Buddhism and the Mythology of Evil: A Study in Theravada Buddhism

Buddhism and the Mythology of Evil: A Study in Theravada Buddhism

Buddhism and the Mythology of Evil: A Study in Theravada Buddhism

Buddhism and the Mythology of Evil: A Study in Theravada Buddhism

Excerpt

The mythology of evil is as manifold as it is universal. A sense of life's evil seems to have haunted men from the earliest times, and has found expression in a wide variety of popular beliefs. The general theme of this book is the relationship that is capable of existing between such popular beliefs, which belong properly to the realm of folk-lore, and the special insights of a radical religion of salvation.

Stated in these terms it is evident that this is a relationship which is capable of existing in other religions besides Buddhism. Popular forms of belief may vary in their details from place to place and from century to century; the superstitions of ancient India may differ in some superficial respects from the superstitions of modern Europe; but beneath the differing forms there are certain basically similar attitudes to the world, and a basically similar understanding (or misunderstanding) of human existence.

Moreover, when Buddhism is described as a radical religion of salvation it is evident that in these terms Christianity, among others, is a comparable system. In the course of the following pages a justification of this way of describing Buddhism will be offered; from the vantage point thus established it will be possible to see how both Buddhism and Christianity differ profoundly from that understanding of human existence which is presupposed in popular beliefs. Moreover, in view of the way in which Buddhism has succeeded in dealing with the relationship between its own essential doctrines and popular indigenous forms of belief and practice, especially in Burma, it is possible that there are here some lessons to be learnt which may prove valuable in other religious situations of a similar nature.

Therefore, although this is primarily a study in Theravāda Buddhism, it is hoped that it will have some value as a contribution to the study of religion in the wider sense. It is based largely upon the evidence of the Pāli canon. This is not on account of any historical priority which this particular corpus of the Buddhist scriptures might be thought to possess (since scholarly opinion is now inclined to give as much weight, if not more, to the Maālyāna documents in this respect), but solely because, by an historical accident, the scriptures of Buddhism . . .

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