Attaining Nirvana in Buddhism

“Discuss the balance between Buddhism’s emphasis on attaining nirvāṇa and its everyday practice. Provide examples from one of the Buddhist traditions.”

Important: Make sure that you have reviewed the complete pensum literature Provided down below in order to answer this question.

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The assignment should primarily be solved based on the reading list. Other academically equivalent literature can be used supplementary. The assignment has to follow the rules of academic writing

The essay should be empirically based, not merely theoretical. So if you choose question one, you should focus on the actual practices and theories on nirvana of a particular tradition of Buddhism in time and space (e.g. Mahayana Buddhism in Gandhara or Tantric Buddhism at the end of the first millennium).

Within this, you are free to structure your paper however you wish. Perhaps you want to focus on the balance between attaining nirvana and daily lay person’s practices such as eating, social life, family and work, or he balance between attaining nirvana and administering a large monastery like Nalanda, or the balance between attaining nirvana and gaining the patronage of kings and emperors and so being involved in politics, etc. Thus, the focus and how you structure the presentation is up to you but should be grounded in historical reality.

However, based on that situation you should make an argument about whether lay people can ever become enlightened, or whether the administrator of the monastery no longer has nirvana as his goal, or if entering politics can be justified within Buddhism, etc. It is not enough to merely describe the situation.

Sources that needs to be used used:


• Berkwitz, Stephen C. (2010). South Asian Buddhism. A Survey. London: Routledge. 256 pp
• McMahan, David L. (2008). The Making of Buddhist Modernism. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. 265 pp.
• Michaels, Axel (2004). Hinduism: Past and Present. Translated from German by Barbara Harshav. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 448 pp.
• Mittal, Sushil and Gene Thursby, eds. (2004). The Hindu World. The Routledge Worlds. New York and London: Routledge. 586 pp., partly 200 pp.
• Snellgrove, David (1987). Indo-Tibetan Buddhism: Indian Buddhists and their Tibetan Successors. London: Serindia. 640 pp., partly 200 pp.

Articles and Chapters
• Assmann, Jan (1995). “Collective Memory and Cultural Identity”. New German Critique 65:
Cultural History/Cultural Studies, pp. 125–133.

• Carrithers, Michael (Oct. 2000). “On Polytropy. Or the Natural Condition of Spiritual
Cosmopolitanism in India”. The Digambar Jain Case. Modern Asian Studies 34.4, pp. 831–

• King, Richard (1999). “Orientalism and the Modern Myth of ‘Hinduism’”. Numen 46.2, pp.

• Masuzawa, Tomoko (2005). “Buddhism. A World Religion”. In: Masuzawa, Tomoko, The
Invention of World Religions: Or, How European Universalism Was Preserved in the
Language of Pluralism. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. Chap. 4, pp.

• Bronkhorst, Johannes (1993). The Two Sources of Indian Asceticism. Bern: Peter Lang.

• Bronkhorst, Johannes (2007). Greater Magadha: Studies in the Culture of Early India. Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section 2: South Asia, 19. Leiden: Brill.

• Dundas, Paul (2002). The Jains. 2nd ed. London and New York: Routledge.
Heirman, Anne and Stefan-Peter Bumbacher, eds. (2007). The Spread of Buddhism. Leiden
and Boston: Brill.

• King, Richard (1999). Orientalism and Religion: Post-Colonial Theory, India and “the
Mystic East.” London: Routledge.

• Kvaerne, Per (1984). “Tibet. Rise and Fall of a Monastic Tradition”. In: The World of
Buddhism. Buddhist Monks and Nuns in Society and Culture. Ed. by Heinz Bechert and
Richard Gombrich. 1st ed. London: Thames & Hudson, pp. 253–270.

• O’Flaherty, Wendy Doniger, ed. (1980). Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions.
Berkeley: University of California Press.

• Olivelle, Patrick, ed. (2004). Dharma: Studies in Its Semantic, Cultural, and Religious
History. Vol. 32. Special double issue of the Journal of Indian Philosophy.

• Olivelle, Patrick (2007). Ascetics and Brahmins: Studies in Ideologies and Institutions.
Florence: University of Florence.

• Schopen, Gregory (1997). Bones, Stones, and Buddhist Monks: Collected Papers on the
Archaeology, Epigraphy, and Texts of Monastic Buddhism in India. Studies in the Buddhist
Traditions, 2. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

• Schopen, Gregory (2004). Buddhist Monks and Business Matters: Still More Papers on
Monastic Buddhism in India. Studies in the Buddhist Traditions. Honolulu: University of
Hawai’i Press.
• Sen, Tansen (Winter 2006). “The Travel Records of Chinese Pilgrims Faxian, Xuanzang, and
Yijing. Sources for Cross-Cultural Encounters between Ancient China and Ancient India.”
Education about Asia 11.3.

• Williams, Paul (1996). Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. 5th ed. London and
New York: Routledge.

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