Demandingness, Well-Being and the Bodhisattva Path

Sophia 54 (2):201-216 (2015)
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This paper reconstructs an Indian Buddhist response to the overdemandingness objection, the claim that a moral theory asks too much of its adherents. In the first section, I explain the objection and argue that some Mahāyāna Buddhists, including Śāntideva, face it. In the second section, I survey some possible ways of responding to the objection as a way of situating the Buddhist response alongside contemporary work. In the final section, I draw upon writing by Vasubandhu and Śāntideva in reconstructing a Mahāyāna response to the objection. An essential component of this response is the psychological transformation that the bodhisattva achieves as a result of realizing the nonexistence of the self. This allows him to radically identify his well-being with the well-being of others, thereby lessening the tension between self and others upon which the overdemandingness objection usually depends. Emphasizing the attention Mahāyāna authors pay to lessening moral demandingness in this way increases our appreciation of the philosophical sophistication of their moral thought and highlights an important strategy for responding to the overdemandingness objection that has been underdeveloped in contemporary work
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Archival date: 2015-10-31
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