Hoary Past and Hazy Memory

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    JIABSJournal of the International

    Association of Buddhist Studies

    Volume 29 Number 2 2006 (2008)

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    TheJournal of the International

    Association of Buddhist Studies

    (ISSN 0193-600XX) is the organof the International Association ofBuddhist Studies, Inc. As a peer-reviewed journal, it welcomesscholarly contributions pertaining toall facets of Buddhist Studies.JIABS is published twice yearly.

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    Copyright 2008 by the InternationalAssociation of Buddhist Studies, Inc.


    KELLNERBirgitKRASSER HelmutJoint Editors

    BUSWELL Robert




    Print: Ferdinand Berger & Shne GesmbH,A-3580 Horn

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    JIABSJournal of the International

    Association of Buddhist Studies

    Volume 29 Number 2 2006 (2008)

    Oskar VON HINBER

    Hoary past and hazy memory. On the history of early Bud-dhist texts (Presidential address at the XVth Conference of

    the International Association of Buddhist Studies, EmoryUniversity, Atlanta, Georgia, June 2328, 2008). . . . . . . . . . . . . . 193

    Junjie CHU

    On Digngas theory of the object of cognition as presentedin PS(V) 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211

    David HIGGINSOn the development of the non-mentation (amanasikra)doctrine in IndoTibetan Buddhism. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 255

    Richard D. MCBRIDE, IIThe mysteries of body, speech, and mind: The three eso-terica (sanmi) in medieval Sinitic Buddhism. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 305

    Hidenori SAKUMA

    On doctrinal similarities between Sthiramati and Xuanzang . . . . 357

    Jonathan STOLTZ

    Concepts, intension, and identity in Tibetan philosophy oflanguage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 383

    Report on the XVthCongress of the International Associa-tion of Buddhist Studies by Tom J.F. Tillemans, GeneralSecretary IABS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 401IABS Treasurer financial report by Jrme Ducor . . . . . . . . . . . . 407

    Notes on the contributors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 411

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    Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies

    Volume 29 Number 2 2006 (2008) pp. 193210




    On the occasion of the 215thmeeting of the American Oriental Soci-ety in Philadelphia in 2005, the Hittitist Gary Beckman from theUniversity of Michigan read his presidential address, The limits ofcredulity, in which he sketched modern approaches to the art ofwriting history, presented a most useful overview or rather an extractof the flood of theoretical literature on this topic and, above all, dis-cussed how far it is advisable and possible to trust sources and howto evaluate them.1All this is exemplified by ancient Middle Eastern,first of all of course Hittite material. Although based on a culturewith a strong written tradition, much can be learned from this article

    also for the thoroughly oral tradition of ancient India and early Bud-dhism in spite of some marked differences.

    In contrast to Beckmans after-dinner speech, the followingdeliberations do not concentrate on historiography, neither on mod-ern historiography of the early Buddhist period, nor, and much lessso, on an early Buddhist historiography, which is deplorably absentdespite a remark made by Georg Bhler (18371898) to his friend,the renowned Arabist at the University of Strasbourg, Theodor

    Nldeke (18361930), as early as 1877:Mit Deiner Idee, dass die Inder keine historische Literatur haben, stehst Duauf einem veralteten Standpunkte.2

    * This text was read as the Presidential Address on 23 June 2008 during the XV thIABS conference held at Atlanta (Georgia) from 23 to 28 June 2008. The oral form of thepresentation has been largely preserved. An enlarged and more detailed version dealingwith the early history of Theravda texts is under preparation.

    1 JAOS 125. 2005, 343352.2 Your idea that Indians do not possess literature on history is an outdated point of

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    This is certainly true, if we remember Kalhaas Rjataragiand

    the Nepalese Vavals, or almost a millennium earlier in the areaof Buddhism, theDpavasaand theMahvasa. Important as bothvasas are as sources, as underlined by the research of WilhelmGeiger (18561943) and Erich Frauwallner (18981974), 3 theirvalue for the history of texts of the very early period of Buddhism isquite limited.

