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BUDDHISM 
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  • JB-BB 1

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    BUDDHISMINTHESHADOWOFBRAHMANISM

    by

    JohannesBronkhorst

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    I.INTRODUCTION:BUDDHISMBEFORETHENEWBRAHMANISMThe original context Interactions Imperial help

    II.BRAHMANISMII.1ThenewBrahmanismII.2ThespreadofSanskritII.3ThebrahmanicalcolonizationofthepastII.4Thebrahmanizationofborrowedfeatures

    III.BUDDHISMCONFRONTEDWITHBRAHMANISM

    III.1AcourtlychallengeIII.2ScienceandreligioninclassicalIndiaIII.3AnewlanguageAppendix to chapter III.3: Jainism, Mathur and Sanskrit III.4BuddhistHybridSanskrit,theoriginallanguageIII.5Buddhismsanskritized,BuddhismbrahmanizedIII.6PhilosophicalencountersIII.7TherelicsoftheBuddhaRelic worship What happened to the body of the Buddha? Appendix to chapter III.7: What happened to Mahvras body? III.8AdjustmenttopoliticalrealityReferencesAbbreviationsIndex

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    I.INTRODUCTION:BUDDHISMBEFORETHENEWBRAHMANISM

    The original context

    Buddhism,weareoftentold,wasareactionagainstvedicBrahmanism.Vedic

    BrahmanismisthereligionthatfindsexpressionintheVeda,animmensecorpus

    oftexts.VedicBrahmanism,wearemadetounderstand,ismucholderthan

    BuddhismandwasindeedthedominantreligioninnorthernIndia,includingthe

    areainwhichBuddhismarose.

    Idonotsharethisopinion.Idonotdenythatmanyvedictextsexisted

    already,inoralform,atthetimewhentheBuddhawasborn.However,the

    bearersofthistradition,theBrahmins,didnotoccupyadominantpositioninthe

    areainwhichtheBuddhapreachedhismessage,andthismessagewasnot,

    therefore,areactionagainstbrahmanicalthoughtandculture.

    IhavearguedthispositionatlengthinabookGreater Magadhathat

    cameoutin2007.Inthisintroductionnofulljusticecanbedonetothearguments

    therepresented.Inordertounderstandwhatfollows,itisyetnecessarytobe

    acquaintedwithsomeofitsfindings.Thesewillherebebrieflyreviewed.Further

    information,argumentsandreferencescanbefoundinGreater Magadha.1

    WedonotknowexactlywhenthehistoricalBuddhadied.Foralongtime

    Buddhistscholarsthoughttheyknew.MostWesternscholarsagreeduponadate

    closetotheyear480BCE.Fewscholarsstillacceptthisdate.Astudyinwhich

    1GeoffreySamuel,inarecentpublication(2008:48ff.;also61ff.)whichhoweverrefersbacktoanearlierunpublishedmanuscriptofThomasHopkins,presentsonthebasisofprimarilyarchaeologicalevidenceanotionoftwoculturalprocessesmovingmoreorlessconcurrentlytowardtheuseofironandurbanizationfromtwoseparatesources:oneintheeasternPunjab,Rajasthan,theDoab,andnorthwardtotheHimalayaswestof81longitude,identifiedwiththePaintedGreyWarecultureandtheAryans;theotherbasedontheEasternGangeticculturewithitsapparentinitialconnectiontotheMalwa-typeculturalcomplexintheregionofPatna,inthevalleysoftheGhagaraandGandakriversnorthwestofPatna,andwestwardtotheregionaroundthelowerDoab.ThetwoareascorrespondtothosedistinguishedinGreater Magadha.Tothelistofaspectsinwhichthetwoworldsmayhavedifferedfromeachother,Samuel(p.89ff.)addsgenderattitudes.Samuelisnodoubtrightinconcluding(p.343):ItseemstomethataninitialtensionbetweenthevaluesofthevedicsocietyofKuru-PaclaandthoseoftheCentralGangeticregioncanbesensedthroughmuchoftheearlydevelopmentofIndicreligions,andinvariouswayscontinuesintomuchlatertimes.

