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Buddhism in Tamil Nadu - Collected Papers (An Old and Rare Book)

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Item Code: NAY752
Author: G. John Samuel
Publisher: Institute of Asian Studies, Chennai
Language: English
Edition: 1998
Pages: 612
Other Details 9.50 X 7.00 inch
Weight 980 gm
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Book Description
'Long choosing and beginning late .... .' That Miltonic confession slims up adequately the publication history of Buddhism in Tamil Nadu: Collected Papers. Nearly forty scholars from different parts of the world came together and discussed, in a healthy atmosphere of academic exchange, the various aspects relating to Buddhist faith as it existed,-and still exists- in the Tamil region of the Indian subcontinent. The Institute of Asian Studies played the generous host to the seminar that was held for a week from 25 to 31 May in 1992 in Chennai. The papers which were presented were rewritten incorporating the suggestions received during the lively discussion. A selection of these papers have been put together in this volume Buddhism in Tamil Nadu: Collected Papers.

The seminar itself could not have come into being had it not been for the generous grant of Uppsala University, Sweden and the munificence of the Japanese and Buddhist donors. We owe our thanks to a large circle of friends and well-wishers who made the seminar a memorable event. Till date, barring a few partial studies, we do not have a single volume devoted to a comprehensive treatment of Buddhism in Tamil Nadu. It is fervently hoped that the present volume will fulfill the much-felt want in this field of Buddhist studies and Buddhist scholarship.

It is none too easy to acknowledge the help and co-operation we received from several quarters. Our thanks and thanks to all of them. How sad that Professor R.S. Murthy who selected and put together the essays that comprise this volume, besides writing the introduction, did not live to see the fruits of his labor of love. Professors V. Gopalakrishna and T.B. Siddhalingaiah completed the editorial task with last minute touches. Shri R. Ruskin Lavy, the efficient D.T.P. Operator, composed the whole book and Dr. K. Jaya Kumar and Dr. V. Ganesan prepared the index. Our thanks are due, in no small measure, to them and to many others who made crucial contributions to numerous aspects of this project.

Buddhism was founded by Gautama Buddha. 'The four Noble Truths', 'The Eightfold Path' and the 'Dependent Origination' constitute the outstanding contribution of Buddhism. The tri-rattan (the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha) shows that the Buddha was the greatest organizer, as he was the first to form the Sangha or the spiritual society.

Buddhism became popular due to various factors. The Buddha's simple and noble teaching, the liberal spirit of equality, the humanism and universal appeal of his religion and his magnificent personality were some of the reasons for the popularity of Buddhism. Though the Buddha knew many languages, he always spoke about his doctrines in the language of the common people Magadhi. Besides, he advised his disciples to preach in the local language of the people wherever they went. When some disciples requested the Buddha to speak in Sanskrit instead of the coarse Magadhi, he condemned and informed them that he would always speak in the ordinary language of the common people. According to the Vedic and Brahmin system the merit of man was based on birth or caste, but the Buddha was against such a view and he said that the merit of a man must be based on the moral acts of the man, not on the basis of his birth. The Buddha was a great social reformer as he stood for social equality and casteless society. The Buddha remarked that just as the rivers would lose their separate identities when they merge with the sea, so also when different people would join his Sangha, they would lose their castes and there would be complete social equality among his followers.

When Asoka became the Emperor he was responsible as a guardian of the people in the north as well as in the south up to Ceylon. The Emperor by his edicts or inscriptions made the doctrines of the Buddha become popular.

In addition to the edicts, Asoka sent 'missionaries to nine countries; Ceylon, Gandhara, Greece, Himavat, Aparantaka (the west coastal region), Mahisa (the central Narmada valley), Maharastra, Vanavasa (northern part of Karnataka) Suvarna Baima (Lower Burma). Asoka sent his -own son and daughter to spread Buddhism in the south and Ceylon.

After the death of the Buddha, there developed differences among the disciples and followers leading to the breakout of 18 schools of Buddhism in 50 B.C. The schools or traditions broke out because of the differences as to who were the true followers of the traditions or lineage of the Buddhist doctrines or truths. The differences were also due to the interpretations of the doctrines. According to T.R.V. Murti, owing to the diversity of the language, in which the discourses of the Buddha were presented and the want of an accurate system of oral transmission, their doctrinal purity came to be settled in the orthodox fashion by appeal to the texts. The Marie sects- Hinayana and Mahayana=-appealed to the word of the Buddha. The former were liberalists and progressive. Hinayana consists of two schools: (1) Sautrantika and (2) Vaibhasika. Mahayana also consists of two schools: (1) Madhyamika and (2) Yogyakarta. The decline of Buddhism was due to many factors: one of the factors was the disputes among the schools or sects. The loss of royal support after Asoka and others was a major factor. The Muslim invasion was another major reason for the disappearance of Buddhism from the land of its birth-India. Besides, Hinduism assimilated the doctrines of Buddhism and holds the Buddha as an avatar in the Hindu faith.

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