A Review of "Kosalan Philosophy in the Kāṇva Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa and the Suttanipāta"

Greetings! I have recently devoured the thesis by Lauren Bausch titled “Kosalan Philosophy in the Kāṇva Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa and the Suttanipāta.” I highly recommend it, and will be leaving some quick thoughts on it here to spark some potential discussion and offer a slight warning to those who may read it with some things to watch out for.

I am not going to try and summarize Bausch’s thorough analyses and arguments. Read the thesis! Essentially though, she is contributing to our understanding of the Buddha’s teaching and the context in which his teaching began and developed — both in his own personal life and in conveying his realizations to others. She looks at the region of Kosala and the Eastern Vedic tradition(s) that developed and thrived there—the Kāṇva śākhā specifically. A large part of the thesis is related to furthering our understanding of the philosophical systems in the Brāhmaṇas—sacred commentaries on the main Vedas—which have historically been ridiculed and thought of as non-sensical or ignorant of the meaning of the Veda.

Bausch demonstrates quite the opposite: that these texts are not philosophically incoherent, and that the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa specifically—much of which is the teaching of a sage named Yājñavalkya, also attributed as the author for certain sections of the connected Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad—is actually a complex development of the cognitive and psychological aspects of older Vedic rituals which contain the seeds for the ideas of karmic retribution, the āsavas, purificaiton and liberation from dukkha, saṃsāra, etc. She demonstrates that the Kāṇva Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa (ŚBK) is much more connected ideologically to the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (BAU) than previously thought, and that Yājñavalkya mostly likely truly was the author of the sections of kāṇḍas attributed to him in both texts (as far as we can reasonably assume). This ideological consistency re-establishes the Brāhmaṇas (and earlier Vedas altogether) with the connected Upaniṣads to give a much more clean evolution of ideas across time.

This is then extended over to the ideology of the Sutta Nipāta specifically, a representative of certain philosophical ideas characteristic of the Kosalan region and shared between the above ŚBK/BAU and the suttas of the Snp. The author—building off of Richard Gombrich and Joanna Jurewicz’s ground-breaking comparative work between Buddhist and Vedic thought, as well as a series of other brilliant scholars—connects the historical Buddha Gotama to the teachings prevalent in the Kāṇva school’s Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa and the ideas of the ṛṣi and muni Yājñavalkya / the brahmins in this school of thought generally focused on the internalized, muni-aspects introduced to it by Yājñavalkya himself.

Besides the fascinating analyses of the agnihotra and other Vedic rituals as envisioned by Yājñavalkya, the most relevant points of Kosalan philosophy shared between the Vedic tradition and early Buddhism as portrayed in the Sutta Nipāta are the following:

  • Āsava, Āhāra, Loka and Upadhi (etc.) as connected to Vedic ideas of karmic retribution and the purification of cognition as seen in these eastern schools of thought
  • The internalization of ritual via mindful observance of one’s mind and cognitive processes to overcome repeated death or being ‘eaten’ — instead purifying one’s cognition from karmic influences and transcending karma
  • The motifs of a snake shedding its skin, the far shore, the boat/crossing over, fire, floods and streams, and saññā/paññā
  • The ideals of the muni, going forth, the spiritual brāhmaṇa, true vedagū, external ritual vs. internal cultivation
    (Note: the discussion of dhī́ (धी) was also fascinating, though shorter, and perhaps relevant to our understanding of jhāna and where it comes from—at least on a basic conceptual level.)

The work certainly made me, at least, appreciate more the philosophical ideas of Yājñavalkya that preceded the Buddha, and to appreciate how the Buddha was both highly influenced by them and was able to transcend their faults and realize his own path. The ātman, in this system, is not an arbitrary light, consciousness, or mass of prāṇa, nor is it just a “soul.” Rather, there are deep and complex reasons why and how these ideas relate to a fuller psycho-cosmological system with soteriological ends. The discussion of āsava is, IMO, quite convincing, as are much of the other motifs and relationship to internalized ritual. I was not as convinced by the discussion of upadhi which I find much more minor and could simply be a question of etymology, but I have yet to really think on it more. The other motifs, shared imagery, etc. etc. are quite obvious and fascinating!

