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Abstract

This dissertation explores the debate over mental content (ākāra) between the Indian Buddhist philosophers Ratnākaraśānti (ca. 970–1045) and Jñānaśrīmitra (ca. 980–1030). After a general consideration of the study of Buddhist philosophy in the introduction, I compare Ratnākaraśānti’s and Jñānaśrīmitra’s positions and styles broadly by considering their poetic introductions to their works in chapter 1. In chapter 2, I turn to Ratnākaraśānti’s theory of buddhahood, with special reference to his commentary on the Hevajra Tantra, the Muktāvalī; this buddhological context, I argue, can help ground our understanding of Ratnākaraśānti’s philosophical position. In chapter 3, I turn to his arguments in defense of that position—that certain conscious states are contentless (nirākāra) and that intentionality cannot be the criterion of consciousness. These arguments are studied in detail and put in conversation with other Buddhist philosophical traditions. In chapter 4, I turn to Jñānaśrīmitra’s arguments in response to Ratnākaraśānti developed in his Sākārasiddhiśāstra, wherein he constructs his elaborate defense of the view that consciousness by nature has content or is endowed with an appearance (sākāra). I also consider his complex view of non-difference and the non-duality of wondrously variegated cognition (citrādvaita) and how this is developed in response to certain of Ratnākaraśānti’s mereological arguments. In chapter 5, I turn to Jñānaśrīmitra’s novel buddhological view that the embodiment of buddhahood that presents appearances (the sambhogakāya) is most fundamentally real, which is based on his view of non-duality. I also consider certain scriptural arguments Jñānaśrīmitra levels against Ratnākaraśānti. In the appendix, I provide a provisional translation of the fourth chapter of the Sākārasiddhiśāstra, which is concerned with the non-duality of wondrously variegated cognition. Throughout, I aim to unpack the ways these philosophers bring peculiarly Buddhist concerns about buddhahood and the path to bear on their work in philosophy of mind.

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