The Buddha and the Upanishads

Jonathan Silk silk at HUMNET.UCLA.EDU
Mon Dec 11 17:53:39 UTC 2006

I could have been clearer. Tim wrote:

>  I should have specified that the "strong form" of the
>argument pertained to the content of the Pali tradition rather than to
>knowledge of Buddhism in general, for the knowledge of which we have
>Chinese and Gandhari sources. 
What I, in turn, should have specified is that, in the particular 
case at hand, one of the things to which I referred, or meant to 
refer, is that we can verify the existence of some Pali 
materials--better to say, some materials preserved in Pali-- in 
periods prior to their final redaction (by Buddhaghosa, according to 
tradition) in cases in which there are close parallels in other 
datable sources, namely Gandhari mss (not much, really, volume-wise, 
at least known so far) and Chinese (much, widely available for study, 
but as I said earlier, involving problems such that it cannot be used 
'as is').

So, can we date some Pali materials with confidence to some period 
prior to Buddhaghosa, even if precise wording is sometimes in 
question? Yes. Can we internally stratify some materials, at least on 
philological/linguistic grounds? Yes. Does this provide us with any 
absolute chronology locating anything in Buddhist materials surely in 
the 5th c BCE? No. We cannot move back earlier than the beginning of 
the Common Era, as far as I can tell.
(It is another question about materials which can be shown, and have 
been shown, to be shared by Jains and Buddhists. I think the 
implications of these overlappings are yet to be fully worked out. )

Jonathan Silk
Department of Asian Languages & Cultures
Center for Buddhist Studies
290 Royce Hall
Box 951540
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1540
phone: (310) 206-8235
fax:  (310) 825-8808
silk (at)

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