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The dual presentation of Gotama the Buddha in the Dīgha Nikāya : the application of kenōsis to an early Buddhist text

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Berling, Khim Ellen




Doctor of Philosophy in Religious Studies


Long, J. Bruce
Capitanio, Joshua
Howe, William


The Dual Presentation of Gotama the Buddha in the Dīgha Nikāya proposes a unique theory to explain the human, idealized, and superhumanized presentations of Gotama the Buddha. This dissertation examines the humanity of Gotama vis-á-vis his transcendent appearances in order to discover a manner in which the dual embodiments may be mediated. The theory of kenōsis (self-emptying), is put forth to resolve these dual aspects of the Buddha in the Dīgha.

The humanity of the Buddha is incredibly important, not just to this dissertation, but to the soteriological message of the Dīgha. Gotama serves as the salvific exemplar in the Dīgha, and it is through his personage that we receive instructions as to the correct navigation of the Dhammic path. In the Dīgha, Gotama's human body appears through two primary modes, 1) a `normal' human body that experiences sickness, pain, and death; and 2) an idealized manifestation as a Great Man, or mahāpurisa. This perfected embodiment includes adornment with symbolic features known as the Thirty-Two Marks. Gotama is also identified the Dhamma, specifically through the embodiment of Dhamma-kāya (Dhamma-Body). I will argue that the Dhamma-Body has a transcendent aspect, along with its ready-at-hand, immediate functions. The notion of self-emptying (kenosis) will be utilized to explicate how the Buddha and eternal Dhamma became fused in a transcendental Dhamma-Body. This dissertation concludes with a statement as to the soteriological and hermeneutical consequences of a kenōtic Buddha, and ultimately, how the process of kenōsis leads to the tranhistoricization of the Dhamma, and the universalization of the Buddha.

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University of the West



Library Holding