    However, even if historiography begins too late for the period onwhich the following considerations are focussed, and if this Buddhist

    historiography contains little information on texts, we cannot con-clude that this is due to a total lack of interest in history in general orin the history of texts in particular in ancient India. Early evidenceproving the contrary is found in inscriptions. Already Aokavaguely, and it is true in a very general way, refers to the kings ofyore at the beginning of his seventh pillar edict, and compares thesuccessful propagation of his dhammato the failure of those ancientkings to educate their peoples. In the well-known res gestae of hisown reign, Khravela looks back not only upon his own time.Khravela also records a King Nanda, ruling either three hundred or,more likely, one hundred and three years before him, as having takenaway a Jina image, which he, Khravela, brought back to his capi-tal.4A similar memory is found in the Rudradman inscription,where the Katrapa Rudradman commemorates in the year AD 150that he repaired and embellished the Sudarana tank after it wasbadly damaged by floods. This Sudarana tank was originally built,as Rudradman reminds the readers of his inscription, by Candra-

    gupta Maurya and was subsequently enlarged by Aoka.5This is

    view, quoted from Julius Jolly: Georg Bhler. Grundriss der Indo-Arischen Philologieund Altertumskunde. 1. Band, 1. Heft A. Strassburg 1899, p. 13.

    3 The relevant articles are quoted in O. v. Hinber: A Handbook of Pli Literature.Berlin 1996 (HPL), 182, 183.

    4 Shashi Kant: The Hthgumph Inscription of Khravela and the Bhabru Edict ofAoka. Delhi 22000, p. 11, line 6 and p. 17, line 12 of the inscription. For tivasasata103(?) cf. terasavasasata113, line 11.

    5 IdatakaSudarana mauryasya rjaCandraguptasya rriyea Vaiye-na Puyaguptena krita Aokasya Mauryasya [k]te Yavanarjena Tusphendhiya

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    indeed a rather long historical memory stretching over almost half a

    millennium. Interestingly, no traces of this memory are found in thetext of the inscription of the Hindu ruler Skandagupta, where herecords his repairs of the same tank three centuries later.6

    With the notable exception of the Bhairedict by Aoka, refer-ences to Buddhist texts are almost totally absent from early inscrip-tions.7

    However, historical memory is not only preserved in inscriptions,but in Buddhist texts as well, and, of course, this historical memory

    can be used with all due caution to date the texts that preserve them.This can be done only if the historical memory refers to a datableevent in the political history, and this way of dating texts leads toapproximations at best. Hardly ever was a text composed at the verytime of the event being remembered, and never with the purpose tosimply give a straightforward record of a certain event in ancientIndia. What we read is always an interpretation and a purposefulmessage of the authors to their audience. The information handed

    down by tradition thus depends on the intention and the will of theauthors to select and to convey certain facts. This intention or will toshape the tradition being handed down is expressed both in the con-tent and in the literary form of the texts, and both changed consid-erably during the transition from Vedic to early Buddhist literature.

    The intention why the collection later called Tipiaka was broughttogether is very clearly stated in the report on the first council held atRjagaha. For we are explicitly told why the texts were assembled

    and formalized:

    pralibhir alakta, F. Kielhorn: Junagadh rock inscription of Rudradman; the year72. EI 8. 190506, p. 3649, esp. p. 43, 8.

    6 This inscription is published in Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum III: Inscriptions ofthe early Gupta kingsrevised by Devadatta Ramakrishna Bhandarkar. Delhi 1981, no. 28,296305, cf. also O. v. Hinber: Les documents pigraphiques indiens: Difficults de leurinterprtation Examples concernant lirrigation. Acadmie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres. Comptes Rendus des Sances de lAnne 2004. Avril-Juin. Paris 2004 [2006], p.9891011, esp. p. 989foll.

    7 Only very general references such as trepiakaor vinayadharaare found occasion-ally in Mathuror Amarvat.

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    dhamma ca vinaya ca sagyma pure adhammo dippati dhammo pai-

    bhyati avinayo dippati, vinayo paibhyati pure adhammavdino bala-

    vanto honti, dhammavdino dubbalhonti , Vin II 285,48

    Come, let us chant dhamma and discipline before what is not dhammashines out and dhammais withheld, before what is not discipline shines outand discipline is withheld, before those who speak what is not-dhammabecome strong, and those who speak dhamma become feeble (I. B.Horner).

