A Cultural Study of Early Pali Tipitakas (2 Vols-Set)

Yashpal, Kalinga, 1999, 621 p, 2 vols, ISBN : 8185163952, $160.00 (Includes free airmail shipping)

Contents: Vol. I. Introduction. I. Geography of the early Tipitakas. II. The cosmography: 1. The heavens and the higher births. 2. The lower worlds. 3. Genesis & dissolution of the world. III. Contemporary religious practices: 1. Religious thought. 2. Ascetics and their practices. 3. Some important non-Buddhist teachers. IV. Social organization: 1. Social differentiation. 2. The family. 3. Women. Index.

Vol. II. Introduction. I. Material culture: 1. Everyday life. 2. Household articles. II. Social interaction: 1. Recreations and festivals. 2. Manners and customs. 3. Superstitious and charms. III. Economic resources and organization: 1. Economic life. 2. Communications and trade. 3. Currency. 4. Flora. 5. Fauna. IV. Political institutions and law: 1. Political organization and administration. 2. The army. 3. Crime, punishment and legal practices. V. Technical arts and education: 1. Town planning and architecture. 2. Metals and precious stones. 3. Education. VI. The sciences: 1. Medical sciences. 2. Side light on contemporary knowledge. Conclusions. Bibliography. Index.

'Gautama Buddha (c. 560-480 B.C.) was an itenerant mendicant, who first roamed from place to place in search of a path leading to the cessation of birth, old age, sickness and death, and later for preaching his newly found Dhamma. These 'Sayings of the Master' of sermons, became the corpus of his Dhamma, which the monks were expected to recite every fifteenth day of the moon. Later these were committed to writing in about 1st century B.C.

"These 'Sayings' were lost to India because of the destruction of a large number of monasteries by the marauding huns and the Muslim vandals. Another factor that contributed to this loss was the assimilation of Buddhism by Hinduism. Buddhism developed into several shades, of which Hinayana, spread to Sri Lanka, Mayanmar, Kampuchia and Thailand etc., where this shade of Buddhism is practised even to-day. There these texts continued to be preserved in the Pali language but in local scripts.

Towards the closing years of the 19th century the Pali Text Society of London, started coalescing the various manuscripts brought from these countries, selecting the possible correct readings and produced a Roman script edition of these texts and later produced English translations of these texts.

These sermons throw a light on the life of those days, at times a very hazy and at others a very bright one. It is based on these texts that an attempt has been made by the author to paint a picture of India of those days.

This picture is so sophisticated, variegated and interesting that one is amazed by the level of cultural attainment that the people of this land had been able to achieve at that point of time. How many centuries must have they taken to reach this level is beyond the ken of historians today. However, the picture was worth painting."


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