By Gail Omvedt
Textual content explores 2,500 years of the advance of Buddhism, Brahmansim, and caste in India. offers an account of the ancient, social, political, and philosophical elements of Buddhism; discussing quite a lot of very important present concerns. Hardcover, softcover on hand from the writer. DLC: Buddhism--Relations--Brahmanism.
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Additional resources for Buddhism in India: Challenging Brahmanism and Caste
Like most others, they began with the notion of karma and some form of rebirth which went on and on; like the Buddhists they moralised 40 Buddhism in India karma—it was violence, killing, evil actions which caused bad karma and rebirth; and they took as their goal liberation from the whole cycle, release from rebirth. In Jainism, in contrast to the psychological interpretation given by Buddhism, this process is viewed materialistically and literally. The Jains interpreted the cosmos in terms of a classic dualism: the two main principles were jiva (life, or soul) and ajiva (usually translated as matter).
The individual and the cosmos became subjects of new questioning. In India, these developments centered in the Gangetic valley, eastwards of the Punjab and Indus valley areas where the first civilisational development and cultural contacts had taken place. India was at the time a mixture of ethnic and linguistic groups— Dravidian (Tamil),2 Aryan, Sino-Tibetan, Austro-Asiatic. All of them played some role in the Gangetic valley, and the languages of the people developed not only on the basis of the Sanskritic background, as is often thought, but equally, if not more, influenced by and other linguistic traditions, especially Tamil, the most ancient form of the Dravidian languages.
Most Marxist interpretations, for example, see it as related to the traumas of a developing class society and they have viewed it as a kind of falling into history out of an earlier primordial communism. Exploitation and oppression, they argue, led people to flee into the forests. Yet the fact that so many of the samanas came from well-off families should suggest The Background to Buddhism 31 otherwise. 4 There were various trends among the renouncers. According to the report of Megasthenes, who visited the court of Chandragupta Maurya in the 4th century BCE, there were ‘Brachmanes’ and ‘Garmanes’ (samanas), and As for the Garmanes he says that the most honourable of them are named Hylobii and that they live in forests, subsisting on leaves and wild fruit, clothed with the bark of trees, and abstaining from wine and the delight of live; and that they communicate with the kings, who through messengers inquire about the causes of things and through the Hylobii worship and supplicate the Divinity; and that after the Hylobii, the physicians are second in honour, and that they are, as it were, humanitarian philosophers, men who are of frugal habits but do not live out of doors, and subsist on rice and barleygroats, which are given to them by everyone of whom they beg or whom offer them hospitality; and that through sorcery they can cause people to have numerous offspring, and to have either male or female children; and that they cure diseases mostly through means of cereals and not through means of medicaments; and that among their medicaments their ointments and their poultices are most esteemed…and that both this class and the other practice such endurance, both in toils and in perseverance, that they stay in one posture all day without moving; and that there are also diviners and enchanters…and that women, as well as men, study philosophy with some of them, and that the women likewise abstain from the delights of love (Majumdar 1960: 145).
Buddhism in India: Challenging Brahmanism and Caste by Gail Omvedt