56. Who’s Pulling Your Strings? Buddhaghosa

Posted on 24 December 2017

Buddhaghosa, a major figure in the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, argues against the need for a self to control and coordinate mental activities.

Further Reading

• B. Ñāṇamoli (trans.), The Path of Purification: Visuddhimagga by Bhadantācariya Buddhaghosa (Kandy: 1991).

• B. Ñāṇamoli (trans.), The Dispeller of Delusion (Sammohavinodanī) (Oxford: 1996), 2 vols.



• J. Ganeri, Attention, Not Self (Oxford: forthcoming 2018).

• P. Harvey, The Selfless Mind: Personality, Consciousness and Nirvāṇa in Early Buddhism (London: 1995).

• M. Heim, The Forerunner of All Things: Buddhaghosa on Mind, Intention, and Agency (New York: 2014).

• Y. Karunadasa, The Theravāda Abhidhamma: Its Inquiry into the Nature of Conditioned Reality (Hong Kong: 2010).

• T. Kuan, “Rethinking Non-Self: A New Perspective from the Ekottarika-āgama,” Buddhist Studies Review 26 (2009), 155-75.

• R. Repetti (ed.), Buddhist Perspectives on Free Will: Agentless Agency (London: 2017).


Xaratustrah 9 January 2018

Hi Peter,

I can imagine Avicenna would have not agreed with Buddhaghosa regarding the agent of activity, but what about the different stages of mind and attention? Would he agree with that?



Actually I was thinking that the debate discussed in the last Dignāga episode was very reminiscent of Avicenna and his theory of permanent self-awareness. I guess his whole philosophy of mind is fundamentally at odds with Buddhaghosa's: he has a multi-faculty cognitive theory of course but it is crucial to him that there is indeed a single unifying self to hold it all together and control it. But if you are talking about the self-awareness stuff then as I say yes, that does sound like Avicenna.

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