Book on Early Indian Thought/Society?

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Book on Early Indian Thought/Society?

Postby Lampang » Fri Jul 24, 2009 7:50 am

The contributors here seem tremendously knowledgeable so can I ask you for a book recommendation? I'm interested in the historical background of early Buddhist thought. I've read several introductions to Buddhism and I'm working my way (slowly) through reading the Majjhima Nikaya but I feel a little at sea as I don't have the background to contextualise the teachings. I find it extremely useful in getting a rounder understanding of any set of ideas to see why proponents of the ideas said what they said. By way of comparison, reading Marx is even more weird and difficult if you don't understand either the working conditions or social and economic organisation of 19th Europe or Hegelian thought so I'm really looking for something which does this for Buddhism (ie what was the social, political, cultural and ideological background against which the Buddha taught?). Can anyone recommend something?

Cheers for your help.
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Re: Book on Early Indian Thought/Society?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jul 24, 2009 8:14 am

Hi Lampang,

Not directly answering your question, but if you are struggling with the Majjhima Nikaya you might find the book
"In the Buddha's Words" by Bhikkhu Bodhi useful to put the Suttas in context. It contains a logical sequence ot Suttas from all of the NIkayas.
http://wisdompubs.org/Pages/display.lasso?-KeyValue=104

And when reading the Majjhima Nikaya, there are several useful resources:
Bhikkhu Bodhi's series of talks:
http://www.bodhimonastery.net/bm/about- ... kaya.html'
Various one-off talks from Monks and Nuns at the Buddhist Society of Western Australia:
http://www.bswa.org/audio/podcast/SuttaStudy.rss.php
Study guide: "Pressing out pure honey" by Sharda Rogell, which can be downloaded here:
http://www.dharma.org/bcbs/Pages/publications.html

Metta
Mike
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Re: Book on Early Indian Thought/Society?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Jul 24, 2009 8:29 am

Rupert Gethin's THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUDDHISM, easily and inexpensively gotten, provides a good historical od early Buddhist thought. I would also recommend Peter Harvey's AN INTRODUCTION TO BUDDHISM, which can be gotten cheaply used. An excellent essay is this:

http://books.google.com/books?id=ZlyDot ... t&resnum=1

Though it is not the easiest way to read it, it is well worth reading, giving a detailed discussion of the context of the Buddha's time.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Book on Early Indian Thought/Society?

Postby Dhammabodhi » Fri Jul 24, 2009 2:51 pm

Hello Lampang,

Although I'm neither widely-read nor knowledgable in this area, but to know a little about the social, economic, and philosophical structures and conditions during the time in India, I recommend this book:

"Lord Mahāvīra and his times": By Kailash Chand Jain, Motilal Banarsidass publications, 1974.

Google books link(limited preview): http://books.google.com/books?id=8-TxcO ... +his+times

I hope this helps,
Metta,
Dhammabodhi
P.S: This may not be a good book to learn about Buddhist teachings in its entirety.
-Samāhitam cittam yathābhutam pajānāti.

समाहितं चित्तं यथाभूतं पजानाती |

A concentrated mind sees things as they really are.

-Ujuko nāma so maggo, abhayā nāma sā disā.

उजुको नाम सो माग्गो, अभया नाम सा दिसा |

'Straight' is this path, fearlessness is its way.
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Re: Book on Early Indian Thought/Society?

Postby Lampang » Fri Jul 24, 2009 10:23 pm

Thanks for your suggestions.

And when reading the Majjhima Nikaya, there are several useful resources:
Bhikkhu Bodhi's series of talks:
http://www.bodhimonastery.net/bm/about- ... kaya.html'


This proved very fruitful. The first lecture covers a lot of this material and at the end Bhikkhu Bhodi recommends the following (in case any one else is interested):

Richard Gombrich “How Buddhism Began”
Uma Chakravarti “The Social Dimensions of Early Buddhism”
Wolfgang Schumann “The Historical Buddha”
Rupert Gethin “The Foundations of Buddhism”

Amazon reveals that some of these are hideously expensive (Gombrich is $150 :shock: ) but it also turns up some interesting looking suggestions. Maybe it's time to smash the piggy bank!
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