Self and Society: Essays on Pali Literature and Social Theory 1988–2010by Steven Collins
This selection of essays, originally published between 1988 and 2010, demonstrates that in the study of Buddhism a concern with detailed accuracy in philological and textual specifics can be combined with an attempt to deal with wider (and difficult) philosophical and sociological issues. The first part, “Pali Literature,” deals with the historical formation of the Pali Canon, with the continuing oral aspects of Pali texts, and looks at the entire range of Pali texts with the question, “What is Literature in Pali?” The second part, “The Theory and Practice of Not-self,” looks at the Buddhist denial of self as both a philosophical position and as a form of practice, one in which a process of self-transformative behavioral and psychological training is seen to culminate in the realization that there is no self underlying the ever-changing moments of experience. The third part, “Buddhism and Society,” has two essays refecting on and extending Louis Dumont’s comparative theorizing about the individual and society in East and West, and a final contemporary treatment of Buddhist “nuns” (mae chi) in Thravāda Buddhism, both in general and specifically as active in higher education in Bangkok. The three essays attempt to build on but go beyond the work of Dumont, and before him Max Weber, in thinking about what they would call “world-renunciation” as a phenomenon of society and culture.
About the Author
STEVEN COLLINS is Chester D. Tripp Professor in the Humanities at the University of Chicago, and a Council Member of the Pali Text Society. He is an author of numerous works including Nirvana and other Buddhist Felicities: Utopias of the Pali imaginaire and A Pali Grammar for Students.
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