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Four Modes of Theravāda Action - Frank E. Reynolds.pdf

Four Modes of Theravāda Action - Frank E. Reynolds.pdf

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Four Modes of Theravāda Action - Frank E. Reynolds
Four Modes of Theravāda Action - Frank E. Reynolds

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06/26/2014

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Journal of Religious Ethics, Inc
Four Modes of Theravāda ActionAuthor(s): Frank E. ReynoldsSource:
The Journal of Religious Ethics,
Vol. 7, No. 1 (Spring, 1979), pp. 12-26Published by: on behalf of
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This content downloaded from 146.231.129.54 on Fri, 7 Jun 2013 10:29:52 AMAll use subject toJSTOR Terms and Conditions
 
FOURMODESOFTHERAVADAACTIONFrank E.ReynoldsABSTRACT
Theravada Buddhists draw adoctrinal distinction betweenother-worldly(lokuttara)andthis-worldly(lokiya)actions,and also anecclesiastical distinctionbetween bhikkhuwanderingmendicantor4'monastic")action andlayaction.Withinthe Theravada raditionthesemodesof actionhaveoverlappedo form a moreempiricallyrelevant set.Thisset is constitutedbytheotherworldlyction of thepath winningbhikkhus,hethis-worldlyctionofordinarybhikkhus,thepathwinningorbodhisattafutureBuddha)ction ofexceptionallaymen,and thethis-worldlyactionofordinary aymen.Thesefourmodes of action havemeshedtogetherto form the basis forverycomplexandpersistentTheravadasocietiesin SriLankaandSoutheast Asia.The articleconcludeswithsomemethodologicalobservationsconcerningtherelationshipbetweenthestudyof action(ascarriedout inthebodyof thearticle),andthestudyof ethics(ascarriedutbymostcontemporarycholarsn thefieldofreligiousethics).Withinhehistoryandsociologyofreligionmuchdiscussionof thegreatreligio-ethicaltraditions has utilized a basic distinction betweenotherworldlyandthis-worldly emphases.A number ofscholars haveemployedthis kind ofapproachtomakeverybroadcomparativestatements,while othershave usedit toexploreand characterizepecificreligioustraditions. Inthe hands ofgreatscholars ike Max Weber(1946)and Louis Dumont(1970),the distinctionhashelpedtogenerateavarietyofimportant nsightsand hasstimulated broadrangeofhighlyproductiveempiricalstudies.However,it isat leastequallytruethatits use hasledto
JRE7/1 (1979),12-26
This content downloaded from 146.231.129.54 on Fri, 7 Jun 2013 10:29:52 AMAll use subject toJSTOR Terms and Conditions
 
13FO URMODES OF THERA WADAACTIONover-simplifiedinterpretationsthathavecaricatured ratherthan char-acterizedavarietyoftraditions,bothwestern andeastern.Within thewholehistoryofreligionsfield,the area ofTheravadascholarshipis oneinwhichboththeinterpretive powerandtheweakness ofthedistinction betweenother-worldlyandthis-worldlyforms ofreligionand ethicshave beenmoststriking.On thepositiveside the scholars whohave utilizedthisdistinction,includingboth thegreat philologistsofthelate19th andearly20th centuries and the more recent social-scientificinterpreters,have been able togeneratealongseries ofsignificantinsightsinto Theravadateaching,Theravadahistory,andcontemporaryTheravadalife.Max Weberhimselfmade animportantcontribution(Weber, 1958),andhisinsightshavebeenpicked upandeffectivelyutilizedbyotherscholarsincludingGananathObeyesekere(1968),MelfordSpiro(1970),andStanleyTambiah(1976).However,it is also the casethatmanyof thestudiesthat haveemphasizedtheother-worldly/this-worldlydistinctionhave beenseriouslyfaulted.Theyhaveappliedthesepolarcategoriesinsuchawaythatpreconceivednotions of theirmeaningderivedfrom thewesterncontexthave beenimposedontheTheravadadatawhichdonot,infact,conformto them.Inaddition,theyhave often failedtodifferentiateand relatethe differentlevelsofreligious expressionthatarepresentintheTheravadatradition.InthepresentpaperI willproposeaninterpretiveframeworkfor thestudyofTheravadareligionand ethicsthatisgroundedin averysimilarkindofpolarity.However-inkeepingwith the distinctivethrustofTheravadateachingas wellas the ethicalemphasisof oursymposium-Iwill focus attentionon thepresenceandinterrelationshipof differentmodes of action.First,I willhighlightthe basic doctrinaldistinctionbetweenpathaction(associatedwith the attainmentofNibbana orRelease)and kammicaction(associatedwith the continualregenerationofthis worldorsamsara).Second,I will focus attentionon theequallybasicecclesiasticaldistinctionbetweenthe bhikkhu(wanderingmendicantormonastic)actionandlayaction.Third,an examinationof theoverlapofthesedoctrinaland ecclesiasticalelementswilllead tothe identificationofafundamentalstructuralpatterninvolvingfour differenttypesofTheravadaaction.Finally,some commentswill be madeconcerningthewaythese fourdifferentmodes of actionhavemeshedtogethrto form thebasisforfunctioningTheravadasocietiesin Sri Lanka andSoutheastAsia.Dhamma andkammaFromitsveryinceptiontheBuddhist Dhamma(NormorTeaching),as ithasbeenexpressedandinterpretedin the Theravadatradition,hasmaintainedanintegralrelationshipbetween truthandaction. TheBuddha,asheispresentedin thePalicanon,isclearlyamaster ofthoughtwho hasgainedaprofoundandcompleteinsightintothe truth. But thisinsightconcernsactionanditsfruits.
This content downloaded from 146.231.129.54 on Fri, 7 Jun 2013 10:29:52 AMAll use subject toJSTOR Terms and Conditions

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