Buddhism in the Axial Age
In 1987, the historian Uma Chakravarti from New Delhi published a book on the social dimension of Buddhism.’ She repeated her ideas in a seminar at the Center of Social Analysis in Madurai in July 2005 under the title “Can Dalit/Buddhist Culture Be an Anti-Capitalist Resource”?2 In her view, Siddharta Gautama experienced his conversion and enlightenment to become the Buddha in the following context. Between the eighth and the sixth century BCE, a new economy penetrated North India, which built on private property and money and which was supported by the monarchic power. Consequently society split into impoverished people and those who enriched themselves on the basis of the new economic mechanisms. It was under the pressures of this context—together with his strong inspiration to liberate human beings from suffering—that Prince Siddharta was motivated to abandon his privileges in order to find a way to overcome such suffering in society. He came to understand that poverty and suffering were caused by greed grounded in the illusion that an ego could be protected by aggressiveness. His solution was to overcome greed through meditation on the interrelatedness of all beings and to let go all superfluous things.
KeywordsMainstream Economic Consumption Efficiency Impoverished People Clear Mind Minimize Resource Consumption
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