “wholly unavoidable, given our human condition.”4 Furthermore, Plantinga argues that being an exclusivist does not entail any moral or epistemic failure. Morally, exclusivists cannot be accused of being oppressive, imperialist, and arrogant; epistemologically, exclusivists are not unjustified, irrational, and without warrant. This concept of exclusivism is problematic because it conflates a logical property of propositions involving truth-­claims with a view about the existence of

Clarifying the concept of exclusivism   47 OTMIX among religious and philosophical traditions. Any proposition that affirms X is bound to exclude the propositions that contradict X; this is plain logic, a property of any proposition containing a truth-­claim. If this propositional understanding of exclusivism is acceptable, then D’Costa and Plantinga are right, we are all exclusivists and there is nothing morally or epistemologically wrong with being an exclusivist. However, being an exclusivist in the sense of affirming the truth of X and excluding propositions that contradict X should not be confused with being an exclusivist in the sense of affirming that OTMIX exists only in one’s own tradition. I do not think it is accurate to call exclusivists all those who make any truth-­claim whatsoever. I prefer to reserve the term exclusivism for those who claim that “OTMIX only exists in my tradition,” and consequently, view other traditions in negative terms, at least with regard to OTMIX: “OTMIX does not exist in other traditions.” I call this claim and subsequent negative view of other traditions “the exclusivist view.” D’Costa and Plantinga fail to differentiate between the exclusivist view and a logical property of all propositions involving truth-­claims. Claiming that believing in X excludes other beliefs that contradict X simply applies the logical principle of non-­contradiction. However, this principle is accepted not only by exclusivists, but also by inclusivists, pluralistic-­inclusivists, and pluralists. Since propositional exclusivism is not unique to exclusivists, one should not conflate it with the exclusivist view of other traditions, which is unique to exclusivists. D’Costa’s and Plantinga’s concept of exclusivism is misleading. Instead of facilitating understanding of various views of religious and philosophical traditions, it puts all of them at the same level. Suggesting that we are all exclusivists is misleading because not all views of religious diversity reject the existence of OTMIX in all traditions except one’s own; this rejection is characteristic of exclusivists. While it is true that every view of other traditions presupposes truth-­claims that exclude other truth-­claims, it is not the case that inclusivists, pluralistic-­inclusivists, and pluralists reject the existence of OTMIX in other traditions. Thus, non-­exclusivist views are distinct and irreducible to the exclusivist view “OTMIX exists only in one’s own tradition.” Exclusivist and non-­ exclusivist positions may be similar in that they all exclude the truth-­claims made by other positions, but this is plain logic. Despite their common propositional exclusivism, the position of exclusivists and non-­exclusivists is substantially different. For exclusivists OTMIX exists only in one’s own tradition, for non-­exclusivists OTMIX exists in other traditions too. Since D’Costa’s and Plantinga’s understanding of exclusivism is misleading and unhelpful to appreciate the differences between exclusivist and non-­ exclusivist views of other traditions, I fail to see the advantages of using such a broad concept of exclusivism. The only advantage I can think of is that propositional exclusivism allows people with exclusivist views to defend the rationality and moral legitimacy of their position: if everybody excludes the truth-­claims of others, people with exclusivist views cannot be said to be more irrational and intolerant than others. Other than this subtle defense of the exclusivist view of

48   Exclusivism religions I find no other reason to prefer the propositional understanding of exclusivism over the concept of exclusivism as a view about the existence of OTMIX: it exists only in one’s own tradition. The exclusivist view entails a negative evaluation of other traditions: if OTMIX exists only in one’s own tradition, it follows that OTMIX does not exist in others. However, the exclusivist view need not lead to exclusivistic attitudes and exclusivist ways of thinking.

3.2  Other possible understandings of exclusivism In order to further clarify the concept of exclusivism and the question of whether the Buddha can be considered an exclusivist, it is necessary to differentiate the exclusivist view from other senses of exclusivism. Specifically, in what follows, I distinguish between the exclusivist view, exclusivistic attitudes, specific exclusivism, and exclusivist ways of thinking. In Alan Race’s typology the concept of exclusivism involves a claim about the existence of salvation; it exists only in Christianity. In the cross-­cultural typology I propose exclusivism has a broader meaning; exclusivists claim that OTMIX exists only in their tradition and, consequently, they view other traditions in negative terms because other traditions lack what for exclusivists is the most important, i.e., OTMIX. The exclusivist view presupposes a particular kind of openness to the existence of OTMIX, namely, tradition-­specific openness. The exclusivist is open to the existence of OTMIX but only in one’s own tradition. OTMIX does not exist in other traditions and, therefore, it does not make sense to be open to them, at least in order to find anything related to OTMIX. The exclusivist can still be open to other traditions for diverse purposes, but never in order to find OTMIX in them. In the previous section I differentiated the exclusivist view from what Plantinga and D’Costa understand by exclusivism, which may be called propositional exclusivism. Propositional exclusivism claims that everybody who makes truth-­ claims is an exclusivist because such truth-­claims exclude contradictory truth-­ claims. This propositional concept of exclusivism has to do with logic, with a property of propositions involving truth-­claims. This logical property of propositions that exclude contrary truth-­claims should not be confused with the exclusivist view, which is a claim about the existence of OTMIX among the religions: it exists only in one’s own religion or OTMIX does not exist in other traditions. Similarly, propositional exclusivism should not be confused with what I call specific exclusivism: excluding or rejecting specific doctrines and practices found in other traditions. Propositional exclusivism is broader than specific exclusivism. Propositional exclusivism refers to a logical property of all sentences involving truth-­claims. Specific exclusivism refers to the rejection of particular doctrines and practices found in other traditions. Both specific exclusivism and propositional exclusivism are epistemologically unavoidable and morally indifferent. Likewise, both are distinct and irreducible to the exclusivist view. Rejecting a particular doctrine, practice, or truth-­claim can be done without claiming that “OTMIX exists only in one’s own tradition.”

Clarifying the concept of exclusivism   49 Everybody who belongs to a religious tradition that makes truth-­claims about certain doctrines and practices must reject contrary doctrines and practices found in other traditions. Since rejecting specific doctrines and practices found in other traditions is not unique to people who hold the exclusivist view, it does not seem very helpful to consider exclusivists all those who reject specific doctrines and practices found in other traditions. This would make the concept of exclusivism unnecessarily broad and confusing. Since all traditions make truth-­claims that reject specific doctrines and practices found in other traditions, I fail to see how applying the term “exclusivism” to those who reject specific doctrines and practices helps to understand what is unique to exclusivists, namely, their exclusivist view of OTMIX. In other words, if we call exclusivists all those who make truth-­claims (propositional exclusivism) and all those who reject specific doctrines and practices (specific exclusivism), then we miss what really characterizes exclusivism, which is the denial of OTMIX outside one’s own tradition. Exclusivists define themselves by their view of OTMIX, not by making truth-­claims or by rejecting specific doctrines and practices found in other traditions. Inclusivists, pluralistic-­inclusivists, and pluralists also make truth-­claims and reject specific doctrines and practices found in other traditions, only exclusivists view OTMIX as unique to their tradition. The exclusivist view should also be differentiated from what I call exclusivist ways of thinking. Those who hold an exclusivist of view of OTMIX need not display exclusivist ways of thinking, which is a tendency to understand all aspects of reality in absolutist black or white terms. The exclusivist view of OTMIX may or may not be associated with exclusivist ways of thinking. Exclusivist ways of thinking tend to apply an “either or” “black or white” logic to all aspects of reality, even when there are more than just two exhaustive and mutually exclusive options available. That is, those with exclusivist ways of thinking tend to understand things as absolutely true or as absolutely false, as absolutely good or as absolutely evil, and so on. While people with exclusivist ways of thinking will hold an exclusivist view of OTMIX, not all who hold an exclusivist view need to have an exclusivist way of thinking. Exclusivist ways of thinking should not be mistaken for the way of thinking underlying propositional exclusivism and classical propositional logic. In classical propositional logic truth is a property of propositions and propositions can be either true or false. Propositions have a definite truth value and the truth of a proposition that affirms X excludes the truth of propositions that contradict X. The truth value of propositions is absolute in the sense of being unchangeable and independent of time and context. If a proposition is true, the opposite proposition must be false, always and everywhere. There is nothing wrong with classical propositional logic. On the contrary, the natural sciences and most interactions in daily life presuppose such logic. Every view of OTMIX—exclusivist, inclusivist, pluralistic-­inclusivist, and pluralist—presupposes a binary propositional logic. The problem is not with classical propositional logic per se but rather with the tendency to apply a black or white logic to all aspects of reality, even to aspects that admit gray areas.

50   Exclusivism What defines exclusivist ways of thinking is not the use of classical propositional logic, which is useful and unavoidable, but rather extrapolating an absolutist black or white logic to all aspects of reality. It would be unfair to suggest that everybody that uses classical propositional logic must have an exclusivist way of thinking and understand everything in absolute black or white terms. We should not equate those with exclusivist ways of thinking with those who hold the exclusivist view, make truth-­claims, or reject specific doctrines and practices found in other traditions. Using classical propositional logic is not the same thing as applying an absolutist black or white logic to all aspects of reality. Classical propositional logic can and should be applied to the doctrinal or theoretical aspects of religions. However, applying an absolute black or white logic to the practical aspects of religions is problematic. When someone understands all aspects of religions in absolute black or white terms, religions tend to be reduced to belief systems or sets of propositions. However, there are aspects of religions that, unlike propositions, allow for more than just two mutually exclusive options, i.e., true or false. For instance, while it is uncontroversial to state in absolute terms that “if proposition X is true, then propositions that contradict X must be false,” it is more controversial to state in absolute terms that “the ethical, spiritual, and religious practice of X is true.” More specifically, if the proposition “practicing mindfulness meditation is wholesome” is true, it does not follow that the opposite proposition must be false. It might be the case that for some people at a particular level of spiritual development “practicing mindfulness meditation is indifferent, neither wholesome nor unwholesome.” It might also be the case that for some people with a mental condition “practicing mindfulness is unwholesome.” It can get even more complicated because there may be people with a mental condition who actually benefit from the practice of mindfulness. Thus, understanding mindfulness meditation and any other spiritual practice in absolute black or white terms is simplistic at best and inadequate in most contexts. While it is uncontroversial to claim in abstract terms that any proposition must be either true or false, it is more difficult to state in more concrete terms that propositions, for instance, about ethical, spiritual, and religious practices must be absolutely true or false. Since religions are much more than sets of propositions with doctrinal claims, and since the practical aspects of religions allow for more than just two options, it seems problematic to exclude entire religions on the basis of a black or white logic. Yet, this is what many exclusivists tend to do. For people who apply an absolute black or white logic to religions, if the proposition X is true, it follows that all propositions contrary to X must be false, always and everywhere, no exceptions. For instance, if the propositions found in Acts 4:12 are true, they must be universally and absolutely true. Any proposition that contradicts what Acts 4:12 says must be necessarily false. That is, if claiming that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” is true, then it follows that non-­Christian religions do not provide any means of salvation. Likewise, if the

Clarifying the concept of exclusivism   51 proposition “I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the father except through me” (John 14:6) is true, then it follows that religions that reject the truth of such proposition must be false. Needless to say, I am not suggesting that the aforementioned texts necessarily presuppose exclusivist ways of thinking. For people with exclusivist ways of thinking it does not matter the context of the aforementioned propositions, their intended meaning, the type of discourse, and whether those who uttered them knew anything about Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religions unknown to the authors of the New Testament. The exclusivist with an exclusivist way of thinking simply applies a binary black or white logic to religions: if my religion is true, others must be false. There is no middle position, no gray areas, no degrees or levels of truth. This exclusivist way of thinking, however, is not characteristic of all those who hold an exclusivist view of OTMIX. Not all exclusivists display exclusivist ways of thinking. It should be noticed that the negative evaluation of other religions characteristic of exclusivists with exclusivist ways of thinking usually takes place a priori, that is, without any actual knowledge or experience of other religions. Such negative evaluation of other religions is the result of extrapolating propositional logic to all aspects of religions. By merely applying the logical principles of non­contradiction and excluded middle, the exclusivist with an exclusivist way of thinking “knows” that religions with contrary beliefs are false. From the truth of one’s own religious beliefs, it logically follows that other religions with contrary beliefs are false. There is no other option between the truth of a proposition and the falsehood of propositions that contradict such truth. Most people with exclusivist ways of thinking hold an exclusivist view of religions without actually knowing anything about them. For this type of exclusivists, it suffices to know what other religions believe. This renders religions with contrary beliefs false by definition. If my religion believes in the truth of proposition X and other religions do not believe in the truth of proposition X, other religions must be false. In order to adopt an exclusivist view, those with exclusivist ways of thinking need to believe only that the doctrinal claims of their religion are true. Actual knowledge of other religions is totally unnecessary. The ethical, spiritual, religious, and social practices of other religions are simply irrelevant to determine the truth of religions. Religions tend to be reduced to beliefs, and knowing the beliefs of others is enough to “know” whether their religion is true. Thus, exclusivists with exclusivist ways of thinking tend to privilege orthodoxy or right doctrine over orthopraxis or right action. That is, such exclusivists emphasize beliefs over conduct, theory over practice, propositional truth over practical truth. Other religions are false because their doctrinal claims are false, and whether their practices are true does not change their status as false religions. Given this doctrinal and mostly a priori evaluation of other religions, there is no need to study them. Whatever is different and incompatible with one’s own beliefs is either false or soteriologically irrelevant. What would be the point of learning about what is wrong and useless? Likewise, exclusivists with

52   Exclusivism exclusivist ways of thinking fail to see the point of interreligious dialogue. Dialogue with false religions is perceived with distrust, as a sign of weakness, as somewhat undermining the truth of one’s own religion, and as entailing relativism. If exclusivists with exclusivist ways of thinking dialogue with other religions or study them, it is likely to be for strategic reasons: to better challenge the beliefs of others, or to better evangelize them. However, it would be questionable to suggest that the exclusivistic attitudes typical of people with exclusivist ways of thinking are characteristic all those who hold the exclusivist view of OTMIX. Many people who hold the exclusivist view do not display exclusivist ways of thinking nor exclusivistic attitudes. This point is extremely important because one of the most common stereotypes about exclusivists is precisely that they are intolerant, intellectually naïve, and even irrational. Likewise, it would be inaccurate to assume that all those who reject specific doctrines and practices must hold an exclusivist view, display exclusivist ways of thinking and treat other religions with exclusivistic attitudes. Some people may reject particular doctrines and practices from other religions, but without claiming that OTMIX exists only in their own tradition. Likewise, those who reject specific doctrines and practices found in other traditions need not have an exclusivist way of thinking nor disrespect other religions. There is not a necessary connection between rejecting specific doctrines and practices found in other traditions (specific exclusivism), having a tendency to understand all aspects of reality in absolute black or white terms (exclusivist way of thinking), and claiming that OTMIX exists only in one’s own tradition (exclusivist view). These three senses of exclusivism should also be differentiated from exclusivistic attitudes. By exclusivistic attitudes I mean a set of practical dispositions toward religious diversity including: (a) failing to accept the legitimate existence of other religions; (b) avoiding dialogue and interactions with other religions unless it is to counteract their influence and to convert their members; and (c) a tendency to disrespect other religions and discriminate against their members. People who reject specific doctrines and practices found in other religions, people with a tendency to think in absolute black or white terms about everything, and people who hold exclusivist views of OTMIX need not display exclusivistic attitudes toward religious diversity.

3.3  Is the Buddha an exclusivist for rejecting many doctrines and practices? The Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas rejects many doctrines and practices found in other traditions. Stating that the Buddha excludes or rejects many doctrines and practices incompatible with the Dharma is uncontroversial. Excluding what is contrary to the beliefs and practices of one’s own tradition is epistemologically unavoidable and need not be a sign of stupidity, intolerance, and lack of respect for other religions. There is nothing intellectually or morally reprehensible with

Clarifying the concept of exclusivism   53 making specific exclusivist claims about particular doctrines and practices found in other religions. Many texts of the Pāli Nikāyas reject specific doctrines and practices of other  traditions while presupposing an absolutist black or white logic, that is, certain doctrines are always false and certain practices are always unwholesome. For instance, regarding ethical practices, in the Sāleyyaka Sutta (M.I. 286–9), the Buddha contrasts conduct that is consistent with the Dharma (dhammacariyā) and conduct that is inconsistent with the Dharma (adhammacariyā). Conduct inconsistent with the Dharma is explained as the ten unwholesome or dark actions: the three bodily actions of killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct; the four verbal actions of speaking falsely, maliciously, harshly, and gossip; and  the three mental actions of covetousness, ill-­will, and wrong view. Con­ duct consistent with the Dharma is the opposite, the ten wholesome or bright actions. Likewise, regarding the meaning of life, the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas contrasts two mutually exclusive existential quests. For instance, in the Ariyapariyesanā Sutta (M.I.161–4) the Buddha speaks of the ignoble search, which fosters craving and attachment for people and material possessions, and the noble search, which correspond to the life of the spiritual seeker. The ignoble search is described as seeking what is subject to birth (jātidhammaṃ), aging (jarādhammaṃ), sickness (byādhidhammaṃ), death (maraṇadhammaṃ), sorrow (sokadhammaṃ), defilement (saṅkilesadhammaṃ). In other words, the ignoble quest consists of pursuing happiness without any concern for spiritual cultivation: just having a family and material success. All these things are considered foundations of attachment (upadhayo), and the person seeking the ignoble is described as tied (gathito), infatuated (mucchito) and obsessed (ajjhāpanna) by them. On the contrary, the noble quest consists in a life in which spiritual cultivation is the primary concern. The main goal of the noble search is the opposite of the ignoble search, namely: seeking what is unborn (ajātaṃ), unaging (ajaraṃ), unailing (abyādhiṃ), deathless (amataṃ), without sorrow (asokaṃ), without defilement (asaṅkiliṭṭhaṃ). This ultimate goal of the noble search is further described as the “supreme security from bondage (anuttaraṃ yogakkhemaṃ), and nirvana (nibbānaṃ). Later in the same discourse the ultimate goal of the noble search is defined in terms that exclude craving and attachment, mental states characteristic of the ignoble search. The person seeking the noble eventually attains the relinquishment of all foundations of attachment (sabbūpadhipaṭinissaggo), the destruction of craving (taṇhakkhayo), and detachment (virāgo). The Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas not only rejects many practices while presupposing an absolutist black or white logic but also many doctrines. For instance, in (M.III.72), the Buddha defines right view as the following set of doctrines: there is what is given and what is offered and what is sacrificed; there is fruit and result of good and bad actions; there is this world and the other  world; there is mother and father; there are beings who are reborn

54   Exclusivism spontaneously; there are in the world good and virtuous recluses and brahmins who have realized for themselves by direct knowledge and declare this world and the other world. (M.III.72) These doctrines exclude the opposite ones, which are considered wrong views. Similarly, in the Apaṇṇaka Sutta (M.I.402ff ) the Buddha contrasts the doctrines of nihilism, non-­doing, and non-­causality with the opposite doctrines of affirmation, doing, and causality. The doctrines of nihilism, non-­doing, and non-­ causality agree in that they reject moral responsibility: moral actions do not have consequences both here and in the afterlife. The Buddha endorses the opposite doctrines of affirmation, doing, and causality for three reasons. First, those who reject that actions have consequences here and in the afterlife are likely to engage in unwholesome conduct because they “do not see in unwholesome states the danger, degradation, and defilement, nor do they see in wholesome states the blessing of renunciation, the aspect of cleansing” (M.I.402). Second, because the doctrines of nihilism, non-­doing, and non-­causality are factually wrong, that is, actions actually do have consequences here and in the afterlife: Since there actually is another world, one who holds the view “there is no other world” has wrong view. . . . Since there actually is another world, one who holds the view “there is another world” has right view. . . . Since there actually is doing, one who holds the view “there is no doing” has wrong view. . . . Since there actually is doing, one who holds the view “there is doing” has right view. . . . Since there actually is causality, one who holds the view “there is no causality” has wrong view. . . . Since there actually is causality, one who holds the view “there is causality” has right view. (M.402–9)5 Third, even if it were not the case that unwholesome actions have no consequences here and thereafter, it is more useful to believe that they do: with such a belief in the consequences of actions, in this life one is “here and now praised by the wise as a virtuous person,” and if after all it turns out that there is such thing as an afterlife, then one will experience a happy existence after death. In sum, for the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, the problem with wrong views is that they are both factually incorrect and “cause unwholesome states to increase and wholesome states to diminish” (M.III.52). Wrong views do not foster moral responsibility and render ethical and spiritual cultivation unnecessary. As Ānanda puts it referring to diverse nihilistic and materialistic doctrines, they “negate the living of the holy life that has been declared by the Buddha” (M.I.515). Since for the Buddha these views discourage people from behaving ethically and from practicing the spiritual path, he rejects them categorically, presupposing a black or white logic: wrong views are the opposite of right views; unlike right views, wrong views are inconsistent with the ways things are; and unlike right views, wrong views are conducive to unwholesome mental

Clarifying the concept of exclusivism   55 states. The specific exclusivism of the Buddha with respect to doctrines that undermine moral responsibility is unambiguous. Similarly, the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas excludes or rejects in absolute binary terms doctrines that perceive what is permanent in what is impermanent, happiness in what is suffering, a Self/self6 in what is non-­self, and beauty in what is ugly. These doctrines are described as holding wrong views, lit. going to wrong views (micchā-diṭṭhi-gatā). These wrong views are called the four perversions (cattāro vipallāsā) of perception, mind, and view. The opposite doctrines are called “undertaking right view” (sammā-diṭṭhi-samādānā), defined as seeing what is impermanent as impermanent, what is suffering as suffering, what is non-­self as non-­self, and what is ugly as ugly (A.II.52). Moreover, the Buddha makes specific exclusivist claims concerning doctrines that misunderstand the nature of the psychophysical components of beings.7 The Buddha teaches in many texts that each and every one of these components should not be regarded as “this is mine, this I am, this is my Self/self.” Likewise, the Buddha encourages his disciples not to view the components of beings as something permanent, happiness and a Self/self. All these are wrong views about the psychophysical components of beings. On the contrary, the opposite views are recommended. That is, regarding everything as arising and passing away dependent on specific conditions; as impermanent, as suffering, as non-­self; as “this is not mine, this I am not, this is not my Self/self.” (See, for instance, M.I.137ff; S.III.51ff; S.IV.147–8.) Doctrines about the Self/self, also known as “identity views” (sakkāya-diṭṭhi), are for the Buddha especially pernicious because they lead to many negative mental states including craving for immortal existence, the conceit “I am,” covetousness, greed, envy, jealousy, hate, anger. Doctrines about the Self/self are also problematic because they presuppose delusion (moha) or spiritual ignorance (avijjā) about the way things are, which is technically called “specific conditionality” (idappaccayatā) and “dependent origination” (paticcasamuppāda). In other words, wrong views of the psychological components of beings lead not only to negative emotions and but also to cognitive distortions about the process of specific conditionality and the dependently originated nature of phenomena (dhammā). Conversely, right views lead to wholesome emotions and direct knowledge of the psychophysical component of beings, that is, knowledge of their nature, origin, cessation, and the way leading to their cessation. Since wrong doctrines about the psychophysical constituents of beings are affectively and cognitively counterproductive, they are rejected while presupposing an absolutist black or white logic. The truth of wrong views is excluded by the truth of right views. However, as we will see below, the truth of right views is irreducible to the propositional truth of Buddhist doctrines. Again, the Buddha’s specific exclusivism or rejection of specific views about the psychological component of beings is incontrovertible. Although the Buddha rejects many wrong views while presupposing an absolutist black or white logic, this does not mean that his way of thinking can be considered exclusivist. What constitutes an exclusivist way of thinking is not

56   Exclusivism using an absolutist black or white logic, but rather the tendency to apply such logic to all aspects of reality. Some people may interpret the Buddha’s use of an absolutist black or white logic as a sign of his skillful means, as a concession to disciples who lack intellectual sophistication or who are spiritually less advanced. For these interpreters the Buddha taught in “dualistic” black or white terms only to those who were intellectually and spiritually less capable. Here, however, I reject such interpretation. First, the doctrine of “skillful means” as it is commonly understood in later Buddhist literature is inconsistent with the Pāli Nikāyas. The Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas does not teach contradictory teachings to different disciples depending on their level of intellectual and spiritual development. Second, the aforementioned interpretation is anachronistic because it projects into the Pāli Nikāyas a concept of skillful means characteristic of later Mahāyāna Buddhism. Third, such Mahāyāna interpretation of skillful means, besides being patronizing, tends to underestimate the intellectual and spiritual sophistication of the early disciples. Thus, I prefer to interpret the Buddha’s rejection of specific doctrines and practices with a black or white logic as a sign of wisdom and mental clarity. It is precisely because of this specific exclusivism that the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas can provide clear guidance about ethical and spiritual matters. The Buddha’s exclusion of specific doctrines and practices is necessary in order to avoid moral relativism and intellectual confusion.

3.4  Did the Buddha have an exclusivist mindset? Although the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas rejects many doctrines and practices while presupposing an absolutist black or white logic, it would be inaccurate to conclude that his way of thinking was exclusivist. A closer look at the texts of the Pāli Nikāyas reveals a way of thinking irreducible to the exclusivist way of thinking, that is, it does not show a tendency to understand everything in absolutist black or white terms. For instance, regarding ethics, if the Buddha’s way of thinking were reducible to an exclusivist way of thinking, we should be able to find texts suggesting that all actions without exception are always and everywhere either good or evil. However, the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas divides actions into four categories: (1) dark actions with dark result, (2) bright actions with bright result, (3) dark and bright actions with dark and bright result, and (4) actions that are neither bright nor dark, and that do not have either bright or dark effects (M.I.389; A. II.230). This fourfold division seems to indicate that for the Buddha there is a third type of action between purely good and purely evil actions, that is, a type of action that combines good and evil factors. This kind of gray or good-­and-evil action is not the same as a morally neutral action. Likewise, dark-and-bright actions are not dark in some respect and at a particular time, and bright in some other respect and at a different time. Rather dark-and-bright actions seem to be

Clarifying the concept of exclusivism   57 both things at the same time and in the same respect. Similarly, for the Buddha, there is yet another type of action that does not fit neatly in the dichotomy either good or evil. Specifically, the fourth type of action is neither good nor evil. Unlike the third type of action, the fourth type is not a combination of good and evil factors, but rather an action that is moral yet beyond good and evil karma. Again, neither-good-nor-evil actions should not be confused with morally neutral actions. Neither-dark-nor-bright actions transcend not the realm of ethics but rather the realm of karma, i.e., the accumulation of karmic effects in the agent’s mind.8 If the Buddha had an exclusivist way of thinking or a tendency to apply an absolutist black or white logic to all aspects of reality, then we would have to explain why the Pāli Nikāyas speak about four types of morally relevant actions, one between good and evil, and another somewhat beyond good and evil. Similarly, if the Buddha’s way of thinking were reducible to an exclusivist way of thinking, we should expect texts suggesting that ethics is primarily about the absolutist observance of rules or about the universal application of a moral principle. However, we do not find in the Pāli Nikāyas a fixed set of rules or a universal moral law applicable to all situations. First, the Pāli Nikāyas contain diverse sets of rules both for lay people and members of the monastic community. There is not a finalized monastic code and the rules that existed at the time of the Buddha were not understood as unchangeable. In fact, the dying Buddha explicitly states that minor rules could be abrogated if necessary (D. II.152–4). Second, the Pāli Nikāyas do not advocate a legalistic approach to ethics in which agents apply a universal moral law or set of laws to all cases. It is true that the Dharma could be interpreted as a universal moral law, and that the Buddha recommends his disciples to live in accordance with the Dharma. However, it is also true that the Dharma is never reduced to a universal moral principle, and that acting in accordance with the Dharma is not the only criterion of rightness in the Pāli Nikāyas. The Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas provides diverse criteria to determine the rightness of actions. The moral agent needs to take into account not only whether or not actions are in accordance with the Dharma, but also the consequences of actions, their specific content, their intention, and the prevalent mental state underlying their execution.9 In sum, the fourfold division of actions, the Buddha’s willingness to modify some of the regulations of the monastic code, the existence of different sets of rules for lay people and monks, and the use of diverse criteria to assess the rightness of actions, allows us to infer that he did not have a tendency to think in absolutist binary terms about all aspects of reality, that is, his way of thinking is not exclusivist. At least with regard to ethical and spiritual practices, the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas cannot be said to have an exclusivist way of thinking. Regarding doctrines, it would be premature to conclude that the Buddha has an exclusivist way of thinking because he rejects many views while presupposing an absolutist black or white logic. In classical Indian logic propositions can have four possible values: (1) true, (2) false, (3) true and false, (4) neither true

58   Exclusivism nor false. This four-­valued logic is implicitly accepted by the Buddha not only when he speaks about the aforementioned four kinds of actions but also when he is asked about diverse philosophical questions. For instance, the Buddha is asked whether a liberated being (tathāgata) after death (1) exists, (2) does not exist, (3) both exists and does not exist, or (4) neither exists nor does not exist after death. The Buddha also uses a four-­valued logic when he classifies the most common views held by other spiritual masters of his time.10 Besides using a four-­valued logic while talking about both practical and doctrinal matters, the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas does not reduce all aspects of right view to propositional logic. In other words, the Buddha’s concept of right view does not entail always an absolutist black or white logic. For the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas the contrast between right view and wrong view is not always equivalent to a contrast between true and false propositions. Several texts from the Pāli Nikāyas seem to suggest that the higher levels of right view transcend the order of language and propositional logic, be it binary or four-­valued logic. Here it is indispensable to clarify what the Buddha means by “diṭṭhi” in the Pāli Nikāyas. The term “diṭṭhi” is usually translated as “view” or “opinion.” However, for the Buddha, holding a “view” is not exactly the same as advocating a doctrine or having an opinion. Rather, a “view” in the technical sense refers to any doctrine and opinion, including Buddhist ones, held with negative mental states. The most common unwholesome mental states associated with views are attachment or grasping (upādāna) and ignorance (moha, avijjā). In other words, the term “view” in the Pāli Nikāyas refers to doctrines or beliefs that presuppose attachment and ignorance, most commonly attachment to and ignorance about the concept of Self/self. That is, in the Pāli Nikāyas the term “view” usually signifies what is technically called personality or identity views (sakkāya-diṭṭhi). When the Buddha is asked by Vaccha whether or not he “holds views” (lit. going to views, diṭṭhigata), he replies that the he has put views away (lit. “the holding of views, Vaccha, has been put away by the Tathāgata,” diṭṭhigatanti kho vaccha apanītametaṃ tathāgatassa.).11 Putting views away does not mean that the Buddha has no opinions or that he does not teach any doctrines.12 Rather, when the Buddha states that he has relinquished views he seems to mean that he has eradicated attachment to and ignorance about the five aggregates, the psychological components of beings. The absence of attachment to and ignorance about the five aggregates seems to involve insight into a new order of reality. Language and propositional logic do not apply to this new order of reality experienced by those who abandon attachment to and ignorance about the five aggregates. Right after saying that he has put views away, the Buddha claims that he has seen (diṭṭha) the following: Vaccha, the Tathāgata has seen this (diṭṭhaṃ hetaṃ vaccha tathāgatena): “Such is material form, such its origin, such its disappearance; such is feeling, such its origin, such its disappearance; such is perception, such its origin, such its disappearance; such are volitional formations, such their

Clarifying the concept of exclusivism   59 origin, such their disappearance; such is consciousness, such is its origin, such its disappearance.” Therefore, I say, with the destruction, the fading away (virāgā), the cessation, the abandonment, and the relinquishing of all conceptualization (sabbamaññitānaṃ), all intellectual distortion (sabbamathitānaṃ), all “I” attitudes, “mine” attitudes and the underlying tendency to conceit, the Tathāgata is liberated, without attachment (anupādā).13 In this text the Buddha contrasts two ways of seeing the five psychophysical components of beings. The first way of seeing is the order of views, which involves craving, attachment, and ignorance regarding the five aggregates. The second way of seeing is a higher order of seeing (diṭṭha) free from craving, attachment, and ignorance. This higher order of seeing seems to be more than a mere conceptual knowledge of doctrines expressed in propositions; it seems to be a direct insight, a non-­propositional knowledge of the origin and the cessation of the five psychophysical aggregates. Since such insight is a non-­propositional knowledge, it seems that propositional logic, whether two-­valued or four-­valued, no longer applies. Although I sympathize with Paul Fuller’s interpretation of right view as “a different order of seeing” and a “transcendence of all views,” I think this is true only of supramundane right view, which has to do with insight into the four noble truths, the principle of dependent origination and selflessness. Unlike Fuller, I do not think that for the Buddha mundane right view or right view in general involves a different order of seeing.14 The transcendence of views in the technical sense of views held with attachment and ignorance, as well as the insight into an order of reality in which language and propositional logic no longer apply, are characteristic of supramundane right view only, not of right view in general. My interpretation of right view is consistent with the distinction that the Buddha introduces at M.III.72 between two types of right view: (1) “affected by taints, partaking of merit, ripening on the side of attachment” and (2) “noble, taintless, supramundane, a factor of the path.” The traditional explanation relates these two types of right view to two different sets of doctrines: karma and rebirth on the one hand, and the four noble truths and dependent origination one the other hand. However, I prefer to interpret these two types of right view as corresponding to two different kinds of knowledge: propositional and non-­ propositional, conceptual and non-­conceptual, intellectual understanding and experiential insight. While having the first type of right view can be understood as knowledge of propositions that logically exclude the opposite propositions, supramundane right view transcends propositional logic. Supramundane right view is not described as a set of propositions that are intellectually grasped, but simply as the wisdom, the faculty of wisdom, the power of wisdom, the investigation-­ of-states enlightened factor, the path factor of right view in one whose mind

60   Exclusivism is noble, whose mind is taintless, who possesses the noble path and is developing the noble path.15 The fact that supramundane right view is not defined as a set of propositions that opposes other propositions but rather as wisdom (paññā), seems to suggest that the four noble truths and dependent origination are something more than doctrinal claims whose truth can be ascertained by syllogisms or propositional logic. I am not saying that they cannot be formulated as doctrinal claims or propositions that can be known to be true intellectually; I am suggesting that the four noble truths and dependent origination are also spiritual practices that require cultivation and, eventually, the realization of non-­propositional truths. Stating that supramundane right view belongs to a higher order of seeing that transcends the order of the language and propositional logic is consistent with texts that describe dependent origination and the Dharma as beyond the range of logic (atakkāvacara), or as Bhikkhu Bodhi translates the compound atakkāvacara, as “unattainable by mere reasoning” (M.I.167). Supramundane right view belongs to a higher order of knowledge not only in the sense of transcending the cognitive order of propositional logic, but also in the sense of transcending the affective order of attachment. In order to realize the four noble truths and dependent origination, much more than an intellectual or propositional grasping of these doctrines is necessary; the absence of views in the aforementioned technical sense is needed too. It is important to notice that Buddhist doctrines, even if intellectually right, remain “spiritually wrong” as long as they are held with attachment. As the simile of the raft suggests, disciples of the Buddha are supposed to let go even of doctrines consistent with the Dharma, not simply of doctrines inconsistent with it: “dhammā pi vo pahātabbā, pageva adhammā” (M.I.134–5).16 In sum, while mundane right view may be understood with an absolutist black or white logic as a set of propositions that logically exclude the opposite propositions, supramundane right view cannot be reduced to the realm of propositional logic. That is, the truth of supramundane right view is irreducible to the truth of propositions expressing the doctrines of dependent origination, selflessness, and the four noble truths. Reducing supramundane right view to propositional truths would distort the early Buddhist concept of truth, which includes both doctrinal and practical aspects. The truth of supramundane right view is not attainable through black or white logical reasoning—it also requires the cultivation of the four noble truths and their practical realization. In conclusion, the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas does not have an exclusivist way of thinking either regarding practices or regarding doctrines. It is true that the Buddha rejects many doctrines and practices while presupposing an absolutist black or white logic, but it is also true that the Buddha does not have a tendency to understand all aspects of reality in binary terms. The Buddha understands some practices and doctrines with a four-­valued logic, and the highest stages of right view involve access to an order of reality beyond the realm of language and propositional logic, be it binary or four-­valued logic.

4 Is there liberation outside Buddhism?

This chapter addresses the question of whether the Buddha holds an exclusivist view of other traditions. The first section investigates whether the Buddha states that the four foundations of mindfulness are the only way to attain liberation from suffering. The second section discusses the exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha advocated by Buddhaghosa (c. fifth century ce) and contemporary Theravādins such as Bhikkhu Bodhi and Bhikku Soma Thera. According to the  exclusivist interpretation, only Buddhism provides the means to attain liberation. More specifically, only in the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline (dhammavinaya), or only in the Buddha’s teaching (buddhasāsana) is it possible to find the four highest stages of holiness and spiritual development (ariyapuggala).

4.1  Are the four foundations of mindfulness the only way to attain liberation? At the beginning of the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, the discourse on the foundations of mindfulness (D.II.290) and (M.I.55–6), the Buddha states the following: Ekāyano, monks, is this path for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and distress, for the disappearance of suffering and grief, for the attainment of the right path, for the realization of Nibbāna—namely, the four foundations of mindfulness.1 Following Rupert Gethin, I understand the Pāli compound ekāyana as eka + ayana, which literally means “one way” or “one going.” That is, the compound ekāyana found in the Pāli Nikāyas should not be mistaken with the Sanskrit Mahāyāna compound eka + yāna, which means “one vehicle” and refers to the Bodhisattva path.2 Scholars who interpret ekāyana in exclusivist terms tend to translate the sentence “ekāyano ayaṃ bhikkhave maggo” as suggesting that for the Buddha there is only one path to attain liberation from suffering, namely, the four foundations of mindfulness. For instance, Bhikkhu Walpola Rahula’s translation reads “This is the only way, Bhikkhus.”3 Similarly, Bhikkhu Soma Thera translates the

62   Exclusivism s­ entence as “This is the only way, o bhikkhus,”4 and Bhikkhu Nyanaponika as “This is the sole way, monks.”5 Even if these translators did not intend to interpret the Buddha in exclusivist terms, the truth is that their renderings of ekāyana support an exclusivist reading of the Buddha and Buddhism. If there is only one way, and that way is the Buddha’s path of mindfulness, then it follows that there cannot be other ways. However, this exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha is highly problematic. The sentence “ekāyano ayaṃ bhikkhave maggo” can be translated in non-­ exclusivist terms. For instance, we have the somewhat pluralist rendering of Maurice Walshe: “There is, monks, this one way,”6 which seems to allow for the existence of other ways besides the path of mindfulness. We also have the inclusivist readings of Bhikkhu Bodhi: “Bhikkhus, this is the direct path,”7 or “Bhikkhus, this is the one-­way path,”8 Bhikkhu Ñānamoli: “a path that goes in one way only,”9 and Rupert Gethin: “This is a path leading directly.”10 According to the exclusivist interpretation, the path of the four foundations of mindfulness is the “one and only path” for the attainment of liberation. For the inclusivist translation however, mindfulness is compatible with the existence of other paths. Unlike mindfulness, the other paths may (a) lead to liberation indirectly, (b) lead to other destinations besides liberation, or (c) serve as stepping stones towards the ultimate goal without actually reaching it. Likewise, the translation of Walshe does not exclude other paths: mindfulness would be one path among others. If something can be inferred from the existence of diverse translations of ekāyana is that the meaning of this compound is not straightforward. Interestingly, disagreement about the correct meaning of ekāyana does not seem to be something new. In fact, the earliest surviving Theravāda commentary attributed by tradition to Budhaghosa (c.500 ce), discusses six possible meanings of ekāyana. Among these six possible meanings, the first five are acceptable, only the sixth one is rejected. The first meaning of ekāyana is explained as a “single way,” a way that is without forks, diversions or detours, literally, a way that is not “two” or “double” (dvedhā). This meaning seems to favor the inclusivist translations of Rupert Gethin, Bhikkhu Bodhi and Bhikkhu Ñānamoli. A path without forks leads directly and only to liberation. On the contrary, others paths may lead to liberation indirectly, or lead to other destinations, or simply serve as stepping stones towards the final goal without actually reaching it. The second meaning of ekāyana is explained as a “solitary or isolated way” in the sense that (1) one needs to travel this path alone and (2) secluded from negative mental states, specifically, craving. The third meaning of ekāyana is explained as the “way of the one” that is, the way of the Buddha, who is described as the best among all beings. Neither the second nor the third meanings seem to favor the exclusivist interpretation. Even the third meaning, the one that suggests that the Buddha is the best does not have to be understood in exclusivist terms. For instance, there are other Buddhas besides the Buddha Gotama and all of them can be said to be the best among all beings.

Is there liberation outside Buddhism?   63 The fourth meaning of ekāyana is the only one among the six possible meanings discussed by Buddhaghosa that justifies the exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha and Buddhism. This fourth meaning of ekāyana suggests that the path of mindfulness is “the only way” in the sense of existing only in the Buddha’s teaching. This fourth meaning seems to be the one behind the exclusivist translations of Bhikkhu Walpola Rahula, Bhikkhu Soma, and Bhikkhu Nyanaponika. This fourth meaning is clearly exclusivist and it should not be dismissed lightly as if it had nothing to do with the Theravāda tradition. Whether we like it or not, the fact is that many Theravādins past and present have understood Buddhism in exclusivist terms: if the path of mindfulness is the only path leading to liberation, and if such path only exists in the Buddha’s teachings, it follows that there is no liberation outside Buddhism. However, as we will see in the next  section, this exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha or Buddhism is questionable. The fifth meaning of ekāyana is explained as “the way that goes to the one,” further clarified as “the way that goes only to Nibbāna.” The final goal of Nibbāna is the one goal because it is without a second. The expression “without a second” is explained as (1) not being accompanied by craving, and (2) “Truth is one, without a second.” The sixth meaning of ekāyana is the only one that is rejected by Buddhaghosa. The sixth meaning presupposes the following reasoning: one goes to Nibbāna only once, therefore it is ekāyana. The reason for rejecting this sixth meaning is that ekāyana in this context refers to mindfulness right before reaching the supramundane paths, or the stages in which Nibbāna is experienced. Since one needs to practice mindfulness many times before reaching Nibbāna, it is misleading to insinuate that one practice mindfulness only once. Another possible reason for rejecting this sixth meaning is that Nibbāna can be experienced more than once, but this is not the reason given by the commentary. Since there is only one meaning of ekāyana that justifies the exclusivist reading, specifically the fourth, and since there is one meaning, the first one, that supports the inclusivist reading, we need further evidence to determine whether or not the Buddha holds an exclusivist view of religions. A good source of evidence against the exclusivist reading of ekāyana is the usages of the compound ekāyana in Pāli and Sanskrit literature. The most comprehensive analysis of this compound in Indian Buddhist and non-­Buddhist texts appears in Rupert Gethin’s doctoral dissertation, published as The Buddhist Path to Awakening.11 After surveying the usages of ekāyana in Pāli and Sanskrit, Gethin concludes that the exclusivist meaning “need not be taken seriously for the earlier texts.”12 For Gethin, the principal ideas expressed by ekāyana are those of “going alone” and “going to one,” although he adds that “the nuance of the path as single and not forked should perhaps also be considered as inherent.”13 Thus, among the five meanings of ekāyana accepted by the Theravāda tradition, Gethin finds most acceptable the first, the second and the fifth. Among these three meanings accepted by Gethin, he seems to prefer the first. In Gethin’s words: “What

64   Exclusivism is basically being said is that the four satipaṭṭhānas represent a path that leads straight and directly all the way to the final goal.”14 Gethin suggests that, strictly speaking, the compound ekāyana cannot be translated because it connotes diverse notions. In this regard, ekāyana would be similar to other technical Buddhist terms such as tathāgata, kevalin, and nibbāna. Gethin leaves untranslated the compound at first: “ekāyana, bhikkhus, is this path.”15 However, later in his analysis he proposes a translation that reads “Going straight to the one is this path,”16 which combines the first and the fifth meanings found in Buddhaghosa’s commentary. Nevertheless, in his most recent translation for Oxford World’s Classics, Gethin’s renders the sentence as “This is a path leading directly,”17 which corresponds to the first meaning of ekāyana, the one that justifies the inclusivist interpretation, which is also favored by the translations of Bhikkhu Bodhi and Bhikkhu Ñānamoli. Since ekāyana in both Buddhist and non-­Buddhist sources in Pāli and Sanskrit has nothing to do with the exclusivist view of other traditions, it seems arbitrary to interpret ekāyana as suggesting that the path of mindfulness is “the one and only way” to attain liberation. As Gethin states: “Given that nowhere is the sense ‘one and one only’ clearly and definitely the proper sense, and in most cases definitely not, it seems rather perverse to adopt this sense in the Satipaṭṭhāna context.”18 Although I concur with Gethin’s evaluation of the fourth or exclusivist meaning of ekāyana in Buddhaghosa’s commentary, we need more evidence to rule out the exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha and Buddhism. Even if it is true that the usages of ekāyana in most Pāli and Sanskrit texts do not entail an exclusivist view, it is also true that many Theravādins past and present interpret the Buddha and Buddhism in exclusivist terms. These Theravādins adopt an exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha and Buddhism, not only because the exclusivist meaning of ekāyana is accepted by Buddhaghosa’s commentary, but also because they interpret other texts in exclusivist terms. In order to justify the exclusivist meaning of ekāyana Buddhaghosa quotes the Buddha as authority. Specifically, the commentary portrays the Buddha as saying, in Bhikku Soma Thera’s translation: “Subhadda, only in this Doctrine-­ and-discipline is the noble eightfold path to be found.”19 This leads me to the second section.

4.2  The exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha If the previous analysis is correct and there is not enough evidence to interpret ekāyana in exclusivist terms, then we can conclude that the Buddha does not state anywhere that the four foundations of mindfulness are the “one and only way” to attain liberation from suffering. What the Buddha seems to suggest when he states “ekāyana, bhikkhus, is this path” is that the path of mindfulness leads directly or only towards liberation. This inclusivist reading allows for the existence of other paths that can be understood in different ways. For instance, other paths may lead to the final goal of liberation indirectly, or they may lead to other destinations besides liberation, or

Is there liberation outside Buddhism?   65 they may serve as stepping stones toward liberation, getting closer to it, but without actually reaching and realizing Nibbāna or liberation. These inclusivist readings of ekāyana however, would be irrelevant if Buddhaghosa’s commentary is correct in suggesting that the noble eightfold path is found only in the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline. The compound “teaching-­ and-discipline” translates as “dhammavinaya.” While the term “vinaya” refers to the ethical and social rules that serve to discipline the conduct of monks and nuns, the term “dhamma” refers not only to the doctrines but also to the practices of a tradition, a school, or a religion. It is for this reason that, following Rupert Gethin, I prefer to translate “dhamma” as “teaching” rather than as “doctrine.” Translating the compound dhammavinaya as “doctrine and discipline” overemphasizes the doctrinal dimension of “dhamma,” somewhat neglecting its practical dimension. On the contrary, translating the compound dhammavinaya as “teaching-­and-discipline” avoids privileging the theoretical side of “dhamma” because “teaching” may refer to both theory and practice. In order to determine whether or not the Buddha understands other traditions in exclusivist terms it is necessary to clarify what the Pāli Nikāyas actually say about the noble eightfold path. Does the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas claim that the noble eightfold path is found only in his teaching-­and-discipline? In other words, is Buddhaghosa’s commentary right in attributing to the Buddha an exclusivist view of other traditions? The sentence that Buddhaghosa quotes while justifying the exclusivist meaning of ekāyana is part of a conversation between Buddha and the ascetic Subhaddha. The conversation takes place in the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta (D. II.150–2). There, Subhadda asks the Buddha whether some, all or none of six spiritual masters have attained the highest knowledge, which in this context seems to refer to the final goal of the spiritual path, i.e., liberation, enlightenment, and the attainment of Nibbāna. Instead of answering directly, the Buddha says that he is going to teach the Dharma (Pāli dhamma). Then the Buddha introduces a criterion to discern among different traditions or “teachings-­and-disciplines.” The criterion states that in whatever “teaching-­and-discipline” the noble eightfold path is found, the four “samaṇa” are found. The Pāli term “samaṇa” literally means “those who strive,” “those who make an effort,” that is, anyone who engages in some spiritual practice that requires effort and discipline. The term “samaṇa” is usually translated as “ascetic” or “recluse.” In this text however, “samaṇa” refers, not to ordinary ascetics but rather to those who have reached the four highest stages of holiness and spiritual development. These four highest ascetics are technically called: (1) stream-­ enterer (sotāpatti), (2) once-­returner (sakadāgāmī), (3) non-­returner (anāgāmī), and (4) worthy ones or arahants.20 The meaning of the text up to this point is uncontroversial and could be translated as follows: Subhadda, in whatever teaching-­and-discipline the noble eightfold path is not found, there [the first highest] ascetic is not found, there the second

66   Exclusivism [highest] ascetic is not found, there the third [highest] ascetic is not found, there the fourth [highest] ascetic is not found. Subhadda, in whatever teaching-­and-discipline the noble eightfold path is found, there [the first highest] ascetic is found, there the second [highest] ascetic is found, there the third [highest] ascetic is found, there the fourth [highest] ascetic is found.21 It is right after this text that the Buddha states “imasmiṃ kho subhadda dhammavinaye ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo upalabbhati,” which is the sentence that Buddhaghosa quotes. Following Budhaghosa, Bhikkhu Soma Thera translates the sentence in exclusivist terms as follow: “Subhadda, only in this Doctrine-­anddiscipline is the noble eightfold path to be found.” The Buddha elaborates on the meaning of the alleged exclusivist sentence by saying: “idheva subhadda samaṇo, idha dutiyo samaṇo, idha tatiyo samaṇo idha catuttho samaṇo. Suññā parappavādā samaṇehi aññe,” which Bhikkhu Bodhi translates also in exclusivist terms as “only here is there a recluse, only here a second recluse, only here a third recluse, only here a fourth recluse. The doctrines of others are devoid of recluses.”22 There are two exegetical issues. The first issue is whether “imasmiṃ kho dhammavinaye” and “idheva” necessarily convey the idea of exclusivity as the translations “only in this Doctrine-­and-discipline” and “only here” suggest. The second exegetical issue is whether the claim “suññā parappavādā samaṇehi aññe” should be translated as Bhikhu Bodhi does: “the doctrines of others are devoid of recluses,” or rather as Rupert Gethin does “other contrary systems are empty of ascetics.”23 In other words, the second exegetical issue is whether the Buddha is making a controversial claim about all non-­Buddhist schools24 anywhere and anytime, or rather he is simply referring to schools whose teachings are incompatible with the Buddha’s teachings. Accordingly, there are two possible interpretations of the Buddha’s view of other traditions at D.II.151 and M.I.63–4: exclusivist and non-­exclusivist. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation of “suññā parappavādā samaṇehi aññe” as “the doctrines of others are devoid of recluses” seems to suggest that for the Buddha all non-­Buddhist traditions contain doctrines that do not lead to the attainment of the four highest degrees of holiness and spiritual development. The implication being that only the Buddha’s teaching can lead to the highest degrees of holiness and spiritual development. This is confirmed by Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation of “idheva” as “only here,” which he understands as referring to the Buddha’s teaching (buddhasāsana), which he translates as the Buddha’s dispensation. In contemporary Theravāda circles, the expression buddhasāsana (Buddha’s teaching or dispensation) is understood as encompassing not only the Buddha’s teachings but also the institutions that preserve them, specifically, the monastic community. Thus, Bhikkhu Bodhi’s reading of “only here” as referring to the buddhasāsana is a subtle way of saying that there is no liberation outside institutionalized Buddhism or Buddhism as a religion. In other words, if only the Buddha’s dispensation or Buddhism as a religion contains the four highest degrees

Is there liberation outside Buddhism?   67 of holiness and spiritual development, it seems logical to conclude that liberation from suffering can take place only by following doctrines and practices found in Buddhism or the Buddha’s dispensation. In Bhikkhu Bodhi’s words: “persons who have reached the planes of deliverance are unique to his dispensation.”25 Moreover, commenting on M.I.63–4, The Shorter Discourse on the Lion’s Roar, Bhikkhu Bodhi paraphrases what the Buddha tells Subhadda at D.II.151 in clear exclusivist terms: In this Dhamma and Discipline the Noble Eightfold Path is found, and in it alone are found also the true recluses of the four degrees. Outside this Dispensation the four types of enlightened individuals are not to be found. The doctrines of others are devoid of true recluses.26 If “the four highest recluses” function in this context as OTMIX, i.e., our tradition most important X, where X refers to ideals of holiness, and if “only here” means “only in the Buddha’s dispensation” or “only in his Dhamma and Discipline,” then the Buddha must be interpreted as holding an exclusivist view of other religions. If for the Buddha all non-­Buddhist traditions anywhere and anytime are devoid of doctrines and practices leading to the four highest stages of holiness and spiritual development, then liberation and enlightenment are found only in Buddhism. That is, the Buddha of exclusivist interpreters claims that “OTMIX exists only in Buddhism, only in the Buddha’s dispensation, only in the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline.” Exclusivist interpretations of the Buddha and Buddhism, however, are not unique to the Theravāda school. Followers of other Buddhist traditions may disagree with Bhikkhu Bodhi and Buddhaghosa’s commentary regarding the scope of the Buddha’s teachings, the structure of the spiritual path, and the degree of wisdom and compassion of the four highest ascetics/recluses. Yet, most Buddhist traditions would agree with the Theravāda tradition in viewing Buddhism and the Buddha’s teachings as the only places in which liberation and the highest stages of holiness and spiritual development are found. Mahāyāna traditions may accept that liberation is found in other Buddhist traditions, but their fundamental view remains exclusivist, that is, OTMIX, in this case, the highest stage of holiness and spiritual development remains exclusive to those who follow the Mahāyāna path. That is, Buddhists may be non-­ exclusivist with regard to the existence of liberation in other Buddhist traditions, but they are nevertheless exclusivist with regard to the existence of the highest stages of holiness and spiritual development.

4.3  Challenging the exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha Although I have the utmost respect for Bhikkhu Bodhi, Bhikkhu Soma Thera, and Buddhaghosa’s commentary, I believe that their exclusivist reading of D. II.151 and M.I.63–4 is problematic. In what follows, I contend that the exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha and Buddhism is inconsistent with the Pāli

68   Exclusivism Nikāyas. In other words, the Buddha did not claim that liberation and the four highest stages of holiness and spiritual development were exclusive to Buddhism. First, what the Buddha states at D.II.151 need not convey the idea of exclusivity. Exclusivist interpreters assume that “idheva” means “only here” and that “imasmiṃ kho dhammavinaye” means “only in this teaching-­and-discipline.” However, the expression “idheva” is a combination of the adverb of place “idha,” which literally means “here” and the indeclinable emphatic particle “eva,” which could be translated in non-­exclusivistic terms as “indeed,” “verily,” “certainly,” “even,” “just,” “also.” For instance, Gethin translates “idheva” as “certainly here.” His translation of “idheva subhadda samaṇo, idha dutiyo samaṇo, idha tatiyo samaṇo, idha catuttho samaṇo” reads “certainly the ascetic is found here, and the second, third, and fourth ascetics.”27 I concur with Gethin’s non-­exclusivist translation of “idheva” as “certainly here.” However, I prefer to translate “idheva” as “here indeed.” My translation reads “here indeed, Subhadda, the [first highest] ascetic exists, here the second [highest] ascetic exists, here the third [highest] ascetic exists, here the fourth highest ascetic exists.” Likewise, it is not clear whether “kho” connotes the idea of exclusivity. According to the Pāli Text Society (PTS)’s dictionary, “kho” is a particle of affirmation and emphasis that can be translated as “indeed,” “really,” “surely.” The dictionary does not even mention “only” as a possible translation of “kho.” Gethin captures the emphatic particle “kho” by italicizing “is” in the sentence “Imasmiṃ kho subhadda dhammavinaye ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo upalabbhati,” which he translates as “now in this system of teaching and discipline the noble eightfold path is found.”28 Again, I agree with Gethin’s non-­exclusivist translation, although I prefer to translate “kho” as “certainly.” My translation reads “Subhadda, certainly in this teaching-­and-discipline the noble eightfold path is found.” Buddhaghosa’s commentary and Bhikkhu Bodhi seem to assume that the expression “parappavādā” refers to all non-­Buddhist schools anywhere and anytime. However, the compound “parappavādā” (Sanskrit parapravāda) does not seem to mean “the schools of others” in general. Rather, the compound “parappavādā” connotes the idea of disputation and argument. For instance, the PTS dictionary defines “pavāda” as follows: “[pa+vad, cp. Epic Sk. pravāda talk, saying] talk, disputation, discussion.” This reading is also consistent with the Sanskrit dictionaries of Apte and Monier-­Williams. Among the possible meanings of “pravādḥ” Apte’s Sanskrit dictionary mentions “litigious language, words of challenge, mutual defiance.” Monier-­Williams gives a variety of meanings for pravāda including “mutual defiance, words of challenge (prior to combat).” Thus, when the Buddha uses the compound “parappavādā,” he does not seem to be referring to all non-­Buddhist schools anywhere and at any time. Rather, the Buddha seems to be talking about schools with teachings that contradict, oppose, challenge, and therefore, are incompatible with his teachings. Thus, I translate “suññā parappavādā samaṇehi aññe” as “other incompatible teachings are

Is there liberation outside Buddhism?   69 empty of [the highest] ascetics” Once again, I concur with Gethin non-­exclusivist translation, which reads “other contrary systems are empty of ascetics.”29 However, I prefer to translate parappavādā as “incompatible teachings.” Like “contrary systems,” the translation “incompatible teachings” does not entail that for the Buddha all non-­Buddhist schools anywhere and at any time are devoid of the highest stages of holiness and spiritual development. The non-­exclusivist translation I propose suggests that for the Buddha only the schools with doctrines and practices incompatible with his teaching-­and-discipline are empty of ascetics. The reading of D.II.151 that I propose does not make the Buddha hold an exclusivist view of liberation and the highest stages of holiness. Subhadda, in whatever teaching-­and-discipline the noble eightfold path is not found, there [the first highest] ascetic is not found, there the second [highest] ascetic is not found, there the third [highest] ascetic is not found, there the fourth [highest] ascetic is not found. Subhadda, in whatever teaching-­and-discipline the noble eightfold path is found, there [the first highest] ascetic is found, there the second [highest] ascetic is found, there the third [highest] ascetic is found, there the fourth [highest] ascetic is found. Subhadda, certainly in this teaching-­and-discipline the noble eightfold path is found. [Consequently] here indeed, Subhadda, the [first highest] ascetic exists, here the second [highest] ascetic exists, here the third [highest] ascetic exists, here the fourth highest ascetic exists. Other incompatible teachings are empty of [the highest] ascetics. But here, Subhadda, if monks lived rightly, the world would not be empty of arahants.30 Second, the exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha and Buddhism is problematic because it ignores the conditional reasoning underlying (D.II.151). Right before the text quoted above, Subhadda approaches the Buddha and asks him about six spiritual masters. Specifically, Subhada asks whether all, none, or some of such masters have attained direct knowledge (sakāya paṭiññā), which as I have already said, in this contexts signifies the highest spiritual achievements. Instead of answering with a polemical evaluation, the Buddha tells Subhadda: “Enough Subhadda, never mind whether all, or none, or some of them have attained direct knowledge. Subhadda, I will teach you the Dhamma.”31 That is, the Buddha decides to teach the Dharma instead of passing judgment on the spiritual attainments of other teachers. I infer from this that in order to teach the Dharma it is not necessary to use controversial evaluations of specific teachers or schools. This, however, does not mean that teaching the Dharma is possible without judging and rejecting specific doctrines and practices incompatible with the Dharma. Since the teaching of the Dharma involves making claims about the truth and value of certain doctrines and practices, the Buddha cannot avoid rejecting doctrines and practices that are incompatible with the Dharma. But this rejection does not require ad hominem evaluations. I am not saying that

70   Exclusivism the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas never criticizes other teachers with ad hominem statements. I am simply suggesting that for the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, as the conversation with Subhadda indicates, it seems preferable to teach the Dharma in a peaceful way, e.g., without evaluating negatively the spiritual accomplishments of individual teachers. Whenever the Buddha says “I will teach you the Dharma” he discusses the principle of specific conditionality or some of its applications to suffering, usually the four noble truths or some of the chains of dependent origination. The importance of the principle of specific conditionality or dependent origination cannot be underestimated. The Buddha realizes this principle during his enlightenment and equates it with the Dharma (M.I.167). In its abstract formulation, the principle of specific conditionality or dependent origination states that when something is, something else comes to be. For instance, at M.II.32, the Buddha says: “I will teach you the Dharma: ‘When this exists, that comes to be; with the arising of this that arises. When this does not exist, that does not come to be; with the cessation of this, that ceases.”32 Thus, if the Buddha tells Subhadda that he is going to teach him the Dharma, we should expect to find some teaching involving the specific conditionality or dependent origination of something. In my reading, that is precisely what we find at D.II.151, an implicit teaching about the specific conditionality that exists between the noble eightfold path and the four highest stages of holiness and spiritual development, i.e., the four ascetics. Right after telling Subhadda “I will teach you the Dharma,” the Buddha states that in whatever teaching-­and-discipline the noble eightfold path is found, the fourth highest ascetics are found. This is an instance of specific conditionality: when this is, that comes to be; when the noble eightfold path exists, the four highest ascetics come to be. The existence of the former conditions the existence of the latter: with the practice and eventual fulfillment of the noble eightfold path, the four highest ascetics come into existence. The Buddha uses the verb upalabbhati, “to be found,” in reference to both the noble eightfold path and the four highest ascetics. Using the same verb for two different things seems to confirm that we are before a conditional reasoning: “when one is found, the other is found.” Thus, if the Buddha is teaching the Dharma or the specific conditionality of something, after stating that in his teaching-­and-discipline the noble eightfold path is found, it makes perfect sense to conclude that “here indeed” the four highest ascetics are found. The Buddha presupposes the conditional reasoning “if P, then Q.” In this context the conditional reasoning is: if the noble eightfold path is found, then the four highest ascetics are found; if in this teaching-­anddiscipline the noble eightfold path is found, then the four ascetics are found. In other words, if P exists, then Q comes to be: if the noble eightfold path certainly exists in this teaching-­and-discipline, then (here indeed) the four highest ascetics come to be. The exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha misses the conditional reasoning underlying the text and transforms it into a logical non-­sequitur, that is, an

Is there liberation outside Buddhism?   71 argument in which the conclusion does not follow from the premises. From the certain existence of the noble eightfold path in the Buddha’s teaching-­anddiscipline, it does not follow that “only here” the four highest ascetics are found. On the contrary, given the first premise “in whatever teaching-­and-discipline the noble eightfold path is found, the four highest ascetics are found,” and given the second premise “the noble eightfold path is certainly found in this teaching-­anddiscipline,” it does follow as the logical conclusion that “here indeed,” in this teaching-­and-discipline, the four highest ascetics are found. In my reading, the Buddha is not expressing an exclusivist view of the four highest ascetics, that is, he is not claiming that liberation and the highest stages of holiness and spiritual development can be attained only in his teaching-­anddiscipline. Rather, the Buddha provides a criterion to discern among different traditions and derives the corollary of such criterion: in whatever teaching-­anddiscipline the noble eightfold path is found, the four highest ascetics are found, therefore, incompatible teachings-­and-disciplines where the noble eightfold path is not found must be devoid of the four highest ascetics. The criterion functions as the first premise of a logical argument. After proposing a criterion (premise one), the Buddha states that in his teaching-­anddiscipline the noble eightfold path is certainly found. He emphasizes the statement with the particle “kho,” which means “certainly” or “indeed.” The second statement “the noble eightfold path is certainly found in this teaching-­ and-discipline,” functions as the second premise of the argument. Finally, the Buddha derives the conclusion: [Consequently] “here indeed” (idheva) the four highest ascetics are found. This sentence functions as the logical conclusion of the previous two premises—that is why the last sentence uses the emphatic expression “idheva.” The sentence that follows the conclusion, “suññā parappavādā samaṇehi aññe,” “other incompatible teachings are empty of ascetics” functions as a corollary of the criterion. If the four ascetics are found in teachings in which the noble eightfold path is found, it follows that they cannot be found in teachings incompatible with the noble eightfold path. If in whatever teaching-­and-discipline that the noble eightfold path is found, the four highest ascetics are found, it follows that the four highest ascetics are not found in teachings-­and-disciplines incompatible with the noble eightfold path. This is plain logic, not a sectarian evaluation of all non-­Buddhist traditions. Neither the criterion nor the corollary of the criterion need be understood as entailing an exclusivist view of liberation and the four highest stages of holiness. The existence of highest ascetics depends on the existence of the noble eightfold path; the noble eightfold path exists in the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline and, therefore, the highest ascetics too. However, in traditions that contain teachings incompatible with the noble eightfold path, the four highest ascetics do not exist, i.e., they are empty of highest ascetics. Although the criterion and the corollary do not presuppose an exclusivist view, they nevertheless exclude specific teachings, i.e., those incompatible with the noble eightfold path. This is another instance of what I have called specific

72   Exclusivism exclusivism, not to be confused with the exclusivist view. Whereas specific exclusivism rejects or excludes specific doctrines and practices found in other traditions, the exclusivist view rejects that OTMIX exists outside one’s own tradition. In this case, what the criterion and its corollary exclude are doctrines and practices incompatible with the noble eightfold path. This specific exclusion does not entail an exclusivist view of the noble eightfold path and, therefore, an exclusivist view of the four ascetics. In sum, the point of D.II.151 is not to exclude all non-­Buddhist traditions from the possibility of attaining liberation and highest holiness (exclusivist view), but rather to provide a criterion based on the noble eightfold path. Such criterion excludes specific teachings-­and-disciplines, namely, those incompatible with the noble eightfold path (specific exclusivism). The Buddha does not claim that all teachings-­and-disciplines except his own teaching-­and-discipline lack the noble eightfold path or the four highest ascetics (exclusivist view). Third, the exclusivist interpretation of Buddha not only misses the point behind D.II.151, but also renders the entire passage inconsistent. The exclusivist interpretation portrays the Buddha as making two contradictory claims about other traditions. On the one hand, there is a neutral claim: in whatever teaching-­ and-discipline the noble eightfold path is found, the four highest ascetics are found. On the other hand, there is a controversial claim about all non-­Buddhist traditions, namely, that they lack the highest stages of holiness and spiritual development, i.e., the four ascetics. If the Buddha proposes a neutral criterion, it just does not make sense to undermine such criterion with a polemic attack on all non-­Buddhist traditions two sentences below. If there were only one tradition, the Buddha’s teaching-­ and-discipline, in which the noble eightfold path and the four highest ascetics are found, what would be the point of providing a neutral criterion to discern among different traditions? If all non-­Buddhist schools are empty of ascetics, why is it necessary to say that “in whatever teaching-­and-discipline the noble eightfold path is found, the four highest ascetics are found”? The exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha renders the neutral criterion unnecessary: we do not need to discern among different traditions if we know beforehand that only in the Buddha’s tradition the noble eightfold path and the four highest ascetics are found. If someone knows already that the traditions of others do not have the noble eightfold path and, consequently, they are devoid of the four highest ascetics, why would a neutral criterion to discern among different traditions be necessary? Unlike the exclusivist interpretation, the interpretation I propose avoids this inconsistency and provides a coherent reading of D. II.151. In my account, there are not two conflicting claims (neutral and polemic). The Buddha does not propose a peaceful neutral criterion that clashes with a controversial attack. Rather the Buddha teaches a criterion, applies it to his tradition, and derives a corollary of such criterion. Both the criterion and its corollary are formal and presuppose peaceful neutral claims that avoid unnecessary polemic attacks on other traditions.

