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Chapter 8 - Maja and Nieban in The World as Will and Representation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 December 2022

Judith Norman
Affiliation:
Trinity University, Texas
Alistair Welchman
Affiliation:
University of Texas, San Antonio
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Summary

Stephan Atzert looks at the Asian traditions from which Schopenhauer drew two of his central ideas – Nieban (Nirvana) and Maja (Maya). Although Schopenhauer connected these ideas systematically in his philosophy, the concepts themselves emerge from quite distinct traditions: Maya is central to the Vendanta schools in India, while Nirvana is Buddhist. The two traditions use the concepts almost independently, though Schopenhauer blends them into a whole. Schopenhauer's source for his concept of Maja is the Oupnek'hat, which presents a quite specific interpretation of Maya as not only a passive source of delusion, but an active life force. Schopenhauer's access to the Buddhist conception of Nieban was also circuitous, and he doesn't use the term (Nirvana) with anything like the frequency that he uses Maya; and when he does use it, he sometimes treats it as an unhelpful euphemism for “nothingness.” Aztert argues that this philosophical ontologization of Nieban is misleading. Schopenhauer's sources in fact reject the identification of Nieban with nothingness as well as its identification with divinity (Brahmen). What is most basic both to his sources and to Schopenhauer's own account is Nirvana as release from suffering.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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