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A comparative study of the classification of sons in Hinduism and Buddhism



Warnasuriya, Kottegoda S.










The aim of this paper is to give a short account of one aspect of the patriarchal culture in India during the time of the Buddha and before. Both Hinduism and Buddhism were founded by Aryans, i.e. Brāhmanas and Ksatriyas. Many Aryan elements can be seen in these two religious traditions. Even though Buddhism, as a branch of Sramana (recluse) movement, was against the orthodox Brāhmana religious tradition, Buddhist society was very much influenced by well established Hindu social system. It seems that some social custom and practices of both systems are very much alike. Both Hinduism and Buddhism strictly followed the patriarchal system.

Hindu society was very much dominated by the male and the position of women was similar to that of Sūdra. According to Manusmrti, for women regular religion was not necessary. Husband was her savior and the source of religious inspiration and immortality. Even though Buddhism did not approve Manusmrti’s idea of religion for women, regarding social matters, male dominance can be seen in Buddhist society too. Both systems accept equally that it is the duty of male children to perform religious rites in the name of departed ones to make their after life happy by performing sacrifice (pitŗyajña) and giving alms (dakşiņā) It was to send the efficacy of sacrifice (srāddha) and transferring merit (puñña). This is very well emphasized in Hindu Dharmasāstras as well as Pāli sutras. It may be due to this patriarchal element, both systems have taken a special interest to classify male children into many categories. The present paper is a brief analysis of these classifications found in Sanskrit Dharmasāstras and Pāli canon.

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