When did the gods become literate?

nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Nov 10 17:54:11 UTC 1999

Lance Cousins writes :

>It is completely anachronistic to refer to India and Ceylon/Sri Lanka as
>separate entities at this time. Ceylon was as much, and as little,
>different from, say, the Ganges valley as the Tamil country or >Andhra.

In the first place Buddhism reached Lanka only after three hundred years
after the death of the SAkhyamuni. Nor did it get it naturally, like the way
the religion spread to other parts of India - Ashoka specifically sent his
son to spread Buddhism in Lanka.

And don't you think it is strange that Ashoka would send his son to Lanka
for this specific purpose? Why did he not do the same with other parts of
India which were not under his control? And his sending his son to Lanka was
part of his effort to send missionaries to other countries - Greece, China,
Persia - to spread the faith, which may imply that Ashoka considered Lanka
as a foreign land like the others.

Though Lanka is not very far off from India, in those days when marine
capabilities were not so well developed, for all practical reasons it might
indeed have been as foreign as Greece. (Though I wouldn't be too sure about
this, for Tamils have a history of interaction with Lanka). But I doubt if
it was like hopping on to a ferry to cross the river - so interaction
between Lanka and India was not so easy or natural, like it would have been
if connected by land.

And it is my opinion that foreign lands never grasped Buddhism in its
element - apart from the preservation of the scriptures, literature etc
(which in truth doesn't amount to much), I know of none of the Buddhist
lands (except Bhutan perhaps?), which took it seriously enough that its
population turned vegetarian. For if you cannot even give up eating meat,
how are you going to develop compassion and even more important how are you
going to renounce your Self - anatta - which is so vital a part of Buddhism?
Since Lankan bauddhas have not renounced meat, I cannot accept that they are
true to the original tradition. While look at Ashoka in India who went great
lengths to propagate vegetarianism thoughout his empire - that's the mark of
a true bauddha.

So we should be cautious when trying to read the development of Indian
Buddhism based on Ceylon or Tibet.


MahAyAna polemics does refer to three kinds of Bauddhas, which might map to
TheravAda, Samskrutic HinayAna and MahAyAna : In the Saddharmapundarika,
while trying to maintain the supremacy of MahAyAna over the other vehicles,
bauddhas is split up into three as : 1. shravakas (TheravAdins), 2. Pratyeka
bauddhas (SarvAstivAdins) and 3. Bodhisattvas (MahAyAnists). I request the
specialists to confirm this.

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