Contrasting theories on Aryan culture

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Intro to BuddhismDavid QuinterIndian Religious Background to BuddhismVedic Culture (c. 1500-500 BCE)The Aryans (“Noble Ones”) or Indo-AryansContrasting theories on Aryan culture:1) Aryans as migrants from south-central Russia around 1500 BCE (traditional theory)2) Aryan culture as a development from within Indus Valley civilization (newer)but scholars agree on linguistic division between Aryan languages and non-AryanThe Veda or Vedas (c. 1200 BCE to 900 BCE)Oldest Indian religious literaturein Sanskrit and composed by Indo-Aryanshymns to various deities, songs and instructions for their recitations, prose and verseformulas used in ritualsFour primary Vedas (Rig Veda the oldest)great concern with ritual, especially sacrificeled to the development of:Supplementary Compositionsattached to each of the four primary Vedas1) Brahmanas2) Aranyakas3) Upanishadselaborated the rules for the rituals and explications of their meaning:correspondences between the rites, structure of society, and cosmosThree Aspects of Vedic culture1) Dharma in the Vedic context2) Sacrifice and ritual3) Class (Varna)DharmaDuty, truth, ethics, law (natural or human)(Note difference with Buddhist understanding, duty sense not so strong there)what someone can or should do based on social hierarchysocial hierarchy in turn governed by rules of puritySacrifice and Ritualfor higher classes especially, ritual sacrifice a principal duty (dharma)sharing sacrificial meal with each other and the godsmost important sacrificial ritual: fire sacrifice (homa)status of sacrificer enhanced (often warrior or ruling class=Kshatriya)necessity of priestly class who knew the rules and procedures: Brahmansnot hereditary at first, but in later Vedic texts seen as a hereditary group2VarnaHymn to Purusha, the cosmic man (late in the Rig Veda)Four social classes (“purest” to least “pure”):1) Brahmans2) Kshatriya: warriors, kings, ruling class3) Vaishya: Merchants/commoners4) Shudra: serfs, laborers, artisansTransformations of Vedic Culture:The Upanishads and Renunciant (Shramana) TraditionsUpanishads (c. 800-300 BCE)The Upanishads represented a transformation from within Vedic cultureone of the three supplementary sets of texts attached to primary Vedasinternalization of sacrifice and ritualpursuit of liberation based on austerity and knowledgeUpanishadic culture tended to share with the shramana traditions (emerging aroundthe 7th and 6th century BCE) the following notions and practices:1) transmigration/samsara2) changing notions of karma3) new goal: liberation (moksha) from the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth4) new means to this goal: austerity and knowledge; Yoga as an example of thisThe linked concepts of brahman and atmanin some Upanishadic texts, taught that once one’s mind becomes calm and concentrated,one perceives the Self, or atman, within oneselfthe ultimate reality, or BRAHMAN, mirrored within the individual as Atmanthe goal of practice within these teachings was to realize that Self, or Atman, that mirrorsBrahmantaught in the Upanishads, but not necessarily the renunciant (shramana) traditions:for example, Buddhism, one of the renunciant traditions, taught anatman, or no-self

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