potters, philosophers, and kings

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Wed Nov 5 02:21:24 EST 1997

In an earlier posting, I had cited a reference in jAbAla upaniSad which
included the potter’s shed as one of the places of stay of
seers/philosophers. As I investigate the connection between potters and
philosophers, more interesting facts keep appearing. PaiGgala upaniSad 1.12
says, "The Omniscient lord possessed of a particle of mAyA, on entering the
several bodies and getting deluded by it attained the state of the individual
soul. By identification with the three bodies (gross, subtle and causal) he
attained the state of the doer and the enjoyer, ever performing the functions
of waking, dreaming, sleeping, fainting and dying, he twirls round and round,
like a potter’s wheel, as if dead though alive, in keeping with the adage
relating to the potter’s wheel." (I wonder what the adage is.) 

We also find that gozAla maskarIputra, the founder of the AjIvika sect lived
in the shed of a female potter in the city of ZrAavastI. Prince siddhArta on
his renunciation was supposed to have received the outward marks of an arhant
from the demi-god ghaTikAra. (ghaTikAra means "potter".)  In a story in
samyutta nikAya, when a buddhist monk , vakkali, falls ill, he is moved to a
potter’s workshop and Buddha visits him there. In another story, Buddha
taught pukkusAti the noble the sutta of the system of elements in the house
of a potter. And there is the ghaTIkArasutta, where a potter named ghaTIkAra
and a brahmin named jotipAla are supposed to be friends. This potter is the
one who leads the brahmin to go to the Enlightened one, Lord kassapa. Lord
kassapa prefers to stay with the potter than with the king of kAsi.

The Tamil text maNimEkalai calls the potters by the name "iruGkOvEL" which
was also the name of a chieftain/king in Classical Tamil. As I have mentioned
in an earlier posting, this was the king who was praised as a 49th generation
descendant of the ruler of tuvarai (dvArakA).

I think the potter-philosopher-king connection is very interesting.

By the way, can anybody explain the origin of the concept of cakravartin?


S. Palaniappan

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