Early Buddhism and its Relation to Brahmanism

This is my dissertation about how early Buddhism relates to Brahmanism. You can download a pdf from academia.edu.


This dissertation investigates the relation of early Buddhism to the Brahmanism of its time. Both religions are usually researched by their own academic traditions, and due to the lack of bigpicture crossover research we still find the opposing views that Buddhism was anti-Brahmanical and, in contrast, that it developed as a reformed Brahmanism. In order to provide more clarity to the religions’ connection this study offers an analysis and discussion of several main topics as they are presented in the Buddhist suttas: the portrayal of different types of Brahmins, rituals, deities and supernatural beings, and the concepts of brahman and ātman.

Throughout this study we also attempt to stratify the Buddhist content linguistically and contextually and to arrive at statements whether a specific content related to Brahmanism belongs to an early or a later Buddhist sutta period. In the end we conclude that early Buddhism had a very differentiated relationship to Brahmanism: The Buddha’s relationship to Brahmins is mostly portrayed as benevolent and respectful. Only later suttas display an attitude of polemic criticism. Early Buddhist concepts of deities and supernatural beings are strongly influenced by Vedic Brahmanism, and likewise the concept of spiritual studentship (brahmacariya).

Further, the early suttas are not anti-ritualistic but deem Brahmin rituals to be ineffective. Instead of condemning all rituals, they replace the Vedic gods with the Buddha and declare that devotion and religious giving to the Buddha and his monastics are the most efficient ways for lay people to secure a good afterlife.

The Buddhist anattā (not-self) turns out to be a general strategy and not specifically directed at Brahmin concepts of ātman (self). Additionally, statistical analyses of the suttas show that Brahmins were less likely to receive the teaching of anattā.

We come to the conclusion that early Buddhism as a whole has developed independently from Brahmanism, with selective influences from Brahmanism and non-Vedic spiritual movements, altering and utilizing these influences for its own growth against its religious competition.


I wish more people understood this.

Congratulations on the dissertation!


Congratulations! Have you defended yet?


Thanks for posting your decertation.

The following articles by Choong Mun-keat may be also relevant to your decertation:

“A comparison of the Pāli and Chinese versions of Nāga Saṃyutta , Supaṇṇa Saṃyutta , and Valāhaka Saṃyutta , early Buddhist discourse collections on mythical dragons, birds, and cloud devas”, Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies , 2020 (18), pp. 42-65.

"A comparison of the Pali and Chinese versions of the Devata Samyutta and Devaputta Samyutta, collections of early Buddhist discourses on devatas “gods” and devaputras “sons of gods” ", Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, vol.1, October 2011, pp. 60-88.

“A comparison of the Pali and Chinese versions of the Mara Samyutta, a collection of early Buddhist discourses on Mara, the Evil One”, The Indian International Journal of Buddhist Studies’, vol.10, 2009, pp. 35-53.

Check: https://www.academia.edu/

1 Like

Thanks, yes, it’s all defended and wrapped up with a ribbon :slight_smile:


Congratulations and thank you for sharing!

1 Like

Herzlichen Glückwunsch! :+1: :tada:


Thank you for making this valuable contribution freely available. I am extremely interested in the context of Buddhism (Yoga, Samkhya, Brahmanisn, Upanishads, &c). Sitz im Leben and all that. And congratulations. A doctorate is not only a testimony to intellectual achievement but to powers of endurance and ability to rise above opposition and vexations.

1 Like

This is fantastic. Thank you very much!

1 Like

Great topic! Congratulations! :pray:

1 Like

Interesting research. Look forward to reading it.


@vayadhamma a great joy to have you here with us!


As someone currently in the throes of writing a dissertation, I salute you!

1 Like