Sariputta or Kaccāna? A preliminary study of two early Buddhist philosophies of mind and meditation

Alexander Wynne


In a recent edition of this journal (Vol. 11, November 2016), Anālayo has argued against the theory of two early Buddhist paths to liberation, and called on those who disagree to ‘engage seriously with the criticism that has been voiced, rather than ignoring it’ (Anālayo 2016: 41). Although we disagree with Anālayo’s critique of the ‘two path’ thesis, a response to it will have to wait for another occasion. In the present article, we will instead approach the subject of doctrinal difference in early Buddhism from a different, and potentially transformative, perspective. We will argue that the discrepancy between calm and insight is of secondary importance. What preceded this ‘schism’ in thought and practice is far more important: the gradual obscuration, by a non-Buddhist intrusion into the early Saṅgha, of an original philosophy of mind and meditation. 

With regard to canonical discourses of early Buddhism, our position is thus that the situation is far more complicated than has hitherto been realised. There is certainly a real and important distinction between calm and insight; but we will argue that all calm-insight soteriologies are philosophically similar, since they are based on the same model of mind, derived from the early Upaniṣads, which was not found in the earliest phase of Buddhist activity. This leads us to conclude that the apparent ubiquity of calm and insight in early Buddhist discourses is an illusion; it is an impression created by a very small number of teachings repeated again and again in the canonical Suttas (both in Pali and in parallel collections). 

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