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The Birth of InsightMeditation, Modern Buddhism, and the Burmese Monk Ledi Sayadaw$
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Erik Braun

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226000800

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226000947.001.0001

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The Great War of the Commentaries: Ledi Sayadaw’s Abhidhamma Controversy

The Great War of the Commentaries: Ledi Sayadaw’s Abhidhamma Controversy

(p.45) Two The Great War of the Commentaries: Ledi Sayadaw’s Abhidhamma Controversy
The Birth of Insight

Erik Braun

University of Chicago Press

The central question driving this chapter is why Ledi’s highly technical and complex Abhidhamma commentary, the Paramatthadīpanī, caused tremendous controversy starting from its publication in 1901. Examination of the Paramatthadīpanī and the works opposed to it, as well as the reactions to Ledi’s text in the social sphere, demonstrate that the controversy stemmed not from doctrinal disagreements, but from Ledi’s confrontational style. His numerous dismissals of authoritative interpretations of the revered and fragile Abhidhamma exacerbated Burmese people’s perception of the decline of Buddhism under British colonialism, particularly with the arrival of a print culture that spread the Paramatthadīpanī far beyond the scholarly elite. The chapter thus shows the importance of the Abhidhamma to Burmese Buddhism; it also shows a powerful way that Ledi made a national name for himself, even as he learned about the power of print capitalism and the readiness of the laity to learn doctrine.

Keywords:   Paramatthadīpanī controversy, Paramatthadīpanī, Abhidhamma, decline of Buddhism, British colonialism, print culture, laity

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