It is important to remember that the author is only claiming to go off the Buddha as represented in the Sutta Nipāta; although she does discuss the chronological stratification of the text and makes some assesments accordingly, she does not question the material itself beyond the information from this temporal stratification. This is somewhat of a downside, though. The Sutta Nipāta being given special status as a kind of hidden-layer of Buddhist knowledge that has been covered up by the other prose suttas is quite the common trope. That is not to say that the author has this attitude or that the Snp does not contain compelling early material, but it can at times read or incline one to that mindset, and I think it’s important for people going into this thesis to know that this is simply not the case. @sujato has discussed this in several posts on this forum, IIRC, and I believe that one should read those beforehand to be a little bit more informed about the nature of these texts coming from Buddhist scholars.

The other thing to watch out for is the discrete eternalism echoing throughout the text that does not fully reveal itself until the very end. The author consistently uses some “dog-whistle” like translations—such as ‘conditioned becoming’ for bhava—that build up to the final paragraphs of the conclusion, where she rather quickly and nonchalantly asserts that Yājñavalkya / the ascetic Brahmins in this lineage and the Buddha’s goal were, in fact, mostly the same—namely, an undying and immortal pure awareness that is different from dual-knowing or discriminative consciousness and apperception. Moreover, she theorizes that the anattā doctrine is to counteract the more reified, gross forms of ātman that cropped up—not Yājñavalkya’s more subtle and nuanced idea of the ātman which was more profound.

Thankfully, the evidence that the author presents is largely opposed to this conclusion she makes despite of it. Shortly before, she says:

While comparisons to neighboring schools and other religions provide valuable information, the first step to describing a regional philosophy is to identify the ideas and practices found therein. After chronicling what is being articulated in a given region, comparisons can then be made to other Vedic schools and associated religions, such as Buddhism.

As I am not familiar with the author’s familiarity with the early Buddhist suttas at the time of writing this dissertation, I cannot say with much certainty whether she had assessed counter-evidence. However, I will say, she seems to have failed to done so in the case of Buddhism. The use of paññā and its relationship to viññāṇa is made clear and the early Buddhist goal of the ‘far shore’ is not one of an unmanifest awareness as in the Brahminical Yājñavalkyan school of thought.

Indeed, the author discusses in the article how the Uraga Sutta (Snp 1.1) mentions transcending the near and the far shores, and how this is seemingly contradictory to many Buddhist commentators. She seems to recognize that this could indeed be more complicated, but then goes on to construe the Brahminic goal of “reaching the far shore” of immortality in the non-dual unmanifest with the Buddhist far shore.

I would argue that the Uraga Sutta—in evoking the same images of the SBK and BAU of a snake shedding its skin for reaching the far shore—is actually referring to the ‘far shore’ of the Vedas and Upaniṣads here, not just plain rebirth nor the Buddhist conception of Nibbāna. It is establishing the Sutta Nipāta’s relationship to Brahminism right from the start: not a rejection, polemic, or anti-Brahminical narrative, nor one identical to it. Despite being in a closely related muni-tradition, the Uraga Sutta claims that the Buddhist arahant has shed off the “far shore” just as the “near shore”—finding no substance in any state of existence or consciousness—just as a snake would shed its old skin. It is refocusing the image so tightly woven in with the far-shore in Brāhmanical and Upaniṣadic thought, and turning it into a lesson on cessation, on giving up everything—including or need to transcend the mortal world into a transcendental non-duality. The arahant has no need for such old, worn-out matters: they give it all up and transcend it all.

This complex relationship between Brahminism and Buddhism is quite well expounded—and the boundaries are indeed pushed—by Bausch. Although she seems inclined to interpret certain passages much more literally—such as vedagū potentially referring to the literal Vedas—she has shed very important light on the Buddha’s rhetoric in his life-time. See, most of us Buddhists tend to think that when the Buddha used terms like “brāhmaṇa,” “vedagū,” etc., that he was just shoving it in the faces of all the Brahmins and their religion and positing an anti-Brahminical rhetoric in his language. However, the way the Buddha uses these terms is not foreign to the Eastern Vedic tradition in the lineages of Yājñavalkya, who, especially in his more “secretive” and internalized teachings, discusses how the true brāhmaṇa is one who is realized spiritually and attains the far shore; they are one who do good and become as they act; they know the true meaning of the rituals in a spiritual, internal sense—not just an external form; they uncover the true knowledge of the vedas internally with their renunciation, meditation, and spiritual practices, not by mere memorization or performance.