    The purpose is obviously to preserve and to defend an orthodox tra-dition. This must have been something quite new in ancient India at

    that time, a new and considerable literary challenge to be confrontednot only by early Buddhists, but also by the followers of other newsystems created at that time in eastern India such as Jainas or jvi-kas. This change in paradigm, the preservation of orthodoxy and nolonger the continuation of the orthopraxy of the Veda, also called fornew literary forms. For this purpose veyykaraas and dhammapari-

    yyas, or suttantas as they were called later, were developed, per-haps after some experiments with the prose of the Brhmaas, but

    certainly based on this model. The model of Vedic prose is easilydetected in the Sagthavagga of the Sayuttanikya, whose formclosely corresponds to the stories in the Brhmaas and which evencontinues Vedic topics such as the fight between gods and asuras.The many short episodes telling the reasons for the rules in the

    Mahvaggaand the Cullavaggaof the Vinaya recall the structure ofBrhmaas, as was observed by Erich Frauwallner long ago.8More-over the story of the Buddha sneezing reads like an answer to a story

    in the Jaiminya-Brhmaa, as noticed by William Dwight Whitney(18271894) more than a century ago.9

    If the individual stories neatly connect Brhmaa prose and earlyBuddhist literature, the Buddhists went far beyond their model andcomposed the first really long texts in ancient India, as shown by the

    8 HPL 32.9 Henry C. Warren: On superstitious customs connected with sneezing, JAOS 13.

    1889, p. XVIIXX, esp. p. XX, where W. D. Whitney refers to Jaiminya-Brhmaa II155.

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    overall structure of the Khandhaka in the Vinaya or the Mahpari-

    nibbnasuttanta as an individual text. Moreover, the Mahpari-nibbnasuttanta is the first text ever composed in ancient India, asfar as we can see, with the explicit purpose of commemorating ahistorical event, the death of the Buddha and thus, at the same time,the first attempt to compose a long and coherent story.

    The many difficulties encountered by those who shaped or madeuse of this new literary form, perhaps for the first time, can be tracedeasily in many details in the Mahparinibbnasuttanta. It was, e. g.,

    very obviously a matter of great effort to keep the story on track andnot to get lost in numerous narrative side alleys: Once eight reasonsfor an earthquake are enumerated, which fits well into the story, acascade of totally unrelated groups of eights follows suit, as if inthe oral period of the early Buddhist tradition hearing or mentioningthe figure eight immediately and almost unavoidably triggered thememory of the respective paragraphs from what we now call theAguttaranikya.10

    In spite of evident difficulties like these, which do not seem tohave found much attention in research, those monks who created theBuddhist stras had a very clear idea about the formalization of thenew texts. The idea of remembering the places where the Buddhawas supposed to have delivered a certain stra at the beginning ofeach individual text was certainly an innovation. This happy decisionto provide the texts with a geographical frame, quite in contrast tothe earlier Vedic literature, where very little is found on topogra-phy,11not only preserved a large number of place names, both vil-lages and towns, in the Buddhist literature. In addition, the particularwording introducing these place names can tell us much about thedevelopment of the literary form of early Buddhist texts and aboutthe historical memory of the early authors.

    The opening formula of a stra is almost too well known to berepeated here in the standard wording:

    10 HPL 60.11 On this point, see K. Hoffmann, as note 13 below, p.122.

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    evame sutaekasamayabhagavSvatthiyaviharati Jetavane An-


    Thus I have heard. At one time the Lord stayed at Svatthi in the Jetavana,the park of Anthapiika.

    This very wording continues after rmeeither by tatra kho bha-gav bhikkhmantesi, MN I 6,27foll. (No. 2., Sabbsavasuttanta)with the local adverb tatra, by the developed wording atha khobhagav pubbahasamaya , MN I 160,27foll. (No. 26., Ariya-pariyesanasuttanta) or, finally, by tena kho pana samayena

    yasmnando , MN III 189,27 (No. 132., nanda-Bhaddekarattasuttanta 2). Whereas the very beginning eva me suta ekasamayahas been discussed perhaps much more often than it reallydeserves ever since John Broughs (19171984) article publishedalmost sixty years ago,12 little if any attention has been paid to themuch more interesting place names and to the way in which they areintroduced.

