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

Sat Nov 6 01:34:15 UTC 1999

Hi, Nanda !

> Think about this : VaibhAsikas are from Kashmir. MahAyAna polemics
> HinayAna is predominantly directed towards the SarvAstivAdins - ie
> HinayAna, the MahAyAnists only understood it as SarvAstivAdins (to a
> great extent the VaibhAsikas). There's very little reference in
> MahAyAna literature to the Abhidhamma thought as developed in the
> PAli works - Buddhagosha, Aniruddha etc. And vice versa too - the
> Southern PAli authors too seem to make little or no reference to
> MahAyAna thought.

Yes, it seems as if Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka was fairly
isolated from northern India although people like Buddhaghosa have
borrowed a fair amount from Mahayana materials.  I think there is a
time gap between the composition of the early Mahayana sutras and the
rise of the scholastic Buddhism that was centred on Nalanda (Bihar),
Valabhi (Gujerat) and Ratnagiri (Orissa).  The earliest Mahayana texts
were not written in "classical" Sanskrit but the well-known hybrid
version, perhaps refelcting an earlier more coloquial phase.

> So if MahAyAna had infact flourished in Southern India - 1. It would
> have included the PAli Abhidhamma thought in its polemics against
> HinayAna. 2. The PAli HinayAnists would have referred often to the
> MahAyAnists in their works and 3. How could the MahAyAnists been so
> familiar with the VaibhAsika thought, which was from the Northern
> part of India - so familiar that they considered it to be the most
> important representative of HinayAna?

1.    It is considered "bad manners" these days to refer to Theravada
as Hinayana.  Though Mahayana witers mention Hinayana, their clearest
doctrinal adversaries were the Sarvastivadins.  We just do not know
enough about the origins of Mahayana but it seems that they were
originally merely a liberal wing of the basic Sangha, i.e. mahayana
with a small "m", if you like.  There were many other Hinayana groups
in India at the time when Mahayana emerged who are never mentioned in
Mahayana polemics -- indeed many of the great Mahayana teachers were
monks of Hinayana sanghas.  People like Asanga are interesting because
they belonged to the Mahishasaka school -- they are regarded as the
mainland counterparts to the Theravadins.  Maybe the gap was smaller
between their doctrinal views and the later Mahayana.  Others such as
the Sautrantika found favour (in part) with avowed Mahayanists such as
Dignaga and Dharamkirti.
2.    There are references to the Mahayana people in Pali sources --
they are referred to as "vetulla-vada".
3.    I am sorry but I can't grasp the point you are trying to make

> And it's also to be noted that Southern India was not so exposed to
> invasions as Northern India was. So if JainAs remain in today's
> India, wouldn't the Buddhists too? Also the long history of Southern
> Kings, who regularly raided Lanka and devastated its Buddhist
culture - not
> a strong indication of any favorable disposition towards Buddhism -
in fact
> the evidence seems to support rank animosity. The local cultures too
> none of the Buddhist traits - vegetarianism for example. So, I'm not
> convinced that Buddhism 'flourished' in Southern India.

What, by the way, do you class as South India ?   Actually, I was not
saying that Buddhism flourished or not in South India -- there
certainly was a strong presence in south eastern India but less in
south western India.

> Maybe a few great AchAryas with their small following existed and
> had a good deal of influence in intellectual and royal circles, but
> it was really widespread, I doubt it.

That may well be the case.  Does it matter ?

Best wishes,
Stepehn Hodge (no "s" please)

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