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    manyparticipatedhasnotledtoaresultuponwhichscholarsagree.2However,

    manyofthemapproveofadatenottoodistantintimefromtheyear400BCE,

    giveortakeafewdecadesineitherdirection.400BCEmeansbeforethe

    incursionintoIndiabyAlexanderofMacedoniainthesecondhalfofthefourth

    centuryBCE,alsobeforethecreationofalargeempireinnorthernIndiabythe

    NandasandtheMauryaspresumablyfromthemiddleofthefourthcenturyBCE

    onward,andmuchbeforetheSanskritgrammarianPatajali,whomweknowto

    havelivedaroundtheyear150BCE.

    ThisSanskritgrammarianprovidesuswithsomeinterestinginformation

    abouttheheartlandofBrahmanisminhistime.Hecallsitlandoftheryas

    (ryvarta),andsituatesinessentiallyintheGangesplain,betweentheThar

    desertinthewestandtheconfluenceoftheriversGanges(Gag)andJumna

    (Yamun)intheeast.3ExactlythesameexpressionisusedagainintheMnava

    Dharmastra,atextthatwascomposedthreetofourcenturieslater.4Here,

    however,thelandoftheryas(ryvarta)extendsfromtheeasterntothe

    westernsea,andisthereforemuchlargerthanPatajalisryvarta.This

    suggeststhatanimportantchangehadtakenplacebetweenthesecondcentury

    BCEandthesecondorthirdcenturyCE:TheBrahminsofthesecondcentury

    BCElookedupontheeasternGangesvalleyasmoreorlessforeignterritory,the

    BrahminsofthesecondorthirdcenturiesCElookeduponitastheirland.

    ThischangeconcernstheeastwardspreadofBrahmanism.Thisshouldnot

    beconfusedwiththemoveeastwardofindividualBrahmins,eventhoughthetwo

    areconnected.Brahminscarrytheclaimofbeingsuperiortoothermembersof

    society.AregionthathasanumberofBrahminslivinginitbutwhichdoesnot

    recognizetheBrahminsclaimtosuperiorityisnotbrahmanized.Itbecomes

    2Bechert,1986;1991;1992;1995;1997.3Interestingly,thejainatext(Bhat-)Kalpastraalsospeaksofryancountries,inthefollowingmanner:MonksornunsmaywandereastwardasfarasAnga-Magadha,southwardasfarasKosamb,westwardasfarasThandnorthwardasfarasKula.Theymaywanderthusfar,(for)thusfarthereareryancountries,butnotbeyondunlesstheDhammaflourishesthere.(Bolle,1998:xxiv).EventhoughitisdifficulttoidentifyTh,itseemslikelythatthejainaryancountrieslaytotheeastofthebrahmanicallandoftheryas.4SeeBronkhorst,forthcoming,foradiscussionofManusdate.

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    brahmanizedwhenthisclaimcomestobeaccepted.Untilthattimetheregion

    concernedisnotbrahmanicalterritory.

    Thepassagesconsideredsuggestthattheregioneastoftheconfluenceof

    theGagandtheYamunwasnotconsideredbrahmanicalterritoryatthetime

    ofPatajali.ThisdoesnotexcludethattherewereBrahminslivingthere.Rather,

    itsuggeststhattheBrahminslivinginitdidnotreceivetheesteemwhichthey

    deemedthemselvesentitledto.InPatajalisryvarta,ontheotherhand,we

    mayassumethattheydidreceivethisesteem,atleasttosomeextent.

    TheregioneastoftheconfluenceoftheGagandtheYamunisof

    particularinterestforthestudyofBuddhism.ItistherethatBuddhismarose,itis

    therethattheBuddhalivedandpreached.Ifthisregionwasnotyetbrahmanical

    territoryatthetimeofPatajali,itwascertainlynotbrahmanicalterritoryatthe

    timeoftheBuddha,forPatajalilivedtwoortwoandahalfcenturiesafterthe

    deathoftheBuddha.ThebrahmanizationoftheeasternGangesvalleyis

    thereforeatopicofthegreatestinterestforthestudyofearlyBuddhism.