Is there liberation outside Buddhism?   73 Fourth, the exclusivist interpretation does not pay sufficient attention to the context of the criterion and its corollary. Specifically, the exclusivist reading ignores that the Buddha has refused to answer Subhadda with polemic and controversial evaluations of certain masters. Subhadda asks about six specific masters: Pūraṇa Kassapa, Makkhali Gosāla, Ajita Kesakambala, Pakudha Kaccāyana, Sañjaya Belaṭṭhaputta, and Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta. The teachings of these six masters are negatively described in other parts of the Pāli Nikāyas. For instance, at D.I.52–9, the Discourse on the Fruits of Spiritual Practice (Sāmaññaphala Sutta). The assumption seems to be that their views are wrong and counterproductive for attaining the highest fruits of spiritual practice. They all teach views incompatible with the Buddha’s teachings. Pūraṇa Kassapa teaches the doctrine of non-­doing, that is, that moral actions have no consequences; Makkhali Gosāla teaches the doctrine of non-­causality, that is, that beings are defiled or purified without a cause or condition; Ajita Kesakambala teaches the doctrine of nihilism, that is, that there is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed, no consequences of good and evil deeds, no afterlife, and so on. Pakudha Kaccāyana teaches a form of materialism that also denies moral responsibility. Sañjaya Belaṭṭhaputta does not teach anything and limits himself to avoiding questions with sophistry. Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta represents the Jain teachings, which do not deny morality and the consequences of actions in afterlife but from the Buddha’s perspective entail a defective concept of moral action in which both voluntary and involuntary actions carry karmic weight. For the Buddha, only voluntary actions, that is, actions that are freely chosen generate karma; this is the meaning of the Buddha’s cryptic definition of action or karma in terms of volition (cetanā) found at A.III.415. However, unlike at D.I.52–9, at D.II.151 the Buddha prefers not to engage the teachings of these six masters. Instead, the Buddha decides to adopt a more peaceful approach and teaches the Dharma, that is, the specific conditionality that exists between the noble eightfold path and highest holiness: in whatever the former is found, the latter is found; when this is, that comes to be. After this neutral criterion and its application to the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline, the Buddha makes a neutral remark about schools whose teachings are incompatible with the noble eightfold path. The remark simply derives what logically follows from the specific conditionality that exists between the noble eightfold path and the four highest ascetics. The remark is neutral because it derives from a neutral criterion. Neither the criterion nor its corollary seems to be intended to refer to any school in particular. Some people may prefer to interpret the remark about other schools, not as a  neutral corollary of a neutral criterion, but rather as a polemic statement intended to apply to the schools of the aforementioned six masters. Since the six masters that Subhadda has in mind teach doctrines that for the Buddha are incompatible with the noble eightfold path, the Buddha would be saying indirectly that the schools of these six masters are devoid of the four highest ascetics. Since the noble eightfold path is insufficiently taught or fulfilled in the

74   Exclusivism teaching-­and-discipline of these six masters, their followers cannot attain the highest fruits of spiritual practice and, therefore, their schools are devoid of the four ascetics. Even if the Buddha’s remark about other schools was an indirect claim about the schools of the six masters, this would be insufficient to justify an exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha. Such alleged evaluation of the six masters and their schools would be just another instance of specific exclusivism, not an instance of the exclusivist view. That is, the Buddha would be rejecting specific teachings-­ and-disciplines, namely, those of the six masters; not because they are non-­ Buddhists but rather because their teachings are incompatible with the noble eightfold path. This rejection of the teachings of the six masters would be perfectly consistent with many other rejections of specific doctrines and practices found across the Pāli Nikāyas. However, in my account, the remark about other schools is not a subtle or indirect way of rejecting the schools of the six masters mentioned by Subhadda, even less an indirect or subtle attack on all non-­Buddhist schools anywhere and at any time. If the Buddha’s remark about other schools were intended to be a subtle or indirect attack on the six masters or the teachings of all non-­Buddhist traditions, then the Buddha’s initial reluctance to evaluate the six masters would be somewhat hypocritical. Besides transforming the Buddha into a hypocrite, the exclusivist reading fails to explain why the Buddha prefers to teach the Dharma instead of answering Subhadda’s question with an ad hominem evaluation of the six masters. On the contrary, the non-­exclusivist interpretation I advocate is consistent with the Buddha’s reluctance to answer Subhadda’s question about the six masters. The Buddha teaches the Dharma, i.e., specific conditionality, and such teaching does not require unnecessary polemic statements. My interpretation does not render hypocritical the Buddha’s attitude toward other traditions, and it only makes the Buddha state in a neutral way that schools incompatible with the noble eightfold path are empty of the four highest ascetics. Some people may object to this refutation of the exclusivist reading that it does not apply to M.I.63–4. The context of M.I.63–4 does not mention any question about the spiritual attainments of the six masters. The text at M.I.63–4 contains exactly the same claims that appear at D.II.151, but they appear at the beginning of a discourse, right after saying that the Buddha was living at Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s park. Moreover, the objection continues, unlike at D.II.151, the exclusivist claim about the absence of ascetics in other schools is not preceded by a neutral criterion. That is, the text at M.I.63–4 does not mention the criterion according to which in whatever teaching-­anddiscipline the noble eightfold path is found, the four highest ascetics are found. The text at M.I.63–4 limits itself to affirming that “idheva” the four highest ascetics are found, and that “suññā parappavādā samaṇehi aññe.” Thus, the exclusivist objection concludes, since the context does not mention any particular master or school, and since “idheva” means “only here,” only in the Buddha’s teaching/dispensation, the remark “suññā parappavādā samaṇehi aññeti”

Is there liberation outside Buddhism?   75 must refer to all non-­Buddhist schools anywhere and at any time. Thus, all that I have said so far about D.II.151 would not apply to M.I.63–4. My answer to this possible objection is that given two identical claims found in two different texts of the Pāli Nikāyas,33 one at M.I.63–4 without context, and the other one at D.II.151 with a context, it seems more adequate to interpret the former in light of the latter, not the opposite. The text with context is part of the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta, which narrates the last months of the Buddha, and therefore, it is more likely to contain his latest thought on the subject. Even if we assumed that the Buddha’s teaching on other traditions is different at M.I.63–4 and D.II.151, it would be safer to consider his latest position at D.II.151 as doctrinally more reliable. However, the continuation of M.I.63–4 disproves the exclusivist objection. After the lion’s roar, that is, after the claim about the Buddha’s teaching-­anddiscipline and the subsequent negative claim about incompatible teachings-­anddisciplines, the Buddha tells his disciples how they should respond to non-­Buddhists who ask for the grounds for such claims. Interestingly, the Buddha answers not with polemic remarks about particular schools or spiritual masters but rather with five neutral criteria to discern among the masters and teachings of different traditions. The first criterion is whether practitioners from other traditions have confidence in their teachers and their teachings, whether they fulfill the moral precepts, and whether they are dear and agreeable to their companions in the Dharma, be they lay or monastic. Since disciples of non-­Buddhist traditions may also meet this criterion, the Buddha introduces a second criterion: whether other traditions believe that the goal is one, and a third criterion, whether they advocate that the goal is attained by someone with certain qualities. Specifically, whether the person who attains the goal is without lust, hate, delusion, craving, attachment, with vision, not given to favoring and opposing, and not delighting in and enjoying conceptual proliferation (papañca).34 The fourth neutral criterion to discern among masters and teachings from different traditions is whether they hold extreme views of being and non-­being, that is, views about a Self/self that either exists eternally or is annihilated after death. These extreme views are the outcome of conceptual proliferation and presuppose either the absolute existence of the Self/self or its absolute inexistence. Both kinds of extreme views about the Self/self are incompatible with the Buddha’s teaching of dependent origination, which is a middle way between the aforementioned two extremes of being and non-­being, eternalism and annihilationism. The Buddha seems to combine the third and the fourth neutral criteria when he states the following: Any recluses or brahmins who understand as actually are the origin, the disappearance, the gratification, the danger, and the escape in the case of these two views are without lust, without hate, without delusion, without craving, without clinging, with vision, not given to favoring and opposing, and they do not delight in and enjoy proliferation. They are freed from birth, aging,

76   Exclusivism and death; from sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair; they are free from suffering.35 Finally, to the fifth criterion the Buddha proposes is whether or not masters from other traditions fully understand and teach four kinds of attachment to: (1) sensual pleasures, (2) views, (3) rules and observances, and (4) doctrines of Self/ self. According to the exclusivist interpretation, only the Buddha teaches these four kinds of attachment, and only his disciples fully understand the specific conditions that lead to the arising and the cessation of extreme views. Therefore, only in the Buddha’s teaching is it possible to find the highest stages of spiritual development, that is, ascetics without lust, hate, delusion, craving, attachment, with vision, not given to favoring and opposing, not delighting in and enjoying conceptual proliferation. Consequently, the exclusivist reading concludes, only in the Buddha’s teaching someone can find freedom from birth, aging, death. That is, only in the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline is there liberation from suffering. In my reading, however, the point of discussing five neutral criteria is not to disparage non-­Buddhist schools and suggest that the highest stages of holiness and spiritual development are exclusive to Buddhism. Rather, the five neutral criteria explain the conditions necessary for the existence of the four highest ascetics. Once again, the Buddha is teaching the Dharma, the specific conditionality of something. At D.II.151 the Buddha teaches the specific conditionality between the noble eightfold path and the four highest ascetics; when the former exists, the latter comes into existence. At M.I.63ff., however, the specific conditionality is between the four highest ascetics and the full understanding of the four kinds of attachment. When there is full understanding of the four kinds of attachment, then the four highest ascetics come into existence. Since the full understanding of attachment exists in the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline, the conditions for the arising of the four highest ascetics also exist, and consequently, “here indeed,” that is, in the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline, the four highest ascetics can be found. On the contrary, in teachings-­and-disciplines in which the full understanding of attachment does not exist, the conditions for the arising of the four highest ascetics do not exist either. Accordingly, in such teachings-­and-disciplines there are no ascetics without lust, hate, delusion, craving, attachment; ascetics with vision, not given to favoring and opposing, not delighting in and enjoying conceptual proliferation. Properly understood, the Buddhist lion’s roar that appears at M.I.63ff. is not a polemic and controversial claim intended to exclude all non-­Buddhist teachers and teachings from the possibility of liberation and highest holiness, but rather a claim about the greatness of the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline. Discussing five neutral criteria is not a subtle or indirect way of saying that all non-­Buddhist

Is there liberation outside Buddhism?   77 teachings-­and-disciplines are empty of liberation and the four highest ascetics. Rather, the Buddha is teaching the Dharma, specific conditionality: in whatever teaching-­and-discipline the four kinds of attachment are fully understood, there indeed the four ascetics can be found. Since the four kinds of attachment are explained in the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline, his disciples can rightly roar their lion’s roar. This lion’s roar does not require the disparagement of all non-­ Buddhist traditions anywhere and at any time. In sum, whether the Buddha holds an exclusivist view of other traditions can be answered differently depending on how someone reads D.II.151 and M.I.63–4. The exclusivist interpreter reads the Buddha as claiming that the four highest ascetics are found only in his teaching-­and-discipline, only in Buddhism. On the contrary, a non-­exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha need not deny the possible existence of the four highest ascetics and liberation outside Buddhism.

Part III

Inclusivism

5 Retrieving the early Buddhist position

This chapter further justifies a non-­exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha. The first section discusses three arguments in favor of the non-­exclusivist reading of the Pāli Nikāyas. The second section suggests that the exclusivist view of liberation and highest holiness characteristic of many Buddhist traditions today is a later development in the history of Buddhism.

5.1  Further arguments for a non-­exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha The first argument in favor of a non-­exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha is based on the existence of formal, neutral, and non-­exclusivist criteria across the Pāli Nikāyas. If it were correct to interpret the Buddha as holding an exclusivist view of liberation and highest holiness, then we should expect exclusivist views of all non-­Buddhist schools and ascetics, not simply instances of specific exclusivism, i.e., rejections of specific doctrines and practices found in other traditions. Instead of finding exclusivist views of non-­Buddhist schools and ascetics, we find a variety of formal, neutral, and non-­exclusivist criteria. That is, we find criteria that do not target particular schools or ascetics, but rather speak in neutral non-­exclusivist terms about the qualifications necessary to achieve liberation and highest holiness. I have already discussed the criteria found at D.I151 and M.I.65–7. The criterion found at D.II.151 states that in whatever teaching-­and-discipline in which the noble eightfold path is found, there the four ascetics are found, i.e., the four highest degrees of holiness and spiritual development exist. This formal, neutral, non-­exclusivist criterion is an instance of teaching the Dharma, that is, an instance of specific conditionality: when the noble eightfold path exists, the four highest ascetics come to be. The criteria that appear at M.I.65–7 serve to determine whether a particular teaching-­and-discipline can rightfully “roar the lion’s roar.” The expression “lion’s roar” refer to claims about the qualities of one’s own teaching-­anddiscipline; qualities that make such teaching worthy of being practiced. In this context, “lion’s roar” signifies the qualities of the Buddha’s teaching-­anddiscipline.

82   Inclusivism The first criterion is whether the disciples of a teaching-­and-discipline have confidence in the teacher and the teaching, whether they fulfill the precepts and whether they get along. The second and the third criteria are respectively whether a teaching-­and-discipline teaches that the goal is one, and whether it teaches that such goal is for someone without unwholesome mental states, that is, without: lust, hate, delusion, craving, attachment, lack of vision, favoring and opposing, or delighting in conceptual proliferation. The first three criteria can also be interpreted as instances of teaching the Dharma, i.e., specific conditionality: when the aforementioned qualities do not exist in a teaching-­and-discipline, the “lion’s roar” cannot be rightfully roared. The next two criteria are perhaps the most important. The fourth criterion can be formulated as follows: in whatever teaching-­and-discipline in which the origin, the disappearance, the gratification, the danger, and the escape in the case of extreme views is described and fully understood, there is freedom from unwholesome states and liberation from suffering. The fourth criterion can also be interpreted as an instance of specific conditionality: when the description and the full understanding of extreme views exist in a teaching-­and-discipline, in such teaching-­and-discipline liberation from suffering and unwholesome states comes into existence. The fifth and final criterion can be paraphrased as follows: in whatever teaching-­and-discipline in which the four kinds of attachment are described and fully understood, there the Dharma is well-­proclaimed by someone who is fully enlightened, and it is conducive to peace and liberation. The four kinds of attachment are: (1) attachment to sensual pleasures; (2) attachment to views; (3) attachment to rules and observances; (4) attachment to a doctrine of Self/self. Exclusivist interpreters tend to understand the last two criteria as a subtle way of expressing what is distinctive about the Buddha’s teaching. For exclusivist interpreters, only the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline explains the four kinds of attachment (fifth criterion); only the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline explain the origin, disappearance, gratification, danger, and escape in the case of extreme views (fourth criterion). In my view, this exclusivist interpretation fails to clarify why the criteria are formulated in formal, neutral, and non-­exclusivist terms. In other words, if the intended meaning of the last two criteria is polemic, i.e., to suggest that the full understanding of attachment and comprehensive knowledge of extreme views are exclusive to the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline, then it seems rhetorical and somewhat hypocritical to formulate the criteria in formal, neutral, non-­exclusivist terms. If the point is to highlight what is exclusive to the Buddha’s school in contradistinction to other schools anywhere and at any time, then there is no need to embellish such claims with a formal, neutral, non-­exclusivist language. Exclusivist interpreters also fail to distinguish between what is distinctive and what is unique. It may be true that teaching about the four types of attachment and extreme views is distinctive in the sense of being characteristic of the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline. These distinctive teachings, however, need not be unique in the sense of being exclusive to Buddhism.

Retrieving the early Buddhist position   83 Besides the aforementioned criteria found at D.II.151 and M.I.65–7 there are others, for instance, in Sn. 1082. In this case the criterion is not to discern among the teachings of different traditions but rather among their teachers, specifically, whether they are liberated, literally “stream crossers” (oghatiṇṇā). Liberated beings are metaphorically said to have gone to the other shore of Nibbāna. The criterion mentions the spiritual qualifications necessary to achieve the state of “stream-­crosser.” What is remarkable about this criterion is that the Buddha explicitly rejects the exclusivist view, that is, he refuses to claim that liberation is exclusive to his teaching-­and-discipline: “I do not say, Nanda”, said the Blessed one, “that all ascetics and brahmins are shrouded in birth and death. Whoever has abandoned (pahāya) here [attachment to] what is seen, heard or sensed (diṭṭhaṃ va sutaṃ mutaṃ), and has abandoned [attachment to] all rules and rituals (sīlabbataṃ), and has abandoned [attachment to] all diverse forms (anekarūpaṃ), fully understanding craving (taṇhaṃ pariññāya), without taints (anāsavā), them indeed I call ‘stream-­crossers (oghatiṇṇā).”1 The Buddha rejects unambiguously a universal exclusivist claim about all ascetics and brahmins (nāhaṃ sabbe samaṇabrāhmaṇā se (nandāni bhagavā) jātijarāya nivutāti brūmi). The context of Sn. 1082 indicates that the sentence “all ascetics and brahmins” refers to other teachers of the Buddha’s day. Instead of accepting a sweeping generalization about all non-­Buddhists teachers of his time, the Buddha distances himself from such an exclusivist claim and provides a formal, neutral, non-­exclusivist criterion to determine who can be considered a liberated being. The criterion does not target any particular teacher or schools, and it applies to any ascetic and brahmin regardless of her or his affiliation. In simpler terms, the criterion found in Sn. 1082 can be formulated as follows: whoever abandons all kinds of attachment, fully understands craving and is without taints (anāsavā), she or he is a “stream-­crosser,” that is, a liberated being who has attained the highest degree of holiness and spiritual development. Rejecting a universal exclusivist claim in Sn. 1082 is consistent with the non-­ exclusivist interpretation of D.II.151. Claiming that “in whatever teaching-­anddiscipline the noble eightfold path is found, the four highest ascetics are found,” is consistent with claiming that whoever renounces attachment and fully understands craving is without taints and a “stream-­crosser.” On the contrary, the exclusivist interpretation of D.II.151 would contradict what the Buddha says at Sn. 1082. Claiming at D.II.151 that the four highest ascetics are found only in the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline, and consequently, saying that all non-­ Buddhist schools are empty of the highest ascetics would be inconsistent with rejecting at Sn.1082 a universal exclusivist claim about all non-­Buddhist ascetics and brahmins. If the Buddha does not say in reference to non-­Buddhists “that all ascetics and brahmins are shrouded in birth and death” (Sn. 1082), then he cannot say without contradiction that “the schools of others are devoid of [highest] ascetics”

84   Inclusivism (D.II.151). Yet, exclusivist interpreters make the Buddha claim that outside his teaching-­and-discipline there is no liberation from birth and death, thus contradicting what he rejects at Sn. 1082. While the exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha generates a contradiction between Sn. 1082 and D.II.151, the non-­ exclusivist interpretation I propose makes the two texts consistent. In the Saccasaṃyutta there are two more formal, neutral, and non-­exclusivist criteria, this time related to the four noble truths. The first criterion associates the highest ascetics with those who understand the four noble truths. In Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation: Bhikkhus, those ascetics or brahmins who do not understand as it really is: “This is suffering”; who do not understand as it really is: “This is the origin of suffering”; who do not understand as it really is: “This is the cessation of suffering”; who do not understand as it really is: “This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering”: these I do not consider to be ascetics among ascetics or brahmins among brahmins, and these venerable ones do not, by realizing it by themselves with direct knowledge, enter and dwell, in this very life, in the goal of asceticism or the goal of brahminhood. But bhikkhus, those ascetics or brahmins who understand these things: these I consider to be ascetics among ascetics and brahmins among brahmins, and these venerable ones, by realizing it for themselves with direct knowledge, enter and dwell, in this very life, in the goal of asceticism or the goal of brahminhood.2 The expression “ascetics among ascetics and brahmins among brahmins” (samaṇesu ceva samaṇasammatā brāhmaṇesu ca brāhmaṇasammatā) does not seem to refer to the four highest ascetics. Rather, the text seems to refer only to the fourth or the highest of the four highest ascetics, that is, the one who achieves supreme holiness and liberation. The concept of the highest ascetic as the one who realizes the four noble truths is narrower than the concept the four highest ascetics. This semantic difference, however, is here irrelevant. The point is that the Buddha does not hold the exclusivist view, that is, he does not suggest that liberated beings or the highest of the four ascetics are unique to his teaching-­ and-discipline. Once again, the Buddha proposes a formal, neutral, non-­ exclusivist criterion to determine who is a liberated being, who can be considered supreme among the four highest ascetics, who is an Ascetic among ascetics. The second criterion that appears in the Saccasaṃyutta states that all past, present, and future Buddhas awakened, awaken, and will awaken to the four noble truths. The criterion reads, in Bhikkhu’s Bodhi translation, as follows: Bhikkhus, whatever Arahants, Perfectly Enlightened Ones, in the past fully awakened to things as they really are, all fully awakened to the Four Noble Truths as they really are. Whatever Arahants, Perfectly Enlightened Ones, in the future will fully awaken to things as they really are, all will fully awaken to the Four Noble Truths as they really are. Whatever Arahants,

Retrieving the early Buddhist position   85 Perfectly Enlightened Ones, at present have fully awakened to things as they really are, all have fully awakened to the Four Noble Truths as they really are.3 It should be noted that once again the Buddha does not suggest that only Buddhists or only followers of the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline realize the four noble truths. The underlying claim is that those who do not understand the four noble truths cannot be considered perfectly enlightened Buddhas and Arahants. Likewise, the criterion does not insinuate anything about the affiliation of Buddhas and Arahants. That is, the criterion does not limit realization of the four noble truths to Buddhists, nor is incompatible with the possible existence of Buddhas and Arahants outside Buddhist traditions. The criterion only states in non-­exclusivist terms that, whenever Buddhas and Arahants exist, awakening to the four noble truths takes place. In other words, the criterion expresses a relationship of specific conditionality between knowledge of the four noble truths and the existence of Buddhas and Arahants: when there is awakening to the four noble truths, there are Buddhas and Arahants; wherever there is awakening to the four noble truths, there is a Buddha, there is an Arahant. These non-­exclusivist criteria are consistent with a non-­exclusivist view of religious diversity. On the contrary, an exclusivist view of other traditions would render non-­exclusivist criteria unnecessary and somewhat hypocritical. For instance, if the Buddha actually claimed that the four noble truths or that ascetics who realize such truths are found only in the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline, we should expect criteria consistent with such a claim. However, we do not find polemic and controversial exclusivist criteria but rather neutral, formal, non-­ exclusivist criteria. The structure of the criteria found in the Pāli Nikāyas is not exclusivist. That is, the criteria do not state something like “the four noble truths or ascetics among ascetics who realize such truths are found only where Buddhas and Buddhist traditions are found.” Rather the criteria do not specify in which particular tradition awakening to four noble truths or the highest among ascetics can be found. There are formal, neutral, non-­exclusivist criteria in the Pāli Nikāyas because the Buddha’s view of other traditions is non-­exclusivist. Otherwise we would have to conclude that the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas contradicts himself. If the exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha were true, then the Buddha (1) sometimes would make universal exclusivist claims about non-­Buddhists, and (2) other times would provide formal, neutral, non-­exclusivist criteria to discern among non-­Buddhists traditions. There is a way out of the aforementioned contradiction. The Buddha would use non-­exclusivist criteria as rhetorical devices to state in a subtle way that only Buddhism meets such criteria or that only the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline offers the possibility of liberation and highest holiness. The problem with this attempt to avoid the contradiction is that it undermines the integrity of the Buddha. The exclusivist interpretation transforms the Buddha into a wolf in sheep’s clothing—a cunning, intellectually dishonest, and somewhat hypocritical

86   Inclusivism spiritual master who presents his exclusivist view disguised in deceptive non-­ exclusivist criteria. If the choice is between two interpretations, one that makes the Buddha contradict himself and become a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and a second non-­ exclusivist interpretation that avoids the contradiction and preserves the Buddha’s integrity, I prefer the second one. According to the non-­exclusivist interpretation I propose, the non-­exclusivist criteria found in the Pāli Nikāyas are not rhetorical devices; they were actually needed to discern among the teachings and teachers of the Buddha’s time. The non-­exclusivist criteria truly make sense if, an only if, the Buddha does not hold an exclusivist view of other traditions. Claiming that only Buddhism provides the means to attain liberation and highest holiness does not require any criterion to discern among the teachings and teachers of other traditions. It would be morally questionable and a total waste of time to recommend the use of non-­ exclusivist criteria when someone, i.e., the Buddha, already knows the results of such criteria; namely, that only Buddhism and the Buddha’s teaching provide the means to attain liberation and highest holiness. The second argument in favor of the non-­exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha is that in the Pāli Nikāyas universal exclusivist claims are associated with attachment to views. The most common universal exclusivist claim is “idameva saccaṃ moghamaññantī,” which Bhikkhu Bodhi translates as “only this is true, everything else is wrong” and Maurice Walshe as “This alone is the truth, everything else is false!”4 This universal exclusivist claim appears associated with brahmins who interpret the Vedas as the one and only truth. For instance, at M.II.169 a brahmin claims that “in regard to the ancient Brahmanic hymns that have come down through oral transmission and in the scriptural collections, the brahmins come to the definite conclusion: ‘only this is true, everything else is wrong.’ ” For the Buddha, universal exclusivist claims are related to attachment to doctrines and practices. For instance, at D.II.282–3 the god Sakka asks the Buddha why ascetics and brahmins teach, practice, and aim for a variety of things instead of teaching and practicing the same thing. The Buddha’s answer indicates that there is a connection between universal exclusivist claims and attachment, in Maurice Walshe’s translation: The world, Ruler of Gods, is made up of many and various elements. Such being the case, beings adhere to one or other of these various things, and whatever they adhere to they become powerfully addicted to, and declare: “This alone is the truth, everything else is false!” Therefore they do not all teach the same doctrine, practice the same discipline, want the same thing, pursue the same goal.5 The Pāli terms that Walshe translates as “adhere” and “addicted to” derive from the verb “abhinivisati,” which the PTS explains as “to cling to, adhere to, be attached to.” It is interesting that, right after the Buddha associates universal

Retrieving the early Buddhist position   87 exclusivist claims with attachment, Sakka asks the Buddha another question that is structurally similar to the question that Subhadda asks at D.II.151. That is, Sakka asks the Buddha whether all ascetics and brahmins have attained liberation and perfect holiness. Walshe’s translation reads: “Sir, are all ascetics and brahmins fully proficient, freed from bonds, perfect in the holy life, have they perfectly reached the goal?”6 If the Buddha held an exclusivist view of liberation and highest holiness, this would have been the ideal place to express it. The Buddha could have answered something like “only the Buddha’s teaching is true, everything else is wrong.” That is, the Buddha could have clarified that while the exclusivist claims made by brahmins were illegitimate, his exclusivist view was a legitimate “lion’s roar.” However, the Buddha does not answer with any universal exclusivist claim similar to the expression “idameva saccaṃ moghamaññantī.” Instead, the Buddha teaches the Dharma, i.e., the specific conditionality between two things, namely, between the destruction of craving and liberation. The Buddha answers Sakka’s question as follows, in Walshe’s translation plus a short section that he does not translate probably to avoid unnecessary repetitions: Only those, Ruler of Gods, who are liberated by the destruction of craving are fully proficient, freed from the bonds, perfect in the holy life, and have perfectly reached the goal. [Therefore, not all ascetics and brahmins are fully proficient, freed from bonds, perfect in the holy life, have perfectly reached the goal].7 The Buddha’s answer contains yet another formal, neutral, non-­exclusivist criterion to determine who is liberated and perfectly holy. The criterion can be formulated as follows: wherever there is the destruction of craving, there liberation and highest holiness come into existence. The universal exclusivist claim “idameva saccaṃ moghamaññantī” also appears in the context of the undetermined questions. For instance, the ascetic Vachagottta asks the Buddha in the following way: How is it master Gotama [Buddha], does master Gotama hold the view “The world is eternal: only this is true, everything else is wrong. . . . The world is not eternal . . . infinite . . . Finite. . . . Body and soul are one thing . . . two different things. . . . A liberated being (tathāgata) exists after death . . . does not exist . . . both exists and does not exist . . . neither exists nor does not exist after death: only this is true, everything else is wrong.”8 The Buddha answers Vachagottta by saying three different things: (1) he does not hold such views; (2) he has left such questions undetermined; and, in the case of liberated beings after death, that (3) the questions do not apply (na upeti). These three answers of the Buddha to the undetermined questions have been interpreted by many as the “silence” of the Buddha. There has been much

88   Inclusivism speculation about the nature this “silence” and the reasons behind it. I have argued elsewhere9 that, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as the silence of the Buddha about the undetermined questions. Rather, it is more accurate to speak about the silence of the Buddha about the question of Nibbāna after death. I have also suggested that besides obvious pragmatic and pedagogical reasons, the questions have been left undetermined because of profound philosophical reasons. Specifically, the questions presuppose “identity views” (sakkāyadiṭṭhi) or extreme views about a Self/self. Identity views are extreme views because they relate the psychophysical constituents of beings (five aggregates) to a Self/ self that either continues to exist unchanged (extreme of eternalism) or that ceases to exist completely from moment to moment or after death (extreme of nihilism). Avoiding both extremes, the Buddha teaches the Dharma by the middle, that is, he teaches the middle way of dependent origination and specific conditionality.10 For the Buddha, identity views are the consequence of not seeing this middle way, the conditioned and dependently originated nature of the five aggregates: their origin, their cessation, and the way leading to their cessation. It is this failure to “see” the middle way of dependent origination that leads beings to suffering. Thus, for the Buddha, liberation from suffering and insight into dependent origination/specific conditionality are intertwined. Yet, the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas does not state anywhere that specific conditionality and dependent origination are the only truth, that everything else is wrong. Instead of using specific conditionality and dependent origination to make universal exclusivist claims, the Buddha explains that he has put away diṭṭhi or views in the technical sense of doctrines held with attachment and ignorance. The Buddha clarifies that he has no extreme/identity views because he has seen the [dependent] origination (samudaya) and the [dependent] disappearance (atthaṅgama) of the five aggregates.11 Thus, if the Buddha does not describe his key doctrinal position as “the only truth, anything else is wrong,” it is hard to envision him as making similar universal exclusivist claims in other parts of the Pāli Nikāyas. However, this is what the exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha does. The exclusivist interpretation makes the Buddha sound pretty much like other masters who make universal exclusivist claims about their teachings. The exclusivist reading of D.II.151 and M.I.63–4 portrays the Buddha as stating something strikingly similar to “idameva saccaṃ moghamaññantī.” Specifically, the Buddha of exclusivist interpreters claims that “only Buddhist traditions provide liberation, enlightenment, and the highest stages of holiness and spiritual development, all the other traditions do not.” This exclusivist view is not that different from saying “only this is true, everything else is wrong.” However, the non-­exclusivist Buddha not only avoids universal exclusivist claims but also associates them with attachment to views. A third argument in favor of the non-­exclusivist interpretation is that the Buddha is that the Pāli Nikāyas do not define ideal holiness and the highest level of spiritual development in sectarian terms. That is, the ideal of ascetics and

Retrieving the early Buddhist position   89 brahmins is never understood in tradition-­specific terms. The Buddha never suggests that the ideal ascetic is exclusive to his teaching-­and-discipline, nor does he accept that the ideal brahmin is unique to Brahmanic traditions. In the same way the Buddha does not consider the ideal ascetic exclusive to Buddhism, the Buddha does not consider the ideal brahmin exclusive to Brahmanism. The ideal ascetic and brahmin is neither Buddhist nor Hindu, nor Jain, nor anything. For instance, D.I.167 defines the ideal ascetic and brahmin as follows, in Walshe’s translation: when a monk develops non-­enmity, non-­ill-will and a heart full of loving-­ kindness and, abandoning the corruptions, realizes and dwells in the uncorrupted deliverance of mind, the deliverance through wisdom, having realized it in this very life by his own insight, then Kassapa, that monk is termed an ascetic and a brahmin.12 Perhaps the most significant redefinition of the Brahmanic ideal of brahmin takes place in the Vāseṭṭha Sutta, which appears in both the Majjhima Nikāya, Sutta 98, and the Sutta Nipāta. There, the Buddha replaces the traditional Brahmanical understanding of caste as being dependent on birth, by an ethical understanding of caste in which one’s own free willed actions determine caste. The Buddha’s reinterpretation of the caste system presupposes an egalitarian view of humankind. For the Buddha we are born equal in the sense that caste distinctions among humans are verbal designations based on social conventions, not natural law or divine command.13 Accordingly, for the Buddha brahmins are not those who have been born in the caste of brahmins, but rather those whose actions and decisions correspond to what brahmins do. For instance, the Buddha states the following about brahmins: One is not a brahmin by birth, Nor by birth a non-­brahmin. By action is one a brahmin, By action is one a non-­brahmin.14 The Buddha goes beyond reinterpreting the caste system as a mere social convention not commanded by Gods and natural law. The Buddha transforms the concept of brahmin into a universal ethical ideal. Brahmin, for the Buddha, is primarily another name for the ideal of holiness and spiritual development, not the name of the highest and purest among the four castes of Brahmanism. The implication is that all human beings can become brahmins, not just those who happen to be born into the cast of priests and intellectuals. That is, for the Buddha the ideal brahmin is not someone who knows by heart the Vedas nor the expert in the performance of rituals, but rather someone who has reached the highest ethical and spiritual standards. For instance, in Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation:

90   Inclusivism I call him not a brahmin Because of his origin and lineage. If impediments still lurk in him, He is just one who says ‘Sir.’ Who is unimpeded and clings no more: He is the one I call a brahmin. Who has cut of all fetters And is no more by anguish shaken, Who has overcome all ties, detached: He is the one I call a brahmin . . . . . . Who endures without a trace of hate Abuse, violence, and bondage too, With strength of patience well arrayed: He is the one I call a brahmin. Who does not flare up with anger, Dutiful, virtuous, humble, Subdued, bearing his final body: He is the one I call brahmin . . . . . . Who with deep understanding, wise, Can tell path from the non-­path And has attained the goal supreme: He is the one I call brahmin . . . . . . Asceticism, the holy life, Self-­control and inner training— By this one becomes a brahmin, in this supreme brahminhood lies.15 If the Buddha does not define the ideal brahmin in tradition-­specific terms as belonging to one and only one particular school, it seems unjustifiable to interpret the Buddha as claiming in other parts of the Pāli Nikāyas that the four highest ascetics are exclusive to his teaching-­and-discipline. Either the existence of supreme ascetics and brahmins is tradition-­specific or not. If it is the case that supreme ascetics and brahmins exist only in the Buddha’s teaching, then the Buddha’s redefinition of such concepts in non-­tradition-specific terms seems unnecessary. If supreme ascetics and brahmins are not defined in tradition-­ specific terms, and if they need not exist in just one tradition, then the exclusivist reading of the Buddha cannot be true. Again, we face a hermeneutical dilemma. On the one hand we have the exclusivist interpretation that either makes the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas contradict himself or turns him into a brilliant yet deceitful sophist, that is, an exclusivist wolf in sheep’s clothing. On the other hand we have the non-­exclusivist interpretation, which provides a consistent account of the Pāli Nikāyas, and safeguards the Buddha’s intellectual honesty and moral integrity.

Retrieving the early Buddhist position   91

5.2  The concept of paccekabuddha and the origins of exclusivism A final argument in favor of the non-­exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha is the early concept of paccekabuddha. This concept is in principle compatible with the existence of liberation and the highest stages of holiness and spiritual development independently of Buddhas, Buddhism, and Buddhists. Buddhist traditions usually speak about three kinds of Buddhas. First, sammāsambuddha (samyaksambuddha in Sanskrit), that is, a “fully and perfectly enlightened Buddha.” This is the supreme type of Buddha in all Buddhist traditions. The historical Buddha was a sammāsambuddha, someone who attained liberation by himself and decided to establish a community of disciples. Second, sāvakabuddhas, “hearers Buddhas” (Skt. śrāvakabuddha). This refers to the disciples of the previous kind of Buddha, that is, those who attain enlightenment after hearing and practicing the teachings of sammāsambuddhas or Buddhas. Third, paccekabuddha, which is commonly translated as “solitary Buddha,” but that could also be translated as “Buddha due to conditions”16 (Skt. pratyekabuddha). These Buddhas attain liberation by themselves17 without having heard the teachings of Buddhas and without having practiced under the guidance of other Buddhas. Unlike a sammāsambuddha, a solitary Buddha tends to avoid teaching18 and prefers to remain in solitude19 without ever establishing a community of disciples. As Jane Compson has pointed out, the existence of paccekabuddhas is significant because it suggests two things: first, that the universe has an objective causal structure that can be realized without the existence of Buddhas to teach it. Second, that liberation is possible without taking refuge in the three Jewels that constitute Buddhism as a religion: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Saṅgha.20 I wish to go a step further and suggest that the early concept of paccekabuddhas is in principle compatible with the existence of liberation without Buddhas, Buddhism, and Buddhists. The late Prof. K.N. Jayatilleke also suggests that the concept of paccekabuddha allows for the possibility of liberation outside Buddhism. In his words: The concept of the Buddha as one who discovers the truth rather than as one who has the monopoly of the truth is clearly a source of tolerance. It leaves open the possibility for others to discover aspects of the truth or even the whole truth for themselves. The Buddhist acceptance of Pacceka-­Buddhas, who discover the truth for themselves, is a clear admission of this fact. . . . This assertion of the possibility of salvation or spiritual growth outside Buddhism does not mean that Buddhism values all religions alike and considers them equally true.21 The paccekabuddha practices and fulfills the noble eightfold path independently of Buddhas, Buddhism, and Buddhists. In this sense, the paccekabuddha is not a Buddhist. If paccekabuddhas are not Buddhists yet they attain liberation, it follows that liberation is not exclusive to Buddhism.

92   Inclusivism The early concept of paccekabuddha is incompatible with attributing to the Buddha an exclusivist view of religious diversity. If OTMIX stands for liberation and highest holiness, and if paccekabuddhas can attain such things outside the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline, then the exclusivist interpretation collapses. For the Buddha OTMIX is not the monopoly of Buddhist traditions because OTMIX is given in both the Buddha’s tradition and, at the very least, in the traditions in which paccekabuddhas arise. According to this non-­exclusivist interpretation, for the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas OTMIX may exist in other traditions. If for the Buddha the existence of OTMIX outside his teaching-­and-discipline is a real possibility, then it would make perfect sense to teach non-­exclusivist criteria to discern among different traditions, precisely the type of criteria we find in the Pāli Nikāyas. The non-­exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha is able to accommodate the reality of paccekabuddhas and the implications of this concept, i.e., there is liberation and highest holiness outside Buddhism, outside the Buddha’s teaching-­ and-discipline. Like Buddhas, paccekabuddhas fulfill the noble eightfold path, realize the four noble truths and dependent origination, and attain liberation and highest holiness. However, unlike Buddhas, paccekabuddhas do not start a Buddhist tradition (buddhasāsana), and they attain liberation without relying on the teachings of Buddhas (buddhāna-sāsana), and without taking refuge in the three gems that constitute Buddhism as a religion. If this interpretation of paccekabuddhas is plausible, then it seems possible to extrapolate and suggest that there is no Buddhism without Buddhas but there might be enlightened beings without Buddhism. That is, there is no Buddhism without sammāsambuddhas but there might be enlightened beings without Buddhas, Buddhism, and Buddhists. This extrapolation seems consistent with the teachings of the Buddha in the Pāli Nikāyas. If it is the case that there are paccekabuddhas, then it is also the case that there can be liberated beings and highest holiness outside the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline and the traditions derived from it. Thus, whether for the Buddha there are enlightened beings outside Buddhism is not the question. Rather, the question is whether all the enlightened beings that may exist outside Buddhism are necessarily like paccekabuddhas? When and where can such enlightened beings appear? Can non-­ Buddhist enlightened beings appear at a time and place in which Buddhist traditions exist? The answer to these questions is open to different interpretations. Traditionally, Buddhists have assumed that paccekabuddhas existed in prior ages and that they met past Buddhas and their teachings in former lives. That is, paccekabuddhas could attain liberation in their last life without contact in that lifetime with Buddhas, Buddhism, and Buddhists, but only because they met them in previous lives. As we will see below, it is true that the Isigili Sutta speaks about paccekabuddhas who existed in former times. However, not all references to paccekabuddhas found in the Pāli Nikāyas suggest that they existed in the past. Most important, the Isigili Sutta says nothing about paccekabuddhas meeting Buddhas

Retrieving the early Buddhist position   93 in the past, even less about paccekabuddhas-­to-be learning from past Buddhas. Not a single reference to paccekabuddhas in the Pāli Nikāyas supports such interpretation. Thus, since not all paccekabuddhas existed in the past, and since nowhere it is said that past paccekabuddhas were taught by past Buddhas, it is possible to interpret paccekabuddhas as attaining liberation without ever relying on both past and present Buddhas. Another argument against the traditional view of paccekabuddhas is that it renders the distinction between paccekabuddhas and sāvakabuddhas unnecessary. Suggesting that paccekabuddhas are able to become enlightened beings because they learned from past Buddhas would transform them into another type of sāvakabuddhas, that is, disciples who attained liberation after hearing the teachings of Buddha(s). The distinction between paccekabuddhas and sāvakabuddhas has to do with the way that they attain liberation, i.e., by themselves vs after hearing the Buddha’s teachings. To my knowledge, the distinction does not refer only to the last rebirth of sāvakabuddhas and paccekabuddhas. That is, I do not think that what differentiates sāvakabuddhas is that they attain liberation after hearing the Buddha’s teaching in their last life, whereas paccekabuddhas attain liberation without having heard the Buddha’s teaching in their last life. This interpretation of paccekabuddhas undermines the criterion that Buddhist traditions themselves use to distinguish them from sāvakabuddhas. If they all attain liberation after hearing past and present Buddhas, why do we need another term besides sāvaka, which means hearer? Another problem with the traditional interpretation of paccekabuddhas is that it would transform them into some kind of “anonymous Buddhists” who attain liberation by themselves in their last life, but only because they had been in contact with Buddhas, Buddhism, and Buddhists in past lives. For the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, the Dharma or the spiritual path and its fulfillment, whether by Buddhas or paccekabuddhas, is not tradition-­specific. Therefore, it is inconsistent with the Buddha’s teachings to suggest that, for him, Buddhist traditions possess the monopoly on the Dharma and teachings conducive to liberation or highest holiness. Some people may object that even if paccekabuddhas attain liberation and highest holiness independently of Buddhas, Buddhism, and Buddhists, they practice the same noble eightfold path, realize the same Dharma, and attain the same liberation and holiness described by the Buddha and Buddhist traditions. Likewise, the teachings of all Buddhas are always the same, and therefore, tradition-­ specific, i.e., Buddhist teachings. If this is the case, the Buddha is not really open to other traditions. At best, the Buddha would be an inclusivist open only to similar instances of OTMIX, which for him would be part of a universal tradition that transcends denominational borders. In my reading, the lives and teachings of Buddhas and other enlightened beings can be understood as particular embodiments or representations of the Dharma. These representations are not necessarily identical, although in the case of Buddhas they share structural similarities. For instance, at D.II.49–50 a Buddha of the past called Vipassī describes the structural similarities between

94   Inclusivism the lives of all Buddhas. Vipassī also explains the teachings of all Buddhas as follows: “Avoiding all evil, cultivating the good, purifying one’s own mind, this is the teaching of the Buddhas.”22 This famous verse about the teachings of all Buddhas appears also in Chapter 14 of the Dhammapada (Dhp. 183). The expression “the teaching of Buddhas” translates the Pāli buddhāna-sāsanaṃ, which contains two different words: buddhana, the genitive plural of Buddha, “of the Buddhas,” and sāsanaṃ, the nominative singular of sāsana, from the verbal root śās, to instruct, to teach, to train. The meaning of the expression buddhāna-sāsanaṃ “the teaching of all Buddhas” should not be confused with the meaning of the compound buddhasāsana. Although the compound buddhasāsana literally means the Buddha’s teaching, at least in contemporary Theravāda circles it signifies institutional Buddhism. The text in Dhp. 183 can also be interpreted as suggesting that the actual teachings of all Buddhas share a similar structure and purpose, not necessarily that they are literally identical nor that they are part of the same tradition. Particular representations of the Dharma need not belong to the same tradition. Like the concept of “Dharma,” the concepts of “Buddha” and “teachings of Buddhas” need not be understood as tradition-­specific. This can be inferred from the Pāli Nikāyas. Whether or not Buddhas exist, the specific conditionality and the dependent origination of suffering, i.e., the Dharma, remain to be the case. The Dharma in this sense of Truth about the universe is not tradition-­specific because it continues to exist independently of the existence of Buddhas, Buddhists, and Buddhist traditions (S.II.25–6): whether there is an arising of Tathāgatas or no arising of Tathāgatas, that element still persists, the stableness of the Dhamma, the fixed course of the Dhamma, specific conditionality. A Tathāgata awakens to it and breaks through to it. Having done so, he explains it, teaches it, proclaims it, establishes it, discloses it, analyses it, elucidates it. And he says: “See! With existence as condition, bhikkhus, birth [comes to be]. . . . With clinging as condition, bhikkhus, existence [comes to be]. . . . With craving as condition, bhikkhus, clinging [comes to be]. . . . With feeling as condition, bhikkhus, craving [comes to be]. . . . With contact as condition, bhikkhus, feeling [comes to be]. . . . With the six sense bases as condition, bhikkhus, contact [comes to be].  . . With name-­and-form as condition, bhikkhus, the six sense bases [come to be]. . . . With consciousness as condition, bhikkhus, name-­ and-form [come to be]. . . . With volitional formations as condition, bhikkhus, consciousness [comes to be]. . . . With ignorance as condition, bhikkhus, volitional formations [come to be].” Thus, bhikkhus, the actuality in this, the inerrancy, the not-­otherwiseness, specific conditionality: this is called dependent origination.23 Likewise, the noble eightfold path and its fulfillment are particular representations of the Dharma that do not depend on the existence of the Buddha Gotama

Retrieving the early Buddhist position   95 to exist. The Pāli Nikāyas make this point clearly. At S.II.105–6 the Buddha recalls how he discovered the path to enlightenment, which he describes as insight into the conditioned origination and cessation of suffering. He compares this attainment to the rediscovery of an “ancient path” (purāṇaṃ maggaṃ) traveled by people in the past. This ancient path leads to an “ancient city” that used to be inhabited by people in the past. The ancient path is explained as the noble eightfold path. Those who traveled this ancient path are the Buddhas of the past, literally “the rightly and completely enlightened ones of the past” (pubbakehi sammāsambuddhehi). The Buddha states that he followed the noble eightfold path too, and that by doing so he finally arrived at the ancient city. The Buddha explains the vision of this city as the realization of suffering, its origin, its cessation and the way leading to its cessation, that is, in terms of the four noble truths. More specifically, the Buddha realized the different factors that condition suffering, their origin, their cessation, and the way leading to their cessation. These factors are described as aging-­and-death, birth, existence, attachment, craving, feeling, contact, the six sense bases, name-­and-form, consciousness, and karmic or volitional formations. Having seen the city, someone “would restore the city and some time later that city would become successful and prosperous, well populated, filled with people, attained to growth and expansion.”24 Similarly, the Buddha restores the holy life, which in this context stands for the practice and the fulfillment of the noble eightfold path: “This holy life, bhikkhus, has become successful and prosperous, extended, popular, widespread, well proclaimed among devas and humans.”25 Since the noble eightfold path has been traveled by other Buddhas, and since insight into suffering and its cessation has been realized by other Buddhas, it makes little sense to claim that the traveling of the eightfold noble path and its fulfillment (enlightenment, liberation) take place only in the particular representation of the Dharma taught by the Buddha Gotama. Neither the noble eightfold path nor the ascetics who fulfill that path can be confined to the tradition of a particular Buddha. A possible objection is that I have only expanded the concept of Buddhism from the Buddha’s teaching to the teachings of all Buddhas. The fundamental exclusivist claim remains unchanged: liberation and highest holiness exists only in Buddhism, only in the teachings of Buddhas, never in other traditions, never in the teachings of non-­Buddhists. This objection however, is questionable because the existence of paccekabuddhas demonstrates that the Dharma, the spiritual path and its fulfillment cannot be confined to Buddhist traditions. Another problem with the objection is that it assumes that the teachings of all Buddhas and Buddhism are exactly the same thing. Although the teachings of all Buddhas and Buddhism overlap to a great extent, they cannot be equated. Teaching the Dharma is a necessary characteristic of the teachings of all Buddhas. However, teaching the Dharma is not a necessary characteristic of all Buddhist traditions, which may teach and represent other things besides the Dharma.

96   Inclusivism While the teachings of all Buddhas are representations of the Dharma, all the teachings of Buddhism are not necessarily so. Ideally, Buddhism should be a representation of the Dharma but this is not always the case. Often times, Buddhism leaves much to be desired in terms of representing the Dharma faithfully. The history of religions demonstrates that on many occasions Buddhists have not been faithful to the main concern of the Buddhas’ teachings (doing what is good and purifying the mind) nor to the main content of their teachings (specific conditionality of suffering). Equating Buddhism and the teachings of all Buddhas is also unjustifiable on logical grounds; it leads to absurd consequences. If the teachings of all Buddhas were exactly the same thing as the teachings of Buddhism, then we would have to conclude that representations of the Dharma are tradition-­specific, exclusive to Buddhism. However, claiming for instance that the dependent origination and cessation of suffering is tradition-­specific is as absurd as claiming that the dependent origination and cessation of gravity is tradition-­specific. Likewise, practicing and fulfilling the conditions for realizing dependent origination is not tradition-­specific. Practicing the noble eightfold path in order to realize the dependent origination of suffering is as tradition-­specific as studying physics in order to understand the dependent origination of gravity. Claiming that only Buddhists can see the dependent origination of suffering and practice the noble eightfold path is as arbitrary as claiming that only Buddhists can understand gravity and study physics. Everybody can practice the noble eightfold path and realize the dependent origination of suffering without belonging necessarily to Buddhism, just as everybody can study physics and understand gravity without having to belong to a particular religion or philosophical tradition. The Pāli Nikāyas do not support a tradition-­specific interpretation of the Dharma and its representations. The Buddha does not understand the Dharma in the sense of Truth, cosmic order, and laws of the universe as tradition-­specific. The Dharma and its multiple aspects are not the monopoly of the Buddha’s teachings, nor exclusive to Buddhist traditions, nor unique to Theravāda Buddhism or whatever Buddhist tradition is considered closest to the historical Buddha. People who, like paccekabuddhas, practice the spiritual path in an individualistic way may or may not be affiliated to a particular religious tradition. In this sense, they could be compared to those who today claim to be spiritual but not religious. Paccekabuddhas, however, like anybody who practices the spiritual path apart from institutionalized religions, do not originate in a cultural and religious vacuum. Rather, paccekabuddhas, like other ascetics described in the Pāli Nikāyas, arise in environments in which there are various spiritual teachings available. Yet, relying on this or that spiritual teaching does not make paccekabuddhas members of a particular religion. In other words, enlightened beings such as paccekabuddhas may or may not be understood as members of a particular religious denomination. Enlightened beings and people who reach the highest stages of holiness and spiritual development need not belong to a particular religious tradition even if they practice teachings that are characteristic of

Retrieving the early Buddhist position   97 a certain religious tradition. For instance, enlightened beings such as paccekabuddhas may practice mindfulness meditation and other aspects of the noble eightfold path without having to be considered members of any Buddhist tradition. Likewise, the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas need not be understood as a Buddhist even if he practiced teachings that are today characteristic of Buddhist traditions. Considering the Buddha a Buddhist in the modern sense would entail that the Dharma is tradition-­specific, and that would be incompatible with the Buddha’s teachings. The Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas does not teach in which specific traditions we can find the liberation and the level of holiness associated with paccekabuddhas. What the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas provides are non-­exclusivist criteria that allow us to infer which traditions may contain liberation and the highest stages of holiness. These criteria specify the qualifications or conditions for attaining liberation and highest holiness. Wherever these qualifications or conditions are found, there OTMIX will be found. Such qualifications or conditions are found in the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline, but this does not mean that they need to be found in Buddhist traditions as the early concept of paccekabuddha suggests. However, Buddhist views of OTMIX tend to be exclusivist. There are several possible interpretations. 1

2

3

Cosmic exclusivism: liberation and highest holiness are impossible outside Buddhist traditions while the teachings of the Buddha remain on earth; and when the Buddha Gotama attained enlightenment, no tradition was able to generate liberation and highest holiness. This is the traditional Buddhist view. Regional exclusivism: liberation and highest holiness are impossible in regions where Buddhism is known while the teachings of the Buddha remain; and when the Buddha attained enlightenment, no tradition in the Indian subcontinent was able to generate liberation and highest holiness. This view would imply that Brahmanism, Jainism and other schools of the Buddha’s region did not contain, and still do not contain, any liberated beings or anybody that reaches highest holiness. It would be unclear whether religions from other parts of the world lack the necessary means to attain liberation and highest holiness. Temporal exclusivism: liberation and highest holiness were impossible outside Buddhism only at the time of the Buddha. This would just mean that liberation and highest holiness did not exist at the time of the Buddha but became possible afterwards even outside Buddhism and in regions where Buddhist did not exist.

