Peter Schalk peter.schalk at RELHIST.UU.SE
Thu Feb 11 05:53:30 UTC 1999

The discussion about Potalaka belongs to a wider context of dating the
establishment of Buddhism in Tamilakam. The Japanese Buddhist Shu Hikosaka
has through the Institute of Asian Studies in Cennai in 1989 launched a
kind of official doctrine according to which Buddhism is even pre-Asokan in
Tamilakam. The invasion by Bindusara into the South is made into an
invasion by Asoka himself who made a "Buddhist" invasion, that did not
introduce, but revived a pre-Buddhist tradition. Part of Hikosaka's
argumentation is that Potiyil was a Buddhist mountain. His main linguistic
argumentation has not yet been given by Kanecan, namely that potiyil is
allegedly derived from *bodhi-y-il, where "y" is a gliding sound, "il" is a
Tamil locative indicator and Tamil poti is allgedly derived from bodhi.
Potiyil is allegedly a place recalling the enlightenment. potalaka is
regarded as a "secondary derivation" of potiyil. On this base have been
piled speculations about the presence of Avalokitesvara on the mountain. A
climbing expedition on the top has been made guided by the Gandhavyuha and
Xuantsang to find traces of the cult of Avalokitesvara. I have tried to
show-evidently in vain -that all this is associative wishful thinking of
amateur historians. Vide P Schalk, "The Controversy about the Arrival of
Buddhism in Tamilakam", TEMENOS 30 (1994), pp. 197-232, where this very
popular and now dominating doctrine among academics in Tamilakam, and the
discussion about it, is documented from both sides.This doctrine's appeal
and seducing force is not intellectual. It is emotional because it makes
Buddhism very, very, very old in Tamilakam.

Peter Schalk, Uppsala University

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list