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"The Concept of ""World"" (Sattva-bhAjana-loka) in Indian Early YogAcAra Buddhism: An Intellectual History"

Final Report Summary - YOGALOKACNTXT (The Concept of "World" (Sattva-bhAjana-loka) in Indian Early YogAcAra Buddhism: An Intellectual History)

Current scholarship on the philosophy of early Indian YogAcAra Buddhism (4th-5th centuries CE) has come under criticism for its de-contextualized understanding of the school’s worldview. My research addresses this shortcoming through an intellectual history of the Yogacara"s philosophical, cosmological and literary understanding of among other key concepts, "sattva-bhAjana-loka" (the sentient and insentient external world), a fundamental concept that has not received adequate treatment in Scholarship to date. Understanding loka as a unique and pervasive social fact within the Yogacara worldview, this research will:
(1) provide a genealogy of the Yogacara"s understanding of loka by historically contextualizing it in the school’s texts (Sanskrit, Tibetan) and in the works of its Indian intellectual milieu.
(2) Examine the ways in which the Yogacara"s notion of loka - as an intersubjective, illusionary realm - is constructed by the imagery and metaphor of the school’s śāstric and sutra literature.
Contextualizing philosophical analysis with cosmology and imagery, this research aims to provide a more complete and nuanced picture of the Yogacara"s worldview, which will in turn (1) contribute to the clarification of current debates over the schools core doctrines, and (2) contribute to an ongoing and increasingly influential interdisciplinary analysis of intersubjectivity, engaging Buddhist Studies and contemporary Philosophy of Mind and Language.
Having concluded the research, findings point out the pivotal role of the Yogacara understanding of linguist meaning as tying together the school’s conception of the life world and intersubjectivity on the one hand and of imagery and metaphor on the other hand. Highlighting the ways in which the school’s philosophical arguments are fringed by hermeneutical considerations, the research culminates by a presentation of a broadly conceived Buddhist of meaning, both linguist and perceptual.
Having returned from my doctoral studies at Columbia University in New York to assume a tenure-track position (starting in 2011) in Tel Aviv University’s East and South Asian Department, the IRG has enabled me to conduct this comprehensive research also as a visiting Scholar at the Center for Buddhist Studies (CBS), Columbia University; and as an affiliate of the Zukunftsphilologie program, Forum Transregionale Studien, Freie Universität, Berlin (2013-2014); As a Stipendiary visiting Scholar at Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin (Fall 2014), as well as a member of an ongoing research project (2016-2018) also at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin; to present papers at the American Academy of Religion (AAR) annual meetings, at the Congresses of the International Association of Buddhist Studies (IABS) as well as in other workshops and conferences in Europe and the US. During the research period I have been working on a book manuscript and several peer-reviewed journal articles on the topic, which are now completed, as well as on organizing an international conference at Tel Aviv university (held in December 2016). All these activities would no doubt contribute to successfully meeting TAU tenure requirements and my integration there.