Moreover, in the Buddha’s time and place, the caste system was not yet a rigid class structure or fixed by birth. Not only because these lands were not Aryan dominant, but even among the Eastern Vedic traditions, these words were not limited to birth caste. The rituals that call for brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, etc. were using these terms in much more of a role and spiritual-potency sense that was fluid and could shift according to context. That is to say, when the Buddha convinces brahmins that he is, in fact, a brāhmaṇa—or when brahmins in this muni tradition call the Buddha a true brāhmaṇa—he does not mean it in a necessarily anti-Brahminical sense. Rather, he is demonstrating that, just as Yājñavalkya taught and the Eastern recensions of the Vedas tended to understand, a brāhmaṇa was someone who had the potency to fulfill that role. The Buddha, when conversing with more orthodox Western brahmins, does not need to convert them to Buddhism to prove he is a brahmin. No, he only needs to switch their mindset over to one of other Brahminical schools which understood a brāhmaṇa as something more signficant, thereby allowing the brahmins to see that the Buddha does indeed qualify to be considered a brāhmaṇa.

The Buddha’s terminology is not at all dissimilar to how Yājñavalkya taught. Even the idea of crossing to the far shore, the words for going forth, etc. are precedents set by this Vedic forefather, and likely learned by the Bodhisatta before his awakening under teachers such as Āḷāra Kālāma and Uddaka Rāmaputta. We know that he still highly respected these teachers, even, and they were the first candidates he considered for teaching the Dhamma he realized. This more Brahminical tradition also does not seem to contradict the middle path between mortification and sensual-indulgence. As such, it would make a lot of sense that many of the Buddha’s conceptual frameworks, teaching style, etc. would have no problem with these Brahminical systems. Rather, he took doctrinal issue with some of their ideas, and appropriately adjusted the terminology in his own system to be able to communicate with them.

We truly can hear the Buddha’s footsteps echoing through the Vedas, to the Brāhmaṇas, and through to the early Upaniṣads in the East of North India. Not only were the seeds for a complex cognitive system already present in the earliest Veda, but sages such as Yājñavalkya watered on these seeds and promoted asceticism and spiritual cultivation, turning the meaning of ‘brahmin’ and knowledge of the Vedas somewhat upside down. Later on in history, we will see that this rich Vedic culture is erased and excluded from the officially demarcated Āryāvarta for being so unorthodox (and a number of related political reasons). With the precedent established in the Buddha’s home region by the sage Yājñavalkya, all that was needed was for someone to finally slough off that old skin of the crystallized rituals (already being pushed back from the more muni influenced Brahmin ascetics for their internal versions and interpretations) and certain metaphysical notions, while keeping the ‘good stuff’—and the Buddha did just that. Buddhism is neither anti-Brahminical nor is it reform Brahminism, but this thesis helps show how the line between these two traditions is not so clear in the earliest period; Buddhism truly is a unique form of cultural innovation building on the shoulders of those who came before while not holding back in gaining new ground or throwing out old concepts. The Buddha has the wisdom to critique what needed critiqued and to keep what should be kept, and he had some revolutionary cultural figures behind him who helped pave the way to make the conditions for his arising.

So, as a fascinating inside-look at Vedic ritual, philosophy, and soteriology, as well as a detailed analysis of the history of different terms and the shared roots between the early Buddha’s teaching and the Eastern Vedic teachings found in the Kāṇva schools—specifically the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa and Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad—Bausch’s thesis is a great read to understand much more of the Buddha’s life story and where his ideas and terms come from. It establishes a once seemingly mysterious gap between early forms of Brahminism/Vedic thought and the Upaniṣads in a way that can bridge so many interesting correspondences between Buddhism and Vedic thought, and informs us about the philosophical landscape of Kosala in the time of the Buddha—a major area where he spent much of his life training and later teaching. I only warn those interested to watch out for some of the author’s pitfalls, in my opinion—namely, not applying the same standards of comparison and “turning the sword” on her own ideologies with the same methodology to dig out some latent ideas she may have re-planted in the Buddhadhamma that the Buddha had already done away with from his former teachers.

The full thesis can be found here for free. Hope this was somewhat helpful and if anyone has read it or has any thoughts, I’d love to hear them! Let me know if I may have made mistakes or unfair assesments.

Mettā

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That’s a very interesting find. Thank you for sharing.

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Awesome, thanks so much for that! I’ve also read her thesis and got in touch with her (thanks @stephen), so this is an active dialogue.

