Knowing How to See the Good: Kamalaśīla’s Theory of Vipaśyanā


The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellowships in Buddhist Studies




This project agrues that vipaśyanā (insight meditation) as theorized by the eighth-century Indian Buddhist Kamalaśīla is viable according to contemporary philosophy, and is relevant to the ethical needs of our times. Vipaśyanā is depicted in Kamalaśīla’s The Process of Meditation as a technique for learning how to perceive in phenomena particular properties, such as emptiness. This training transfigures the practitioner's experience of the world, and develops her ethically by removing her morally dysfunctional dispositions (kleśa). Our ethical lives begin not with decision making, but with how we perceive the world. Because of this, in order to pursue a truly ethical life, we must first transform the dispositions that bias our perception. My dissertation analyzes Kamalaśīla’s theories on meditation, and draws on contemporary philosophy of mind, to show how vipaśyanā accomplishes this task.