'Facing Death without a Soul: A Response to George Adams' Journal of Ecumenical Studies. 47 (2) Spring 2012.
After offering a critique of Adams's presentation of Buddhism as nihilistic, this essay addresses the question of why we believe we can survive the death of our body. Thomas Metzinger’s representationalist theory of consciousness, drawing on the objectivity of neuroscience is clearly consonant with non-essentialist views of the self, implying that belief in an eternal soul is objectively false. However I conclude by arguing that in any interfaith dialogue focussing on competing doctrines is less productive than empathising with common values.
Source Texts for the Five-fold Niyāma or 'Five Niyamas' - unpublished
A translation of the Pāli source texts for the five-fold niyāma (aka the five niyamas) including Sumaṅgalavilāsinī (2.431),Atthasālinī (272-274) and Abhidhammāvatāra (CST 66; vs. 468-473; PTS 54), including the medieval commentaries on the latter. Document includes representative texts on the use of niyāma in the Nikāyas. (Draft May 2012)
Possible Iranian Origins for Sākyas and Aspects of Buddhism. - unpublished
In 2010 Harvard Indologist Michael Witzel commented, on the Indo-Eurasian_Research online forum, that we should treat the Śākyas as an early incursion of Scythians (known in Sanskrit as Śaka, and in Iranian as Saka) who brought with them many ideas related to Iranian culture and/or Zoroastrian religion. This article explores the evidence for Witzel's suggestion and finds that it is not implausible. If true this would allow us give Buddhism a (pre-)history of ideas, whereas Buddhists treat Buddhism as historically unique and ahistorical. (Draft Jan 2012)
Is Paṭicca-samuppāda a Theory of Everything?. - unpublished
In this essay theory I compare the paṭicca-samuppāda to the Theory of Everything sought by physicists. The argument is structured around a translation and close reading of the Kaccānagotta Sutta (S ii.16). Far from being intended as a theory explaining the entire universe the paṭicca-samuppāda theory has limited application in the Pāli texts: it seeks to explain the arising and passing away of experience, particularly experience of suffering. (Draft July 2011)
The Spiral Path or Lokuttara Paṭicca-samuppāda. - unpublished
A survey of the Spiral Path as found in the Pāli texts, and it's modern interpretations. The Spiral Path is considered under the headings of morality, meditation, and wisdom; with particular attention to the nature of the links between the stages on the path. Includes a critique of the Upanisā Sutta as locus classicus. (3rd draft Mar 2011.)
The Hundred Syllable Vajrasattva Mantra. Western Buddhist Review, Vol. 5, 2010.
A review of the text of the mantra reveals that simple changes result in grammatical Sanskrit phrases. The essays discusses how errors might have crept into the mantra resulting in a garbling of the text.
'Did King Ajātasattu Confess to the Buddha, and did the Buddha Forgive Him?' Journal of Buddhist Ethics. Vol. 15, 2008.
Is it possible to counteract the consequences of a moral transgression by publicly acknowledging it? When he reveals to the Buddha that he has killed his father, King Ajātasattu is said to “yathādhammaṃ paṭikaroti.” This has been interpreted as “making amends,” or as seeking (and receiving) “forgiveness” for his crime. Successfully translating this phrase into English requires that we re-examine etymology and dictionary definitions, question assumptions made by previous translators, and study the way that yathādhammaṃ paṭikaroti is used in context. We can better understand confession as a practice by locating it within the general Indian concern for ritual purity—ethicized by the Buddha—and showing that the early Buddhist doctrine of kamma allows for mitigation, though not eradication, of the consequences of actions under some circumstances
'Suicide as a response to suffering.' Western Buddhist Review, Vol. 4, 2004.
What do the early Buddhist texts say about suicide? This survey highlights an ambiguity with regard to suicide, that modern scholars have struggled with. On the whole suicide would seem to be a negative act, and early Buddhists believed that death was no escape from the consequences of one's actions, unless one was an arahant, and this is precisely where the ambiguity lies since an arahant by definition cannot take life, though there are several cases of suicide in which the victim is said not to be reborn (i.e, they are an arahant.)