I’ll respond in more detail in due course, but for those wondering how this affects specifics of the texts, let me point out one detail.

The Vatthugatha of the Parayanavagga depicts the brahmin Bavari as performing a sacrifice, while he and his students are also advanced meditators. A pre-Bausch reading of this might be something like Ven Bodhi’s:

[Bavari’s students] seem to come from a contemplative tradition quite different from that of a brahmin devoted to sacrificial rites

A post-Bausch reading would say, rather, that the Brahmanas develop a contemplative reading of the sacrificial rites, which establish a set of metaphors linking the ritual with the transformation of consciousness. It is, therefore, quite expected that Bavari would perform sacrifices, which he would see as part of a ritual preparation for meditation. (Leaving out the moral implications of animal sacrifices here, assuming it was the agnihotra or similar harmless rites.)

In other words, Buddhists see a tension between ritualism and meditation, but the Brahmins didn’t.

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fascinating stuff! I look forward to reading the thesis, although the review was so comprehensive I almost feel like I don’t need to! :stuck_out_tongue:

thanks again.

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Awesome! Do update us! Were there any questions in particular you had contacted her about, out of curiosity?

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Enjoy! A lot of the thesis is about Vedic ritual and the internalization of it in relation to the evolution of consciousness which I didn’t discuss here. It’s cool stuff!

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There are number of things I’d like to discuss, but I also want to work through it a bit more.

One thing is the question of location: she located the teachings in Kosala, whereas I locate the Suttanipata in the south. Not necessarily a conflict, as the relation between the two is explicitly stated in the Parayanavagga: Bavari left Savatthi and settled in the south. Previously I had read the text as an account of the Buddhist conversion of the south, but now I am thinking it shows that the Buddhist introduction had its path paved for it by Kosalan Brahmanism.

The region Bavari lived in is still a major Hindu center to this day. I’d like to know if there are any distinguishing features of the local Hinduism.

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Ah, yeah, I was wondering about this as well. That will be interesting! So you’re thinking that Bavari and his students (or perhaps a group of Kosalan Brahmins) had already paved the way for a more contemplative and internalized practice, rather than the Buddhists (via the Sutta Nipāta perhaps) doing the heavy lifting in converting people to this mentality. The sutta nipāta may just pick up where they left off, still converting Brahmins, but coming from a much more familiar angle. (?) Great!

My personal next move is working through the monolith Fire and Cognition in the Rgveda by Jurewicz to understand more of the context and the implications of the concepts Bausch discussed, plus it seems this is acknowledged as a monumental contribution to our understanding of the Vedas and Buddhism in general.

Indeed, yes.

Bavari encounters the unnamed dirty and wicked brahmin who places a curse on him, setting in motion the events of the journey. So presumably this is contrasting the bad local brahmins of the region—into black magic and stuff, all very Artharaveda—with the good new brahmins from Kosala.

The local brahmin bears some similarity with “dark hermit” archetype. They too are associated with the south, and irrupt in destabilizing ways into the narrative. You could even stretch the interpretation to argue that the local brahmin was necessary, maybe even a deva (?), since without him the rest would not have followed.

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Good point on the narrative! I think this makes a lot of sense. I found this on Wikipedia for the Atharvaveda:

The priests who practised the Atharvaveda were considered to be the lowest tier of Brahmins, in comparison to the priests who practised the Rigveda, Samaveda, or Yajurveda. The stigma against Atharvaveda priests has continued in Odishawell into the modern day.

So this theory could hold up, especially if Kosalan brahmins were already sensitive to some of the deeper potential in their rituals. Bavari, as a Kosalan brahmin, is depicted rather nicely in the Vatthugāthā as well which is interesting. A nice, polite brahmin who practices jhāna and aspires to nothingness, in comparison to a dirty brahmin who casts spells.

I do remember hearing through the grape vine that the Atharvaveda families/lineages do not really survive in the South, but this could be referring to much further South or perhaps is a modern consequence—not sure. Either way, superstitious or magical practices exist in every corner of the globe and all religions.

Mettā

Thank you for sharing the thesis and your notes.

I would think that the Buddha could not have arisen in a vacuum, since even great ideas are responses to existing ideas. After all, ideas are conditioned too - the theory of black holes can only be discovered once geometry and the equations of Einstein have been formulated, sufficiently developed and the connections between them made! In a similar way, one would expect that some ascetics in the spiritual milieu of the Buddha’s time were searching for true freedom because there was a conception of freedom, of the spiritual life, and of some kind of peace outside life and death even if it was vague and nebulous.