    Besides this well-known introduction there are others, used much

    more rarely and phrased in a slightly different way, such as:eva me suta eka samaya bhagav kursu viharati kammsa-

    dhamma nma kurna nigamo tatra kho bhagav bhikkh mantesi,MN I 55,28foll. (No. 10., Satipahnasuttanta)

    the Lord stayed in the land of the Kurus there is a market place in theland of the Kurus named Kammsadhamma there the Lord addressed themonks

    The phrase there is a market place in the land of the Kurus named

    Kammsadhamma syntactically forms a parenthesis, which doesnot seem to be an exciting observation. However, almost half a cen-tury ago Karl Hoffmann (19151996) demonstrated that this particu-lar way of introducing place names can be traced back to Indo-

    12 Thus have I heard , BSOAS 13. 1950, p. 416426, reprinted in J. Brough: Col-

    lected Papers. London 1996, p. 6373; for further references see HPL 53 and add: M.Tatz: Thus have I heard: At one time, IIJ 40. 1997, p. 117foll.; B. Galloway: A reply toProfessor Mark Tatz, IIJ 40. 1997, p. 367371; F. Tola, C. Dragonetti: Ekasamayam, IIJ42. 1999, p. 5355.

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    Iranian syntax.13For the Pli sentence just quoted is exactly parallel

    to the Old Persian phrasing found in the Achaemenian inscriptions ofDareios (521486) at Behistun: when he arrived in Media a townMru by name is in Media there he joined battle with the Medes.14The use of phrases like this one continues through rare examplesfrom the Vedic language only into the earliest layers of Pli. Com-parative syntax here allows the detection of a wording that is obvi-ously a very early predecessor to the later common formulaintroducing suttantas by the names of towns like Svatthi, Rjagahaor others.

    The place names mentioned in the older place name parenthesisare quite different from these towns. Hardly any of the famous Bud-dhist nagaras is mentioned, but only fifteen different market placesnigamas occur such as kammsadhamma and once a Brahmin vil-lage, a brhmaagma in:

    eva me suta eka samaya bhagav Magadhesu viharati pcnato

    Rjagahassa Ambasa nma brhmaagmo tassuttarato Vediyake

    pabbate indaslaguhya. tena kho pana samayena Sakkassa , D II 263,2ff. (No. 21., Sakkapahasuttanta)

    Thus I have heard. At one time the Lord stayed in Magadha to the east ofRjagaha there is a Brahmin village named Ambasa north of it inthe Indasla cave

    This rather exceptional formulation is due to a seemingly exactdescription of the location of that particular cave.

    These nigamas also occur in a slightly developed wording:

    evame sutaekasamayabhagavKursu crikacaramno mahatbhikkhusaghena saddhi yena thullakohita nma kurnanigamo tad

    13 K. Hoffmann: Die Ortsnamen-Parenthese im Altpersischen und Vedischen (ZDMG110. 1960), in:Aufstze zur Indoiranistiked. by J. Narten. Volume I. Wiesbaden 1975, p.120129, on Pli S. 128f., cf. also G. E. Dunkel: Naming parenthesis in Indo-Iranian andIndo-European, MSS 41.1982, p. 1121.

    14 R. Kent: Old Persian. Grammar, Text, Lexicon. New Haven 1953, p. 121: yaMdam parrasa Mru nma vardanam Mdaiy avad hamaranam akunau, DB II,line 22foll. 22.

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    avasari. assosu kho Thullakohit brhmaagahapatik , MN II54,25foll. (No. 82, Rahapplasuttanta)

    at one time the Lord walking on tour among the Kurus where therewas the market place of the Kurus called Thullakohit, there he went

    In such phrases, describing the Buddha and his followers travelling,the Lord walked in the land of , where there was a place called soand so there he went, not only nigamas are mentioned but, in addi-tion to a very few nagaras, also more frequently again brhmaag-mas, Brahmin villages, which occur almost only in the following

    formula:evame sutaekasamayabhagavKosalesu crikacaramno mahat

    bhikkhusaghena saddhiyena nagaravindanma kosalnabrhmaa-

    gmo tad avasari. assosukho Nagaravindeyyakbrahmaagahapatik ,M III 290,26foll. (No. 150., Nagaravindeyyasuttanta)

    Thus I have heard. At one time, the Lord, walking on tour in Kosala togetherwith a large group of monks, where there is the Brahmin village of Kosalanamed Nagaravinda, there he went.

    Interestingly, nine of the altogether fourteen Brahmin villages men-tioned in the Theravda-Tipiaka are situated in Kosala, four inMagadha, and only one in the Malla country.15This compares wellwith the evidence gathered from Vedic literature on the history andgeographical distribution of the Vedic schools. As research by M.Witzel has shown, Kosala was at the eastern fringe of later Vedicliterature, and the Brahmins there used to study the Kva khofthe atapathabrhmaa.16 These then could well be the very Brah-mins traced in ancient Buddhist literature.

