About the Book:
This is a scholarly book on the first hundred years of the institutional aspect of the Buddhist religion. In the book the author has concentrated on the development of Buddhism as it applied to the monastic community as well as the lay people, dispelling the notion that Buddhism was only a philosophical system concerned with an Independent quest by a few toward nirvana. Although there are a number of books in the market dealing with the doctrinal aspects of the religion, there are few that deal with the basic factors making it a popular religion, namely the authority of the founder, the nature of the communities and discipline within both monastic community and the lay. These aspects are further highlighted in the conclusion where they are compared with parallel developments, during the same early period, of Christianity.
This fresh approach is particularly enlightening to the general reader and the students in religious studies, Asian studies and history.
The book contains Bibliography and Index.
About the Author:
DR. CHAI-SHIN YU is Assistant Professor in East Asian Department, University of Toronto, and Executive Director of the Society for Korean and Related Studies, Inc. Toronto, Canada.
The purpose of this study is to examine the similarities and dissimilarities between early Buddhism and early Christianity in regard to the authority of the founders, the nature of the communities, and the conception of discipline in the respective communities.
Buddhism is discussed in Part I, Christianity in Part II. A thorough examination of the topics listed above is undertaken within each group because, as observed by Max Muller, “Before we compare, we must thoroughly know what we compare.” In Part III, the early Buddhist and Christian communities are compared.
Each of the first two parts is divided into three chapters, dealing respectively with the founder’s authority, the community, response to the founder and to his teachings, and the nature of discipline in the community. Emphasis in both parts is on the “authority” of the founder in respect of the views held by the early Buddhist and Christian disciples, and on how this authority and the founder’s teachings were commemorated and followed by the members of the community in relation to the goal of unity among the followers. To the discussion of Buddhism is added a consideration of whether the early community constituted a church or an esoteric community. This topic is included only in the discussion of Buddhism, because the early Buddhist community, unlike that of the early Christians, consisted of both a monastic community and a laity, and these must be compared. In addition, the subject of the essence of the discipline which developed in response to the founder’s teaching is discussed with regard to both the Buddhist and Christian communities.
This comparative study appears significant for several reasons. The two religions being considered here are both great world religions, which Matzutani called “the two most sublime religions mankind has ever had.” A comparative study of these religions may permit the followers of each faith to learn from the other. This may lead to a better general understanding of the religions of other peoples, and help to avoid strife among them. As Parrinder wrote, “The construction of a world-wide harmony is too great a task to be undertaken except with religious faith.”
But in studies of this kind attention has to be paid to something not sufficiently paid heed to so far. According to Richard Gard:
Most of the attempts to compare of contrast Buddhism and Christianity are unsatisfactory because they tend to deal with doctrinal contexts, without sufficient reference to their historical and institutional contexts, and they usually do not employ an established comparative method of analysis or common terminology.
As Gard’s comments indicate, most comparative studies to date have been inadequate in their treatment of the historical and institutional aspects. To fill this void has been one of the main objectives of the present study. As Matzutani has noted:
Usually, when two religions are compared, the analysis is biased in favour of the writer’s own religion. He starts with preconceived conclusions and his aim really is to defend and uphold his own religion and thus disparage the other. Such a comparison, however minutely it may be treated, can never be called a scholarly work.
One of the purposes of the present study, therefore, has been to bring a more objective approach to bear on the comparison of Buddhism and Christianity.
Part I and II contribute some new information and interpretations concerned with topics which themselves have been the subjects of considerable debate, e.g., the problems of Buddha’s authority, the unity of samgha, the unity of the Church, and the nature of discipline in each community. In Buddhism, it is generally believed that dharma, not Buddha, was the basis of authority (see Part I, Chapter I). In Christianity the authority of Christ has generally been accepted, but the present study seeks to introduce some new points into the discussion. Many scholars have denied the existence of unity in the early Buddhist community and have, instead, emphasized individuality, but the unity of samgha has received equal emphasis in this study (see Part I, Chapter II). There is no dearth of books about these issues in Christianity, and theories regarding Christ as the source of both disunity and unity have been much debated among scholars. In these studies the nature and role of discipline do not appear to have been adequately discussed in relation either to Buddhism or to Christianity. Hence my emphasis on them in this dissertation.
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