This article investigates the religious message of a set of inscriptions from Bodhgayā issued by Sinhalese monks in the 5th and 6th centuries ce. The long inscription of the hierarch Mahānāman, in particular, allows an in-depth understanding of this monk’s self-representation as the heir of a virtuous lineage descending from the Elder Mahākāśyapa, committed to the transmission of the Saṃyukta-Āgama, and related to the ruling dynasty of Laṅkā. Moreover, it provides the rationale behind Mahānāman’s aspiration to Buddhahood, as the donor dedicates to this aim the merits of the erection of a temple on the Bodhimaṇḍa itself, hosting a representation of Śākyamuni’s Awakening. I argue that Mahānāman is part of a milieu sharing common origins, monastic background, and aspirations, a milieu that was later labelled as *Mahāyāna-Sthavira by the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang.
Je me suis proposé seulement de montrer, par un exemple choisi, à quel point l’épigraphie bouddhique est inséparable de l’étude des textes, quelle lumière elle peut en recevoir et aussi leur apporter.1
Sylvain Lévi concludes with these words an article in which, towards the end of his career, he undertakes what he calls an “attempt at exegesis applied to Buddhist epigraphy.” In this article Lévi, who had always been conscious of the importance of inscriptions for writing the history of Buddhism,2 draws upon impressive knowledge of Buddhist texts to gloss the eloquent opening stanzas of one of the most remarkable epigraphic documents discovered at Bodhgayā. Inspired by the exegetical approach adopted by Lévi, the present contribution takes a fresh look at the very case he studied long ago, which has since been rather neglected by specialists of Buddhist studies.
The inscription, commemorating a temple dedication by the Sinhalese monk Mahānāman, was first edited by John F. Fleet in 1886.3 It consists of nine stanzas plus a final dating clause. After giving in the first stanza what appears to be a general eulogy of the religious lineage that originates with Śākyamuni,4 an elaborate description of the lineage of the donor Mahānāman runs through the five following stanzas, in a manner that recalls similar genealogies in royal praśastis. Mahānāman himself is eloquently described in the seventh stanza, whose second part records the actual dedication of the pious foundation. The penultimate stanza presents a very interesting formula of assignment of the merit produced, and is followed by the ninth and final stanza containing a pious wish that this residence of the Buddha might last. The following date ends the record (l. 14):5
samvat* 200 60 8 caittra śu di 9 || ʚ»
200 60 8] S T; 200 60 9 F9] S T; 7 F
Year 268, [month] Caitra, bright fortnight, day 9.
The era adopted by this record, as already stated by Fleet and Sircar, is most probably the Gupta era, and the date would thus correspond to 587 ce.6 Senarat Paranavitana, who was eager to identify the dedicator of the inscription with the author of the Mahāvaṃsa, preferred to opt for a dating in the Kalacuri-Cedi era,7 but this hypothesis is highly improbable.8 The identification of the dedicator of the temple with the author of the Sinhalese chronicle appears thus unfounded,9 and it is safer to assume that these two persons shared what appears to have been a rather common name.10 Another homonym mentioned in a foundation story of the Mahābodhi-Saṅghārāma has also been wrongly confused with the monk who concerns us.11 The inscription of Mahānāman, however, is especially important for the history of Bodhgayā. It deserves to be considered together with other inscriptions, thereby showing how the pilgrim Mahānāman takes part in an important development during the 5th and 6th centuries, namely, the consolidation of the long attested ties between Laṅkā and Bodhgayā.12 As we shall see, a group of monks connected with the ruling class of Laṅkā appears to have played an important role in the revival of pious foundations at the site.
Besides its relevance for the history of the Sinhalese presence in Bodhgayā, there is still much to be said about the religious message of the Mahānāman inscription, as expressed by means of the elaboration of a spiritual lineage, and by means of an interesting dedicatory formula. In this paper, I will investigate these two aspects, in an effort to clarify the affiliation of Mahānāman. Not only did Mahānāman share his origins with other donors at the site, he also cultivated religious motivations similar to them. The aspirations formulated by Mahānāman in the record of his temple dedication will therefore become more significant by comparing this document with another donative inscription attributed to the same monk, and with related materials from Bodhgayā.
