When did the gods become literate?

L.S.Cousins selwyn at DTN.NTL.COM
Thu Nov 11 07:43:29 UTC 1999

responding to Nanda Chandran:

>In the first place Buddhism reached Lanka only after three hundred years
>after the death of the SAkhyamuni.

I have always suspected that it was there before. It is its
acceptance by Devaanampiya Tissa which is the focus of the stories.

>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.

We know very little about how Buddhism spread to other parts of South
Asia. But there were certainly other missionaries -referred to in
various inscriptions and literary sources.

>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.

He refers to the Colas and Paa.n.diyas in exactly the same way. So if
you are right about this, it would establish the point I was making.
In fact, his main distinction is between those under his rule and
those not under his rule, which is quite a different matter. But note
that this is perhaps the only (pre-Muslim) time in Indian history
where we chance to have something reasonably close to the boundaries
of modern India, if you include Pakistan and much of Afghanistan,
that is !

>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.

On the contrary, travel by sea was much faster and easier at the
right time of the year; so the travel distance from Patna to Ceylon
may well have been much less than that to, say, Ujjain.

As regards vegetarianism, this is a later development in both
Buddhism and Brahmanism. The Buddha himself was not a vegetarian.

>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.

Traditionally, Theravaada recognizes all possible goals.


L.S.Cousins at nessie.mcc.ac.uk or selwyn at dtn.ntl.com

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