critiques of sacrifice

Vincent Eltschinger veltsch at OEAW.AC.AT
Tue Apr 20 13:06:10 UTC 2010

Dear Benjamin,
Of course, the question of the ethical, social and political consequences,
for a king, of being a Buddhist, is a very interesting one (and it is more
than certain that many among the monastic intellectual elite had very
definite views on the topic). But in my opinion, one is a king before
being a Buddhist. I mean: there are normative, almost sacred, even
formulaic prerogatives and duties for a king in the ancient Indian
context. Look, for instance, at those kings who, in the very same
inscription, present themselves as paramasaugata, i.e., as supreme
(devout) Buddhists, AND praise themselves for preserving the
var.naa'sramadharma. Here too, the contradiction between core Buddhist
values (or: what we take them to be) and the king's self-assertion seems
to be total. What we also ought to consider is: has there been anything
like a Buddhist society, or a properly Buddhist kingdom, in ancient India?
Look, for instance, at Naalandaa and its surrounding: Naalandaa was the
flagship of Indian Buddhism, a place where people converged from all parts
of Asia and which was richly endowed by successive generations of kings of
different dynasties (local Guptas, Vardhana, Paala). Now, the seals that
have been excavated in Naalandaa seem to demonstrate that the whole
administrative, political, juridical and social environment of the
monastic complex wasn't Buddhist at all.
Well, instead of writing too much on this complex and fascinating issue, I
would recommend you to read at least the beginning and the end of Alexis
Sanderson's recently published "The 'Saiva Age" (pp. 41-349 [sic] in
Shingo Einoo, ed.: Genesis and Development of Tantrism, Tokyo, University
of Tokyo, Institute of Oriental Culture, 2009). Here you will find some
answers and at least many insights.
Vincent Eltschinger

Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia
Austrian Academy of Sciences
Prinz-Eugen-Strasse 8-10
A-1040 Vienna

> Dear List,
> It is possible to contrast the various textual examples cited in this
> thread by pointing to other examples from inscriptional sources? I am
> familiar with inscriptions wherein Buddhist kings are known to have
> promoted rather than rejected certain types of Brahmanical sacrifice. This
> is seen, for example, in Pāla and Candra inscriptions of Bengal where
> rituals from the Atharvaveda Pariśiṣṭas, at least in name (such as
> the koṭihoma and the adbhutaśānti of the homacatuṣṭaya), are
> invoked for the purposes of returning favor for gifts of land. Further, as
> I recall, even at stūpa sites such as at Nāgārjunakoṇḍa there are
> inscriptions promoting the aśvamedha sacrifice.
> To my mind such inscriptional evidence raises the question of how we
> receive the Buddhist critiques of sacrifice. Are the textual sources, for
> example, derived only from a canonical framework?  Is the critique offered
> in ritual sources such as Tantras? I am curious as, looking to the
> inscriptional evidence, I wonder if the Buddhist critique of sacrifice is
> only rendered by Buddhist monks who are themselves in competition with
> Brahminical ritualists and thus, wishing to discredit their ritual rivals
> in the hopes of gaining royal favor?
> It would be helpful to understand what is behind the question about
> Buddhist or Jain rejection of sacrifice. Admittedly, my knowledge of
> Buddhist canonical literature is not, what it should be! I would
> appreciate any comments with respect to clarification or otherwise. This
> is certainly an interesting topic! I am in fact working on two related
> projects and am happy to receive further references on this general topic.
> Best Wishes,
> Benjamin
> --
> Benjamin Fleming Visiting Scholar,
> Dept. of Religious Studies,
> University of Pennsylvania 249 S. 36th Street,
> Claudia Cohen Hall, #234
> Philadelphia, PA 19104 U.S.A.
> Telephone - 215-746-7792
>> Date: Tue, 20 Apr 2010 09:41:56 +0900
>> From: yanom at CC.KYOTO-SU.AC.JP
>> Subject: Re: critiques of sacrifice
>> To: INDOLOGY at
>> One of the interesting sources is the Buddhist
>> text ZaarduulakarNaavadaana (ed. by
>> Mukhopadhyaya, Santiniketan 1954, page 19),
>> where Brahmanical sacrifice is critisized as
>> being performed by those who want to eat the
>> meat of sacrificail animals.
>> lines 15-18:
>> na prokSaNair na mantraiz ca svargaM gacchanty ajaiDakaaH/
>> na hy eSa maargaH svargaaya mithyaaprokSaNam ucyate//
>> braahmaNai raudracittais tu paryaayo hy eSa cintitaH/
>> maaMsaM khaaditukaamais tu prokSaNaM kalpitaM pazoH//
>> Michio Yano
>> Kyoto Sangyo University
>> >Dear List--
>> >Can anyone recommend primary or secondary literature on critiques of
>> Vedic
>> >sacrifice and orthopraxy? I am interested in Buddhist & Jain critiques
>> as
>> >well as those from within the Brahmanic fold.
>> >
>> >Thanks
>> >
>> >Finnian Moore Gerety
>> >
>> >doctoral student, Dept. of Sanskrit & Indian Studies, Harvard
>> University
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