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The Forerunner of All Things: Buddhaghosa on Mind, Intention, and Agency Paperback – October 10, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

Review


"This book will be a major contribution to scholarship in Buddhist Studies, as well as to the discipline of moral psychology more generally. The scholarship is impeccable, the attention to canonical material and secondary literature in Buddhist Studies as well as to relevant work in Western philosophy and social theory is meticulous. The book is rich in hermeneutical and philosophical insight, carefully argued, and written with uncommon perspicuity, grace and even humor I would not be surprised if it were to be recognized as one of the most significant recent contributions to Buddhist philosophy."
--Jay L. Garfield, Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple Professor of Humanities, Yale-NUS College


"Throughout this original, humane, and often beautiful exploration of Buddhist moral thinking, Maria Heim allows herself to be taught and guided by the great Buddhist thinker Buddhaghosa about how to read Buddhist texts well and how to think reflectively about the nature of a moral person. The result is that we are introduced to a Buddhaghosa that we have not met before: an astute humanist always alert to the complexities of the moral life, and a contemporary with us, as it were, offering us fresh resources for our own efforts to make sense of ourselves as moral persons." - Charles Hallisey, Harvard Divinity School


About the Author


Maria Heim is Associate Professor of Buddhist Studies at Amherst College. Her work focuses on moral psychology, emotions, and agency in South Asian intellectual history.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199331049
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199331048
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.7 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #938,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Book Drawn on December 13, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Cetana, intention is the core of this book, as perhaps it needs to be the core of our spiritual path. The author follows the teachings of Buddhaghosa, roughly translated "the voice of the Buddha" in defining cetana as the forerunner of all things, an essential element in our individual karma (Accepting movement of the mind with varying degrees of intention as the definition of karma). Intention is the doorway to our actions, physical, mental and verbal. It is a very important concept if you are to develop the wisdom necessary to personal awakening. The author does the subject justice.

Doing justice to this book in a short review seems an impossible task and so here's just a taste of the author's approach by listing the chapter headings. Keep in mind each topic is covered in studied detail: Constructing Experience ...... The work of Intention .... Culpability and Disciplinary Culture .... Making Actions Intelligible.... One additional comment here: The last chapter is filled with delightful ancient stories to illustrate the understanding of intention and mind. It's like saving the cherry on top for last.

It goes without saying that when you spend 237 pages on one subject you have an exhaustive study. This is not a book for someone with just a passing interest in Buddhism or the ethics of intention, but it certainly deserves a place in the library of a serious practitioner of Buddhism and the devoted seeker from any spiritual background. It's that kind of book you can finish reading and turn right around and read from the first page and still gain new understanding. Here's a great gift for friends with a serious spiritual practice who are open to a Buddhist solution.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Interested Reader on January 16, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not for everyone, terrific. Scholarly investigation into cetana with an emphasis on Buddhaghosa's interpretation. For me, very useful. I have struggled with the idea of free will in Buddhist thought. Heim puts the topic of cetana in the context of Buddhist thought and Western philosophy, psychology, ethics, and religion. Discusses the varied attempts by Westerners to define cetana and relate it to approaches to will, volition, agency, and morality in Western thinking. Then details the discussions in the suttas, abhidhamma, and vinaya, mostly drawing on Buddhaghosa.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S. Tan on October 10, 2014
Format: Paperback
Is karma = determinism? Does free will exist? In the mean time we know that Descartes is wrong; there is no homunculus in our brain telling us what to think and what to do next. The author uses Buddhaghosa, one of the most distinguished Buddhist scholars, to answer those questions. Cetana, as one of cetasikas grouped under Sankharas in the five aggregates, plays a pivotal role in understanding karma, and indirectly conditionality and dependent origination.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By selamat rodjali on November 22, 2013
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It is a great book... for those who learn to understand the nature of the mind and how to learn the Tipitaka properly... and the delivery and packing of the book is great...
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