Nandasena Ratnapala (M.A. Cey., Dr. Phil. Goettingen, Ph.D. Sri Lanka, D. Litt. Sri Lanka) is a well known writer, with a number of publications to his credit. He is at present the Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka.
“Buddhist Sociology” attempts to build a system of sociology from early Buddhist thought. For this purpose, the author utilises the original Pali sources, and builds the system carefully, making use of the available Buddhist tradition too. He adopts a sociological cum anthropological approach, enriching it by experiences derived from Buddhist thought itself. In a world such as ours where we are tired and wary of ready- made theories, this excursion into Buddhist Sociology brings a welcome change. It opens up an alternative way of thinking and living to all of us.
The author explains what the method in Buddhist thought is, and then goes to deal with topics such as family, socialization, social institutions, social structure, political and economic theories, women in Buddhist society, social problems, education, health and crime and punishment.
It gives me great pleasure to see this book published by the Indian Books Centre in Delhi. This is a modest attempt made by me to analyse Buddhist thought from a Sociological-cum- Anthropological point of view. I am greatly obliged to Sri Naresh Gupta who took a keen interest in my manuscript from the time he got to know about it.
My interest in Buddhism was first created by my father in my younger days. Later on, when I entered the University of Ceylon, I was fortunate enough to come under the guidance and influence of eminent Buddhist scholars such as Professors G.P. Malalasekera, K.N.Jayatilleke., O.H. de A. Wijesekera, W.S. Karunaratne, Jothiya Dhirasekera, D.E. Hettiarachchi, Dr M. Sri Rammandala and several other teachers at whose feet I learned about scientific method and also Buddhist philosophy.
Buddhist teachings according to my experience is best understood and put into practice from a Sociological-cum- Anthropological view-point. So far, no serious attempt to look at Buddhist thought from such a total point of view had been undertaken. Sociologists from the time of Max Weber had made cursory excursions into the domain of Buddhist thought. The majority of them had utilised translations of Buddhist texts in analysing Buddhist thought. The result was a gross misrepresentation and distortion of Buddhist ideas. In order to make such a task fruitful, not only a deep knowledge of Sociological theory and method but also a firm grasp of the original sources in the language in which they are written is absolutely necessary The intimate connection between the Buddhist tradition and the spirit of Buddhist thought can be understood only by paying attention to the original languages in which such thoughts are embedded.
The essays presented here under different topics contain ideas comprising parts of a total and complete system of thought which I rather arbitrarily called Buddhist Sociology “ I hope the interest created by me would inspire other Sociologists and Anthropologists to look into this fertile and virgin area of thought from which useful insights relevant to our modern world and its myriad problems could be developed. My tiny endeavour would be amply rewarded, if in the future such social scientists at least a few of them turn their attention to this rich pastures.
I thank Mr Nuwan Gunawardena who typed this manuscript from my almost illegible hardwriting; My son Chandima provided a helping band tome in the proofreading.
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