Translated by Marie-Louise Friquegnon
ISBN: 978-1482317459 • $ 19.95
M. Friquegnon’s A Short Introduction to the Philosophy of Shantarakshita is a significant contribution to the study of Shantarakshita, the foremost thinker of Tibetan Buddhism. The book is an excellent introduction not only to Tibetan Buddhism, but also a philosophically stimulating text on many of the fundamental topics from ethics, aesthetics, and epistemology (as viewed by Madhyamika school).
The book is also of interest to students and scholars of comparative philosophy. The chapter on Shankara and the problem of nihilism is of particular interest to the study of Hinduism and Buddhism. There are insightful analogies between Shantarakshita and philosophers ranging from Kant to Wittgenstein. Discussion of Shantarakshita’s conception of language in relation to Wittgenstein is particularly noteworthy.
An excellent introduction to Buddhism, in a non-technical vocabulary Friquegnon explains philosophical ideas clearly. The conversational style of the book will be engaging to students and general readers who are new to the topic. This book succeeds in demonstrating that Shantarakshita “is truly a philosopher for all seasons.” Shantarakshita’s conception of what his philosophy consisted in is what makes his philosophy relevant to all times: To believe what is in accordance with reason, and to reject what is not in accordance with reason. The concluding chapter provides a succinct summary of the central theses of Buddhism, the elimination of suffering through letting go of attachment and craving.
The book presents unifying themes from the introduction to the conclusion. One major theme of the book is the parallel between Shantarakshita and Kant. Friquegnon explains: I began this study with the claim that Shantarakshita stands at the culminating point of a tradition, in a way similar to Immanuel Kant. There is indeed a striking similarity between the two philosophers. Both divide knowledge into the absolute (noumenal) and relative (phenomenal) levels, considering the absolute as a regulative principle rather than an object of knowledge. Both rejected skepticism, sense data theory and idealism.
The concluding chapter provides a succinct summary of the central theses of Buddhism, the elimination of suffering through letting go of attachment and craving.
— HYUN HOCHSMANN Chair, Department of Philosophy, New Jersey City University