Mahākāśyapa’s Lasting Presence
In order to understand more fully the ideology at work in this inscription, we shall at first investigate the role of the elaborate description of Mahānāman’s lineage in the preface of the record. Sylvain Lévi has already recognised the importance of the second stanza, which is dedicated to Mahākāśyapa.13 This stanza, which was at his time the only surviving piece of evidence in Indian epigraphy of Kāśyapa’s legend and cult,14 still constitutes an exceptional testimony of the circulation between Bihār and Laṅkā of legendary motifs also recorded in various literary and scholastic sources. Since Lévi’s contribution, new evidence has come to light, which allows a better understanding of a crucial factor in the growth of Mahākāśyapa’s cult, namely his supernatural preservation during the period between Śākyamuni’s parinirvāṇa and Maitreya’s advent. The second stanza of the Mahānāman inscription, which deals with Mahākāśyapa, reads as follows:
Among the four pādas, corresponding to four aspects or moments of Kāśyapa’s career, three pose no problems, while the meaning of pāda b is not self-evident. Pādas a, c, and d may be translated thus:
[v. 2] He who entered a fair meditation of extinction, victorious over the impurities [characterising] saṃsāra, [… pāda b …], who saw the purifying feet of the Muni at the occasion of the [latter’s pari]nirvāṇa, may Mahākāśyapa, this praiseworthy holder of the Instruction of the lord among munis, protect you.
The main problem of the remaining clause is the word vimuktivaśitā, which is not attested elsewhere. Fleet’s translation of the pāda “whose wonderful subjugation of the passions in final emancipation [is to be] displayed in the hand of Maitreya”17 does not agree with what we know from other sources about the final meeting of Kāśyapa with Maitreya. Sylvain Lévi remarked that the expression behind this form should have been the well-attested adhimuktivaśitā.18 Judging from the palaeography of the disputed akṣara, it may well be that the engraver confused the two akṣaras vi and dhi,19 yet one should resort to an emendation only if this is also required by the meaning. Such may not be the case here. Sylvain Lévi has indeed shown that vimukti and adhimukti somewhat overlap in meaning, as scholiasts use one term to define the other. The two verbs adhi√muc and vi√muc are also used indifferently, but always with the meaning known for adhi√muc—i.e. to be inclined or devoted to—, in the different versions of a set phrase circulating, among other texts, in the Śūnyatāsūtras.20 This seems to confirm Lévi’s assumption and removes the absolute need for an emendation. The necessity to understand vimuktivaśitā here in the sense of adhimuktivaśitā can be confirmed by showing the importance of Kāśyapa’s adhiṣṭhāna in connection with the advent of Maitreya, its equivalence with the adhimuktivaśitā and, finally, its place in the overall structure of the inscription.
Sylvain Lévi, as he recognised the reference to Kāśyapa’s perpetuating power (adhiṣṭhāna) in Mahānāman’s dedication, was probably the first who perceived its importance within the legendary complex that centred on the great disciple.21 Since then, important contributions to the understanding of the concept of adhiṣṭhāna have seen the light,22 while a significant quantity of data related to the motif of Kāśyapa’s adhiṣṭhāna has also become available. This helps to define the actual power to which adhiṣṭhāna refers in the case of Mahākāśyapa and its semantic relation with the complex adhimokṣa/adhimuktivaśitā. In 1935, the very year that Sylvain Lévi passed away, a pedestal of a broken statue, which once represented Mahākāśyapa, bearing an inscribed versified hagiography of the great disciple, was discovered in the small village of Silao, between Nālandā and Rājagr̥ha. I have shown elsewhere how this piece, dating from the 9th century ce, is likely to have represented the scene of the transmission of Śākyamuni’s robe from Kāśyapa to Maitreya.23 The third and last verse of the epigraphic document contains a reference to the peculiar mode of conservation of Kāśyapa’s body, covered by the three peaks of mount Gurupāda—also named Kukkuṭapāda—, a sepulchre where it will last until Maitreya will visit it:
nirvr̥taḥ svam adhiṣṭhāya dehaṃ satvārtham eva yaḥ |gurupāde girau ramye so ’yam ābhāti kāśyapaḥ || 24
[v. 3] He who entered [pari]nirvāṇa after having perpetuated his own body, only for the sake of beings, inside the charming mountain Gurupāda, that one who shines forth, [that] is Kāśyapa [here]!
