The Buddhist Ascesis

Gananath Obeyesekere

in Imagining Karma

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2002 | ISBN: 9780520232204
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520936300 | DOI:
The Buddhist Ascesis

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This chapter emphasizes the strategy that deals with the myths about the Buddha's birth, renunciation, and Awakening (Enlightenment) as it tells about his quest for salvation through specific forms of ascesis. Buddhism is an historical religion in another sense as it traces its chronology from the death of the founder. Buddhism encourages a modern rationalist interpretation but there seems to be no central mystery in doctrinal Buddhism such as the resurrection; it has no creator god, no theodicy. The Buddha appears as a mythic persona even in the earliest body of texts, and although this belief is not necessary for salvation, practically every Buddhist thinker believed that the Buddha was a supernormal, if not a supernatural, being, that he possessed the thirty-two marks of the Great Man, and that he was born in a miraculous manner, outside of normal bodily processes. According to Änanda (Buddha's personal attendant) the Buddha-to-be was born in the Tusita heaven and, after his life span there was over, he decided to be reborn in the human world, “mindful and clearly conscious.” Buddhism cannot subscribe to the idea of the soul leaving the body because it denies the very existence of such an entity.

Keywords: Buddhist ascesis; birth; renunciation; Awakening; Änanda; doctrinal Buddhism

Chapter.  17903 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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