Book on Early Indian Thought/Society?

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Lampang
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Book on Early Indian Thought/Society?

Post by 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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mikenz66
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Re: Book on Early Indian Thought/Society?

Post by 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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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

Metta
Mike

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tiltbillings
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Re: Book on Early Indian Thought/Society?

Post by 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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Dhammabodhi
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Re: Book on Early Indian Thought/Society?

Post by 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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I hope this helps,
Metta,
Dhammabodhi
P.S: This may not be a good book to learn about Buddhist teachings in its entirety.
"Take rest, take rest."-S.N.Goenka

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Lampang
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Re: Book on Early Indian Thought/Society?

Post by 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-" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; ... 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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Dmytro
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Re: Book on Early Indian Thought/Society?

Post by Dmytro » Sat Jul 25, 2009 5:37 am

Hi Lampang,

See the works by Thomas Rhys-Davids:

http://www.questia.com/read/1401252#" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
http://fsnow.com/text/buddhist-india/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
http://buddhism.lib.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-ENG/tw.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Metta, Dmytro

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