In contradistinction to the aforementioned three forms of exclusivism, I propose a non-­exclusivist interpretation in which liberation and highest holiness are not tradition-­specific, and therefore, not the monopoly of Buddhism. That is, according to my reading of the Pāli Nikāyas, there are not cosmic, regional, and

98   Inclusivism temporal restrictions to the possibility of attaining liberation and highest holiness. The question is: if the early concept of paccekabuddha presupposes a non-­ exclusivist view of religious diversity that is in principle compatible with the existence of OTMIX outside Buddhism, how come most Buddhists traditions today hold an exclusivist view of liberation and highest holiness? At this point I would like to propose a historical hypothesis: the exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha does not correspond to the early Buddhist view of religious diversity, it is a later development in the history of Buddhism. If it is correct to affirm that the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas holds a non-­exclusivist view of OTMIX because OTMIX is not tradition-­specific, we should be able to find in Buddhist sources some evidence suggesting that exclusivist interpretations of the Buddha and Buddhism are later developments in the history of Buddhism. This evidence can be inferred from what Buddhist texts teach about the coexistence of Buddhas and paccekabuddhas. I hypothesize three main stages regarding the question of whether Buddhas and paccekabuddhas can live simultaneously in the same universe. In the first stage, the question is simply not discussed because nobody saw a problem with Buddhas and paccekabuddhas living in the same universe at the same time. This was not an issue yet. The second stage is transitional and will probably contain inconsistencies regarding the simultaneous existence of Buddhas and paccekabuddhas. In the third stage, such coexistence will be considered impossible. These three different ways of understanding paccekabuddhas in relationship to Buddhas correlate with three stages regarding the Buddhist view of OTMIX: (1) non-­exclusivist; (2) transitional: neither purely exclusivist nor non-­exclusivist; (3) clearly exclusivist. The earliest Buddhist position, which is the one that the Pāli Nikāyas represent, allowed for the existence of liberation and highest holiness in other traditions, at least in traditions in which paccekabuddhas originated; this was not an issue. The Buddha’s non-­exclusivist view was in principle compatible with the existence of other traditions that could provide sufficient means to attain liberation and highest holiness. That is, for the Buddha the simultaneous existence of paccekabuddhas in the same universe and the subsequent existence of liberation outside his teaching-­and-discipline did not pose any threat. For the Buddha, neither liberation nor the spiritual path were the monopoly of any tradition in particular. That is why the Buddha compares the noble eightfold path and insight into dependent origination to traveling an ancient path leading to the discovery of an ancient city. Neither the path nor the city were tradition-­specific; they were neither the Buddha’s path nor Buddhist liberation. That the practice of the noble eightfold path and its fulfillment were not tradition-­specific is also demonstrated by the early concept of paccekabuddha. The second stage corresponds to the beginnings of Buddhist scholasticism. Here we see a transitional stage in which neither non-­exclusivist nor exclusivist views of religious diversity prevail. Nobody perceived any inconsistency between the exclusivist view and the non-­exclusivist criteria provided by the

Retrieving the early Buddhist position   99 Buddha, between the existence of liberation in the Buddha’s teaching-­anddiscipline and traditions in which paccekabuddhas originated. With the development of early Buddhist scholasticism, Buddhists felt the need to clarify and elaborate on multiple aspects of the Buddha’s teachings. Many doctrinal issues were discussed. Some of these issues were the structure of the universe, the kinds of beings that inhabit it, their lifespan, and whether or not they can be contemporary. At some point that I am unable to determine, some Buddhists felt the need to assert the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline before other traditions, affirming that liberation and the fulfillment of the spiritual path were tradition-­specific, unique to Buddhism. In order to legitimize this exclusivist view, it was necessary to supplement the non-­exclusivist criteria provided by the Buddha with universal claims about the absence of liberation and highest holiness in non-­Buddhist traditions. The Buddha’s rejection of specific doctrines and practices found in other traditions was gradually transformed into universal exclusivist claims about non-­Buddhist traditions and their ascetics. The noble eightfold path, the four highest ascetics, and liberation were now unique to the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline. The rise of Buddhist exclusivism need not correlate with the growth of narrow-­mindedness and intolerance. The exclusivist view characteristic of most Buddhist traditions today is perfectly consistent with sincere inclusivistic and even pluralistic attitudes toward other traditions. The new exclusivist views of some Buddhists existed alongside the earlier non-­exclusivist views of other Buddhists. Buddhists with exclusivist and non-­exclusivist views of OTMIX could share similar inclusivistic and pluralistic attitudes toward non-­Buddhists. The third stage corresponds to later Buddhist scholasticism. There were several schools of Buddhist philosophy in contradistinction to many Jain and Hindu philosophical schools. Classical Indian scholasticism became philosophically more sophisticated and critical of other traditions. Different Buddhist schools had to define their positions and differentiate them not only from other Buddhists schools, but also from the position of non-­Buddhists. This required that the doctrinal claims of each school be formulated in the most coherent way. At some point, that again I am unable to determine, some Buddhists realized that there was a discrepancy between the by now exclusivist view held by many Buddhist schools and the early concept of paccekabuddha. In order to make the exclusivist view of other traditions more coherent, some Buddhists felt the need to reinterpret the early concept of paccekabuddha and decided to contend that paccekabuddhas could not exist where Buddhas and Buddhism still thrived. If there was not liberation and highest holiness outside Buddhism, it was impossible for paccekabuddhas to exist in the same universe and in the same historical period in which Buddhas and their influence continued to exist. This was a brilliant move, an excellent solution to the clash between the non-­ exclusivist view that the early concept of paccekabuddha presupposed, and the scholastic tendency to see one’s own tradition as having the monopoly of liberation and highest holiness. This move allowed Buddhists to portray Buddhism as

100   Inclusivism necessarily superior to non-­Buddhist traditions without contradicting what early texts said about paccekabuddhas. This emergence of Buddhist exclusivism with its new concept of paccekabuddhas was probably a survival mechanism, a necessary strategy to secure support for Buddhist monasteries in a climate of fierce philosophical competition between Hindu, Jain and Buddhist schools. If there were enough resources for all, there would not be any need to compete to the point of demeaning the ascetics of other traditions while exalting the holiness of one’s own ascetics. The exclusivist view of liberation and highest holiness together with the doctrine that considers paccekabuddhas and Buddhas cosmologically incompatible became the orthodox Buddhist position. This exclusivist interpretation and the scholastic concept of paccekabuddha prevail in most Buddhist traditions today, and few dare to read the earliest sources directly without relying on the “official” position of commentaries. It is important to note that the Pāli Nikāyas neither affirm nor deny the existence of paccekabuddhas and Buddhas in one universe at the same time. What the Pāli Nikāyas state is that the arising of two Buddhas in one universe at the same time is impossible. By two Buddhas it is meant two sammāsambuddhas, literally “two worthy, perfect, and fully awakened ones” (dve arahanto sammāsambuddhā). I have identified three texts that reject the simultaneous existence of two Buddhas in one universe: M.III.65, A.I.27–8, and D.II.225. The first two texts, M.III.65 and A.I.27–8, are attributed to the Buddha. The Buddha limits himself to point out various things that are impossible (netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjati). For instance, it is impossible that someone with right view perceives formations as permanent and happiness; it is also impossible that someone with right view perceives any mental state (dhamma) as Self/self. Likewise, it is impossible that someone with right view could kill his or her mother, his or her father, a liberated being (arahant); shed with a hateful mind the Tathāgata’s blood; cause a schism in the monastic community; consider other teachers as superior to the Buddha. Similarly, it is impossible for a woman to become a Buddha sammāsambuddha, not to be confused with being unable to attain liberation or become another type of Buddha. Moreover, a woman cannot become a wheel-­turning monarch, a god Sakka, a god Brahmā, and the Evil one (Māra). Finally, it is impossible for the law of karma not to work properly, e.g., it is impossible for good deeds not to bring good results and for bad deeds not to produce bad results. It is within this context that the Buddha rejects the simultaneous existence of two Buddhas in the same universe. No explanation is given. However, from the fact that the simultaneous existence of two great emperors or wheel-­turning monarchs is also rejected we can infer that the reason has nothing to do with an exclusivist view of liberation and highest holiness. In my reading, rejecting the simultaneous existence of two Buddhas or two wheel-­turning monarchs derives from a particular assumption about what is supreme and most excellent. The assumption seems to be that whatever is supreme and most excellent must be without an equal and, therefore, singular. We see this way of thinking at play in

Retrieving the early Buddhist position   101 (Miln 236–9). There, we find several reasons to explain why two Buddhas sammāsambuddha cannot exist simultaneously in one universe. None of these reasons have to do with an exclusivist view of OTMIX. The first reason is cosmological: the universe can only support the existence of one Buddha sammāsambuddha, there is no room or capacity for more. The second reason is pragmatic: if there were two Buddhas, then their followers would dispute with each other. The third reason has to do with the truth of Buddhist texts: if there were two Buddhas, then texts that describe the Buddha as the highest or most excellent, that is, without equal, would be false. The fourth reason is metaphysical: whatever is mighty in the world is singular; for instance, earth is one, the ocean is one, Mount Sineru is one, space is one, Sakka the king of gods is one, Māra the Evil one is one, the great god Brahmā is one, and so must be the Buddha. The only text that could perhaps be interpreted as somewhat relating the ­impossible simultaneous existence of two Buddhas in the same universe to the exclusivist view appears at D.II.224–5. Interestingly, however, unlike M.III.65 and A.I.27–8, the text at D.II.224–5 is not attributed to the Buddha but rather to various gods and heavenly beings. The gods praise the Buddha by making eight claims about him, all of them suggesting that no other teacher can match certain deeds or accomplishments of the Buddha. The last of these deeds or accomplishments could be understood as an exclusivist view of liberation and highest holiness. Specifically, the exclusivist claim about the Buddha made by the king of gods Sakka states, in Walshe’s translation: The Lord has transcended doubt, passed beyond all “how” and “why,” he has accomplished his aim in regard to his goal and the supreme holy life. And we can find no teacher who has done the like, whether we consider the past or the present, other than the lord.26 After this claim about the Buddha some gods say that it would be wonderful to have not one but four Buddhas sammāsambuddha in the world. It is then that the god Sakka tells them, in Walshe’s translation: “it is impossible, gentlemen, it cannot happen, that two fully-­enlightened Buddhas should arise simultaneously in a single world-­system. That cannot be.”27 Again, no explanation is given. The exclusivist view made by the god Sakka is inconsistent with the existence of past Buddhas and many other liberated beings. Sakka’s exclusivist view is also incompatible with the non-­exclusivist criteria to discern among teachers that the Buddha provides in many texts, as well as with the Buddha’s non-­exclusivist view of other ascetics and brahmins in other parts of the Pāli Nikāyas, e.g., Sn. 1082. Whether the impossible existence of two sammāsambuddhas in one universe at the same time can or cannot be extrapolated to the existence of one Buddha sammāsambuddha and one paccekabuddha is open to interpretation. The Buddha says nothing about the impossible simultaneous existence of one Buddha sammāsambuddha and one paccekabuddha. Nothing indicates that for the Buddha the coexistence of paccekabuddhas and Buddhas was impossible.

102   Inclusivism There are few references to paccekabuddhas in the Pāli Nikāyas. They are called pacceka-­sambuddhas, but they are not the same kind of Buddha as sammāsambuddhas. None of the texts in the Pāli Nikāyas suggests that paccekabuddhas cannot exist simultaneously with Buddhas in the same universe.28 In fact, the opposite seems to be the case. For instance, the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas considers paccekabuddhas one of the four kinds of people worthy of a stūpa, that is, a reliquary. The other three beings worthy of building a stūpa are a Buddha (sammāsambuddha), a disciple of a Buddha, and a great ruler (lit. a “wheel-­turning king”).29 Why would the Buddha talk about paccekabuddhas as worthy of a stūpa if they could not exist at the same time and place as a Buddha? The Buddha’s advice in the Pāli Nikāyas applies to the present existence. Therefore, suggesting that in this case the Buddha’s advice applies to future existences or existences in other universes in which paccekabuddhas may be found seems a bit far-­fetched. Would not this advice for future existences or existences in a different universe be inconsistent with the practical advice the Buddha gives throughout the Pāli Nikāyas, always applicable here and now? Similarly, the Buddha speaks about the strong consequences of disrespecting paccekabuddhas.30 Why would the Buddha warn against disrespecting paccekabuddhas if they were not around in this cosmic period or in this universe? Does it not make more sense to interpret the Buddha as teaching something that can be actually put into practice in this very life? The only text in the Pāli Nikāyas that could support the scholastic Buddhist teaching about the cosmological incompatibility between paccekabuddhas and Buddhas is the Isigili Sutta.31 There, the Buddha tells the monks about 500 paccekabuddhas that used to practice in the Isigili mountain in “former times” (bhūtapubbaṃ). The Buddha even refers to some paccekabuddhas by name, and praises their holiness and spiritual accomplishments. The expression “former times” could be interpreted as referring to past existences, although not necessarily in other universes or cosmic periods. This reference to paccekabuddhas from the past would have been the ideal place to clarify that the existence of paccekabuddhas and the Buddha is impossible in the same universe. However, the Isigili Sutta is silent about this point. Nothing indicates that Buddhas cannot exist where and when paccekabuddhas exist. Even though the Isigili Sutta does not say anything about whether Buddhas and paccekabuddhas can exist simultaneously, Bhikkhu Bodhi clarifies in a footnote to his translation that paccekabuddhas “arise only at a time when no Dispensation of a Buddha exists in the world.”32 Bhikkhu Bodhi is once again representing Theravāda orthodoxy: when the buddhasāsana exists, paccekabuddhas do not arise and vice versa. Bhikkhu Bodhi does not explain why such cosmological incompatibility between Buddhas, Buddhism, and paccekabuddhas is the case, and why, if this point is so important, the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas was silent about it. Between the early concept of paccekabuddha, which is the one we find in the Pāli Nikāyas, and the later concept represented by Bhikkhu Bodhi and the

Retrieving the early Buddhist position   103 Theravāda commentarial tradition, there are texts that belong to a transitional second stage. In this second stage, we find both concepts of paccekabuddha: the one that presupposes an exclusivist view, and the one that does not presuppose exclusivism. In this second stage neither the early nor the scholastic concept of paccekabuddha seems to prevail. For instance, in the Mahāvastu, we find a concept of paccekabuddha that excludes their contemporary existence with Buddhas. As Peter Harvey points out: The Lokattaravādin Mahāvastu (1.197 and 357) says that when pratyekabuddhas are informed that a bodhisattva will soon start the life in which he will become a perfect Buddha, they choose to pass away by rising into the air and burning up. This seems to harden the idea of “is not taught by a perfect Buddha” into a “has to get out of the way in case they are taught by one”!33 However, in the Abhidharmakośabhāṣyam attributed to Vasubandhu, perhaps the most influential compendium of early Buddhist scholasticism, we find a concept of paccekabuddha that does not rule out the possibility of their contemporary existence with Buddhas. Specifically, (Abhidharmakośabhāṣya III.94ab) states that Buddhas appear only during a period in which lifespan decreases, whereas (Abhidharmakośabhāṣya III.94c) says that paccekabuddhas may appear in periods in which lifespan decreases and increases. Nothing is said about the cosmological incompatibility between Buddhas and paccekabuddhas. Rather, the implication seems to be that both can exist during the same cosmic period of decrease. Texts belonging to the transitional second stage can also be found in the Theravāda tradition. For instance, while discussing the scholastic Buddhist concept of paccekabuddha, Peter Harvey notices the following inconsistency: While they cannot live at a time of a perfect Buddha and his influence, in the Theravāda tradition they are said to arise only in cosmic eons during which a perfect Buddha arises at some time (Sri Lankan commentary on the Buddhavamsa p. 191).34 Thus, if paccekabuddhas arise in a cosmic period in which a Buddha exists, they are not cosmologically incompatible. This Theravāda discrepancy regarding the time in which paccekabuddhas and Buddhas can exist seems to be a residue of the second transitional stage. The absence of the scholastic concept of paccekabuddha in the Pāli Nikāyas and the ambiguous position of texts belonging to early Buddhist scholasticism seem to indicate that the claim “paccekabuddhas cannot arise when a Buddha or his influence exist in the world” is a later development in the history of Buddhism. The scholastic concept of paccekabuddha seems to be related to the exclusivist view of other traditions, which also appeared late in the history of Buddhism.

104   Inclusivism I venture to suggest that, at least in the Theravāda tradition, the scholastic Buddhist concept of paccekabuddha and the exclusivist view of other traditions were not prevalent among Theravāda Buddhists before the fifth century ce, which is the date usually attributed to Buddhaghosa’s commentaries. Both the scholastic Buddhist concept of paccekabuddha and the exclusivist view of other traditions are later historical developments inconsistent with the early concept of paccekabuddha and the Buddha’s non-­exclusivist view of liberation and highest holiness.

6 Are Buddhists inclusivists or exclusivists with inclusivistic attitudes?

This chapter clarifies the nature of the most common Buddhist approach to religious diversity. The first section contends that the traditional Buddhist approach to other traditions combines a sincere inclusivistic attitude with an exclusivist view of liberation and the highest holiness. I call this approach inclusivistic-­ exclusivism. The second describes Kiblinger’s understanding of inclusivism and her proposal for Buddhists. The third clarifies the concept of inclusivism and her interpretation of the Buddha and inclusivist-­minded Buddhists.

6.1  Clarifying the traditional Buddhist approach to religious diversity In order to understand better the most common Buddhist approach to religious diversity, it is helpful to distinguish between views and attitudes. By attitudes to religious diversity I mean dispositions to accept, respect, and interact with other traditions. By views of religious diversity I mean claims about the existence of OTMIX among the religions. If we use attitudes to characterize the prevalent Buddhist approach to religious diversity, then the term inclusivism is the most adequate. For most Buddhists, the existence of religious diversity is perfectly acceptable and it does not pose any problem. Given the plurality of human inclinations and different levels of spiritual development, religious diversity is even useful to promote ethical and spiritual progress worldwide, i.e., good karma. Most Buddhists genuinely respect and appreciate the elements of truth and goodness found in other traditions. Similarly, for most Buddhists, dialogue and interaction with people from other religions is neither discouraged nor perceived as indispensable. However, if we refer to the Buddhist view of OTMIX, the most important goal, ideal, concern, reality, or teaching of a tradition, and if X stands for liberation and highest holiness, then most Buddhists have been and continue to be exclusivists. While other religions may contain true teachings, admirable ethical values, and even generate holy people, they are nevertheless insufficient to provide the means to attain liberation and the highest stages of spiritual development. This distinction between attitudes and views clarifies the nature of the prevalent Buddhist approach to religious diversity, which is exclusivist in its view

106   Inclusivism of OTMIX, but inclusivistic in the way it treats other traditions and their members. I call this approach inclusivistic-­exclusivism, this combination of an exclusivist view with an inclusivistic attitude. The concept of inclusivistic-­exclusivism is helpful to counteract a common stereotype about exclusivists in general. Many people assume that just because someone holds an exclusivist view of OTMIX, that person must fail to accept the existence of other religions, disrespect them, and avoid interaction with their members. This stereotype about exclusivists is unjustified. The stereotype does not apply to most exclusivists. Most exclusivists display inclusivistic attitudes in practice. For this reason I distinguish between inclusivistic-­exclusivists and exclusivistic-­exclusivists. While inclusivistic-­exclusivists combine an exclusivist view with inclusivistic attitudes, exclusivistic-­exclusivists combine an exclusivist view with exclusivistic attitudes. The position of exclusivistic-­exclusivists is what we can call fundamentalism, but the position of inclusivistic-­exclusivists should never be associated with the concept of fundamentalism. Another important distinction is between exclusivist views based on an absolutist black or white mindset, and exclusivist views that do not presuppose an absolutist mindset. The prevalent Theravāda position attributes to the Buddha an exclusivist view of OTMIX, but this view is substantially different from exclusivist views based on absolutist mindsets. The prevalent Theravāda view of other traditions does not presuppose an absolutist or exclusivist way of thinking in which there are only two mutually exclusive options: black or white, good or evil, right or wrong, true or false. Exclusivists with absolutist ways of thinking tend to divide religions into two mutually exclusive and exhaustive camps: if the beliefs of my religion are true and good, then the contrary beliefs of other religions must be false and evil; there is nothing in-­between, no degrees of truth and goodness among the religions. Absolutist or exclusivist ways of thinking usually leads to exclusivistic attitudes towards members from other religions, but even this need not be necessarily the case. The prevalent Theravāda approach makes the Buddha divide religions into two mutually exclusive camps: those that contain liberation and the four highest ascetics on the one hand, and those that lack liberation and the highest ascetics. However, unlike exclusivistic-­exclusivists or exclusivists with absolutist mindsets, the prevalent Theravāda interpretation of the Buddha does not assume that these two camps exhaust all possibilities; there are other options besides black or white. For instance, other traditions may contain individuals with a high degree of spiritual development and practices that function as stepping stones toward liberation. Thus, the most common Theravāda position and its prevalent interpretation of the Buddha provide grounds for genuine respect and appreciation for other traditions. It is this genuine respect and appreciation for religious diversity that allows Buddhists to have overall peaceful interactions with other religions and speak about the inclusivistic attitude of most Buddhist traditions. For Theravādins who interpret the Buddha in exclusivist terms, other traditions are not evil and false in absolute terms. The fulfillment of the noble

Buddhist inclusivistic attitudes   107 eightfold path is found only in the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline, and for that reason, the four highest stages of spiritual development are unique to his teaching-­and-discipline. This exclusivist view refers to the fulfillment of the noble eightfold path, not to the existence of some elements of the path in other traditions. The exclusivist interpretation does not entail that other traditions fail to practice the noble eightfold path at all. Other traditions may teach and practice many elements of the noble eightfold path; what is missing in these traditions is the fulfillment of the noble eightfold path. It is because the noble eightfold path is not fulfilled in other traditions that the four highest stages of holiness and spiritual development are unique to the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline. This interpretation of the Buddha and Buddhism is not inclusivist because OTMIX remains exclusive to the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline. Yet, this exclusivist view is consistent with displaying inclusivistic attitudes that respect and appreciate elements of the noble eightfold path found in other traditions, despite the fact that such elements are perceived as insufficient to attain liberation and highest holiness. Thus, the exclusivist view of OTMIX characteristic of Theravāda Buddhism and most Buddhist traditions is different from forms of exclusivism that presuppose absolutist ways of thinking, i.e., exclusivistic-­exclusivism. Exclusivist views based on black or white ways of thinking usually do not perceive anything holy, good, or true in other traditions and, therefore, they tend to lead to exclusivistic attitudes. On the contrary, the exclusivist views characteristic of most Buddhist traditions admit degrees of holiness, goodness, and truth. Consequently, most Buddhists do not have a problem with accepting the existence of religious diversity even if they provide insufficient means to attain OTMIX. It is this acceptance of degrees of holiness, truth, and goodness that allows Buddhists to display inclusivistic attitudes toward the relative holiness, truth, and goodness that may be found in other traditions. Exclusivistic attitudes should not be attributed to all who hold exclusivist views because not all exclusivists think in absolutist black or white terms. While Buddhist inclusivistic-­exclusivism accepts the existence of other traditions and encourages respect and appreciation for the elements of holiness, truth and goodness found in them, exclusivistic-­exclusivism fails to accept the existence of other traditions, and tends to disrespect and discriminate against members from other traditions. Exclusivistic attitudes should not be confused with exclusivist views because people holding inclusivist and pluralist views may also disrespect and discriminate against members of other traditions. That is, there is not a necessary connection between displaying an exclusivistic attitude and holding a particular view of religions. There is, however, a correlation; the less openness to the existence of OTMIX in other religions, the more likely the existence of exclusivistic attitudes will be. However, as I have already said, most exclusivists do not display exclusivistic attitudes; exclusivists with absolutist mindsets are more likely to display exclusivistic attitudes than exclusivists without absolutist ways of thinking. Even exclusivists with absolutist mindsets need not display

108   Inclusivism exclusivistic attitudes, although this probably depends on the type of society in which exclusivists live. Exclusivistic-­exclusivists living in secularized and/or religiously diverse societies are less likely to manifest their exclusivistic attitudes than those who live in religious communities and societies in which their religion predominates. Someone may have an exclusivistic attitude toward different people and for diverse reasons, not all of exclusivistic necessarily related to religion. For instance, someone may exclude others because of their skin color, physical appearance, gender, manners, sexual orientation, ideology, income, and so on. Here, however, my concern is simply with exclusivistic attitudes towards those who belong to different religious traditions. A good example of Buddhist inclusivistic-­exclusivism is Bhikkhu Bodhi. He warns against possible misunderstandings of the exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha. According to Bhikkhu Bodhi, the Buddha’s words at D.II.151 and M.I.63–4: . . . do not mean that other religions are destitute of persons of saintly stature. Such religions may well engender individuals who have attained to a high degree of spiritual purity—beings of noble character, lofty virtue, deep contemplative experience, and rich endowment with love and compassion. These religions, however, would not be capable of giving rise to Ariyan individuals [the four highest ascetics], those equipped with the penetrative wisdom that can cut through the bonds that fetter living beings to saṃsāra, the round of repeated birth and death. For such wisdom can only be engendered on a basis of right view—the view of the three characteristics of all conditioned phenomena, of dependent arising, and of the Four Noble Truths—and that view is promulgated exclusively in the fold of the Buddha’s Dispensation.1 Thus, for Bhikkhu Bodhi and other inclusivistic-­exclusivists, claiming that the four highest degrees of holiness and spiritual development exist only in Buddhism does not necessarily mean that other religions lack people with a high  degree of virtue and spiritual purity. Besides the four highest ascetics found  exclusively in Buddhism, there are other degrees of virtue and holiness that may be found in other religions. It is this acknowledgment of different degrees of virtue and holiness across religions that permits exclusivist interpreters of the Buddha to suggest that he displays inclusivistic attitudes toward other traditions. As Bhikkhu Bodhi explains, the Buddha’s exclusivist view of other religions: . . . in no way implies a lack of tolerance or good will. . . . In his frequent meetings with uncommitted inquirers and with convinced followers of other creeds, the Buddha displayed the most complete tolerance and gracious cordiality. But though he was always ready to allow each individual to form his or her own convictions without the least constraint or coercion, he clearly

Buddhist inclusivistic attitudes   109 did not subscribe to the universalist thesis that all religions teach essentially the same message, nor did he allow that the attainment of final release from suffering, Nibbāna, was accessible to those who stood outside the fold of his own Dispensation.2 Thus, for the prevalent Theravāda interpretation represented by Bhikkhu Bodhi, the Buddha is exclusivist and inclusivistic at the same time, although in two different senses, that is why there is no contradiction. On the one hand, the Buddha is exclusivist due to his view of OTMIX in other traditions: OTMIX is found only in his teaching-­and-discipline. On the other hand, the Buddha is inclusivistic due to his attitude: the Buddha does not exclude or discriminate against members from other traditions; he may disagree with them and reject many of their doctrines and practices, but he shows respect and appreciation for whatever is true and good in their traditions. A good illustration of the Buddha’s inclusivistic attitude toward other traditions appears in the Upāli Sutta (M.I.379). There, Upāli, a wealthy and influential follower of Jainism, approaches the Buddha in order to refute his theory of action. Instead, the Buddha refutes Upāli and, as it is customary in ancient India when someone loses a debate, Upāli “converts” to the other tradition, in this case the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline. The Buddha tells Upāli that since he is such a well-­known public figure, it would be good for him to investigate thoroughly the matter before he decides to convert. To this advice, Upāli replies as follows: Venerable sir, I am even more satisfied and pleased with the Blessed One for telling me that. For the other sectarians, on acquiring me as their disciple, would carry a banner all over Nāḷandā announcing: “The householder Upāli has come to discipleship under us.” But on the contrary, the Blessed One tells me: “Investigate thoroughly, householder. It is good for such well-­ known people like you to investigate thoroughly.”3 The Buddha’s answer shows that his main concern is not conversion of others, but rather interreligious harmony, i.e., the possible social repercussions of Upāli’s conversion from Jainism to Buddhism. In my reading, being concerned with the social repercussions of conversion and the fate of other religions and their members demonstrates the pluralistic attitude of the Buddha, which is more interested in interreligious harmony than conversion. But the Buddha’s attitude can also be interpreted as inclusivistic because it is a bit patronizing. Be it as it may, the point here is that attitude is not exclusivistic. An answer presupposing an exclusivistic attitude would probably have praised Upāli’s decision, condemning Jain ascetics while exalting Buddhist ones. Upāli is pleasantly surprised by the attitude behind the Buddha’s reply and becomes even more convinced of his decision to convert. Then the Buddha asks Upāli to keep supporting Jain ascetics: “Householder, your family has long supported the Nigaṇṭhas4 and you should consider that alms should be given to them

110   Inclusivism when they come.”5 Again, the Buddha demonstrates a non-­exclusivistic attitude. If the Buddha had an exclusivistic attitude toward Jainism, he would have asked Upāli to discontinue his support of Jain ascetics and support only Buddhist monks. The Buddha’s non-­exclusivistic attitude presupposes a sincere acceptance and respect for other traditions. It is this acceptance of Jainism and respect for the virtue and holiness found in some Jain ascetics that seem to be the primary reasons behind the Buddha’s concern for the future wellbeing of Jain ascetics after Upāli’s conversion. Later in the discourse Upāli disregards the Buddha’s advice and mistreats Jain ascetics. Upāli follows the letter of the Buddha’s advice and gives alms to Jain ascetics. However, Upāli disrespects Jain ascetics, thus demonstrating an exclusivistic attitude contrary to the spirit of the Buddha’s advice. Upāli does not let Jain ascetics enter into his house; instead, he orders his servant to make them wait outside. On another occasion, when Jain ascetics demand to talk to Upāli, he lets them enter into his house but disrespects them once again by remaining seated in the best or higher seat while offering Jain ascetics worse or lower seats, which is extremely rude. Even today in predominantly Theravāda countries like Sri Lanka, not only Buddhist monks but also Catholic priests are offered the best seats at homes and even in public transportation. Upāli’s lack of respect and his attempt to discriminate against Jain ascetics contrast with the Buddha’s non-­exclusivistic attitude. Even though the Buddha challenges and rejects many Jain beliefs and practices in other texts,6 and despite that, according to the exclusivist interpretation, the Buddha thinks that the four highest ascetics are found only in his tradition, he does not disrespect and discriminate against Jain ascetics. Like Upāli, there have been and there are some Buddhists with exclusivistic attitudes, that is, Buddhists who disrespect and discriminate against members of other religions. It would be historically inaccurate to idealize Buddhism and claim that all Buddhists have always been free from exclusivistic attitudes. However, it would be equally inaccurate to portray Buddhist traditions as overall exclusivistic in their attitudes towards other traditions. Like the Buddha, most Buddhists traditions throughout history seem to have demonstrated inclusivistic attitudes toward non-­Buddhists, showing respect and appreciation for their traditions despite their being perceived as somewhat lacking and unable to provide sufficient means to attain liberation and the highest degrees of holiness. Inclusivistic-­exclusivism is not unique to Theravāda Buddhism. The combination of an exclusivist view of OTMIX with a genuine inclusivistic attitude toward other traditions can be found in most Buddhist traditions. Justifying this claim about most Buddhist traditions is beyond the scope of this study. Here, I limit myself to provide just one example, the XIVth Dalai Lama, who for many symbolizes the highest expression of Buddhist tolerance and respect for other traditions. For the Dalai Lama, liberation is unique to Buddhism and the highest understanding of emptiness is the monopoly of his Geluk school. More specifically, only emptiness as taught by the Prāsaṅgika-Madhyamaka philosophical school

Buddhist inclusivistic attitudes   111 leads to the ultimate end of Buddhahood. The Dalai Lama holds an exclusivist view of OTMIX, at least when X refers to liberation and the highest presentation of emptiness. His exclusivist view of liberation and emptiness can be appreciated in the following quote: Liberation in which “a mind that understands the sphere of reality annihilates all defilements in the sphere of reality” is a state that only Buddhists can accomplish. This kind of mokṣa or nirvāṇa is only explained in the Buddhist scriptures, and is achieved only through Buddhist practice. . . . The mokṣa which is described in the Buddhist religion is achieved only though the practice of emptiness. And this kind of nirvāṇa or liberation, as I have defined above, cannot be achieved even by Svātantrika Mādhyamikas, by Cittamātras, Sautrāntikas or Vaibhāṣikas. The followers of these schools, though Buddhists, do not understand the actual doctrine of emptiness. Because they cannot realize emptiness, or reality, they cannot accomplish the kind of liberation I defined previously.7 Like Bhikkhu Bodhi and most Theravāda Buddhists, the Dalai Lama combines an exclusivist view of OTMIX with a genuine inclusivistic attitude that accepts and respects elements of truth and goodness found in other traditions. As Jane Compson has argued, the inclusivistic attitude of the Dalai Lama does not derive from a pluralist position similar to that of John Hick. Rather, the Dalai Lama’s position derives from his adherence to the Prāsaṅgika Mādhyamaka tradition, which claims that the full understanding of emptiness does not take place in other Buddhist traditions. Likewise, Compson has shown that the Dalai Lama is not a false friend of other religions as Gavin D’Costa seems to insinuate.8 Compson has shown that there is no inconsistency between his genuine inclusivistic attitude and his particular Geluk standpoint, which is exclusivist with regard to OTMIX. In Compson’s words: Owing to the nature of his beliefs such as emptiness, the Dalai Lama is able to maintain with consistency that ultimate liberation is exclusively Buddhist without seeing this as detrimental to the value of other religions. To conclude, then, the Dalai Lama’s tolerance and acceptance of other religions lie not in the pluralist tradition, but instead are enabled by a strict adherence to the teachings of one particular Buddhist tradition.9 The Dalai Lama’s approach to religious diversity, at least when he speaks as an orthodox Geluk about other traditions, is a clear example of inclusivistic-­ exclusivism. However, in his book Towards True Kinship of Faiths: How the World’s Religions Can Come Together, the Dalai Lama’s approach to religious diversity seems to have evolved. The Dalai Lama distinguishes now between two perspectives: the individual perspective called “one truth, one religion” and the social perspective called “many truths, many religions.” His individual perspective remains committed to the exclusivist view and the inclusivistic attitude

112   Inclusivism characteristic of the Geluk school, but his social perspective is pluralistic in terms of attitude. This pluralistic attitude and the distinction the Dalai Lama makes between two perspectives goes beyond the traditional approach of his Geluk school. According to Compson, the ultimate foundation for the Dalai Lama’s attitude to other traditions is his endorsement of key Buddhist principles and doctrines: compassion, the belief in rebirth, and the doctrine of skillful means. In my view, however, the penultimate foundation for the inclusivistic attitude of the Dalai Lama is the doctrine of skillful means, but the ultimate foundation is the absence of an absolutist mindset. Similarly, I believe that the ultimate foundation of an exclusivistic attitude is not a particular doctrine or principle but rather a tendency to understand religions in black or white terms. There are no grounds for pluralistic and inclusivistic attitudes when someone applies an absolutist black or white logic to religious diversity. From the perspective of exclusivistic-­exclusivists or exclusivists in terms of both view and attitude, it would be immoral and irrational to accept and even respect what is perceived as false and evil in absolute terms. On the contrary, the inclusivistic-­ exclusivism characteristic of Theravāda Buddhism and the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism does not apply a black or white logic to religious diversity; rather, it applies a way of thinking that allows for gray areas, different degrees of truth, goodness, virtue, and holiness, thus providing grounds for genuine inclusivistic attitudes that sincerely accept and respect the elements of truth and goodness found in other traditions. The belief in many rebirths, the emphasis on compassion, and the doctrine of skillful means all contribute to having an inclusivistic attitude toward the religious other. However, the ultimate root of the inclusivistic attitude is not a particular belief but rather a particular way of thinking about beliefs. In other words, without acknowledging degrees of truth and goodness, virtue and holiness, the inclusivistic attitude would not be possible. Applying a logic that admits degrees and gray areas is consistent with holding an exclusivist view of OTMIX: thinking that there are different degrees of truth and goodness, virtue and holiness across religions is compatible with believing that the highest degrees of truth and goodness, those necessary to attain liberation and highest holiness, are found only in one’s own tradition. There is no contradiction between an inclusivistic attitude towards religious diversity and holding an exclusivist view of OTMIX. There would be a contradiction only if the exclusivist view of religions were based on a black or white logic. Then the exclusivist view would not allow for different degrees truth and goodness, virtue and holiness across religions. The non-­exclusivistic attitude displayed by the Buddha is critical and selective. The Buddha does not respect and appreciate everything ascetics from other schools teach; doctrines and practices incompatible with the Buddha’s teachings are challenged and rejected. Yet, the Buddha does not discriminate against other ascetics even when he disagrees with many of their doctrines and practices. Thus, attributing to the Buddha an exclusivist view of OTMIX together with an

Buddhist inclusivistic attitudes   113 inclusivistic attitude does not entail any contradiction. Likewise, the inclusivistic­exclusivism of most Buddhists is perfectly consistent. There would be an inconsistency if the prevalent exclusivist Buddhist view of OTMIX were based on an absolutist, black or white way of thinking; then it would make no sense to display an inclusivistic attitude toward what is understood as absolutely harmful or false. The exclusivist view of most Buddhists applies only to liberation, highest holiness and the highest set of teachings, not to all aspects of religions. Since the exclusivist Buddhist view is compatible with the existence of degrees of holiness, truth, and goodness in other traditions, there is no contradiction in displaying inclusivistic attitudes toward traditions that contain some elements of holiness, truth, and goodness.

6.2  Kristin Kiblinger on Buddhist inclusivism In the book Buddhist Inclusivism: Attitudes Toward Religious Others,10 Christian theologian Kristin Kiblinger interprets the overall Buddhist attitude toward other traditions in terms of inclusivism. Although Kiblinger does not state that all Buddhists are inclusivists, she nevertheless says that single-­end inclusivism prevails among Buddhists from different traditions. In her words: “one-­vehicleinfluenced thinking pervades a whole family of views and is a habit of many Buddhist inclusivists.”11 Kiblinger recognizes that the term inclusivism commonly refers to a view about the existence of salvation in other religions.12 However, drawing on Johann Figl and Paul Hacker, Kiblinger understands inclusivism as a form of syncretism, that is, as various strategies to critically appropriate elements from other religions. Unlike other forms of syncretism such as eclecticism, inclusivism absorbs elements from other religions in a selective and principled way. While eclecticism mixes elements from different religions in an arbitrary way, without considering one tradition as primary, inclusivism is always loyal to the home tradition, and filters foreign elements with communal standards of orthodoxy. Unlike eclecticism, inclusivism is concerned with maintaining a coherent self-­ identity and rejecting what is incompatible with that identity.13 Kiblinger admits that inclusivism privileges the home tradition in the sense that “other traditions, if they do not overlap completely with the home group, are deemed inferior.”14 Drawing on Alasdais MacIntyre, Alvin Plantinga, and Nicholas Resher, she claims that privileging one’s own tradition in the aforementioned sense is epistemologically unavoidable. In her words, “we have no choice but to proceed with the assumption that our own grounds of judgment are superior to other frameworks, but we can still respect other systems and look to learn from them.”15 The spirit of inclusivism, however, is not to criticize or put down other religions. On the contrary, inclusivists affirm diversity and are in principle open to finding value in other religions. Inclusivists proceed with humility and hope to learn something from others. Nevertheless, since inclusivists want to remain loyal to the self-­identity of their home traditions, they are not uncritically open

114   Inclusivism to other religions. Inclusivists are open to accept only those foreign elements that are compatible, in agreement or complementary to the home tradition.16 Following Paul J. Griffiths, Kiblinger distinguishes between closed and open inclusivism. While closed inclusivism claims that all truths found in other religions already exist in one’s own religion, open inclusivism accepts that “some alien truths may not exist already in the home system.”17 She also differentiates between single-­end and multiple-­ends inclusivism. Influenced by Mark Heim’s model of religious pluralism, Kiblinger advocates a form of multiple-­ends inclusivism, which she calls “alternative-­ends-recognizing inclusivism.”18 As an example of closed and single-­end inclusivism Kiblinger discusses Karl Rahner’s doctrine of anonymous Christians. She suggests that this type of inclusivism is likely to be perceived as offensive, presumptuous, imperialistic, and a threat to interreligious dialogue. Furthermore, single-­end inclusivism does violence to other religions and distorts them. Instead of understanding other religions in their own terms, Rahner’s inclusivism understands them as implicit and anonymous expressions of Christianity.19 As an alternative, Kiblinger advocates a form of inclusivism that accepts a variety of ultimate religious aims (multiple-­ends inclusivism) and understands other religions in the context of their own respective aims. In order to appreciate what Kiblinger means by context, it is necessary to notice that she is influenced by George Lindbeck’s theory of doctrine, which in turn is influenced by postmodern thought and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s doctrine of language games. Religions, for Lindbeck, are similar to diverse cultural-­linguistic games in which doctrines function as rules that regulate thoughts, behaviors, speech, and dispositions. All doctrines, symbols, and practices of religions are embedded in a holistic network. All elements of the network acquire their meaning thanks to the specific relationships they establish with other elements. Religious aims, their cultural-­linguistic context, and their respective means to attain those ends are intrinsically connected. Consequently, according to Kiblinger, “extracting dispositions or practices from their orientation toward a particular end and reapplying them to the home community’s end does violence to them.”20 Kiblinger acknowledges that this understanding of religions entails a “quite limited” form of inclusivism. Religions can include elements from other religions “only if the other’s main aim is interrelated with, subordinate to, or supplemental to the home group’s main aim. If the others’ aims are truly separate and distinct, however, this must be recognized, and it is then inappropriate to speak of the home community as completing or superseding the other community.”21 In other words, inclusivists can critically use and meaningfully incorporate elements from foreign traditions provided that they are subordinated or supplemental to the aim of the home tradition. However, when foreign elements are incompatible with the main aim of the home tradition, inclusivists will reject them. As an example of this selective and principled inclusivism, Kiblinger mentions the work of two Catholic theologians, Francis X. Clooney and Paul J. Griffiths. Both Clooney and Griffiths have entered the world of another religion,

Buddhist inclusivistic attitudes   115 have become bilingual, and can understand other religions in their own terms, not just from the perspective of the home tradition. However, despite the fact these two theologians use critically specific resources from Hinduism and Buddhism to nourish their Catholic theological tradition, they remain faithful to Catholic orthodoxy. Thus for Kiblinger, multiple-­ends inclusivism is compatible with commitment to the home religion as universally and wholly true while at the same time recognizing that other religions may make similar claims. That is, multiple-­ends inclusivists can claim that their religion is true for everybody, not just for a particular group of people, yet they are humble enough to acknowledge that their traditions do not exhaust truth. Consequently, multiple-­ends inclusivists look to other religions hoping to learn and find something of value in them, some doctrine or practice that may enrich their home tradition. By utilizing and incorporating elements from other religions, multiple-­ends inclusivists “aim to minimize imposition and distortion, and they turn to particulars with a willingness to reject what does not fit into the home framework.”22 Kiblinger admits that the main assumption of her book on Buddhist inclusivism is that “inclusivist-­minded Buddhists have not reflected sufficiently on their moves and justifications; they have not developed their position adequately.”23 Accordingly, she challenges Buddhists from different traditions and encourages them to develop a “tenable form of Buddhist inclusivism” or “an ideal Buddhist inclusivist position.”24 In order to achieve this ideal and tenable form of inclusivism, Buddhists from different traditions need to abandon their belief in a single end and draw on Buddhist resources to formulate a view of religions similar to that of Mark Heim, which speaks of multiple salvations in the sense of alternative yet real and valid religious ends.25 Kiblinger analyzes Buddhist attitudes toward the existence of truth and salvation in other religions. She pays special attention to the Pāli Suttas, the Lotus Sutra, and the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra. Among contemporary Buddhists, she focuses on the work of the XIV Dalai Lama, Bhikkhu Buddhadāsa, Thich Nhat Hanh, Masao Abe, and Gunapala Dharmashiri. She also examines the Buddhist doctrines of skillful means, two truths, Buddha-­nature, emptiness, one-­vehicle (ekayāna), and three-­vehicles (triyāna). In order to help Buddhists to formulate a “tenable”, “ideal,” and “adequate” inclusivist position, Kiblinger questions single-­end Buddhist inclusivism and examines Buddhist doctrines that might be useful to formulate a Buddhist version of multiple-­ends inclusivism. In other words, Kiblinger calls Buddhists to shift from one-­end and one-­vehicle inclusivism to multiple-­ends and multiple-­ vehicles inclusivism. For Kiblinger, Buddhist single-­end inclusivism is unten­ able and inclusivist-­minded Buddhists need to reflect more on their moves and justifications, develop their position more adequately, and stop assuming there is a single religious aim shared by competing religions. After criticizing the single-­end approach and pointing out the virtues of multiple-­ends inclusivistm, Kiblinger proceeds to review Buddhist doctrines that might be useful to develop a Buddhist form of multiple-­ends inclusivism. For

116   Inclusivism Kiblinger, the doctrine of Buddha-­nature is highly problematic because it assumes a universal common experience. Similarly, using the doctrine of the three Buddha bodies to see the God or Gods from other religions as expressions of these bodies is unacceptable, an imposition of the Buddhist end onto other religions. Likewise, using the doctrine of skillful means to see the teaching of all religions as provisional means towards the ultimate Buddhist goal is equally unacceptable. On the contrary, if a Buddhist sees the teachings of other religions in their own terms as distinct and as having indirect contributory value to attain Buddhist ends, that is acceptable. Another useful concept is rebirth, which can add indirect contributory value to a virtuous yet non-­Buddhist way of life, that is, the life of a good Christian may not lead to a Buddhist goal directly, but it may lead to a future good rebirth more conducive to a Buddhist way of life. The Buddhist view of the universe with different realms of existence also provides room for the existence of multiple ends. Among the doctrines with more potential to develop a Buddhist form of multiple-­ends inclusivism, Kiblinger mentions “dependent arising” and “three-­ vehicle theory.” For Kiblinger dependent arising symbolizes that Buddhism exists in relation to and in dependence on other religions. Therefore, she concludes, Buddhism cannot absorb the other or impose on the other so fully that the other vehicle merges into Buddhism’s all-­encompassing vehicle and disappears; the other must remain distinct (though not separate). . . . This necessity of the other might itself constitute indirect contributory value.26 Another important resource to construct a Buddhist form of multiple-­ends inclusivism is the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra’s version of the doctrine of three-­ vehicles. According to this version, there are three paths leading to real, religiously important yet distinct Buddhist ends: the Mahāyāna path of the Bodhisattva, which leads to omniscience and Buddhahood, and the two Hīnāyāna paths of solitary realizers (pratyekabuddha) and hearers (śrāvaka), which lead only to the cessation of rebirths. In her words, the three-­vehicle theory “recognizes the Buddhist other’s final end as realizable, religiously important, and yet distinct from that of the Mahāyāna system. There is not a single liberation assumed to be what all Buddhists are after; rather, there are liberations.”27 This seems to be Kiblinger’s main suggestion, to extrapolate to other religions the particular version of the three-­vehicles theory that appears in the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra. This will make the Buddhist view of other religions structurally similar to Mark Heim’s model of multiple ends. If this multiple-­ends Buddhist model is adopted, other religions will be understood as valid vehicles with indirect contributory value: they will not be conducive to the same religious end, but rather to real, praiseworthy, and alternative ends that may contribute indirectly to the future achievement of the highest Buddhist end. The ultimate ends of other religions will be deemed inferior or less than ideal from the perspective of the home tradition, in this case Buddhism, but Buddhists have to

Buddhist inclusivistic attitudes   117 accept that other religions may make similar value judgments from their respective perspectives. According to Kiblinger, the great advantage of this “tenable,” “ideal,” and “adequate” Buddhist version of multiple-­ends inclusivism is that “on the one hand, preserves a sense of superiority for the Buddhist home tradition while, on the other, does not compromise the distinctiveness of other traditions.”28

6.3  Clarifying the concept of inclusivism and inclusivist-­ minded Buddhists I leave for Chapter 8 the question of whether the Buddha’s view of other traditions is compatible with Heim’s multiple-­ends approach. In what follows, I limit myself to question Kiblinger’s concept of inclusivism and her interpretation of the Buddha and what she calls “hearers.” Kiblinger’s understanding of inclusivism is problematic because one need not be an inclusivist in order to use syncretistic strategies to critically appropriate elements from other traditions. Syncretism or using strategies to selectively incorporate elements from other traditions does not differentiate inclusivism from other views of religions. On the contrary, understanding inclusivism as a view about the existence of similar instances of OTMIX in other traditions does help to differentiate it from exclusivism, pluralistic-­inclusivism, and pluralism. Kiblinger tends to conflate inclusivism with syncretism. However, inclusivism should not be confused with syncretism because syncretistic strategies can be deployed by people with exclusivist, inclusivist, pluralistic-­inclusivist, and pluralist views of other traditions. Like exclusivism, pluralistic-­inclusivism, and pluralism, I propose to understand inclusivism in terms of openness to the existence of OTMIX in other religious and philosophical traditions. Specifically, inclusivists are open to the existence of similar instances of OTMIX in other traditions. The inclusivist view is more open than the exclusivist view. Exclusivists claim that OTMIX exists only in their own tradition, whereas inclusivists claim that OTMIX is found not only in their own tradition, but also in other traditions. The inclusivist view is less open than the views of pluralistic-­inclusivists and pluralists. For pluralistic-­ inclusivists and pluralists the instances of OTMIX found in other traditions may be not only similar, but also different from those found in their own tradition. Inclusivists, on the other hand, claim that OTMIX in other traditions can only be similar to OTMIX in their own tradition. Inclusivism in Christian theology of religions, as Kiblinger herself acknowledges, is commonly understood as a view of salvation: Christian salvation or salvation in and through Christ is found not only in Christianity, but also in other traditions. This understanding of inclusivism among Christian theologians of religions is consistent with my cross-­cultural and interreligious concept of inclusivism. In my account, however, inclusivism does not refer to a view about the existence of salvation, but rather to a view about the existence of OTMIX, the most important property mediated or instantiated by philosophical and religious

118   Inclusivism traditions. OTMIX may stand for salvation, but it also may stand for other concepts such as God, revelation, truth, Dharma, holiness, liberation, value, and so on. The inclusivist openness to the existence of similar instances of OTMIX in other traditions may or may not be accompanied by the use of selective and critical methods to appropriate elements from other traditions. Mistaking inclusivism for selective and critical syncretism is misleading. Exclusivists can also be critical and selective in their appropriation of elements from other religions. For instance, according to the Theravāda commentarial tradition the Buddha has an exclusivist view of liberation and highest holiness, but this does not preclude him from reinterpreting and critically incorporating concepts and practices from Brahmanism and ascetic traditions. If exclusivist interpretations can accommodate the Buddha’s use of syncretistic strategies, it seems more adequate to speak about “syncretistic strategies” rather than “inclusivist strategies.” The main problem with Kiblinger’s concept of inclusivism is that there is not a necessary connection between holding an inclusivist view and using syncretistic strategies. One can hold an inclusivist view of religions without ever appropriating any concept or practice from other traditions. Not all forms of critical and selective syncretism presuppose an inclusivist view of religions, and not all inclusivists need to deploy syncretistic strategies in order to be inclusivists. Another problem with Kiblinger’s concept of inclusivism is that it does not distinguish between inclusivism and pluralistic-­inclusivism. Kiblinger does distinguish, however, between closed and open forms of inclusivism as well as between single-­end and multiple-­ends inclusivism. She seems to assume that there is a correlation between closed and single-­end inclusivism on the one hand, and between open and multiple-­end inclusivism on the other. This correlation, however, is questionable. For instance, the theology of religions of the late Jacques Dupuis is both open and single-­end. Dupuis uses the expression “pluralistic-­inclusivism” to describe his theology of religions and differentiate it from exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism. Similarly, Mark Heim also labels his theology of religions pluralistic-­inclusivism and rejects both pluralism and inclusivism. However, unlike Dupuis, Heim advocates a multiple-­ends approach. I fail to see what is gained from calling “inclusivist” the view of those who consider themselves pluralistic-­inclusivists rather than inclusivists. Since Dupuis and Heim prefer the term pluralistic-­inclusivism, I do not see anything wrong with expanding the typology exclusivism, inclusivism, pluralism with a fourth position called pluralistic-­inclusivism. Pluralistic-­inclusivism cannot be defined in terms of the number of religious ends a theologian advocates. Dupuis advocates a single-­end approach and Heim a multiple-­ends approach yet both are pluralistic-­inclusivists because of their degree of openness to existence of OTMIX in other traditions. Unlike inclusivists, they do not reduce OTMIX in other traditions to exactly the same OTMIX that already exists in their own tradition. Much of what Kiblinger says about the critical and selective appropriation of elements from other traditions is not characteristic of inclusivism. All the

Buddhist inclusivistic attitudes   119 positive examples of Christian inclusivism Kiblinger provides correspond to theologians who try hard to differentiate their positions from both pluralism and narcissistic inclusivism. Neither Francis Clooney nor Paul Griffiths are inclusivists in the sense of being open only to similar instances of OTMIX in other traditions. Their positions are, in my account, instances of pluralistic-­inclusivism because they are open to new or different instances of OTMIX in other traditions. That is, they do not seem to perceive other traditions as having nothing relevant to say about OTMIX because everything they say about OTMIX is either already found in their own tradition or it is basically the same thing that exists in their tradition. Kiblinger’s book devotes less than ten pages to the Buddha’s view of other philosophical and religious traditions, most of them focusing on syncretistic strategies to appropriate concepts and practices from other traditions. Since, as I have already said, syncretistic strategies are not necessarily associated with any particular view of other traditions, discussing them does not help to clarify whether or not the Buddha was an exclusivist, an inclusivist, a pluralistic-­ inclusivst, or a pluralist. Kiblinger justifies the limited scope of her study of the Buddha by paraphrasing Richard Gombrich: what matters “is not so much the historical question of what the Buddha (or Aśoka) said, but rather what his hearers have heard.”29 Thus, Kiblinger pays more attention to what she calls “inclusivist-­minded Buddhists” and the way they use the Buddha and Aśoka as role models for inclusivism. Nevertheless, Kiblinger’s brief discussion of the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas indicates that she interprets D.II.151 as entailing an exclusivist view of other traditions. This is important because the title of Kiblinger’s book, Buddhist Inclusivism: Attitudes Toward Religious Others, somewhat suggests that the most common Buddhist view of other traditions is inclusivist, which is not the case. As I contended in the previous section, the most common Buddhist position combines a sincere inclusivistic attitude with an exclusivist view of liberation and highest holiness. Kiblinger, however, does not distinguish between inclusivism as an attitude and inclusivism as a view. Kiblinger quotes two texts from the Majjhima Nikāya translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi, but she says nothing about his exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha, which tends to be characteristic of contemporary Theravādins who follow Buddhagosha’s commentary. Kiblinger does mention the exclusivist interpretation of Gunapala Dharmasiri, but in a separate chapter. Dharmasiri, however, does not consider himself a Theravādin. Kiblinger does not explain why she fails to discuss the exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha prevalent in Theravāda countries and among conservative Theravādins like Bhikkhu Bodhi. Instead, Kiblinger provides two instances of inclusivist-­minded Buddhists, the Sri Lankan Buddhist thinker, K.N. Jayatilleke, and the English and former Theravāda monk Phra Khantipālo, now Laurence Khantipālo Mills. Kiblinger begins her interpretation of the Buddha by quoting the formal, neutral, and non-exclusivist criterion that appears at D.II.151. Her translation

120   Inclusivism reads: “In whatever doctrine and discipline, Subhada, the noble eightfold path is not found, there the samaṇa (i.e., the Arhat) is not found either.” Then, Kiblinger contends that inclusivist Buddhists “typically do not address the next lines.” By “next lines” Kiblinger refers to what the Buddha says about his teaching-­anddiscipline and non-­Buddhist schools, namely, that the four ascetics, i.e., the four highest stages of holiness and spiritual development, are found exclusively in his tradition, and that other traditions are devoid of ascetics. Kiblinger’s translation of the “next lines” resembles the exclusivist reading of Bhikkhu Bodhi: Now in this doctrine and discipline (i.e., Buddhism), Subhadda, the noble eightfold path is found, and here alone, Subhadda, is the samaṇa. The systems of others are empty with respect to the perfect knowledge of samaṇas. And in this one, Subhadda, may the bhikkhus (mendicants, disciples, or monks) live rightly, so that the world is not empty of Arhats.30 Right after this exclusivist interpretation of D.II.151 Kiblinger says the following about inclusivist Buddhists: Referring just to the former piece of this conversation with Subhadda, inclusivists assert that tradition here records a founder who identified Buddhist criteria by which others are to be measured. They want to read the text to indicate that the Buddha left open the possibility that Buddhist teachings may exist in other forms in alien traditions and that other traditions may be accepted to the extent that they do overlap with Buddhist teachings. In light of the latter part of the excerpt, it is clear that no other tradition is thought to measure up to Buddhism fully.31 Kiblinger seem to be insinuating that Buddhist inclusivists purposely fail to address the “next lines.” Kiblinger’s insinuation, however, does not apply to Jayatilleke because he does address the “next lines.” Jayatilleke interprets the “next lines” neither in exclusivist terms nor as a universal claim about non-­ Buddhist traditions. Rather, Jayatilleke suggests that liberation can take place outside Buddhism,32 and he seems to interpret the claim about non-­Buddhist traditions as a rejection of the teachings of six masters. That seems to be why Jayatilleke explains the teachings of these six masters33 right after discussing D. II.151. Kiblinger’s insinuation does not apply to Bhikkhu Bodhi either, who, as we have already seen in a previous chapter, paraphrases the “next lines” in clear exclusivist terms. Perhaps Kiblinger does not mention Bhikkhu Bodhi in her chapter about the Buddha because he holds an exclusivist view of other traditions. However, Kiblinger does mention the Dalai Lama in her chapter about the Buddha, albeit in a footnote. This reference to the Dalai Lama seems to indicate that for Kiblinger, the Dalai Lama, like Jayatilleke, qualifies as an inclusivist-­ minded Buddhist. However, the Dalai Lama’s position is closer to the exclusivist view of Bhikkhu Bodhi than to the inclusivist view of Jayatilleke. Both the

Buddhist inclusivistic attitudes   121 Dalai Lama and Bhikkhu Bodhi share an exclusivist view of liberation. For instance, the Dalai Lama states that “Liberation in which ‘a mind that understands the sphere of reality annihilates all defilements in the sphere of reality’ is a state that only Buddhists can accomplish.”34 Jayatilleke on the other hand is quite clear about the existence of liberation outside Buddhism.35 Thus, if a Tibetan Buddhist like the Dalai Lama, who holds an exclusivist view of liberation, qualifies as an inclusivist-­minded Buddhist, then why is Bhikkhu Bodhi, who also hold an exclusivist view of liberation, not considered an inclusivist-­minded Buddhist and discussed in a chapter devoted to the Buddha and hearers? Likewise, why are the Dalai Lama and Jayatilleke Buddhist inclusivists despite the fact that they disagree on their view of liberation in other traditions? Kiblinger does not explain whether holding an exclusivist view of liberation is compatible with being an inclusivist-­minded Buddhist. It is unclear who the inclusivist-­minded Buddhists are that Kiblinger has in mind. Although Kiblinger claims to focus on hearers and inclusivist-­minded Buddhists, her translation of D.II.151 presupposes an exclusivist interpretation of Buddha. Kiblinger’s interpretation of the Buddha agrees with the prevalent Theravāda interpretation represented by Bhikkhu Bodhi. First, Kiblinger translates “idheva” in exclusivist terms as “here alone.” The implication being that liberation and the four highest ascetics are tradition-­specific or exclusive to Buddhism. Second, Kiblinger understands the “next lines” as a universal exclusivist claim that apply to all non-­Buddhist traditions anywhere and at anytime: “The systems of others are empty with respect to the perfect knowledge of samaṇas.” Third, she portrays the Buddha as claiming that Buddhism is uniquely superior to other traditions: “In light of the latter part of the excerpt, it is clear that no other tradition is thought to measure up to Buddhism fully.” It should be noticed that Kiblinger’s interpretation of the Buddha is slightly more exclusivist than the prevalent Theravāda position. For Kiblinger, the noble eightfold path and the criterion found at D.II.151 are tradition-­specific, i.e., Buddhist. Kiblinger says that for “inclusivists” the Buddha “identified Buddhist criteria by which others are to be measured.” According to these criteria “Buddhist teachings may exist in other forms in alien traditions” and “other traditions may be accepted to the extent that they do overlap with Buddhist teachings.” For Theravādins, however, the noble eightfold path and the criterion are not tradition-­specific. The noble eightfold path cannot be considered tradition-­specific in the sense of being exclusive to Buddhism or in the sense of being the monopoly of Buddhists. First, the path can be practiced and fulfilled independently of Buddhas, Buddhism, and Buddhists, as the concept of paccekabuddha demonstrates. Second, the path is not invented by Buddhas but rediscovered by them, as the simile of the “ancient path” demonstrates (S.II.105–6). Buddhas are pathfinders; the path is already there for everyone to see and practice. Third, the discovery of the ancient path is explained not only as the noble eightfold path but also as direct knowledge of the specific conditionality of suffering. For Buddhists, the specific conditionality of suffering, like the specific conditionality of gravity, is

122   Inclusivism not tradition-­specific, i.e., it is more than a Buddhist teaching. The specific conditionality of suffering is an expression of natural law, a causal process that remains valid whether or not there are Buddhas, Buddhism, and Buddhists in the world (S.II.25). That is, for Buddhists, even if Buddhism did not exist, the specific conditionality of suffering would remain the case. Since the truth of the specific conditionality of suffering is independent of the existence of Buddhism, it does not seem accurate to interpret this truth in sectarian terms as a Buddhist truth. For Buddhists, it is a universal truth, a law of nature. Similarly, for Theravādins the criteria to discern among spiritual traditions that appear in various texts of the Pāli Nikāyas are universal. That is, the criteria cannot be described in sectarian terms as “Buddhist” criteria because they are not tradition-­specific. First, they are applicable to teachers and teachings anywhere and at any time regardless of their religious or non-­religious affiliation. Second, these criteria are expressions of the Dharma or cosmic order, thus not necessarily dependent on the existence of Buddhas, Buddhists, and Buddhism. In other words, one could discover and apply these criteria even if historical Buddhism did not exist. It may be true that we know these criteria because of historical Buddhism, but this does not render them Buddhist criteria or criteria necessarily dependent on the Buddha’s discovery. Similarly, we know about gravity because of Isaac Newton, but that does not make gravity necessarily dependent on Newton’s discovery or a Christian truth because Newton was a Christian. Third, by making the criteria tradition-­specific or “Buddhist criteria” Kiblinger denaturalizes them; she transforms non-­sectarian criteria that apply universally into sectarian criteria exclusive to Buddhism and valid exclusively from a Buddhist perspective. By describing the criteria as “Buddhist criteria” and by suggesting that the noble eightfold path is just a “Buddhist teaching” Kiblinger could be accused of not putting into practice the noble hermeneutical ideals she advocates.

Part IV

Pluralistic-­inclusivism

7 From inclusivism to pluralistic-­inclusivism

This chapter addresses the question of whether the Buddha’s view of religious diversity is best understood as a form of inclusivism. The first section clarifies  the nature of pluralistic-­inclusivism and differentiates it from ordinary inclusivism and open inclusivism. The second section suggests that the Buddha would understand other traditions as representations of the Dharma. The third section argues that the Pāli Nikāyas do not portray the Buddha as omniscient, and therefore, that he can be interpreted in non-­inclusivist terms as open to the existence of new knowledge and new truths, including new truths about the Dharma.

7.1  Clarifying the concept of pluralistic-­inclusivism I have differentiated ordinary inclusivism from pluralistic-­inclusivism in terms of openness to the existence of OTMIX in other traditions. OTMIX stands for “our tradition most important X.” X may refer to many different things that function as the most important goal, concern, ideal, teaching, reality, truth, value, revelation, and so on, in a given context and for a particular tradition or set of traditions. Ordinary inclusivism is open to instances of OTMIX in other traditions that   are similar to the instances found in one’s own tradition. The inclusivist assumption is that there are not new instances of OTMIX outside one’s own tradition. That is, OTMIX in my tradition includes all the other instances of  OTMIX found in other traditions. On the other hand, pluralistic-­inclusivism is open, not only to similar instances of OTMIX in other traditions, but also to  new or different instances of OTMIX. Pluralistic-­inclusivism does not assume that OTMIX in other traditions must be similar to OTMIX in one’s own tradition. That is, there are two possible reconstructions of the Buddha’s view of religious diversity: 1

The multiple expressions, mediations, instances, or representations of OTMIX found in other traditions are similar to those found in the Buddha’s teachings. In this case, the Buddha’s view is a form of ordinary inclusivism.

126   Pluralistic-inclusivism 2

The multiple expressions, mediations, instances, or representations of OTMIX found in other traditions can also be new or different from those found in the Buddha’s teachings. In this case the Buddha’s view is not inclusivist; it can be either pluralistic-­inclusivist or pluralist.

