Category: History

Sects and Sectarianism

UnityEdictSarnathweb-fullThe problem with free eBooks is that, for all the gains in access they offer by removing the constraints of traditional distribution they remove some of the methods of traditional promotion. For Buddhist monastic authors this is usually not a problem since free access is greatly prefered to fame and fortune, but this means that many great eBooks fall through the cracks, unnoticed.

Thus, attention all Buddhist nerds: read Ajahn Sujato’s Sects and Sectarianism immediately. I cannot think of a more important book written for the cause of Global Buddhism.

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Birth Is Suffering

Thanks to Barbara’s Buddhism Blog, I was pointed to a very touching piece by Jeff Wilson, Birth Is Suffering. He paints a new picture of Lord Buddha’s birth story for me:

The Buddha is said to have been born from his mother’s side, which hints at an emergency Caesarian section, and a week later she was on the funeral pyre. Supposedly, the Buddha never knew about death until it became time for him to enter the religious life, but this is blatantly incorrect. He grew up with the knowledge that his birth had been the occasion of his mother’s demise. How could he not have become introspective? In later years, when he said that killing one’s mother was one of the five cardinal sins, he could only have spoken with the knowledge of his own unwilling guilt. It is in the light of his hidden history that we should evaluate the Buddha’s puzzling statement that birth is suffering.

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Dhammayuttika Nikaya of Cambodia

The other night, I was eating dinner with a scholar of Cambodian literature and his family, and somehow we got onto the topic of Buddhism and chanting. I mentioned that I chant in the style of the Dhammayutt.* Bour KryHis children (all my age or older) had no idea what I was talking about. They had never heard of the Dhammayutt.

We had some discussion about the two orders of Theravada monks in Cambodia. There is the Dhammayuttika Nikaya and Maha Nikaya, they have different sangharajas, and their practices and chanting differ. But I didn’t do the subject justice. This topic has come up a couple times before, so for the sake of reference, here is a background sketch of what I’m referring to when I talk about the Dhammayutt order.

(What I know is incomplete and admittedly biased, so feel free to set me straight.)

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Therapeutic etymology

*Disclaimer* I am not a linguist by any means. My lack of understanding of Pali, Greek, and possibly English validates any grain of salt thrown at this post. Put your Skeptics hat on, my friends.

Around 250 BCE, the Third Buddhist Council convened under the patronage of Asoka, emperor of the pan-Indian Mauryan empire. The council’s purpose was to expunge the heretical and false, including both the views of dhamma and monastics. The council compiled the teachings and rules that would be considered the “teachings of the Elders”, Theravada.¹

After the council had concluded, Asoka sent out missionaries on the behalf of the Theravadins to all parts of the known world, including the Hellenic world.

These missionairies would have been called the Sons of the Elders, Theraputta. Although there is little record, Asoka claims to have reached Egypt and Greece with the dhamma.

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