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Saṃvega and upanisās as resolution of paṭiccasamuppāda : with phenomenology as framework

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Nguyen, Dat Trong




Doctor of Philosophy in Religious Studies


Chu, William
Iwamura, Jane
Long, Darui


This dissertation argues that a more complete interpretation of paṭiccasamuppāda (dependent co-arising)—which is consistently limited to the anuloma (forward causality) twelve mundane nidanas (conditioning factors)—must interactively include saṃvega (the shock empathetic of loss) and the paṭiloma (reverse causality) twelve transcendent upanisās (prerequisites). My thesis is that saṃvega is a phenomenological looking at (versus looking through) the aging-&-death nidana for its 1) occurrences of life, loss, aging, and death, 2) attributes of grief and despair, and 3) theme of dukkha and unworthiness. Within the phenomenological reduction, this insight of saṃvega counterpoises from the mundane passion-centric nidanic frames to the transcendent dispassion-centric upanisic frames. Buddhism’s encounter with Western modernity has led to the discourse on scientific Buddhism which includes the imputation of Buddhism as empirical. As part of my emphasis on the transcendent aspect of saṃvega and the upanisās, I argue against paṭiccasamuppāda’s characterization as secular, natural, and empirical. I disabuse the empirical Buddhists’ interpretation of early Buddhist epistemology in part explaining the empirical demarcation, the agnostic, and the empirico-propositional flaws.

I contend that empiricism and phenomenology have sometimes been conflated because of their shared ground in saḷāyatana (six sense media) with empiricism claiming it for verification, and phenomenology and early Buddhism both claiming it as the entire horizon of experience. Although empiricism and phenomenology are grounded in saḷāyatana, they diverge in the direction of their reducing—empiricism’s is outward toward physical absolutes and Husserlian transcendental constitutive phenomenology’s is inward toward non-physical absolutes.

I explore classical Husserlian phenomenology and early Buddhism’s insistence and establishment in subjective experience comparing intentionality to Buddhist consciousness classified by requisite condition. However, this Buddhist classification connects to saṅkhāra (fabrication), paṭiccasamuppāda, then soteriology thus differentiating itself.

Relying on the primacy of mind for pivot and counterpoise, I use the conceptual tool of the frames of reference divided into the egocentric mind/body, first centroidal (ego-projection), second centroidal, and absolute frames to clarify reduction in the spectrum from pure subjectivity to pure objectivity. Within the mind/body frame, I use Ray Jackendoff’s Representational Modularity of Mind hypothesis to support consciousness modularity and interface as aspects of intentionality and paṭiccasamuppāda.

Degree Granter

University of the West



Library Holding

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