Tung Lin Kok Yuen International Conference
Buddhist Canons: In Search of a Theoretical Foundation for a Wisdom-oriented Education
27 & 28 November, 2021 (HKT) | Online & On-site at HKU
Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Philosophy
New York University Abu Dhabi
Oren Hanner is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at New York University Abu Dhabi. He studied philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv University and holds a PhD in Buddhist Studies from Hamburg University. His research focuses on Indian and Buddhist thought, with particular interest in ethics and cross-cultural dialogue between Asian and Western philosophical traditions. A volume on Buddhism and skepticism that he edited was published with Hamburg Buddhist Studies Series in 2020. He is currently working on a book dedicated to the nature of selfless moral agency in Vasubandhu’s thought.
Vasubandhu on the Role of the Teacher and the Features of Wisdom-Oriented Education
At the beginning of his teaching manual entitled the Principles of Exegesis(Skt. Vyākhyāyukti; Tib. rNam par bshad pa'i rigs pa), the Indian Buddhist philosopher Vasubandhu states that his purpose in composing the text is to give advice to those who wish to explain the Buddha’s discourses in order to help others. Motivated by this goal, the Principles of Exegesis describes and exemplifies skills, capacities, methods, and forms of knowledge that a teacher should master (or at least be reasonably familiar with) in order to be able to properly pass on liberating knowledge to his or her disciples. Given that large portions of the manual concern the role of the teacher in transmitting knowledge (that is, the ideas and doctrines presented in Buddhist scriptures) and explicate the ways of elucidating this knowledge, the question then arises as to what distinguishes wisdom education from plainly providing students with knowledge. In the present paper, I will seek to address this question by looking at the role of the teacher as explained in the Principles of Exegesis. In the first part of the talk, I will introduce the five aspects of elucidating the Buddha’s discourses that the teacher is advised to apply in teaching the Dharma—the purpose of the teaching, the summary of the teaching, the meaning of words, connections, and objections and replies—and elaborate on some of the skills and capacities they involve. Based on this set of methods and techniques, I will suggest in the second part of the talk that wisdom-oriented education is marked by several features that set it apart from a mere conveyance of knowledge. This includes the particular content of the knowledge, the ways in which this knowledge is imparted and acquired, and the dynamics of teacher-student interactions that characterize the act of teaching.