This book presents a new answer to the question: what is nirvana? Part One distinguishes between systematic and narrative thought in the Pali texts of Theravada Buddhism, looking at the place of nirvana in both. Part Two explores other Buddhist utopias and relates Buddhist utopianism to studies of European and American utopian writing. Steven Collins discusses these issues in relation to textuality, world history, and ideology in premodern civilizations, aiming to contribute to a new vision of Buddhist history that integrates the inside and the outside of texts.
Table of ContentsPreface and Acknowledgements; List of abbreviations; Textual chronology; General introduction: Buddhism and civilisation history I - structures and processes: Part I. Nirvana In and Out of Time: Introduction to part I: systematic and narrative thought - eternity and closure in structure and story; 1. The concept of nirvana; 2. The imagery of nirvana; 3. Nirvana, time and narrative; Conclusion to part I: modes of thought, modes of tradition; Part II. Paradise in Heaven and on Earth: Introduction to part II: utopia and the ideal society; 4. Heaven, the land of Cockaygne and Arcadia; 5. Millennialism; Critical discussion: what is 'millennialism'? Premodern ideas and modern movements; 6. The perfect moral commonwealth? Kingship and its discontents; 7. The Vessantara Jåtaka; Conclusion to part II: in what sense can one speak of Buddhist utopianism?; General conclusion: Buddhism and civilisation history II - reprise: Appendices; Bibliography; Glossary; Indexes.