The ‘Epiontic’ Dependently Originating Process of Cyclic Existence According to Early Buddhist Metaphysics

Graham P. Smetham


Some modern Western interpreters of Buddhist teachings and philosophy claim that the original teachings of the Pali Canon were staunchly anti-metaphysical. In this article I exa-mine the early Buddhist worldview and demonstration that this assertion is deeply mistaken. Whilst the early teachings of the Buddha clearly rejected dogmatic metaphysical positions which the Buddha characterised as being ‘extreme’, he also implicitly, yet clearly, taught a subtle metaphysical view of the process of reality which is consistent with the modern quantum ‘epiontic’ (epistemological perception creates ontology) perspective of ‘quantum Darwinism.’ Central to this viewpoint is 1) a non-materialism which indicates that the ultimate process of reality is of the nature of mind; 2) the assertion that the ultimate nature of reality lies between the extremes of ‘existence’ and ‘non-existence’, ‘eternalism’ and ‘nihilism’; 3) the assertion that the epiontic mechanism operates as ‘kamma’, or ‘karma’, a central mechanism for the functioning of conditioned samsaric (cycle of dissatisfactory lives) reality. On the basis of these fundamental insights the doctrines of ‘rebirth’ and ‘dependent origination’ are shown to be crucial metaphysical components of the overall early Buddhist worldview as taught by the Buddha. These doctrines are also shown to be consistent with modern quantum theory. On the basis of this investigation recent claims that the 3-lifetimes model of dependent origination is mistaken are shown to be desperately misleading.

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ISSN: 2153-831X