This late epigraphic attestation leads us to make an excursion into related textual accounts, in order to come to a better understanding of Kāśyapa’s perpetuation. In the Jñānanirdeśa of his abhidharmic summa, Vasubandhu places the ability of adhiṣṭhāna among the first and second “perfections of power” (prabhāvasaṃpad) of buddhas. The relevant passage makes quite clear that adhiṣṭhāna consists in a preserving power of an external object (bāhyaviṣaya), in the case of the first prabhāva, and of the very life (āyus) of its agent, the adhiṣṭhātr̥, in the second case.25 Further on, Vasubandhu discusses the attributes possessed non-exclusively by a buddha, among which figure the various expressions of r̥ddhi.26 In this context, he refers to a debate concerning the actual continuation of adhiṣṭhāna after the death of its agent and alludes to the scriptural case of Mahākāśyapa. Incidentally, the passage in question survives in a lacunary fragment from the Turfan oasis, which belonged to a manuscript containing extensive glosses in Tokharian B and Uighur, thus attesting to the careful reading of this text among multi-ethnic communities along the Northern Silk Road:27
kiṃ jīvita evādhiṣṭhānam anuvartate atha mr̥taś cāpi |mr̥tasyāpy asty adhiṣṭhānaṃ [52a]āryamahākāśyapādhiṣṭhānena tadasthiśaṅkalāvasthānāt* | tat tunāsthirasyaasthirasya tu bhāvasya nāsty adhiṣṭhānam* | āryakāśyapena māṃsādīnām anadhiṣṭhānāt* |apare tu na | [52b]apare punar āhur nāsti mr̥tasyādhiṣṭhānam* | asthiśaṅkalāvasthānaṃ tu devatānubhāvād iti
tadasthiśaṅkalāvasthānāt*] M; tadasthisaṃkalāvasthānāt* PCan only the living [being] undergo adhiṣṭhāna or also the dead [body]?[kār. 52a] “The adhiṣṭhāna also applies to what is dead,” as in the case of the noble Mahākāśyapa’s adhiṣṭhāna, because his skeleton perdures.28This however, [kār. 52b] “does not [apply] to what is not hard.”There is no adhiṣṭhāna that applies to what is not hard, since there is no adhiṣṭhāna involving the flesh and so on in the case of the noble Kāśyapa.“But others [proclaim: this] is not [the case].”Others proclaim there is no adhiṣṭhāna that applies to a dead [body]. It is because of the deities’ power that [Mahākāśyapa’s] skeleton endures.
