Volume 40, Issue Supplement, 2015
Selected Papers from the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy
Reflections on the Silence of the Buddha on Questions of Metaphysics
Past discussions on the silence of the Buddha have focused on speculations on the “reasons” of the Buddha’s silence. Most scholars offer an analysis of the Buddha’s pragmatic considerations or his argument on human epistemic limits, that is, either that the metaphysical questions are irrelevant to the cessation of suffering or that the metaphysical contents cannot be known. This paper argues that the silence of the Buddha can be seen as a “speech act” whose absence of words actually achieves two purposes, first, the silence expresses the Buddha’s refusal to participate in these debates, and second, the silence creates a “space” which guides the interlocutors to re-direct the focus of their religious understanding. It will be illustrated that this silence of the Buddha is a point of both distinction and connectivity between philosophy as pure speculation on the one hand, and religion as a problem-solving practice on the other.