    In the immediate predecessor of the later formula, which men-tions a place name such as Svatthi together with a monastery such

    15 This is, at the same time, the only reference to the word brhmaagmaused in theVinaya in the definition of majjhimadesaat Vin I 197,27, but not in the usual formula as inUd 78,5, the second of the only two references to the brhmaagmaTha in the Thera-vda-Tipiaka, cf. also IIJ 45.2002, p. 79.

    16 M. Witzel: The Development of the Vedic Canon and its Schools: The Social andPolitical Milieu, in:Inside the Texts, Beyond the Textsed. by M. Witzel. Harvard OrientalSeries. Opera Minora Vol. 2. Cambridge/Mass. 1997, p. 257345, esp. p. 313foll. 5.2

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    as the Jetavana of Anthapiika, a wording without parenthesis and

    without naming a monastery occurs when a Brahmin village isreferred to:

    evame sutaekasamayabhagavKosalesu viharati slyabrhma-

    agme. tatra kho bhagavbhikkhmantesi, S V 144,12foll. = 227,12foll.

    Thus I have heard. At one time the Lord stayed in Kosala in the Brahmin vil-lage Sl. There the Lord addressed the monks

    Interestingly, there were no vihras in Brahmin villages, but, muchmore importantly, also not in the nigamas.

    Taking together the very old place name parenthesis with theBrahmin villages and market places (nigamas), the missing nagarasand, above all, the missing vihras, it is more than evident that theseformulas belong to a very ancient layer of the formulation of Bud-dhist texts as preserved within the Theravda-Tipiaka. Moreover,going back to the old parenthesis of place names, it is possible totrace the reason for the word order the town preceding and themonastery following the verb viharati: Svatthiyaviharati Jetavane

    in the sentence opening stras, which is clearly conditioned bythe stylistic prehistory of this formula.

    Furthermore, the preponderance of Kosala as a location of Brah-min villages matches Vedic evidence. Consequently, we can befairly confident of finding here really ancient village names pre-served in the memory of the early Buddhists. This is confirmed bythe simple fact that these early locations of the beginnings of Bud-dhism very soon faded into the background and were superseded by

    the five prominent cities enumerated at the beginning of the Mahsu-dassanasuttanta, No. 17. in the Dghanikya: Camp, Rjagaha, S-vatthi, Sketa, Kosambi, Brasi, D II 169,11. First of all, Svatthiemerged as the prominent town, figuring at the beginning of 5 of 34suttantas in the Dghanikya, but already in 67 of 152 in the Majjhi-manikya and in innumerable texts of the Sayutta- and Aguttara-nikyas. Still later texts were almost flooded by references to S-vatthi, to such a degree that the Mlasarvstivinaya, as G. Schopen

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    Of course the prophecy of the Buddha about the future of Pali-

    putta caught the attention of scholars at an early date, at least since1879, when H. Oldenberg (18541920) published the introduction tohis edition of the Mahvagga of the Vinaya, which contains aparallel to this part of the Mahparinibbnasuttanta. One of the lastin this line of scholars dealing with this reference seems to be K. R.Norman in his history of Pli literature a century later in 1983.21

    Strangely, all modern scholars seem to follow the conclusiondrawn by H. Oldenberg that theMahparinibbnasuttantamust have

    been composed during the time of the Maurya dynasty because theBuddha is assumed to be referring to the capital of the Mauryaempire, which he is certainly not. On the contrary, the Buddha men-tions very clearly a place where merchandise is exchanged, animportant city certainly, but not a capital. This, however, was per-haps not too evident before B. Klver (19382001) finally clarifiedthe meaning ofpuabhedana,22badly understood previously and stillmost strangely misunderstood as scattering its seeds far and wide(!?) instead of market place in a recent Dghanikya-translationpublished two years after B. Klvers article.23

    Now, if the Mahparinibbnasuttanta, or more cautiously, thisparagraph, was composed by the end of the fourth century, as K. R.

    cherches sur la biographie du Buddha dans les Strapiaka et les Vinayapiaka anciens II,2: Les derniers mois, le parinirva et les funrailles. Publications de lcole FranaisedExtrme-Orient 77. Paris 1971, p. 303. However, Bareaus assumption that the Moriyasof Pipphalivana were only introduced at a late date and only by the Theravdins obviously

    turns the development of the text upside down. For, in addition to the reason given above,it is easy to see that the obscure pipphali was replaced by the much more common pip-

    palain: pippalyanamavapippalavatym agrastpapratihpayati, Mahpari-nirvastra51.21. On the other hand, going back frompippalatopipphalidoes not makeany sense at all.

