Foundations for Ethics in the Sacred Scriptures of Ancient Hinduism and Early Buddhism

Bush, Richard Clarence

     The purpose of this study of ethics in ancient Hinduism and early Buddhism is to examine critically the ethical material in the scriptures of both religions in order to assess the validity of the assertion that the early Buddhist movement injected a stronger ethical dimension into the existing Indian religious scene. To this end we [examine] those passages which have bearing on the moral life, first in Hindu sacred literature and then in the Buddhist writings, and have drawn those conclusions which appear to be valid in the light of our investigation.
     The plan proposed for this study calls for a critical survey of Hinduism in the period before the rise of Buddhism. This study then proceeds chronologically, paying particular attention to the following scriptures: Rig Veda, Atharva Veda, Brahmanas, and major early Upanishads. In addition, some attention is given to Hindu legal literature. Turning to the Buddhist period, the study focuses on two parts of the Tipitaka: the Vinaya and the Sutta. Our final step is to make those comparisons which appear to be valid in terms of the exposition of ethical theory, moral codes, lists of virtues, goals or the summum bonum as found in the respective scriptures.

Joseph Kitagawa