Institutional Repository

Suspension of belief : a comparative study of early Buddhism and Pyrrhonism

Item and associated files





Doctor of Philosophy in Religious Studies


Iwamura, Jane Naomi
Kjellberg, Paul
Shakya, Miroj


A common challenge of Buddhism and Pyrrhonism is to overcome dogmatic beliefs by avoiding rejecting or accepting a set of beliefs and optimizing the ability to search for truth. In this dissertation, I investigate these two approaches from different traditions. On the one hand, the Pyrrhonist notion of epoché (ἐποχή) is to suspend judgment about beliefs, either true or false, with the aim of achieving tranquility (ataraxia). On the other hand, the Buddhist notion of withholding beliefs avoids the claim of absolute truth but endorses the practical orientation of one’s experiential investigation. In the early Buddhist teachings as well as Pyrrhonist tenets, the suspension of belief is pursued neither to justify beliefs nor to deny reality. How may the respective notions of suspension of belief in Early Buddhism and Pyrrhonism be constructed? What are the comparable characteristics and features?

For the study, the writings of Sextus Empiricus represent the Pyrrhonist view of the suspension of belief and are the focus of investigation. I delve into the Buddhist discourses in Pāḷi Cannon, which contain early Buddhist notions of phenomenon and approach. I furthermore pay attention to historical context and to compare the characteristics and features articulated as means and aims for suspending dogmatic beliefs and achieving equanimity in these two traditions.

This study posits that suspending belief is a relevant approach and method of inquiry toward truth statements and views of the world. It encourages the practitioner toward thoughtful investigation that is not caught up in dogmatic agreement or disagreement and allows the mind to be free from disturbance.


Degree Granter

University of the West



Library Holding

Full view: