In this magisterial study of the social élan of early Buddhism, Nalin Swaris argues that the radical thrust of the Buddha’s teaching is based on his realisation that ‘the individual’ is a fiction of human craving.
The Buddha’s decision to found a community of compassion and sharing was the practical expression of his conviction that individualism is the principal obstacle to human happiness. The Buddha’s Way was not discovered and preached in a social vacuum. Orthodox Hinduism classifies its sacred traditions into srutis (sacred truths of the Vedas ‘heard’ by ancient rishis while in a trance) and smritis (codes of conduct). In deliberate counterpoint to the brahman tradition, the majority of the Buddha’s discourses begin with the declaration: Evam me sutam—‘Thus have I heard’.
In The Buddha’s Way to Human Liberation, Swaris argues persuasively that Buddha’s teachings are not esoteric, but grounded in everyday life. The Dhamma is not a revealed truth that humans could not have discovered by themselves. It is like a light brought into a darkened room so that people could see what is already there, once the fog of delusion is dispelled. In a style that would appeal to both lay readers and scholars, Swaris shows how the Buddha anticipated Marx, Derrida and Foucault by centuries.
Nalin Swaris was born in Colombo, and ordained a Catholic priest in 1962 in Bangalore. He completed his PhD on the “Buddha’s Way” at the State University of Utrecht in 1997 with summa cum laude. Swaris was also a human rights activist and the author of Buddhism, Human Rights and Social Renewal.