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Social Groups and Ranking: an Aspect of Ancient Indian Social Life Derived From the Pali Canonical Texts

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In summing up, a number of conclusions can be drawn. We have tried on the one hand to establish the various de facto social groups implied in the formulae of address, reference and salutation ascertaining the group affiliation of the persons involved. We have also tried to bring out the meaning of various terms and establish a triple system of ranking. The meaning attached to these terms, we may point out, is specifically interactional, and the proof of its validity lies only in its consistency. We have demonstrated this throughout our presentation of the data as well as the conclusions. Our conclusions mainly indicate a three-fold system of ranking. In the social sphere the brāhmanas successfully maintain their hostile equality with the Buddha. But in the religious and political fields, they are not as successful. In the religious field the Buddhist order more than holds its own and claims several distinguished brāhmanas within its fold. Politically too, the Buddha is less encumbered than the brāhmanas. Unlike them, he is not servile to the king. Despite their actual humility in the king's presence, in their mode of address the brāhmanas recognize no superior in any system of ranking, but at the most only equals. They and the Buddhists have an equal hold on the gahapatis, who represent the secular population, the prizes in the religious struggle. Having analysed the social groupings, we may further comment on them and see if we can relate our "inferred" social ranking of the groups to what is already stated about them in the texts. We may

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/content/journals/10.1163/156852067x00037
1967-01-01
2016-12-09

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