pots, brahmin names, and potters

Artur Karp hart at POLBOX.COM
Fri Dec 11 21:33:40 UTC 1998

At 15:52 11.12.98 +0100, Georg v. Simson wrote:

>The Sanskrit MahAparinirvANasUtra (with its Tibetan and Chinese parallels),
>ed. E. Waldschmidt, Berlin 1950-51, p. 410 (Vorgang 46.7) is quite clear on
>this point:
>First mentioning the "tailapUrNA ayodroNI" into which the body of the
>king/Buddha is laid, and a second "ayodroNI" which is used as a cover, the
>text says that the body is burnt and, thereafter, the bones (asthIni) are
>put in a golden urn: "sauvarNa kumbha". This is the kumbha that later on
>(51.17) is given to the brahmin who in the Pali MPS is called doNa and in
>the Sanskrit version dhUmrasagotra.
>Georg v. Simson


Dear Dr. Simson,

Thank you very much for your answer. Unfortunately, at this moment I cannot
consult Waldschmidt's book - a couple of days ago I found out that our copy
had been lent out. I would be then very grateful, if you would kindly
answer several more questions. There are also questions directed to the
participants of the Indology list in general.

1) which verb is used to describe the process of placing the body of the
Buddha in the "iron trough filled with oil" [tailapUrNA ayodroNI]?

Pali MPS uses pakkhipitvA ("having placed in"), which may be suggestive of
laying the body down in ayodroNI horizontally. But Dr. Karol Piasecki from
this University (a friendly anthropologist with considerable experience in
archeology) tells me, that the bone-relics enumerated by Buddhaghosa in his
commentary (The Sumangala-Vilasini, Buddhaghosa's Commentary on the
Digha-Nikaya, Part II, published by PTS, London 1971, p. 604) suggest
cremation of a body that is placed on the pyre in sitting position. They
all belong to the upper part of the body: four (canine) teeth, two collar
bones and the upper part of the cranium [cattaso dAThA, dve akkhakA uNhIsan

General question: Is there any evidence in the older strata of the Buddhist
tradition pointing to the custom of cremating bodies in sitting position?
Iconographic evidence?

2) which verb is used to describe the process of the cremation of the
Buddha's body?

Pali MPS uses jhApenti, which is translated as: "they burn".  However,
considering the configuration described in the MPS, would oil in the closed
ayodroNI burn or boil? Cf. The PTS Pali-English Dictionary, where jhApeti
explained as "to set fire to, to burn", but also "to cook". My brother, who
is a chemical engineer, tells me that with the body placed in an iron
vessel which is in turn covered by another iron vessel and with the
wood-fire underneath, the oil inside the lower vessel would boil and not
burn, and even if the oil inside ignited, it would only burn as long as it
would have oxygen, and then it would return to boiling.

General question: Is it possible, that the process described in the MPS
wasn't meant to burn the body, but rather to separate the softer parts from
the skeleton? Is there any evidence for such funeral practice in the Indian
tradition? Or is the story of the two iron vessels just one more example of
mythological imagination?

3) how many bone-relics [asthIni] were left after the cremation?

Buddhaghosa says seven (and some smaller remnants). The Pali MPS insists
that brahmin DoNa divided the relics into eight parts.

General question: Could that mean that what he was dividing was
sarIraTThaka - "the [consisting of eight parts] bony framework of the body"?

4) is there any additional information on who was this mysterious brahmin
named DoNa/DhUmrasagotra?

General question: is there any evidence in the Indian tradition of any
group of brahmins performing the task of handling, dividing and
apportioning human

With regards,

Artur Karp
University of Warsaw


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