    Thatthisregionwasnotbrahmanicalterritoryduringthecenturies

    separatingtheBuddhafromPatajaliissupportedbythelittleweknowaboutits

    politicalhistory.Itisherethatthefoundationswerelaidfortheempirethatcame

    tocoveralargepartoftheSouthAsiansubcontinent.Ifoursourcescanbe

    believed,noneoftherulersinvolvedwereespeciallyinterestedintheBrahmins

    andtheirideas.5TheearlykingsofMagadhareikaBimbisraandAjtaatru

    areclaimedastheirownbybothBuddhistsandJainas.TheNandas,whomay

    haveconsolidatedimperialpoweratPaliputraaround350BCE,appeartohave

    beenzealouspatronsoftheJainas.CandraguptaMauryaoverthrewtheNandas,

    butmayhavehadnomoreinterestintheBrahminsthanthosewhomhereplaced.

    HehimselfissaidtohaveadoptedJainismanddiedajainasaint.Hisson

    Bindusraisbelievedtohavepatronizednon-brahmanicalmovements,

    particularlythejvikas.AokawasinterestedinBuddhism;hisimmediate

    successorsinjvikismandJainism.Itisonlywiththeugas,whosupposedly

    5Forfurtherdetails,seethefinalpartofthisintroductionandchapterII.3,below.

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    wereBrahminsthemselves,6thatBrahminsmayhavebeguntooccupytheplace

    insocietywhichtheythoughtwasrightfullytheirs.Thishappenedaround185

    BCE.Fortyorfiftyyearslater,Patajalithegrammarianwasstillnotreadyto

    lookupontheGangesvalleyeastoftheconfluencewiththeJumnaasbeingpart

    ofthelandoftheryas.UntilPatajalisdateandperhapsforsometimeafter

    him,oursourcessuggest,theregioneastoftheconfluenceoftheGagandthe

    Yamunwasnotbrahmanical.IcallthisareaGreater Magadha.Greater

    MagadhacoversMagadhaanditssurroundinglands:roughlythegeographical

    areainwhichtheBuddhaandMahvralivedandtaught.Withregardtothe

    Buddha,thisareastretchedbyandlargefromrvast,thecapitalofKosala,in

    thenorthwesttoRjagha,thecapitalofMagadha,inthesoutheast.Thisareawas

    neitherwithoutculturenorwithoutreligion.Itisinthisareathatmostofthe

    secondurbanizationofSouthAsiatookplacefromaround500BCEonward.Itis

    alsointhisareathatanumberofreligiousandspiritualmovementsarose,most

    famousamongthemBuddhismandJainism.Alltheseeventstookplacewithin,

    andweremanifestationsof,thecultureofthatpartofnorthernIndia.

    Vedicandearlypost-vedicliteraturecontainslittletoinformusaboutthe

    cultureofitseasternneighbours.However,apassageoftheatapatha Brhmaa

    speaksaboutthedemonicpeopleoftheeastwhowereinthehabitof

    constructingsepulchralmoundsthatwereround,unlikethefour-corneredones

    usedbythefollowersoftheVeda.Theseconstructionswerenodoubtthe

    ancestorsofthestpas,well-knownfromBuddhism.Jainism,too,hadandhasits

    stpas,ashadjvikism,itseems.7Wemustconcludethatstpa-like

    constructionswereafeatureoffunerarypracticesinGreaterMagadha.

    AnotherfeatureofthespiritualcultureofGreaterMagadhaisespecially

    important,viz.itssharedspiritualideology.Knowingitisnecessaryifonewishes

    tounderstandthebackgroundofearlyBuddhism.Thisideologycomprisedthe

    6Foradiscussionoftheevidence,seeTsuchida,2009:14f.Bhandare(2006:97),onthebasisofnumismaticevide

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