Superiority Conceit in Buddhist Traditions

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“This book is a courageous call for integrity and self-reflection. Bhikkhu Anālayo argues that if Buddhism is to engage the modern world with any enduring success, it must abandon its own conceit and reckon with its internal prejudices. This book is a much-needed contribution that will help reshape the direction of the field.” —Vanessa Sasson, professor, Marianopolis College

“Scholars within the academic discipline of Buddhist studies have long benefited from Bhikkhu Anālayo’s many careful and excellent studies of early Buddhist thought, based on a comparative reading of the available sources. Now, he makes the results of his many years of research available in an accessible and highly personal form: an impassioned plea to his fellow Buddhists to recognize their conceit—that is, their feelings of superiority over their fellow Buddhists—and its utter inconsistency with the core teachings of the Buddhist tradition. This slim volume will provide much food for thought for scholars and Buddhist practitioners alike. Highly recommended.”—Reiko Ohnuma, professor and chair, Department of Religion, Dartmouth College

“Intellectually sharp and deeply penetrating, Bhikkhu Anālayo unveils different manifestations of conceit in the name of Buddhism. Drawing from his extensive and detailed research on a manifold of topics of the early Buddhist traditions, Anālayo deconstructs and unmasks what has often been taken as a matter of course by the heirs of the Buddha: that women are not entitled to take the same role as men in the Buddhist community, that the followers of the ‘Great Vehicle’ have a morally higher standing than those of the old schools, that the Pāli tradition of the southern Buddhists is the only true guardian of the Buddhist tradition, and that the new and secular forms of Buddhism in the West are the peak of perfection of 2,500 years of Buddhist history. Anālayo poignantly shows how conceit is present in Buddhist practices and practitioners and how it hinders the realization of a truly Buddhist vision in the world. It is this powerful critique from inside the Buddhist community, based on accurate analyses along historical and philological lines, that makes Bhikkhu Anālayo’s book so powerful and evocative.”—Professor Michael Zimmermann, Numata Center for Buddhist Studies, Hamburg University


A Historical Perspective

Bhikkhu Anālayo

Armed with his rigorous examination of the canonical records, respected scholar-monk Bhikkhu Anālayo explores—and sharply criticizes—four examples of what he terms “superiority conceit” in Buddhism:

  1. the androcentric tendency to prevent women from occupying leadership roles, be these as fully ordained monastics or as advanced bodhisattvas
  2. the Mahayana notion that those who don’t aspire to become bodhisattvas are inferior practitioners
  3. the Theravada belief that theirs is the most original expression of the Buddha’s teaching
  4. the Secular Buddhist claim to understand the teachings of the Buddha more accurately than traditionally practicing Buddhists

Ven. Anālayo challenges the scriptural basis for these conceits and points out that adhering to such notions of superiority is not, after all, conducive to practice. “It is by diminishing ego, letting go of arrogance, and abandoning conceit that one becomes a better Buddhist,” he reminds us, “no matter what tradition one may follow.”

Thoroughly researched, Superiority Conceit in Buddhist Traditions provides an accessible approach to these conceits as academic subjects. Readers will find it not only challenges their own intellectual understandings but also improves their personal practice.

book information
  • Hardcover
  • 184 pages, 9 x 6 inches
  • $24.95
  • ISBN 9781614297192
  • ebook
  • 184 pages
  • $12.99
  • ISBN 9781614297338
about the author
Superiority Conceit in Buddhist Traditions

Bhikkhu Anālayo is a scholar of early Buddhism and a meditation teacher. He completed his PhD research on the Satipaṭṭhānasutta at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, in 2000 and his habilitation research with a comparative study of the Majjhimanikāya in light of its Chinese, Sanskrit, and Tibetan parallels at the University of Marburg, Germany, in 2007. His over five hundred publications are for the most part based on comparative studies, with a special interest in topics related to meditation and the role of women in Buddhism.

Other books by Bhikkhu Anālayo:
The Signless and the Deathless
Daughters of the Buddha
Early Buddhist Oral Tradition
Abiding in Emptiness
Rebirth in Early Buddhism and Current Research

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