Buddhist Saints in India: A Study in Buddhist Values and Orientations

By Reginald A. Ray | Go to book overview

3
Saints of the Theragāthā and Therīgāthā

In the preceding chapter, it was proposed that certain fundamental themes, arranged according to a particular logic, make up the paradigm provided by Buddha Śākyamuni. It was also suggested that this paradigm was in more general use as a presupposition in Indian Buddhism, identifying not just the Buddha but also others understood as Buddhist saints. As a first step in the testing of this hypothesis, the present chapter contains an analysis of two works, the Pāli Theragāthā and Therīgāthā, which provide a relatively complete definition of the Buddhist saint, this time as arhant. The Theragāthā and Therīgāthā, books 6 and 7 of the Khuddakanikāya in the Suttapiṭaka of the Pāli canon, 1 contain the songs of some 240 men and women saints who lived during and after the time of the Buddha. 2 Like other of the more ancient texts in the Khuddakanikāya--for example, the Suttanipāta, 3Dhammapada, 4Udāna, and Itivuttaka--the Theragāthā and Therīgāthā show us saints who live primarily in the forest and practice forest renunciation. 5 In contrast to these other texts, however, in the Theragāthā and Therīgāthā these forest saints provide the primary focus of discussion. 6

Winternitz examined these songs and noticed that their contents are at variance with much of the rest of the Pāli canon, particularly in their concern for mythological themes and supernatural beings. Possibly with a version of the two-tiered model of Buddhism in mind, he concluded that the songs reflect a degradation of normative monasticism and must therefore be relatively late, dating at least after the time of Aśoka ( 1933, 110). Norman, however, points out that concerns for mythology and supernatural beings existed in earliest Buddhist times ( 1969, xxvii). He also tells us that in these songs there is mention of ordination at the age of seven, something generally forbidden in the vinaya, suggesting that at least some of the material in the texts dates from a time prior to the classical formation of the vinaya rules. Norman's doctrinal, metrical, and linguistic analyses confirm this judgment and lead him to conclude that the contents of both texts were composed over an extended period, from the end of the sixth century B.C.E. to the middle of the third century B.C.E. ( 1969, xxix, and 1971, xxxi). This dating, from the lifetime of the Buddha to the reign of King Aśoka, would place the Theragāthā and Therīgāthā among the earliest Buddhist texts, with portions of them representing a particularly ancient stratum of Buddhist literature. As we shall see, Norman's judgment, pushing the contents of at least some of the songs of the two

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Buddhist Saints in India: A Study in Buddhist Values and Orientations
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Contents xi
  • Conventions xiii
  • Abbreviations xv
  • Introduction 3
  • Notes 10
  • 1 - The Buddhist Saints and the Two-Tiered Model of Buddhism 15
  • Notes 36
  • 2 - Buddha Śākyamuni as a Saint 44
  • Notes 68
  • 3 - Saints of the Theragāthā and Therīgāthā 79
  • Notes 99
  • 4 - Some Orthodox Saints in Buddhism 105
  • Conclusion 136
  • Notes 141
  • 5 - Saints Criticized and Condemned 151
  • Notes 173
  • 6 - Cults of Arhants 179
  • Notes 205
  • 7 - The Solitary Saint, the Pratyekabuddha 213
  • Notes 241
  • 8 - Bodhisattva Saints of the Forest in Mahāyāna Sūtras 251
  • Appendix: the Minor Rāṣṭrapālaparipṛcchā Sūtra on Forest Bhikṣus 275
  • Appendix: the Minor Rāṣṭrapālaparipṛcchā Sūtra on Forest Bhikṣus 280
  • 9 - Ascetic Traditions of Buddhist Saints 293
  • Notes 318
  • 10 - The Buddhist Saints and the Stūpa 324
  • Notes 352
  • 11 - The Cult of Saints and Buddhist Doctrines of Absence and Presence 358
  • Notes 386
  • 12 - The Buddhist Saints and the Process of Monasticization 396
  • Notes 423
  • Conclusion: Toward a Threefold Model of Buddhism 433
  • Notes 447
  • Bibliography 448
  • Index 469
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