    21 The Vinaya Piakaed. by H. Oldenberg. London 1879, p. XXXVII; K. R. Norman:Pli Literature including the canonical literature in Prakrit and Sanskrit of all the Hna-

    yna Schools of Buddhism. A History of Indian Literature VII,2. Wiesbaden 1983 p. 38.22 B. Klver: Kaualyas Stadt als Handelszentrum: der Terminus puabhedana-.

    ZDMG 135. 1985, p. 299311.23 The Long Discourses of the Buddha. A Translation of the D gha Nikyaby M. Wal-

    she. Boston 1987, p. 238.

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    Norman conjectures, it would be rather strange that neither the

    Mauryas nor Paliputta, as the capital of a state or at least as a cityof any political importance, are referred to. This omission, on theother hand, makes a lot of sense if the text is pre-Mauryan, that isearlier than the accession of Candragupta Maurya in about 320 BC,and most likely quite a while earlier, because it can and has beendemonstrated that the parallel to this part of the Mahparinibbna-suttanta preserved in the Vinayapiaka is linguistically a slightlymodernized version.24

    Leaving aside the question of the date of this linguistic moderni-zation of the story of the foundation of Paliputta, a more interestingquestion is whether the omission of the Mauryas can be used at all todetermine a date. An answer to this question can be found only byinvestigating whether ancient Indian authors, given their presumedlack of historical interest, did pay enough attention to changingpolitical situations to adapt their texts accordingly.

    For this purpose it is necessary to look, at least very briefly, for

    references to historical events in older Buddhist literature.Even a superficial inquiry limited only to those Buddhist textspreserved in Sanskrit yields some examples. A parallel story alsoconcerning Paliputta and found in the Divyvadna, which isderived from the Mlasrvstivdavinaya, is particularly illuminat-ing. When the Buddha makes a prediction referring to Paliputra inthe Aoka legend he says:25varaataparinirvtasya tathgatasyaPaliputre nagare Aoko nmn rj bhaviyati caturbhgacakra-

    vartdhrmiko dharmarjyo me arradhtn vaistrikn kariyati,Divy 368,25foll.:

    24 This can be seen by comparing the place name Ndik, which is preserved in itsoriginal eastern form only in the Dghanikya (D II 91,15), but changed to tikin theVinayapiaka (Vin I 232,31); the old historical gen. pl. raa(D II 87,2 etc.) is regularlymodernized as rjna(Vin I 228,30 etc.), cf. O. v. Hinber: Der Beginn der Schrift und

    frhe Schriftlichkeit in Indien. Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur, Mainz.Abhandlungen der geistes- und sozialwissenschaftlichen Klasse, Jg 1989, Nr. 11, chapterX, p. 46foll.

    25 Cf. J. Strong: The Legend of King Aoka. A Study and Translation of the Aokva-dna. Princeton 1983, p. 61.

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    A century after the Tathgata entered the Nirva there will be a king namedAoka in the city of Paliputra, a conqueror of the four quarters of theworld, a righteous king, who will spread my relics.

    Here, long after the Maurya period, this dynasty is connected toPaliputra. A similar reference comes from the Bhaiajyavastu ofthe same Vinaya:

    caturvaraataparinirvtasya mama [Kuavaya] Kaniko nma rj

    bhaviyati. so smin pradee(i.e. Kharjrik) stpapratihpayati, tasyaKanikastpa iti sajbhaviyati, GM III 1,2,3 foll.

    there will be a king named Kanika in the Kua family. He willestablish a stpain this country (Kharjrik) which will be called Kanika-Stpa.

