Youth Bulge and Monasticism

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
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Youth Bulge and Monasticism

Post by Manopubbangama » Sun Nov 18, 2018 5:15 pm

I've been thinking lately about to what extent youth bulge as a phenomena had to do with the monasticization of early Buddhism, especially at the time of Ashoka.

Modern, post-agricultural societies have no idea what a youth bulge is, but in pre-industrial societies the accounting of family planning often depended on presumed future grain quantities. Even in Burma today, often times it is the youngest male in the family that is allocated for monkhood if/when the parents find out that their family land doesn't have enough resources to feed the child.

I don't know if this idea is total B.S., or even if it has been studied before, that being said, monasticism is by far more humane than the alternatives that other societies have come up with regarding large amounts of young males who cannot eventually marry.

The hypothesis is something like this: Ashoka promises plunder to a large amount of young males who will not have their own land to inherit: this is expedient because not only does it suppress the revolts occurring at the time, as stated by the Divyāvadāna, but it also eliminates the incentive for revolt, i.e. redistributive measures within the kingdom, as the Kalinga lands would provide ample booty to the looting soldiers.

If the numbers of deaths in this war are to be believed, the population was experiencing a huge youth bulge at the time, as most people would be tilling the fields, and there are no historical or archeological records to indicate famine occurred as a result of farmers leaving their fields fallow while they went off to soldier for Ashoka.

Upon seeing the absolute horror of war, Ashoka had an alternative that was homegrown, i.e. Buddhism, to not only atone for his bloodshed but to also provide an alternative for hungry, landless young men - monasticism and/or public works instead of plunder/expansionism.

If a community has 5-10 bikkhus living on the outskirts of the village, it can sustain this population but the idea of a large Vihara with all of the materials required to build it suggest the presence of ruling aristocratic support, and aristocratic support suggests they have continual inter-generational interest in this revenue-sapping endeavor, whether the ruler is a believer or not.

The predictive power of this hypothesis, if any, is that EBTs would be less concerned with competing doctrines, whereas texts from the time of Ashoka would imply a struggle for royal patronage from the various other philosophies/sects found especially in the Digha Nikaya.

The Rhinoceros Sutta seems especially suited for the early bikkhus without a vihara.

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Re: Youth Bulge and Monasticism

Post by RomeoStevens » Tue May 14, 2019 3:48 am

Also a great place to stash non-neurotypical children who would otherwise have a very hard time in life but were capable of following basic instructions in helping to maintain a monastery.

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