Discipline: The Canonical Buddhism of the Vinayapitaka

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Discipline: The Canonical Buddhism of the Vinayapitaka
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Discipline: The Canonical Buddhism of the Vinayapitaka is a penetrating analysis of a heretofore neglected, yet centrally important portion of the Pali Canon. In identifying the pivotal role of discipline in the bhikkhu quest for nibbana Professor Holt finds that Vinaya rules represent a practical implementation of the Budha's Dhamma. Specifically, adherence to this monastic code theoretically facilitates an overcoming of asavas, mental dispositions that foster attachment to the "self" and thus perpetuate the process of samsaric kammic retribution. The formulation of Buddhist monastic law, therefore, need not be seen as the result of casuistry; rather, it is the consequence of a conscious attempt on the part of the early Buddhist tradition to identify behavioral expressions that at once generate and reflect a calmed, detached and disciplined mental and spiritual state.

The author has also examined the significance of the principal rituals of Buddhist monasticism as they are prescribed within the Vinaya text. He interprets these rites as cultic celebrations of discipline which, in turn, legitimate the Sangha's claim to be the embodiment and reservoir of the Buddha's teachings. The claim supported the Sangha's role of occupying a mediating position between the spiritual needs of the laity and the authority and the spiritual exemplar of Buddhism, the Buddha. In short, Discipline, written from the perspective of the history of religious approach, contributed significantly to the increased understanding of the dynamics of the Buddhist religion in its formulative stages.


In his conclusion Holt observes that the charisma of the Buddha has been perpetuated historically not only in the disciplined Sangha to maintain "the Dhammakaya of their master" but also in relics that constitute the rupakaya of the Buddha (p.142). While one might wish for further discussion of the tension between these two forms of Buddhist charisma since it is so central to subsequent Buddhist charisma since it is so central to subsequent Buddhist history. Holt is justified here, I believe, in only raising the issue. For those who pursue the issue, Holt's book is to be recommended as an essential point of departure. - Charles F. Keyes, University of Washington

This book has shown that Buddhism has great value for Western man on the personal level as a liberating power to make him more sensitive to refined nature and to give him the inner freedom for self-discrimination in the light of present day depersonalising technology of culture. - Review Projector (India) November-December (1982), Vol.11 and 12.

About the Author(s)

JOHN CLIFFORD HOLT is Professor of Religion at Bowdoin College in

Brunswick, Maine, USA. His book, Buddha in the Crown: Avalokitesvara in the

Buddhist Traditions of Sri Lanka, was awarded the 1992 American Academy of

Religion Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion. He is the editor of

Anagatavamsa Desana.

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