- Looking to the Buddha as the Ideal
- The cultural context
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Looking to the Buddha as the Ideal
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The cultural context
Old Password. New Password. Password Changed Successfully Your password has been changed. Returning user. Request Username Can't sign in? Forgot your username? So far, this is just part of the general rough-and-tumble of Indian philosophical engagement, and the Buddha, as one would expect to find in a Buddhist text, gets the better of the encounter. If niganthas are to arrive on alms-rounds, food is to be brought to the doorstep for them. A burst ulcer? There, soon after, he died Malalasekera And what does the Jain tradition say about their teacher's death?
The Kalpa Sutra puts it as follows:. But here we see nothing about the loss of a prominent lay disciple having such a devastating effect that the old teacher ends up vomiting blood and has to be transported on a litter. Human nature being what it is, even if that nature is supposedly close to enlightenment, we should not be too surprised if the early Jains tended to idealise their founder and if the early Buddhists had no reason to say anything complimentary about the founder of a rival sect. But even discounting that, the contrast here is just too glaring.
Can we really be talking about the same person? Is the bickering, sour old man in the Buddhist texts really the same person as the saintly figure described in the Jain literature? The Succession Issue.
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When he died the Nigantas had split and were quarrelling, fighting and attacking each other with the weapon in their mouths. They were saying things like these. What do you know of it? You have fallen to the wrong method. I have fallen to the right method with reasons. You say the first things last, the last things first. Your dispute is not thought out, it is reversed and made up and should be rebuked. Dispute and find your way, if possible'.
Mahavira's principal disciple Sudhamma succeeded him as the head of the Church. His name was later Sanskritized to Sudharman. We know many of the teachings of Mahavira in the version in which Sudharman taught them to his principal disciple Jambusvamin. Many lessons in the Jain canonical works start with the words of Sudharman: ' Now Jambusvamin He is said to have become a Kevalin omnipotent twelve years after Mahavira's Nirvana, and then lived on for eight years more, reaching the age of at the time of his death. Jambu, his principal disciple, succeeded him to the pontificate.
Jambu's principal disciple Prabhava succeeded him on his death forty-four years later in 64 AV. Thus, for several generations, the supreme dignity and power of the Jain Church devolved from teacher to disciple By itself, this would be inconclusive. At most, we could say that the Early Buddhist texts may have grossly exaggerated a power struggle within Jain ranks, or that the early Jain texts have tried to make that struggle disappear from the record entirely.
However, I believe that I have shown that there is reason to doubt the identity of the two figures as the respective sets of texts present them. He might have been the Jain equivalent of Devadatta, a would-be-usurper who attempted to set up an alternative samgha and was written out of the official Jain historiography for his pains. In all likelihood, we will never know for certain who these persons were in a historical sense.
But we now have reason to state who they were not.
The Origins of Buddhism | Asia Society
It will still be possible to say that these two have traditionally been identified, but it becomes difficult to state categorically that they were the same person. Does it really matter? I believe it does. This is not merely a question for Buddhist and Jain historians. There are two major religions involved here, and the issue has not only academic, but religious implications.
For Buddhism, the results are slight. Jains and Jain scholars have more to lose. But even the Buddha's own chronological positioning is a matter for continuing debate, with opinions ranging over at least two centuries Prebish To anchor one historically uncertain figure to the provisional dates set out for another equally uncertain one does not appear to be a fruitful strategy. There is little evidence of this happening.
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It is of course the case that a text that is accurate on one count may be inaccurate on another. Jesus Seminar scholars, for example, seek to create a picture of the historical Jesus while discounting references to miracles. But this is not the case here. Jain scholarship has uncritically accepted a traditional, religious identification, while failing to note discrepancies that call that identification into question.
Both issues are at stake. Jain scholarship would no doubt survive the process. If we could have assurance that the two figures were in fact one and the same, it would still be the responsible thing to do to present these findings to the Jain community and let that community deal with it. But we have no such assurance, only a traditional acceptance of the identification that scholarship has incorporated uncritically and which we now have reason to doubt.
The validity of his teachings, in the religious sense of the term, are borne out in the generations of Jains that have lived and died within its embrace over the centuries. Bokhale, B. New Light on Early Buddhism. Chatterjee, S. Datta An Introduction to Indian Philosophy. Kolkata: University of Calcutta. Dundas, P. The Jains. Second Edition. New York: Routledge. Eliade, M. From Primitives to Zen. A Thematic Sourcebook of the History of Religions.
Geen, J. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 79,1: