Dates of the written Rgveda

Steve Farmer saf at SAFARMER.COM
Tue Mar 21 00:38:43 UTC 2000

Prasad Velusamy quotes Steve Hodge on an apparent lack of
references to writing in the Pali canon:

> Given
> that these scriptures record in passing many aspects of Indian society
> at the time of the Buddha and during the ensuing one hundred + years
> before the Pali canon was closed, it is surprising that there is no
> mention (as far as I know) of anything connected with writing if it
> had indeed been in use in India at that time....

Is this true? My question isn't rhetorical, and I currently have
no firm opiniont. There are what appear to be references to
writing in the Pali scriptures -- same as references in
Manusmrti. I know that ways exist to discount such citations,
just as in the case of references to script in Panini. But at a
minimum the prima facie evidence has to be dealt with, I'd think.
E.g., in Nighanikaya 27.23, we read:

  ...some of those beings [i.e., the Brahmins], not being able to
  meditate in leaf-huts, settled around towns and villages and compiled
  books [ganthe]. People saw them doing this and not meditating. "Now
  these do not Meditate' is the meaning of Ajjhayaka. Which is
the third
  regular title to be introduced. At that time it was regarded as
a low
  designation, but now it is the higher. This, then, Vasettha, is
  origin of the class of Brahmins in accordance with the ancient titles
  that were introduced for them (Walshe, trans.).

Is this a misreading? Buddhaghosa apparently claims that the
passage refers to compiling the Vedas. Are there other, similar
examples? Since a rank outsider like me ran into this passage by
accident, I suspect there must be others.

Again, I have no firm opinion on the issue at present, although
I'm interested in the answer.

Steve Farmer

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