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

Theravada Buddhism

Title: Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo
Author: Richard F. Gombrich
Publisher: Routledge
Language: English
Print Length:‎ 256 pages

Written by the leading authority on Theravada Buddhism, this up-dated edition takes into account recent research to include the controversies over the date of the Buddha and current social and political developments in Sri Lanka. Gombrich explores the legacy of the Buddha’s predecessors and the social and religious contexts against which Buddhism has developed and changed throughout history, demonstrating above all, how it has always influenced and been influenced by its social surroundings in a way which continues to this day.

1 Introduction 1
A Introductory information 1
B A social history of Buddhism? 5
The limitations of Marxist and Weberian views of religion 11
Unintended consequences 15
The Sangha 18
What inquiries will the evidence support? 19
Therava¯din history: the uneven pace of change 22
Buddhist identity 23

2 Gotama Buddha’s problem situation 32
A Vedic civilization 32
The Vedic tradition 32
The early Vedic period 35
Later Vedic society 38
Religion in the later Vedic period 40
Karma and escape from re-birth 46
B The social conditions of his day 49
To whom did the Buddha’s message appeal? 56

3 The Buddha’s Dhamma 61
The Dhamma in its context: answers to brahminism 67
Buddhism as religious individualism 73
An ethic for the socially mobile 80
The Buddha on kings and politics 83

4 The Sangha’s discipline 89
General principles of the vinaya 90
Dating and development of the rules 92
The middle way between discomfort and indulgence 95
The disbarring offences and enforcement of chastity 105
Hierarchies of age and sex 106
The formal organization of the Sangha 107
Sect formation: Therava¯da defined 111
Maintaining conformity 114
Relations between ordained and laity 115

5 The accommodation between Buddhism and society in ancient India 119
A Buddhist devotion 119
The Buddha as an object of faith and devotion 120
Pilgrimage 122
Relics 123
Mortuary rituals and ‘transfer of merit’ 125
B Secular power: Asoka 128
Asoka’s inscriptions 129
Asoka in Buddhist tradition 132
The missions: interpreting the evidence 135

6 The Buddhist tradition in Sri Lanka 137
The Sinhalese Buddhist identity 138
Periodization of Sinhalese Buddhist history 139
Sources 140
Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism 141
Cosmology 142
A Buddhist society 143
Worship of Buddha images 145
Role of the village monk 146
The achievements of Mahinda’s mission 148
Establishing Buddhism in a new country 150
The Sangha’s duty to preserve the scriptures 151
The use of Pali: Buddhaghosa 153
Translation and popularization 155
Village dweller and forest dweller 156
The structure of the Sangha in Ceylon 157
Formal state control of the Sangha 158
Sangha and state in Anuradhapura 160
The Sangha as landlords 161
Decline . . . 165
. . . and revival 166
The character of Sinhalese Buddhist religiosity 168

7 Protestant Buddhism 171
The disestablishment of the Sangha 173
The British missions 175
Early Buddhist reactions 179
The rise of the Buddhist laity 182
The impact of the Theosophists 183
Anaga¯rika Dharmapa¯la 186
Lay religious activism 189
Other characteristics of Protestant Buddhism 192
Limited scope of Protestant Buddhism 194

8 Current trends, new problems 196
Religious pluralism 196
The new ethos 197
Unintended consequences of lay religious activism 198
Recent economic and social developments 199
The cultural effect of the war 201
Hinduizing trends 203
The decline of rationality 204
The crisis of authority 205
Altered states of consciousness 205
Using Buddhism for this world 206
Developments in the Sangha 207
The challenge 209

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