Something to check out over the coming holidays :slight_smile: .

Yup, maybe the author has more of a background in the Hindu texts.

In any case, this seems to be a fairly sticky reading for Nibbana that is seen even in some Buddhist circles. Maybe, this is why Buddhists have historically not been so gung-ho to engage with Brahmanical ideas as this kind of eternalist view seems to have a life of its own. Just a speculative thought.

Nice observation!

Sādhu!

A book that tries to make sense of the philosophy of all the ritology in the Vedas, Brahmanas and Upanisads is Roberto Calasso’s Ardor. Calasso mainly writes and explores mythology in most of his works from what I know. As a bonus, the book has a lot of literary flair (imo) which keeps it pretty accessible and fun to read (or devour :)), especially for people who are not scholars of the literature associated with the Vedas. It is immersed in and references passages from the Vedas, the primary Upanishads, and Brahmanas quite frequently and is a pretty frenetic read :slight_smile: . To give you a flavor,

“Ya evaṃ veda, “he who knows thus,” is an oft-recurring formula in the Veda. Knowing—and knowing thus, in a certain way that was distinct from all other knowing—was evidently something most important for Vedic men. Power, conquest, pleasure appeared as secondary factors, which were part of knowledge, but certainly couldn’t supplant it. The Vedic vocabulary is extremely subtle and highly distinctive in defining everything to do with thought, inspiration, exaltation. They practiced the discernment of spirits—as certain Western mystics would say many centuries later—with an astonishing assurance and perspicacity that make any attempt at translation look clumsy. What is dhī? Intense thought, vision, inspiration, meditation, prayer, contemplation? From time to time, all of these. And in any event the assumption was the same: the supremacy of knowledge over every other path to salvation.”

“Why were Vedic men so obsessed by ritual? Why do all of their texts speak, directly or indirectly, about liturgy? They wanted to think, they wanted to live only in certain states of awareness. Having rejected all else, this remains the only plausible reason. They wanted to think—and above all: they wanted to be aware of thinking. This happens, for example, in performing a gesture. There is the gesture—and there is the attention that is concentrated on the gesture. Attention gives the gesture its meaning.”

It also does not shy away from discussing the dense Brahmanas. And if you like cosmic censorship conjectures :smiley: ,

“The Brāhmaṇas do not offer one cosmogony, like the Bible or Hesiod or many tribal epic poems, but clusters of cosmogonies, juxtaposed, superimposed, and contrasted. This produces a feeling of bewilderment—and in the end of indifference. If the versions are so many and conflicting, might they not be regarded as lucubrations of the ritualists? The multiplicity of alternatives tends to lessen their meaning. Even Malamoud, who is used to treating texts with supreme care and discretion, in the end shows signs of impatience when referring to these “cosmogonies replicated, repeated, piling up, from one text to another, or within one and the same hymn, pushing back, overwhelming, penetrating, breaking up, like crashing waves”—a vivid and accurate description of these stories of “false beginnings or relative beginnings” that seem to give no hope of a fundamental solidity when describing origins, which are always veiled. And Malamoud quotes here a verse from the Ṛgveda: “You will not know he who created these worlds: something shields you.”

“We still, though, have to understand why the Vedic texts—and above all the Brāhmaṇas—continue to evoke such a feeling of vertigo and obscurity. Not because they involve thinking in images (without which all thought would be inert). But because they use it all the time, with extreme devotion, unperturbed about any implication, indeed putting every implication into action (through gesture). This is the intractable Vedic offense, that triggers so many reactions of rejection and fear. The Western attitude toward imagery wavers between minimization (x is only a metaphor, and therefore not binding) and the temptation to interpret metaphors literally (a practice leading to various basic psychic pathologies, above all paranoia and schizophrenia).”

I hope you get around to reading it and find it interesting.

Sometimes for me, while reading the suttas, the context can disappear too far into the background and become almost like a caricature, so it is good to review things like this if only summarily. It is easy to miss how awesome it must have been when a detached, cool sage would’ve shown up and told a group of people who had spent all their spiritual lives searching for a deeper absolute divine reality, that truly all is ablaze and dukkha, that it arises due to conditions and is tottering away, and that everything must go out for there to be peace. Just some thoughts. Wishing you well!!