    Now a third reference in an unclear fragmentary context found onlyrecently by R. Salomon can be added. Most likely it is some Ava-dna text, where it is said: [mah]ynasamprasthito Huveko n[marj], a king named Huveka, who has set forth on the GreatVehicle.26

    These three references demonstrate that Buddhist authors didindeed pay some attention to historical events, if only to honour rul-ers whose patronage was appreciated by the Buddhist sagha. TheMlasarvstivdavinaya, which gained its shape much later than thatof the Theravdins, was evidently adapted to the politics of its time.And, as we can be fairly certain about the year 127 as the date ofKanika since the research done by H. Falk,27 the redaction can bedated at the earliest to the first half of the second century.

    Although it is true that the examples are few and far between,they show nevertheless that there was much more awareness of his-

    26 R. Salomon: A fragment of a Collection of Buddhist Legends, with Reference toKing Huvika as a Follower of the Mahyna, in: Jens Braarvig [Ed.]: Buddhist Manu-scripts Volume II. Manuscripts in the Schyen Collection III. Oslo 2002, p. 255267. There seems to be even a portrait of Huvika recently discovered on a relief from Gan-dhra, cf. F. Grenet: Note additionnelle on B. Marshak: Une peinture kouchane sur toile,Acadmie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres. Comptes rendus des sances de lanne 2006.2006 [2008], p. 947954 + 955963, esp. p. 957.

    27 H. Falk: The yuga of Spujiddhvaja and the era of the Kuas. Silk Road Art andArchaeology7. 2001, p. 121136.

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    tory than mostly assumed, not only in Buddhist literature. As M.

    Witzel has pointed out, the text of the Mahbhrata responds topolitical developments up to the Kua times, whereas peoplesintruding into India as late as during the Gupta period are included.28And as it seems, particularly the Buddhists always had an eye on his-tory, as the tradition on the date of the Buddha and other indicationsalso demonstrate.

    Consequently, it may be meaningful that the Buddha is said tohave predicted a brilliant future for Paliputra as a city of commerce

    and not of politics. Moreover, given the great affection and admira-tion for Aoka found everywhere in Buddhist texts, it is indeed hardto conceive a date contemporaneous with, and still less likely afterAoka.29

    Given the importance of the rise of the Maurya empire evenunder Candragupta, who is better known for his inclination towardsJainism, one might conjecture that the latest date for the compositionof theMahparinibbnasuttanta, at least for this part of it, is around

    350 to 320 BC.If this is not altogether too far off the mark, and if it is remem-bered that the date of the nirva can be assumed to be about 380BC, this dating of the text certainly has also some consequences forthe assessment of the content. For a distance in time of roughly thirtyto sixty years from the event recorded to the text conceived allowsfor a fair chance to trace true historical memory.

    Of course it is not intended to turn the Mahparinibbnasuttanta

    as a whole into a full historical record now and to read it as a histori-cal account instead of hagiography, which it is. However, while

    28 M. Witzel: The Vedas and the Epics: Some Comparative Notes on Persons, Line-ages, Geography, and Grammar, in: Epics, Khilas, and Puras: Continuities and Rup-tures. Proceedings of the Third Dubrovnik International Conference on the Sanskrit Epics

    and Puras. September 2002ed. by P. Koskikallio. Zagreb 2005, p. 2180, esp. p. 63.29 An extremely late date for the composition of the Mahparinibbnasuttantaduring

    the 2ndor 3rdcentury of the Common Era (!) was recently assumed without any reasongiven by C. Woodford Schmidt: Aristocratic Devotees in Early Buddhist Art from GreaterGandhra, SASt 21. 2005, p. 2545, esp. p. 25. This date, which is perhaps due to amisreading of AD for BC (??), can be safely and confidently ruled out.

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    many references to Indian history found in the Tipiaka remain

    doubtful, one point should be beyond any reasonable doubt: thedeath of the Buddha occurred at some point in history and at a cer-tain place. A second point is no less important. The death of the Bud-dha as the founder of the Buddhist sagha was an event of hugeconsequences for the then contemporary Buddhists, and an eventwitnessed by many monks and deeply penetrating into the collectivememory of all Buddhists of the time. In contrast, the bodhi,certainlyof prime importance for Buddhism and Buddhists, was not witnessedby any future monk and no collective memory could spring up from

    this event.Although there were witnesses present at the nirva, mythologi-

    cal features abound in the description of the death of the Buddhabecause at that time no religious person could possibly die withoutaccompanying miracles, and at the time after the Buddhas death, notext describing the career of the founder of any religion could havepossibly found acceptance without miraculous features.

