The Buddha and the Upanishads

Christian K. Wedemeyer wedemeyer at UCHICAGO.EDU
Tue Dec 12 04:06:30 UTC 2006

Thanks to Lance for reading closely. No, I was not arguing for the 
"strong view." Jonathan, I think, puts it well and succinctly:

>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.

This, I would assume, would be the general consensus view in the 
field, which was why I was surprised at intimations to the contrary. 
Given that much the same is true of the Upanisadic corpus as Jonathan 
notes of the corpus of Buddhist aagama-s/nikaaya-s--and given that 
both corpora shows signs of mutual influence--I think Matthew's 
assessment is quite sound; that is:

>the texts and traditions evolved in dialogue with one another and 
>arrived at their "finished"
>forms in processes spanning centuries.

Thus, one shouldn't (as Tim appears to) take my reservations about 
putting the words of the nikaaya-s in the mouth of Gotama to imply 
that any given Upanisadic passage is necessarily any earlier than any 
given Buddhist passage.

With best regards,

Christian (taking a break from "active engagement in philological 
work" to dither around his computer)

Christian K. Wedemeyer
Assistant Professor of the History of Religions
The University of Chicago Divinity School
1025 East 58th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60637    USA
(773) 702-8265 (phone)
(773) 702-8223 (fax)

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