Buddha as Teacher of Devas and Humans: The Question of Omniscience
Buddha as understood in the major divisions of the Sutta Pitaka called Five Nikaya-s is a somewhat enigmatic figure. When asked directly if he is a god (deva) he denies it saying that he is a man who found the ancient path of the liberated saints (Tathagata-s). And Buddha in the Tevijja-Vacchagottasutta (“Discourse to Vacchagotta on the Threefold Knowledge”) replies to Vacchagotta that reports of Buddha being omniscient are false, and that he only claims the three-fold knowledge: recollection of his previous rebirths, the dibba-cakkhu (“divine eye”), the ability to see beings arising and passing away each in accordance with their kamma (“action”), and realizing with his own direct knowledge his destruction of the asava-s or defilements. Buddha is called teacher of deva-s (“gods”) and humans.
This paper arises out of puzzlement of whether, and if so in what senses of “omniscience”, Buddha, God, and Google could be called omniscient. Sometimes focal points of religious belief that are considered as “maximally great” are called “omniscient”. Beginning with the Buddha, the conceptual flow of this paper will be an exercise in the global philosophy of religion onward toward technological thinking in modernity.
About the speaker
Dr. Frank J. Hoffman is Professor at International Buddhist Studies College, Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University. Frank Hoffman received a PhD in Philosophy of Religion at King’s College London for work which was published as Rationality and Mind in Early Buddhism. He is the author of 4 books including two co-edited volumes, 41 articles, book chapters, and encyclopedia articles, and 82 book reviews. His articles were published in Asian Philosophy, Journal of Indian Philosophy, Religious Studies, Contemporary Buddhism, Journal of Humanistic Buddhism, and Journal of Philosophy and Religion Society of Thailand. Professor Hoffman’s next book (with Soraj Hongladarom and Jeremiah Joaquin is Philosophies of Appropriated Religions: Perspectives from Southeast Asia, forthcoming from Springer in 2024. Prof. Dr. Frank J. Hoffman has taught in the USA where he was a full Professor, and also lectured in India, China, Korea, Japan, and England. He has previously given lectures at the Siam Society Under Royal Patronage, one in 2019 on the Seven Suns sutta about global warming, and another in 2020 on a critique of the caste system in the Madhurasutta. He is an Associate Editor of the international journal, Asian Philosophy (Taylor & Francis) and is a Member of the Council of the Siam Society.
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