The Role of puñña and kusala in the Dialectic of the Twofold Right Vision and the Temporary Integration of Eternalism in the Path Towards Spiritual Emancipation According to the Pāli Nikāyas

Esercizi Filosofici 3 (3):32-58 (2008)
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Abstract: This article shows how in the Pāli Nikāyas, after having defined Eternalism and Nihilism as two opposed positions, Gotama makes a dialectical use of Eternalism as means to eliminate Nihilism, upheld to be the worst point of view because of its denial of kammic maturation in terms of puñña and pāpa. Assuming, from an Eternalist perspective, that actions have effects also beyond the present life, Gotama underlines the necessity of betting on the validity of moral kammic retribution. Having thus demonstrated the central ethical error of Nihilism, he subtly introduces peculiar Buddhist moral concepts (kusala/akusala) to purify the Eternalist vision from the doctrine of a real existing self (attāvāda) and from the puñña/pāpa dichotomy. We can summarize this dialectical course as follows: Nihilism is pāpa/akusala because it denies kamman, Eternalism is puñña/not-akusala because it upholds kamman from a non-Buddhist perspective, Buddhism is kusala because it admits the law of kamman not centred on a theory of a real existing self (anattāvāda).
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