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Text and context : a hermeneutical study of the ways the Buddha answers questions

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Doctor of Philosophy in Religious Studies


Chu, Wiliam
Shakya, Miroj
Gabriel, Victor


The central thesis of this project, Text and Context: A Hermeneutical Study of the Ways the Buddha Answers Questions seeks to explore the pedagogical features of the Buddha through looking at the methods in which the Buddha replied to his interlocutors within the early Buddhist suttas. We can say that there are four specific ways in which the Buddha chose to answer enquiries. These are: categorical, analytical, counter-questioning, and silence. This project limits itself to the Suttapiṭaka of the Pāli Nikāyas. In this work, I select certain discourses from the Sutta Nikāyas as the main focus, while making references and citing other discourses as support. I will also use Buddhist commentary such as the Visudhimagga as secondary source. It is important to note, these selected suttas are well serve in my investigations of the Buddha’s dialectical modes. Besides, they are well-known and widely discussed in the scholarly world.

Approaching this dissertation through the hermeneutical lens of geistige, each type of response is examined per chapter. For each chapter, one to three suttas (such as SN 44.10, MN 72, AN 3.65, MN 63, MN 71, and MN 90) are chosen for analysis, to show how the Buddha responded to a certain question or subject matter. Here, I will especially consider the Buddha’s methods as pedagogy, or methods of guidance.

Overall, the dissertation asserts that the Buddha’s dialogical modes are a demonstration of his pedagogical method. It shed light on different dialectical modes of the Buddha, such as the novel use of silence, counter-questioning, analytical style, and categorical method. It seeks to provide an alternative interpretation and perspective regarding the selected discourses mentioned above. The aspiration is to make a contribution to the scholarly world on the hermeneutical way of looking at the Buddhist suttas, through exploring the fourfold answering methods.

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University of the West



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