The Questions of King Milinda (2004, Tucson)

The Questions of King Milinda is a 2,000-year-old Buddhist text that chronicles the debate between the Greek King Milinda and an Indian Buddhist monk named Nagasena.

The text has always been of particular interest to Western readers, since the king, being a Greek thinker, asked the monk the same questions we ourselves might. The exchange of questions and answers–which took place in a courteous, respectful manner high up in the mountains at the Sankheyya hermitage–touch on many of the thorniest issues found in any religion, and allows scholars to trace the ways in which Christianity and Buddhism influenced each other. This teaching historically traces how Western ideas expanded into the East and the fascinating exchanges that took place.

One of the fascinating discussions in this text between the king and monk is about a chariot, which of course the modern equivalent would be a car. This discussion goes through one of the most famous proofs for the core Buddhist idea of emtpiness called “The Emptiness of One or Many”, where the monk asks the king if the “car” can be found in any one of its parts, in all of the parts combined, or in something other than all of the parts combined.

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Course Materials

Questions of King Milinda Reading

Audio

Class One Audio: The King, the Monk, and Pain

Class Two Audio: Alexander, Love, and the Horse of Wood

Class Three Audio: Moses, Christ, and Worldview

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