Re: [INDOLOGY] Vajrasūcī

Eltschinger, Vincent Vincent.Eltschinger at
Sat Jan 25 16:00:56 UTC 2020

Dear Patrick,
As you know, Aśvaghoṣa directed some arguments against the Brahmanical understanding of the caste-classes in one of his dramas, the Śāriputraprakaraṇa/Śaradvatīputraprakaraṇa, several fragments of which have been preserved in Central Asian manuscripts and edited by Heinrich Lüders around 1910. It is thus plausible that Aśvaghoṣa dedicated an individual treatise to this topic. The style, the method and the philosophical ressources of the Vajrasūcī, however, are very different from the ones we know from Aśvaghoṣa’s genuine works, and may presuppose Buddhist works such as the Śārdūlakarṇāvadāna if not Kumāralāta’s Kalpanāmaṇḍitikā Dṛṣṭāntapaṅktiḥ. Even if I am not aware of any convincing argument against the attribution of the Vajrasūcī to Aśvaghoṣa, I have always regarded the following statement as anachronistic: dṛśyante ca kvacic chūdrā api vedavyākaraṇamīmāṃsāsāṃkhyavaiśeṣikanagnā*jīvikādisarvaśāstrārthavidaḥ /. “And one observes in some cases that even śūdras know the meaning of all śāstras such as the Veda, Grammar, Mīmāṃsā, Sāṃkhya, Vaiśeṣika as well as [those of] the Jainas and the Ājīvikas.” (*-nagnā- em. : lagnā- Ed.) Although such a list is not per se impossible in Aśvaghoṣa’s time, i.e., although most of its individual elements could have been known around 100 CE, I do not believe that such an enumeration would have been possible, as a doxographic statement, at that time, and even less so under Aśvaghoṣa's "pen." (The absence of the Nyāya from the list is intriguing.)
Another element possibly deserving some consideration is the Sanskrit colophon in which Aśvaghoṣa is characterized as siddhācārya (kṛtir iyaṃ siddhācāryāśvaghoṣapādānām iti), an expression the exact meaning of which remains somewhat unclear to me.
I am looking forward to reading other opinions on this interesting topic.
Very best,

Vincent Eltschinger, korrespondierendes Mitglied der OeAW
Directeur d'études
École Pratique des Hautes Études, Section des sciences religieuses
Patios Saint-Jacques, 4-14 rue Ferrus - 75014 Paris
vincent.eltschinger at
0033 1 56 61 17 34 / 0033 7 85 86 84 05
Von: INDOLOGY <indology-bounces at> im Auftrag von Matthew Kapstein via INDOLOGY <indology at>
Gesendet: Samstag, 25. Januar 2020 15:09:59
An: Indology List; Olivelle, J P
Betreff: Re: [INDOLOGY] Vajrasūcī

Dear Patrick,

You'll find some discussion of it, inter alia, in Vincent Eltschinger, "Caste" et Philosophie Bouddhique WSTB 47 (2000). As you no doubt know, the Chinese translation is late - 10th c. if I recall correctly - and is attributed to DharmakIrti. I rather doubt that the true authorship can be established, given the available evidence. The emphasis on pramANa seems to suggest that it was written during the second half of the first millennium, not much before. But the way in which pramANa is used there does not resonate closely with the Buddhist pramANa school. The precise milieu in which it was composed remains a puzzle (at least to me!).

all best,

Matthew Kapstein
Directeur d'études,
Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes

Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies,
The University of Chicago
From: INDOLOGY <indology-bounces at> on behalf of Olivelle, J P via INDOLOGY <indology at>
Sent: Saturday, January 25, 2020 6:59 AM
To: Indology List <indology at>
Subject: [INDOLOGY] Vajrasūcī

Does anyone know of newer work on the identity and date of the author of Vajrasūcī, often ascribed to Aśvaghoṣa? Any new ideas on its possible date? With thanks and best wishes,

Patrick Olivelle
INDOLOGY mailing list
indology-owner at (messages to the list's managing committee) (where you can change your list options or unsubscribe)

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