Buddha's funeral (was: pots, brahmin names, and potters)

Georg von Simson g.v.simson at EAST.UIO.NO
Mon Dec 14 13:05:36 UTC 1998

Dear Artur Karp,
you wrote:
>Thank you for your patience in answering my questions. I do hope you would
>be able to withstand two more.
><As the story goes, the relics are divided into eight parts for political
>One understands well, why AjAtasattu, the king of Magadha, and the six
>tribes (the Licchavis of VesAlI, the Sakyas of KApilavatthu, the Bulis of
>Allakappa, the Kolis of RAmagAma, the Mallas of PAvA and the Mallas of
>KusinArA) would want to possess the relics of the Buddha.
>However, one of the eight recipients of the relics does not seem to
>represent any power, and yet also he obtains the full share [bhAga] of the
>relics. He is a brahmin and he is either called VeThadIpaka, or he comes
>from a place named VeThadIpa.
>What is his name in the Sanskrit MPS? Does Bareau write anything about him?

In the Sanskrit MPS instead of a single individual (the brahmin
veThadIpaka) another group of people appears, the "viSNudvipIyaka
brAhmaNa-s", called after the locality viSNudvIpa. The Chinese versions
point into the same direction. Bareau considers them as just another group
living in the neighbourhood of Kuzinagara (as to the geography, he refers
in a footnote to an article of Voegel, JRAS 1907). He overlooks the
peculiarity of the fact that the Pali version here mentions an individual
and not a group. But since the Pali version generally represents the oldest
tradition, I think you are fully entitled to take this anomaly seriously.

>VeThadIpa is not present at the funeral ceremony. The message he sends to
>the Mallas of KusinArA to inform them about the validity of his claim
>doesn't contain any hint of humility.
>DoNa is his opposite. He is present at the funeral ceremony. Although he
>personally divides the relics into eight portions, he isn't entitled to a
>share in them. In order to obtain the urn he has to humbly ask for it.
>As they are entitled to 'primary relics'[bhAge], the king, the six tribes
>and the brahmin VeThadIpa seem to form a higher status group.  The lower
>status group is entitled to only 'secondary relics' and is represented by
>the tribe of Moriyas of Pipphalivana, who as late-comers have to satisfy
>themselves with the ashes [angAram], and the brahmin DoNa who is given the
>empty urn [kumbha].
>As seen from the text, the relative hierarchy of the tribes is based on the
>opposition between early and late entrants. As far as the brahmins are
>concerned, their hierarchy seems to rest on the opposition between being
>uninvolved or involved in the handling and division of the relics.
>It may well be that in order to get to know more about DoNa (and his type
>of brahminhood), we would have to know more about VeThadIpa.

I am afraid the texts do not contain much useful information (and that
means that we are free to speculate!). According to the Pali commentary
literature, there was also a king VeThadIpaka who was a friend of the king
of Allakappa (see Malalasekera, DPPN).


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