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

by Reginald A. Ray

Buy the book: Reginald A. Ray. Buddhist Saints in India: A Study in Buddhist Values and Orientations

Release Date: September, 1999

Edition: Paperback


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Buy the book: Reginald A. Ray. Buddhist Saints in India: A Study in Buddhist Values and Orientations


Gosh. I must have read an entirely different book from the other reviewers. It seemed to me that Ray identified the purpose of his book very clearly as an investigation of the "Pretyekabuddha", a term which is encountered only occasionally and oddly in the Buddhist literature. A topic one might well choose for a PhD thesis, as Ray did.

Ray's Tibetanist orientation does not figure at all in this book, in which I would underline the title words "...IN INDIA".

Apparently the term meant somewhat different things to different chronicalers in different contexts. The axis that Ray is working along is fascinating: What are the different degrees of proximate relationships between the lay community and the various types of homeleavers, with monks living in complex monasteries built near the laity commuities at one end of the spectrum, and forest dwelling reclusive hermits at the other end. The latter are one flavor of the class of pretyekabuddhas, those who learn alone and practice alone.

Much like the Vatican, the Buddhist religious institutions played the "saint" card when it suited their purposes to fan the fervor of the faithful, and they tried real hard to ignore their nonconforming non-institutional existences otherwise.

Unlike the other reviewer, I read of the Mahayana monasteries' increasing attachment to the economic support of the laity with the gravest misgivings, as Ray explains the many "no escape" clauses that the monks invented and injected into their doctrinal relationships with the laity.

Ray makes the clever point that the most incisive discriminator of practice is not doctrine, but lifestyle. The monastics insisted on a bunch of rules (Vinaya) for regulating social ties with the laity which simply did not exist for the forest hermit. However, the monastics split with each other (18 sects in India alone) over the interpretations in the rules of lifestyle.

Anyway, regardless of how you read it, it is a fascinating and well written book that holds your interest from page to page. A scholarly work that never "dumbs down" to any sectarian bias of the reader. I am going to read it again next month. It does not get any better than this.

From Amazon.com

many streams of teachings from one source

In the nineteenth century, many Western scholars began to study Buddhism, its texts and sources. For the most part, their orientation was either Protestant or materialist, and they weighed in heavily on the side of the Pali canon and what they perceived as "original, authentic" Buddhism. The teachings of the Buddhists of China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Tibet were labeled as made-up, inventions, or even "corrupt." Witness the title of a book by the Protestant divine, Waddell: "Lamaism in Tibet." The claims made by the Mahayana streams of Buddhism about their origin have largely been dismissed in scholarly circles - until now. Dr. Ray closely examines the case for the authenticity of the Mahayana and Sanskrit Buddhist teachings, and presents some persuasive Western scholarly support for the claims made by Mahayana believers that their way is also a teaching that comes directly from Shakyamuni Buddha.

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