Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Every religious system must give some account of poverty and its significance, because every community must face the reality of poverty in its midst at some time. This is the case today and it was the case in ancient times.
In the post-colonial period some people in countries whose populations are primarily Theravada Buddhist have tried to deal with the problem of poverty through de-Westernization of their socio-political structures and the establishment of new structures that draw on traditional and Buddhist roots. A sound knowledge of the notion of poverty in the primary scriptures of such societies may be useful both for such reformers and for those who intend to study these texts.
The thesis uses a variety of theoretical tools in order to unearth attitudes toward poverty in the textual materials: word study, narrative analysis, and the insights of anthropologist Victor Turner. Two notions of poverty are revealed: one that identifies poverty with deprivation, and one that identifies poverty with simplicity. Narrative analysis lays bare the values that ground these notions, and the application of Turner's ideas provides a means of understanding their interaction.
This thesis provides the first systematic study of the concept of poverty in the Pali Canon. Its particular combination of research tools provides a means of understanding poverty in these scriptures that is valuable to scholars of Buddhism and Buddhists generally.
Fenn, Mavis Lillian, "The Concept of Poverty in the Pali Canon" (1994). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3213.