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An analytical investigation of renunciation in Theravada Buddhism

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Gonadeniye Pannarathana




Doctor of Philosophy in Religious Studies


Shakya, Miroj
Gabriel, Victor
Long, Darui


Renunciation or Nekkhamma is defined as an isolated habit of reducing sensual pleasure. The renunciation from home to homelessness is the first step in the liberation process. Most ancient Asian religions have demonstrated the fruitfulness of the acetic practice, which is isolated from sensual pleasure, neglecting worldly life, which aims at absolute freedom. According to the contemporary teaching of the supreme Buddha, there were two powerful ideas regarding the existence of the soul. One of them was that an unchangeable strong spirit exists within individuals, and it controls the life of the being. The followers of the theory undergo self-examination to tame and control the soul. They believed that the soul does not change or disappear with the death of a person. It comes with a person until the end of the birth circle. They recommend homeless life for the practice of self-mortification. According to the Buddhist canonical sources, this renunciation process is called nissaraṇa (escape). Generally, it is believed that avoidance or renunciation is the abandonment of ordinary life and becoming homeless. Most holly individuals like Buddha ad Arahants end their suffering due to homeless practice after renouncing the mundane life. Even though renunciation is a very important topic in Buddhism, religious researchers have not done many types of research in this regard. A few research articles have been published illustrating the background of the renunciation process. This research will be demonstrated with the support of the Pali canonical and related literary texts. Ascetic practice begins with renunciation. Instead of aimless asceticism Buddhism introduced fruitful Monasticism, which generated knowledge related to the ultimate liberty. On the contrary, renunciation is not essential for liberation. Even though the Buddha was silent on the lay Arahants, Pali sources have reported that lay devotees can attain the ultimate realization without living homeless. Many references can be found related to renunciation. However, to my understanding, it is difficult to find research that has gathered all the information in the Pali canon about renunciation. This research aims to gather all information about renunciation shown in Pali literature to benefit scholars and students.

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University of the West



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