Synthesizing the competing ideologies of Brahmanism and Sramanism, the Buddha propounded the Doctrine of the Middle Path. His doctrine avoided the Philosophical extremes of eternalism and nihilism besides the religio-ethical extremism of hedonism and asceticism. Even though he claimed not to have established any new viewpoint, the Buddha did definitely expound some philosophical Views concerning the non-existence of the self, the becoming-nature of empirical reality, and the insubstantiality of all phenomena. These views of the Buddha had far-reaching philosophical consequences.
Upon the passing away of the Buddha, the Samgha began to add its interpretations to the various doctrines of the Buddha. As a consequence there emerged a plethora of interpretations which, in course of time, gave rise to various Buddhist Schools of thought : Realists, deconstructionists, and idealists. Also the Buddhists had to contend with vehement Criticism from their opponents, particularly from the thinkers belonging to the Brahmanical tradition.
It is in the crucible of this Creative tension that the present Study analyses the basic issues, which the Buddhists faced in the Context of the critique of their doctrines. If, for example, it is accepted that the self does not exist, then, who is the knower who knows and the doer who acts? The question also arises as to who it is that needs liberation from the clutches of karma-samsara in the absence of a self. Moreover, if everything is in an interminable state of change and never the same, can we legitimately hope to have Knowledge of anything, whether transcendent or phenomenal? Language, too, seems to become a mere jargon when it is attributed with nothing more than a conventional value. If Nirvana is, as ultimate reality, seen as cessation, or the state of realization in which both the self and phenomenal entities are viewed as "void," then knowledge of reality in Cognitive terms seems an impossible task.
These were some of the issues, in the context of their doctrines of not self, of becoming, of momentariness, of insubstantiality, which the Buddhists had to respond to. And it is to these questions specifically that this study addresses itself, tracing how the Buddhists endeavoured to meet the challenge in Epistemological and Ontological terms.