The fact that the Abhidharmadīpa, which otherwise tends to correct the Sautrāntika leanings of Vasubandhu, preserves a very similar version of this statement shows that the Kośakāra in the opening statement of this passage sets forth the doctrine of the Sarvāstivādin-Vaibhāṣikas.29 This same view is already expressed in the narrative of Kāśyapa’s nirvāṇa preserved in the *Mahāvibhāṣā/Apidamo dapiposha lun 阿毘達磨大毘婆沙論 (T. 1545).30
Louis de la Vallée Poussin, and after him Sylvain Lévi, used the Maitreyāvadāna of the Divyāvadāna to address the narrative background of the scriptural case briefly discussed by Vasubandhu.31 But as this avadāna relates the events that will occur in the time of the future Buddha, it does not inform us about the formal act that conduces to the “preserved” state (avikopita) of Kāśyapa’s skeleton.32 Only the effects are mentioned, not the cause. The avadāna anthology found in Bairam-Ali in the Merv Oasis and admittedly of Sarvāstivādin affiliation allows to complete this image, as it contains the most extensive narration preserved in Sanskrit of Mahākāśyapa’s parinirvāṇa.33 In this text, Mahākāśyapa arrives at the mountain that will become his place of burial and settles in the middle of its three peaks. Having covered himself with the “hempen rags” (śānakāni pāṃsukūlāni) he had been given by Śākyamuni, he “formulates five resolutions” (paṃca adhiṣṭhānāni adhiṣṭhihati), related to the fate of his body after his parinirvāṇa and until the events concerning Maitreya. His second and third vows read:34
traya me parvvatā śarīraṃ av(a)ṣṭ(a)bh(e)ta • avagatamāṃsaśoṇitaṃ35 ca me śarīraṃ kevalaṃ asth(i)yaṃtraṃ36 yāvac ca bhagavataḥ śāsanaṃ yāvac ca maitreyo anuttarajñānādhigataḥ imaṃ pradeśaṃ upasaṃkkrāmiṣyā37 saṃghaparivr̥taḥ
maitreyo] em.; maitroyo Ms.anuttarajñānādhigataḥ] em.; anuttaraḥ jñānādhigataḥ Ms.
May the three hills close in upon my body, and [may] my body, [having become] solely a contraption of bones, stripped of its flesh and blood, [last] as long as the Instruction of the Bhagavat [Śākyamuni], until Maitreya, after having obtained the supreme knowledge, shall approach this place, surrounded by his community.
We are able, at present, to better perceive how the “controlling power,”38 which the word adhiṣṭhāna denotes, is in the present case liable to be expressed as a formal resolution.39 If we turn to accounts of Kāśyapa’s parinirvāṇa preserved in Chinese and Tibetan, it appears that some of them mention his making a vow in terms related to the Sanskrit substantive adhiṣṭhāna (or the verb adhi√sthā).40 The very meaning of “determining resolution”41 with which the word adhiṣṭhāna is used, is consistent with Vasubandhu and Yaśomitra’s conception.42 For this reason, Yaśomitra uses the term adhimokṣa to explain adhiṣṭhāna in his gloss of the just mentioned passage.43 Thus, we see the transmission of a narrative motif representative of Sarvāstivādin(-Vaibhāsịka) views on Kāśyapa’s post mortem preservation, within literary and scholastic sources connected with that school, ranging from the *Mahāvibhāṣā and the Bairam-Ali avadāna to the Abhidharmakośa-bhāṣya and the Abhidharmadīpa.
Such legendary motif is arguably at the background of verse 2b of Mahānāman’s inscription and this is suggested by the reference to adhimuktivaśitā. In the Bodhisattvabhūmi, adhimuktivaśitā is defined as the power to realise whatever is wished for,44 which is indeed very close in meaning and usage to adhiṣṭhāna/adhimokṣa.45 It is however significant that, while adhiṣṭhāna, being related to r̥ddhyabhijñā, is recognised to be a quality also shared (sādhāraṇa) by śrāvakas or even, according to some, by worldlings (pr̥thagjana),46 the adhimuktivaśitā is part of a set of masteries that only characterises the bodhisattva from the eighth bhūmi onwards.47 If, then, Kāśyapa’s determining power is intentionally referred to in Mahānāman’s inscription by means of the term adhimuktivaśitā (or vimuktivaśitā with a similar meaning), this would imply that the great disciple is being considered as possessing one of the powers of a bodhisattva. We shall return to this probable shift in the conception of the great śrāvaka at the end of this study.
