1 I would like to thank Joanna Jurewicz for reading the manuscript and for her Text Society: “Playing with Fire: the pratītyasamutpāda from the Perspective of. The arguments are based on articles by Joanna Jurewicz, which unfortunately I can’t easily access right now, such as “Playing with fire: the. Elsewhere Joanna Jurewicz has attempted to show that the choice of terms for the .. „Playing with Fire: Pratītyasamutpāda from the perspective of Vedic.

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I’ve made several juresicz over the last year and a half to the Numata lectures by Professor Richard Gombrich in These are in the process of being published as a book.

Dhamma Wheel

I have been re-reading the notes from those lectures and wanted to highlight lecture seven which discussed the use of fire as a metaphor by the Buddha. Anyone familiar with the discourses of the Buddha will most likely have clocked that the Buddha uses fire as a metaphor in several different ways. What the Buddha means by “everything” is the five sense faculties and the mind, the objects of our senses, and the whole psychological process of experience.


What he means by “on fire” is that we our experience is burning with desire, with hatred, and with spiritual ignorance. This much is consonant with the received tradition.

Gombrich has investigated other aspects of this fire metaphor. In this view clinging would be fuel for becoming, and in my opinion this works much better as an explanation of process. This is an awkward phrase. The khandas in other words are an extension of the Buddha’s use of the fire metaphor.

They are the fuel for the burning desire that prolongs our moanna. The Vedic religion was one in which fire played a central role.

Dependent Origination and the Vedas – Dhamma Wheel

There is evidence that fire worship goes back well beyond the entry of the Vedic speaking peoples into India. Fire was very much part of the religious imagination of India by the time of the Buddha, and Gombrich argues that it is from this source that the Buddha draws for his fire metaphor. The paper is a not easy to follow: The primary metaphor for consciousness in the Vedic tradition is fire, hence the Buddha framed his understanding of consciousness in similar terms.

But whereas the late Vedic tradition contained a notion of absolute consciousness, the Buddha claimed that there is only consciousness of something: This is a brief overview of a more technical and thorough discussion by Professor Gombrich. It continues the theme of looking at the way the Buddha drew on the traditions surrounding him, especially the Vedic tradition, of images and concepts with which to communicate his Insight.


It also reassesses the way the received tradition explains some technical terms.

What Professor Gombrich has shown on more than jurewidz occasion is that the received tradition is confused on some points of doctrine or linguistics. This is important for contemporary Buddhists.

It emphasises that the Buddhist texts are not divine revelation, they are no infallible and we must be wary of an over literal interpretation of them. In particular where the Buddha used metaphors drawn from the Vedic traditions, there have often be misunderstood by later Buddhists, even in some cases before the canon was written down.

Doctrines must be tested against experience. Newer Post Older Post Home.

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