Discipline: The Canonical Buddhism of the Vinayapitaka is a penetrating analysis of a heretofore neglected, yet centrally important portion of the Pali Canon. In identifying the pivotal role of discipline in the bhikkhu quest for nibbana Professor Holt finds that Vinaya rules represent a practical imple-mentation of the Buddha's Dhamma. Specifically, adherence to this monastic code theoretically facilitates an overcoming of asavas, mental dispositions that foster attachment to the "self' and thus perpetuate the process of samsaric kammic retribution. The formulation of Buddhist monastic law, therefore, need not be seen as the result of casuistry; rather, it is the consequence of a conscious attempt on the part of the early Buddhist tradition to identify behavioral expressions that at once generate and reflect a calmed, detached and disciplined mental and spiritual state.
The author has also examined the significance of the principal rituals of Buddhist monasticism as they are prescribed within the Vinaya text. He interprets these rites as cultic celebrations of discipline which, in turn, legitimate the Sangha's claim to be the embodiment and reservoir of the Buddha's teachings. The claim supported the Sangha's role of occupying a mediating position between the spiritual needs of the laity and the authority and the spiritual exemplar of Buddhism, the Buddha. In short, Discipline, written from the perspective of the history of religious approach, contributes significantly to the increased understanding of the dynamics of the Buddhist religion in its formulative stages.
JOHN CLIFFORD HOLT is Professor of Religion at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, USA. His book, Buddha in the Crown: Avalokitesvara in the Buddhist Traditions of Sri Lanka, was awarded the 1992 American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion. He is the editor of Anagatavamsa Desana also published by Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited.
Spiritual discipline is the sine qua non of monasticism. For the individual Buddhist bhikkhu, spiritual discipline means the nurturing of a mental awareness that leads to control of one's response to the phenomenal world of conditioned existence. As such, discipline is an indispensable means for the bhikkhu intent upon making progress toward the soteriological goal of nibbana. The rules of discipline, as they have been preserved in the Pali Vinayapitaka, also function as an expression of the Sangha's normative communal identity. They constitute the means by which the early community codified and reified orthopraxy in light of its understanding of orthodoxy. It is my essential thesis that Buddhist monastic discipline is most fully understood when considered as a purposive affective expression of the Buddha's dhamma.
This essay represents a rewritten version of my Ph.D. dissertation (University of Chicago, 1977). In preparing the manuscript for publication, I have added new discussions, eliminated others, and rendered some in less complex fashion. All of these changes were due to my own conscious effort to introduce the bases of Buddhist discipline to an audience wider than one composed of buddhologists and textual specialists. I am fully aware that much work remains to be done to provide a more comprehensive account, especially with regard tp the importance of Vinaya commentaries. If this essay has tread the path of oversimplification, I accept responsibility.
I owe debts of great magnitude to a number of people at the University of Chicago who were of immense help to me in writing this book. Professor Frank Reynolds continuously offered critical suggestions. I am grateful for such a dedicated mentor. Dean Joseph Kitagawa provided incisive comments and patient tutoring during the formulative stages of the project and Professor Mircea Eliade read through the dissertation manuscript and gave his helpful response. I would also like to acknowledge the stimulation and encouragement I received from Professor Jonathan Z. Smith. I am fortunate to have worked with these individuals in the field of history of religions at the University of Chicago.
Thanks go to the American Council of Learned Societies and Bowdoin College for financially supporting this project. Finally, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to Barbara Sjogren Holt who has been a part of this work since its inception. This book is dedicated to her.
The concerns of historians of religions and buddhologists over-lap in a variety of important respects. Certainly no interpretation of the history or phenomenology of religion can claim real authority apart from a serious grappling with Buddhist experiences and expressions. It is equally true that no modern scholarly interpretation of Buddhist life can be considered truly adequate unless it takes into account the continuity and discontinuity between the Buddhist patterns and correlated patterns that have been identified in the general history of religions.
But despite the mutual need for intensive interaction between the history of religions and Buddhist studies, the two disciplines have remained remarkably isolated. Historians of religions have tended to shy away from a serious engagement with Buddhism-particularly in its early and Theravada forms. They have tended to treat these early and more conservative Buddhist traditions either as religio-historical anomalies, or as mildly deviant forms of Upanisadic Hinduism. From their side, buddhologists have shown little interest in the kind of categories and interpretative language needed to carry forward serious systematic studies of man as home religiosus. Some buddhologists have maintained that early and Theravada Buddhism are essentially philosophical or ethical systems, and not really religious at all. Others-who have had a more adequate understanding of the religious dimensions of their data-have been so preoccupied with the primary work of translation and philological analysis that they have failed to pursue the kind and level of understanding that can effectively engage the work of historians of religions.
In recent years a number of younger scholars trained in th, history of religions have taken up the task of bridging the gap between their own discipline and the field of Buddhist studies. The goal of these scholars (see, for example, William LaFleur's forthcoming book on Medieval Japanese Buddhism, Daniel Over-meyer's study of Chinese Buddhist sectarian movements, Join Ross Carter's recent explanation of the Theravada conception of Dhamma, and George Bond's forthcoming work on scriptural hermeneutics in the Theravada tradition) is two-fold.
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