The distinction between inclusivism and pluralistic-­inclusivism is significant because it is likely to affect the way Buddhists perceive interfaith dialogue and interreligious learning. If the Buddha’s teachings only allow for inclusivist openness, then there is not much motivation for interfaith dialogue, and not enough room for interreligious learning, at least learning about things related to OTMIX, the most important goal, ideal, value, teaching, concern, etc., of one’s own tradition. If the Buddha was an inclusivist, then Buddhism may not possess the monopoly of OTMIX, but it nevertheless does not need to learn anything from other traditions, at least nothing really important, nothing related to OTMIX. On the other hand, if the Buddha’s teachings allow for more than openness to what is similar, then there is a deeper justification for interfaith dialogue, and sufficient room for significant interreligious learning, i.e., learning related to OTMIX. If the Buddha was a pluralistic-­inclusivist, then those who consider the teachings of the Pāli Nikāyas authoritative can expect to find something really important in other traditions inside and outside Buddhism. Here it is important to clarify a possible misunderstanding. The distinction between closed and open inclusivism does not correspond to the distinction between ordinary inclusivism and pluralistic-­inclusivism. The distinction between inclusivism and pluralistic-­inclusivism has to do with two different kinds of openness to the existence of OTMIX in other traditions: openness to similar instances of OTMIX (inclusivism), and openness also to different or new instances of OTMIX (pluralistic-­inclusivism). On the other hand, the distinction between closed and open inclusivism is not necessarily related to openness to OTMIX. An open inclusivist may be open to other traditions without being necessarily open to the existence of OTMIX in them. For instance, Christian open inclusivists may be closed to the existence of salvation outside the mediation of Jesus Christ, yet they may be open to the practice of new methods of meditation found in Buddhism. Similarly, Buddhist open inclusivists may be closed to the existence of new representations of the Dharma in other traditions, yet they may be open to incorporating useful missionary practices found in Christianity. On the contrary, the distinction between inclusivism and pluralistic-­ inclusivism has to do with openness to OTMIX, not with openness to other traditions in general. Openness to new or different elements from other traditions is not unique to open inclusivists; exclusivists can also be open and learn something useful from other traditions. For instance, Christian exclusivists may ­acknowledge the health benefits of yoga and offer yoga classes in some of their ministries. Whereas openness to new elements from other traditions might be found among exclusivists, inclusivists, and pluralists, openness to new instances of OTMIX is characteristic of pluralistic-­inclusivists and pluralists. In sum, pluralistic-­inclusivism should not be mistaken for open inclusivism because

From inclusivism to pluralistic-inclusivism   127 there might be inclusivists who are open to new elements from other traditions without being necessarily open to new instances of OTMIX in such traditions. However, pluralistic-­inclusivists are by definition open to the existence of OTMIX in other traditions, regardless of whether or not they are open to something else. They may or may not be open to non-­OTMIX elements from other traditions, but such openness does not define pluralistic-­inclusivism, only openness to OTMIX does. Since I propose that pluralistic-­inclusivism is the view of religious diversity that fits best the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, I would like to clarify another possible misunderstanding. Since Mark Heim describes himself as a pluralistic-­ inclusivist, some people may think that by interpreting the Buddha also as pluralistic-­inclusivist I am suggesting that his view of religions is somewhat similar to Heim’s model of multiple salvations. This is not what I propose. In fact, in the next chapter I argue that the Buddha’s single-­end approach is incompatible with Heim’s multiple-­end approach. As I have already suggested, pluralistic-­inclusivism is not defined by the idea of multiple salvations because there are pluralistic-­inclusivists like Jacques Dupuis who reject Heim’s multiple-­ends approach and advocate a single-­end approach. Both Heim and Dupuis describe their view of religions as a form of pluralistic-­inclusivism. Therefore, since believing in one or many ends cannot be used to define pluralistic-­inclusivism, I prefer to define it in terms of openness to the existence of OTMIX. What defines pluralistic-­inclusivism is not the number of soteriological ends that someone advocates, whether one or many, but rather a particular type of openness to the existence of OTMIX in other traditions. Specifically, pluralistic-­inclusivists are open to new or different instances of OTMIX in other traditions. However, unlike people with a pluralist view, pluralistic-­ inclusivists constrain their openness to OTMIX with nonnegotiable claims; usually that the new or different instances of OTMIX in other traditions cannot contradict OTMIX in one’s own tradition. The pluralistic-­openness to new instances of OTMIX is not to be confused with openness to other religions in general, or with openness to similar instances of OTMIX (ordinary inclusivism).

7.2  Other traditions as representations of the Dharma In the Pāli Nikāyas, there are several concepts that may function as OTMIX, that is, as the most important X in a given context and for a particular tradition or set of traditions. In this context we are seeking that which functions as the most ­important X in the Buddha’s tradition or teaching-­and-discipline. In some contexts, what functions as the most important X are the four ascetics, which refer to the four highest stages of holiness and spiritual development. In other contexts what functions as the most important X is liberation, nibbāna, the fulfillment of the noble eightfold path. Yet in other contexts the most important X refers for the four noble truths, dependent origination, or simply the dhamma. This list is not intended to be comprehensive; there may be other concepts that may function as OTMIX in other texts of the Pāli Nikāyas.

128   Pluralistic-inclusivism There are two possible interpretations of the various concepts that may function as OTMIX in the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline. Either we understand them as related or unrelated. I interpret them as related, specifically, as different aspects of the dhamma. By dhamma I mean Truth in the broadest sense, the Truth about the universe. Again, this interpretation is not an anachronistic projection but rather a plausible reading of the Pāli Nikāyas. The early concept of dhamma has different meanings depending on the context. For instance, according to Magdalene and Wilhelm Geiger the Pāli term dhamma possesses four sets of meanings: (1) ‘law’ (Gesetz); (2) ‘teaching’ (Lehre); (3) ‘truth’ (Wahrheit); and (4) ‘thing’ (Ding, Sache).1 For Edward Conze, however, the Buddhist concept of dharma has seven meanings: (1) transcendent reality; (2) the order or law of the universe; (3) a truly real event; (4) objective data of the mind; (5) quality or property; (6) right behavior and religious practice; (7) the Buddha’s teaching.2 Rupert Gethin summarizes the scholarly consensus with regard to the meanings of dharma/dhamma and suggests there are six basic meanings: (1) the ‘teaching’ of the Buddha; (2) “good conduct” or “good behavior”, in general, but also more specifically the putting into practice of the good conduct prescribed by the Buddha’s teaching and constituting the Buddhist path . . .; (3) the “truth” realized by the practice of the Buddhist path; (4) any particular “nature” or “quality” that something possesses; (5) the underlying and objective “natural law or order of things” which the Buddha has discerned; (6) a basic mental or physical “state” or “thing”, a plurality of which, at least in the texts of the Abhidhamma, becomes explicitly to be conceived as in some sense constituting the “reality” of the world or experience.3 Among the different usages of dhamma in the Pāli Nikāyas I give hermeneutical priority to the usages of dhamma as truth. This usage of dhamma as truth can be interpreted as somewhat including other usages of dhamma. Specifically, dhamma as truth includes the meanings of dhamma as teaching, cosmic order, and laws of the universe. The usages of dhamma as natural law and cosmic order can be also interpreted as encompassing specific qualities of things or the nature of various basic physical and mental states. For the sake of simplicity, I subsume all these different usages of dhamma under the concept of Truth with capital T. In what follows, I use the Sanskrit form “dharma” instead of the Pāli dhamma because it is already part of the English language. I write Dharma with a capital D to signify the concept of Truth in its broadest sense. I do not suggest that the Buddha literally subsumes all usages of dhamma and all aspects of the dhamma under an overarching concept of Dharma as Truth. I simply suggest that comparing the concept of Dharma to the concept of Truth in its broadest sense does not do violence to the Pāli Nikāyas. Likewise, I simply suggest that understanding the main teachings of the Buddha as aspects of the Dharma is consistent with the Pāli Nikāyas.

From inclusivism to pluralistic-inclusivism   129 Like the concept of Dharma, the concept of Truth can be both descriptive and normative. That is, both Dharma and Truth can denote the way things are and the way things ought to be. Like the concept of Dharma, Truth may be understood as having various aspects and encompassing many truths. Both Dharma and Truth contain various aspects and many truths, yet neither the Dharma nor Truth need be exhausted by such aspects and truths. That is, both Dharma and Truth seem to be open-­ended and irreducible to the aspects and truths we know at a given time and place. The many truths and aspects that the concept of Dharma encompasses are here called “instantiations” or “representations” of the Dharma. Like the multiplicity of truths and aspects that the concept of Truth encompasses, the multiplicity of representations of the Dharma need not refer to the same thing. For instance, the four noble truths are different from each other, and dependent origination is not the same thing as the four noble truths. Individual truths and individual aspects of the Dharma are different from other individual truths and aspects. Likewise, the many truths and aspects of the Dharma need not be reducible to a monolithic essence or a common denominator. What unites the different truths and aspects of the Dharma is not an essence, but rather a similar function, namely, that they all instantiate or represent the way things are and the way things ought to be. It is my contention that Dharma in the aforementioned sense of Truth is the hermeneutical key to understand the Buddha’s view of religious diversity. From the perspective of the Pāli Nikāyas, the Dharma in this sense of Truth about the universe is not tradition-­specific. That is, for the Buddha, there are many representations of the Dharma inside and outside his teaching-­and-discipline. Strictly speaking, the Dharma is much more than a Hindu, Jain, or Buddhist concept. The Dharma includes all the truths found in the universe, not just the truths taught by the Buddha in the Pāli Nikāyas. This claim is uncontroversial because the Buddha himself acknowledges that he did not teach everything he had realized (S.V.437). Therefore, Dharma in the sense of Truth includes, yet it is not exhausted by, the truths taught by the Buddha. This point is important because Dharma in the sense of Truth is broader than dhamma in the sense of the Buddha’s teachings. The usages of dhamma as truth and teaching overlap, but they cannot be simply equated. Buddhists may claim that the Buddha’s teachings are the Dharma, but they cannot legitimately claim that the Dharma is only what the Buddha taught. There are aspects of the Dharma that the Buddha did not teach. That is, the Buddha did not teach all possible representations of the Dharma. In other words, taking refuge in the Dharma is more, never less, than taking refuge in the Buddha’s teachings. Many Buddhists tend to conflate the Dharma and the Buddha’s teachings. However, the term Dharma possesses a broader meaning than the Buddha’s teachings. The Dharma in the sense of Truth signifies the way things are and the way things ought to be; this is the case whether or not there are Buddhas in the universe (S.II.25–6). Therefore, the Dharma continues to exist whether or not

130   Pluralistic-inclusivism there are Buddha’s teachings in the universe. If the Dharma and the Buddha’s teachings were absolutely identical, then it could not be said that the Dharma exists independently of the existence of Buddhas and their teachings. Thus, Dharma in the sense of Truth overlaps to a great extent with dhamma in the sense of the Buddha’s teaching, but there is always more to the Dharma than what the Buddha teaches. This interpretation is consistent not only with the simile of siṃsapā leaves at S.V.437, but also with the fact that Dharma is said to be atakkāvacara, that is, “unattainable by mere reasoning” or, as I prefer to translate it, “beyond the realm of propositional logic” (M.I.167). Whatever the Buddha teaches in texts is necessarily mediated by language and reason. However, the realization of the Dharma is beyond the scope of words and syllogisms, it is “to be experienced within by the wise” (paccattaṃ veditabbo viññūhī). Suggesting that that there is one Dharma with many aspects and many representations of the Dharma that are particular and historically conditioned is consistent with the Pāli Nikāyas. Similarly, there is one Truth about the universe with many aspects and many possible representations of that Truth that are particular and historically conditioned. While all truths can be considered aspects of the Dharma that can be represented in many ways, not all of these aspects represent the Dharma in the same way and with the same intensity. For instance, for the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, truths about key aspects of the Dharma such as nibbāna, the noble eightfold path, and dependent origination do not seem to represent the Dharma in the same way as other ethical and spiritual truths. Overall, aspects of the Dharma that function as OTMIX seem to represent the Dharma with much more intensity than other aspects of the Dharma that do not function as OTMIX. Even among the truths about the aspects of the Dharma that do not function as OTMIX it would be possible to identify different types of representation. For instance, concepts that express what later Buddhist traditions call conventional truths, and concepts that express ultimate truths, do not seem to represent the Dharma in the same way and with the same intensity. For instance, in the Pāli Nikāyas, teachings about the impermanence, suffering, and selfless nature of conditioned things seem to represent the Dharma in a more intense way than teachings about the dangers attached to haunting the streets at unfitting times (D.III.183). Although the Dharma in the sense of Truth encompasses many truths with lower case, this does not mean that truths with lower case are less true or less important. By suggesting that key aspects of the Dharma should be written with lower case, I am not devaluating the truth of nibbāna, dependent origination, and any other teaching found in the Pāli Nikāyas. I am simply suggesting that they are aspects of the Dharma in the sense of Truth. Many interpreters of Buddhism influenced by Christianity tend to understand nibbāna as OTMIX and the closest Buddhist analogue to God. Likewise, many Hindu interpreters tend to substantialize nibbāna and assume that it is similar to Brahman or the True Self. These comparisons between God, Brahman and nibbāna however, are misleading because they do not help to understand early

From inclusivism to pluralistic-inclusivism   131 Buddhism in its own terms. Rather, they serve to understand early Buddhism in Christian or Hindu terms. Such comparisons between God, Brahman, and nibbāna overlook the fact that the third noble truth or truth of nibbāna is just one of the four noble truths, and together with the other noble truths a key aspect of the Dharma, but not necessarily OTMIX in all contexts. The concept of Dharma in the sense of Truth encompasses, yet it is not exhausted by, any of the four noble truths. Even if the third noble truth were considered the most important truth among the four noble truths, it would remain one aspect of the Dharma. The same could be said about emptiness and dependent origination; they are fundamental aspects of the Dharma, yet they do not exhaust the Dharma. The Dharma in the sense of Truth cannot be understood as a monolithic absolute because it is intrinsically diverse, and the various truths or aspects of the Dharma are intertwined. Like the concept of Truth, the concept of Dharma need not be interpreted as some sort of metaphysical reality that exists in a transcendent realm apart from the truths that it encompasses here and now. Such interpretation would be closer to Platonism than to early Buddhism. The many truths and the various aspects of the Dharma constitute the Dharma, and without such truths and aspects there would not be a Dharma to talk about. Like the concept of Truth, the concept of Dharma need not be interpreted as a substance in which the various aspects and truths inhere. A non-­substantialist and non-­metaphysical understanding of the Dharma seems most consistent with the Buddha’s teachings in the Pāli Nikāyas. There are many possible interpretations of the ontological status of the Dharma as the history of Buddhism demonstrates. An analysis of them is beyond the scope of this study. The teachings of dependent origination, the four noble truths, the noble eightfold path, nibbāna, and so on, can be understood as aspects of the Dharma, which allow for multiple representations in different cultures and historical periods. These representations need not be identical or equally comprehensive. The same can be said about the multiplicity of laws of the universe; they can be understood as aspects of Truth that can be represented in multiple ways throughout history, not always with the same degree of accuracy and depth. Not only teachings and doctrines but also Buddhas and holy beings can be understood as representations of key aspects of the Dharma. That the Buddha himself is a representation of key aspects of the Dharma can be inferred from the teachings of the Buddha in the Pāli Nikāyas too. For instance, at D.III.84 the Buddha states that he can be described as an embodiment of the Dharma, literally, as someone who “has the Dharma as his body” (dhammakāya). Likewise, at S.III.120 the Buddha tells Vakkali that “Whoever sees the Dharma sees me; whoever sees me sees the Dharma. Thus, Vakkali, by seeing the Dharma one sees me, and by seeing me one sees the Dharma.”4 Both D.III.84 and S.III.120 establish a profound relationship between the Dharma and the Buddha. This relationship is open to different interpretations as the history of the doctrine of the three bodies of the Buddha demonstrates.5 Here, however, I limit myself to claim that D.III.84 and S.III.120 can be used to justify

132   Pluralistic-inclusivism an understanding of Buddhas as representations of the Dharma, i.e., embodiments, instantiations of truths and aspects of the Dharma. I am not advocating a form of Docetism that downplays the physical body and the historical existence of the Buddha. Saying that the Buddha is a representation of the Dharma need not mean that his body or his life is illusory or less real than the Dharma. Likewise, I am not transforming the Buddha into an absolute reality, a metaphysical principle that is identical with the Dharma. I am simply suggesting that Buddhas and their teachings are particular and historically conditioned representations of the Dharma. When the Buddha affirms at M.I.190–1 that “whoever sees dependent origination sees the Dharma; whoever sees the Dharma sees dependent origination,”6 he is not reducing the Dharma to the principle of dependent origination nor transforming such principle into an absolute reality. There are many more teachings that represent the Dharma, not just dependent origination. Similarly, when the Buddha says at S.III.120 that whoever sees the Dharma sees the Buddha and vice versa, he is not reducing the Dharma to the qualities embodied by the Buddha Gotama, nor transforming him into a cosmic absolute reality. There are many Buddhas and many enlightened beings who also embody such qualities, and none of them need to be understood as cosmic absolute realities or as mysterious incarnations from one transcendent reality. In my reading, the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas establishes a profound relationship between the Dharma and some of its key aspects. These key aspects of the Dharma can be represented in many ways depending on the context and through a great variety of teachings including the principle of dependent origination and the four noble truths. The Dharma can also be represented by the deeds and wholesome qualities embodied by Buddhas and holy beings. Unlike other teachings and other holy beings, dependent origination and Buddhas represent the Dharma in a special way. Yet, like Buddhas and other holy beings, the teachings of dependent origination and the four noble truths are particular and historically conditioned representations of the Dharma. Both the Buddha’s teachings and the qualities embodied by the Buddha represent key aspects of the Dharma, but in a particular and historically conditioned way. Literalist interpreters of the Buddha will probably object to my reconstruction of the Dharma that it is nowhere to be found in the Pāli Nikāyas. The Buddha does not use the concept of OTMIX anywhere and he does not subsume all concepts that function as the most important under one overarching concept of Dharma understood as Truth in the broadest sense. My response is that the aforementioned objection misses the point. The point is whether the hermeneutical devices and critical tools I apply to the Pāli Nikāyas are helpful to grasp the Buddha’s view of religious diversity. A mere literal reading of the Pāli Nikāyas does not suffice because what a text literally says is often open to interpretation, as the traditional commentaries themselves demonstrate. The question is whether my reading is consistent with Pāli Nikāyas and whether it is more charitable than exclusivist and inclusivist readings. Likewise, literalist interpreters will object that the Buddha does not state anywhere that liberation and the highest stages of holiness are found in many

From inclusivism to pluralistic-inclusivism   133 traditions, that is, outside his teaching-­and-discipline (dhammavinaya) or outside Buddhism (buddhasāsana). This is true but misleading. From the fact that the Buddha does not state something literally, i.e., a non-­exclusivist view, it does not follow that he states the opposite, an exclusivist view. As I have argued, a close reading of the Pāli Nikāyas shows that exclusivist readings of liberation and highest holiness are less plausible and charitable than non-­exclusivist readings. Thus, I could also claim that the Buddha does not state anywhere what exclusivist interpreters claim under the influence of Buddhaghosa’s commentaries and the scholastic concept of paccekabuddha. Strictly speaking, the non-­exclusivist interpretation I have developed so far only allows us to say that for the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas liberation and highest holiness need not be exclusive to his teachings and the traditions derived from them, i.e., Buddhism. In other words, we can say that the Buddha would not consider OTMIX, when X refers to liberation and highest holiness, exclusive to Buddhism, i.e., his teaching-­and-discipline and the traditions derived from it. The implication is simply that liberation and highest holiness may exist in non-­ Buddhist traditions too. Saying that for the Buddha liberation and highest holiness is not exclusive to his teachings and the traditions derived from it does not entail that such things actually exists outside Buddhism today. Whether or not liberation and highest holiness exist outside Buddhism today is a question that cannot be answered before having comprehensive knowledge of other traditions. The same can be said about other traditions in the past. There are two possible interpretations of the Buddha’s view of OTMIX, when X refers to liberation and highest holiness in other traditions. Maybe for the Buddha the existence of OTMIX in other traditions was a mere possibility or maybe it was an actual reality. Here, however, I reconstruct the Buddha’s view, not simply as acknowledging the possibility of OTMIX outside Buddhism, but as accepting unambiguously the existence of liberation and highest holiness in non-­Buddhist traditions. This reconstruction of the Buddha’s view of religious diversity is not wishful thinking or an unconscious attempt to project modern pluralistic sensibilities into early Buddhism. Claiming that for the Buddha there is liberation and highest holiness outside Buddhism is squarely based on the teachings of the Pāli Nikāyas. First, the early concept of paccekabuddha or self-­enlightened being demonstrates that, for the Buddha, there is liberation and highest holiness independently of Buddhas, Buddhism, and Buddhists. Second, the Dharma and the noble eightfold path are rediscovered by enlightened beings including paccekabuddhas, and therefore, for the Buddha, liberation and highest holiness can exist without Buddhas (samasambuddhas), Buddhism, and Buddhists. There is no liberation and highest holiness without the Dharma, but the Dharma should not be conflated with Buddhism or any particular representations of the Dharma inside or outside Buddhist traditions. Third, the Dharma, the spiritual path, liberation, and highest holiness are not, for the Buddha, the monopoly of any particular

134   Pluralistic-inclusivism tradition or teaching-­and-discipline; that seems to be the reason why the Buddha provides non-­exclusivist criteria to discern among different teachers and teachings of his time. Otherwise such criteria would be merely rhetorical and somewhat hypocritical. Fourth, from the fact that liberation and highest holiness are found wherever the noble eightfold path is found, it does not follow that they are exclusive to Buddhist traditions. What follows logically is that traditions with teachings incompatible with the noble eightfold path are devoid of liberation and highest holiness, not that all non-­Buddhist traditions anywhere and at any time are by definition devoid of sufficient means to attain liberation and highest holiness. Reconstructing the Buddha as accepting the existence of liberation and highest holiness at least in representations of the Dharma where paccekabuddhas originate may have important practical repercussions for Buddhist throughout the world. This reconstruction has the potential to transform the way Buddhists from different traditions view religious diversity. If the Buddha himself would be open to the existence of OTMIX without confining it to just his tradition or teaching-­and-discipline, then it seems possible for Buddhists today to be genuinely open to dialogue with and learning from religious diversity without necessarily betraying the Buddha’s teachings. Being open to the existence of OTMIX wherever X may be found is perfectly consistent with what the Buddha teaches in the Pāli Nikāyas.

7.3  Was the Buddha omniscient or open to new knowledge about the Dharma? In order to further encourage Buddhists from different traditions to emulate the Buddha’s openness to religious diversity, in what follows I understand OTMIX as referring not only to liberation and highest holiness, but also to any aspect of the Dharma in the sense of Truth. Needless to say, the Buddha would emphasize aspects of the Dharma that are soteriologically relevant. By soteriologically relevant, I mean aspects of the Dharma that help mitigate and, if possible, eradicate individual, social, an ecological suffering. My contention is that, for the Buddha, there is more to OTMIX than what he teaches in the Pāli Nikāyas. The question is not whether there are representations of the Dharma outside the Buddha’s teachings in the Pāli Nikāyas, which is obvious for anyone familiar with the history of Buddhism and other religions. Rather, the question is whether such representations of the Dharma involve aspects of the Dharma that are new and soteriologically relevant. If such representations of the Dharma found outside the Buddha’s teaching involve aspects of the Dharma that are new but soteriologically irrelevant, then the Buddha’s view of religious diversity remains at best an open form of inclusivism. However, if, for the Buddha, the aspects of the Dharma found outside his teaching are both new and soteriologically relevant, then we can transcend a mere inclusivist view of religious diversity. Before addressing the soteriological relevance of representations of the Dharma outside Buddhism, it is necessary to demonstrate first that, for the

From inclusivism to pluralistic-inclusivism   135 Buddha, the Pāli Nikāyas do not teach everything that there is to know about the Dharma, and that the Buddha did not claim to know everything that there is to know about the Dharma. That there is more to the Dharma than what the Buddha teaches in the Pāli Nikāyas can be inferred from S.V.437. There, the Buddha distinguishes among truths taught and untaught by him. In order to illustrate this distinction, the Buddha uses the simile of siṃsapā leaves. I do not suggest that the simile demonstrates the existence of liberation and highest holiness outside the Buddha’s teaching. I simply claim that the simile demonstrates that there is more to the Dharma than what the Buddha taught in the Pāli Nikāyas. If it is the case that there are truths taught by the Buddha and truths that he knew but did not teach, then assuming that only truths actually taught by the Buddha constitute the Dharma is incompatible with his teachings. There are aspects of the Dharma that the Buddha did not teach. The question of whether the Buddha knew every aspect of the Dharma is open to interpretation. The question of whether the Buddha taught in the Pāli Nikāyas everything that is soteriologically relevant is also open to interpretation. If we answer yes to both questions, that is, if the Buddha knew everything that there is to know about the Dharma, and if he taught in the in the Pāli Nikāyas everything that is soteriologically relevant, then the Buddha cannot be open to new representations of OTMIX, i.e., the Dharma as Truth, and he must be interpreted as holding an inclusivist view of religious diversity. In what remains of this chapter and the first part of the next chapter, I challenge this inclusivist interpretation of the Buddha. There are two main reasons for interpreting the Buddha as being in principle open to new representations of the Dharma wherever they may be found: (1) the Buddha does not claim to be omniscient; and (2) the Buddha does not claim to teach the Dharma in a maximal way, only in a sufficient way. If the Buddha did not know everything that can be known in the past, the present, and the future, then there are grounds for openness to new knowledge. Since the Buddha did not teach everything he knew about the Dharma, his teaching of the Dharma cannot be considered maximal. Therefore, there is room for openness to new representations of the Dharma without necessarily betraying what the Buddha teaches in the Pāli Nikāyas. Assuming that the Buddha knew everything that there is to know about the Dharma seems possible only if one assumes first that the Buddha was omniscient, which, as we will see below, contradicts what the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas teaches. Likewise, presupposing that there are not new representations of the Dharma inside and outside Buddhism seems possible only if one assumes first that the Buddha’s representation of the Dharma exhausts all there is to know about the Dharma, which, as we will see below, also contradicts what the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas teaches. In other words, the Buddha can be interpreted as holding an inclusivist view only by contradicting what he teaches in the Pāli Nikāyas. On the other hand, interpreting the Buddha as open to new knowledge and new representations of the Dharma is consistent with the Pāli Nikāyas.

136   Pluralistic-inclusivism My interpretation of the Buddha as not being omniscient contradicts not the teachings of the Pāli Nikāyas but rather the claims of later Buddhist scholasticism. The prevalent Theravāda position is that the Buddha is omniscient in a qualified sense. He is able to know everything, although not simultaneously and not without turning his attention to his object of knowledge. In Bhikkhu Bodhi’s words: According to the Theravāda tradition the Buddha is omniscient in the sense that all knowable things are potentially accessible to him. He cannot, however, know everything simultaneously and must advert to whatever he wishes to know. At MN.90.8 the Buddha says that it is possible to know and see all, though not simultaneously, and at AN.4:24/ii.24 he claims to know all that can be seen, heard, sensed, and cognized, which is understood by the Theravāda tradition as an assertion of omniscience in the qualified sense.7 A key text to determine whether or not the Buddha is omniscient is M.I.482. There, the ascetic Vacchagota asks the Buddha whether it is true that he claims to be omniscient. Venerable sir, I have heard this: “The recluse Gotama claims to be omniscient and all-­seeing, to have complete knowledge and vision thus: ‘Whether I am walking or standing or sleeping or awake, knowledge and vision are continuously and uninterruptedly present to me.’ Venerable sir, do those who speak thus say what has been said by the Blessed One, and not misrepresent him with what is contrary to fact? Do they explain in accordance with the Dhamma in such a way that nothing which provides a ground for censure can be legitimately deduced from their assertion?”8 The Buddha answers that those who portray him as omniscient “misrepresent me with what is untrue and contrary to fact.”9 Rather, the Buddha explains, what one can say about him is that he possesses the threefold knowledge: (1) knowledge of past lives; (2) knowledge of the passing away and reappearing of beings according to their deeds; and (3) knowledge of the four noble truths with regard to taints and suffering. These are the three insights the Buddha experienced during the night of his awakening. Only the third insight or knowledge of the four noble truths is constitutive of awakening. The other two insights may or may not accompany the knowledge of the four noble truths and dependent origination characteristic of awakening. If something can be inferred from M.I.482, it is not that the Buddha is omniscient in a qualified sense, but rather that he possesses the threefold knowledge. The Buddha rejects explicitly being omniscient, and nothing indicates in this text that the threefold knowledge implies a qualified form of omniscience such as the one that Theravāda scholasticism attributes to the Buddha. Bhikkhu Bodhi mentions two other texts in order to justify that the Buddha is omniscient in the qualified sense. The first text is M.II.127–8. There, King

From inclusivism to pluralistic-inclusivism   137 Pasenadi of Kosala asks the Buddha whether what he has heard about his omniscience is accurate. What King Pasenadi has heard is exactly what the ascetic Vacchagota heard about the Buddha at M.I.482. Again, the Buddha refuses to be considered omniscient, and says that those who claim otherwise misrepresent him. King Pasenadi asks again whether the Buddha has ever said anything that may have led others to misrepresent him as claiming to be omniscient. Unlike at M.I.482, here the Buddha does not say that he possesses the threefold knowledge. Rather, the Buddha states: “I recall having actually made the utterance in this way, great king: ‘There is no recluse or brahmin who knows all, who sees all, simultaneously; that is not possible.’ ”10 The implication of this answer at M.II.127–8 seems to be that there might be some recluses or brahmins who know and see all, although not simultaneously. This is the qualified or non-­simultaneous omniscience that the Theravāda scholasticism attributes to the Buddha. However, it should be noticed that the Buddha does not claim to be omniscient in this qualified sense either; he only says that absolute or simultaneous omniscience is not possible (netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjatī). King Pasenadi does not ask the Buddha whether he is one of those ascetics who possess qualified or non-­simultaneous omniscience. Rather, King Pasenadi is satisfied with the Buddha’s answer, and asks an unrelated question about the caste system. Since King Pasenadi does not ask the Buddha whether he possesses non-­simultaneous omniscience, and since the Buddha does not claim such thing, there is not enough evidence to conclude that the Buddha is omniscient in the qualified sense of possessing non-­simultaneous knowledge of all. The evidence only suggests that the Buddha possesses the threefold knowledge. The Theravāda orthodoxy however, interprets M.II.127–8 as an implicit acceptance of qualified or non-­simultaneous omniscience. The Buddha cannot know everything continuously and uninterruptedly, but he can know all in a non­simultaneous way, i.e., whenever he puts his mind to it. Likewise, the Buddha cannot know past, present and future simultaneously, in a single consciousness, but he can know past, present and future one at a time, in separate moments of consciousness. The Theravāda understanding of omniscience implies that the Buddha cannot know all at once, but he nevertheless possesses the potential to know all that can be known. The Theravāda understanding of omniscience seems to be based on a questionable interpretation of A.II.23–4. There, the Buddha claims the following: Monks, whatever in the world with its gods, māras and brahmās, in this generation with its ascetics and brahmins, gods and humans; whatever is seen, heard, sensed, cognized, attained, searched into, pondered over by the mind, all that the Tathāgata has fully understood.11 The Theravāda orthodoxy seems to understand this claim as entailing knowledge of each and every fact that takes place in the universe, each and every thing that can be known. However, the context of the text does not seem to support this interpretation.

138   Pluralistic-inclusivism The context of A.II.23–4 seems to indicate that the Buddha is not claiming to possess all possible knowledge or information about everything in the world. Rather, the context indicates simply that the Buddha possesses wisdom or full understanding of the way things are with regard to suffering, i.e., the world, its inhabitants, and their psychophysical experience. Right before the quote above, the Buddha claims to have fully understood the world, its origin, its cessation, and the path leading to its cessation. That is, the Buddha is talking about knowledge of the four noble truths, which presupposes knowledge of the principle underlying such truths, namely, specific conditionality or dependent origination. In other words, the Buddha seems to be referring to full understanding of the principles that govern the world of suffering, not knowledge about all the facts that took, take, and will take place in the universe. The Buddha is not claiming to be omniscient. Rather, the Buddha is claiming that he is a fully awakened being, someone who has fully understood the four noble truths. The term the Buddha uses to express this full understanding of the world of suffering, its inhabitants, and what can be seen, heard, and so on, is “abhisambuddhaṃ.” The term “abhisambuddhaṃ” does not convey the idea of knowing all, but rather the idea of full understanding or perfect awakening to the specific conditionality of suffering, which includes realization of the four noble truths. The Theravāda reading of A.II.23–4 seems to ignore the similarity between the terms “abhisambuddha” and “sammāsambuddha,” both of them related to awakening or full understanding of suffering and its cessation. By ignoring the connection between these two terms and by interpreting “abhisambuddha” in terms of qualified omniscience, the Theravāda tradition is somewhat transforming the Buddha’s profound spiritual wisdom into mere encyclopedic knowledge or simple possession of information. The Theravāda reading of A.II.23–4 as implying qualified omniscience also seems to ignore what the Buddha says about the concepts of “world” (loka) and “all” (sabba) in other parts of the Pāli Nikāyas. Only by ignoring what the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas says about such concepts does it seem possible to interpret A.II.23–4 as supporting the idea of qualified omniscience. The Buddha explains the term “all” (sabbam) at S.IV.15, not as referring to every past, present, and future fact found in the universe, but rather as the six sense organs and their respective objects: eye and forms, ear and sounds, nose and odors, tongue and tastes, body and tactile objects, mind and mental objects. Likewise, the term “world” (loka) is explained at S.IV.52 not as including every possible object of knowledge past, present, and future but rather as the six organs, their six objects, and the six kinds of consciousness, contacts, and feelings that may derive from them. Thus, at S.IV.15 and S.IV.52 the terms “all” and “world” signify the psychophysical structure of beings and their experience, not all possible beings and objects of knowledge in the past, the present, and the future. What the Buddha claims to have fully understood at A.II.23–4 is the psychophysical world of experience, its origin, its cessation, and the path leading to its cessation, that is,

From inclusivism to pluralistic-inclusivism   139 what I call the world of suffering, not to be confused with the entire universe. The full understanding of the “world” and “all” that can be seen, heard, and so on, does not seem to refer to knowledge of each and every possible being in the universe, even less to knowledge of all past, present, and future events. Rather, the full understanding of all that can be seen, heard, and so on, refers to knowledge of the affective and cognitive structure of beings, and their dependent arisen experience. In sum, the text at A.II.23–4 talks about spiritual wisdom, not encyclopedic omniscience. This interpretation of A.II.23–4 as not implying qualified omniscience is consistent with what the Buddha states at M.I.482 regarding his possession of the threefold knowledge. The third insight of the threefold knowledge, the only one constitutive of awakening, is also related to the four noble truths. On the other hand, the Theravāda interpretation of A.II.23–4 as implying omniscience in a qualified sense makes us wonder why at M.I.482 the Buddha describes his “omniscience” in terms of the threefold knowledge. If the Buddha’s “omniscience” was non-­simultaneous omniscience, why did he not claim such a thing at M.I.482 and M.II.127–8? Why would the Buddha limit his claim to possession of the threefold knowledge if he was in possession of all possible knowledge of past, present, and future events? That the Buddha’s claim to possess the threefold knowledge has nothing to do with qualified omniscience can also be inferred from M.II.31–2. There, the ascetic Udāyin tells the Buddha about another ascetic who claims to be omniscient in the absolute sense, described exactly as at M.I.482 and M.II.127–8. The ascetic is Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta, also known as Mahāvīra, the founder of Jainism. When Udāyin asked Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta about the past, he did not answer, evaded the question and got upset. As a way of differentiating himself from Mahāvīra, the Buddha tells Udāyin that he can answer questions about the past, the future, and the present. Once again, the Buddha does not explain his knowledge as some form of qualified omniscience. Instead, the Buddha describes his knowledge of the past as knowledge of his past lives, which is the first of the three insights ­experienced during the night of his awakening. The Buddha’s knowledge of the future is explained as knowledge of the passing away and reappearing of beings in accordance with their actions, which is the second insight of the threefold knowledge. Finally, the Buddha speaks about his present knowledge in terms of dependent origination, which is the principle underlying the four noble truths, the third and most important of the three insights experienced by the Buddha during the night of his awakening. Specifically the Buddha states: But let be the past, Udāyin, let be the future. I shall teach you the Dhamma: When this exists, that comes to be; with the arising of this, that arises. When this does not exist, that does not come to be; with the cessation of this, that ceases.12 If the Buddha were omniscient in the qualified sense as the Theravāda tradition claims, this would be a good place to say it. However, what we find at M.II.31–2

140   Pluralistic-inclusivism is not a contrast between the absolute omniscience of Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta and the qualified omniscience that Theravāda scholasticism attributes to the Buddha. Rather, as stated at M.I.482, what we find is a contrast between absolute omniscience and the threefold knowledge of the Buddha. The threefold knowledge does not entail non-­simultaneous omniscience about the past, the present, and the future, but rather three particular insights about three distinct yet interrelated realities: past rebirth, future consequences of karma, and present dependent origination and cessation of suffering (four noble truths). Perhaps the Buddha could be interpreted as being omniscient in the restricted sense of having fully understood suffering and its cessation. However, the Pāli Nikāyas do not state explicitly that the Buddha is omniscient in this restricted sense. Even if the Buddha fully understood the dependent arising and cessation of suffering, the Buddha did not define himself as omniscient. The idea of absolute or simultaneous omniscience is explicitly rejected by the Buddha, and the idea of qualified or non-­simultaneous omniscience renders the Pāli Nikāyas inconsistent. As Dharmacāri Nāgapriya has shown,13 there are texts in the Pāli Nikāyas in which the Buddha does not seem to know certain things. For instance, at M.I.456 the Buddha does not know the identity of some people making noise in the grove in which he is resting. He asks Ānanda “who are these loud noisy people?” If the Buddha were omniscient, one would expect him to know the identity of such people. The Buddha should have known that they were monks coming to visit him, and that their leaders were two of his most prominent disciples, Sāriputta and Moggallāna. If the Buddha were omniscient in the qualified sense, he should have known such things, but he does not seem to know them. The Pāli Nikāyas do not consider omniscient those who ask questions about the names of others. For instance, at M.I.519 Ānanda himself rejects the omniscience of those who need to ask for names and directions, and those who, unable to predict unfortunate events that happen to them in the future, make excuses such as: “I had to enter an empty house, that is why I entered it. I had to get no almsfood, that is why I did not get any. I had to be bitten by a dog, that is why I was bitten.” Applying the same standard to the Buddha, if he asks Ānanda about the name of some people making noise, he cannot be considered omniscient, not even in the qualified sense. In order to make the Pāli Nikāyas consistent, the interpreter needs to “make excuses” for the Buddha’s lack of omniscience. Perhaps the Buddha was pretending not to know the identity of those making noise near him. Perhaps the Buddha was making a rhetorical question to be overheard by the noisy monks. Perhaps the Buddha decided not to use his divine eye to know the identity of the noisy monks. It is interesting to note that the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas never describes himself as omniscient (sabbaññū) and all-­seeing (sabbadassāvī). For instance, the long list of epithets of the Buddha that appear at M.I.386 mentions his great wisdom and his triple knowledge, but says nothing about his non-­simultaneous omniscience. One has to wait until later works to find such terms applied to the

From inclusivism to pluralistic-inclusivism   141 Buddha. The term “cakkhuma” is applied to the Buddha by the recently converted brahmin Sela at the end of the Sela Sutta. However, the term “cakkhuma” does not necessarily mean “All-­Seeing One” as Bhikkhu Bodhi seems to suggest with his translation, somehow endorsing the idea of omniscience, but rather “having eyes” or “having vision” in the sense of possessing spiritual wisdom or insight. Overall, the Pāli Nikāyas do not portray the Buddha as omniscient, only as someone who has fully understood the four noble truths: suffering, its arising, its cessation, and the path leading to its cessation. The Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas possesses the threefold knowledge, which does not entail omniscience but knowledge about the processes of rebirth, karma, and the specific conditionality of suffering, i.e., the four noble truths. In other words, the Buddha knew some things about the past, the present, and the future, but not all that was possible to know in the past, the present, and the future. If the Buddha did not claim to be omniscient, and if the Pāli Nikāyas do not contain all possible truths about the universe, it seems uncontroversial to conclude that the Buddha was not omniscient. This conclusion does not undermine the Buddha’s holiness and wisdom. On the contrary, saying that the Buddha was not omniscient can be understood as making his holiness and wisdom more credible and significant for his disciples. As Nagapriya states: 14

So long as implausible claims such as omniscience are made on behalf of the Buddha his true significance cannot be fully understood or appreciated. Instead of being respected, venerated, and emulated as a spiritual exemplar he is more likely to be worshipped as some kind of unreachable superman, even a god. The Buddha was a man who achieved a profound spiritual insight, a spiritual insight that—at least according to Buddhism—all human beings can emulate. This is what makes the Buddha so inspiring and so important. Whether he was able to walk through walls or understand quantum theory is irrelevant.15 If the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas was not omniscient, it seems uncontroversial to conjecture that he would be open to new knowledge and new truths wherever they might be found, be it inside or outside Buddhist traditions. This interpretation fits well with the Buddha’s inquisitive mind and his refusal to accept dogmatic claims. An omniscient Buddha would not have any need to learn anything new from anybody. On the contrary, a non-­omniscient Buddha would certainly keep an open mind and would encourage others to do the same. Would a non-­omniscient Buddha be open to new representations of the Dharma? If Dharma stands for the Truth that includes all truths about the universe, then it is uncontroversial to suggest that Buddha would be open to new representations of the Dharma because he did not claim to be omniscient. He did not know all truths, therefore, he can be interpreted as open to new truths. Since the Buddha did not know everything, and since he did not confine the Dharma to his teaching-­and-discipline, he would be open to new representations of the

142   Pluralistic-inclusivism Dharma wherever they might be found. If this is the case, it seems plausible to contend that the Buddha’s view of other traditions cannot be reconstructed as a form of inclusivism: there are new instances of OTMIX in other traditions, when X refers to the Dharma in the sense of Truth. We will discuss in Chapter 9 whether the Buddha’s view is best understood as a form of pluralism or rather as a form of pluralistic-­inclusivism. Given the pragmatic outlook of the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, it seems possible to speculate that he would not be equally open to new instances of the Dharma. He would probably be more interested in new representations of the Dharma that improve our understanding of the spiritual path and the specific conditionality of suffering. However, I dare to suggest that the Buddha would not be able to determine a priori two things: (1) which new representations of the Dharma can improve our understanding of the spiritual path and the specific conditionality of suffering; and (2) where exactly these new representations of the Dharma can be found. In order to determine which ones among the new representations of the Dharma are most effective to counteract suffering, and where exactly they can be found, the Buddha would use various criteria to discern among different teachings and teachers. In other words, the Buddha would not reject beforehand the existence of new representations of the Dharma in other traditions because he was not omniscient and he did not have knowledge of all things past, present, and future. The need to use several criteria to discern among teachers and teachings would be the consequence of the Buddha’s lack of omniscience. On the contrary, an omniscient Buddha would not need any criterion when encountering teachers and teachings from other traditions; he would just know everything about them without any need to talk to them. If this non-­omniscient interpretation of the Buddha is plausible, then anyone who considers authoritative the Buddha’s teachings in the Pāli Nikāyas can remain open to the existence of new representations of the Dharma in other traditions inside and outside Buddhism. The genuine disciple of the Buddha will follow his example and use several criteria to discern among teaching and teachers from different traditions, without making a priori claims about what can or cannot be found in them. Besides the Buddha’s example, those who consider the Pāli Nikāyas authoritative have another reason to remain open to the existence of new representations of the Dharma in other traditions: the Buddha never claimed to teach the Dharma in a maximal way. That is, the Buddha did not teach all there is to know about the Dharma, not even all that he knew about the Dharma. Rather, the Buddha chose to teach only what was spiritually useful and sufficient to attain liberation in a particular context and historical period. That the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas did not teach the Dharma in a maximal way can also be inferred from the simile of siṃsapā leaves at S.V.437–8. There, the Buddha compares his teachings to a bunch of siṃsapā leaves. The Buddha distinguishes between what he teaches and what he has known with special insight (abhiññā). What the Buddha teaches is compared to a bunch of leaves in

From inclusivism to pluralistic-inclusivism   143 his hand, and what he has known with special insight is compared to the leaves in the forest. The Buddha says explicitly that the number of things he has known with special insight is far more numerous that the things he teaches. Then the Buddha explains why he has not taught many things and why he has taught just the four noble truths. And why, Bhikkhus, have I not taught those many things? Because they are unbeneficial, irrelevant to the fundamentals of the holy life, and do not lead to revulsion, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to nibbāna. Therefore I have not taught them. An what, Bhikkhus, have I taught? I have taught: “This is suffering”; I have taught: “This is the origin of suffering”; I have taught: “This is the cessation of suffering”; I have taught: “This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.” And why, Bhikkhus, have I taught this? Because this is beneficial, relevant to the fundamentals of the holy life, and leads to revulsion, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to nibbāna. Therefore I have taught this.16 If something can be inferred from this explanation after the simile of siṃsapā leaves, it is not that the Buddha teaches all that there is to know about the Dharma. Rather the Buddha teaches some aspects of the Dharma, specifically, those that are related to the fundamentals of the spiritual life and lead to liberation. The representation of the Dharma found in the Pāli Nikāyas is not maximal because that is what the simile of siṃsapā leaves actually teaches. However, there seems to be two fundamental reasons that precluded the Buddha from teaching all he knew about the Dharma. First, there are aspects of the Dharma that cannot be taught with words and mere propositional logic. Some aspects of the Dharma are to be realized for oneself with special insight. Second, any representation of the Dharma is dependently originated and conditioned by historical, cultural, and linguistic factors. Third, any understanding of the Dharma is also dependently originated and conditioned by the capacity and level of spiritual development of the disciple. The Buddha seems to have taught in the Pāli Nikāyas what was most appropriate at that time and for each type of individual. Assuming that the teachings of the Pāli Nikāyas are absolute and universal, i.e., unconditioned and independent of historical, cultural, psychological and spiritual factors contradicts the Buddha’s teachings. The non-­maximal nature of the particular and historically conditioned representation of the Dharma taught by the Buddha in the Pāli Nikāyas does not mean that all representations are equally comprehensive and valid. Some representations of the Dharma are better than others. Some are sufficient to attain liberation and highest holiness, while others provide insufficient means to attain liberation and highest holiness. The teachings of all Buddhas are non-­maximal representations of the Dharma that are sufficient to attain liberation and highest holiness. This however, does not mean that there is nothing soteriologically relevant in

144   Pluralistic-inclusivism representations of the Dharma that are different from the teachings of all Buddhas. As I have already said, the concepts of Buddha and Dharma are not tradition-­specific. Even if the concepts of Buddha and Dharma were interpreted as tradition-­specific, i.e., as Buddhist notions, the early concept of paccekabuddha demonstrates that liberation and highest holiness can also take place without relying on Buddhas, Buddhists, and Buddhist traditions. That is, non-­Buddhist traditions cannot be dismissed as unable to provide means to attain liberation and highest holiness simply because they are not Buddhist. Paccekabuddhas and the traditions in which similar enlightened beings arise are not Buddhist traditions, yet such traditions are able to generate liberation and highest holiness. This point about the non-­maximal nature of all representations of the Dharma is important because the belief in non-­maximal representations of the Dharma facilitates interfaith dialogue and interreligious learning. On the contrary, the belief in maximal representations of the Dharma makes interfaith dialogue and further learning about the Dharma much more difficult if not impossible. Thus, if OTMIX refers to the Dharma in the sense of Truth, if representations of the Dharma are non-­maximal, and if there are multiple representations of the Dharma inside and outside Buddhism, then there is room for openness to other traditions and further learning about new instances of OTMIX. Overall, if the Buddha did not claim to be omniscient, and if he did not teach everything he knew about the Dharma, then those who consider the Pāli Nikāyas authoritative can be open to new instances of OTMIX and new representations of the Dharma wherever they may be found without necessarily betraying the Buddha’s teachings.

8 Beyond Buddhist inclusivism

This chapter explains why the Buddha’s view of religious diversity cannot be considered inclusivist despite the fact that it presupposes a single end, i.e., liberation, and a single ideal of holiness. The chapter also argues that Mark Heim’s idea of multiple salvations is inapplicable to the Pāli Nikāyas. The first section contends that the inclusivist interpretation of the Buddha is problematic because it transforms the Buddha into a dogmatist, thus undermining his advice to critically investigate various teachings including his own. The second section introduces Heim’s model of religious diversity and explains how Heim understands emptiness from a Trinitarian perspective. The third section addresses two questions: (1) Would the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas accept the existence of alternative, real, and valid religious ends or liberations? (2) Would the Buddha accept the legitimacy of diverse perspectives with conflicting claims about the ultimate end?

8.1  Why inclusivism contradicts Buddhist spirituality Some interpreters may object to the non-­inclusivist reconstruction of the Buddha I propose, arguing that I misunderstand the simile of siṃsapā leaves. In my account, what the Buddha knew but did not teach allows for the existence of new representations of the Dharma inside and outside Buddhism. However, the objection goes, the simile of siṃsapā leaves is not intended to suggest that there may be new representations of the Dharma beyond the Buddha’s teaching-­anddiscipline. Thus, the objection continues, I should understand the Buddha as an ordinary inclusivist open only to similar representations of the Dharma, never open to something new or different from what is already found in the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline. In what follows, I challenge this inclusivist interpretation of the Buddha. According to the inclusivist interpretation, right after the simile of siṃsapā leaves the Buddha explains that he teaches only the four noble truths because they relate to the fundamentals of the spiritual path and lead to liberation. The implication, according to inclusivist interpreters, is that what the Buddha knows but does not teach is really unrelated to the spiritual path and not conducive to liberation. Thus, the inclusivist interpretation argues as follows: if it is the case

146   Pluralistic-inclusivism that the Buddha teaches only what is related to the fundamentals of the spiritual life and leading to liberation, and if those teachings are already found in the Pāli Nikāyas, it follows that there cannot be new representations of the Dharma either in later Buddhist traditions or outside Buddhism. In other words, if the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas teaches OTMIX, the teachings of other traditions may be similar to OTMIX, but never different from OTMIX or involving new aspects of OTMIX. Consequently, for those who consider the Pāli Nikāyas authoritative, interfaith dialogue and interreligious learning are possible and even important to foster friendships and peace among religious communities, but ultimately irrelevant from a spiritual and soteriological point of view. Moreover, the inclusivist interpretation continues, even if the Buddha was not omniscient, that does not mean that he did not know everything about what is most important, namely, the fundamentals of the spiritual life, the four noble truths, the specific conditionality of suffering, and liberation. In fact, many texts in the Pāli Nikāyas suggest that the Buddha’s knowledge about ethical, spiritual, and soteriological matters is unsurpassable. Thus, the inclusivist interpretation concludes, openness to new instances of OTMIX is possible only when OTMIX refers to the Dharma in the broad sense of Truth. However, if OTMIX refers to the fundamentals of the spiritual path and what leads to liberation, then the Buddha’s view must be reconstructed as a form of inclusivism. This inclusivist interpretation cannot be dismissed lightly. The inclusivist interpretation of the Buddha is consistent with all that I have argued against the exclusivist interpretation of the Pāli Nikāyas. The inclusivist reconstruction is also consistent with the simile of siṃsapā leaves, as well as with the Buddha’s lack of omniscience. The inclusivist interpretation would agree with my suggestion that the Buddha would be open to new knowledge, new representations of the Dharma understood in the broad sense of Truth about the universe. However, unlike my non-­inclusivist reconstruction, the inclusivist interpretation would qualify that such new knowledge and new representations are soteriologically irrelevant, that is, unrelated to OTMIX when X refers to the fundamentals of the spiritual path and what leads to liberation. This inclusivist openness to new representations of the Dharma unrelated to liberation and the fundamentals of the holy life should not be confused with the non-­inclusivist openness to new representations of the Dharma. The inclusivist interpreter assumes that the Buddha would be open to new representations of the Dharma in other traditions but believes at the same time that such new aspects of the Dharma are unrelated to OTMIX, when X refers to liberation and the fundamentals of the spiritual life. On the other hand, the non-­inclusivist Buddha would be open to new representations of the Dharma, but without assuming that such new representations are unrelated to liberation and the fundamentals of the holy life. My concern is to interpret the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas in the most plaus­ ible and charitable way. I sincerely believe that the inclusivist interpretation of the Buddha is less charitable and plausible than the non-­inclusivist reconstruction I propose.

Beyond Buddhist inclusivism   147 First, the inclusivist reading contradicts what the Pāli Nikāyas say about the Buddha’s knowledge of the future. According to the Pāli Nikāyas, the Buddha’s knowledge of the future seems to be limited to the arising and disappearing of beings according to their actions; that is, the doctrines of karma and rebirth. This knowledge of the future corresponds to the second insight which the Buddha experienced during the night of his enlightenment. If the Pāli Nikāyas describe the Buddha’s knowledge of the future as involving the doctrines of karma and rebirth, it seems problematic to interpret such knowledge as encompassing all future representations of the Dharma, which includes not only the doctrines of karma and rebirth but also the doctrines of the four noble truths, specific conditionality or dependent origination, and selflessness. Moreover, if the Buddha’s knowledge of the future is limited to knowing how some people die and are reborn in accordance with their karma, what are the grounds for claiming that the Buddha knows all future representations of the Dharma? More specifically, how can we know that, for Buddha, all future representations of the Dharma must be either soteriologically irrelevant, i.e., unrelated to OTMIX when X refers to liberation and the fundamentals of the holy life, or if related to OTMIX, identical to the representation the Buddha teaches in the Pāli Nikāyas? It seems more consistent with the Pāli Nikāyas to suggest that, given the limited scope of the Buddha’s knowledge about the future, he would be open to subsequent representations of the Dharma without assuming beforehand that such representations must be either unrelated to OTMIX or, if related, identical to the representation of OTMIX already found in the Pāli Nikāyas. It is difficult to explain how a non-­omniscient Buddha who teaches the Dharma in a non-­maximal way can know that all future representations of the Dharma in other traditions must be either identical to those already found in his dispensation, or soteriologically irrelevant in case they are new or different. The Buddha could have such an inclusivist view of future representations of the  Dharma only if he were omniscient, and only if we assume that he taught the  Dharma in a maximal way. However, if the Buddha did not claim to be omniscient, and if he did not teach the Dharma in a maximal way, attributing to him an inclusivist view of future representations of the Dharma does not seem possible. Second, even if the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas taught the fundamentals of the holy life and all that was useful to attain liberation, that was at least 2500 years ago and within a cultural and sociopolitical context qualitatively different from the context in which we live today. Maybe the particular and historically conditioned representation of the Dharma that appears in the Pāli Nikāyas was the most useful to attain liberation back then, but this may have changed. Perhaps the Buddha’s teachings in the Pāli Nikāyas are less useful today or perhaps they are no longer sufficient to facilitate the practice of the spiritual path and the attainment of liberation. Another possibility is that perhaps what the Buddha did not teach in the Pāli Nikāyas because it was not useful back then became useful later. This would legitimatize later representations of the Dharma including those characteristic of Mahāyāna Buddhism. As Peter Harvey puts it:

148   Pluralistic-inclusivism Some things the Buddha knew may not originally have been useful but become so later, so that he did not teach them during his lifetime, or did so to a small group of disciples. This would be a way of validating later Mahāyāna teachings.1 Be it as it may, the fact is that we do not know for sure (1) whether what the Buddha taught in the Pāli Nikāyas remains the most useful representation of the Dharma in all contexts and historical periods; and (2) whether what he did not teach must be unrelated to the fundamentals of the spiritual life and not conducive to liberation. If the teachings of the Buddha in the Pāli Nikāyas are in fact the most useful representation of the Dharma, then we should conclude that later representations inside and outside Buddhist traditions are less effective and perhaps unnecessary. This, however, seems counterintuitive for anyone familiar with the history of Buddhism because even the Theravāda tradition felt the need to elaborate on the teachings of the Pāli Nikāyas. In fact, later canonical texts and commentarial traditions can be considered new representations of the Dharma required by new historical and cultural circumstances. If what the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas does not teach is by definition unrelated to the fundamentals of the spiritual life and not conducive to liberation, then Buddhists from all traditions, including Theravāda Buddhists who often rely more on Buddhaghosa’s commentaries than on the Pāli Nikāyas, must stop wasting their time with later texts and accept dogmatically whatever the Buddha taught in the Pāli Nikāyas. The problem with this second option is that Buddhists must accept such rejection of all except the Pāli Nikāyas by faith or dogmatically. That is, beforehand, without actually knowing for themselves that whatever the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas teaches is actually the case. This dogmatic acceptance of the Pāli Nikāyas, however, clashes with the Buddha’s advice to his disciples, which is also found in the Pāli Nikāyas. This leads me to the third and most powerful argument against the inclusivist interpretation of the Buddha. Third, even if we assumed that the Buddha was omniscient and that the representation of the Dharma found in the Pāli Nikāyas remains the most useful to attain liberation at all times and in all contexts, the Buddha advised his disciples to avoid dogmatic attitudes. The inclusivist interpretation of the Buddha cannot avoid a dogmatic claim about the nature of future representations of the Dharma outside the Pāli Nikāyas. Specifically, the claim is that future representations are just teaching the same thing, or if they teach something new or different, it must be spiritually and soteriologically irrelevant, i.e., unrelated to the fundamentals of the holy life and not conducive to liberation. This claim that follows from the inclusivist interpretation of the Buddha seems to me inconsistent with his advice to avoid dogmatic attitudes. By assuming that future representations of the Dharma found in other traditions are spiritually and soteriologically irrrelevant, disciples of the Buddha are displaying a dogmatic attitude. By interpreting the simile of siṃsapā leaves as implying that representations of the Dharma outside the Pāli Nikāyas are either similar or, if different, irrelevant, Buddhists are claiming to know a priori, that

Beyond Buddhist inclusivism   149 is, dogmatically, something that can be known only a posteriori, that is, after having examined and experienced the benefits of such representations. Perhaps the most famous text in which the Buddha encourages his disciples to avoid dogmatic attitudes is the Kālāma Sutta. The context of the Kālāma Sutta suggests that the Kālāma people were in doubt because they had been exposed to different spiritual teachers who disparaged each other’s teachings. This situation could be compared to that of Buddhists who have been exposed to diverse Buddhist teachings, all of them allegedly coming from the Buddha, and each one of them considered more effective than others. Contemporary Buddhists who have studied diverse Buddhist traditions, like the Kālāma people, do not know for sure what to believe and what teachings to follow. It is in this context of religious diversity and conflicting claims about the Dharma that the Buddha provides a criterion to discern among various teachings (dhammā). Come, Kālāmas, do not accept anything because it is oral tradition (anusasavena), because [it has been handed down by] a lineage of teachers (paramparāya), because it is hearsay (itikirāya), because canonical texts [say so] (piṭakasampadānena), because it is the consequence of a syllogism (takkahetu) or inferential reasoning (nayahetu), because of reflection on reasons (ākāraparivitakkena), because of consideration and approval of a view (diṭṭhinijjhānakkhantiyā), because of its appearance (bhabbarūpatāya), because [you think] ‘this holy person is our teacher’ (samaṇo no garū’ti). Rather, Kālāmas, when you know for yourselves: “these teachings are unwholesome, these teachings are blameworthy, these teachings are censored by the wise, these teachings, when undertaken and practiced, lead to harm and suffering,” then, Kālāmas, you should abandon them.2 Although there are several possible interpretations of the Buddha’s advice to the Kālāma people, it seems safe to assume that the Buddha’s advice encourages critical thinking, not dogmatic attitudes about teachings and teachers. The Buddha asked the Kālāma people to see for themselves whether certain teachings are conducive to happiness or suffering, wholesome or unwholesome, praiseworthy or blameworthy, praised or censored by the wise. This cannot be done unless someone keeps an open mind and critically investigates various teachings. Whether or not the Buddha is recommending that they explore teachings from different traditions before following his teaching-­and-discipline is open to interpretation. The overall point seems to be about critical thinking and maintaining a non-­dogmatic openness about conflicting teachings. The term “dhammā” can be translated in different ways depending on the context. Here, however, the context suggests that the term “dhammā” is best translated as “teachings,” rather than as “things” or “mental states.” The conflicting teachings of different masters are the reason why the Kālāma people are in doubt, and that is why the Buddha gives such advice. If this reading of “dhammā” is plausible, then the Kālāma Sutta can be understood as a call to avoid dogmatic attitudes toward various teachings or

150   Pluralistic-inclusivism representations of the Dharma wherever they may be found by examining them with an inquisitive mind until the merits of such teachings or representations are realized for oneself. That is, the Buddha seems to be encouraging his disciples to keep an open mind free from dogmatic constraints while examining various teachings, whether they are his teachings or the teachings of other traditions. I do not go as far as to suggest that the Buddha’s advice to the Kālāma people is an invitation to examine teachings from many different traditions before committing oneself to his teaching-­and-discipline. Rather, I am simply stating that in order to follow the Buddha’s advice to the Kālāmas one cannot be dogmatic either about Buddhist teachings or about the teachings of non-­Buddhist traditions. The Buddha could have asked the Kālāma people to trust his omniscience and believe in the supremacy of his teaching-­and-discipline. This would have been consistent with the inclusivist interpretation of the Buddha, who knows beforehand that future representations of the Dharma will be similar to his teachings or, if different, spiritually and soteriologically irrelevant. However, this interpretation transforms the Buddha into an arrogant dogmatist who has nothing to learn from others and, at least by implication, demeans all new representations of the Dharma outside the Pāli Nikāyas. This dogmatic and arrogant stance clashes with the intellectual humility and the conciliatory tone behind the Buddha’s advice to the Kālāma people. Some people may object that the Kālāma people were not disciples of Buddha yet. That is, the objection goes, the Buddha’s advice to the Kālāma people does not apply to his disciples, who are no longer confused by the conflicting teachings of various spiritual masters. Once someone has become a disciple of the Buddha by taking refuge in the three Jewels, there would not be further need to keep an open mind and investigate various teachings or representations of the Dharma critically. This objection, however, seems to contradict the non-­confrontational and non-­dogmatic advice the Buddha gives in other parts of the Pāli Nikāyas. For instance, the Buddha advices Upāli to “explore further” or “investigate thoroughly” (anuviccakāraṃ), right after his decision to convert from Jainism to Buddhism (M.I.379). The Buddha’s advice does not seem to be an invitation to investigate thoroughly only his teachings, never those of other traditions. Such advice would be dogmatic and typical of exclusivists. Upāli seems to be impressed by the Buddha’s words precisely because they are not an indication of exclusivism and dogmatism. Specifically, Upāli states: Venerable sir, I am even more satisfied and pleased with the Blessed One for telling me that. For the other sectarians, on acquiring me as their disciple, would carry a banner all over Nāḷandā announcing: “The householder Upāli has come to discipleship under us.” But, on the contrary, the Blessed One tells me: “Investigate thoroughly, householder. It is good for such well-­ known people like you to investigate thoroughly.” So for the second time, venerable sir, I go to the Blessed One for refuge and to the Dhamma and to the Sangha of bhikkhus. Let the Blessed One remember me as a lay follower who has gone to him for refuge for life.3

Beyond Buddhist inclusivism   151 Thus, interpreting the Buddha’s advice to Upāli as a dogmatic and exclusivist invitation to explore only his teachings and only the Buddha’s representation of the Dharma seems to contradict what Upāli states about the Buddha. Thus, in my reading, the Buddha’s advice to the Kālāma people, who are not yet disciples, and the Buddha’s advice to Upāli, who is a recent convert, are similar in that both require a critical and open-­minded exploration of various teachings, be they the Buddha’s teachings or the teachings of other traditions. That disciples of the Buddha need to keep an open mind and investigate thoroughly various teachings without exclusivist and dogmatic views can also be inferred from other texts of the Pāli Nikāyas. For instance, at M.I.177–84, the Buddha explains the simile of the elephant’s footprint in order to counteract the view of the brahmin Jāṇussoṇi. For the Buddha, people can properly claim that the Buddha is fully enlightened, that the Dharma is well taught by the Buddha, and that the community of disciples is practicing the right way only after attaining enlightenment, that is, after knowing and seeing by themselves the truth of such statements. Before reaching that level of spiritual realization, disciples, like the skilled elephant hunter, are encouraged to avoid precipitated conclusions about the nature of the elephant. In other words, disciples of the Buddha should keep investigating with a critical mind until they actually see the elephant in the open, i.e., attain enlightenment. By reading the simile of siṃsapā leaves as implying that all future representations of the Dharma must be by definition similar to the representation found in the Pāli Nikāyas or, if different, unrelated to liberation and the fundamentals of the spiritual life, inclusivist interpreters also contradict what the Buddha teaches with the simile of the elephant’s footprint. Since the Buddha encouraged his disciples to investigate further various elephant footprints in one particular forest, and since he objected to reaching precipitated conclusions about a big elephant (the three Jewels) until they see for themselves the elephant in the open, it seems plausible to assume that the Buddha would object to similar precipitated conclusions about the existence of big elephants in other forests (other traditions), especially when such forests have never been explored thoroughly. Thus, it seems more consistent with the Buddha’s non-­dogmatic stance to remain open to at least the possible existence of big elephants wherever they may be found without assuming beforehand that big elephants only exist in my forest (exclusivism) or that the elephants found in other forests are exactly like the elephants that live in the Buddhist forest (ordinary inclusivism). If something can be inferred from the simile of the elephant’s footprint it is that for the Buddha people should not make dogmatic claims about things that one does not know for sure. Maybe there are no big elephants in non-­Buddhist forests or maybe the elephants there are just like the elephants found in the Buddha’s forest, but these things cannot be known without actually exploring thoroughly the forests of religious diversity. That is why it is more accurate to reconstruct the Buddha’s view of religious diversity as not being a form of inclusivism. Otherwise we transform the Buddha into a dogmatist who knows beforehand what can and cannot be found in all past, present, and future forests of the world.