We need at this point to further locate the stanza on Kāśyapa within the family of narratives from which it draws a significant number of motifs. This will allow us to understand the logic of the composition of the stanza and its relation with the other introductory verses. As already noticed by Lévi, the first pāda of the second stanza contains a clear reference to the “attainment of cessation” (nirodhasamāpatti): nairodhīṃ śubhabhāvanām anusr̥taḥ.48 In several texts, a meditative state49 or preparatory acts leading to a meditative state50 precede the enunciation of a vow of the adhiṣṭhāna type by Kāśyapa. In all these texts, the great disciple is defined as technically “dead.”51 A second group of texts presents the parinirvāṇa of Kāśyapa at the time of Maitreya, only mentioning the absorption of the disciple in a preserving meditative state, while not referring to adhiṣṭhāna at all.52 The problem for us, then, is to understand to which version of the legend the inscription pertains. The fact that the events referred to in the following—and related—pāda (v. 2b) take place on the hand of Maitreya (maitreyasya kare), confirms that adhiṣṭhāna is implied in the inscription. This very motif is indeed only present in a small group of stories that circulated in a Sarvāstivādin milieu,53 as well as in later texts that were transmitted in Laṅkā and South-East Asia.54 All these texts present Kāśyapa as “dead” and, apart from the Divyāvadāna and its parallel from the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinayavastu (which are restricted to Maitreya’s time), the three other texts all present the events that will happen on Maitreya’s hand as the fulfilment of a specific resolution (adhiṣṭhāna).55 In the Bairam-Ali manuscript, this resolution reads:56
bhagavāṃ me śarīraṃ grahāya karatale sthāpayitvā śrāvakānāṃ darśeta karatalasthaṃ ca me śarīraṃ vikīrye
May the Bhagavat, having taken my body and having put it on the palm of his hand, show [it] to his śrāvakas, and may my body disintegrate57 sitting on the palm of his hand.
In the light of the new evidence, it seems that the marvellous (adbhuta) power to be displayed on Maitreya’s hand mentioned in v. 2b of the Mahānāman inscription could hardly be anything else than the “determination” (adhimukti) of Mahākāśyapa, the fulfilment of which is eventually the spontaneous dissolution of his body.58 A translation of this pāda in this light would be as follows: “Whose marvellous power of determination [is to be] manifested on the hand of Maitreya.”
The impressive power of Mahākāśyapa beyond parinirvāṇa is further stressed by the main clause of this stanza, which calls for his protection as a praiseworthy (stutya) figure of worship.59 The scene described in pāda 2c may well have been intended to stress this idea. The underlying narrative, which portrays Kāśyapa as seeing the feet of the Buddha,60 indeed emphasises, in at least one version of the legend, the superior power of the great disciple. The Mahāvastu describes both the miraculous extinguishing of the Buddha’s funeral pyre whenever the Mallas try to ignite it, as well as the magical appearance of the Master’s feet at the arrival of Mahākāśyapa, as being due to the fulfilment (sam√r̥dh) of a “vow” (praṇidhi) taken by the latter, as he had learned of the death of his master. The efficacy of this praṇidhi lies in Kāśyapa’s mastery of supernatural powers (r̥ddhibhāvanā).61 The mechanisms at work between the events associating the living Kāśyapa with the “dead” Śākyamuni on the one hand, and the “dead” Kāśyapa with the future Maitreya on the other, may thus be intricately related, given the relation existing between certain kinds of praṇidhāna and our type of adhiṣṭhāna.62 To put it differently, both scenes referred to in pādas b and c put emphasis on the same kind of numinous power, manifested by Kāśyapa in presence of the two Buddhas on two different occasions. Significantly, this lasting power which is accessible to the devotee who ritually calls for his protection, is also pivotal in the very mission entrusted to Mahākāśyapa and taken over by his lineage: the preservation of the Dharma.63
Kāśyapa’s Lineage of Saṃyuktāgamins
The care of the Dharma is indeed a leitmotiv in the entire first part of the inscription that describes a religious lineage in which Kāśyapa assumes a central position. The first stanza reads as follows:
[¶] vyāpto yenāprameyaḥ sakalaśaśirucā sarvvataḥ satvadhātuḥkṣuṇṇāḥ pāṣaṇḍayodhās sugatipatharudhas tarkkaśastrābhiyuktāḥsampūrṇṇo dharmmako[śa]ḥ prakr̥tiripuhr̥taḥ sādhito lokabhūtyai •śāstuḥ śākyaikabandhor jjayati cirataram tad yaśa[s]sāratantram* || 64
1a satvadhātuḥ] S T; sat<t>va° F.1b tarkkaśastrābhiyuktāḥ] T; ° <|> S. See my remarks in n. 15.1c dharmmako[śa]ḥ] T; dharmmakoṣaḥ F S. The reading is unsure, but the fact that the top of the akṣara is closed and the back open rather points to the palatal sibilant, than the retroflex. 1d yaśa[s]sāratantram*] T; °tanttram* F S. Compare the ligature in samantāt*, l. 13.
