Buddhism in India: Challenging Brahmanism and Caste by Gail Omvedt

By Gail Omvedt

Textual content explores 2,500 years of the advance of Buddhism, Brahmansim, and caste in India. presents an account of the historic, social, political, and philosophical features of Buddhism; discussing quite a lot of vital 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

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This shows the diversity of those following the samana trend. It would seem that those described as ‘physicians…engaged in the study of the nature of man’ were very likely Buddhists, who were 4 While Uma Chakravarty argues that the samana–Brahmana groups lived off the surplus produced by the das-kammakaras (‘slaves and workers’) who were the basic labouring groups, in fact most only minimally lived off a socially produced surplus. Most were ascetics living on very little extractive processes. Later both Buddhists and Brahmans regularised through the Sangha or through priestly ritual a dependent relationship with society, which included living off the surplus.

At this point Ambedkar appears close to the functionalists who emphasise the necessity of a value system to provide social integration. More specifically, it recalls the French sociologist Emile Durkheim. Of all of the ‘founding fathers’ of sociology, Durkheim, in his last great work, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, gave the most careful definition of religion taking it as involving the ‘sacred’ (as Ambedkar had noted, the Dhamma was ‘sacred morality’) and as serving the function of social integration.

Since these also provided the background for the Buddha’s intervention, it is important to examine them. The Self-creation of the Brahmans Indian Brahmans as they have evolved over the centuries represent one of the most unique elites that any society has produced. They trace their origins back to Vedic times, where they were priests of the sacrifice, and it was as priests, intellectuals and possessors of the Vedas that they appear in the middle of first millennium BCE society. However, it would be a mistake to see the Brahmans, identified as a social group in the first millennium BCE, in ‘essentialist’ terms, as lineal descendents of Vedic priests, just as it is a mistake to take the Khattiyas as descendents of Vedic warriors or rajanyas.

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