152   Pluralistic-inclusivism Another important text that does not support the inclusivist reading of the Buddha appears at D.II.82. There, Sāriputta tells the Buddha that “it is clear to me, Lord, that there never have been, will be or is now another ascetic or brahmin who is better or more enlightened than the Lord.” The Buddha’s disapproval of Sāriputta’s dogmatic claim is incontrovertible. The text is worth it of being quoted in full. Walshe’s translation reads: You have spoken boldly with a bull’s voice, Sāriputta, you have roared the lion’s roar of certainty! [Here Walshe does not translate Sāriputta’s words for the second time] How is this? Have all Arahant Buddhas of the past appeared to you, and were the minds of those Lords open to you, so as to say: “These Lords were of such virtue, such was their teaching, such their wisdom, such their way, such their liberation?” No, Lord. And have you perceived all the Arahants Buddhas who will appear in the future . . .? No, Lord. Well then, Sāriputta, you know me as the Arahant Buddha and do you know: “The Lord is of such virtue, such is his teaching, such his wisdom, such his way, such his liberation?” No, Lord. So, Sāriputta, you do not have knowledge of the minds of the Buddhas of the past, the future or the present. Thus, Sāriputta, have you not spoken boldly with a bull’s voice and roared the lion’s roar of certainty with you declaration? [Here Walshe does not translate Sāriputta’s words for the third time]4 The Buddha seems to object to Sāriputta’s view of all past, present, and future Buddhas (sammāsambuddhā) because such claim is dogmatic, that is, not based on actual knowledge of the teachings of other Buddhas, actual knowledge of their wisdom, their way, and their liberation. Sāriputta’s claim is for the Buddha problematic, not necessarily because it is factually wrong, but rather because it derives from a dogmatic stance, that is, it is based on faith and devotion instead of on actual knowledge of all Buddhas. Similarly, the problem with stating that all future representations of the Dharma are similar to the representation found in the Pāli Nikāyas or, if different, unrelated to OTMIX, derives from its dogmatic nature, i.e., it is not based on actual knowledge of all past, present, and future representations of the Dharma. The Buddha’s objection to Sāriputta’s dogmatic claim can be extrapolated to those who read the simile of siṃsapā leaves as implying an inclusivist view. If the Buddha did not want Sāriputta to make dogmatic claims about him in comparison to all other Buddhas without knowing first their teachings, their wisdom, their way, and their liberation, it seems plausible to think that the Buddha would not like his disciples to make similar claims about the Buddha’s representation

Beyond Buddhist inclusivism   153 of the Dharma in comparison to all non-­Buddhist representations without knowing them first. The representations of the Dharma found outside the Pāli Nikāyas cannot be evaluated dogmatically without contradicting the Buddha’s advice to his disciples. In order to respect the non-­dogmatic stance of the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, it is indispensable to reconstruct the Buddha’s view of religious diversity as not being an inclusivist. That is, as being in principle open to the existence of new representations of the Dharma that can be spiritually and soteriologically relevant, i.e., related to OTMIX. Affirming dogmatically that other representations of the Dharma inside and outside Buddhism are at best similar to the representation found in the Pāli Nikāyas, and at worst unrelated to OTMIX, is inconsistent with the teaching of the Buddha in the Pāli Nikāyas. The inclusivist interpreter may insist and argue that Sāriputta replies to the Buddha’s disapproval of his dogmatic claim by saying that he does not know everything about past, present and future Buddhas, but he nevertheless knows that they all attain liberation in the same way. Does this response by Sāriputta indicate that the Dharma is always the same, and therefore that the Buddha was an inclusivist? Let us quote Sāriputta first: It seems to me Lord, that the drift of the Dhamma is the same. All those Arahant Buddhas of the past attained to supreme enlightenment by abandoning the five hindrances, defilements of mind that weaken the understanding, having firmly established the four foundations of mindfulness in their minds, and realized the seven factors of enlightenment as they really are. All the Arahant Buddhas of the future will do likewise, and you, Lord, who are now the Arahant, fully-­enlightened Buddha, have done the same.5 In my reading, Sāriputta’s words do not suggest that all Buddhas represent the Dharma in the same way, or that all representations of the Dharma are identical. Rather, Sāriputta simply states that all Buddhas attain enlightenment by removing the same negative mental states and by cultivating the same positive mental states. This statement does not imply that the specific way in which negative states are removed and positive states cultivated is exactly the same. The representations of the Dharma can be structurally similar without being exactly the same. Unlike the previous claim, Sāriputta’s response is not dogmatic. That is, the second claim about the drift of the Dharma can be formulated without having actual knowledge of all Buddhas past, present, and future. This seems to be the reason why the Buddha objects to Sāriputta’s first claim, but not to his response or second claim. Sāriputta’s response is an instance of specific conditionality, an example of teaching the Dharma: when this exists, that comes into being. Sāriputta provides a criterion to discern among two possible understandings of enlightenment: consistent or inconsistent with the Dharma. Sāriputta calls this criterion “the drift of the Dharma” (dhammanvaya): whenever there is eradication of the five hindrances, establishing of the four foundations of mindfulness,

154   Pluralistic-inclusivism and development of the seven factors of enlightenment, enlightenment comes into existence. In order to formulate this criterion, it is not necessary to possess actual knowledge of all Buddhas past, present, and future. Sāriputta only clarifies what enlightenment according to his understanding of the Dharma entails. On the other hand, Sāriputta’s first claim about the Buddha’s superiority in comparison to all past, present, and future Buddhas is not an instance of specific conditionality or a criterion to discern among Buddhas. Sāriputta’s first claim simply expresses his devotion for the Buddha Gotama without actual knowledge of all the other Buddhas; and without such an actual knowledge, his claim is dogmatic, not an instance of teaching of the Dharma, i.e., specific conditionality. The inclusivist interpreter may still insist on attributing an inclusivist view to the Buddha because the Pāli Nikāyas explicitly state that the stability of the Dharma (dhammaṭṭhitatā), the fixed course of the Dharma (dhammaniyāmatā), that element of the Dharma remains (ṭhitāva sā dhātu) (S.II.25). Likewise, the Pāli Nikāyas explicitly state that all past, present, and future Buddhas realize the same four noble truths (S.V.415), and that the four noble truths are actual (tathāni), irrefutable (avitathāni) and not otherwise (anaññathāni) (S.V.430, 435). The inclusivist interpreter could also quote Sāriputta, who states that the four noble truths include all wholesome teachings (kusalā dhammā).6 Thus, the inclusivist interpreter could argue that, if the Dharma and the content of enlightenment remains the same, and if the representation of the Dharma found in the four noble truths already includes all wholesome teachings, then the Buddha cannot be open to new representations of the Dharma. Thus, the inclusivist would conclude, there is simply no room in the Pāli Nikāyas for new representations of the Dharma, there is only room for further elaborations on the doctrines found in the Pāli Nikāyas: the four noble truths, dependent origination or specific conditionality, and selflessness. My response to this inclusivist interpretation of the Buddha is that it conflates the nature of the Dharma with our knowledge of the Dharma. While it is true that the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas suggests that the nature of the Dharma does not change over time, it is also true that our knowledge of the Dharma does change. In order to allow for new representations of the Dharma, it is not necessary to dispute that the Dharma, the four noble truths, the requirements and content of enlightenment remain unchangeable. I have not disputed such a thing because that would contradict what the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas teaches. Rather, my point is that from the unchangeable nature of the Dharma, enlightenment, and the four noble truths, it does not follow that there is nothing new to learn about them. This point is not based on my personal preferences or in my unconscious wish to find such thing in the Pāli Nikāyas. Rather, the point I am making is based on what the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas teaches. Specifically, at S.V.430 the Buddha makes clear that the four noble truths possess innumerable nuances (aparimāṇā vaṇṇā), innumerable aspects (aparimāṇā vyañjanā), and innumerable implications (aparimāṇā saṅkāsanā). This claim about the four noble truths can be extrapolated to the Dharma in general. After all, the four noble truths are an instance of specific conditionality:

Beyond Buddhist inclusivism   155 when this is, that comes into being. Both the four noble truths and specific conditionality are key aspects of the Dharma. Besides insight into the four noble truths, knowledge of specific conditionality or dependent origination is also used to summarize the content of the Buddha’s enlightenment (M.I.167). In fact, the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas states that “whoever sees dependent origination sees the Dharma” (M.I.190–1). If what the Buddha explicitly states about the four noble truths can be extrapolated to the Dharma in general, then saying that the Dharma has innumerable nuances, aspects, and implications does no violence to what the Buddha teaches in the Pāli Nikāyas. Thus, if for the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, the Dharma and the four noble truths have innumerable nuances, aspects, and implications, then there is always room for new representations of the Dharma. This point is crucial for my argument: the innumerable nuances, aspects, and implications of the Dharma and the four noble truths not only allow for new representations of the Dharma, but also make such new representations indispensable when circumstances change. Thus, in my reading of the Pāli Nikāyas, the Buddha is not only open to new representations of the Dharma wherever they may be found, but also legitimizes the existence of such representations in the future. On the contrary, the inclusivist reading of the Buddha renders other representations of the Dharma unnecessary. Why would other representations of the Dharma be necessary if the Pāli Nikāyas contain in a maximal way all that is needed to practice the spiritual path and attain liberation everywhere, at any time and under any circumstances whatsoever? For the inclusivist interpreter, disciples of the Buddha do not need other representations of the Dharma outside the Pāli Nikāyas because they already teach all that is spiritually and soteriologically relevant. In my account, however, there is nothing wrong with new representations of the Dharma inside and outside Buddhism because the Dharma and the four noble truths have innumerable nuances, aspects, and implications. While the inclusivist Buddha would discourage disciples to explore anything outside his unsurpassable teaching, the non-­ inclusivist Buddha I advocate would encourage his disciples to avoid dogmatic views about the teachings of all traditions including the Buddha’s teaching-­anddiscipline. That is, non-­inclusivist Buddha advises his disciples to keep an open mind free from dogmatic constraints until they see for themselves whether a teaching is wholesome, related to the fundamentals of the spiritual life, and conducive to liberation and highest holiness. In sum, reconstructing the Buddha’s view of religious diversity as not being inclusivist is more plausible and charitable than the inclusivist interpretation. The inclusivist interpretation transforms the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas into a dogmatist. The Buddha is dogmatic because he knows beforehand what can and cannot be found in other traditions; other traditions have nothing new to offer or, if they do offer anything new, it cannot be related to something really important. The non-­inclusivist interpretation, however, is consistent with the Buddha’s advice to keep an open mind and critically investigate the merits of various

156   Pluralistic-inclusivism teachings including the merits of the Buddha’s teachings. The non-­inclusivist interpretation of the Buddha is not only more plausible and charitable than the inclusivist interpretation, but also more likely to encourage Buddhists to practice interfaith dialogue and interreligious learning.

8.2  One or many ultimate goals? Having argued that the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas can be interpreted as being open to new representations of the Dharma in other traditions, we need to investigate whether the Buddha believes that such representations lead to one and the same ultimate goal or rather to many different ultimate goals. According to Heim’s model, religions are not different venues towards the same end, but rather diverse venues that lead to alternative, real, and valid ends, i.e., salvations. There are many conflicting claims about the nature of the ultimate end, but each one is legitimate from its own perspective. From our perspective, we cannot but privilege our own ultimate end and deem the ends of other traditions as inferior or penultimate. In other words, Heim’s model of religious diversity seems able to accommodate the views of many traditions, each one accepting many instances of OTMIX across traditions, and each one claiming that the ultimate instance of OTMIX found in one’s own tradition is superior to the penultimate instances of OTMIX found in other traditions. Other views of OTMIX are equally legitimate because they are epistemologically unavoidable from their respective perspectives. The ends of other traditions are legitimate because they are alternative, real, and valid instances of OTMIX, though penultimate compared to the ultimate end of one’s own tradition. It is important to notice that the ultimate or superior end is exclusively found in one’s own tradition. However, this claim does not entail exclusivism because OTMIX is not considered unique to one’s own tradition. That is, OTMIX is given among many traditions in multiple real and valid ends; only the ultimate end of each tradition is exclusive to that tradition, not OTMIX. Different traditions can make similar claims about the superiority and ultimate nature of their respective ends without contradiction because each claim is legitimate from its own particular perspective. Thus, the uniqueness and the superiority of the claims of each tradition is preserved and respected. More specifically, Heim claims that there are many alternative, real, and valid ends in other traditions, but they are penultimate compared to the ultimate end of Christianity, namely, communion with the Triune God.7 For Heim, the Christian ultimate end “includes” the ends of other religions: Christianity’s ultimate end involves communion with the three persons of the Trinity, whereas other religions “represent an intensified realization of one dimension of God’s offered relation with us. This intensification comes through limitation, in that a dimension (or some subset of dimensions) is taken to be God’s sole true relation with us.”8 Thus, the ends of other religions involve a limited, less deep participation in the Trinitarian life because they focus on just one dimension of God.

Beyond Buddhist inclusivism   157 Christianity on the other hand, is the only religion that establishes a less limited and deeper relationship with the Trinity.9 Speaking about Buddhism, Heim states that: in encountering the emptiness of the world or the sustaining activity that upholds the world, we are meeting God in a particular phase of God’s relation to us as creator. This is a real and valid relation, but it is isolated from other features of the triune communion.10 Thus, from the Christian perspective of Heim, the Buddhist experience of emptiness is a limited yet genuine encounter with God but isolated from other features of the Triune God. Moreover, Heim explains emptiness as an apprehension of “the exchange among the divine persons,” as “contact with the impersonality of the divine.”11 This Christian reading of Buddhist emptiness, however, does not mean that for Heim Christianity has nothing to learn from Buddhism. On the contrary, for Heim the Buddhist concentration on just one dimension of God can enhance the overall Christian comprehension of the Trinity. Thus, Heim’s model is a form of pluralistic-­inclusivism because it is open to new instances of OTMIX in other traditions, not just the same thing that is found in one’s own tradition, as inclusivist models would claim. Heim’s model allows for mutual learning, although Christians already know that whatever instances of OTMIX found in Buddhism and other traditions are penultimate, limited, less deep relationships with God. Communion with the Triune God is the ultimate end exclusive to Christianity, but this does not entail exclusivism. The ends of other traditions are penultimate and a lesser good compared to the ultimate end found exclusively in Christianity.12 Nevertheless, the penultimate ends of other traditions are genuine instances of OTMIX, limited participations in the Trinitarian life, an intensified though less than ideal relationships with at least one dimension of the same Triune God. Thus, since OTMIX exists in diverse religions, Heim’s model does not imply an exclusivist view despite of the fact that the ultimate end, namely communion with the Triune God, is found only in Christianity. Heim claims that his Christian multiple-­ends model is substantially different from single-­end Christian inclusivism. For single-­end inclusivism, other religions are different avenues to approach the same end, namely, relation with God through Christ. However, for Heim, other traditions may attain alternative, yet real and valid ends, that is, valid relationships with God, although not necessarily through Christ.13 Another difference between single-­end inclusivism and Heim’s multiple-­ends model is that, unlike single-­end inclusivism, Heim’s multiple-­ends model acknowledges the legitimacy of the views of other traditions: other traditions can make similar claims about the superiority of their ends from their respective orientations or perspectives. Heim recognizes that from non-­Christian perspectives other religions may claim that their ultimate end is superior to the Christian end,

158   Pluralistic-inclusivism and consider the Christian end penultimate compared with what they perceive as the ultimate end. Like Christians, members of other religions may legitimately claim that the highest and ultimate end is exclusively attainable through their respective traditions. This is not exclusivism as long as the ends of other traditions are considered real, valid, and alternative instances of OTMIX. They are penultimate instances but nevertheless instances of OTMIX. For Heim, value judgments about the ends of other traditions are epistemologically unavoidable; there is no reason to avoid superiority claims “as long as we realize that other traditions make similar reciprocal judgments about the supremacy of their religious end.”14 According to Heim, this clash of contradictory claims about the same ends—ultimate from one perspective and penultimate from another—does not pose any problem. In Heim’s words, “Recognizing a diversity of perspectives allows us to say that contradictory statements can both be true at the same time, of different persons with different perspectives.”15 In conclusion, Heim’s multiple-­ends model can be summarized as making two fundamental claims. First, there are many ends that are alternative, real, and valid salvations (instances of OTMIX). Second, there are many conflicting claims about the nature of the ultimate end, each one legitimate from its own perspective. In order to determine whether Heim’s model is applicable to the Pāli Nikāyas, it is necessary to address two questions: (1) Would the Buddha accept the legitimacy of multiple ends, considering them alternative, real, and valid salvations or instances of OTMIX? (2) Would the Buddha accept the legitimacy of many conflicting claims about the ultimate end, each legitimate from its own perspective?

8.3  The multiple ends that the Buddha accepts The Buddha accepts various ends that result from the performance of ethical and spiritual actions. By ethical and spiritual actions it is meant actions that generate “kamma” or “karma” in Sanskrit. Since the Sanskrit term “karma” is already part of the English language, I use karma instead of the Pāli term kamma. For the Buddha, actions produce karma when they are intentional in the sense of being voluntary. In order to make this point, the Buddha defines action as intention or volition (cetanā): “It is intention, monks, what I call action. Having intended, someone acts through body, speech, and mind.”16 Some scholars have interpreted this definition as implying that only the intention or motivation behind actions count as karma or as karmically fruitful actions. In my reading, however, the Buddha is saying that without freewill or volition, i.e., intention, there is no karma or karmically fruitful actions. That is, I read the Buddha’s definition of action as saying that intention is a necessary condition for the existence of ethically and spiritually relevant actions, not that intention is the only aspect of action that generate karma. For the Buddha, the consequences, the circumstances, and the intrinsic nature of actions are also relevant for the karmic fruitfulness of actions, not simply intention or the mental state that motivates actions. The Buddha speaks about mental, verbal, and bodily actions, and he does not

Beyond Buddhist inclusivism   159 reduce actions to mental actions, nor mental actions to intentions. All mental, verbal, and bodily actions, not just intentions, can be karmically fruitful. Intention is an indispensable requirement for the existence of karma, but never what defines all mental actions, even less what defines all actions that are karmically relevant. It would be problematic to call “religious” all the possible ends that result from karmically fruitful actions because some of these ends are more “material” or “mundane” in nature than spiritual or religious. For instance, at A.IV.197, the Buddha tells Queen Mallikā that material benefits such as wealth, social influence, and physical beauty result from not displaying anger, hatred, and resentment; from not being envious of others’ achievements, honor, and respect; and from extending generosity to holy people. If we distinguished between “religious” and “non-­religious” multiple ends, we would not be interpreting the Pāli Nikāyas in their own terms. For the Buddha, there seems to be a continuity between “religious” ends such as good rebirths and nibbāna (liberation and highest holiness), and “non-­religious” ends such as prosperity, health, beauty, and social influence. For instance, at M. III.202–6, the Buddha explains that killing leads to a bad rebirth or, if a killer is born as a human being, to a short life. Conversely, abstaining from killing leads to a happy rebirth or, if born as a human being, to a long life. Injuring beings leads to an unhappy rebirth or, if one is reborn as human, to being sick frequently. Conversely, respecting life leads to a good rebirth, or to a healthy life if one is born as human. Being angry and irritable, displaying hate and bitterness, makes one ugly; doing the opposite makes one beautiful. Envy of others’ achievements and honors leads to being powerless, doing the opposite makes one influential. Being stingy with holy people leads to poverty and giving leads to wealth. Obstinance, arrogance, and failure to respect those worthy of respect leads to a low-­birth; the opposite leads to being high-­born. Finally, failure to ask wise and holy people about what is wholesome and unwholesome, about what someone should and should not cultivate, and about the actions conducive to harm and suffering versus welfare and happiness, leads to stupidity in a next life; the opposite leads to wisdom. Thus, if we distinguished “religious” from “non-­religious” ends, we would be separating what for the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas is somewhat united. What unifies the aforementioned multiple ends discussed by the Buddha is precisely that they all may derive from karmically fruitful actions. I say “may” because for the Buddha not all experiences are the consequence of past karma. The Buddha explicitly rejects karmic determinism, which is the view according to which “whatever this person feels, whether pleasure or pain or neutral, all that is caused by what was done in the past.”17 That is, penultimate ends such as health, beauty, wealth, and social status, usually derive from ethical and spiritual practice, but this is not necessarily the case. Another reason why the adjective “religious” would be inadequate to describe the multiple ends that usually result from karmically fruitful actions is that, for  the Buddha, ethical and spiritual practice is not necessarily confined to

160   Pluralistic-inclusivism institutionalized religions or religion in the modern sense. Since ethical and spiritual practice can take place both inside and outside religions, it seems arbitrary to call “religious” the multiple ends that usually derive from such practice. All this means that interpreting the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas from the perspective of Heim’s Trinitarian theology of multiple religious ends misses the non-­religious nature of many Buddhist penultimate ends. It also overlooks the intrinsic connection between the ultimate end of nibbāna and the penultimate ends of karmically fruitful actions. The penultimate ends and the ultimate end of nibbāna are intrinsically connected because they are all the consequence of a unitary process of mental purification through ethical and spiritual practice. Perhaps a better way to interpret the Pāli Nikāyas and do more justice to this unitary process of inner cultivation is to distinguish between internal or external ends, or between spiritual and non-­spiritual ends. Ends such as health, beauty, social influence, and prosperity are non-­spiritual and somewhat external. On the other hand, ends such as wisdom, discernment, love, compassion, and other wholesome mental states are spiritual or internal ends. The ultimate end of nibbāna involves both liberation and highest holiness, that is, the most advanced stage of moral and spiritual development. The state of nibbāna includes a variety of mental qualities and character traits, or using Buddhist terminology, a variety of mental factors (cetasika) and perfections (pāramī, Skt. pāramitā). Unlike any other states discussed in the Pāli Nikāyas, the mental state of nibbāna is unconditioned in the sense of being no longer subject to the process of specific conditionality of suffering, which is the process that leads to birth, becoming, old age, disease, and death. Spiritual ends are more important than non-­spiritual ends. All ends except nibbāna are penultimate. The state of nibbāna includes all wholesome mental states, but in a state of fulfillment or completion. For the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, nibbāna and highest holiness are intertwined. Someone can be wise, loving, or compassionate to a great extent without realizing nibbāna, but nibbāna cannot be realized without the perfection of wisdom, love, compassion, and all the other wholesome mental states that constitute the ultimate end. This distinction between penultimate ends and the ultimate end—although not in cognate terminology—appears explicitly in the Pāli Nikāyas. For instance, at S.III.189 the monk Rādha asks for the purpose or goal (attha) of seeing correctly (sammādassanaṃ), and the Buddha replies that it is disenchantment (nibbidā). Next, Rādha asks for the purpose of disenchantment, and the Buddha responds that it is dispassion (virāgo). Rādha asks for the purpose of dispassion, and the Buddha replies that it is liberation (vimutti), which in this context refers to the meditative absorptions called immaterial jhānas. Once again, Rādha asks for the purpose of liberation, and the Buddha replies that it is nibbāna. Finally, when Rādha asks for the purpose of nibbāna the Buddha replies: “You have gone beyond the range of questioning, Rādha. You weren’t able to grasp the limit of your questioning. For Rādha, the holy life is lived with nibbāna as its ground, nibbāna as its destination, nibbāna as its final goal.”18

Beyond Buddhist inclusivism   161 Similarly, at M.I.149–50 the simile of the seven relay chariots seems to suggest that the achievement of different spiritual ends, called in this context purifications, eventually culminates in the ultimate end of nibbāna. The seven are the purifications of (1) virtue, (2) mind, (3) view, (4) overcoming doubt, (5) knowledge and vision of what is the path and what is not the path, (6) knowledge and vision of the way, and (7) knowledge and vision, which is said to be for the sake of reaching final nibbāna (parinibbāna) without attachment. Thus, for the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, it would be impossible to speak about multiple penultimate ends that are real and valid alternatives to the ultimate end of nibbāna. In other words, Heim’s idea of multiple alternative salvations and multiple religious fulfillments would be unacceptable to the Buddha. The Buddha only accepts the existence of one ultimate end or goal, a single understanding of human fulfillment: “Friends, the goal is one, not many” (ekā hāvuso niṭṭhā, na puthu niṭṭhā) (M.I.64). This unique ultimate end involves liberation from suffering and the highest stage of holiness. In other words, liberation is attained by someone without infatuation (rāga), hate (dosa), delusion (moha), craving (taṇha), clinging (upādāna), with insight (viddasu), without favoring and opposing (anuruddhapaṭiviruddha), and without delighting in and enjoying conceptual proliferation (papañcārāma, papañcarata) (M.I.64–5). For the Buddha, nibbāna is the one and only ultimate end of the spiritual path, the culmination of all virtues and perfections, the fulfillment of the noble eightfold path. Although for the Buddha nibbāna is indeed found in the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline, it need not be unique to any particular Buddhist tradition as the early concept of paccekabuddha demonstrates. The single-­end model of the Buddha can be called representative because Buddhas and other enlightened beings represent rather than constitute the Dharma. That is, Buddhas and other enlightened beings rediscover the Dharma; the Dharma and its various aspects do not depend on the existence of Buddhas, Buddhism, and Buddhists. In other words, for the Buddha there are multiple representations of the Dharma before and after his teachings, inside and outside the traditions initiated by Buddhas. Some of these representations of the Dharma can be sufficient to attain nibbāna and the highest stages of spiritual development. Whether or not a representation of the Dharma is sufficient to attain nibbāna and  highest holiness cannot be determined a priori, by definition, without actual knowledge of such representations. That seems to be the reason why the Buddha provides non-­exclusivist criteria to determine what teachers and teachings can be considered representations of the Dharma that are ethically and soteriologically relevant. In sum, Buddhists who consider canonical the teachings of the Buddha in the Pāli Nikāyas cannot ignore the aforementioned criteria and dismiss beforehand the existence of liberation and highest holiness in all non-­ Buddhist traditions. That would render the Buddha’s criteria unnecessary and would contradict the early Buddhist concept of paccekabuddha, which entails the existence of liberation and holiness independently of Buddhas, Buddhism, and Buddhists.

162   Pluralistic-inclusivism Having clarified that the Buddha accepts the existence of multiple representations of the Dharma with liberation and highest holiness as the ultimate end, we need to address a second question: would the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas accept a plurality of perspectives that make conflicting yet equally legitimate claims about the ultimate end? Would the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas accept diverse perspectives, each one claiming to possess a valid path towards a different ultimate end that may look penultimate from other perspectives? The short answer is “no.” For the Buddha, truth is not a matter of perspective, but rather a question of wisdom versus ignorance. You either know with direct insight the ultimate end or not; you either ­experience liberation and reach highest holiness or not. One way in which the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas suggests that there is only one truth about spiritual matters and the ultimate end is by saying that “truth is one, not many.”19 The Buddha challenged claims that misinterpreted diverse meditative absorptions as if they were the ultimate end.20 Instead of saying that such misunderstandings of highly refined states of consciousness were true to some extent or tenable from a particular perspective, the Buddha simply rejected them and pointed out the reasons why someone may mistake them for the ultimate end, usually ignorance, craving, and attachment. Some of these meditative absorptions are called liberations (vimutti) in the Pāli Nikāyas. However, there is not enough evidence to conclude that the Buddha accepted a variety of alternative liberations. These meditative absorptions are penultimate compared to nibbāna, which is, for the Buddha, the only state that qualifies as liberation and highest holiness. For this reason, I interpret the use of the term liberation in reference to some meditative absorptions as suggesting that they can be a valid venue to attain nibbāna, not as implying that they are alternative ultimate ends. Thus, the idea that there are many perspectives that allow for many alternative liberations and contradictory claims about the ultimate end of nibbāna would be for the Buddha unacceptable. What is ultimate from the Buddha’s perspective, nibbāna, cannot be penultimate from the perspective of other religions. Rather, what for other religions is ultimate would be penultimate compared to nibbāna. For the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, nibbāna remains the ultimate end regardless of the perspective someone adopts. The fact that someone does not perceive nibbāna as the ultimate end only shows that he or she has not yet reached liberation and highest holiness. The Buddha makes this point at M.III.130–1 with the simile of two persons climbing a mountain. From the top of the mountain one person can perceive lovely parks and meadows, but from the foot of the mountain the other person denies the existence of such things. The person on the top descends and helps the other to reach the top; it is then that both are able to perceive lovely parks and meadows. Thus, for the Buddha the existence of lovely parks and meadows is not a matter of perspective, but rather a matter of reaching or not reaching the summit of spiritual development. Perhaps another comparison may help to understand the Buddha’s position. Liberation is like climbing Mount Everest. While you are climbing, Mount

Beyond Buddhist inclusivism   163 Everest does not seem to be the tallest peak, but this is a perspective error. Once you get to the top you realize you were mistaken. Likewise, some people in Pakistan claim that the K2 is the highest mountain on earth, not Mount Everest. Saying that some people from the Pakistani perspective believe the K2 is the highest mountain while others from different perspectives believe Mount Everest is the highest might be descriptively true, and perhaps the politically correct thing to say. However, this acceptance of multiple perspectives from which people can legitimately make contradictory claims about the highest mountain does not change the fact that one of the two mountains is the highest. Similarly, for the Buddha, liberation would be the highest spiritual end and any claims denying this would be perspective errors. For the Buddha, making normative claims about nibbāna is not a matter of opinion or a matter of faith but rather a matter of wisdom and personal realization. For the Buddha, nibbāna is the ultimate end and this can be denied only by those at lower stages of spiritual development. The third noble truth/reality (sacca) and the ideal of holiness it presupposes remain always the case whether there are Buddhas and Buddhists in the world. Any denial of the objective nature of the third noble truth or of any other truth that constitutes the Dharma would be for the Buddha a perspective error, never an alternative truth valid from a different perspective. If it is the case that the Buddha’s view of the ultimate end is incompatible with the idea of multiple salvations and conflicting claims about the ultimate end, each legitimate from its own perspective, then we have to conclude that Mark Heim’s model is inapplicable to the Pāli Nikāyas and unacceptable by Buddhists who consider these texts canonical.

Part V

Pluralism

9 Was the Buddha a pluralist?

In the previous chapter I have suggested that the Buddha’s view of religious diversity is not a form of inclusivism. This chapter clarifies the concept of pluralism and addresses the question of whether the Buddha can be considered a pluralist. Since the concept of pluralism means different things to different people, in order to address the question of whether the Buddha was a pluralist, we need to clarify first what the term pluralism means. In what follows, I distinguish between three senses of pluralism: (1) pluralism as a modern/postmodern ideology that celebrates difference and diversity; (2) pluralism as an attitude that proactively engages other traditions through dialogue without necessarily seeking agreement or conversion; and (3) pluralism as a view about the existence of OTMIX in other traditions. There are many other possible meanings of pluralism but they are not directly related to the main concern in this book, i.e., the Buddha’s approach to religious diversity. For instance, ethical, ontological, and political pluralism are not necessarily related to the issue of religious diversity. That is, someone may be a pluralist in ethics, ontology, and politics, yet s/he may not be a pluralist in terms of ideology, attitude, or view of other religious traditions. The first section examines Richard Hayes’ interpretation of the Buddha as not being a pluralist in the ideological sense. The second part explores Diane Eck’s understanding of pluralism as a dialogical attitude and its possible application to the Buddha. The third part clarifies what defines pluralism as a view of OTMIX among the religions, and investigates to what extent the Buddha can or cannot be interpreted as a pluralist in this sense.

9.1  Pluralism as a relativist ideology: Richard Hayes on the Buddha’s lack of pluralistic sentiments According to Richard Hayes, the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas was not a pluralist for two reasons. First, the Buddha advocated the existence of a single ultimate end, and a single method to attain it, which Hayes describes as the path of renunciation and good conduct.1 Second, the Buddha was not a pluralist because he thought that most religious beliefs and speculative views were harmful and

168   Pluralism unhealthy, the product of ignorance, fear, vested interests, and unwillingness to face unpleasant realities.2 For Hayes, not only the Buddha fails to display pluralistic sentiments but also Vasubandhu and the entire Sanskrit literature of Indian Mahāyāna. According to Hayes, the absence of pluralistic sentiments is not surprising because pluralism is “a distinctly modern ideology.”3 Hayes describes pluralism as being something more than mere tolerance of religions. For Hayes, pluralists celebrate diversity, considering it healthy and desirable.4 A true pluralist in the ideological sense should celebrate not only a variety of goals and methods to achieve them, but also s/he should view the existence of people seeking contradictory values as desirable and healthy. In Hayes words, one “should expect from a true pluralist the celebration of not only a variety of methods but also a variety of goals. A genuine pluralist would, for example, see it as desirable that some seek war while others seek peace, that some seek harmony while others seek strife.”5 Moreover, for Hayes, pluralists do not think that only one claim to ultimacy is valid. Rather, pluralists believe there are several valid claims to ultimacy. Consequently, pluralism is incompatible with Indian Buddhism as well as the triumphalist self-­understanding of most historical religions, which all tend to see themselves as the one and only religion that is ultimately valid. Hayes concludes that one should be intellectually honest and simply accept the historical fact that most religions are not pluralistic in this ideological sense, because they are based on the rejection and denigration of other traditions. For Hayes, trying to perceive elements of pluralism in ancient religions is anachronistic and intellectually dishonest.6 Hayes’s interpretation of pluralism can be summarized by the following three sentiments: (1) celebrating diversity, (2) considering healthy and desirable the existence of people seeking contradictory values, and (3) accepting the validity of more than one claim to ultimacy. Since these three sentiments cannot be attributed to the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, then he cannot be said to be a pluralist. Similarly, given that these three pluralistic sentiments originate in modern times, claiming that the Buddha is a pluralist would be intellectually dishonest and historically anachronistic. Actually, I agree with Hayes, although I would not define pluralism only as a modern/postmodern ideology that celebrates difference and axiological diversity. If pluralism is just what Hayes says it is, then it must be concluded that the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas is not a pluralist. The Buddha lacks the aforementioned pluralistic sentiments, and he could not possibly have known an ideology that originates within Western modernity, or perhaps more accurately, within Western postmodernity. However, I do not think that Hayes’ concept of pluralism is comprehensive enough to settle the question of whether the Buddha was a pluralist. Hayes’ discussion of the Buddha’s sentiments toward religious diversity does not take into account other possible meanings of pluralism, not even the most common meaning of pluralism among Christian theologians of religions. In order to do more justice to the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, it seems necessary to

Was the Buddha a pluralist?   169 distinguish at least between pluralism as an ideology, i.e., liberal pluralism,7 and pluralism as a view of religious diversity. While liberal pluralism or pluralism as an ideology involves a relativist claim about the legitimacy of several incommensurable ethical, political, and religious systems, holding a pluralist view of OTMIX does not entail relativism. This point is important because many people tend to caricaturize pluralistic attitudes and pluralist views of religious diversity with the relativism characteristic of ideological pluralism. Liberal or ideological pluralism opposes ethical and political forms of monism and absolutism. On the contrary, pluralism as a view of OTMIX is to be contrasted with exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralistic-­inclusivism. Within the most common understanding of the typology exclusivism-­inclusivism-pluralism among Christian theologians and philosophers of religions, exclusivists reject the existence of salvation in other religions, whereas inclusivists accept the existence of salvation in other religions, although somewhat mediated by Christ alone. In contrast to both exclusivism and inclusivism, pluralists claim that several religions can provide means to attain salvation independently of each other, that is, pluralists admit the possibility of salvation in other religions without the necessary mediation of Christ.8 I have expanded and reinterpreted this originally Christian typology of diverse views about the existence of salvation among non-­Christian religions. In my account, the typology is cross-­cultural and interreligious, not necessarily about salvation but rather about whatever functions as the most important in a particular context and for a tradition or set of traditions, i.e., OTMIX. The acronym OTMIX stands for our tradition most important X, where X may refer to different things depending on the context and the tradition(s) we are talking about. For instance, X may refer to the most important goal, teaching, ideal, reality, concern, value, revelation, etc. As we have seen, in the Pāli Nikāyas alone, depending on the context, there are several concepts that may function as the most important X: the four highest ascetics, the four noble truths, specific conditionality or dependent origination, nibbāna, Dharma. I have also understood the typology in terms of openness and distinguished between openness in theory or views about the existence of OTMIX among the religions, and openness in practice or attitudes toward religious diversity. I speak about four main views (exclusivist, inclusivist, pluralistic-­inclusivist, and pluralist), and three main attitudes (exclusivistic, inclusivistic, and pluralistic). Approaches to religious diversity involve a theoretical view of OTMIX and a practical attitude toward members of other religions. Combined, attitudes and views of religious diversity allow for diverse permutations. Whether we use Alan Race’s Christian typology, Schmidt-­Leukel’s rehabilitated version of the typology, or my interreligious and cross-­cultural framework, Hayes’ concept of pluralism does not correspond to the most common meanings of this term among Christian theologians and philosophers of religions. For Hayes, pluralists celebrate diversity and consider it healthy and desirable even  when people seek contradictory values such as war and peace. However,

170   Pluralism Christian pluralists such as John Hick, Paul Knitter, Raimundo Panikkar, John Cobb, and many others, explicitly reject relativism. Christian pluralists welcome religious diversity but without falling into relativism. For instance, John Hick speaks about a similar spiritual transformation across religions from self-­ centeredness to Reality-­centeredness. Likewise, Paul Knitter talks about “eco-­ human wellbeing” as a universal normative goal to which all religions ought to contribute. Moreover, religious pluralists explicitly reject the accusation of relativism. For instance, Diane Eck says that “pluralism is not simply relativism. It does not displace or eliminate deep religious commitments or secular commitments for that matter.”9 Likewise Panikkar distinguishes between relativity and relativism, claiming that “relativism is self-­defeating agnosticism.”10 Hayes’ concept of pluralism is problematic because not all those who accept religious diversity as a matter of principle celebrate axiological relativism or consider it desirable that people seek contradictory values. Accepting religious diversity as a matter of principle should not be confused with celebrating diversity to the extreme of endorsing ethical, political, and religious relativism, as Hayes seems to assume. For instance, the Buddha and the XIV Dalai Lama accept religious diversity as a matter of principle but they do not celebrate contradictory values and advocate relativism. In many of his books the Dalai Lama compares religions to different medicines that can be appropriate to heal different kinds of people. This unambiguous acceptance of religious diversity does not entail relativism in the sense of celebrating any kind of diversity and making religions equally true and valid. Rather, accepting religions because they function as different medicines useful for some people at various stages of spiritual development is perfectly consistent with the Buddha’s doctrine of skillful means (upāya). Properly understood, the Buddhist doctrine of skillful means has nothing to do with relativism, only with pedagogical pragmatism and the gradual nature of spiritual development. People require different teachings and practices depending on their level of understanding and spiritual development. The Buddhist acceptance of religious diversity need not derive from a pluralistic attitude nor from a pluralist view. Inclusivist views and inclusivistic attitudes are also compatible with the acceptance and even celebration of religious diversity. Another problem with Hayes’ understanding of pluralism is that it takes for granted that pluralism is a Western and modern ideology, therefore, he argues, any attempt to find pluralistic elements in ancient Indian Buddhism is anachronistic and intellectually dishonest. However, if the Buddhist doctrine of skillful means allows the Dalai Lama and other Buddhists to accept and even celebrate without relativism religious diversity, then attributing a non-­relativistic form of pluralism in the ideological sense to Indian Buddhism need not be anachronistic or just a Western concept that did not exist before modernity. If Buddhists can accept and even celebrate diversity to some extent in the name of the doctrine of skillful means, then Hayes’ view of the entire Indian Sanskrit literature as incompatible with pluralism in the ideological sense needs to be reconsidered. Maybe the term pluralism is a Western and modern concept, but the idea of genuinely accepting and even celebrating diversity to some extent need not be.

Was the Buddha a pluralist?   171 Similarly, as we will see in the next section, if pluralism is understood as a dialogical attitude that proactively engages members from other traditions, then it seems possible to consider the Buddha a pluralist without having to fall into ­anachronism and intellectual colonialism. Another reason that makes Hayes’ interpretation of the Buddha problematic is that he seems to assume an “original” meaning of Buddhist texts. He suggests that if interpreters approach ancient Buddhist texts with intellectual honesty and without projecting modern ideologies, they will find out that the Buddha was not a pluralist. This presupposes an “original” meaning of texts that seems to exist in a somewhat Platonic world of ideas independently of the historical and cultural location of interpreters. This transcendent world of original meanings would be accessible only to “intellectually honest” interpreters. However, this assumption about the “original” meaning of ancient Buddhist texts accessible to “intellectually honest” interpreters is inconsistent with what Buddhists from different traditions have done throughout history with Buddhist texts. There is plenty of evidence indicating that translators, editors, commentators, and reformers from all Buddhist traditions have done more than just rendering the “original” meaning of texts. The same can be said about Buddhist scholars dealing with Buddhist texts—they have done much more than just reproducing the original meaning intended by authors. The fact is that interpreters from different periods and traditions have ­developed new meanings over time, not because they committed the sin of anachronism and intellectual dishonesty, but rather because ancient Buddhist texts are complex enough to allow for more than just one interpretation. This does not entail hermeneutical relativism, which would be rejected by all Buddhist scholars, translators, editors, commentators, and reformers past and present. Rather, the point is that the meaning of ancient Buddhist texts is not totally independent of interpreters, be they uncritical or historical-­critical. In other words, ancient Buddhist texts do not have a permanent and independently arisen “original” meaning, yet the meaning of Buddhist texts is not totally equivocal and relative. Even the meaning of a single term can be open to more than just one interpretation, as we have seen while discussing the compound “ekāyana.” No interpreter has access to the mind of the historical Buddha or to the “original” meaning of ancient Buddhist texts. Scholars try to interpret the Buddha in the most honest, charitable, and consistent way. However, strictly speaking, my interpretation of the Buddha is a plausible reconstruction of meaning, thus a constructive proposal. I cannot separate my non-­exclusivist and non-­inclusivist interpretation from the meaning of texts. Likewise, the prevalent Theravāda interpretation of the Buddha reconstructs the meaning of early Buddhist texts with exclusivist and inclusivist readings taken from later commentaries, mainly those of Buddhaghosa. I do not deny that the meaning of most Buddhist texts is straightforward and somehow independent of interpreters’ prejudices. However, when we ask big questions such as what was the Buddha’s approach to religious diversity, things get more complicated as this book demonstrates. If something can be inferred

172   Pluralism from our discussion of the Buddha’s approach to other traditions it is that the meaning of ancient Buddhist texts depends to a great extent on the hermeneutical baggage that interpreters carry with them. When I ask the question of whether or not the Buddha is a pluralist, the answer is not a simplistic yes or no. First, we need to clarify what it is meant by pluralism; second, we need to keep in mind that the Pāli Nikāyas contain many voices, not only the different voices of the Buddha at different times and places, but also the voices of the disciples who compiled, wrote, and edited his teachings. Following scholarly convention, I have decided to interpret the Pāli Nikāyas as representing the thought of the Buddha. This is not an arbitrary ­decision, but rather a well meditated decision based on the overall unitary and coherent nature of the teachings found in ancient Buddhist texts. However, I do this with critical awareness of the hermeneutical problems surrounding the Pāli Nikāyas, never assuming I can have direct access to the original intended meaning of such a vast collection of texts. In conclusion, Hayes’ hermeneutical assumptions and his concept of pluralism are questionable. Hayes’ interpretation demonstrates that the Buddha is not a pluralist in the sense of endorsing a relativist ideology that celebrates diversity in philosophical, ethical, spiritual and religious matters. This, however, seems uncontroversial, yet insufficient to determine whether the Buddha can be considered a pluralist in other senses of the term. It is true that the Buddha did not celebrate diversity and endorsed relativism in the way many liberal or ideological pluralists do, but this does not mean he cannot be considered a pluralist in other senses. In my reading, the Buddha’s doctrine of skillful means is incompatible with relativism, but it nevertheless allows for the pluralist acceptance of religious diversity as a matter of principle. I would not suggest, however, that the primary purpose of the Buddha’s doctrine of skillful means is to justify religious diversity. Later Mahāyāna Buddhism tended to understand the doctrine of skillful means primarily as a way of explaining Buddhist diversity, as can be inferred from the simile of the burning house in the Lotus Sūtra. Obviously, the amount of diversity justifiable by the doctrine of skillful means in the Pāli Nikāyas is quite limited, i.e., it does not allow for contradiction with and within the Buddha’s teachings. In this regard, from the perspective of the Pāli Nikāyas, the Mahāyāna justification of Buddhist diversity to the point of attributing false and contradictory teachings to the Buddha seems unaccept­ able. In other words, the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas and his doctrine of skillful means allow for acceptance and perhaps “celebration” of religious diversity as long as such diversity does not conflict with the Dharma. This, however, can be said of the Buddha of the Lotus Sūtra as well; he would accept and “celebrate” Buddhist diversity in exactly the same way, although with a much broader understanding of the Buddha’s teachings. Even pluralists in the ideological sense accept and celebrate religious diversity in a limited way, i.e., as long as such diversity does not threaten certain standards they hold dear. If this is the case, then the difference between the

Was the Buddha a pluralist?   173 Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas and pluralists in the ideological sense would be simply a matter of degree because all of them accept and “celebrate” diversity to some extent, as long as such diversity does not clash with what they consider nonnegotiable. Nevertheless, since the Buddha’s doctrine of skillful means in the Pāli Nikāyas allows for far less diversity than the diversity that contemporary ideological pluralism permits, I cannot consider the Buddha a pluralist in the ideological sense of celebrating diversity to the point of endorsing axiological relativism. This relativistic and ultra-­liberal understanding of ideological pluralism is incompatible with the Buddha’s teachings in the Pāli Nikāyas.

9.2  Pluralism as a dialogical attitude: would the Buddha accept Diane Eck’s concept of pluralism? Diane Eck understands pluralism not as a relativistic and liberal ideology that celebrates diversity but rather as a proactive attitude that engages religious differences though dialogue without necessarily seeking agreement or conversion. In what follows, I argue that this sense of pluralism as a dialogical attitude can be applied to the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas without falling into anachronism or cultural imperialism. Eck differentiates her dialogical understanding of pluralism from the concept of pluralism as a relativist ideology: “Pluralism is not an ideology, not a leftist scheme, and not a free-­form relativism. Rather, pluralism is dynamic process through which we engage with one another in and through our very deepest differences.”11 By engagement with others in and through our deepest differences, Eck refers, not to any kind of engagement with differences, but specifically to dialogical engagement. In her words: “The language of pluralism is the language not just of difference but of engagement, involvement, and participation. It is the language of traffic, exchange, dialogue, and debate.”12 Thus, being a pluralist is not necessarily a matter of endorsing a relativist ideology that celebrates any kind of diversity. Pluralism can also be understood as a dialogical attitude towards religious diversity, a practical disposition to proactively engage other religious traditions and viewpoints through dialogue. In other words, not all pluralists need to be relativists. Eck clarifies her concept of pluralism by making four points about what pluralism is not. First, pluralism is not another name for diversity. Rather, pluralism is the proactive engagement with diversity; pluralism must be created and that requires involvement and participation. Second, pluralism is not mere tolerance of those who are different, but rather the active attempt to understand them. While tolerance does not require knowing anything about others, and does little to counteract stereotypes and fear of others, pluralism seeks mutual understanding. Third, pluralism is not valueless relativism, and it is not intended to lead to the abdication of deep faith commitments. Rather, pluralism engages differences and particularities without undermining commitment to one particular faith, and without watering down such differences and particularities. This engagement takes place around the “common table” of discussion and debate. Such dialogical

174   Pluralism engagement with people from other faiths does not aim at achieving agreement, but rather at achieving relationship. Fourth, pluralism is not something that can ever be finalized. Rather, pluralism is an endless process that needs to be worked out by each generation. Building upon Eck’s understanding of pluralism I call the pluralistic attitude the proactive and open-­ended engagement of religious diversity, not for the sake of reaching agreement or conversion, but rather for the sake of seeking mutual understanding and a harmonious relationship among the regions. If by pluralism it is meant the pluralistic attitude, then it seems possible to consider the Buddha a pluralist without falling into anachronism or cultural imperialism. Dialogical attitudes and the process by which people from different traditions proactively engage one another in conversation can be found across religions and cultures long before Westerners or scholars of comparative religion like Eck called it pluralism. The Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas displays a dialogical attitude strikingly similar to what Eck understands by pluralism. If we measure the Pāli Nikāyas with the four points Eck uses to define pluralism, it seems uncontroversial to conclude that the Buddha was a pluralist in the sense of displaying pluralistic attitudes. The first point is that pluralism is not another name for diversity but rather the active engagement of that diversity. The Pāli Nikāyas contain innumerable dialogues that demonstrate how the Buddha proactively engaged lay people, ascetics, and brahmins with a great variety of beliefs and practices, and from different social backgrounds. Rather than avoiding interaction with religious diversity, the Buddha proactively engaged that diversity though dialogue. The second point is that pluralism is not mere tolerance of those who are different, but rather the active attempt to understand them. Again, the Pāli Nikāyas demonstrate that the Buddha did not limit himself to tolerating those who were different. Rather, the hundreds of conversations recorded in the Pāli Nikāyas show how the Buddha tries to understand diverse teachings and spiritual practices. On other occasions, the Buddha counteracts negative stereotypes about his position, which can be considered an instance of seeking understanding, or more precisely, an instance of clarifying misunderstandings about his teachings. For instance, many seemed to have misunderstood the Buddha’s doctrine of non-­self as entailing nihilism and the destruction of beings after death. The Buddha vehemently rejects this accusation, considering it a misrepresentation of his position, and clarifies that he only teaches suffering and its cessation.13 Like pluralists in Eck’s sense, the Buddha does not agree with everybody, and he does challenge many beliefs and practices in a dialogical, peaceful way. Most of the time, the Buddha explains his teachings to others with his own terminology; but sometimes the Buddha gives new meaning to the language of other traditions in order to communicate better his views. The Pāli Nikāyas contain many debates comparing Buddhist and non-­Buddhist teachings. Needless to say, the Buddha and his disciples win the debates most times, and those who start arguing with the Buddha usually end up taking refuge, that is, converting and

Was the Buddha a pluralist?   175 joining his community of disciples. However, there are a few occasions in which there is no agreement and the two camps of the debate part company after a friendly conversation. In some texts, the Buddha prefers to avoid doctrinal disputes altogether, setting aside certain questions and leaving the answer to such questions undetermined (avyākata). This is not substantially different from what many people do today while practicing interfaith dialogue. They part company peacefully even when agreement is not feasible, and they avoid controversial issues so that the conversation does not stop before it actually starts. The third point is that pluralism is not the abdication of differences and particularities, but rather engagement of those differences without abandoning one’s own convictions and without watering down one’s own identity. Again, the Pāli Nikāyas provide overwhelming evidence indicating that the Buddha and his disciples engaged diversity while being strongly committed to certain beliefs and practices. Neither the Buddha nor his disciples compromised their ethical, spiritual, and philosophical standards in order to please their interlocutors, to be more popular among members of other traditions, or to gain more support from lay devotees. The Pāli Nikāyas do record an attempt to accommodate the demands of some disciples who did not think much of strict ascetic practices such as fasting. Making strict ascetic practices optional, however, does not mean that the Buddha was less committed to the beliefs and practices constitutive of the noble eightfold path. Like pluralists in Eck’s sense today, the Buddha entered dialogue with strong convictions and without compromising what he perceived as true, good, and useful to attain liberation and highest holiness. The fourth point states that pluralism is not something that can be ever finalized. Rather, pluralism is an open-­ended process that needs to be activated on a regular basis. The Buddha proactively engaged people from other traditions throughout his teaching career. Even a few hours before his death, the Buddha was open to dialogue with ascetics from other traditions like Subhadda. Ānanda would not let Subhadda visit the Buddha due to his poor health, but the Buddha insisted on letting Subhadda talk to him. Moreover, before dying, the Buddha advises his community of disciples to follow the example of the Vajjian people, who “hold regular and frequent assemblies.”14 That is, the Buddha encourages his disciples to meet together on a regular basis. The advice to “hold regular and frequent assemblies” can be interpreted as a call to engage one another through dialogue. The practice of “holding regular and frequent assemblies” is said to be conducive to flourishing and prosperity. The Pāli term is aparihāniya, which literally means not-­diminution, not-­ decrease, not-­wasting away, not-­decay. If the Buddha perceives the practice of “holding regular and frequent assemblies” as something good for the community of the Vajjians as well as for his own community of disciples, it seems plausible to suggest that the Buddha would consider interfaith dialogue indispensable for the flourishing of all communities. If the Buddha recommends engaging others through dialogue because it fosters flourishing and prosperity among the Vajjian people and his community of disciples, it seems possible to infer that, for him, “holding regular and frequent assemblies” would also lead to the flourishing and

176   Pluralism prosperity of any community. Thus, it seems possible to suggest that the Buddha displays a pluralistic attitude toward dialogue and that he would also consider the proactive dialogical engagement of religious diversity an open-­ended process conducive to harmonious relationships and the flourishing of communities. Perhaps the quote that best illustrates the Buddha’s pluralistic attitude toward dialogue appears at D.I.162–3. There, the Buddha acknowledges that he agrees with some spiritual masters on certain points and disagrees with them on others. More important, for the Buddha such disagreements should not stop the dialogue with teachers and teachings from other traditions. Rather, when the dialogue focuses on topics on which no agreement seems possible, the Buddha proposes to set them aside, and to continue the dialogue about topics on which there is common ground (ṭhāna). The text is repetitive but worthy of being quoted in full. Walshe’s translation reads: Kassapa, there are some ascetics and Brahmins who are wise, skilled, practiced in disputation, splitters of hairs, acute, who walk cleverly along the paths of views. Sometimes their views accord with mine, sometimes they do not. What they sometimes applaud, we sometimes applaud, what they sometimes do not applaud, we sometimes do not applaud; what they sometimes applaud, we sometimes do not applaud, and what they sometimes do not applaud, we sometimes applaud. What we sometimes applaud, they sometimes applaud, what we sometimes do not applaud, they sometimes do not applaud. What we sometimes applaud, they sometimes do not applaud, and what we sometimes do not applaud, they sometimes applaud. On approaching them I say: “In these things there is no agreement, let us leave them aside. In these things there is agreement: there let the wise take up, cross-­question and criticize these matters with the teachers or with their followers . . .”.15 Walshe translates the term ṭhāna as “agreement.” However, this is a bit misleading. The point of the text does not seem to be that dialogue is done for the sake of reaching agreement on each and every topic under discussion. Rather, the point is that for dialogue to take place there must be some common ground. The Pāli term ṭhāna need not be translated as agreement; it can also be translated as “ground” and arguably as “foundation.” In this context the term ṭhāna refers not to agreement but rather to that which provides the foundation or the grounds for dialogue, that is, the “common ground” necessary for any dialogue to start. Once there is some common ground to start with, then the dialogue proceeds. Walshe’s translation does not capture the meaning of ṭhāna in this context. If ṭhāna meant “agreement” as Walshe suggests, then there would not be any need to continue the dialogue. But the text clearly states that once there is ṭhāna, then the wise “take up, cross-­question and criticize these matters with the teachers or with their followers.” That is, the dialogue takes place once there is some common ground to start with, not once there is an agreement, which would render the dialogue unnecessary.

Was the Buddha a pluralist?   177 In conclusion, if the standards for considering someone a pluralist are Diane Eck’s four points about pluralism, then the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas could be considered a pluralist. In order to avoid confusion between different meanings of pluralism, I distinguish between pluralism as a view of OTMIX and the pluralistic attitude. The Buddha displays a pluralistic attitude because he proactively engages religious diversity through dialogue, but without subordinating dialogue to agreement or conversion. Dialogue, for the Buddha, is an open-­ended process that seeks mutual understanding and harmonious relationships with others, not necessarily agreement or conversion. Pluralistic attitudes toward dialogue are qualitatively different from inclusivistic attitudes. Unlike pluralistic attitudes, inclusivistic attitudes toward interfaith dialogue tend to be condescending and patronizing. Other religions tend to be interpreted as useful instruments to advance the agenda of one’s own religion. Other religions may serve as a preparation or as stepping stones toward one’s own religion. The relative truth and goodness of other religions is not denied by inclusivistic attitudes, but they are seen as somewhat defective and in need of fulfillment by one’s own religion. Like inclusivistic attitudes, pluralistic attitudes genuinely respect other religions, truly appreciate their teachings, and do not discriminate against their members. However, unlike inclusivistic attitudes, pluralistic attitudes do not start interfaith dialogue with a priori assumptions about the inferior nature of other religions and what they have to offer to one’s own tradition. Unlike inclusivistic attitudes, pluralistic attitudes do not consider interfaith dialogue ultimately dispensable and subordinated to mission and proclamation. The ultimate goals of interfaith dialogue are mutual understanding and harmonious relationships among the religions, not bringing others to accept the teachings of one’s own religion. Conversion and agreement are not ruled out, but they are not the ultimate goals of dialogue. The pluralistic attitude is independent of other senses of pluralism. That is, someone can display a pluralistic attitude without holding a pluralist view of religions, and without necessarily endorsing pluralism as an ideology that celebrates diversity to the point of falling into relativism. The open-­ended and proactive engagement of people from other traditions through dialogue without necessarily seeking agreement or conversion is not a necessary characteristic of those who advocate pluralism as an ideology. Likewise, being a pluralist in terms of attitude is not necessarily related to the pluralist view. People who hold inclusivist and pluralistic-­inclusivist views can also proactively engage others through dialogue without necessarily seeking agreement or conversion. By suggesting that the Buddha is a pluralist in the sense of displaying a dialogical attitude I am not trying to portray the Buddha in a way that is foreign to the Pāli Nikāyas; I am simply applying to the Buddha Eck’s understanding of pluralism and claiming that it can be found in the Pāli Nikāyas. Since I am not the first one to understand the concept of pluralism in a dialogical sense, I fail to see any problem with saying that the Buddha is a pluralist in the sense of displaying a pluralistic attitude. I concede that the term pluralism does not appear in the Pāli Nikāyas, but the dialogical attitude it signifies in Eck’s understanding of

178   Pluralism the term does appear. Speaking about the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas as a pluralist in the dialogical sense need not be anachronistic nor a sign of cultural imperialism; it can also be a useful way to capture an attitude that the Buddha displays in his interactions with members from other traditions. Claiming that the Buddha displays a pluralistic attitude does not settle the question of the Buddha’s pluralism either. We need to investigate further the concept of pluralism and answer the question of whether the Buddha holds a pluralist view of religious diversity.

