Does the Buddha have a Theory of Mind?

Animal Cognition and Human Distinctiveness in Buddhism

Authored by: Jonathan C. Gold

The Routledge Companion to Religion and Science

Print publication date:  October  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415492447
eBook ISBN: 9780203803516
Adobe ISBN: 9781136634178


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Before his enlightenment and liberation, the being that was going to be the Buddha – called the Bodhisattva – lived countless lives, being reborn again and again like all other beings in cyclic existence. Stories of the Buddha’s previous lives are called Jataka tales, and in many of them, the Bodhisattva was born as an animal. Jataka tales resemble Aesop’s fables, with talking animals and explicit morals. Indeed, the two collections seem to have drawn from the same treasury of story. Thus, even as an animal, the Bodhisattva is able to speak and exhibit his exemplary self-possession and compassion. In all his dealings, he is strikingly eloquent and unfailingly polite.

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