When did the gods become literate? Was: Are the gods literate

nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Nov 4 00:49:23 UTC 1999

>There is not much reference to Buddhism and writing in the Ram.
>The Ram. may predate writing in buddhism.

I'm sure that there's a reference to the Buddha in RAmAyanam. He's referred
to as a nAstika in one place.

>Modeled after brahminical religion, the early hinayana concentrates >mainly
>on oral transmission. From aural to visual/writing transition >happens in
>the mahayana phase of buddhism. Many mahayana sutras are >written in the
>Dravidian south, Andhra and Kanchi.

Not so. Then why is HinayAna called Southern Buddhism and MahAyAna as
northern? And if MahAyana was indeed prevelant down South, then its
influence would've been seen in Ceylon, which is on the contrary staunchly
HinayAnistic. Also note that Tibet and China are MahAyAnistic - the
missionary activity went through the Northern way.

And the great MahAyAna AchAryas - Asanga, VAsubandhu and Ashvaghosa are all
Northerners. Though NAgArjuna, DignAga and Dharmakirti are supposed to be
Southerners, they too achieved their fame as teachers in Takshila - in the
North. Even the VaibhAshikas who've extensive written literature in
Samskrutam are Kashmiri bauddhas.

Also note that Buddhaghosa, who was a Southerner and a contemporary of
Asanga and VAsubandhu, travelled to Ceylon and wrote commentaries on the
NikhAyas and other profound works in HinayAna.

If early HinayAna had a oral tradition it is only because it copied the
brahmanical way, which was time tested. Even more valid reason is that the
script itself was not so well developed at that time.

>Contrasting the northern nonpreference for writing with the praise for it
>in the >south, one can say buddhist writings got a thrust from the south.
>The >patronage from the sea-faring merchant communities of tamil/telugu
> >coasts was important for the writing and spread of buddhist sutras to
> >southeast/east asia. The southeast asian scripts originate from the
> >Pallava grantha letters. Even the earliest buddhist sayings get >written
>down in the far south (Lanka).

I don't think there's much justification to these claims, for MahAyAna
literature is predominantly in Samskrutam which reflects brahmincal
influence. So if oral teaching was the brahmanical preference, then the
MahAyAna SUtrams too would have been transmitted that way.

The main reasons for the brahmanical oral tradition are : 1. the way the
mantrams are pronounced are very important, so it has to be taught correctly
in the oral way, 2. the brahmanic veda adhikAram or the right to teach the
shruti - which was a way to ensure that only the brahmins taught it and 3.
they taught it to the right people.

But Buddhism, especially MahAyAna, being more egalitarian had none of these
constraints and since its missionaries went far and wide to preach the
truth, might have considered written texts as more convinient to preserve
the tradition.

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