Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to by Richard F. Gombrich

By Richard F. Gombrich

Written by means of the prime authority on Theravada Buddhism, this up-dated variation takes under consideration contemporary examine to incorporate the controversies over the date of the Buddha and present social and political advancements in Sri Lanka. Gombrich explores the legacy of the Buddha's predecessors and the social and non secular contexts opposed to which Buddhism has built and adjusted all through historical past, demonstrating certainly, the way it has consistently encouraged and been stimulated by means of its social atmosphere in a fashion which keeps to today.

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Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo (The Library of Religious Beliefs and Practices)

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The relations between brahmin and k atriya have always been somewhat ambiguous, since their power relations depend entirely on your point of view. That this ambivalence was very marked at the end of the Vedic period we can see from the early Upani ads, where kings are shown lording it over brahmins and even teaching them doctrines. ) It hardly seems a coincidence therefore that the Buddha and Mahāvi ra, the two greatest religious leaders of the period, men who challenged everything the brahmins stood for, both claimed k atriya status – or had it claimed for them by their early followers.

25–6 above), the communal religion of dharma and sva-dharma was no soteriology, for it offered no final solution. There were, accordingly, men (and possibly women) who wanted no part of this world, the social world with its ascribed status and prescribed duties. Brahminism came to describe such people as ‘renouncers’ (sa nyāsin), and even assigned their way of life a place in the life-cycle, an option one could take up when one had fulfilled one’s duties as a householder. Whether these full-time salvation-seekers really began in conscious reaction to the brahminical world or originated quite outside that world is a much debated question which I shall not pursue.

Secondly, my interpretation puts me at odds with those who see the Buddha as a social reformer. Certainly, in consenting to preach and then in establishing an Order of monks to do likewise, he showed his great compassion and concern for mankind. Moreover, he was supremely kind and understanding towards everyone, so far as we can tell. But his concern was to reform individuals and help them to leave society forever, not to reform the world. Life in the world he regarded as suffering, and the problem to which he offered a solution was the otherwise inevitable rebirth into the world.

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