Dates of the written Rgveda

Tue Mar 21 04:12:10 UTC 2000

Steve Farmer wrote:

> What are the internal linguistic evidence and doctrinal grounds
> that suggest it is late? How anachronistic is it? It certainly
> must precede the 1000 CE date that we've been given [for the
> "written Vedas" ? SH].

Possibly 100 -- 150 +  years after the passing of the Buddha.  The
text uses terminology associated with later developments -- difficult
to date per se -- such as the "dhammakaaya".  It also has the Buddha
speak on the origin of the universe, a topic which he specifically
refused to answer.  This text seems to have been composed for specific
heuristic reasons involving brahmins.

> I'm putting forward the only evidence I know. If there are more
> explicit passages in the Pali canon, I'd like to see them myself.

As I said, the Pali canon is not my main area of expertise so I rely
on the researches of others.  I am not aware that any clear-cut /
unambiguous evidence for writing has been found in the Pali canon --
perhaps others on the list who are more involved in early Buddhist
studies could comment.  If you look through the archives of Indology a
couple of months or so ago (before you subscribed) a couple of the
subscribers (Dr LC Cousins was one) did discuss the origins of Brahmi
script and it was noted then that this script as used in the C 3rd BCE
shows clear signs of being innovative due to its fluid character -- it
was still evolving.

> But this one, at a minimum, seems suggestive -- as do the
> passages in Manusmriti I've already pointed to. Question: Does
> anyone know any more?

As a good Buddhist, it is of little import to me when the Rg Veda was
first put down in writing.  However, I would be quite happy with a
considerably earlier date for a written Rg Veda than the 1000 CE
mentioned.  You may note that orality was important in Buddhism
also -- even after the canon was put down in writing to preserve it,
monks continued for centuries to memorize the respective portions
allocated to their "recitation groups" (the canon was divided into
segments that were memorized by specialist groups of monks).

Best wishes,
Stephen Hodge

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