The Buddha's familiarity with upanisadic ideas

mkapstei at UCHICAGO.EDU mkapstei at UCHICAGO.EDU
Tue Dec 12 10:39:55 UTC 2006

The passage from the Chaandogya that concerns me is 
book 8, not book 6. Here, the question
is specifically the perception of the 
self (aatman). Now, the verb used here
is upa-labh, and the problem that is raised
concerns the non-apprehension, anupalabdhi, of the 
self. Though, as is well known, anupalabdhi becomes
a widely ramified problem in later Indian philosophy,
so far as I can determine, the use of upa-labh we
find here is unknown throughout the Vedic corpus, including
the Braahma.nas and Upani.sads, with the sole exception 
of this passage. The problem of whether the self
can or cannot be the object of upa-labh is, however,
found throughout early Buddhist literature. Given that
Chaandogya 8 is at pains to refute a view that
looks much like a simplified version of
Buddhist anaatmavaada, my assumption is that this
book of the Upani.sad is in fact a response to 
Buddhism. This, at least, seems a far more compelling
explanation than it is to posit that early Buddhism,
with its problematic of aatmaanupalabdhi, was inspired
by an Upani.sadic passage that, if it is not responding
to Buddhism, seems altogether anomalous.

Matthew Kapstein
Chicago and Paris
Matthew T. Kapstein
Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies
The University of Chicago Divinity School

Directeur d'études
Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris

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