9.3  Pluralism as a view: why the Buddha cannot be considered a pluralist in this sense Both pluralists and pluralistic-­inclusivists are open not only to similar instances of OTMIX in other traditions, but also to new instances of OTMIX. This openness to new instances of OTMIX in other traditions is what distinguishes pluralists and pluralistic-­inclusivists from ordinary inclusivists, who are open only to similar instances of OTMIX in other traditions. In other words, pluralism as a view agrees with pluralistic-­inclusivism in affirming that there are new instances of OTMIX in other traditions. In this regard, both pluralism and pluralistic-­ inclusivism go beyond inclusivism. However, pluralism goes even further than pluralistic-­inclusivism because it does not constrain OTMIX in other traditions with nonnegotiable doctrinal claims. Thus, unlike ordinary inclusivism and pluralistic-­inclusivism, pluralism does not set nonnegotiable dogmatic limits to what may or may not be found in other traditions. This new definition of the pluralist view helps to differentiate pluralists from pluralistic-­inclusivists. The new definition of the pluralist view is also useful to distinguish pluralists from those who tend to equate pluralism with the belief in multiple independently valid spheres of salvation. It might be the case that many traditions can lead their followers to the same ultimate goal independently of each other, i.e., without the necessary mediation of Jesus Christ, the Dharma, or any other reality. However, acknowledging that there are several ethical, spiritual, and religious traditions with potential to lead their followers to a single ultimate end has nothing to do with what I am referring to as the pluralist view. In my account, pluralism as a view is not about claiming that many traditions have enough soteriological potential, or that there are independently valid spheres of salvation/liberation. Likewise, the pluralist view has nothing to do with claiming that all traditions are equally valid, or that all traditions teach basically the same things. Rather, the pluralist view of religious diversity has to do with non-­dogmatically constrained openness to the existence of new instances of OTMIX in other traditions. The pluralist view presupposes three main claims: (1) there are similar instances of OTMIX in other traditions; (2) there are new instances of OTMIX in other traditions; and (3) such instances are not necessarily constrained by nonnegotiable doctrinal claims. The first claim marks the abandonment of exclusivist views, and it is common to ordinary inclusivists, pluralistic-­inclusivists, and

Was the Buddha a pluralist?   179 pluralists; the second claim entails the transcendence of inclusivist views, and it is common to pluralistic-­inclusivists and pluralists; the third claim differentiates pluralistic-­inclusivism from pluralism, and it is unique to pluralists. It is the combination of these three claims that allows us to speak about the pluralist view, not claiming that many traditions lead to the same goal, teach the same thing, or are equally valid. It is crucial to realize that inclusivists and pluralistic-­ inclusivists can also claim that there are many independently valid spheres of salvation/liberation, not just pluralists. The pluralist view should not be mistaken for pluralistic attitude. Someone who does not display pluralistic attitudes in practice can pluralistic be open to the existence of new instances of OTMIX in other traditions without nonnegotiable doctrinal constrains (the pluralist view). Similarly, someone can display a pluralistic attitude toward other traditions without having to hold a pluralist view of OTMIX. Pluralistic-­inclusivists, ordinary inclusivists, and even some exclusivists may display pluralistic attitudes in practice, but their openness to religious diversity is different from the non-­dogmatically constrained openness characteristic of pluralists. The pluralist view is likely to be accompanied by pluralistic attitudes, but we should not assume that this is necessarily the case. Having clarified the concept of pluralism and suggested that the Buddha can be said to display a pluralistic attitude toward religious diversity, we can address the question of whether the Buddha was a pluralist also in the sense of holding a pluralist view of OTMIX. If we were to use John Hick’s concept of pluralism as the yardstick to define the pluralist view, then we should conclude that the Buddha was a pluralist. The Buddha’s view could be reconstructed as accepting the existence of many independently valid spheres of salvation, or as accepting many traditions that can provide sufficient means to attain liberation and highest holiness. In the Pāli Nikāyas, the representations of the Dharma of past, present, and future Buddhas are independently valid, and they all provide sufficient means to attain liberation and highest holiness. The Dharma is not the monopoly of any tradition and it does not depend on the existence of the Buddha Gotama and the Buddhist schools derived from his teachings. Moreover, paccekabuddhas can realize the Dharma, fulfill the spiritual path, and attain liberation without the existence Buddhas, Buddhism, and Buddhists. Similarly, if we were to use David Griffin’s concept of generic pluralism as the standard to define the pluralist view, then we should conclude that the Buddha was a pluralist. The Buddha’s view of religious diversity can be reconstructed as making the two statements that Griffin proposes to define generic pluralism. 1

2

The negative statement: the Buddha does not affirm that his teaching-­anddiscipline is the only one that provides saving truths and values to their adherents, that is, the only one in which liberation and highest holiness can be found. The positive statement: the Buddha affirms that there are other traditions that provide saving truths and values to their adherents, i.e., wherever the

180   Pluralism noble eightfold path is found, there the four highest ascetics are found. At the very least there are saving truths and values in traditions in which paccekabuddhas originate. In other words, if, as I have argued, the exclusivist interpretation of the Buddha is problematic, then the Buddha can be understood as agreeing with the first statement of Griffin’s criterion to define generic pluralism. Likewise, if, as I have suggested, people from different traditions can practice the noble eightfold path, and if paccekabuddhas can attain liberation without relying on Buddhas, Buddhism, and Buddhists, then the Buddha can be interpreted as endorsing Griffin’s second statement too. However, for the reasons I have developed in the first two chapters, I prefer to define the pluralist view in terms of openness to the existence of OTMIX in other traditions, but without nonnegotiable doctrinal constrains. It is my contention that the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas cannot be considered a pluralist in this sense. The reason why I do not consider the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas a pluralist in the sense of holding the pluralist view is because he seems to presuppose nonnegotiable doctrinal claims about the nature of reality and the spiritual path. These doctrinal claims are somewhat dogmatic, at least when seen from outside the perspective of the Pāli Nikāyas. By dogmatic, I do not mean that such doctrinal claims derive from a priori reasoning or from blind faith in something. Rather, by dogmatic I mean that, for the Buddha, such doctrinal claims are nonnegotiable. The Buddha’s nonnegotiable doctrinal claims are the consequence of insight into the specific conditionality of suffering: the nature of suffering, its cause, its cessation, and the way leading to its cessation. This insight is, for the Buddha, a personal experience, a direct vision, an incontrovertible realization, the perfection of wisdom. The Buddha’s openness to new instances of OTMIX found in other traditions would be constrained by the nonnegotiable doctrinal claims that derived from this insight into the ultimate nature of reality. That is why I think it is best to interpret the Buddha’s view of religious diversity as a form of pluralistic-­ inclusivism, not as an instance of pluralism. In other words, the Buddha’s openness to OTMIX in other traditions would presuppose nonnegotiable doctrinal claims. I do not mean to suggest that the Buddha was a dogmatist in any way. Perhaps it would be useful to distinguish among two types of pluralistic-­inclusivists, those who constrain openness to OTMIX with a priori nonnegotiable doctrinal claims, and those who, like the Buddha, constrain openness to OTMIX with a posteriori nonnegotiable doctrinal claims. This distinction between a priori and a posteriori pluralistic-­inclusivism is important because it helps to differentiate two distinct types of nonnegotiable doctrinal claims: those that derive from faith or a priori reasoning, and those that derive from insight or direct realization. Both types of pluralistic-­inclusivism presuppose a somewhat dogmatic stance, but the two should not be confused. In the case of a priori pluralistic-­inclusivism,

Was the Buddha a pluralist?   181 the nonnegotiable doctrinal claims take place before experience or before actual knowledge of the way things are. In the case of a posteriori pluralistic-­ inclusivism, the nonnegotiable doctrinal claims take place after direct realization or after actual knowledge of the way things are. By suggesting that the Buddha’s openness to other traditions is constrained by nonnegotiable doctrinal claims, and therefore, it is somewhat dogmatic, I do not mean to insinuate that the Buddha is narrow-­minded. The Buddha’s nonnegotiable doctrinal claims are a posteriori, that is, they become nonnegotiable after his awakening to the ultimate nature of reality, the way things are, the Dharma. The existence of nonnegotiable doctrinal claims in the Pāli Nikāyas allows us to infer that the Buddha’s openness to religious diversity and any future representation of the Dharma would be critical and selective. That is, the Buddha would be open to what is consistent with his insights into the Dharma, rejecting whatever is contrary to what he perceived to be the way things are. There are several nonnegotiable doctrinal claims in the Pāli Nikāyas. One of the most important nonnegotiable doctrinal claims held by the Buddha appears in the Alagaddūpama Sutta. There, the monk Ariṭṭha states the following: “As I understand the Dharma taught by the Buddha, those things called obstructions by the Buddha are not able to obstruct one who indulges in them.”16 Ariṭṭha seems to be suggesting that indulging in what is likely to generate negative mental states such as craving and lust poses no problem for spiritual progress. More specifically, Ariṭṭha seems to assume that one can indulge in sensual pleasures without developing sensual desire, which is a negative mental state that for the Buddha leads to grasping (upādāna), a technical term that refers to addictive and obsessive behaviors. For the Buddha, such pristine indulgence in sensual pleasures is unrealistic: “Bhikkhus, that someone can indulge in sensual pleasures without sensual desire, without perceptions of sensual desire, without thoughts of sensual desire, that is impossible.”17 The verb that I translate as “indulge” is paṭisevati, which according to the PTS dictionary means “to follow, pursue, indulge in (acc.), practice.” Bhikkhu Bodhi however, translates paṭisevati as “engages,” somehow suggesting that the problem lies with any single act of sensual pleasure, not with the repetition of such acts. In my reading, however, what seems impossible for the Buddha is not “engaging” in individual sensual pleasures without sensual desire, but rather “indulging” in such pleasures without sensual desire. This nonnegotiable claim is not that every single sensual pleasure in which someone engages necessarily generates sensual desire. Rather, the nonnegotiable claim is that the repeated engagement, i.e., indulging in sensual pleasures generates sensual desires, which for the Buddha lead to grasping and selfish tendencies. After rebuking Ariṭṭha, the Buddha encourages his disciples to understand the Dharma properly and to avoid grasping at anything. This seems to indicate that main problem is not so much sensual pleasures but rather grasping, which for the Buddha is the fuel that keeps the process of suffering alive. In my reading, the fundamental point of the Alagaddūpama Sutta is not that the Buddha’s disciples

182   Pluralism should not grasp at sensual pleasures, but rather that they should not grasp at anything, whether sensual pleasures, his teachings, the five aggregates, or extreme views of identity, i.e., doctrines about a permanent Self/self that either exists eternally or is annihilated. The reason why the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas emphasizes so much ungrasping, i.e., letting go (anupādāna), is that for him liberation cannot take place with any remains of grasping. This intrinsic relationship between ungrasping and liberation seems to be another nonnegotiable doctrinal claim of the Buddha. In fact, a common way of describing the liberated being is “anupādā vimutto,” which means “liberated without grasping.” If liberation could take place with grasping, then the entire soteriological system of the Buddha would collapse. If Ariṭṭha’s claim were true and sensual desire were not an obstacle to attain liberation, then it would follow that grasping, which is the consequence of sensual desire and other negative mental states, is not an obstacle either. But then liberation could be attained with grasping and with sensual desire, which would contradict the specific conditionality of suffering taught by the Buddha. In other words, Ariṭṭha’s claim about indulging in sensual pleasures without sensual desires is a pernicious view because it contradicts what, for the Buddha, is the specific conditionality of suffering. Ariṭṭha’s claim breaks the chain of specific conditionality and dependent origination. More specifically, it breaks the link between sensual desire, grasping, and suffering. The connection between these three links, however, seems for the Buddha nonnegotiable. Another important nonnegotiable doctrinal claims held by the Buddha appears in the Mahātaṇhāsankhaya Sutta. There, the monk Sāti states that: “As I understand the Dharma taught by the Buddha, it is this same consciousness that runs and wanders through the rounds of rebirths, not another.”18 When the Buddha hears about this, he calls Sāti and asks him about his understanding of consciousness. Sāti confirms his statement and explains that consciousness is “that which speaks and feels and experiences here and there the result of good and bad actions.”19 Then the Buddha scolds him, and reminds him that consciousness is dependently originated. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation reads: Misguided man, to whom have you ever known me to teach the Dhamma in that way? Misguided man, in many discourses have I not stated consciousness to be dependently arisen, since without a condition there is no origination of consciousness? But you, misguided man, have misrepresented us by your wrong grasp and injured yourself and stored up much demerit; for this will lead to your harm and suffering for a long time.20 By suggesting that the same consciousness is the agent of diverse activities, Sāti is transforming consciousness into some sort of permanent reality, a Self-­like entity that contradicts yet another nonnegotiable doctrinal claim, namely, non-­ self or selflessness (anattā). That is, Sāti is contradicting two nonnegotiable doctrinal claims found in the Pāli Nikāyas: (1) consciousness is non-­self and (2) consciousness is dependently originated.

Was the Buddha a pluralist?   183 For the Buddha, all the psychophysical constituents of beings including consciousness are non-­self and dependently arisen. The selfless and dependently originated nature of the psychophysical constituents of beings seems to be nonnegotiable. Whether the Pāli Nikāyas allow for the existence of a higher kind of consciousness that is non-­self yet non-­dependently originated is a hermeneutical issue beyond the scope of this book. Some interpreters of the Pāli Nikāyas like Peter Harvey have suggested that Nibbāna is such consciousness.21 However, I agree with Bhikkhu Bodhi in this regard and reject Harvey’s reading because it contradicts what, for the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, seems to be a nonnegotiable doctrinal claim, namely, that consciousness is non-­self and dependently originated. The fact that the Pāli Nikāyas contain nonnegotiable doctrinal claims does not mean that for the Buddha such claims are a matter of faith. The Pāli Nikāyas describe the Buddha as having realized what he teaches, thus, the doctrinal claims that for the Buddha are nonnegotiable are such because he has realized them directly. Likewise, that the Pāli Nikāyas contain nonnegotiable doctrinal claims does not mean that the Buddha had “views” in the technical sense of doctrines held with attachment and ignorance. The Pāli Nikāyas state explicitly that the Buddha has no views in this sense. In the Pāli Nikāyas, the supramundane level of right view entails a higher kind of vision or insight that transcends “views” in the technical sense (views associated with attachment and ignorance), but not views in the ordinary sense (views in the sense of having opinions and making doctrinal claims). Similarly, that the Pāli Nikāyas contain nonnegotiable doctrinal claims does not mean that the Buddha cannot be open to new representations of the Dharma. Having nonnegotiable doctrinal claims simply means that the openness of the Buddha to other traditions and new representations of the Dharma would not be unlimited and unrestrained. Rather, the Buddha’s openness would be critical and selective, constrained by his direct insights into the four noble truths, selflessness, dependent origination, and the specific conditionality of suffering. It is because the Buddha’s view of religious diversity presupposes nonnegotiable doctrinal claims that it is best understood as a form of pluralistic-­inclusivism, not as a form of pluralism.22 Not being a pluralist in the sense of not holding a pluralist view of religious diversity need not be understood as something negative. On the contrary, some people may say that without nonnegotiable doctrinal claims a tradition cannot preserve its identity for long. Thus, it could be argued that precisely because the Buddha considered certain doctrines nonnegotiable, various Buddhist traditions have been able to survive and remain distinctively Buddhist throughout history.

10 Applying John Hick’s model of pluralism to the Pāli Nikāyas?

Whether or not we consider the Buddha a pluralist depends on what we mean by pluralism. If pluralism is defined as a liberal ideology that celebrates diversity to the point of endorsing relativism, then the Buddha cannot be considered a pluralist. If pluralism is defined as a dialogical attitude that proactively engages religious diversity without necessarily seeking agreement or conversion, then the Buddha can be considered a pluralist. If pluralism is defined as a view of OTMIX among the religions, a view that is open to new instances of OTMIX in other traditions, but constrained by nonnegotiable doctrinal claims, then the Buddha cannot be considered a pluralist. However, this understanding of the pluralist view is not the most common among Christian philosophers and theologians of religions. The most common understanding of the pluralist view is a claim about the existence of salvation among the religions. Specifically, the pluralist view accepts that there are several independently valid spheres of salvation among the religions. This pluralist view is usually associated with John Hick. It is for this reason that in what follows, I compare Hick’s pluralist view to the Buddha’s view of religious diversity, which I reconstruct as a form of pluralistic-­inclusivism. The first part introduces Hick’s view of religions and discusses some structural similarities that exist between Hick’s pluralism and the Buddha’s pluralistic-­inclusivism. The second part investigates whether Hick’s pluralist model is compatible with the Buddha’s view of religious diversity.

10.1  Introducing Hick’s pluralistic hypothesis Many people tend to equate pluralism with John Hick’s concept of pluralism, i.e., the pluralistic hypothesis. This is problematic not only because pluralism can be understood in different ways as an ideology, an attitude, and a view, but also because there are other concepts of pluralism besides Hick’s. Although Hick’s concept of pluralism is probably the most popular among Christian theologians and philosophers of religion, it would be inaccurate to use it as the standard to define all concepts of pluralism. Hick’s pluralistic hypo­ thesis represents a particular kind of pluralist view, not what defines all forms of  pluralism and differentiates all pluralist views from non-­pluralists views. Following David Ray Griffin’s terminology, I would say that Hick’s model is a

Applying John Hick’s model   185 “specific” version of pluralist view, not what characterizes the pluralist view in general, which Griffin calls “generic” pluralism. Hick’s specific version of pluralism is an instance of identist or convergent pluralist view. The other main type of pluralist view is differentist and non-­convergent, which Griffin also calls “deep pluralism.” I avoid the term “deep” to refer to differentist or non-­convergent pluralism because the term seems to suggest that identist or convergent forms of pluralism are somewhat shallow, which I find unnecessarily controversial. Identist or convergent versions of pluralism relate religions to one and the same ultimate reality. On the other hand, differentist versions of pluralism relate religions to multiple ultimate realities or to different aspects of the same ultimate reality. Thus, unless we decide to arbitrarily favor identist versions of the pluralist view and equate them with pluralism in general, I fail to see why Hick’s identist understanding of pluralism has to be used to define the pluralist view. Another reason for not equating pluralism with Hick’s understanding of the pluralist view is that believing in multiple and independently valid paths leading to the same goal and the same transcendent reality is not unique to pluralists. There are forms of inclusivism and pluralistic-­inclusivism which also speak about multiple and independently valid paths leading to the same goal and the same transcendent reality. For instance, perennialist thinkers, many New Age practitioners, and most forms of neo-­Hinduism would endorse Hick’s identist or convergent view of religious diversity. They all agree in accepting independently valid spheres of salvation/liberation, and they all speak of a transcendent reality that is not tradition-­specific, e.g., the Ultimate, the Mystery, Brahman, Sanātana Dharma, Sat-­Cit-Ānanda, the Divine Energy, and so on. Not all the traditions that advocate a single ultimate goal or a single transcendent reality share the same degree of openness to the existence of OTMIX among the religions. In fact, inclusivist views may prevent openness to other religions because they assume that X in other traditions must be similar to X in our own tradition. For instance, if someone starts by assuming that other religions lead exactly to the same goal and relate to the same ultimate reality, then it could be argued that there is no real need for openness to other traditions. What other religious traditions have to offer is already found in one’s own tradition, i.e., it is nothing new. In order to avoid the confusion between pluralist, pluralistic-­inclusivist, and inclusivist views of religious diversity that agree in accepting several independently valid spheres of salvation/liberation and speak about a single transcendent reality, I have defined the pluralist view in terms of openness without dogmatic constrains. More specifically, I have distinguished between attitudes (openness in practice) and views (openness in theory), and suggested that the pluralist view is open to the existence of both similar and new instances of OTMIX in other traditions, but without dogmatic constraints, that is, without being limited by nonnegotiable doctrinal claims. Hick’s pluralistic hypothesis states that religions are different ways of perceiving, thinking, and responding to the same transcendent reality. In Hick’s words:

186   Pluralism I want to explore the pluralistic hypothesis that the great world faiths embody different perceptions and conceptions of, and correspondingly different responses to, the Real from within the major variant ways of being human; and that within each of them the transformation of human existence from self-­centredness to Reality-­centredness is taking place. These traditions are accordingly to be regarded as soteriological “spaces” within which, or “ways” along which, men and women can find salvation/liberation/ ultimate fulfilment.1 Hick understands the pluralist view as a second-­order hypothesis. That is, for Hick, the pluralist view does not involve a set of truth-­claims that competes with the truth-­claims of religions, but rather a meta-­theory to explain the data we possess about various religions. Hick presents his pluralistic hypothesis as analogous to the Copernican revolution. Copernicus places the sun at the center of the universe and claims that planets turn around the sun instead of around the earth. Similarly, Hick displaces Christ and Christianity from the center of the religious universe. Instead, Hick puts God at the center, which he calls the Divine, the Sacred, the Ultimate, the Real. In order to accommodate non-­theistic religions, Hick changed his original terminology from God to the Real in itself, the Transcendent, or simply the Real. Thus, for Hick religions are different ways of perceiving, conceiving, and responding to the Real. For Hick, the Real cannot be directly experienced; knowledge is always meditated by the language and culture of traditions. Hick is influenced by Kant’s epeistemology, which distinguishes between noumena (reality as it is in itself ) and phenomenon (reality as we perceive it). We cannot know the noumena or reality as it is in itself, we can only know reality as it appears. Analogously, for Hick, we do not know the Real in itself but rather “the Real as variously thought and experienced within the different major traditions.”2 Hick differentiates between two basic modes in which the Real is thought and experienced: personal and impersonal, which he calls personae and impersonae. Hick compares the Real to the way we perceive light. We do not know light in itself but we perceive it either as waves or particles. Likewise, we do not know the Real in itself but we perceive it either as personal or impersonal. When we speak of God with moral attributes and purposes, we are perceiving, thinking, and responding to the Real in itself as personae, i.e., as a personal being. This is characteristic of theistic religions. When we speak of Brahman, Tao, Dharmakāya,3 Nirvāṇa, we are perceiving, thinking, and responding to the Real in itself as impersonae or in impersonal terms. In both cases, we are not speaking of the Real in itself but rather “we are speaking of the Real as humanly experienced; that is, phenomenon.”4 For Hick, the truth of religions and these two ways of perceiving, thinking, and responding to the Real is not found in their doctrines and metaphysical views. Rather, the truth of religions is found in the practical results that doctrines and metaphysical views generate, that is, by their fruits you shall know them. Since we do not know the Real in itself, strictly speaking, there is no way to tell

Applying John Hick’s model   187 which doctrines and which metaphysical views are factually true. That is why for Hick the language of religions is to be understood as mythological. Hick does not understand the term “mythological” in the sense of false or fabricated, but rather in the sense of not being literally and factually true. The myths of religions are skillful means whose truth depends on their practical results; specifically, on whether such myths are helpful to relate us to the Real in itself. As Hick himself puts it: “The truth of a myth is its practical truthfulness: a true myth is one which rightly relates us to a reality about which we cannot speak in non-­ mythological terms.”5 Properly understood, Hick does not advocate relativism and the equal validity of all religions. Not all religions need to relate us to the Real in itself, and not all responses to the Real are appropriate. Nonetheless, for Hick there are several religions that can successfully relate us to the Real in itself. Successful relationships or appropriate responses to the Real produce what Hick calls a “soteriological alignment with the Real,”6 or simply salvation, liberation, and ultimate fulfillment. For Hick, appropriate responses to the Real gradually produce a “salvific transformation” in human existence from self-­centeredness to Reality-­ centeredness. This is, for Hick, the criterion to determine the truth and value of religions: the greater or less value of doctrines and practices depends on whether they promote or hinder salvific transformation, i.e., the transition from self-­ centeredness to Reality-­centeredness.7 For Hick, this salvific transformation is not exclusive to one particular tradition. There are several independently valid spheres of salvation or, in other words, many traditions in which salvific transformation and alignment with the Real can take place. The path from self-­centeredness to Reality-­centeredness is universal and it has been traveled by people from different religions. While the outcome of the spiritual path is the same, the conceptual maps for this path are not identical. Despite the fact that conceptual maps of the path are different, such maps are “all more or less equally reliable within their different projections, and more or less equally useful for guiding us on our journey through life.”8

10.2  Some similarities and differences between Hick’s pluralism and the Buddha’s pluralistic-­inclusivism There are some structural similarities between Hick’s pluralistic hypothesis and the Buddha’s view of religious diversity. Both accept the existence of a reality that can manifest or be represented in many particular and conditioned ways across religions; and both agree in that there is a single ultimate goal that can be attained in several traditions independently of each other. However, within these structural similarities there are important differences. First, while it is true that both the Buddha and Hick accept the existence of an ultimate reality that can be found in several traditions, it is also true that their understanding of such a reality is qualitatively different. Hick understands the ultimate reality as a transcendent reality that is beyond our perceptions, conceptions and experience, i.e., the Real in itself. For the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas,

188   Pluralism however, the Dharma is difficult to understand and not attainable by mere reasoning, but it can be directly experienced within ourselves. For instance, at M.I.487 and S.I.136 the Buddha describes the Dharma as: “deep, difficult to see, difficult to understand, peaceful, sublime, not within the sphere of reasoning, subtle, to be experienced by the wise.”9 The text does not suggest that the Dharma is a noumenal reality beyond perceptions, conceptions, and experience. Rather, the text emphasizes that understanding the Dharma is difficult and requires more than philosophical arguments; the text also explains that the Dharma is profound, subtle, sublime, but accessible to the experience of some people. The text does not clarify whether the experience of the Dharma is comprehensive or limited, but nothing indicates that the Dharma is utterly beyond our epistemological faculties. Hypostasizing the Dharma as if it existed in a transcendent realm beyond the reach of our experience is inconsistent with the teachings of the Buddha in the Pāli Nikāyas. For instance, the Buddha’s teaches that the four noble truths, which are key aspects of the Dharma, can be known not by transcending this universe but rather here and now in this very physical body. The Buddha teaches, in Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation: “It is, friend, in just this fathom-­high carcass endowed with perception and mind that I have made known the world, the origin of the world, the cessation of the world [i.e., nibbāna], and the way leading to the cessation of the world.”10 The Buddha also teaches that the Dharma is “visible here and now, immediately effective, inviting inspection, onward leading, to be experienced by the wise for themselves.’11 The Buddha would probably reject Hick’s concept of a Reality in itself that can never be experienced directly. The third noble truth or nibbāna can be interpreted as transcending saṃsāra in the sense of being beyond the qualities characteristic of saṃsāra, i.e., suffering, disease, old age, death, conditioned, impermanent, and so on. However, this sense of “transcendence” need not mean that for the Buddha nibbāna is beyond the universe or a transcendent reality in the Kantian sense of being beyond our experience. For Hick, nibbāna is not the Real in itself but rather one among many possible manifestations of the Real. Nibbāna is, for Hick, one impersonal manifestation of the Real in itself. There are many other impersonal manifestations of the Real inside and outside Buddhism including Buddha-­nature, Dharmakāya, emptiness, the Tao, Brahman. Likewise, for Hick there are many personal manifestations of the Real. The monotheistic God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as the Gods of Greek and Roman polytheism are personal manifestations of the Real. Even Hindu Gods qualify as personal manifestations of the Real despite the fact that for some Hindu traditions they are manifestations of Brahman, which Hick characterizes as impersonal even though it is said to be consciousness. For the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, however, nibbāna is not the ultimate reality of the universe but rather the ultimate goal, the culmination of the spiritual path, which involves both liberation and highest holiness. There are a few texts in the Pāli Nikāyas that may be interpreted as suggesting that nibbāna is a

Applying John Hick’s model   189 transcendent absolute reality, i.e., an unconditioned reality (asaṅkhata dhamma). This is at least the way in which the Theravāda tradition tends to understand nibbāna. However, nibbāna is mostly described in either metaphorical or psychological terms as a state of consciousness that is free from unwholesome mental states, the extinction of craving, hatred and delusion.12 Even Hick seems to be aware of this predominantly psychological portrayal of nibbāna in the Pāli Nikāyas when he says: “It seems preferable to speak of a nirvanic experience rather than of an experience of nirvana, since the latter might suggest that ‘nirvana’ refers to a place or entity of some kind.”13 Nevertheless, Hick tends to understand nibbāna as the early Buddhist impersonal manifestation of the Real in itself, thus favoring an absolutist interpretation that is similar to the scholastic Theravāda conception of nibbāna. The Buddha would object also to Hick’s understanding of nibbāna as the ultimate reality. Although nibbāna is the ultimate goal of the noble eightfold path, it is never called the ultimate reality. Nibbāna is a reality, at least in the sense of being the third noble truth or reality. This, however, does not mean that, for the Buddha, the other noble truths are less real or less ultimate than nibbāna. In the Pāli Nikāyas nibbāna is not the only aspect of the Dharma that matters. Hick, like many other Christian interpreters of early Buddhism, tends to equate Nibbāna with the Divine, the Sacred, the Ultimate, the Transcendent, God, and so on. This interpretation, however, privileges nibbāna over other aspects of the Dharma, and even over the Dharma itself. This emphasis on nibbāna, however, does not do justice to the Pāli Nikāyas. In the Pāli Nikāyas the concept of OTMIX, the most important, may refer not only to nibbāna but also to the Dharma, dependent origination, selflessness, the four noble truths, the four highest ascetics. If we had to choose one among all the possible referents of X in the Pāli Nikāyas, it seems to me that Dharma in the sense of Truth would be a much better candidate than nibbāna. The Dharma in the sense of Truth can be interpreted as including not only the truths taught by the Buddha, but also all truths that exist in the universe. Likewise, the Dharma in the sense of Truth includes not only nibbāna and the other three noble truths, but also the truths of dependent origination, specific conditionality, selflessness, karma, rebirth, and so on. Determining the exact relationship between the Dharma and nibbāna is beyond the scope of this book. I limit myself to say that the Pāli Nikāyas do not permit the reduction of the Dharma to nibbāna and vice versa. Dharma and nibbāna are not said to be one and the same thing. However, the Dharma and nibbāna cannot be understood as being two separate realities either, at least at all times. In my account, the Dharma possesses various aspects that are irreducible to either one monolithic reality or many fragmented realities. In a way, the Dharma is one and many at the same time. That is, the Dharma is neither one nor many, but rather one reality with many aspects. Nibbāna, dependent origination, selflessness, the four noble truths, are all key aspects of the Dharma. Yet, none of these aspects exhaust the Dharma. Likewise, all the truths and laws of the universe that the Buddha teaches are also aspects of the Dharma. I have already said

190   Pluralism that the teachings of all Buddhas cannot be equated with the Dharma. The Dharma is more, never less, than the teachings of Buddhas and Buddhist traditions, which are best understood as particular and historically conditioned representations of the Dharma. It is this concept of Dharma as Truth that constitutes the second Jewel in which disciples of the Buddha take refuge, not a particular representation of the Dharma found in an equally particular and historically conditioned collection of texts. Equating the second Jewel in which Buddhists take refuge with the teachings of a particular Buddha or the teachings of a particular Buddhist tradition or collection of texts is problematic: first, because there are many contradictory teachings attributed to the Buddha by Buddhists; and second, because many Buddhist traditions/texts teach some things that do not seem to be consistent with the particular representation of the Dharma found in the Pāli Nikāyas. Needless to say, not all Buddhist traditions agree on what the Dharma stands for, and not all Buddhists consider the Pāli Nikāyas as more normative than later Buddhist texts. The second structural similarity between Hick’s pluralistic hypothesis and the Buddha’s view of religious diversity is that both accept the existence of OTMIX, the most important, in several independently valid traditions. For Hick, the Real is manifested in personal and impersonal ways in many religions, not just Christianity. For the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, neither the Dharma nor liberation nor highest holiness need to be exclusive to a particular tradition or his teaching-­ and-discipline. For Hick, the Real is perceived, thought, and indirectly experienced in multiple religions. For the Buddha, there are representations of the Dharma in the teachings of past and future Buddhas, and the early concept of paccekabuddha is in principle compatible with the existence of liberation and highest holiness independently of Buddhas, Buddhism, and Buddhists. The Buddha would not reject beforehand the existence of OTMIX in other traditions, and that seems to be the reason why the Pāli Nikāyas contain diverse non-­ exclusivist criteria to discern among the teachings and teachers of other traditions. A third structural similarity between Hick and the Buddha is that both agree in that there is a single ultimate end of the spiritual path. Hick calls this goal ­salvation/liberation, and explains it as holiness or as a salvific transformation from self-­centeredness to Reality-­centeredness. For the Buddha, the ultimate goal of the holy life is nibbāna, the culmination of the noble eightfold path, which entails the cessation of selfish tendencies including its main source, the conceit “I am” (asmimāna). The fourth structural similarity between Hick and the Buddha Gotama is that neither of them seems to consider the ultimate goal of the spiritual path tradition­specific or exclusive to one particular tradition or religion. For Hick, salvation can take place in many religions without the necessary mediation of Christ and Christianity. There are multiple “soteriological ‘spaces’ within which, or ‘ways’ along which, men and women can find salvation/liberation/ultimate fulfillment.”14 Similarly, for the Buddha, there can be enlightened beings without the mediation of Buddhas, Buddhism, and Buddhists.

Applying John Hick’s model   191 Paccekabuddhas attain liberation and highest holiness without ever taking refuge in the three Jewels of institutionalized Buddhism: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the community of holy disciples. Like Buddhas, paccekabuddhas rediscover an ancient path and fulfill it. Neither the path nor the goal of such path is tradition-­specific. In other words, the Dharma is not the monopoly of the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline and the Buddhist traditions derived from it. Similarly, the existence of the path and its goal do not depend on the existence of Buddhas, Buddhism, and Buddhists. The Dharma remains whether or not there are Tathāgatas in the universe (S.II.25). Despite the aforementioned structural similarities, I do not think it would be accurate to place the Buddha’s view of religious diversity and Hick’s pluralistic hypothesis in the same category. If, as I have suggested, the pluralist view has to do with non-­dogmatically constrained openness to other traditions, then I would say that Hick is a pluralist whereas the Buddha is best understood as a pluralistic­inclusivist. Hick’s openness to religious diversity has led him to challenge many of the dogmas about Jesus characteristic of Christianity. Hick has gone beyond what for most Christians are nonnegotiable doctrinal claims about Jesus. In this sense, it can be said that Hick’s openness to religious diversity is not constrained by the nonnegotiable doctrinal claims of mainstream Christianity. Hick presents his pluralist view as a hypothesis, thus, open in principle to change if necessary. Hick’s position should not be confused with relativism because he does make truth-­claims, nor with pluralistic-­inclusivism because he does not seem to consider the doctrinal claims of any religion nonnegotiable. On the other hand, the Buddha’s openness to religious diversity seems to be constrained by nonnegotiable doctrinal claims about the four noble truths, dependent origination, and selflessness. Although I cannot claim that the Buddha would never change his mind even when new evidence required him to do so, I can claim that the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas seem to presuppose nonnegotiable doctrinal claims about the Dharma or the way things are. If, for the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, certain teachings about the universe and the spiritual path seem to be nonnegotiable, it is possible to infer that he would be open to new representations of the Dharma found in other traditions, but provided that such representations do not contradict the Dharma he realized with direct insight. It should be noticed that the Buddha’s pluralistic-­inclusivism is a posteriori, that is, after direct insight or experiential knowledge of the Dharma. The Buddha’s nonnegotiable doctrinal claims do not derive from a priori assumptions or adherence to a creed with dogmas to be accepted on faith alone. For the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, certain doctrinal claims are nonnegotiable, not because some text or some tradition says so, but because he has seen with his own eyes the ultimate nature of reality, i.e., Dharma, and realized within himself the ultimate goal of the holy life, i.e., nibbāna. It is interesting that the Buddha does not encourage his disciples to believe in what he has seen and realized, but rather he invites others to come and see for themselves. This is extremely important because the pluralistic-­inclusivism of

192   Pluralism the Buddha is in principle compatible with the pluralism of his disciples. In fact, it could be argued that the Buddha’s advice to keep an open mind and critically investigate diverse teachings including his own cannot be properly implemented without adopting a pluralist view of religious diversity. In other words, the Buddha holds a pluralistic-­inclusivist view of religious diversity but he requires his disciples to be pluralists in their view of religious diversity, otherwise they cannot put into practice his advice. If disciples of the Buddha are supposed to put into practice his advice as well as to follow his example, then they are also required to adopt pluralistic attitudes toward religious diversity, attitudes that proactively engage people from other traditions through open-­ended interfaith dialogue. That is, dialogue intended to foster mutual understanding and harmonious relationships among people from different traditions without necessarily seeking agreement or conversion. Even though the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas is a pluralistic-­inclusivist because he presupposes nonnegotiable doctrinal claims in his interactions with people from other traditions, his advice to his disciples is never to accept such doctrinal claims out of faith in him or out of respect for his teachings and the tradition he represents. Rather, the Buddha advises his disciples to keep an open mind, explore further all teachings, and critically analyze his own conduct and mental state.15 That is, the Buddha does not ask his disciples to set aside their critical thinking skills and consider any teacher immaculate or any teaching nonnegotiable. The Buddha encourages his disciples to adopt a non-­dogmatic stance, which, in my reading, requires the openness to religious diversity characteristic of the pluralist view. At least until the Buddha’s disciples can see for themselves with direct insight that a doctrinal claim or teaching is actually the case or wholesome, they are required to be pluralists in the sense of not viewing any teaching or doctrinal claim as nonnegotiable. Nonetheless, despite the non-­dogmatic stance the Buddha requires from his disciples and the a posteriori origin of the nonnegotiable doctrinal claims found in the Pāli Nikāyas, I cannot but reconstruct the Buddha’s view of religious diversity as a form of pluralistic-­inclusivism. The Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas never questions certain teachings, and I infer from this that, for him, such teachings are nonnegotiable and the standards he would use in his interactions with people from other traditions. Perhaps it is incorrect to infer that for the Buddha certain teachings or doctrinal claims are nonnegotiable because he never questions them in the Pāli Nikāyas. Perhaps if the Buddha were alive today he would clarify that openness to new representations of the Dharma should never be constrained by nonnegotiable doctrinal claims. However, I can only speak about what I read in the Pāli Nikāyas, and there the Dharma and its multiple aspects—the four noble truths, dependent origination, selflessness—appear to be nonnegotiable, at least in the sense of being never questioned by the Buddha. Overall, despite the fact that both the Buddha and Hick accept a single goal for the spiritual path and several traditions in which such ultimate goal can be attained independently of each other, the Buddha’s view of religious diversity

Applying John Hick’s model   193 remains a form of pluralistic-­inclusivism. The Buddha would be open to the existence of new instances of OTMIX in other traditions, but constraining such new instances with the doctrinal claims that he considers nonnegotiable. On the other hand, Hick’s view is a form of pluralism because his openness to religious diversity has led him to challenge many of the doctrinal claims that for most Christians are nonnegotiable.

10.3  Hick’s appropriation of the Buddha’s teachings undermines Buddhism As Jane Compson rightly points out, the epistemological assumptions of Hick and the Buddha are substantially different.16 Hick’s concept of the Real is influenced by Kant’s concept of reality in itself, which is beyond our experience and at best inferable, that is, never known directly. On the contrary, for the Buddha, the Dharma, the four noble truths, and dependent origination are directly experienced by enlightened people within themselves. For Hick, nobody can know reality in itself, but for the Buddha, all those who fulfill the noble eightfold path realize the ultimate nature of reality. While Hick denies the possibility of knowing immediately the Real, at least in this life, for the Buddha, direct knowledge of the Dharma and realization of nibbāna are possible here and now. For the Buddha, realizing nibbāna here and now is not only possible but also the rationale for his entire spiritual project. If Hick’s hypothesis were correct and the Real could not be known directly as he claims, then we would have to conclude that the Buddha was wrong on two fundamental counts: (1) knowledge of the Dharma and realization of nibbāna would not involve knowledge of the way things are, they would be simply impersonal modes of “perceiving” the Real; (2) enlightened beings would not realize within themselves the ultimate goal/nature of reality. Thus, Hick’s concept of the Real and the Buddha’s understanding of enlightenment are incommensurable. They contradict each other and there is no way we can bridge the two without modifying the truth-­claims of either one. If the Real in itself is the ultimate reality, then the Dharma is not the ultimate nature of reality. If the Real in itself is unknowable, then enlightened people fail to know the way things are and deceive themselves by believing that they possess knowledge of the ultimate nature of reality when in fact they lack such knowledge. As Jane Compson suggests, Hick’s pluralistic hypothesis contradicts the Buddha’s self-­understanding and “actually tends towards the position of one-­tradition absolutism, because he judges other traditions by particular criteria that disqualify their truth-­claims in favor of their own.”17 Hick’s concept of the Real undermines not only the Buddha’s truth-­claims, but also the truth-­claims of all Buddhist traditions. A key Buddhist assumption is that the ultimate nature of reality can be known. Knowledge of such ultimate nature of reality is inseparable from enlightenment. Hick’s pluralistic hypothesis denies the truth of this key Buddhist claim and devaluates the Buddhist understanding of both enlightenment and the ultimate nature of reality.

194   Pluralism For Hick, Buddhist enlightenment does not realize the ultimate nature of reality, it simply manifests the Real, although indirectly because the Real cannot be experienced. Buddhist concepts of the ultimate reality do not correspond to the Real in itself; they are just different attempts to conceptualize the Real in an impersonal way. Thus, Hick’s pluralist view somewhat deprives Buddhist concepts of enlightenment and ultimate reality of truth-­content. For Hick, these Buddhist concepts lack truth-­content, but they nevertheless possess soteriological value. Buddhist doctrines are not literally true, but they help Buddhists to align themselves with the Real, facilitating what Hick describes as the transformation from self-­centeredness to Reality-­centeredness. Hick acknowledges that his pluralistic hypothesis is bound to clash not only with Buddhist self-­understandings, but also with the self-­understanding of other belief systems that claim to be literally or factually true. You have to face up to the fact that no hypothesis about the relation between the different world religions—unless it simply affirms the truth of one and the falsity of the rest—is going to be congruent with the belief system of one of them to the exclusion of the others.18 The truth of Hick’s pluralism competes with the truth of Buddhism and other traditions. Hick’s assumptions about the Real render false the Buddha’s claims about the Dharma, nibbāna, and enlightenment, making his entire spiritual project unviable. For Hick, the noble eightfold path does not lead to knowledge of the ultimate nature of reality, but rather to a perception or experience of the Real in impersonal terms. It really does not matter that Hick qualifies his statements by saying that such experience is a genuine manifestation of the Real. The bottom-­line is that Hick’s truth-­claims undermine the truth-­claims made by the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas. If it is the case that Hick’s pluralism contradicts the truth-­claims the Buddha makes about the Dharma, nibbāna, and enlightenment, then it follows that Hick’s model of religious diversity is much more than a harmless hypothesis to explain the available religious data. In other words, Hick’s pluralism carries normative weight; it is a first-­order theory with its own alternative set of truth-­ claims.19 However, Hick’s self-­understanding is that his model is simply a second-­order meta-­theory, not a first-­order set of truth-­claims. It is ironic that Hick uses Buddhist teachings to undermine the truth-­claims of Buddhism. Specifically, Hick uses the concept of skilful means (upāya). Hick explains the Buddhist concept of upāya as affirming that: (1) there are diverse conceptualizations of what Hick calls “nirvanic experience”; (2) none of these conceptualizations of the nirvanic experience is the one and only way to con­ ceptualize it; (3) the various conceptualizations of the nirvanic experience are provisional and instrumental, to be discarded as a raft once they fulfill their function; (4) there are multiple conceptual rafts, each one equally valid to achieve the same purpose for different people or for the same individual at different times.20

Applying John Hick’s model   195 Hick then extrapolates his understanding of Buddhism to other religions. In the same way that Buddhism has different conceptualizations of the ultimate goal (nirvanic experience) and the spiritual path (different rafts), each one provisional, instrumental, and equally valid to achieve the ultimate goal, other religions represent a variety of conceptualizations of the ultimate transcendent reality and the spiritual path, each one equally liberative and transformative. In Hick’s words: I now want to suggest that this pattern of a liberative and transforming experience accepted by faith as manifesting the presence to or within human life of the ultimate transcendent Reality, and conceptualized in the history of the tradition in a range of ways, occurs not only in Buddhism but in all the great salvific religions.21 Thus, Hick understands the doctrines and practices of all religions as “skillful means” to attain a practical goal, i.e., salvation/liberation. In order to reconcile the theoretical and practical contradictions that exist among the religions, Hick deprives their teachings from literal truth-­content. For Hick, Buddhist teachings as well as the teachings of all religions are not to be understood as literally true in the sense of corresponding to the way things are in reality. Rather, the teachings of all religions are to be understood as “mythologically true in so far as they are soteriologically effective.”22 That is, Buddhist teachings are not true because they represent the way things are, but rather because they are useful to attain a nirvanic experience. Likewise, Christian teachings are not true because they are actually the case, but rather because they can generate a liberative transformation from self-­centeredness to God-­centeredness. Hick interprets the Buddha’s simile of the raft as implying that the Buddha’s teachings are provisional and instrumental means to achieve a practical goal. The Buddha’s teachings are not literally true, but they are nevertheless mythologically true in the sense of having practical value. That is, the truth of the Buddha’s teachings lies not in that they correspond to the way things are but rather in that they are conducive to liberation and alignment with the Real. Once the Buddha’s teachings have fulfilled their practical function, Hick suggests, they are to be discarded like someone would discard a raft after having crossed over to the other shore. Hick’s reading of the simile of the raft, however, is inconsistent with the Buddha’s teachings. As Hick himself acknowledges, the Buddhist doctrine of skilful means has its limits; there are degrees of what Hick calls “upayity” because some doctrines are truer and more useful than others. That is why many Buddhist traditions establish a hierarchy among teachings, and that is why some teachings are said to be conventional while others are ultimate. Even the most iconoclastic and anti-­foundational interpretations of Buddhist teachings privilege some doctrines and practices over others for a reason. Perhaps some extreme understandings of upāya go as Hick goes in reducing all Buddhist teachings to provisional and instrumental devices without literal

196   Pluralism truth-­content, but this is not the case of the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas. For the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, the teachings that represent the Dharma are both true and useful, not simply useful. In fact, it could be argued that, for the Buddha, something is soteriologically useful because it is true, not the opposite as Hick suggests. Hick interprets the Buddha’s simile of the raft as stating that teachings are provisional and instrumental means that should be discarded once they have served to achieve their practical goal. However, such interpretation is questionable because it does not represent the perspective of the Pāli Nikāyas, which is the place where the simile of the raft appears. Hick extrapolates a later Mahāyāna concept of skilful means to early Buddhism, and uses such concept to interpret the teachings of all religions while at the same time undermining all Buddhist teachings. Religious teachings are pragmatic means to attain practical goals; they are not literally true but rather mythologically true, that is, they are true in so far as they lead to salvific transformation. Different teachings may be useful for some people at a particular stage of spiritual development but unhelpful for others at a different stage. In Hick’s words. Religious teachings are not absolute and eternal truths but are human ideas that can help people to move at particular stages of their spiritual growth towards the goal of enlightenment, liberation, awakening or, in Christian terms, salvation.23 This pragmatic understanding of all religious teachings allows Hick to accommodate conflicting metaphysical claims. Contradictory metaphysical claims made by religions can coexist without entering into conflict because none of them are literally and absolutely true. No religion is superior to others in doctrinal terms, because doctrines are mere skillful means to achieve a soteriological transformation. What makes some religions truer than others is the usefulness of their doctrines to generate spiritual growth and attain the goal of enlightenment, liberation, salvation, or whatever name is used to designate alignment with the Real or Reality-­centeredness. The Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, however, never uses the simile of the raft to argue that his own teachings and the teachings of all traditions are skillful means without truth-­content. The simile of the raft does not deny the truth-­content of the Buddha’s teachings, nor make them relative to the spiritual level of individuals. The simile of the raft does suggest that the Buddha’s teachings have a practical purpose, but the practical purpose behind such teachings does not make them any less true, let alone provisional. Understood in its context, the simile of the raft does not undermine the truth of the Buddha’s teachings. Rather, the simile of the raft warns against misapprehensions of the Buddha’s teachings. Before the simile of the raft, we find instances of people misunderstanding and misusing the Buddha’s teachings. Specifically, the monk Ariṭṭha claims to understand the Dharma as teaching that indulging in sensual pleasures does not generate sensual desire. The Buddha uses

Applying John Hick’s model   197 the simile of the snake to teach how important is to grasp the Dharma properly; otherwise, it can harm you just like a snake wrongly grasped will turn around and bite you. Similarly, the Buddha explains that the Dharma is not to be studied for the sake of criticizing others and winning debates, but rather for the welfare and happiness of those who learn it. Then, right after encouraging his disciples to ask about the meaning of his statements when they do not understand them, the Buddha compares the Dharma to a raft in order to reinforce his previous point about the importance of grasping his teachings properly. The Dharma has a practical soteriological purpose and it should not be transformed into an object of attachment: “when you know the Dharma to be similar to a raft, you should abandon even good teachings, how much more so bad teachings.”24 The abandonment of even good teachings that the Buddha recommends is not to be understood literally in the sense of ceasing to hold the doctrines taught by the Buddha. Such reading would render the entire sutta inconsistent because right after the simile of the raft the Buddha teaches impermanence and selflessness. Therefore, the Buddha cannot be asking his disciples to literally stop holding his signature teachings. Rather, the Buddha is advising his disciples to let go of even their attachment to his teachings. The simile of the raft as it appears in the Pāli Nikāyas has nothing to do with the provisional, instrumental, and relative truth of the Buddha’s teachings. Rather the point of the simile is that teachings should be understood without transforming them into objects of attachment, and for the sake of attaining a practical goal, not for the sake of criticizing others and winning debates. Hick also reinterprets the questions left undetermined (avyākata) by the Buddha in order to justify his pluralist view of religious diversity. If Hick reinterprets the concept of upāya to transform the teachings of all religions in provisional and instrumental means that are mythologically true but not literally true, Hick reinterprets the undetermined questions to suggest that the Real in itself cannot be known. Hick distinguishes between two kinds of undetermined questions: unanswered and unanswerable. Hick considers the first six undetermined questions unanswered. That is, the questions that ask whether the universe is spatially infinite or finite, whether the universe is temporally infinite or finite, and whether soul and body are one or two different things. Hick contends that these are legitimate questions with true answers, but we do not know the answers yet. The implication seems to be that the Buddha did not answer these questions because he did not know the answer. Hick, however, does not draw this implication; he simply suggests that the Buddha did not answer them for pragmatic reasons, because “it would still be the case that salvation/liberation does not depend upon such knowledge and that the search for it is not conducive to salvation/liberation.”25 On the other hand, the last four undetermined questions are for Hick unanswerable. That is, the questions that ask about the tathāgata or liberated Buddha after death; whether he (1) exists, (2) does not exist, (3) both exists and does not exist, (4) neither exists nor does not exist. For Hick, unanswerable questions ask about mysteries, subject matters that transcend the categories of human thought

198   Pluralism and language. The Buddha did not answer them because we do not need “to be able to penetrate these mysteries in order to attain to liberation; and to feel that  we must hold a dogmatic view concerning them is soteriologically counterproductive.”26 Hick extrapolates his understanding of the last four undetermined questions to the nature of the Real in itself. In the same way that the questions about liberated beings after death are unanswerable, questions about the nature of the Real are unanswerable. Hick considers this understanding of the Real in itself as an unanswerable question a hypothesis and claims it has important implications for the theological and metaphysical doctrines of religions. In Hick’s words: The hypothesis that I should like to consider is that the nature of the Real in itself, independently of human awareness of it, is the ultimate unanswerable question. Our human concepts, drawn as they are from our earthly experience, do not apply to the Real in itself, but only to the Real as humanly thought, experienced and responded to within the different traditions.27 Thus, for Hick, the questions about the tathāgata or liberated Buddha after death are similar to the question about the Real in itself in that both are unanswerable questions about mysteries beyond the reach of our concepts. For Hick, our concepts apply, not to the Real in itself, but rather to the personal and impersonal manifestations of the Real, i.e., the Real as it is perceived, conceived, and responded to by different religions. For Hick, some doctrinal claims of religions can still be literally true, but only when they apply to personal and impersonal manifestations of the Real, never when they apply to the Real in itself. However, the truth that really counts to attain salvation/liberation is not the literal truth of metaphysical doctrines about the universe and manifestations of the Real, but rather their mythological truth, their ability to “evoke in the human hearer an appropriate dispositional response.”28 What counts is the practical or soteriological effectiveness of doctrinal and metaphysical systems. Whether the doctrines and metaphysical systems associated with such practices are literally true becomes irrelevant. The Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, however, never uses the undetermined questions to suggest that the ultimate nature of reality is unknowable, nor to undermine the truth of all metaphysical doctrines and systems. In other words, Hick’s uses the undetermined questions to advance a theological framework that delegitimizes fundamental epistemological and metaphysical truth-­claims made by the Buddha in the Pāli Nikāyas. It is true that the undetermined questions have to do with pragmatism and with avoiding some metaphysical views about the universe, human nature, and the afterlife. However, reading the undetermined questions as a pragmatic rejection of all metaphysical systems and doctrines is simplistic. For the Buddha, the undetermined questions are to be set aside not only for pragmatic reasons, but also for profound philosophical reasons. The pragmatic and philosophical reasons behind the Buddha’s “silence” before the undetermined questions are

Applying John Hick’s model   199 intertwined. The undetermined questions are unrelated to the fundamentals of the spiritual life because, instead of focusing on the middle way of the dependent origination of suffering, they focus on extreme views about a Self/self. Extreme views assume that a Self/self exists in absolute terms either as eternal or as not eternal, either as infinite or as finite, either as identical to or as different from the body; a Self/self that either exists eternally or it is annihilated after death. The metaphysical assumptions behind the undetermined questions are extreme views about a Self/self. Given that the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas has a different and complex set of metaphysical assumptions, i.e., the middle way of dependent origination and selflessness, and given that the Buddha’s assumptions are incompatible with the absolute existence or inexistence of a Self/self, it is not surprising that the Buddha preferred to avoid on many occasions either a long philosophical explanation or a simplistic yes or no answer. The undetermined questions have nothing to do with the impossibility of knowing directly the ultimate nature of reality, i.e., the Dharma. The Dharma is not a mysterious or unknowable Reality in itself that exists beyond our experience. For the Buddha, the only thing that seems unknowable is an absolute and independently originated Self/self that exists eternally or that is annihilated after death. For the Buddha, such a Self/self is not unknowable because it is transcendent but rather because it is not the case, or using the Buddha’s way of putting it, because it is “not apprehended as true and established.”29 Hick understands the last four undetermined questions about the tathāgata or liberated Buddha after death as unanswerable, as somewhat demonstrating that our concepts and categories do not apply to certain mysteries, i.e., the nature of the Real in itself. However, this interpretation is misleading because for the Buddha the status of liberated beings is not unknowable in absolute terms; it is mysterious to some extent but it can be known. It is true that the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas suggests that our language and concepts do not apply to liberated beings after death, but this does not mean that they are unknowable or totally beyond the reach of our experience in the same way as Hick’s concept of the Real in itself seems to be. For instance, it is true that at M.I.140 the consciousness of liberated beings is said to be “ananuvejjo,” “not to be known” or as Bhikkhu Bodhi translates it “untraceable.” Likewise, it is true that at M.I.488 the liberated being is compared to the great ocean; both are “profound, immeasurable, unfathomable” (gambhīro appameyyo, duppariyogāho). However, this does not mean that liberated beings are totally unknowable. The Pāli Nikāyas do teach the relative ineffability of tathāgatas and liberated beings, but this does not mean that they are impossible to know as they are in themselves. Rather, the Pāli Nikāyas seem to suggest that the status of tathāgatas can be known by those who reach enlightenment, at least to some extent. Hick transforms the relative ineffability and transcendence associated with tathāgatas into absolute transcendence, thus contradicting the Buddha’s teachings and delegitimizing his epistemology. Right before comparing the tathāgata to the ocean, the Buddha leaves undetermined the four possible answers the questions about the tathāgata after death;

200   Pluralism that is, the liberated Buddha “arises,” “does not arise,” “both arises and does not arise,” and “neither arises nor does not arise” after death. The Buddha states that such answers do not apply (na upeti). The Buddha illustrates the inapplicability of such answers with the simile of the extinct fire. In the same way that asking in which direction an extinct fire has gone does not apply, asking whether the tathāgata arises, does not arise, and so on does not apply. The point of the simile of the extinct fire cannot be that the tathāgata is annihilated after death because the Buddha rejects nihilist interpretations of his teaching at M.I.140. Likewise, the point cannot be that the tathāgata exists eternally in a mysterious way because the Buddha rejects the extreme of eternalism too (S.III.118–19; S.IV.384; S.III.110ff.). Rather, the point is that the actual ontological status of the tathāgata cannot be fully known by the categories of human thought and language. But this does not imply that the tathāgata is unknowable in absolute terms or that we cannot state anything at all about liberated beings. The same could be said about nibbāna and the Dharma. Like the tathāgata, nibbāna and the Dharma cannot be captured by human reasoning and language, but this does not mean that they cannot be known directly, unlike Hick’s concept of the Real in itself. From the fact that we do not know something comprehensively, it does not follow that we cannot know anything about it. Likewise, the fact that the tathāgata, nibbāna, and the Dharma cannot be totally comprehended by mere reasoning and linguistic description does not mean that what the Buddha teaches about them cannot be literally or factually true. In other words, not everything that the Buddha teaches about the tathāgata, nibbāna, the Dharma is metaphoric or mythological in nature. From the perspective of the Pāli Nikāyas, the fact that the Buddha’s teachings are pragmatically true seems inseparable from the fact that such teachings are factually or literally true. For the Buddha Pāli Nikāyas, teachings are not true because they work, but rather they work because they are true. The Buddha’s teachings are useful and soteriologically effective because they represent the Dharma, the way things are. They may not represent the Dharma in a comprehensive way, but this does not mean that the Dharma is unknowable in itself. Knowledge of the ultimate nature of reality is, for Hick, epistemologically impossible because the Real in itself is by definition unknowable, a mystery that totally transcends our concepts and categories of understanding. For the Buddha, on the other hand, knowledge of the Dharma is a gradual process that culminates in direct insight or realization within oneself. For the Buddha, knowledge of the Dharma is never comprehensive because the Dharma has innumerable nuances. But this does not make the Dharma unknowable or totally beyond our experience, that would make liberation through wisdom impossible.

Part VI

Starting a dialogue between the Buddha and other models of religious diversity

11 A comparative appraisal of Hick, Heim, and the Buddha

Having clarified that the Buddha’s view of religious diversity is best understood as a form of pluralistic-­inclusivism combined with a pluralistic attitude, this chapter reconstructs a model of religious diversity consistent with the Buddha’s teaching and puts it into dialogue with the models of John Hick and Mark Heim. The first part reviews what I have said about the Buddha’s approach to other traditions, and develops a model of religious diversity consistent with the Pāli Nikāyas. For the sake of simplicity I call this model the Buddha’s model, without suggesting that the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas literally proposed such model. The second section asks whether Heim’s multiple-­ends model is more sensitive to difference than the single-­end models of Hick and the Buddha. The third section investigates whether Hick’s model provides the best possible explanation of religious diversity.

