Development of Buddhist Ethics

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Item Code: IDC865
Publisher: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Author: G.S.P. Misra
Language: English
Edition: 2017
ISBN: 9788121501156
Pages: 196
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.0 inch X 6.0 inch
Weight 370 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

'Religion is a doing and doing what is moral.' In Buddhism, particularly, there is such a great emphasis on moral doing that is very often designated as an 'ethical religion' (silaparaka dharma). The present work seeks to study Buddhist ethics as a developmental process not only in terms of inner dynamics of Buddhism inherent in its doctrinal and ethical formulations, but also in terms of its response to various historical compulsions which motivated its followers to introduce in its general framework, novelties of forms and expressions. It is hoped that such an approach would lead to a greater appreciation of Buddhist ethics both as an emergent of a unique spiritual vision and a social force. The book which is divided in six chapters cover the entire range of Buddhist development in India. The work is novel both in its approach and treatment of the subject. It studies conceptual formulations in their proper historical contexts. Modem debates on various ethical problems have been taken into account to bring about greater clarity in discussions.

About the Author

Dr. C.S.P. Misra was Professor in the department of History and Indian culture, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur. He has published several books: The of Vinaya (New Delhi, 1972); Bharatiya Abhilekha Samgraha, Hindi translation of Fleet's Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, vol III (Jaipur, 1973); Pracina Bharatiya Samaja evam Arthavyavastha (Jaipur, 1973); and has also contributed six chapters in itihasa: roam Siddhanta, a book on history of philosophy edited by Prof. C.C. Pan de (Jaipur, 1973). He has also contributed over twenty research articles which are published in reputed journals in Indian and abroad.


'Religion is a doing and doing what is moral'. In Buddhism, there is such a great emphasis on moral doing that it is very often designated as an 'ethical religion' (Silaparaka dharma). As an institutionalized religion, Buddhism derives from the vision of Buddha, the historical Sakya-muni. This vision was at once mystical in content and rational in its expression. Starting from the spiritual realization of suffering as a universal phenomenon, Buddha, out of his great compassion (maha-karuna), was moved to teach the Way which would lead others to the eradication of suffering (duhkha-nirodha-gamini- pratipada). The Way symbolizes a spiritual journey on the part of the seeker who has to undertake it in gradual courses, constantly aspiring for higher perfection and exerting for it, till wisdom (Prajna) dawns on him and the goal is achieved. In a way, thus, Buddhist ethics stands for the means of perfection which Buddha taught to the suffering humanity.

Belonging primarily to the Sro genre. Buddhism is ascetic in its general tenor. However, with the institutionalization of the spiritual vision of Buddha and the transformation of his teachings in a popular faith, Buddhism was bound to become very comprehensive in its scope, showing concern not only for the monks and nuns who had abandoned the worldly society to form a separate spiritual communion but also the lay people who found it hard to sever their social bonds but cherished faith in the teachings of Buddha and aspired to lead a life which conformed to the general ideals of conduct prescribed by him. Buddhist ethics, thus, should be Studied as representing a total scheme of culture in which form it has greatly influenced the social life and thought of the people in the various lands of its adoption. In the Indian context, no one can miss its vital contribution in the shaping of the general cultural orientation, finding its expression in the diverse activities and institutions of the people.

Buddhist ethics marks a definite variance from the earlier Vedic Weltanshauung and sought to introduce a number of new elements in the ethical thought and formulations which existed prior to -its advent. The activistic and optimistic outlook of the Vedic Aryans missed, generally, the Duhkha aspect of the Sramanic Weltanshauung which constitutes the starting point of Buddhism. As such, the morality of heart is generally found missing in them and there is not so much emphasis in their ethical framework on such moral virtues as peacefulness (santi) and compassion (karuna) as in Buddhism; on the other hand, they have great appreciation for such virtues as strength. liberality, friendliness, truth, sincerity and cooperativeness which served a positive purpose in the making of a good and happy social life. In the Vedic thought, moral law is conceived as natural law. There is glory of the moral law but the glory of the moral person or the definite image of an ideal person is generally missing. Buddhist ethics puts forth moral idealism as a dominant kind of idealism. Contrasted with the earlier Vedie Brahmanical ethics, Buddhist ethics is more universal and more feminine.

Indian thought believes that any vision of Truth has both unchangeable and changeable elements in it-the fundamentals do not change but the peripheral and outer forms undergo change and are subject to new understanding and interpretations arising to meet the needs of changed times and circumstances. It is such a belief in sadhanabheda and yuga-bheda that saved the various later and changed forms and expressions of the original teachings of Buddha from being labelled as distortions of the Master's vision and led to the postulation of three dharma-cakra-parvartanas by him.

The present work seeks to study Buddhist ethics as a developmental process not only in terms of inner dynamics inherent in its doctrinal and ethical formulations but also in terms of its response to various historical compulsions and the ensuing willingness on the part of its followers to introduce in its general framework novelties of forms and expressions. It is hoped that such an approach would lead to a greater appreciation of Buddhist ethics both as an emergent of a unique spiritual vision and a social force. The work is divided in six chapters which cover the entire range of Buddhistic development in India. As Buddhism does not rely on any conventional authority and tries to give to ethics a psychological basis it concerned itself in a very marked manner with a deep study of mind and its operations; the Abhidhamma books, particularly, manifest this activity as their major concern. Chapter III of the work is devoted to this aspect. An Appendix at the end is included to provide an understanding of the scientific and logical attitude and the methodology that is evidenced in the early Buddhist texts.

After the publication of my earlier work The Age of Vinaya (Messrs Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi) in 1972. I have been working on this theme in phases. The theme was suggested to me by my revered guru Prof. G.C. Pande. Always seeking inspiration from him, I am also indebted to Professor Pande for his kindness in going through the manuscript of the work and enriching it by his corrections and suggestions. With a profound sense of gratitude I also remember late Dr. I.B. Homer, ex-President, Pali Text Society, London, who took great interest in all my pursuit pertaining to Buddhistic studies and guided me from time to time through her scholarly letters. I take this opportunity to register my feelings of great appreciation and thankfulness to Miss Rekba Daswaoi, my student and colleague, who helped me in many ways in the final stage of the work. I am also thankful to Mrs. Pratibha Jain my friend and colleague, for the help she rendered me in the finalization of the manuscript. My thanks are also due to Mr. V.K. Ratnani for his painstaking and genuinely sincere job in preparing a neat and near flawless type-script.

The Appendix entitled "Logical and Scientific Method in Early Buddhist Texts' was first published in the JRAS, 1968; I am thankful to Mr. E.V. Gibson, Secretary, Royal Asiatic Society, London for his kind permission to use the same in the present work. I am also thankful to the authorities of the Indian Council of Historical Research for financial help in the form of a travel-and-contingency grant. I am thankful to Mr. Devendra Jain of Messrs Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, for his ready response to publish this work and his helpful cooperation towards its early publication.


  Preface VIII
  Abbreviations XI
Chapter I Early Historical and Doctrinal Background 1
Chapter II The Buddhist Doctrine of Karman and the Concept of Action 31
Chapter III Psychological Analysis and Moral Life 54
Chapter IV Ethical Ideals 70
Chapter V Compassion and Perfection 118
Chapter VI Beyond Good and Evil 142
  Appendix 155
  Bibliography 171
  Index 181

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