The "Net of Indra"

L.S.Cousins selwyn at NTLWORLD.COM
Sun Aug 20 06:49:02 UTC 2000

Dear Stephen,

>  > >  > Not the Avatam.saka which is a Chinese collection of materials,
>>  >>  all of which has been proven to be of Indian origin.
>>  All I said was 'not proven' !
>I have no problems with that part of your statement but I was querying
>the "Chinese collection of materials" bit since, as I said, the
>Tibetan version is clearly not dependent on any of the extant Chinese

Fair enough. I probably should have mentioned the Tibetan materials 
as well. It remains the case that we should look to the Ga.n.avyuuha 
for the moment for an Indian source for these ideas.

>  > Some of them
>>  could have been composed in Central Asia. Conceivably they could
>>  been written there in Sanskrit or in some other language. But none
>>  this seems very certain; so I simply said 'not proven to be of
>>  origin'.
>Does this imply any extra validity to Mahayana texts written in
>Sanskrit/Prakrit in India rather than in Central Asia ?   -- given
>that Mahayana sutras in general are not really what they claim to be.
>The situation seems to be similar with the other large "collections"
>like the Ratnaku.ta, the Nirvana Sutra and others.

I don't think validity is an issue for historical scholarship and 
philology. That's a matter for Mahaayaana Buddhists themselves and 
they have clearly taken different views in different cases.

It seems equally doubtful whether the Ratnakuu.ta existed as a 
collection in India. (By India here one means ancient South Asia and 
contiguous areas.)

>  > Assuming that it is not from one of the extant Chinese
>>  versions (as I had earlier understood) how do we know that it is not
>>  translated from a Central Asian or lost Chinese original ?
>If you read a lot of Tibetan texts, one gradually gets a feel for the
>language of the texts.  Ones from  Indic sources betray the underlying
>language by traces of construction, circumlocution etc.  The same
>applies for the few texts of Chinese origin in Tibetan -- they also
>reflect the underlying Chinese for the same reasons.   On the other
>hand, texts of native Tibetan composition that pose as authentic Indic
>texts (like some Nyingma tantras) read differently -- generally more
>smoothly as Tibetan.

That doesn't rule out a composition in Sanskrit in Central Asia. This 
means that in the Indian context we cannot confidently look for 
influences on other works. We also have to consider the possibility 
of its reaching India at some point from there.

Are you confident of ruling out Iranian languages from Central Asia, 
probably using many Sanskrit loanwords ?

This may sound rather negative of me. But I remain bothered by the 
total lack of references to the Avata.msaka collection in India to 

Lance Cousins

selwyn at

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