Eli Franco

Arguments for Religious Authority in Buddhism and Hinduism

Up to the 4th or 5th century A.D., it seems that Buddhism and Hinduism developed in mutual ignorance of each other. References in Buddhist literature (sūtra, abhidharma, narrative and poetic literature) to Hindu philosophy or religion are extremely rare and of negligible importance. The same is true for the late Vedic literature and early Brahmanical classical literature: Buddhism hardly seems to exist. The situation changes radically after Dignāga (480-540?). All of a sudden South Asian philosophers are aware of each other and one finds them debating fiercely with one another. In the context of this interreligious disputation, the authority of the sacred texts is obviously challenged. A Hindu philosopher cannot advance an argument on the grounds that it is thus stated in the Veda. Nor can a Buddhist philosopher argue for the contrary, because it is stated differently in the Buddhist sūtras. Thus, the
question naturally arose whether the Veda or the Word of the Buddha or the Word of Śiva are reliable sources of knowledge. The lecture will present some of the arguments that were used by South Asian, especially Buddhist, philosophers to defend their respective religious traditions, and will dwell on the philosophical ramifications in proofs of rebirth.