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Book: Thinking with J. Z. Smith

Chapter: 10. Interpreting "Brahmanization" in the Indian Buddhist Monastery with J. Z. Smith

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.39936


Following Smith’s description of ritual as “creation of a controlled environment” Nicholas Witkowski in his chapter proposes a new interpretation (a redescription?) of how early Indian Buddhist monastics navigated the forces of Brahmanization at work in the early centuries of the Common Era. As Witkowski observes, recent scholarship in the field has tended to view the Brahmanizing forces as authoritative in Indian society, and thus, as a force the Buddhist monastic order was compelled to reckon with, and ultimately submit to. Questioning this narrative and using the example of Buddhist monastic resistance to Brahmanical attempts to enforce a totalizing purity regime in everyday society, Witkowski argues that in fact ritual practice was limited to the “controlled environment” of Brahmanical circles of social authority and did not spread to the field of “ordinary” or “everyday” life in the India of the early centuries CE.

Chapter Contributors

  • Nicholas Witkowski ([email protected] - nwitkowski) 'Nanyang Technological University, Singapore'