11.1  Overview of the three models In previous chapters, I have reconstructed the Buddha’s approach to religious diversity as a pluralistic-­inclusivist view of OTMIX combined with a pluralistic attitude that proactively engages people from other traditions through open-­ ended dialogue and without subordinating such dialogue to agreement or conversion. The Buddha’s approach is representative rather than constitutive, and it presupposes a single ultimate end rather than multiple and alternative ends. This reconstruction was done in three stages. The first stage deconstructed exclusivist interpretations of the Buddha. I suggested that the Pāli Nikāyas do not consider the four foundations of mindfulness the only way to attain liberation, and contended that for the Buddha the highest stages of holiness and spiritual development are not unique to his teaching-­and-discipline or the traditions derived from it, i.e., Buddhism. There are multiple and independently valid representations of the Dharma, all of them particular and conditioned to some extent. Some representations of the Dharma lead to liberation and highest holiness, others are counterproductive to attain such goals, and still others may serve as stepping stones toward them or be conducive to other ends such as a good rebirth, prosperity, social status, good health. Representations of the Dharma leading to liberation and highest holiness are found in the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline, in the

204   Starting a dialogue teachings of past and future Buddhas, as well as in the traditions in which paccekabuddha arise. However, since the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas does not specify further which traditions provide sufficient means to attain highest holiness and liberation, it is necessary to use diverse non-­exclusivist criteria to determine which teachers and teachings can contribute to the attainment of liberation and highest holiness. In the second stage, I deconstructed inclusivist interpretations of the Buddha. I argued that the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas is not an ordinary inclusivist who would be open only to similar representations of the Dharma. Assuming that representations of the Dharma found in other traditions are at best similar to the representations found in the Pāli Nikāyas seems to presuppose that the Buddha’s representation of the Dharma is maximal and, therefore, exhausts all that is related to the fundamentals of the holy life and all that leads to nibbāna. However, the Pāli Nikāyas demonstrate that the Buddha’s representation of the Dharma is not maximal. The Buddha did not claim to know everything about the Dharma, he did not claim to teach everything he knew about the Dharma, and the Dharma is ultimately to be realized within oneself because it is beyond the range of language and concepts. Even if the representation of the Dharma that appears in the Pāli Nikāyas were sufficient to attain liberation and highest holiness at the time and cultural context of the Buddha, it might be the case that such representation is no longer sufficient. Maybe what the Buddha did not teach because it was not useful back then became useful later; or maybe what the Buddha taught because it was useful in the past is no longer useful. Be that as it may, the history of Buddhism demonstrates that new representations of the Dharma were necessary at other times and places. The history of Buddhism also demonstrates that representations of the Dharma outside Buddhism have enriched Buddhist traditions. I have suggested that the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas would be in principle open not only to similar representations of the Dharma, but also to new representations. Since the Buddha did not conceive the Dharma, liberation, and highest holiness as being the monopoly of any particular tradition, there are grounds to suggest that the Buddha would be open to the existence of OTMIX wherever it may be found, i.e., inside and outside Buddhist traditions. The third stage of my reconstruction clarified the kind of openness to religious diversity that can be attributed to the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas. I contended that the Buddha’s approach to religious diversity is pluralistic in terms of attitude (openness in practice) and a form of pluralistic-­inclusivism in terms of view (openness in theory). The Buddha’s view is best understood as a form of pluralistic-­inclusivism because his openness to new representations of the Dharma would be constrained by nonnegotiable teachings such as the four noble truths, dependent origination, and selflessness. That is, the Buddha’s openness to other representations of the Dharma inside and outside Buddhism would be critical, selective, and firmly rooted in the aforementioned teachings. I suggested that even though the Buddha’s view of OTMIX cannot be considered pluralist, his practical attitude toward people from other traditions is unmistakably pluralistic. The Buddha proactively engages members from other traditions through

A comparative appraisal   205 dialogue, such dialogue is open-­ended, and it does not seek necessarily agreement or conversion. I also suggested that, even though the Buddha’s view is a form of pluralistic-­inclusivism, his advice to explore and critically investigate even his own teachings requires his disciples to be pluralists in terms of view. That is, in order to follow the Buddha’s advice, his disciples need to keep an open mind free from nonnegotiable doctrinal constraints until they see for themselves the merits of a teaching or doctrinal claim. I have argued that many views of Mark Heim and John Hick are incompatible with fundamental teachings of the Buddha in the Pāli Nikāyas. In what follows, I develop a model of religious diversity that is more consistent with the Pāli Nikāyas than the models of Heim and Hick. I call this model “the Buddha’s model” without claiming that the historical Buddha literally advocated such a model of religious diversity. Unlike the models of Hick and Heim, the Buddha’s model need not presuppose an absolute reality at the center of the religious universe. Rather, what the Buddha’s model requires is a common problem to which both religious and secular traditions respond. This common problem is the problem of suffering, which in principle does not demand the existence of an absolute reality to be resolved. This, however, does not mean that the Buddha’s model must deny necessarily the existence of an absolute reality, be it called the Triune God, the One, the Real, the Transcendent, the Mystery. The Buddha’s model is compatible with interpretations of the Dharma and nibbāna as absolute realities, but the model as such does not demand any particular interpretation of such concepts. The Dharma can also be interpreted as Truth, natural law, or cosmic order without having to be an absolute reality separated from the universe; and nibbāna can also be interpreted in psychological terms as freedom from unwholesome mental states, liberation from suffering, or cessation of greed, hatred, and delusion. That is, the Buddha’s model qua model is compatible with both the affirmation and the negation of an absolute reality, be it conceived in theistic or non-­theistic terms. The Pāli Nikāyas are not intended to explain religious diversity. The Buddha’s teachings are intended to address the problem of suffering. The main concern of the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas is liberation from suffering: “Just as the ocean has but one taste, the taste of salt, even so this teaching-­and-discipline has but one taste, the taste of liberation.”1 It is because of this pragmatic concern with liberation that the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas emphasizes so much the specific conditionality of suffering and the four noble truths: the nature of suffering, its conditioned arising, its conditioned cessation or liberation, and the path leading to the cessation of suffering. This emphasis on suffering and the four noble truths allows us to conjecture that the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas would understand other traditions accordingly, namely through the lenses of the four noble truths, and as different attempts to explain, mitigate, and, if possible, eradicate various forms of suffering. I reconstruct the Buddha’s model as involving two claims: (1) religious and secular traditions are different attempts to address the problem of suffering;

206   Starting a dialogue (2) the problem of suffering can be formulated in terms of the four noble truths: there is suffering, suffering has specific causes, such causes can be eradicated, and there is a path leading to the eradication of suffering. In order to differentiate the Buddha’s model from Hick’s model, I distinguish between Hick’s hypothesis, which put a transcendent Real in itself at the center, and the Buddha’s hypothesis, which puts suffering at the center. While Hick’s hypothesis understands religions as different modes of conceiving, perceiving, and responding to the Real in itself, the Buddha’s hypothesis understands other traditions including secular ones as different attempts to address the problem of suffering. Traditions that provide effective explanations and solutions to the problem of suffering can be considered representations of the Dharma, and those that provide ineffective or counterproductive explanations and solutions would be misrepresentations of the Dharma. The Buddha’s model qua model can be formulated without using the term “Dharma” and without understanding suffering as the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas understands it, i.e., as dukkha. The Buddha’s model as such need not be equated with the specific conditionality of suffering proposed by the Buddha in the Pāli Nikāyas. Similarly, the specific Christian views of Hick and Heim should not be confused with Hick’s pluralist hypothesis, and Heim’s orientational pluralism. The Buddha’s model qua model is not necessarily committed to just one understanding of suffering and its cessation, be it the one found in the Pāli Nikāyas or those found in Mahāyāna Buddhist traditions. Likewise, Hick’s pluralist hypothesis and Heim’s orientational pluralism are not necessarily dependent on Hick’s and Heim’s theological ideas about Christianity, God, Jesus, and the Trinity. Nevertheless, the models of Hick, Heim, and the Buddha are related, at least to some extent, to the particular theological or philosophical assumptions of Hick, Heim and the Buddha. That is, I distinguish between models of religious diversity and particular philosophical and theological assumptions, but I do not separate them completely. The Buddha’s model qua model does not endorse only one particular explanation of suffering and its causes, nor specify whether suffering has a definitive solution, nor tell us what are the exact means to mitigate or eradicate suffering. Likewise, the Buddha’s model qua model does not presuppose a single view of religious diversity. Exclusivist, inclusivist, and pluralist views can also be accommodated by the Buddha’s model qua model. However, since I do not think it is ultimately possible to speak from a hermeneutical no man’s land, i.e., from the perspective of the Buddha’s model qua model, I speak from a particular perspective, the perspective that I consider most consistent with the Buddha’s teaching in the Pāli Nikāyas. The models of Hick, Heim, and the Buddha are similar in that they all accept that OTMIX, the most important goal, concern, reality, teaching, ideal, etc., of a particular tradition can be found in other traditions too. When X refers to salvation or liberation, the three models accept that X can be attained in multiple traditions independently of each other. None of the three models considers the

A comparative appraisal   207 historical Buddha and the historical Jesus the exclusive mediators of salvation or liberation. For Heim, it is possible to establish a relationship with the Father or the Holy Spirit without knowing anything about Jesus. For Hick, the transition from self-­centeredness to Reality-­centeredness does not depend on the incarnation of Jesus Christ. For the Buddha, the Dharma does not depend on the existence of Buddhas, and paccekabuddhas or self-­enlightened beings can attain liberation and highest holiness independently of Buddhas, Buddhism, and Buddhists. Similarly, when X refers to an ultimate reality, the three models agree in accepting the existence of X or knowledge of X in more than one tradition. For Hick, the Real in itself manifests across religions in personal and impersonal ways; for Heim, the Triune God can be approached through real and alternative venues provided by various religions. Likewise, for the Buddha, representations of the Dharma are found in the teachings of past and future Buddhas, in the traditions in which paccekabuddhas appear, and, to a lesser extent, in traditions that lack enlightened beings but nevertheless contain elements of the Dharma. Another similarity among these three models is that none of them entail relativism and the equal validity of all religions. For Hick, not all religions generate a soteriological alignment with the Real or facilitate a transition from self-­ centeredness to Reality-­centeredness. For Heim, not all religions succeed in establishing a relationship with the Triune God and damnation in hell is a real possibility. Likewise, for the Buddha, not all representations of the Dharma are conducive to liberation and highest holiness. There are traditions with teachings inconsistent with the Dharma and counterproductive to attaining nibbāna. The three models presuppose incompatible truth-­claims. Even though Hick and Heim present their models as second-­order meta-­theories, the fact is that Heim’s orientational pluralism and Hick’s pluralist hypothesis involve first-­order truth-­claims. Such first-­order truth-­claims about the nature of reality, knowledge, and the ultimate end of spiritual and religious practice compete face-­to-face with the first-­order truth-­claims made by many traditions including the claims made by the Buddha in the Pāli Nikāyas. Likewise, the Buddha’s model can be presented as a harmless second-­order meta-­theory, but the truth is that, like the models of Hick and Heim, it entails first-­order truth-­claims that compete with other claims. Specifically, the Buddha’s model entails first-­order truth-­claims about the centrality of suffering, thus decentralizing the question of God, and first-­order truth-­claims about the nature of religions, i.e., that they are responses to the problem of suffering, not responses to the Real or to the Triune God. In this regard, the Buddha’s model is no different from the models of Hick and Heim. The three models provide a second-­order explanation of religious diversity that presupposes first-­order truth-­claims about what constitutes the center of the religious universe and the main purpose of its many galaxies. Heim’s model of multiple ends is incompatible with the single-­end approach that underlies the Buddha’s model. For the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, there are  multiple-­ends derived from ethical and spiritual practice, but they are penultimate compared with the ultimate end of nibbāna. Penultimate ends are

208   Starting a dialogue understood by the Buddha as real and valid but never as alternative to nibbāna. Similarly, for the Buddha, it would be totally unacceptable to consider nibbāna a penultimate end from one perspective and the ultimate end from another. Nibbāna in the Pāli Nikāyas is the one and only ultimate end and this seems to be nonnegotiable. For the Buddha, this doctrinal claim about the ultimacy of nibbāna is not a matter of faith and respect for tradition, but a matter of wisdom and personal realization. Nibbāna is the third noble truth/reality (sacca) and denying that nibbāna is the ultimate end of the holy life and the ultimate liberation from suffering would be a perspective error. That is, the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas would reject contradictory claims about the ultimate end, each valid from the perspective of one’s own tradition, but invalid from the perspective of other traditions. The Buddha would not endorse Heim’s perspectivism and his idea of multiple salvations. Heim’s model undermines the truth-­claims made by the Buddha in the Pāli Nikāyas. Conversely, the Buddha’s truth-­claims contradict the truth of Heim’s perspectivism and his Trinitarian view of the ultimate end. The two models presuppose distinct and incommensurable understandings of knowledge and the nature of the ultimate end. Likewise, John Hick’s model and the Buddha’s model are incompatible. For the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, the Dharma and nibbāna can be known directly here and now, whereas for Hick the Real in itself transcends our experience and it is unknowable. That is, if Hick’s epistemology were correct then we would have to conclude that the Buddha and Buddhists deceive themselves when they claim it is possible to know directly the ultimate nature of reality. For the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, the Dharma and nibbāna transcend logic and language, but this does not mean that they transcend all kinds of knowledge and any kind of experience. In fact, if the Dharma and nibbāna were not accessible to our experience and they could not be realized directly, at least to some extent, then the Buddha’s path would be pointless and his entire soteriological system would collapse. In other words, the truth of Hick’s model entails that the Buddha’s truth-­claims are false. Conversely, the truth of the Buddha’s model renders Hick’s model false. The two models involve incompatible truth-­claims about both the nature of knowledge and the ultimate nature of reality. Since the models of Hick, Heim, and the Buddha involve conflicting truth-­ claims, and since there is not a vantage point of view from which we can adjudicate such claims, it seems arbitrary to suggest that any of the three models is superior to others on doctrinal grounds. In order to determine which among the three models is better than others we need to be more specific and use objective criteria. Some scholars believe that Heim’s model of multiple salvations respects difference better than other models. Other scholars contend that Hick’s pluralist hypothesis explains religious diversity better than other models. In what follows, I investigate these two claims.

A comparative appraisal   209

11.2  Is Mark Heim’s model more sensitive to difference? Needless to say, many traditions will refuse to be understood as one attempt among others to address the problem of suffering. Similarly, many traditions will object to Heim’s orientational pluralism and Hick’s pluralist hypothesis. Traditions deserve to be understood in their own terms, not as responses to the problem of suffering, the Triune God, or the Real in itself. In this regard the models of Hick, Heim, and the Buddha are similar in that they all fail to respect the self-­understanding of other traditions. However, some scholars seem to assume that Heim’s multiple-­ends approach excels the single-­end approach of Hick and the Buddha in respecting difference. At first sight, Heim’s model of religious diversity gives the impression of being more sensitive to difference than the single-­end approach of Hick and the Buddha. Hypothesizing multiple perspectives and multiple salvations appears to accommodate better religious diversity. We are all entitled to our opinions, nobody is absolutely wrong, all are right from their respective perspectives, we are only wrong from the perspective of others. I can say from my particular perspective that the ultimate end of my religion is uniquely superior, and you can also say from your own perspective that the ultimate end of your religion is uniquely superior. Thus, all can be happy, at least to some extent, because the distinctiveness and the superiority claims of their traditions are preserved. On the contrary, hypothesizing a single spiritual goal and a single spiritual path seems less sensitive to difference and otherness. Some people may accuse the models of Hick and the Buddha of failing to respect the self-­understanding of other religions, distorting their teachings, and imposing foreign categories and alien spiritual ends onto other traditions. This accusation, however, is problematic, not because it is false but rather because it assumes that Heim’s model fares better than the models of Hick and the Buddha. The seemingly politically correct idea of multiple salvations and many perspectives also undermines what most traditions claim about the nature of reality, knowledge, and the ultimate end. For instance, if Heim’s multiple-­ends approach is right, then the Buddha’s single-­end approach must be wrong. Advocators of the multiple-­ends approach perhaps would prefer to put this inescapable consequence more mildly: the Buddha’s approach is correct from his perspective, but incorrect from the perspective of others. Whatever way we formulate it, the overall result does not vary. What according to the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas is the ultimate end of the spiritual path becomes one salvation among others, and what the Buddha teaches about the ultimate end is simply the case from his perspective, not from the perspective of others. If the multiple-­ends approach is true, then Buddhists from all traditions will have to admit that from non-­ Buddhist perspectives the fundamental claims found in their texts are not true, they are just “tenable” from their respective perspectives. Heim’s multiple-­ends approach not only undermines the truth-­claims of the Buddha’s teaching and the Buddhist traditions that derive from it, but also the

210   Starting a dialogue truth-­claims of other religions including Christianity. For instance, Christian claims about Jesus Christ are “true” from a Christian perspective, but merely “tenable” from the perspectives of non-­Christians. According to Rescher’s orientational pluralism, which is the philosophical foundation of Heim’s model, the term “tenable” does not mean “true” in absolute terms. Rather, “tenable” for Rescher refers to a position that “can always be maintained from the vantage point of some possible value orientation,”2 that is, one position among many others that is “arguable from some ‘available’ orientation”3 or perspective. Some people may understand the term “tenable” as a politically correct way of saying “wrong for me and from my value orientation or perspective, but true for you and from your value orientation or perspective.” In other words, the concept of “tenability” seems to render all claims perspectival and partially true at best, with the exception of the claims made by orientational pluralism, which are absolutely true and independent of the perspective we adopt. Unlike the truth-­claims of Buddhism and other traditions, orientational pluralism seems to be more than just tenable; it seems to be beyond perspectives and, in that sense, its truth belongs to a higher absolute order. Rescher is aware of the epistemological and ontological presuppositions of orientational pluralism. In fact, he acknowledges that “abstractly considered, orientational pluralism is itself in the same boat as other substantive philosophical positions.”4 Thus, for Rescher himself orientational pluralism is not only a second-­order meta-­theory about the nature of philosophy, but also a first-­order set of philosophical claims about the nature of knowledge and reality. Heim is also aware of this and he does not hide that orientational pluralism is also a first-­ order theory. Heim acknowledges that his model, like other models of religious diversity is at the same time a second-­level description of religions and a first-­ level set of religious assertions.5 Thus, the first impression that Heim’s model gives to those unfamiliar with the philosophy of orientational pluralism is deceptive. Instead of being more sensitive to difference and otherness, orientational pluralism undermines the truth-­claims of other traditions, transforming such truth-­claims into equally valid opinions that, like other opinions, are “tenable” from the perspective of others, and “true” only from one’s own perspective. Some people may go as far as to accuse Heim’s multiple-­ends model of entailing relativism, but this is not the case. Heim’s model implies the relativization of all truth-­claims except those of orientational pluralism, not relativism in the sense of absolute absence of criteria or equal validity of all criteria. Heim never says that everything goes, that all claims and all religious ends are equally valid from any given perspective. Truth-­claims are relative to a particular perspective when perceived from outside. However, when seen from inside a particular perspective, truth-­claims appear always as absolute. Heim’s model does not deny absolute standards absolutely; such standards appear as absolute from inside, but they are relative from outside, that is, they are relative to a particular perspective. In other words, standards and normative criteria are relative and absolute at the same time, although in two different senses: relative when seen

A comparative appraisal   211 from outside or from the perspective of others, and absolute when seen from inside one’s own tradition or from one’s own perspective. Although many people with a postmodern outlook may feel inclined to agree with Heim’s model, most people inside religious traditions are much less postmodern and less likely to find orientational pluralism a harmless second-­order meta-­theory. For most religious followers the claims of their traditions are much more than tenable or just true from a particular perspective. For them, Heim’s orientational pluralism threatens the identity of their traditions and the objective nature of their truth-­claims. Given the far reaching implications of orientational pluralism, it seems questionable to suggest that Heim’s model excels other models in respecting difference, if by “respecting difference” it is meant respecting the self-­understanding of other traditions, minimizing distortion of their teachings, and avoiding the imposition of foreign categories onto others. In the case of Heim, not only his orientational pluralism but also his Trinitarian understanding of other religious ends can be accused of not respecting difference in the aforementioned sense. We have already seen how Heim interprets emptiness as an intensified yet limited relationship with one dimension of the Triune God, namely, the divine impersonality or the flux and exchange among the divine persons. Saying that Buddhist emptiness involves an alternative relationship with the impersonal dimension of the Triune God does the opposite of respecting difference and understanding others in their own terms. Emptiness is domesticated and subsumed under a Christian concept of God; it is no longer the emptiness of Buddhists but rather the emptiness of Christians. Thus, it seems questionable to assume that Buddhist emptiness is better respected by those who understand it from the perspective of orientational pluralism. Some people could say in reference to Heim’s interpretation of Buddhist emptiness precisely what he states while discussing single-­end Christian inclusivism and Hick’s pluralism: “it would be much preferable to find a way to recognize the integrity of the religious traditions in their own terms rather to denature them . . .”6 Heim seems to assume that his understanding of Buddhist emptiness from a Trinitarian Christian perspective improves upon Christian single-­end inclusivism, e.g., Karl Rahner’s doctrine of anonymous Christians. For Heim, single-­end inclusivism reduces religions to different avenues towards the same religious end, namely, union with Christ; whereas the multiple-­ends approach “elevates” the status of non-­Christian religions to different avenues towards real, valid and alternative yet penultimate salvations. I write the term “elevates” with quotations marks because it seems paradoxical to improve the status of non-­Christian religions by considering their salvations inferior, and a lesser good compared to the Christian salvation. It should be noticed that Rahner was in a sense more generous than Heim in viewing other religions as inferior ways of salvation, not as ways of inferior salvation. For Rahner, other religions were not at the same level as Christianity, but the salvation attainable in them through them was not penultimate or lower to the salvation attainable in Christianity.

212   Starting a dialogue My concern here is not to defend Rahner and criticize Heim, but rather to question the assumption of some scholars who suggest that Heim’s multiple-­ ends approach improves upon the single-­end approach in respecting difference. Some people tend to equate open inclusivism with Heim’s multiple-­ends approach, and closed inclusivism with Rahner’s single-­end approach. This, however, is inaccurate. Rahner’s theology of religions does not need to be interpreted as an ordinary form of inclusivism open only to similar instances of OTMIX. In fact, Jacques Dupuis’s theology of religions demonstrates that a Rahnerian form of single-­end pluralistic-­inclusivism can be sincerely and genuinely open to new instances of OTMIX in other religions. Besides, the single-­ end approach is not unique to ordinary inclusivism, it can also be advocated by pluralistic-­inclusivists (Dupuis) as well as by pluralists (Hick). I would not like to be misunderstood, I am not saying that the single-­end approach is hermeneutically better than the multiple-­ends approach. My point is that both the single-­end and the multiple-­ends approaches can be equally accused of imposing the ultimate end of one’s own tradition onto others. Viewing the ultimate ends of other religions as limited and less deep relationships with the Triune God is not any better than seeing religions as multiple representations of the Dharma that attempt to address the problem of suffering. Like Heim and Hick, the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas interprets the ends of other traditions in terms that are unacceptable for those traditions. For instance, referring to the ultimate end of Brahmanism, the Buddha states that heavenly existence in communion with Brahmā, the highest kind of God, is impermanent. For the Buddha, considering eternal such heavenly existence in communion with Brahmā is a sign of ignorance, literally, “gone to ignorance” (avijjāgato), which Bhikkhu Bodhi translates as “lapsed into ignorance.”7 Furthermore, the Buddha appropriates the expression that designates the ultimate end of Brahmanism, that is, “communion with Brahmā” (brahmasahavyatā), and reinterprets the path leading to this end in his own terms, terms that are inconsistent with the Brahmanic tradition. That is, instead of interpreting the path leading to communion with Brahmā in terms of studying the Vedas and performing ritual offerings to Gods, the Buddha understands the spiritual path in terms of mental purification and cultivation of loving-­kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.8 Moreover, the Buddha interprets the prayers and petitions to the Gods of the Brahmanic tradition as ineffective to reach the ultimate end. For the Buddha, invoking Gods and requesting their help to attain the ultimate end of the holy life is like wishing to cross over by calling the other shore to come to this shore.9 Like Heim, the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas interprets other traditions not in their own terms but rather in the terms that are most consistent with his own understanding of the spiritual path and the ultimate goal. This, however, does not mean that the Buddha was any less sensitive to difference than Heim. Like Heim, the Buddha was perfectly aware of the self-­understanding of other traditions yet, like Heim, he chooses to reinterpret key concepts of other traditions in other ways.

A comparative appraisal   213 Is not Heim also reinterpreting Buddhist concepts from his own Christian perspective? Heim also seems to be perfectly aware of what Buddhists say about emptiness and nibbāna, yet he chooses to interpret them from a Christian perspective as a relationship with the divine impersonality. Heim’s Christian interpretation of emptiness and nibbāna is as sensitive to difference as the interpretation that the Buddha makes of Brahmanic concepts. What the Buddha and Heim do with other traditions seems to be deliberate and not a sign of disrespect toward religious diversity. Why is then Heim’s interpretation of Buddhist concepts more sensitive to difference than the Buddha’s interpretation of Brahmanic concepts if they both purposely fail to understand such concepts in their own terms? Heim interprets religions from a Christian perspective that accepts the existence of multiple ends, and the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas understands other traditions from his single-­end perspective. For Heim there is only one God and only Christianity seems to involve communion with the three persons of the Trinity, whereas other religious “represent an intensified realization of one dimension of God’s offered relation with us. This intensification comes through limitation, in that a dimension (or some subset of dimensions) is taken to be God’s sole true relation with us.”10 On the other hand, for the Buddha there is only one Dharma, one ultimate end, one ideal of holiness, and one culmination of the spiritual path. For the Buddha, those who fail to understand that nibbāna is such ultimate end are mistaken. Similarly, for Heim, those who do not interpret his multiple salvations as ultimate from one perspective, but penultimate from the perspectives of others are mistaken. Heim’s model hypothesizes multiple perspectives and multiple ends, whereas the Buddha’s model hypothesizes a single true perspective and a single ultimate end. Both models can accommodate religious diversity and both do so by privileging a particular standpoint, that of Christianity and Rescher’s orientational pluralism in the case of Heim, and that of the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline in the case of the Pāli Nikāyas. It seems questionable to suggest that Heim’s model is more sensitive to difference because it allows other traditions to interpret as penultimate what for Christians is the ultimate end, or to interpret as ultimate what for Christians is penultimate. The overall result does not change. Heim’s model entails the relativization and, therefore, the devaluation of all truth-­claims except perhaps the truths of orientational pluralism. Heim’s Trinitarian reading of other religious ends does not improve upon other models in respecting difference and understanding religions in their own terms. Heim’s Christian interpretation of Buddhist salvation is unacceptable to Buddhists, and Buddhist understandings of communion with God as rebirth in heaven is unacceptable to Christians. It is true that Heim’s model preserves the superiority claims of religions, but this is achieved by devaluating such claims, which are true only from a particular perspective. That is, religions can claim that their ultimate end is superior to others, but they have to accept that other traditions, from different perspectives, can also claim that their end is ultimate and that the ends of other traditions are penultimate.

214   Starting a dialogue Hick, Heim, and the Buddha understand other traditions from their respective frameworks not because they are insensitive to difference or unaware of the self-­ understanding of other traditions but rather because they choose to interpret such traditions differently: from a neo-­Kantian perspective in the case of Hick’s pluralist hypothesis; according to Rescher’s orientational pluralism in the case of Heim’s model; and as different responses to the problem of suffering in the case of the Buddha’s model.

11.3  Is Hick’s model explanatorily more powerful? Hick argues that his pluralist hypothesis explains religious diversity better than other models. Hick mentions four possible models besides his own.11 The first model is naturalism, the idea that all the God figures and impersonal absolutes are illusory. The second model is one-­tradition absolutism, “that the God or absolute of my tradition, whoever it may be, is real and all the others illusory.”12 The third model states that God has many names, that the different names Allah, Vishnu, Holy Trinity, and so on, denote the same deity. Hick differentiates his model from this third option. For Hick, “the Gods as described in the different scriptures are clearly not the same.”13 Hick’s hypothesis is that religions are distinct responses to the same transcendent reality, which is experienced, conceived, and described differently by religions, not that all religions describe the same thing through different names. The fourth model is what Hick calls poly-­ absolutism or ultra-­pluralism, which he identifies with Mark Heim’s model. According to Hick, ultra-­pluralism “says that all the God figures and impersonal absolutes are alike real.”14 For Hick, ultra-­pluralism claims “by implication” that the different religious ends sought by religions are all equally real. If there are many salvations and each one is ultimate from its respective perspective, it follows that they are all equally real. This multiplicity of religious ends entails the existence of multiple absolutes, each one being the ultimate reality from its own perspective. For Hick, however, ultra-­pluralism is incoherent. Hick provides three reasons against Heim’s model: One is that the monotheistic Gods are each defined as creator of everything other than God, and there can be logically only one such creator. A second is that a universe organized as the non-­theistic traditions affirm is incompatible with there being even one such monotheistic God, let alone several. And third, several faiths are today mixed together in many countries and many cities, so that we would have to take the division of divine jurisdictions down to different cities and even to street level and indeed to individual houses. The picture becomes more and more incoherent the more it is spelled out.15 As an alternative to the aforementioned four models, Hick proposes his pluralist hypothesis: “the best religious account we can give of the global situation is that  of a single ineffable Ultimate Reality whose universal presence is being

A comparative appraisal   215 differently conceived and experienced and responded to within different human religious traditions.”16 Hick does not mention the Buddha’s model as a possible alternative. This is not surprising, and it should not be held against Hick. As I have suggested, the prevalent Buddhist view of religious diversity tends to interpret liberation and highest holiness as exclusive to Buddhist traditions, although combining this exclusivist view of OTMIX with an inclusivistic attitude that genuinely respects inferior elements of truth and holiness found in other traditions. In order to capture this combination of an exclusivist view of OTMIX with an inclusivistic attitude I have used the term “inclusivistic-­exclusivism.” Strictly speaking, Buddhist inclusivistic-­exclusivism falls into Hick’s second alternative, which he calls one-­tradition absolutism. However, if, as I have argued, the Buddha’s approach to religious diversity combines a pluralistic attitude with a pluralistic-­inclusivist view of OTMIX that is single end and representative, then none of the four possibilities discussed by Hick fits the early Buddhist position. Hick discusses Christian inclusivism and Christian multiple-­ends pluralistic-­ inclusivism. However, Hick’s criticism of these Christian models does not apply to the Buddha’s view. Hick rejects Christian constitutive inclusivism because it “rests upon the claim to Christianity’s unique finality as the locus of the only full divine revelation and the only adequate saving event.”17 In this regard, for Hick, Christian constitutive inclusivism is not substantially different from Christian exclusivism; both remain forms of one-­tradition absolutism, and both fall short of crossing the theological Rubicon leading towards pluralism. However, for the Buddha, there are multiple representations of the Dharma, and none of them can be considered maximal, i.e., the only full revelation. Similarly, the Buddha’s teaching-­and-discipline is not the only adequate saving event as the early concept of paccekabuddha and the existence of past and future Buddhas demonstrate. The theological crossing of the Rubicon that Hick has in mind is the abandonment of claims to an ultimate superiority with regard to salvation/liberation and highest holiness. For Hick, the abandonment of salvific superiority claims marks the transition from inclusivism to pluralism. For Hick, this theological crossing of the Rubicon is the natural conclusion of accepting the possibility of salvation outside the mediation of Christianity. That is why Hick thinks that Christian inclusivism is somehow incoherent. In Hick’s words: once it is granted that salvation is in fact taking place not only within the Christian, but also within the other great traditions, it seems arbitrary and unrealistic to go on insisting that the Christ-­event is the sole and exclusive source of human salvation.18 This incoherence, or more specifically, this refusal to make a move from Christian inclusivism to pluralism is compared by Hick to accepting the Copernican revolution, which considers the sun at the center (God) instead of the earth

216   Starting a dialogue (Christ, Christianity), while claiming at the same time that the sun’s rays can reach other planets (religions) “only by first being reflected from the earth!”19 Again, this criticism does not apply to the view of religious diversity found in the Pāli Nikāyas. Buddhas are pathfinders, as the simile of the ancient path indicates (S.II.105–6). The spiritual path and the ultimate goal of nibbāna, i.e., liberation and highest holiness, are not constituted by Buddhas, Buddhism, and Buddhists. Buddhas represent or embody the Dharma, but do not make it real; the regularity and stability of the Dharma does not depend on the existence of Buddhas (S.II.25). Thus, from the perspective of the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, it would be absurd to claim that the sun’s rays of liberation and highest holiness can reach other planets, i.e., other traditions, only after being reflected from the earth, i.e., the Buddha’s teachings and the traditions derived from it. The Buddha does not need to cross the theological Rubicon that Hick talks about because he has been on the other shore of the Rubicon for more than 2500 years. It is later Buddhist scholasticism that crossed backwards to the shore of inclusivistic-­ exclusivism. That is, for the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, neither liberation nor highest holiness are exclusive to his teaching-­and-discipline, nor dependent on the existence of Buddhism. Mindfulness is not the one and only way to attain nibbāna, but rather the direct way or the way that leads only towards liberation and highest holiness. Neither paccekabuddhas nor Buddhas need to be understood as belonging to one and the same Buddhist tradition. Neither the teachings of all Buddhas nor future representations of the Dharma inside and outside Buddhism need to be absolutely identical to the teachings of the Buddha Gotama in the Pāli Nikāyas. Structural similarity need not be understood as always the same and as incompatible with new representations of the Dharma. Similarly, Hick’s criticism of ultra-­pluralism does not apply to the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas. The Buddha does not advocate the existence of multiple alternative salvations that are equally real, each one ultimate from one perspective, but penultimate from the perspective of others. The Buddha accepts the existence of various penultimate ends, but they are never an alternative to the ultimate end of nibbāna. Failing to consider nibbāna the ultimate end of the spiritual path is, for the Buddha, a perspective error, not a matter of perspective. Although the Buddha could be interpreted as accepting the existence of multiple perspectives that correlate with different levels of truth and discourse, this does not mean that, for the Buddha, there are multiple absolutes, each one being the ultimate reality from its own perspective. For the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas, there is one ultimate nature of reality or Truth about the universe, i.e., the Dharma, which has various aspects including nibbāna, the other three noble truths, dependent origination, and selflessness. Both the Dharma and nibbāna may and, in fact, have been interpreted as absolute realities. I have purposely left open difficult questions about the exact nature of the Dharma and nibbāna. I have simply suggested that they need not be understood as absolute realities. The Dharma can also be understood as the Truth about the universe, and nibbāna as the psychological state in which there is not more suffering because there is not more conditioning by greed, hate, and ignorance.

A comparative appraisal   217 Both the Dharma and nibbāna have many aspects. These multiple aspects of the Dharma and nibbāna can be distinguished but not totally separated. The same can be said about the relationship between the Dharma and nibbāna: they can be distinguished but not totally separated, at least at all times and in all contexts. Realization of nibbāna and the Dharma overlap, at least to some extent. In this sense, even if someone interprets the Dharma and nibbāna as absolute realities, it does not seem possible to suggest that for the Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas there are multiple absolutes. Now, the question of a plurality of ultimate realities within Buddhism is even more complicated. As the scholastic disputes about the doctrine of dhammas demonstrate, Buddhist traditions disagree about the number and exact nature of ultimate realities. I have limited myself to stating that, for the Buddha, there is only one ultimate nature of reality, namely, the Dharma in the sense of Truth about the universe. This sense of Dharma as Truth is not to be confused with the sense of dhamma as quality or nature of something. While for the Buddha there is only one Dharma in the sense of Truth, there are multiple dhammas in the sense of qualities or natures of things. The Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas does not specify the exact number of dhammas, and whether such dhammas are to be considered “ultimate” realities in the sense of being ultimately existent. This is open to interpretation as the history of Buddhist thought shows. Given that Hick’s critique of both Christian inclusivism and Heim’s pluralistic-­inclusivism does not apply to the Buddha, we need to investigate whether Hick’s hypothesis offers a better explanation of religious diversity than the Buddha’s model. The Buddha’s model would understand religious and secular traditions as different attempts to address the problem of suffering. This model does more justice to the Pāli Nikāyas than Hick’s model, which understands such traditions as responses to the Real in itself. The Buddha of the Pāli Nikāyas puts suffering at the center, not a transcendent Reality that is conceived, perceived, and responded to in personal and impersonal ways. It is true that the Dharma could be interpreted as a transcendent reality with respect to Buddhas because it can exist even when there are no Buddhas in the universe (S.II.25). The Dharma could also be interpreted as a transcendent reality with respect to propositional logic and language. That is, the Dharma is said to be atakkāvacaro, beyond the range of reasoning or unattainable through mere logic and words (M.I.167). However, it is also true that the Dharma cannot be said to transcend reason and language, at least totally, because it is described in terms of specific conditionality and dependent origination (M.I.167). Similarly, the Dharma cannot be said to transcend human experience in its entirety because it can be realized by the wise, and because it can be seeing when there is insight into dependent origination: “Whoever sees dependent origination, sees the Dharma; whoever sees the Dharma, sees dependent origination.”20 Likewise, the Dharma can be perceived when someone “sees” those who embody it, namely Buddhas and other holy beings: “Vakkali, whoever sees the Dharma, sees me; whoever sees me sees the Dharma. Seeing the Dharma, Vakkali, one sees me;

218   Starting a dialogue and seeing me, one sees the Dharma.”21 Needless to say, in this context the Buddha is speaking metaphorically, thus not referring to the literal act of seeing his physical body. Hick’s emphasis on a transcendent Real that manifests itself across religions in personal and impersonal way does violence to the Pāli Nikāyas. Despite Hick’s attempt to accommodate Buddhist traditions by changing his terminology from God to the Real or the Transcendent, the primary concern of the Buddha remains the causality of suffering: understanding the dependent arising of suffering and practicing the path leading to the cessation of suffering. What remains at the center of the Buddha’s universe is suffering and the spiritual path leading to its cessation, not a transcendent Real in itself that is perceived, conceived, and responded to in different ways. This, however, need not mean that, for the Buddha, there is not an absolute reality that is realized when suffering ceases to exist. Many Buddhist traditions do speak about an absolute reality and some texts in the Pāli Nikāyas can be interpreted as suggesting the existence of an absolute reality. However, even if the Buddha and Buddhist traditions accepted the existence of an absolute reality, it remains the case that such reality is not the main focus of Buddhist texts. Most importantly, neither the Buddha nor traditions derived from it portray the Dharma or nibbāna as realities that provoke a response. Rather, the only reality that calls for a response is suffering. The Buddha’s model is less controversial than Hick’s, not only because it does more justice to Buddhist traditions, but also because it does not deny the possibility of knowing the way things are, at least to some extent. Suggesting that different traditions are different attempts to address the problem of suffering need not deny that at least some traditions can know directly the way things are. For Hick, however, no tradition experiences the way things are because the Real in itself is, by definition, unknowable and the unexperienciable ground of human experience.22 Hick’s hypothesis is controversial, not only because it presupposes a Kantian epistemology, but also because it renders false the epistemological claims of other traditions. The Buddha’s model need not undermine the epistemological claims of other traditions. It may be the case that many traditions actually know, although in non-­comprehensive ways, the ultimate nature of reality. On the other hand, Hick’s hypothesis contradicts what other traditions claim to know about the ultimate nature of reality, be it called Truth, God, the Dharma, Brahman, and so on. Disagreements about the ultimate nature of reality and the best methods to eradicate suffering seem unavoidable no matter what model someone adopts. However, unlike Hick’s hypothesis, the Buddha’s model avoids controversial claims about what traditions can and cannot know, i.e., it does not assume that religions can never know directly what they consider the ultimate nature of reality. The Buddha’s model limits itself to understanding religious and secular traditions as different attempts to address the problem of suffering without denying that the ultimate nature of reality can be known directly, at least partially or in a non-­comprehensive way. Hick’s hypothesis is controversial also because it alienates traditions which do not affirm the existence of a transcendent reality. Agnostics, skeptics, and

A comparative appraisal   219 naturalists alike may understand religious diversity as different attempts to respond to the problem of suffering without having to posit the existence of a transcendent Real in itself. Even those who accept the existence of an ultimate nature of reality may feel misrepresented by Hick’s characterization of such ultimate nature as transcendent and absolute reality that is unknowable in itself. Not all traditions understand the ultimate nature of reality as a transcendent and absolute Reality in itself. On the contrary, the Buddha’s model can explain religious diversity without having to either affirm or deny the existence of an absolute and transcendent reality. There can be an ultimate nature of reality without the existence of an absolute and transcendent reality. The cessation of suffering can be interpreted in several ways, not just as an absolute and transcendent reality called nibbāna. Likewise, the Dharma in the sense of Truth about the universe need not be interpreted as a hypostasized absolute reality. Besides being less controversial, the Buddha’s model is simpler than Hick’s model. The reality of suffering is undisputed and directly accessible to everyone. The existence of a transcendent Real is disputed and, by Hick’s definition, beyond our experience. While we can only infer the existence of the Real in itself, we all can experience suffering. Whether we like it or not we need to respond to the reality of suffering. On the contrary, it seems possible to live a normal life without hearing the call of a transcendent Real and without having to respond to that which is not heard in the first place. By focusing on the problem of suffering, the Buddha’s model need not commit anybody to controversial and complex hypotheses such as: (1) there is a transcendent reality; (2) There is not a transcendent reality; (3) such transcendent reality is unknowable in itself; (4) such transcendent reality is knowable in itself. Whether or not there is a transcendent reality, and whether or not such reality is knowable in itself, does not conflict with hypothesizing that there is a reality called suffering that requires a response. Hypothesizing suffering as the primary reality to which religious and secular traditions respond is simpler than hypothesizing a transcendent Real in itself and the impossibility of knowing directly the ultimate nature of reality. In sum, the Buddha’s model—suffering at the center and traditions as different attempts to address the problem of suffering— offers a simpler and less controversial explanation of religious diversity. The Buddha’s model is simpler than Hick’s because it focuses on the reality of suffering, which is more accessible and does not require complicated theological and epistemological assumptions. The Buddha’s model is less controversial than Hick’s because it does not deny that religions can have direct access to the ultimate nature of reality or the way things are. The Buddha’s model is also less controversial because it does not alienate those who respond to the reality of suffering without presupposing anything transcendent or without understanding the ultimate nature of reality as an absolute and transcendent reality. Some people may object that the Buddha’s model is too vague and that being in principle compatible with conflicting interpretations of the ultimate nature of

220   Starting a dialogue reality, i.e., absolutist and non-­absolutist, is not precisely a good thing. Unlike the Buddha’s model, the objection goes, the model of Hick does not leave open the question of God, i.e., the existence or inexistence of an absolute and transcendent reality. The Buddha’s model may be simpler and less controversial, but, the objection continues, it is also more imprecise with respect to the question of God. Thus, according to this objection, the Buddha’s model is not explanatorily better than Hick’s model. Even if this objection had merit, it should be noticed that Hick’s model would be subject to the same objection. Some people may object that the concept of the Real is also open to several interpretations. For instance, experts on Kant disagree on whether the concept of Real in itself should be understood according to the “double aspect” or the “two objects” interpretation. Similarly, the concept of the Real may or may not be interpreted as a formal concept. I am not sure Hick is fully consistent in this regard. On the one hand, Hick claims that the Real in itself is a formal concept beyond personal and impersonal ways of conceiving, perceiving, and responding to the Real. One the other hand, Hick makes, at least implicitly, substantive claims about the Real, claims that are characteristic of Western monotheism. Specifically, Hick appropriates Anselm’s definition of God and says that such definition “refers to the ultimate divine reality without attributing to it any concrete characteristic.”23 For Anselm, however, describing God as “that which no greater can be conceived” is not a mere formal statement as Hick seems to assume. Rather, as Plantinga has demonstrated, the property of having maximal greatness entails properties usually attributed to the monotheistic conception of God, i.e., omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection.24 Although Hick does not see himself as a strict monotheist, his tendency to speak about “responses” to the Real presupposes a causal relationship between the Real and the universe characteristic of monotheism. Assuming that the Real somewhat intervenes in the universe to elicit “responses” from humans is in itself a substantive claim about the Real, a claim that seems inconsistent with a mere formal concept. Speaking in terms of responses to God’s calling is typical of monotheism and interpretations of the absolute as a human-­like reality, i.e., a person. Thus, assuming that the Real “calls” and that religions “respond” seems inconsistent with saying that the Real “cannot be said to be one or many, person or thing, conscious or unconscious, purposive or nonpurposive, substance or process, good or evil, loving or hating.”25 Moreover, even though Hick acknowledges that the Real in itself cannot be said to be one or many, he nevertheless argues against poly-­absolutism and claims there can be only one absolute. Again, saying that there can be only one absolute is a substantive claim about the nature of the Real, and reveals a bias in favor of a metaphysics characteristic of monotheism.26 Moreover, although Hick says about the Real that “it cannot be said to be one or many, person or thing,”27 he nevertheless assumes there can be only one absolute, and calls the Real “it” despite endorsing Anselm’s definition of God, which refers to a personal God, never to an “it.” Thus, if being open to more than one interpretation of the question of God entails having less explanatory power, then the model of Hick and the Buddha

A comparative appraisal   221 are equally at fault. Yet, it remains the case that the Buddha’s model explains religious diversity in a simpler and less controversial way than Hick. This, however, need not mean than the Buddha’s model is able to explain more traditions than Hick’s model. In fact, Hick’s model can also explain secular traditions as negative or somewhat confused responses to the Real. Thus, at least in this sense, the two models have similar explanatory power in the sense that both can account for both religious and secular diversity.

Appendix

Summary of concepts and definitions I understand approaches to religious diversity in terms of openness. I distinguish between openness in theory (views) and openness in practice (attitudes). There are four main views (exclusivism, inclusivism, pluralistic-­inclusivism, and pluralism) and three main attitudes (exclusivistic, inclusivistic, and pluralistic). These views and attitudes can be combined in different ways. For instance, someone can have an exclusivist view of religious diversity, e.g., salvation is unique to Christianity, and at the same time display inclusivistic and pluralistic attitudes. Each view entails a claim about the existence of OTMIX among the religions and presupposes a particular kind of openness. The acronym OTMIX stands for “our tradition most important X.” X may refer to different things but it always functions as the most important reality, goal, ideal, concern, teaching, revelation, truth, value, etc., within a given context and for a particular tradition or set of traditions. For instance, in some contexts and for some traditions, X may refer to God, Salvation, Specific Revelation, the Logos, the Holy Spirit. However, in other contexts and for other traditions X may refer to the Dharma, Emptiness, Nirvana, Tao, Brahman, Liberation, Highest Holiness, the Spiritual Path, Mystical Union, and so on. • •



Exclusivists in terms of view claim that OTMIX is unique to their tradition, and therefore, are open to the existence of X only in their tradition. Inclusivists in terms of view claim that OTMIX may be found in other traditions as well, but believe that X in other traditions is always similar to  OTMIX. Therefore, inclusivists in terms of view are open to the existence  of X in other traditions, but only as long as X is similar to OTMIX. Pluralistic-­inclusivists in terms of view also claim that OTMIX may be found in other traditions besides one’s own, but believe that X in other traditions need not be always similar to OTMIX. However, they believe that X in other traditions can never contradict, challenge, or supersede OTMIX. Therefore, pluralistic-­inclusivists are open to the existence of X in other

Appendix   223



t­raditions, even when X is different from OTMIX, but only as long as X in other traditions is compatible with and subordinated to the fundamental teachings of one’s own tradition. In other words, pluralistic-­inclusivists in terms of view are open to both similar and different instances of X in other traditions, but constrained by nonnegotiable doctrinal claims about what is true and good. Pluralists in terms of view agree with pluralistic-­inclusivists in that X in other traditions may be different from OTMIX, but, unlike pluralistic-­ inclusivists, pluralists do not think beforehand that X must always be compatible with and subordinated to the fundamental teachings of one’s own tradition. That is, pluralists in terms of view do not reject the possible existence of X in other traditions that may contradict, challenge, or supersede OTMIX. Like pluralistic-­inclusivists, pluralists are open to both similar and different instances of X in other traditions. Similarly, the openness of pluralists, like that of pluralistic-­inclusivists, may be constrained by standards and doctrinal claims about what is true and good. However, unlike pluralistic-­ inclusivists, pluralists do not consider such standards and doctrinal claims nonnegotiable by definition. In other words, unlike the openness to X of pluralistic-­inclusivists, the openness of pluralists is not dogmatically constrained, i.e., no doctrinal claim or standard is in principle or a priori nonnegotiable.

Each of these four aforementioned views of religious diversity may be combined with at least one of three main attitudes. There are correlations but not a necessary connection between views and attitudes. For instance, exclusivistic attitudes are likely to be associated with exclusivist views but exclusivist views can also be associated with inclusivistic and even pluralistic attitudes. Views influence and condition attitudes and vice versa, but this mutual influence and conditioning is not to be understood as a form of determinism. It might be the case that one tradition and even one practitioner may hold a certain view in some contexts that lead to a certain attitude, but in other contexts, the same view may lead to a different attitude. For instance, in some contexts exclusivist views may be associated with inclusivistic attitudes, but with different political, economic, and social circumstances the same exclusivist view may give rise to exclusivistic attitudes. In other words, religious traditions and individuals are not monolithic either in terms of views or attitudes. That is, traditions and individuals do not always display the same attitudes in all contexts even when their views of religious diversity remain unchanged. Conversely, traditions may change their views of religious diversity over time without necessarily modifying their basic attitude. For instance, a tradition or an individual may remain faithful to its original inclusivistic attitude even after shifting from an exclusivist view to an inclusivist one. Unlike views, which presuppose different claims about the existence of OTMIX among the religions, attitudes presuppose distinct practical dispositions to accept, respect, and dialogue with other traditions.

224   Appendix •





Exclusivistic attitudes: fail to accept the existence of other religions, and tolerate them at best. There is not genuine respect but rather political correctness. Dialogue with other religions is avoided or usually confrontational and intended to proselytize their members. Inclusivistic attitudes accept the existence of other religions with ambiguities and often as mere stepping stones towards one’s own tradition. There is genuinely respect for the teachings of other religions if and only if they are similar or compatible with the teachings of one’s own tradition. Dialogue with other religions is usually the monopoly of experts and official representatives, and ultimately dispensable if it is not subordinated to mission and proclamation. Pluralistic attitudes accept other religions unambiguously and without necessarily assuming that they are skillful means or stepping stones toward one’s own tradition. There is genuinely respect for the teachings of other religions even when they are different from and not fully compatible with the teachings of one’s own tradition. Dialogue with other religions is encouraged without subordinating it to other goals, not even agreement or conversion. Dialogue is an intrinsically valuable and open-­ended process indispensable for promoting mutual understanding and harmonious relationships among the religions.

I have differentiated the aforementioned senses of exclusivism as a view and as an attitude from other senses of exclusivism: •

• •

Propositional exclusivism: claiming that everybody who makes truth-­claims is an exclusivist because such truth-­claims exclude contradictory truth-­ claims. I have rejected this concept of exclusivism because it is too broad to be useful, and because it conflates a logical property of propositions involving truth-­claims with the exclusivist view, which is a particular claim about the existence of OTMIX among the religions: “X exists only in one’s own religion” or “OTMIX does not exist in other traditions.” Specific exclusivism: rejecting specific doctrines and practices found in other traditions. Exclusivist or absolutist mindset: a way of thinking with a tendency to apply a black or white logic to all aspects of reality, even to aspects that admit gray areas.

Both propositional exclusivism and specific exclusivism are epistemologically unavoidable and morally indifferent. They should not be confused with the exclusivist view and exclusivistic attitudes. It is possible to exclude contrary truth-­claims and reject specific doctrines and practices found in other traditions without holding an exclusivist view of OTMIX, e.g., without claiming that liberation and highest holiness are unique to Buddhism, and without displaying exclusivistic attitudes. Even people with exclusivist or absolutist ways of thinking need not be exclusivists in terms of view and attittudes. Similarly, not all

Appendix   225 people who hold exclusivist views display exclusivistic attitudes and exclusivist mindsets. In fact, most people with exclusivist views tend to display inclusivistic attitudes without exclusivist mindsets. In order to distinguish between different combinations of views and attitudes I have introduced the following concepts: •





Exclusivistic-­exclusivism: combining exclusivistic attitudes with an exclusivist view of OTMIX. In most cases, exclusivistic-­exclusivists presuppose exclusivist ways of thinking, but this is not necessarily the case. Some exclusivistic-­exclusivists may not have exclusivist mindsets. Fundamentalists are typically exclusivistic-­exclusivists with exclusivist mindsets. Inclusivistic-­exclusivism: combining inclusivistic attitudes with an exclusivist view of OTMIX. I have suggested that the prevalent Buddhist approach to religious diversity is an instance of inclusivistic-­exclusivism. The Buddha, on the contrary, is best understood as combining a pluralistic attitude with a pluralistic-­inclusivist view of OTMIX. Pluralistic-­exclusivism: combining pluralistic attitudes with an exclusivist view of OTMIX. The Dalai Lama, at least in his latest book about world religions, can be interpreted as a pluralistic-­exclusivist because he combines a pluralistic attitude with an exclusivist view of OTMIX. However, when the Dalai Lama speaks as an orthodox member of the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism, his discussions of Hindu and other Buddhist traditions clearly presuppose inclusivistic attitudes and illustrate the prevalent Buddhist approach to religious diversity, i.e., inclusivistic-­exclusivism.

There are other possible combinations of views and attitudes but I have not discussed them in this book. My main concern has been to clarify the Buddha’s approach to religious diversity and differentiate it from the prevalent Buddhist approach.

Notes

Introduction 1 “It is indubitably clear: the message here is that at least at the time of the Buddha the uniquely salvific path could only be found within the Buddhist teaching and discipline, and not in other school.” Buddhist Attitudes to Other Religions, edited by Perry Schmidt-­Leukel. Germany: Editions of St.Ottilien, 2008: 13. 2 Ibid., 13. 3 “An inclusivistic interpretation of the uniquely salvific role of the Buddhist path is evident in the various hierarchies which were constructed by later Buddhist schools in order to interpret the startling diversity within the Buddhist traditions itself.” Ibid., 13–14. 4 Ibid., 14. 1  A new framework   1 Exclusivism rejects the existence of salvation in other religions; inclusivism accepts the existence of salvation in other religions, but mediated by Christ alone; pluralism recognizes several independently valid religions, that is, there is salvation in other religions without the necessary mediation of Christ. For a useful historical account of Christian attitudes toward the existence of salvation in other religions, see Alan Race, Christians and Religious Pluralism. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1983.   2 A summary of different critiques to the typology can be found in Perry Schmidt-­ Leukel, “Exclusivism, Inclusivism, Pluralism: The Tripolar Typology—Clarified and Reaffirmed,” in The Myth of Religious Superiority: A Multifaith Exploration, edited by Paul F. Knitter. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2005.   3 For a brief discussion of the most recent alternative typologies, see Paul Hedges, “A Reflection on Typologies: Negotiating a Fast-­Moving Discussion,” in Christian Approaches to other Faiths, edited by Paul Hedges and Alan Race. London: SCM Press, 2008: 23–6.   4 Ibid., 27.   5 For a brief discussion of recent alternative typologies, see Paul Hedges, “A Reflection on Typologies: Negotiating a Fast-­Moving Discussion.”   6 Ibid., 17.   7 Perry Schmidt-­Leukel, “Exclusivism, Inclusivism, Pluralism: The Tripolar Typology—Clarified and Reaffirmed,” in The Myth of Religious Superiority: A Multifaith Exploration, 18. See also his Theologie der Religionen:Probleme, Optionen, Argumente. Ars Una: Neuried, 1997: 65–97.   8 Ibid., 19.   9 Ibid., 19. 10 Perry Schmidt-­Leukel, “Pluralisms” in Christian Approaches to other Faiths, edited by Paul Hedges and Alan Race. London: SCM Press, 2008: 87.

Notes   227 11 I write Dharma with a capital letter and nirvana and the other concepts in lowercase because they can all be interpreted as instantiations or representations of the Dharma. While nirvana can be subsumed under the four noble truths and the Dharma, the Dharma cannot be subsumed under any other concept, not even under dependent origination. On the contrary, dependent origination can be subsumed under the Dharma. However, other interpreters may prefer to write all the concepts that may stand for OTMIX with capital letters. 12 Christopher Ives, “Liberating Truth: A Buddhist Approach to Religious Pluralism,” in Deep Religious Pluralism, edited by David Ray Griffin. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005: 179. 13 H.H. XIV Dalai Lama, The Buddhism of Tibet. Translated and edited by Jeffrey Hopkins. Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications, 1975, third edition 2002: 77. 14 See for instance Majjhima Nikāya.I.22–3. 15 See for instance David Kalupahana’s interpretation of nirvana in History of Buddhist Philosophy: Continuities and Discontinuities. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1992. 16 “God is neither a person nor a thing, but is the transcendent reality which is conceived and experienced by different human mentalities in both personal and nonpersonal ways.” John Hick, God Has Many Names. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1982: 91. 17 In Buddhist Inclusivism: Attitudes Toward Religious Others. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2005. Kristin Beise Kiblinger understands inclusivism as a form of syncretism and combines this meaning with the standard meaning of inclusivism in theology of religions. However, in a later writing she states that overall she agrees with Perry Schmidt-­Leukel’s framework, and acknowledges that “this is somehow different from my previous use of the term inclusivism in my book on Buddhist inclusivism.” “Buddhist Stances toward Others: Types, Examples, Considerations,” in Buddhist Attitudes to Other Religions, edited by Perry Schmidt-­Leukel. Germany: Editions of St.Ottilien, 2008: 25. 18 See for instance the story of the Siṃsapā leaves in Saṃyutta Nikāya.V.438. 19 Not even in early Buddhism are all liberated beings alike. Buddhas (sammasambuddha) excel other enlightened beings in some regards. The specific nature of these regards differs from tradition to tradition. 20 We are indebted to Shubert M. Ogden for this distinction, though we do not endorse his understanding of these concepts in Is there Only One True Religion or Are There Many? Dallas, Texas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1992: 85ff. 21 Saṃyutta Nikāya.II.25. 22 “Buddhist Stances toward Others: Types, Examples, Considerations,” in Buddhist Attitudes to Other Religions, 24–5. 23 Perry Schmidt-­Leukel, “Pluralisms,” in Christian Approaches to other Faiths, edited by Paul Hedges and Alan Race. London: SCM Press, 2008: 100. 24 “The Jordan, the Tiber, and the Ganges: Three Kairological Moments of Christic Self­Consciousness,” in The Myth of Christian Uniqueness: Toward a Pluralistic Theology of Religions, edited by John Hick and Paul F. Knitter. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1987: 111. 2  Pluralism and degrees of openness   1 Paul Knitter, Introducing Theologies of Religions. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2002: 13–27.   2 Paul Hedges, “Particularities,” in Christian Approaches to other Faiths, edited by Paul Hedges and Alan Race. London: SCM Press, 2008: 112–35.   3 Ibid., 112.   4 Identist pluralism speaks about one salvation and one ultimate reality common to

228   Notes diverse religions. The pluralism of John Hick, Paul Knitter, and Wilfred Cantwell Smith is identist. David Ray Griffin, “Religious Pluralism: Generic, Identist, and Deep,” in Deep Religious Pluralism, edited by David Ray Griffin. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005.   5 Differential pluralism does not speak necessarily of one and the same salvation or about one and the same ultimate reality. The pluralism of John B. Cobb and Raimundo Panikkar is differential. Griffin, “Religious Pluralism: Generic, Identist, and Deep.”   6 For the concept of open inclusivism see Paul J. Griffiths, Problems of Religious Diversity. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2001: 60–4.   7 Jacques Dupuis, Christianity and the Religions: From Confrontation to Dialogue. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2002: 257.   8 Ibid., 90.   9 Ibid., 131. 10 Ibid., 258. 11 Ibid., 257. 12 Ibid., 229. 13 Knitter, Introducing Theologies of Religions, 103. 14 Griffin, “Religious Pluralism: Generic, Identist, and Deep,” 3. 15 Saṃyutta Nikāya. II. 105–6. 16 Saṃyutta Nikāya. II. 25. 17 Mark S. Heim, Salvations: Truth and Difference in Religion. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1995: 129. Quoted by Griffin, “Religious Pluralism: Generic, Identist, and Deep,” 27. 18 Raimon Panikkar, The Intrareligious Dialogue. New York: Paulist Press, 1999: 1. 19 Ibid., 1. 20 For an illuminating discussion of the differences between Karl Rahner and Raimundo Panikkar see Dupuis, Christianity and the Religions: From Confrontation to Dialogue, 52–9. 21 Heim, Salvations: Truth and Difference in Religion, 167. 3  Clarifying the concept of exclusivism   1 Gavin D’Costa, Christianity and World Religions: Disputed Questions in the Theology of Religions. Oxford: Wiley-­Blackwell, 2009: 35.   2 Ibid., 44.   3 Alvin Plantinga, “Pluralism: A Defense of Religious Exclusivism,” in The Rationality of Belief & the Plurality of faith: Essays in Honor of William OTMIX. Alston, edited by Thomas D. Senor. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1995: 194.   4 Ibid., 195.   5 Santaṃyeva kho pana paraṃ lokaṃ ‘natthi paro loko’ tissa diṭṭhi hoti, sāssa hoti micchādiṭṭhi . . . Santaṃyeva kho pana paraṃ lokaṃ ‘atthi paro loko’tissa diṭṭhi hoti. Sāssa hoti sammādiṭṭhi . . . Santaṃyeva kho pana kiriyaṃ ‘natthi kiriyā’tissa diṭṭhi hoti. Sāssa hoti micchādiṭṭhi . . . Santaṃyeva kho pana kiriyaṃ ‘atthi kiriyā’tissa diṭṭhi hoti. Sāssa hoti sammādiṭṭhi . . . Santaṃyeva kho pana hetu ‘natthi hetū’tissa diṭṭhi hoti. Sāssa hoti micchādiṭṭhi . . . Santaṃyeva kho pana hetu ‘atthi hetu’tissa diṭṭhi hoti, sāssa hoti sammādiṭṭhi (M.I.402–9).   6 I use Self/self because the root problem for the Buddha is not simply speculations about a Divine Self but also the ordinary concept of self and the subsequent “I” and “mine” attitudes, which are the ultimate root of harmful mental states including selfishness, possessiveness, conceit, and arrogance.   7 Commonly described either as the five aggregates (material form, sensations, perceptions, volitional formations, and consciousness), or as the six senses and their six objects (mind and mental objects, sight and forms, hearing and sounds, smell and odors, touch and tangibles, taste and flavors).

Notes   229   8 Neither-dark-nor-bright actions are characteristic of enlightened beings, who can no longer accumulate in their minds the positive or negative mental effects of their actions. This mental predicament beyond the accumulation of good and evil karma does not mean that enlightened beings are beyond good and evil actions. The Pāli Nikāyas are quite clear about this point: enlightened beings cannot do certain things including killing, stealing and having sexual misconduct (M.I.523; D.III.133).   9 See for instance Abraham Vélez de Cea, “The Early Buddhist Criteria of Goodness and the Nature of Buddhist Ethics,” Journal of Buddhist Ethics 2004, Vol. 11: 123–42. 10 See the Brahmajāla Sutta (D.I. 1–46). 11 M.I.486. 12 As Paul Fuller has demonstrated the no-­views interpretations of right view is misleading. There is a continuity between what the Aṭṭhakavagga and the Pārāyanavagga of the Sutta-­nipāta (Sn.766–1149) advocate and the rest of the Pāli Nikāyas. The Brajmajāla-Sutta (D.I.46ff ), the text that contains the most comprehensive list of non­Buddhist doctrines found in the Pāli Nikāyas, discusses 62 doctrinal positions without contrasting any of them with the Buddha’s doctrines. Instead, the Buddha limits himself to point out the conditions that generate views in general. 13 Diṭṭhaṃ hetaṃ vaccha tathāgatena: iti rūpaṃ, iti rūpassa samudayo, iti rūpassa atthaṅgamo, iti vedanā, iti vedanāya samudayo, iti vedanāya atthaṅgamo, iti saññā, iti saññāya samudayo, iti saññāya atthaṅgamo, iti saṅkhārā, iti saṃkhārānaṃ samudayo, iti saṅkhārānaṃ atthaṃgamo, iti viññāṇaṃ, iti viññāṇassa samudayo, iti viññāṇassa atthaṅgamoti. Tasmā tathāgato sabbamaññitānaṃ sabbamathitānaṃ sab baahiṅkāramamiṅkāramānānusayānaṃ khayā virāgā nirodhā cāgā paṭinissaggā anupādā vimuttoti vadāmīti (M.I.486). 14 Paul Fuller, The Notion of Diṭṭhi in Theravāda Buddhism: The Point of View. London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2005. 15 ariyacittassa anāsavacittassa ariyamaggasamaṅgino ariyamaggaṃ bhāvayato paññā paññindriyaṃ paññābalaṃ dhammavicayasambojjhaṅgo (M.III.72). 16 Following Richard Gombrich, I understand the plural dhammā and adhammā in this particular case as referring to teachings, not mental states. This is more consistent with the context of the simile of the raft and the general theme of the discourse, which is about detachment from pernicious views and wrong understandings of key teachings. 4  Is there liberation outside Buddhism?   1 Ekāyano ayaṃ bhikkhave maggo sattānaṃ visuddhiyā sokapariddavānaṃ samatikkamāya dukkhadomanassānaṃ atthaṅgamāya ñāyassa adhigamāya nibbānassa sacchikiriyāya, yadidaṃ cattāro satipaṭṭhānā. (D II. 290). Also found in M.I.55–6.   2 Rupert Gethin, The Buddhist Path to Awakening. Oxford: Oneworld, 2001: 64.   3 Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1974: 109.   4 Soma Thera, The Way of Mindfulness. Kandy: BPS, 1975: 1.   5 Nyanaponika Thera, cited by Bhikkhu Bodhi and Bhikkhu Ñānamoli (Transl.) The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1995: 1188.   6 Maurice Walshe, Thus Have I Heard: The Long Discourses of the Buddha. Boston: Wisdom, 1987: 335.   7 Ibid., 145.   8 Bhikkhu Bodhi (Transl.), The Connected Discourses of the Buddha. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2000: 1627.   9 Bhikkhu Bodhi and Bhikkhu Ñānamoli (Transl.) The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, 1188.

