Is this me?A story about personal identity from the Mahāprajñāpāramitopadeśa / Dà zhìdù lùn

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ABSTRACT In a Buddhist treatise from around the fourth century CE there is a very remarkable story which serves as a thought experiment calling us to question the nature of self and the identity of persons. Lost in Sanskrit, the passage is fortunately preserved in a Chinese translation, the Dà zhìdù lùn. We here present the first reliable translation directly from the Classical Chinese, and discuss the philosophical significance of the story in its historical and literary context. We emphasise the philosophical importance of embedding the story in two framing narratives, and demonstrate that the story taps a range of intuitions, and indeed fears, about the survival of the self which have also played a large role in the history of the topic in the West, and which continue to be of great contemporary concern.
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Archival date: 2021-06-09
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