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I’ll definitely add it to the list, sounds really interesting! Thanks :slight_smile:

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I’m a huge fan of Calasso, but I haven’t read this. I read Ka, also on Indian myth, and The marriage of Cadmus and Harmony. He’s one of the few who continue to seek meaning in myth, responding with imagination and creativity rather than dismissal or hokum.

In Ka he said, “The Buddha came to put an end to gesture”. Which is one of those sentences which is deeply true, but only if you’ve understood all that came before it!

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Hello Bhante, I found Ka really refreshing, the part about Buddha’s parinirvana was very touching. It was the first time I was able to appreciate religious stories in general without being a bit dismissive. I tried to bring up these myths with my friends at the time but was mostly met with disinterest, so I am happy to see that you are also a fan of Calasso.

Ardor has a much narrower focus than Ka since it mostly focuses in on the rituals of the Vedic people. I found Ka to be much more easygoing, Ardor is a bit of a deep dive into the material.

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It’s amazing what happens when you approach them with curiosity and wonder! You always see hidden connections.

I’m just dabbling in translating the Cariyapitaka now. It’s not one of the most exciting of texts. But the story I just translated has all the hallmarks of deep myth (Cp 7).

It’s the story of Prince Candana (Moon), the son of the One King (ekarāja, a word for the sun), in Pupphavatī, the “City of Flowers”.

It’s already sounding much closer to a set of archetypes than a historical story. Then it opens, without warning, with Prince Moon saying,

I was released from being sacrificed, and fled the sacrificial enclosure.

This is straight out of Frazer’s sacrifice of the King. it implies a double substitute: the king (the sun) is substituted with the son (the moon), and then the moon is allowed to escape. This is one of the universal mythic archetypes, about how the cruelty of human sacrifice is ended step by step.

Prince Moon then goes on to make offerings, thus placing the Buddhist practice as the culmination of this process.

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A nice Buddhist spin at the end :slight_smile:

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Perhaps the idea of crossing is of samaṇic origin. Samaṇas are called titthiya in the Pali Canon, and Jains to this day call their own omniscient teachers Tīrthankaras (all words related to ‘fords’). Jain scriptures make extensive use of the motif.

It seems to be mostly related to the medieval bhakti sants, even more than usual in Maharashtra. It’s been a long time since Kosala, I guess, and the favourite sant of modern Buddhists, Chokhamela, has his samādhi elsewhere (in Pandharpur, with his god Vithoba).

The idea of crossing over has precedent all the way back to the Rgveda. I imagine that the Eastern Vedic ideas, especially the ones from Yājñavalkya, were heavily influenced by sramanic ideas (such as going forth and begging and things for enlightenment). I’m sure that by the time of the Buddha there would be even more mixing and ideological melting going on in those circles. However, because the Buddha’s first teachers were likely in a Brahminical tradition (and weren’t Jains), then it makes a lot of sense to me that he would have gotten it from them, even if the idea was floating around already and had mixed with non-Vedic religions. He may have known the ideas beforehand from a less Vedic context and expanded on them in the Brahminical circles even.

Jainism is the other missing piece to this “puzzle” though that I do really want to look into and learn about. Brahminism gets all the love in research it seems, especially this kind of research. If you have any recommendations for books/articles on the topic please let me know. I want to read some of the earlier Jain sutras at some point, maybe once I can understand Prakrit.

Mettā

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Unfortunately the situation with Brahmanism and Jainism is similar to that of Buddhism a few years ago before we had a certain site that has comprehensive and reliable translations. There are old translations of archaic style, sometimes newer translations of various standards, while the serious academic work is often restricted to expensive books.

But I’m looking forward to the day the Jains and the Hindus get it together and make their own SuttaCentral!

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A hundred years ago, everyone knew the speed of light did not change relative to other moving things but most people didn’t pay attention to why. Then Einstein pondered why light was the only exception to a well established rule and came up with the theory of relativity.

I think the Buddha’s genius was in doing a similar thing in the area of the spiritual pursuit.

The ideas the Buddha spoke about may have been well developed prior to the him, in the same way that the characteristics of the speed of light was well understood prior to Einstein. Yet, just as Einstein’s genius was in discarding the assumption that space and time were fixed, the genius of the Buddha was in discarding the assumption of freedom of the self.

He turned the pursuit of freedom of the self into freedom from the self, by showing how clinging to a notion of self is based in clinging to inconstant aggregates and leads to suffering.