Was the Buddha's contribution only philosophical? In this article, which was part of my reply to a friend's remark, I argued that the Buddha's main contribution was practical, not philosophical.

My friend remarked: > [I believe] Buddha's [only] contribution was philosophical. > He discovered a philosophical framework that he is happy, > and shared it (as against proslytelising it), so that we all > might understand ourselves and the world we live in.

I answered:
The main contribution of Buddha was not philosophical, but practical. Even before Buddha's time, many basic concepts, such as Samsara, Jhana, Impermanence etc were already well established. The Buddha's main contribution was the methods. Let me elaborate. By Buddha's time, the idea of ridding one's defilments (greed, hatred, desire) etc, were well established. But how does one achieve that? Buddha's comtemporary, Mahavira, who was many yrs older than Buddha, established the method of self-mortification. "By destroying one's body and giving oneself pain, one gains spiritual enlightenment", that was the established technique. Yogis, for example, would stare at the sun till their eyes burned.

The Buddha's contribution was a "revolutionary" new method, the Middle Way. "Two extremes are to be avoided, they do not bring virtue, insights or wisdom. The 2 extremes are indulgence in pleasures, and indulgence in pain. The Middle Way is the best". The Middle Way is also called the 8-fold Path, & is divided into 3 sections: Morality, Concentration and Wisdom. It seeks to develop morality, then from that basis of a clear conscience, develop concentration, and with a sharp mind, develop insights into oneself (wisdom). With wisdom, one learns to work with oneself and starts to transcend pain and pleasure, transcend cravings and trascends Ignorance. One then gains Enlightenment.

The "side" contribution of the Buddha was his insights on the states of mind, the psy aspects. His philosophical contributions were, in fact, quite minimal. For example, he didn't come up with the concept of Karma, but changed its def'n from "if I kill today, I will get killed in the future" to one that involves a psy basis. That's why the Jain definition of karma is independent of Intentions while the Buddhist definition is not.

My friend continued: > He did not seek to change either the world nor us. He taught > that all things are ephemeral, that pleasure and suffering > are all temporal and therefore illusory...

I answered:
Actually, friend, it's precisely the opposite. The concepts that "all things are ephemeral, that pleasure and suffering are all temporal ..." were established before him. He taught his methods precisely to allow people to change and to develop peaceful states of mind.

That was his main contribution.