    Between fact and fiction are the earthquakes at the moment whenthe Buddha gives up his vital force and again at the moment of thenirva.30 Although geophysics does not necessarily rule out thatthey occurred, in all likelihood they did not; nobody would take themto be historical events. And the divine flowers showering on thedeceased Buddha in such a quantity that they filled the whole smalltown of Kusinr knee deep with heavenly mandrava flowers31is

    just as evidently mythology as it is indispensable in any record of anevent such as the Buddhas nirva.

    So, even if there had been the will or at least the intention of theearly Buddhist authors of the Mahparinibbnasuttantato portray amore or less exact historical record of the nirva, miraculous andsupernatural events were impossible to avoid in an environment inwhich the practice of all sorts of yogic achievements was common-

    30 yusakhraossaji, D II 106,22 and D II 156,36.31 D II 160,31.

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    place. Miracles simply were part of the world-view of the authors of

    theMahparinibbnasuttanta.Consequently, if there are details that might be called historical,they are necessarily buried in what we call mythology. However, wecan try to unearth a bit of history, as Gary Beckman has suggested inhis lecture, by replacing the rather credulous question Why might itbe false? by the more sceptical one: Why should it be true? if weventure to attempt to separate fact from fiction.32

    For instance the route taken by the Buddha to Kusinrmight be

    such a detail based on remembered history, if the names of the manyotherwise unknown villages are recalled. The same might be saidperhaps in the case of the earliest record of what was possibly anepidemic at Ndik, where twelve persons recently deceased areenumerated by name, among them strange names such as Sha,Nikaa or Kaissabha not mentioned in any other source.33The nameof the very last monk ordained by the Buddha, Subhadda,34may behistorical memory and, of course, the absence of nuns during the


    In contrast, another famous paragraph cannot be historical as itstands. These are the last words of the Buddha:

    handa dni bhikkhave mantaymi vo: vayadhammsakhrappamdena

    sampdethti. ayatathgatassa pacchimvc, D II 156,1foll.

    Now, monks, I address you: Decay is inherent in all component things.Work out your salvation without indolence.

    32 JAOS 125, 2005, p. 349.33 D II 91,2692,11.34 so bhagavato pacchimo sakkhisvako ahosi, D II 153,11.35 O. v. Hinber: The Foundation of the Bhikkhunsagha. A contribution to the earli-

    est history of Buddhism. Annual Report of the International Research Institute for Ad-vanced Buddhology at Soka University for the Academic Year 2007(ARIRIAB 11). Tokyo2008, p. 229, esp. p. 22. One of the most likely candidates for historical memory is per-haps the famous name of the last meal of the Buddha. In all likeliness the obscure ska-ramaddava(D II 127,5) is the name of a local dish, which was piously preserved, whilethe true meaning was soon forgotten: O. v. Hinber: The Cause of the Buddhas Death:The last Meal of the Buddha. A Note on skaramaddava. JPTS 26. 2000, p. 105117.

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    We can be sure that this is not exact historical memory, correct in

    spirit and content at best, but certainly not in wording, because theBuddha did not speak Pli.

    How ever this may have been in detail remains, to a considerableextent, a matter of conjecture, because our sources never allow us togo beyond more or less likely or probable conclusions about theroots of the texts that reach far back into the period of earlyBuddhism. On the other hand, determining the date of the closure ofa text remains a still thornier problem. However, we can be sure to

    find quite a lot of very old material in the Theravda tradition andwe can, therefore, hope with a little confidence that the wonderfullysolemn and unique conclusion of the Mahparinibbnasuttantamaynot be altogether wrong:36

    evam etabhtapubba

    Thus it was in the days of yore.


    ARIRIAB Annual Report of The International Research Institute forAdvanced Buddhology at Soka University

    BSOAS Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies

    D Dghanikya

    Divy DivyvadnaEI Epigraphia Indica

    GM Gilgit Manuscripts. Ed. by N. Dutt. Srinagar, 1939-1959.

    HPL O. v. Hinber: A Handbook of Pli Literature. Berlin1996.

    IIJ Indo-Iranian Journal

    JAOS Journal of the American Oriental Society

    36 D II 167,20.

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    JPTS Journal of the Pali Text Society

    MSS Mnchener Studien zur SprachwissenschaftS Sayuttanikya

    SASt South Asian Studies

    Ud Udna

    Vin Vinayapiaka

    ZDMG Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlndischen Gesellschaft