230   Notes 10 Rupert Gethin, Sayings of the Buddha. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008: 142. 11 Rupert Gethin, The Buddhist Path to Awakening. Oxford: Oneworld, 2001: 59–65. 12 Ibid., 64. 13 Ibid., 64. 14 Ibid., 64–5. 15 Ibid., 59. 16 Ibid., 64. 17 Gethin, Sayings of the Buddha, 142. 18 Ibid., 63. 19 Soma Thera, The Way of Mindfulness. Kandy: BPS, 1975: 19. The original Pāli reads: “imasmiṃ kho, subhadda, dhammavinaye ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo upalabbhatī” ti. 20 In early Buddhist texts aranhants are not understood as lacking in compassion or wisdom. In fact, arahant is a common epithet of the Buddha in the Pāli Nikāyas. 21 Yasmiṃ kho subhadda dhammavinaye ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo na upalabbhati, samaṇo pi na upalabbhati, dutiyo pi tattha samaṇo na upalabbhati, tatiyo pi tattha samaṇo na upalabbhati, catuttho pi tattha samaṇo na upalabbhati. Yasmiñca kho subhadda dhammavinaye ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo upalabbhati, samaṇo pi tattha upalabbhati, dutiyo pi tattha samaṇo upalabbhati, tatiyo pi tattha samaṇo upalabbhati, catuttho pi tattha samaṇo upalabbhati. (D.II.151). 22 I have not been able to find a complete translation of D.II.151 by Bhikkhu Bodhi. However, he translates M.I.63–4, which contains the same key claim found in D. II.151. Bhikkhu Bodhi translates it as follows: Bhikkhus, only here is there a recluse, only here a second recluse, only here a third recluse, only here a fourth recluse. The doctrines of others are devoid of recluses: that is how you should rightly roar your lion’s roar.” Idheva bhikkhave samaṇo, idha dutiyo samaṇo, idha tatiyo samaṇo, idha catuttho samaṇo, suññā parappavādā samaṇehi aññeti. Evameva bhikkhave sammā sīhanādaṃ nadatha. (M.I.63–4) There are two minor differences between M.I.63–4 and D.II.151: instead of addressing the monks, the Buddha addresses Subhadda, and instead of the sentence about the lion’s roar, D.II.151 concludes by saying that “Here however, Subhadda, if monks lived rightly, the world would not be empty of arahants.” (Ime ca subhadda bhikkhū sammā vihareyyuṃ asuñño loko arahantehi assā’ti.). Bhikkhu Bodhi and Bhikkhu Ñānamoli (Transl.) The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1995: 159. 23 Gethin, Sayings of the Buddha, 86. 24 In this context, I prefer Maurice Walshe’s translation of “vāda” as “school” rather than “doctrine” or “system.” 25 Bhikkhu Ñānamoli (Transl.), The Lion’s Roar: Two Discourses of the Buddha. Edited and revised by Bhikkhu Bodhi. The Wheel Publication, No. 390/391, 1993: 5. 26 Ibid. 27 Gethin, Sayings of the Buddha, 86. 28 Ibid., 86. 29 Ibid., 86. 30 Yasmiṃ kho subhadda dhammavinaye ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo na upalabbhati, samaṇo pi na upalabbhati, dutiyo pi tattha samaṇo na upalabbhati, tatiyo pi tattha samaṇo na upalabbhati, catuttho pi tattha samaṇo na upalabbhati. Yasmiñca kho subhadda dhammavinaye ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo upalabbhati, samaṇo pi tattha upalabbhati, dutiyo pi tattha samaṇo upalabbhati, tatiyo pi tattha samaṇo upalabbhati, catuttho pi tattha samaṇo upalabbhati. Imasmiṃ kho subhadda dhammavinaye ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo upalabbhati. Idheva subhadda samaṇo, idha dutiyo samaṇo, idha tatiyo samaṇo idha catuttho samaṇo. Suññā parappavādā samaṇehi aññe. Ime ca subhadda bhikkhū sammā vihareyyuṃ asuñño loko arahantehi assā” ti (D.II.151).

Notes   231 31 Alaṃ subhaddaṃ tiṭhatetaṃ sabbe te sakāya paṭiññāya abbhaññiṃsu, sabbeva na abbhaññiṃsu, udāhu ekacce abbhaññiṃsu ekacce nābbhaññiṃsū”ti. Dhammaṃ te subhadda desissāmi (D.II.151). 32 dhammaṃ te desessāmi: ‘imasmiṃ sati idaṃ hoti, imassuppādā idaṃ uppajjati, imasmiṃ asati idaṃ na hoti, imassa nirodhā imaṃ nirujjhatī’ti (M.II.32). 33 Idheva samaṇo, idha dutiyo samaṇo, idha tatiyo samaṇo idha catuttho samaṇo. Suññā parappavādā samaṇehi aññe. 34 Proliferation is a technical term that denotes the tendency of the mind to generate concepts based on extreme views about the Self/self. 35 Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation. The original reads: Ye ca kho keci bhikkhave samaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā imāsaṃ dvinnaṃ diṭṭhīnaṃ samudayañca atthagamañca assādañca ādīnavañca nissaraṇañca yathābhūtaṃ pajānanti, te vītarāgā te vītadosā te vītamohā te vītataṇhā te anupādānā te viddasuno te ananuruddhaappaṭiviruddhā te nippapañcārāmā nippapañcaratino te parimuccanti jātiyā jarāya maraṇena sokehi paridevehi dukkhehi domanassehi upāyāsehi. Parimuccanti dukkhasmāti (M.I.65). 5  Retrieving the early Buddhist position   1 Nāhaṃ sabbe samaṇabrāhmaṇā se (nandāni bhagavā) Jātijarāya nivutāti brūmi Ye sudha diṭṭhaṃ va sutaṃ mutaṃ vā Silabbataṃ vāpi pahāya sabbaṃ Anekarūpampi pahāya sabbaṃ, Taṇhaṃ pariññāya anāsavā se Te ve narā oghatiṇṇāti brūmi.   2 (S.V.432–3) Yehi keci bhikkhave, samaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā idaṃ dukkhanti yathābhūtaṃ nappajānanti. Ayaṃ dukkhasamudayoti yathābhūtaṃ nappajānanti. Ayaṃ dukkhanirodhoti yathābhūtaṃ nappajānanti. Ayaṃ dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadāti yathābhūtaṃ nappajānanti. Na me te bhikkhave, samaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā samaṇesu vā samaṇasammatā, brāhmaṇesu vā brāhmaṇasammatā. Na ca pana te āyasmanto sāmaññatthaṃ vā brahmaññatthaṃ vā diṭṭheva dhamme sayaṃ abhiññā sacchikatvā upasampajja viharanti. Ye ca kho keci bhikkhave, samaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā idaṃ dukkhanti yathābhūtaṃ pajānanti ayaṃ dukkhasamudayoti yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti. Ayaṃ dukkhanirodhoti yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti. Ayaṃ dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadāti yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti. Te kho me bhikkhave, samaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā samaṇesu ceva samaṇasammatā brāhmaṇesu ca brāhmaṇasammatā. te panāyasmanto sāmaññatthañca brahmaññatthañca diṭṭheva dhamme sayaṃ abhiññā sacchikatvā upasampajja viharantīti.   3 (S.V.433–4) Ye hi keci bhikkhave, atītamaddhānaṃ arahanto sammāsambuddhā yathābhūtaṃ abhisambujjhiṃsu, sabbe te cattāri ariyasaccāni yathābhūtaṃ abhisambujjhiṃsu. ye hi keci bhikkhave, anāgatamaddhānaṃ arahanto sammāsambuddhā yathābhūtaṃ abhisambujjhissanti, sabbe te cattāri ariyasaccāni yathābhūtaṃ abhisambujjhissanti. Ye hi keci bhikkhave, etarahi arahanto sammāsambuddhā yathābhūtaṃ abhisambujjhanti, sabbe te cattāri ariyasaccāni yathābhūtaṃ abhisambujjhanti.   4 I have argued before that “idheva” does not necessarily convey the idea of exclusivity, at least it does not in D.II.151. Here, however, the somewhat similar expression “idameva” can be appropriately translated as “this only.” By accepting that “idameva” in this context can be translated as “this only,” I am not contradicting what I have said before about “idheva” in D.II.151. Unlike in D.II.151, here the idea of exclusivity does not derive from the emphatic particle “eva” but rather from the expression “moghamaññantī” or “everything else is wrong.” The particle “eva” could have been translated as “indeed” and “idameva” as “this indeed.” However, “moghamaññantī” suggests that nothing else is true, so in order to capture better the universal exclusivist claim behind “moghamaññantī” the translation of “eva” as “only” is justified. In (D.II.151), however, I have argued that the sentence about other schools devoid of ascetics does not refer to all non-­Buddhist schools, but rather to schools that are incompatible with the noble eightfold path. Thus, “idheva” at D.II.151 is not followed

232   Notes by a sentence entailing a universal exclusivist claim, and therefore, translating “eva” as “only” instead of “indeed” is misleading and unjustified.   5 “Anekadhātunānādhātu kho devānaminda loko. Tasmiṃ anekadhātunānādhātusmiṃ loke yaṃ yadeva sattā dhātuṃ abhinivisanti taṃ tadeva thāmasā parāmassa abhinivissa voharanti ‘idameva saccaṃ moghamaññanti.’ Tasmā na sabbe samaṇabrāhmaṇā ekantavādā ekantasīlā ekantachandā ekantaajjhosānā’ti” (D. II.282).   6 “Sabbeva nu kho mārisa samaṇabrāhmaṇā accantaniṭṭhā accantayogakkhemī accantabrahmacārī accantapariyosānā?’Ti (D.II.282–3).   7 “Ye kho devānaminda bhikkhu taṇhāsaṅkhayavimuttā te accantaniṭṭhā accantayogak­ khemī accantabrahmacārī accantapariyosānā. Tasmā na sabbe samaṇabrāhmaṇā accantaniṭṭhā accantayogakkhemī accantabrahmacārī accantapariyosānā’ti. (D. II.283).   8 M.484–6.   9 Abraham Vélez de Cea. “The Silence of the Buddha and the Questions about the Tathāgata after Death,” The Indian International Journal of Buddhist Studies No. 5, 2004: 119–41. 10 See S.II.17. Sabbamatthī’ti kho kaccāna, ayameko anto. Sabbaṃ natthī’ti ayaṃ dutiyo anto. Ete te kaccāna ubho ante anupagamma majjhena tathāgato dhammaṃ deseti. Avijjāpaccayā saṅkhārā. Saṅkhārapaccayā viññāṇaṃ. Viññāṇapaccayā nāmarūpaṃ. Nāmarūpapaccayā saḷāyatanaṃ saḷāyatanapaccayā phasso. Phassapaccayā vedanā. Vedanāpaccayā taṇhā. Taṇhāpaccayā upādānaṃ. Upādānapaccayā bhavo. Bhavapaccayā jāti. Jātipaccayā jarāmaraṇaṃ, sokaparidevadukkhadomanassūpāyās ā sambhavanti. 11 Diṭṭhigatanti kho vaccha apanītametaṃ tathāgatassa. Diṭṭhaṃ hetaṃ vaccha tathāgatena: iti rūpaṃ, iti rūpassa samudayo, iti rūpassa atthaṅgamo, iti vedanā, iti vedanāya samudayo, iti vedanāya atthaṅgamo, iti saññā, iti saññāya samudayo, iti saññāya atthaṅgamo, iti saṅkhārā, iti saṃkhārānaṃ samudayo, iti saṅkhārānaṃ atthaṃgamo, iti viññāṇaṃ, iti viññāṇassa samudayo, iti viññāṇassa atthaṅgamoti (M.I.486). 12 Yato kho kassapa bhikkhu averaṃ abyāpajjaṃ mettacittaṃ bhāveti, āsavānañca khayā anāsavaṃ cetovimuttiṃ paññāvimuttiṃ diṭṭheva dhamme sayaṃ abhiññā sacchikatvā upasampajja viharati. Ayaṃ vuccati kassapa bhikkhu samaṇo iti’pi brāhmaṇo iti’pi (D.I.167). 13 Bhikkhu Bodhi and Bhikkhu Ñānamoli (Transl.), The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1995: 801. Sn, p. 119. 14 Ibid., 806. Na jaccā brāhmaṇo hoti na jaccā hoti abrāhmaṇo Kammanā brāhmaṇo hoti kammanā hoti abrāhmaṇo. Sn, p. 122. 15 Ibid., 802–7. Sn, pp. 119–23. 16 For a justification of this translation see K.R. Norman, “The Pratyeka-­buddha in Buddhism and Jainism,” on Buddhist Studies: Ancient and Modern, edited by Philip Denwood and Alexander Piatigorsky, London: Curzon, 1983: 96–9. I am indebted to Peter Harvey for this reference and other references below, personal communication, June 2010. 17 M.III.69. 18 Peter Harvey points out that paccekabuddhas “give short teachings as the occasion arises” (Jātaka 4. 114–17). 19 According to the Niddesa, the verses in Sn.35–75, which recommend to practice in solitude like rhinoceros, refer to paccekabuddhas. 20

Firstly, it suggests that the three “loyalties” in the Buddha, sangha and dhamma possessed by the four types of noble disciple are not absolutely necessary as a ­prerequisite for liberation. If there is no Buddha, there can be no “Buddhist

Notes   233 t­eachings” (dhamma), and no followers of these teachings (sangha). Secondly, the concept of the paccekabuddha suggests that the universe has a certain objective causal structure that exists whether or not there is a Buddha to teach it. This lends support to the Buddha’s claim that he is simply ‘describing’ the way to liberation and the way reality truly is, rather than the path being something of his “invention.” The implication of this is that liberation is not something that is restricted only to “Buddhists” or “followers of the Buddha,” because it can be attained when no Buddhas or Buddhists teachings exist. Jane Compson, “A Critical Analysis of John Hick’s Pluralistic Hypothesis in the Light of the Buddha’s Attitude Towards Others Teachings as Demonstrated in the Pāli Nikāyas.” PhD diss., University of Bristol, 1998: 119 21 K.N. Jayatilleke, The Buddhist Attitude to Other Religions. Ceylon: Public Trustee Department, 1966: 21. 22 Sabbapāpassa akaraṇaṃ kusalassa upasampadā, Sacittapariyodapanaṃ etaṃ buddhānasāsanaṃ. (Dhp 183) and (D.II.49). 23 Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation, The Connected Discourses of the Buddha. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2000: 551. uppādā vā tathāgatānaṃ anuppādā vā tathāgatānaṃ ṭhitāva sā dhātu dhammaṭṭhitatā dhammaniyāmatā idappaccayatā. Taṃ tathāgato abhisambujjhati, abhisameti. Abhisambujjhitvā abhisametvā ācikkhati deseti paññapeti paṭṭhapeti vivarati vibhajati uttānīkaroti. Passathā’ti cāha. “Bhavapaccayā bhikkhave jāt i. . . Upādānapaccayā bhikkhave bhavo . . . Vedanāpaccayā bhikkhave taṇhā . . . Phassapaccayā bhikkhave vedanā . . . Saḷāyatanapaccayā bhikkhave phasso . . . Nāmarūpapaccayā bhikkhave saḷāyatanaṃ . . . Viññāṇapaccayā bhikkhave nāmarūpaṃ . . . Saṅkhārapaccayā bhikkhave viññāṇaṃ . . . Avijjāpaccayā bhikkhave saṅkhārā’ iti kho bhikkhave, yā tatra tathatā avitathatā anaññathatā idappaccayatā, ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave, paṭiccasamuppādo. (S.II.25–6). See also (A.I.286–7). 24 Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation, The Connected Discourses of the Buddha, 603. vā taṃ nagaraṃ māpeyya, tadassa nagaraṃ aparena samayena iddhañce va phītañca bāhujaññaṃ ākiṇṇamanussaṃ vuddhiṃ vepullappattaṃ (S.II.106). 25 Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation, The Connected Discourses of the Buddha, 604. Tayidaṃ bhikkhave, brahmacariyaṃ iddhañceva phītañca vitthārikaṃ bāhujaññaṃ puthubhūtaṃ yāvadeva manussehi suppakāsitanti (S.II.107). 26 Tiṇṇavicikiccho kho pana so bhagavā vigatakathaṃkatho pariyositasaṃkappo ajjhāsayaṃ ādi brahmacariyaṃ evaṃ tiṇṇavicikicchaṃ vigatakathaṃkathaṃ pariyositasaṃkappaṃ ajjhāsayaṃ ādibrahmacariyaṃ. Iminā paṅghena samannāgataṃ satthāraṃ neva atītaṃse samanupassāma. Na panetarahi, aññatra tena bhagavatā ti (D.II.224). 27 aṭṭhānaṃ kho etaṃ mārisā anavakāso yaṃ ekissā lokadhātuyā dve arahanto sammāsambuddhā apubbaṃ acarimaṃ uppajjeyyuṃ. Netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjati (D. II.225). 28 Ria Kloppenborg, The Paccekabuddha: A Buddhist Ascetic. Leiden, Brill, 1974. 29 Cattāro’me ānanda thūpārahā. Katame cattāro? Tathāgato arahaṃ sammāsambuddho thūpāraho. Paccekasambuddho thūpāraho, tathāgatassa sāvako thūpāraho, rājā cakkavattī thūpāraho’ti (D.II.142). 30 See for instance Ud. 50 and S.I.92. 31 M.III.68–71. 32 Bhikkhu Bodhi and Bhikkhu Ñānamoli (Transl.), The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, 1321, note 1095. 33 Original version of entries by Peter Harvey for Encyclopedia of Buddhism, edited by Damien Keown and Charles S. Prebish. London and New York: Routledge, 2007: 62. 34 Ibid., 62.

234   Notes 6  Are Buddhists inclusivists or exclusivists with inclusivistic attitudes?   1 Bhikkhu Ñānamoli (Transl.), The Lion’s Roar: Two Discourses of the Buddha. Edited and revised by Bhikkhu Bodhi. The Wheel Publication, No. 390/391. 1993 :3.   2 Ibid., 3–4.   3 Bhikkhu Bodhi and Bhikkhu Ñānamoli (Transl.), The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1995:  484. Maṃ hi bhante aññatitthiyā sāvakaṃ labhitvā kevalakappaṃ nālandaṃ paṭākaṃ parihareyyuṃ: upāli amhākaṃ gahapati sāvakattupagatoti. Atha ca pana maṃ bhagavā evamāha: anuviccakāraṃ kho gahapati karohi, anuviccakāro tumhādisānaṃ ñātamanussānaṃ sādhu hotīti. (M.I.379).   4 The Jains.   5 Bhikkhu Ñānamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, 484. Dīgharattaṃ kho te gahapati nigaṇṭhānaṃ opānabhūtaṃ kulaṃ, yena nesaṃ upagatānaṃ piṇḍakaṃ dātabbaṃ maññeyyāsīti. (M.I.379)   6 See for instance the Mahāsaccaka Sutta (M.I.237–51).   7 H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama, “ ‘Religious Harmony’ and Extracts from the Bodhgaya Interviews,” in Paul J. Griffiths, Christianity Through Non-­Christian Eyes. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1983: 169.   8 Gavin D’Costa, The Meeting of Religions and the Trinity. Maryknoll: Orbis, 2000.   9 Jane Compson, “The Dalai Lama and the World Religions: A False Friend?” Religious Studies, Vol. 32, No. 2 (June, 1996): 271–9. 10 Kristin Beise Kiblinger, Buddhist Inclusivism: Attitudes Toward Religious Others. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2005. 11 Ibid., 76. 12 Ibid., 5. 13 Ibid., 9. 14 Ibid., 9. 15 Ibid., 23. 16 Ibid., 9–10. 17 Ibid., 8. 18 Ibid., 10. 19 Ibid., 24–5. 20 Ibid., 25. 21 Ibid., 25. 22 Ibid., 28. 23 Ibid., 33. 24 Ibid., 69. 25 S. Mark Heim, Salvations: Truth and Difference in Religion. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1995. 26 Kiblinger, Buddhist Inclusivism, 87. 27 Ibid., 78. 28 Ibid., 80. 29 Kiblinger, Buddhist Inclusivism, 31. 30 Ibid., 34. 31 Ibid., 34. 32 K.N. Jayatilleke, The Buddhist Attitude to Other Religions. Ceylon: Public Trustee Department, 1966: 21. The concept of the Buddha as one who discovers the truth rather than as one who has the monopoly of the truth is clearly a source of tolerance. It leaves open the possibility for others to discover aspects of the truth or even the whole truth for themselves. The Buddhist acceptance of Pacceka-­Buddhas, who discover the truth for themselves, is a clear admission of this fact. . . . This assertion of the possibility

Notes   235 of salvation or spiritual growth outside Buddhism does not mean that Buddhism values all religions alike and considers them equally true. 33 Ibid., 26–8. 34 H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama, “ ‘Religious Harmony’ and Extracts from the Bodhgaya Interviews,” 169. 35 K.N. Jayatilleke, The Buddhist Attitude to Other Religions, 21. 7  From inclusivism to pluralistic-­i nclusivism   1 Magdalene and Wilhelm Geiger, Pāli Dhamma vornehmlich in der kanonischen Literatur. Munich: Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1920. Reprinted in Kleine Schriften zur Indologie und Buddhismuskunde. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1973: 102–228. I am indebted to Rupert Gethin for this reference.   2 Edward Conze, Buddhist Thought in India. London: Allen & Unwin, 1962:  92–4. I am indebted to Rupert Gethin for this reference.   3 Rupert Gethin, “He Who Sees Dhamma Sees Dhammas: Dhamma in Early Buddhism,” Journal of Indian Philosophy 32 (2004): 515.   4 yo kho vakkali, dhammaṃ passati so maṃ passati, yo maṃ passati so dhammaṃ passati, dhammaṃ hi vakkali, passanto maṃ passati. Maṃ passanto dhammaṃ passati (S.III.120).   5 See for instance, Guang Xing, The Three Bodies of the Buddha: Origin and Development of the Trikāya Theory. London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004.   6 yo paṭiccasamuppādaṃ passati. So dhammaṃ passati. Yo dhammaṃ passati. So paṭiccasamuppādaṃ passatī (M.I.190–1).   7 Bhikkhu Bodhi and Bhikkhu Ñānamoli (Transl.), The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1995: 1273, note 714.   8 (M.I.482) sutaṃ metaṃ bhante, samaṇo gotamo sabbaññū sabbadassāvī aparisesaṃ ñāṇadassanaṃ paṭijānāti: carato ca me tiṭṭhato ca suttassa ca jāgarassa ca satataṃ samitaṃ ñāṇadassanaṃ paccupaṭṭhitanti. Ye te bhante evamāhaṃsu: samaṇo gotamo sabbaññū sabbadassāvī aparisesaṃ ñāṇadassanaṃ paṭijānāti: carato ca me tiṭṭhato ca suttassa ca jāgarassa ca satataṃ samitaṃ ñāṇadassanaṃ paccupaṭṭhitanti. Kacci te bhante bhagavato vuttavādino na ca bhagavantaṃ abhūtena abbhācikkhanti. Dhammassa cānudhammaṃ byākaronti. Na ca koci sahadhammiko vādānuvādo gārayhaṃ ṭhānaṃ āgacchatī’ti.   9 abbhācikkhanti ca pana maṃ te asatā abhutenā (M.I.482). 10 (M.II.127–8) Evaṃ kho ahaṃ mahārāja, abhijānāmi vācaṃ bhāsitā ‘natthi so samaṇo vā brāhmaṇo vā, yo sakideva sabbaṃ ñassati, sabbaṃ dakkhiti, netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjatī. 11 (A.II.23–4) Yaṃ bhikkhave sadevakassa lokassa samārakassa sabrahmakassa sassamaṇabrāhmaṇiyā pajāya sadevamanussāya diṭṭhaṃ sutaṃ mutaṃ viññātaṃ pattaṃ pariyesitaṃ anuvicaritaṃ manasā, sabbaṃ taṃ tathāgatena abhisambuddhaṃ. 12 (M.II.32) Apicudāyi, tiṭṭhatu pubbanto tiṭṭhatu aparanto, dhammaṃ te desessāmi: ‘imasmiṃ sati idaṃ hoti, imassuppādā idaṃ uppajjati, imasmiṃ asati idaṃ na hoti, imassa nirodhā imaṃ nirujjhatī’ti. 13 See Dharmacāri Nāgapriya, “Was the Buddha omniscient?” Western Buddhist Review 2004. 14 (Paṭisambhidāmagga 1.131, 133, 174; Buddhavaṃsa IIA.57; Kathāvatthu III.1; Milindapañha 102). I am indebted to Peter Harvey for these references. 15 Nagapriya, “Was the Buddha omniscient?” 12. 16 Kasmā cetaṃ bhikkhave, mayā anakkhātaṃ? Na hetaṃ bhikkhave, atthasaṃhitaṃ nādibrahmacariyakaṃ na nibbidāya na virāgāya na nirodhāya na upasamāya nābhiññāya na sambodhāya na nibbānāya saṃvattati, tasmā taṃ mayā anakkhātaṃ.

236   Notes Kiñca bhikkhave, mayā akkhātaṃ: idaṃ dukkhanti bhikkhave, mayā akkhātaṃ, ayaṃ dukkhasamudayoti mayā akkhātaṃ, “ayaṃ dukkhanirodho”ti mayā akkhataṃ, ayaṃ dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadāti mayā akkhātaṃ. Kasmā cetaṃ bhikkhave mayā akkhātaṃ? Etaṃ hi bhikkhave, atthasaṃhitaṃ, etaṃ ādibrahmacariyakaṃ, etaṃ nibbidāya virāgāya nirodhāya upasamāya abhiññāya sambodhāya nibbānāya saṃvattati, tasmā taṃ mayā akkhātaṃ. (S.V.438) 8  Beyond Buddhist inclusivism   1 Peter Harvey, “Contemporary Characterizations of the ‘Philosophy’ of Nikāyan Buddhism,” Buddhist Studies Review Vol.12, 2: 128.   2 etha tumhe kālāmā mā anusasavena, mā paramparāya, mā itikirāya, mā piṭakasampadānena, mā takkahetu, mā nayahetu, mā ākāraparivitakkena, mā diṭṭhinijjhānakkhantiyā, mā bhabbarūpatāya, mā samaṇo no garū’ti. Yadā tumhe kālāmā attanā’va jāneyyātha: ime dhammā akusalā, ime dhammā sāvajjā, ime dhammā viññūgarahitā, ime dhammā samattā samādinnā ahitāya dukkhāya saṃvattantī’ti: atha tumhe kālāmā pajaheyyātha (A.I.189).   3 Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation. Iminā’pahaṃ bhante bhagavato bhiyyosomattāya attamano abhiraddho, yaṃ maṃ bhagavā evamāha: anuviccakāraṃ kho gahapati karohi. Anuviccakāro tumhādisānaṃ ñātamanussānaṃ sādhu hotīti. Maṃ hi bhante aññatitthiyā sāvakaṃ labhitvā kevalakappaṃ nālandaṃ paṭākaṃ parihareyyuṃ: upāli amhākaṃ gahapati sāvakattupagatoti. Atha ca pana maṃ bhagavā evamāha: anuviccakāraṃ kho gahapati karohi, anuviccakāro tumhādisānaṃ ñātamanussānaṃ sādhu hotīti. Esāhambhante dutiyampi bhagavantaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi dhammañca bhikkhusaṅghañca. Upāsakaṃ maṃ bhagavā dhāretu ajjatagge pāṇupetaṃ saraṇaṃ gatanti (M.I.379).   4 Uḷārā kho te ayaṃ sāriputta āsabhī vācā bhāsitā, ekaṃso gahito, sīhanādo nadito: “evaṃ pasanno ahambhante bhagavati: na cāhu na ca bhavissati na cetarahi vijjati añño samaṇo vā brāhmaṇo vā bhagavatā bhiyyo’bhiññataro yadidaṃ sambodhiyanti. Ninte sāriputta ye te ahesuṃ. Atītamaddhānaṃ arahanto sammāsambuddhā, sabbe te bhagavanto cetasā ceto paricca viditā: evaṃsīlā te bhagavanto ahesuṃ itipi, evaṃdhammā—evaṃpaññā—evaṃ vihārī—evaṃ vimuttā te bhagavanto ahesuṃ iti pī ti? No hetaṃ bhante. Kimpana te sāriputta ye te bhavissanti anāgatamaddhānaṃ arahanto sammāsambuddhā, sabbe te bhagavanto cetasā ceto paricca viditā: evaṃsīlā te bhagavanto bhavissanti itipi, evaṃdhammā—evaṃpaññā—evaṃvihārī—evaṃvimuttā te bhagavanto bhavissanti iti pī ti? No hetaṃ bhante. Kimpana te1 sāriputta ahaṃ etarahi arahaṃ sammāsambuddho cetasā ceto paricca vidito: evaṃsīlo bhagavā iti pi, evaṃdhammo—evaṃpañño—evaṃvihārī— evaṃvimutto bhagavā iti pī ti? No hetaṃ bhante. Ettha hi te sāriputta atītānāgatapaccuppannesu arahantesu sammāsambuddhesu cetopariyañāṇaṃ natthi. Atha kiñcarahi te ayaṃ sāriputta uḷārā āsahī vācā bhāsitā, ekaṃso gahito, sīhanādo nadito: ‘evaṃ pasanno ahaṃ bhante bhagavati na cāhu na ca bhavissati na cetarahi vijjati añño samaṇo vā brāhmaṇo vā bhagavatā bhiyye’bhiññataro yadidaṃ sambodhiyanti? (D.II.82).   5 evameva kho me bhante dhammanvayo vidito: ye te bhante ahesuṃ atītamaddhānaṃ arahanto sammāsambuddhā, sabbe te bhagavanto pañcanīvaraṇe pahāya cetaso upakkilese paññāya dubbalīkaraṇe, catusu satipaṭṭhānesu suppatiṭṭhitacittā, sattasambojjhaṅge yathābhūtaṃ bhāvetvā anuttaraṃ sammāsambodhiṃ abhisambujjhiṃsu, ye pi te bhante bhavissanti anāgatamaddhānaṃ arahanto sammāsambuddho, sabbe te bhagavanto pañcanīvaraṇe pahāya cetaso upakkilese paññāya dubbalīkaraṇe, catūsu satipaṭṭhānesu suppatiṭṭhitacittā, sattasambojjhaṅge

Notes   237 yathābhūtaṃ bhāvetvā anuttaraṃ sammāsambodhiṃ abhisambujjhissanti, bhagavā’pi bhante etarahi arahaṃ sammāsambuddho pañca nīvaraṇe pahāya cetaso upakkilese paññāya dubbalīkaraṇe, catusu satipaṭṭhānesu suppatiṭṭhitacitto, sattasambojjhaṅge yathābhūtaṃ Bhāvetvā anuttaraṃ sammāsambodhiṃ abhisambuddho’ti (D.II.83).   6 “Friends, just as the footprint of any living being that walks can be placed within an elephant’s footprint, and so the elephant’s footprint is declared the chief of them because of its great size; so too, all wholesome teachings can be included in the four noble truths.” Seyyathāpi āvuso yāni kānici jaṅgalānaṃ pāṇānaṃ padajātāni sabbāni tāni hatthipade samodhānaṃ gacchanti, hatthipadaṃ tesaṃ aggamakkhāyati yadidaṃ mahattanena, evameva kho āvuso ye keci kusalā dhammā sabbe te catusu ariyasaccesu saṅgahaṃ gacchanti. (M.I.184)   7 Heim’s Christian theology of religious ends draws on Panikkar’s understanding of spirituality and the Trinity. However, unlike Heim, Panikkar’s concept of Trinity, that is, his cosmoteandrism, is much more than a Christian doctrine and a Christian concept of God.   8 S. Mark Heim, The Depth of the Riches: A Trinitarian Theology of Religious Ends. Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000: 179.   9 Ibid., 183. 10 Ibid., 191. 11

This divine impersonality can be perceived in two different ways, with their own integrity. The first apprehends the exchange among the divine persons, the flux itself, as most basic. The nature of all is changing and impermanent: all is arising. And behind the arising there is nothing more substantial than that process itself. The only thing that could be more fundamental would be the cessation of such arising: something like what Buddhism calls nirvana. Contact with the impersonality of the divine can suggest the unreality of the self or the individual as we normally understand it. If creation is examined rigorously in this dimension, it can rightly be found to have “emptiness” at its base. Ibid., 186–7

12

. . . the true alternative character of these ends allows and even requires a judgment from the Christian perspective that subordinates them to salvation. To realize something other than communion with the Triune God and with other creatures through Christ, in the continuing relationship of created beings, is to achieve a lesser good. It is not the abundant life that Christians know and hope for in Christ. Ibid., 44

13 Referring to Christian single-­end inclusivism Heim states: Such inclusivism grants that the same truth and benefits available in the Christian tradition can be made available within at least some other faiths. But the nature of these contacts is to lead people into relation with God through Christ. There is no alternative religious option in these traditions, just a different possible avenue to approach the same end. What is not directed to the full Christian aim is neither true nor real. It is just at this point that I propose a change. I suggest that Christians can consistently recognize that some traditions encompass religious fulfillments different from the salvation Christian seek. There are paths in varying religious traditions that, if consistently followed, prove effective in bringing adherents to alternative ends. Ibid., 43–4 14 Ibid., 44. 15 S. Mark Heim, Salvations: Truth and Difference in Religion. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1995: 134.

238   Notes 16 Cetanāhaṃ bhikkhave kammaṃ vadāmi, cetayitvā kammaṃ karoti kāyena vācāya manasā (A.III.415). 17 (M.II.214), (A.I.173). yaṅkiñcāyaṃ purisapuggalo paṭisaṃvedeti sukhaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vā adukkhamasukhaṃ vā, sabbaṃ taṃ pubbekatahetu. 18 Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation, The Connected Discourses of the Buddha, Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2000: Vol. I, p. 985. 19 Ekaṃ hi saccaṃ na dutiyam atthi. “Truth is one, there is not a second” (Sn.888). 20 See for instance M.II.235–7. 9  Was the Buddha a pluralist?   1 Richard Hayes, “Gotama Buddha and Religious Pluralism,” Journal of Religious Pluralism, no. 1 (1991): 15, 16.   2 Ibid., 17.   3 Ibid., 18.   4 “Whereas tolerance might be described as the attitude of being resigned to the fact that a variety exists, pluralism will be taken to mean the attitude that variety is healthy and therefore something to be desired.” Ibid., 1.   5 Ibid., 5.   6 In Hayes’ words, the relatively new ideology of pluralism has posed some problems for those who would also like to adhere to unreformed traditional religions, for the simple reason that very few of the major religious traditions have espoused the notion that more than one claim to ultimacy can be valid. On the contrary, most of the historical religions are based in some way either on an explicit rejection or denigration of another religious tradition or traditions or on aristocratic claims of ethnic or racial supremacy. . . . That all these religions are traditionally triumphalist and not pluralistic is simply something that must be acknowledged; it would be ideologically anachronistic and intellectually dishonest to try to find anticipations of a now fashionable way of thinking in traditions that evolved in a social and political setting entirely different from that of the present world. Ibid., 19   7 William A Galston, Liberal Pluralism: The Implications of Value Pluralism for Political Theory and Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.   8 For a useful historical account of these three attitudes within Christianity see Alan Race, Christians and Religious Pluralism. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1983.   9 Diane Eck, A New Religious America: How a “Christian Country” Has Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation. San Francisco: Harper, 2001: 71. 10 Raimon Panikkar, Invisible Harmony: Essays on Contemplation and Responsibility. Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 1995: 96. 11 Diane Eck, A New Religious America, 70. 12 Ibid., 69. 13 M.I.140. 14 abhiṇhasannipātā sannipātabahulā (D.II.76). 15 Santi kassapa eke samaṇabrāhmaṇā paṇḍitā nipuṇā kataparappavādā vāḷavedhirūpā vobhindantā maññe caranti paññāgatena diṭṭhigatāni. Tehi’pi me saddhiṃ ekaccesu ṭhānesu sameti ekaccesu ṭhānesu na sameti. Yante ekaccaṃ vadenti sādhū’ti, mayampi taṃ ekaccaṃ vadema sādhū’ti. Yante ekaccaṃ vadenti na sādhū’ti, mayampi taṃ ekaccaṃ vadema na sādhū’ti. Yante ekaccaṃ vadenti sādhū’ti, mayaṃ taṃ ekaccaṃ vadema na sādhū’ti. Yante ekaccaṃ vadenti na sādhū’ti, mayaṃ taṃ ekaccaṃ vadema sādhū’ti. Yaṃ mayaṃ ekaccaṃ vadema sādhū’ti, pare’pi taṃ ekaccaṃ vadenti na sādhū’ti. Yaṃ mayaṃ ekaccaṃ vadema na sādhū’ti, pare’pi taṃ ekaccaṃ vadenti na sādhū’ti. yaṃ mayaṃ ekaccaṃ vadema na sādhū’ti, pare’pi

Notes   239 taṃ ekaccaṃ vadenti sādhū’ti. Yaṃ mayaṃ ekaccaṃ vadema sādhū’ti. Pare’pi taṃ ekaccaṃ vadenti na sādhū’ti. Tyāhaṃ upasaṅkamitvā evaṃ vadāmi: yesu no āvuso ṭhānesu na sameti, tiṭṭhantu tāni ṭhānāni. Yesu ṭhānesu sameti, tattha viññū samanuyuñjantaṃ samanugāhantaṃ samanubhāsantaṃ satthārā vā satthāraṃ saṅghena vā saṅghaṃ. 16 tathāhaṃ bhagavatā dhammā desitaṃ ājānāmi—yathā yeme antarāyikā dhammaṃ antarāyikā vuttā bhagavatā, te paṭisevato nālaṃ antarāyāyāti (M.I.130). 17 So vata bhikkhave aññatreva kāmehi aññatra kāmasaññāya aññatra kāmavitakkehi kāme paṭisevissatīti netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjati (M.I.134). 18 tathāhaṃ bhagavatā dhammaṃ desitaṃ ājānāmi yathā tadevidaṃ viññāṇaṃ sandhāvati saṃsarati, anaññanti (M.I.256). 19 Yvāyaṃ bhante vado vedeyyo tatra tatra kalyāṇapāpakānaṃ kammānaṃ vipākaṃ paṭisaṃvedetī’ti. (M.I.258). 20 Kassa nu kho nāma tvaṃ moghapurisa mayā evaṃ dhammaṃ desitaṃ ājānāsi? Nanu mayā moghapurisa anekapariyāyena paṭiccasamuppannaṃ viññāṇaṃ vuttaṃ aññatra paccayā natthi viññāṇassa sambhavoti. Atha ca pana tvaṃ moghapurisa attanā duggahītena amhe ceva abbhācikkhasi, attānañca khaṇasi, khahuñca apuññaṃ pasavasi. Taṃ hi te moghapurisa bhavissati dīgharattaṃ ahitāya dukkhāyāti (M.I.258). 21 Peter Harvey, The Selfless Mind: Personality, Consciousness, and Nirvana in Early Buddhism. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press, 1995. 22 This does not mean that a pluralist reading of Buddhism is impossible. Kenneth K. Tanaka, “Buddhist Pluralism: Can Buddhism Accept Other Religions as Equal Ways” in Perry Schmidt-­Leukel, Buddhist Attitudes to Other Religions. Germany: Editions of St.Ottilien, 2008: 69–84. See also Christopher Ives, “Liberating Truth: A Buddhist Approach to Religious Pluralism,” in Deep Religious Pluralism, edited by David Ray Griffin. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005: 178–92. 10  Applying John Hick’s model of pluralism to the Pāli Nikāyas?   1 John Hick, An Interpretation of Religion: Human Responses to the Transcendent. London: Macmillan, 1989: 240.   2 John Hick, The Rainbow of Faiths: Critical Dialogues on Religious Pluralism. London, SCM, 1995: 28.   3 It should be noted that in some forms of Tibetan Buddhism the concept of dharmakāya can apply to persons too, which renders Hick’s use of the term highly problematic.   4 Hick, An Interpretation of Religion, 246.   5 Ibid., 248.   6 Ibid., 248.   7 Ibid., 300.   8 Hick, The Rainbow of Faiths, 27.   9 Gambhīro duddaso duranubodho santo paṇīto atakkāvacaro nipuṇo paṇḍitavedanīyo. (M.I.487; S.I.136). 10 Api cāhaṃ āvuso imasmiññeva byāmamatte kalebare sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi. Lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadanti (S.I.62). 11 Sandiṭṭhiko ayaṃ bhikkhave dhammo akāliko ehipassiko opanayiko paccattaṃ veditabbo viññūhī”(M.I.265). 12 See for instance Rune E.A. Johansson, The Psychology of Nirvāṇa. London: Allen & Unwin, 1969. 13 John Hick, Disputed Questions. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993: 122. 14 John Hick, An Interpretation of Religion: Human Responses to the Transcendent. London: Macmillan, 1989: 240.

240   Notes 15 See for instance the Vīmaṃsaka Sutta (M.I.317–20). 16 Jane Compson, “A Critical Analysis of John Hick’s Pluralistic Hypothesis in the Light of the Buddha’s Attitude towards Other Teachings as Demonstrated in the Pāli Nikāyas” PhD diss., University of Bristol, 1998, 227ff. 17 Ibid., 227. 18 Hick, The Rainbow of Faiths, 48. 19 For a similar critique within a Christian context see for instance, Paul Griffiths and Delmas Lewis, “On Grading Religions, Seeking Truth and Being Nice to People—A Reply to Professor Hick,” Religious Studies, 19, 1983:  75–80; and Gavin D’Costa, “Whose Objectivity? Which Neutrality? The Doomed Quest for a Neutral Vantage Point from which to Judge Religions,” Religious Studies, 29, 1993:  79–95. I am indebted to Jane Compson for these references. 20

The notion of upāya is, then, the notion that the cosmic significance of the nirvanic experience can be conceptualized in a variety of ways, all of which communicate the importance and availability of the experience, but none of which constitutes the one and only correct way of conceptualizing it. These schemes of thought are provisional and instrumental, and are to be discarded like the raft in the Buddha’s parable once they have fulfilled their function. Further, there are a number of different conceptual rafts, each of which may serve the same purpose, perhaps equally well, for different people, or even for the same person at different times. Hick, Disputed Questions, 129

21 Hick, Disputed Questions, 129–30. 22 Ibid., 117. 23 Hick, The Rainbow of Faiths, 115. 24 Kullūpamaṃ vo bhikkhave dhammaṃ desitaṃ ājānantehi dhammāpi vo pahātabbā, pageva adhammā (M.I.135). 25 Hick, Disputed Questions, 108. 26 Ibid., 108. 27 Ibid., 116. 28 Ibid., 117. 29 saccato thetato anupalabbhamāne (M.I.138). 11  A comparative appraisal of Hick, Heim, and the Buddha   1 Seyyathāpi pahārāda, mahāsamuddo ekaraso loṇaraso, evameva kho pahārāda, ayaṃ dhammavinayo ekaraso vimuttiraso (A.IV.203).   2 Nicholas Rescher, The Strife of Systems. Pittsburg: Pittsburg University Press, 1985: 183.   3 Ibid., 184.   4 Ibid., 125–6.   5 S. Mark Heim, Salvations: Truth and Difference in Religion. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1995: 140.   6 Ibid., 131.   7 M.I.326–7.   8 D.I.245–52.   9 D.I.244. 10 S. Mark Heim, The Depth of the Riches: A Trinitarian Theology of Religious Ends. Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001: 179. 11 John Hick, “The Next Step Beyond Dialogue” in The Myth of Religious Superiority: A Multifaith Exploration, edited by Paul F. Knitter. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2005: 11–12.

Notes   241 12 Ibid., 11. 13 Ibid., 11. 14 Ibid., 11. 15 Ibid., 12. 16 Ibid., 12. 17 John Hick, “The Non-­Absoluteness of Christianity,” in The Myth of Christian Uniqueness: Toward a Pluralistic Theology of Religions, edited by John Hick and Paul F. Knitter. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1987: 22–3. 18 Ibid., 22. 19 Ibid., 23. 20 yo paṭiccasamuppādaṃ passati. So dhammaṃ passati. Yo dhammaṃ passati. So paṭiccasamuppādaṃ passatī (M.I.190–1). 21 yo kho vakkali, dhammaṃ passati so maṃ passati, yo maṃ passati so dhammaṃ passati, dhammaṃ hi vakkali, passanto maṃ passati. Maṃ passanto dhammaṃ passati (S.III.120). 22 John Hick, An Interpretation of Religion: Human Responses to the Transcendent. London: Macmillan, 1989: 246. 23 Ibid., 246. 24 Alvin Plantinga, The Nature of Necessity. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974: 214. 25 Hick, An Interpretation of Religion, 350. 26 For a clear exposition of this line of criticism see Philip L. Quinn, “Toward Thinner Theologies: Hick and Alston on Religious Diversity,” in The Philosophical Challenge of Religious Diversity, edited by Philip L. Quinn and Kevin Meeker. New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000: 232–4. See also Keith Ward, “Truth and the Diversity of Religions,” in The Philosophical Challenge of Religious Diversity, 117–18. 27 Hick, An Interpretation of Religion, 350.

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Index

absolutist 49, 50, 53, 55–8, 60, 106–7, 112–13, 189, 220, 224 agnosticism 19, 170 Ajita Kesakambala 73 Arahant 20, 65, 69, 84–5, 100, 152–3, 230n20, n22, n30, 231n3, 233n27, 236n4, n5 Ariṭṭha 181–2, 196 Aśoka 4, 53, 119 Atakkāvacara 60, 130 atheism 14, 19 Avyākata 175, 197 Bhikkhu Bodhi 60–2, 64, 66–8, 84, 86, 89, 102, 108–9, 111, 119–21, 136, 141, 181–3, 188, 199, 212, 229n5, n4, 8, n4, 9, 230n22, n25, 231n35, 232n13, 233n23, n24, n25, n32, 234n1, n3; n5, 235n7, 236n3, 238n18 Bhikkhu Ñānamoli 62, 64, 229n5, n4, 9, 230n22, n25, 232n13, 233n32, 234n1, n3; n5, 235n7 Bodhisattva 61, 103, 116 Brahman 130 Brahmanic traditions 89, 212 Brahmin 54, 75, 83–4, 86–7, 89–90, 101, 137, 141, 151–2, 174, 176 Buddha i–iv, vii–ix, 1–10, 18–20, 23–4, 36, 38–9, 45, 48, 52–77, 81–112, 116–22, 125–56, 158–63, 167–8, 170–84, 187–201, 203–9, 212–21, 225, 226nI.1, 227n18, 228n3, 6, 229n3, n5; n6, n4, 8, n4, 9, 230n10, n17, n20, n22–3, n25, n27, 232n9, n13, n20, 233n20, n23–5, n32, 234n1, n3; n5, n32, 235n5, n7; n13, n15, 238n16, n1, 240n16, n20 Buddhaghosa 4, 61, 63–8, 103, 119, 133, 148, 171 Buddhahood 111, 116 Buddha-nature 21, 115, 116, 188

Buddhasāsana 61, 66, 92, 94, 133 Buddhist inclusivism viii, 3–4, 113, 115, 119, 145, 227n17, 234n10, n26, n29, 236n1 Cantwell Smith, Wilfred 31, 35, 40, 228n4 Christian multiple-ends model 157 Christianity ii, 1, 13–14, 16, 23, 26, 29–30, 33–4, 40, 46, 48, 114, 117, 126, 130, 156–7, 186, 188, 190, 210–11, 213, 215–16, 222, 228n2, 7, n20, n1, 234n7, 238n8, 241n17 Cittamātras 111 compassion 67, 108, 112, 160, 212, 230n20 Compson, Jane 91, 111–12, 193, 233n20, 234n9, 240n16, n19 Conze, Edward 128, 235n2 D’Costa, Gavin 29, 45–8, 111, 228n1, 234n8, 240n19 Dalai Lama I 111–12, 115, 120–1, 170, 225, 227n13, 234n7, n9, 235n34 Denwood, Philip 236n16 Dependent origination 8, 10, 19, 21, 55, 59–60, 70, 75, 88, 92, 94, 96, 98, 127, 129, 130–2, 136, 138–40, 147, 154–5, 169, 182–3, 189, 191–3, 199, 204, 216–17, 227n11 Dhamma xi, 19, 55, 60, 65, 67, 69, 94, 100, 127–30, 136, 139, 149–50, 153–4, 182, 189, 217, 229n16, 232n20, 235n1, n3, 236n2, 237n6, 239n16 Dharma i, viii, 2, 4, 6–10, 18–19, 21,, 23–6, 36, 39, 52–3, 57, 60, 65, 69, 70, 73–7, 81–2, 87–8, 91, 93–7, 118, 122, 125–35, 141–56, 161–3, 169, 172, 178–9, 181–3, 185, 188–94, 196–7, 199–200, 203–9, 212–13, 215–19, 222, 227n11, 235n13, 239n10

Index   247 Dharmakāya 186, 188, 239n3 dialogical attitude ix, 167, 171, 173–4, 177, 184 Ding, Sache 128 Diṭṭhi 7–8, 55, 58, 88, 228n3, 5, 229n14 Dupuis, Jacques 28, 30n 32–4, 40, 118, 127, 212, 228n2, 7, n20 Eck, Diane ix, 25, 167, 170, 173–5, 177, 228n9, n11 eclecticism 113 eightfold path 3, 19, 23, 64–74, 81, 83, 91–9, 120–2, 127, 130–1, 133–4, 161, 175, 180, 189–90, 193–4, 231n4 Ekayāna 61–5, 115, 171 elephant and blind men 7 elephant footprint 6, 151, 237n6 emptiness 15, 19–21, 110–11, 115, 131, 145, 157, 188, 211, 213, 222, 237n11 enlightenment 6, 20, 23, 65, 67, 70, 88, 91, 97, 143, 147, 151, 153–5, 193–4, 196, 199 exclusivism I vii–viii, 1, 3, 6, 11, 13–19, 24, 26, 28–30, 32, 37, 40, 45–9, 52, 55–6, 72, 74, 81, 91–2, 97, 99–100, 103, 105, 107, 117–18, 150–1, 156–8, 169, 215–16, 222, 224, 226n1, 1, n1, 2, n7, 228n1, n3 exclusivist view 1, 3–4, 18, 45–52, 61, 63–5, 67, 69, 71–2, 74, 77, 81, 83–8, 92, 98–101, 103–8, 110–13, 117–21, 133, 157, 178, 215, 222–5 exclusivistic attitude 16–17, 45–6, 48, 52, 106–10, 112, 224 exclusivistic-exclusivism 107, 225 extreme of eternalism 88, 200 extreme of nihilism 88 five aggregates 7, 8, 58–9, 88, 182, 228n3, 7 four foundations of mindfulness viii, 7, 61–2, 64, 153, 203 four highest ascetics 65, 67, 70–4, 76–7, 81, 83–4, 90, 99, 106, 108, 110, 121, 169, 180 four noble truths 10, 15, 19, 21, 23, 59–60, 84–5, 92, 95, 108, 127, 129, 131–2, 136, 138–41, 143, 145–7, 154–5, 169, 183, 189, 191–3, 204–6, 227n11, 237n6 Fuller, Paul 39, 59, 229n12, n14 fundamentalism 106 Galston, William 238n7

Geiger, Magdalene and Wilhelm 128, 235n1 Geluk tradition 20 generic pluralism vii, 35–9, 45, 179–80, 185 Gethin, Rupert 61–6, 68–9, 128, 229n2, 230n10, n11, n17, n23, n27, 235n1, n2; n3 God 15, 18, 20–2, 24, 29, 33–4, 39, 116, 118, 130–1, 156–7, 186, 188–9, 195, 205–7, 209, 211–15, 218, 220, 222, 227n16, 237n7, n12, n13 Gombrich, Richard 119, 229n16 Griffin, David 35–6, 39, 45, 179–80, 184–5, 227n12, 228n2, 4, n2, 5, n14, n17, 239n22 Griffiths, Paul 29, 31–2, 114, 119, 228n2, 6, 234n7, 240n19 Harvey, Peter x, 3, 103, 147, 183, 232n16, n18, 233n33, 235n14, 236n1, 239n21 Hayes, Richard ix, 167–72, 238n1, n6 hearers 91, 116–17, 119, 121 Hedges, Paul 14–15, 28–9, 226n1, 3, n5; n10, 227n23, n2 Heim, Mark ix, x, 4–5, 28–31, 33, 35, 38, 40, 114–18, 127, 145, 156–8, 160–1, 163, 203, 205–14, 217, 228n17, n21, 234n25, 237n7, n8; n13, n15, 240n1, n5; n10 Hick, John ix, 5, 25, 31, 35, 38, 40, 111, 170, 179, 184–200, 203, 205–9, 212, 214, 221, 227n16, n24, 228n2, 4, 233n20, 239n1, n2; n3, n4; n8, n13, n14, 240n16, n18–21, n23, n25, n1; n11, 241n 17, n22, n25–7 highest holiness 2, 4, 7, 9, 72–3, 76, 81, 85–7, 92–3, 95, 97–101, 104–5, 107, 112–13, 118–19, 133–5, 143–4, 155, 159–62, 175, 179, 188, 190–1, 203–4, 207, 215–16, 222, 224 holiness 1, 15, 18, 20, 61, 65–72, 76, 81, 83–4, 87–9, 91, 93, 96–7, 100, 102, 107–8, 110, 112–13, 118, 120, 127, 132, 141, 145, 161, 163, 190, 203, 213, 215 Hopkins, Jeffrey 227n13 identist pluralism 35, 40, 227n4, 20 inclusivism I vii–viii, 1, 3–4, 6, 11, 13–19, 21–34, 36–50, 45–6, 79, 105, 113–19, 125, 134, 142, 145–6, 151, 167, 178, 185, 212, 215, 217, 222, 226n1, 1, n1, 2, n7, 227n17, 228n2, 6, 234n10, n26, n29, 236n1, 237n13

248   Index inclusivist view 3, 18, 22, 24, 117–18, 120, 134–5, 147, 152, 154, 170, 179, 185 inclusivistic attitude 116, 223, 224–5 inclusivistic-exclusivism 105–8, 110–13, 215–16, 225 intrareligious dialogue 39, 40, 228n18 Ives, Christopher 227n12, 239n22 Jainism 97, 109–10, 139, 150, 232n16 Jāṇussoṇi 151 Jayatilleke, K.N. 91, 119–21, 233n21, 234n32, 235n35 Johansson, Rune 239n12 Kālāma Sutta 149 Kalupahana, David 227n15 Karma 21, 57, 59, 73, 100, 105, 140–1, 147, 158–9, 189, 229n3, 8 Katz, Nathan 3 Keown, Damien 233n33 Kiblinger, Kristin viii, 3–4, 25, 105, 113–22, 227n17, 234n10, n26, n29 Kloppenborg, Ria 233n28 Knitter, Paul 3, 5, 28–31, 33–5, 40, 170, 226n1, 2, 227n24, n1, 228n2, 4, n13, 240n11, n17 Lewis, Delmas 240n19 liberation i, viii, 1–2, 4, 7, 9, 15, 18–19, 23, 25, 36, 38, 61–9, 71–2, 76–7, 81–8, 91–3, 95, 97–101, 104–7, 110–13, 116, 118–21, 127, 132–5, 142–8, 151–3, 155, 159–63, 175, 178–80, 182, 185–8, 190–1, 195–8, 200, 203–8, 215–16, 222, 224, 229n1, 232n20 Lotus Sūtra 115, 172 loving-kindness 89, 212 Mādhyamika 20, 111 Mahāparinibbāna Sutta 65, 75 Mahātaṇhāsankhaya Sutta 182 Mahāvastu 103 Mahāyāna Buddhism 56, 147, 172 Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra 115–16 Makkhali Gosāla 73 Māra 100–1, 137 maximal inclusivism 24, 34 Meeker, Kevin 241n26 Mokṣa 111 multiple-ends approach 4, 117–18, 127, 209, 211–12 multiple-ends inclusivism 114–18 Nāgapriya 140–1, 235n13, n15

naturalism 14, 19, 214 Nibbāna 2, 19, 61, 63–5, 75, 83, 88, 109, 127, 130–1, 143, 159–63, 169, 183, 188, 191, 193–4, 200, 204–5, 207–8, 213, 216–19 Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta 73 noble eightfold path 3, 19, 23, 64,-74, 76, 81, 83, 91–9, 107, 120–2, 127, 130–1, 133–4, 161, 175, 180, 189–90, 193–4, 231n4 non-Essentialist vii, 18, 20–1 non-maximal inclusivism 24, 34 non-returners 20 Norman, K.R. 232n16 Noumena 186, 188 Ogden, Shubert 227n20 omniscience 116, 136–42, 146, 150, 220 once-returners 20 openness in practice 1, 15–16, 21, 169, 185, 204, 222 openness in theory 1, 15, 17, 21, 169, 185, 204, 222 ordinary inclusivism 15, 16, 36, 125–7, 151, 178, 212 OTMIX vii, 15–16, 18–24, 27–30, 32–4, 36–41, 45–9, 51–2, 67, 92–3, 97–9, 101, 106–7, 109, 110–13, 117–19, 125–8, 130–5, 142, 144, 146–7, 153, 156–8, 167, 169, 177–80, 18–185, 189, 191, 193, 203–4, 206, 212, 215, 222–5, 227n11, 228n3 Paccekabuddha viii, 36, 91–3, 95–6, 98–103, 121, 133–4, 144, 161, 179–80, 190–1, 204, 207, 215–16, 232n18,n19, 233n20, n28, 234n32 Pakudha Kaccāyana 73 Panikkar, Raimon x, 25–6, 31, 35, 38–40, 170, 228n2, 5, n18, n20, 237n7, 238n10 Parappavādā 66, 68–9, 71, 74, 230n22, n30, 231n33 particularities 29–31, 33, 173, 175, 227n2 phenomenon 186 Piatigorsky, Alexander 232n16 Plantinga, Alvin 45–8, 113, 220, 228n3, 241n24 pluralism i, vii, ix, 1, 4–5, 8, 11, 13–16, 18–22, 24, 26, 28–46, 114, 117–19, 142, 167–80, 183–7, 192–4, 206–8, 210–11, 213–16, 222, 226n1, 1, n1, 2, n7; n10, 227n12, n23, n1; n4, 228n2, 4, n2, 5, n14, n17, n3, 238n1, n4; n6–8, 239n22, n1; n2

Index   249 pluralist view 8, 17, 22, 107, 117, 127, 169–70, 177–80, 183–6, 191–2, 194, 197, 206 pluralistic attitude 1, 3, 8, 22–25 pluralistic hypothesis ix, 184–7, 190–1, 193–4, 233n20, 240n16 pluralistic-inclusivism i, vii–ix, 1, 4, 8, 15, 16, 18–19, 24, 26, 28–39, 41, 45, 117–19, 123, 135–7, 142, 157, 169, 178–81, 183–4, 187, 191–3, 203–5, 212, 215, 217, 222, 235n1 Prāsaṅgika Mādhyamaka 110–11 Pratyekabuddha 91, 103, 238n16 Prebish, Charles 233n33 propositional exclusivism 47–9, 224 Pūraṇa Kassapa 73 Quinn, Philip 241n26 Race, Alan 13–15, 21, 28–9, 33, 35, 45–6, 48, 169, 226n1, 1, n1, 3, n10, 227n23, n2, 239n8 Rahner, Karl 31, 114, 211–12, 228n20 Rahula, Walpola 61, 63, 229n3 reality-centeredness 170, 187, 190, 194, 196, 207 rebirth 59, 93, 112, 116, 140–1, 147, 159, 182, 189, 203, 213 relativist ideology ix, 167, 172–3 religious diversity i, ii, iv, vii, ix, 1, 5–8, 13, 15–18, 29–30, 34–5, 39, 47, 52, 85, 92, 98, 105–7, 111–12, 125, 127–9, 132–5, 145, 149, 151, 153, 155–7, 167–74, 176–81, 183–5, 190–4, 197, 201, 203–10, 213–17, 219, 221–3, 225, 228n2, 6, 241n26 Rescher, Nicholas 210, 213–14, 240n2 Sakadāgāmī 20, 65 Sakka 86–7, 100–1 Sakkāyadiṭṭhi 55, 58, 88 salvation 1, 4–5, 13, 15, 18, 20, 24, 28, 30, 32, 35–6, 38, 46, 8, 50, 91, 113, 115, 117–18, 126–7, 145, 156, 158, 161, 163, 169, 178–9, 184–7, 190, 195–8, 206–9, 211, 213–16, 222, 226n1, 1, 227n4, 228n2, 5, n17, n21, 234n25, 237n12, n15, 240n5 Samaṇa 65, 120–1, 231n35, n2 Saṃsāra 108, 188 Samyaksambuddha 91 Sanātana Dharma 185 Sañjaya Belaṭṭhaputta 73 Sāriputta 140, 152–4, 236n4

Sāsanaṃ 94 Satipaṭṭhāna 61, 64, 229n1 Sautrāntikas 11 Sāvakabuddhas 91, 93 Schmidt-Leukel, Perry 3, 14–15, 18, 20–5, 28, 33–6, 39, 45, 169, 226nI.1, n1, 2, n7; n10, 227n17, n23, 239n22 second-order meta-theory 194, 207, 210–11 self-centeredness 170, 187, 190, 194–5, 207 self-enlightened beings 36, 207 self-identity 88, 113 siṃsapā leaves 130, 135, 142–3, 145–6, 148, 151–2, 227n18 single-end inclusivism 113–15, 118, 157, 211, 237n13 skepticism 19 solitary realizers 116 Sotāpatti 20, 65 specific conditionality 2, 55, 70, 73–4, 76–7, 81–2, 85, 87–8, 94, 96, 121–2, 138, 141–2, 146–7, 153–5, 160, 169, 180, 182–3, 189, 205–6, 217 specific exclusivism 45, 48–9, 52, 55–6, 72, 74, 81, 224 Śrāvaka 16 Śrāvakabuddha 91, 93 stream-enterers 20 Svātantrika Mādhyamikas 111 syncretism 4–5, 22, 32, 113, 117–18, 227n17 syncretistic strategies 4, 117–19 Tanaka, Kenneth 3, 239n22 Tao 186, 188, 222 Tathāgata 58–9, 64, 87, 94, 100, 137, 191, 197–200, 232n9 Theravāda i, 2, 4–6, 7, 62–3, 66–7, 94, 96, 102–4, 106–7, 109–12, 118–19, 121, 136–40, 148, 171, 189, 229n14 Transcendent reality 14–15, 18–21, 25, 31, 35, 38–40, 128, 132, 185, 187–8, 195, 214, 217–20, 227n12 Triune God 20, 1516–157, 205, 207, 209, 211–12, 237n12 Triyāna 115 truth 1, 6, 8–10, 15–19, 21, 23, 25, 28, 30, 33, 35–6, 38, 47, 49, 51, 52, 55–60, 62–3, 69–70, 84–6, 88, 91–2, 94–6, 101, 105–8, 111–15, 118, 122, 125, 127–32, 134–6, 138–47, 151, 154–5, 162–3, 169, 177, 179–80, 183, 186–93, 195–8, 204–8, 210, 213, 215–19, 222, 227n11,

250   Index truth – contd. n12, 228n17, n21, 234n25, n32, 237n6, n13, n15, 238n19, 239n22, 240n19, n5, 241n26 typology vii, 4, 11 ultimate reality 15, 18, 20–1, 35, 185, 187–9, 193–4, 207, 214, 216, 227n4, 228n2, 5 ultra-pluralism 214, 216 unconditioned reality 189 Upāli 109–10, 150–1, 234n3, 236n3 Vaibhāṣikas 111

Vajjians 175 Vāseṭṭha 89 Vasubandhu 103, 168 Vélez de Cea, Abraham i–iv, 229n3, 9, 232n9 vinaya 65 Walshe, Maurice 3, 62, 86–7, 89, 101, 152, 176, 229n6, 230n24 Ward, Keith 241n26 worthy ones 20, 65 Xing, Guang 235n5