This stanza is the most elaborate and difficult of the inscription, and a certain amount of double entendre was certainly intended by its composer. Guided by the contents of the following verses, we may tentatively translate this stanza as follows, freely admitting that this is not the only way to understand it:65
[v. 1] That army, whose essence is glory, of the unique relative of the Śākyas, the Teacher, which, resplendent as the full moon, has pervaded an immeasurable mass of beings,66 [which] crushed the heretic fighters obstructing the path of welfare,67 skilled [as they were] with the sword of discursive reasoning,68 [and which] retrieved, for the good fortune of people, the complete treasure of the Dharma that had been stolen by its natural enemies,69 may [it] endure for a very long time.
Two related expressions of pāda d are rather ambiguous and worth considering closely. By following the various military metaphors that run through pādas b and c, yaśa[s]sāratantra, the grammatical subject of the sentence, can be rendered as “army whose essence is glory.”70 This may well be a way to refer to the glorified lineage described in the subsequent verses. The expression śāstuḥ śākyaikabandhoḥ stresses that it originates with Śākyamuni. The latter term of this expression is admittedly unusual, and must be a substitute metri causa for the epithet śākyaputra, “member of the Śākya clan,” usually appearing in set phrases qualifying the historical Buddha.71 The two last pādas of the first stanza thus anticipate the stipulation set forth in the following verses, namely that Kāśyapa and his lineage assume the role of protecting the Dharma proclaimed by the Buddha, referred to here as the “treasure of the teachings” (dharmakośa).72 At the end of the following verse, Kāśyapa’s role as protector of the Dharma is stressed again. It is well known that, in the events referred to in v. 2c, Mahākāśyapa assumes the role of the legitimate “elder son” of the Buddha73 who, as such, is the only one entitled to lead the funerals of his “father.”74 Thereafter, he takes upon himself the role of the Buddha’s heir by presiding over the Rājagr̥ha council, a function that is explicitly referred to by his epithet “holder of the Instruction of the lord among munis” (munīndraśāsanadhara) in v. 2d.75 As we shall now see, this function is also crucial in the description of Kāśyapa’s lineage (paramparā) in the third stanza:76
saṃyuktāgamino viśuddharajasaḥ satvānukampodyatāḥśiṣyā yasya sakr̥d vicerur a[ma]lāṃ laṅkācalopatyakām*tebhyaḥ śīlaguṇānvitāś ca śataśaḥ śiṣyapraśiṣyāḥ kramājjātās tuṅganarendravaṃśatilakāḥ protsr̥jya rājyaśriyam* || 77
3a satvānukampodyatāḥ] S T; sat
va°F3b laṅkācalopatyakām*] T; °<|> S. See remarks in n. 15.
[v. 3] His [i.e. Mahākāśyapa’s] disciples transmitting the Saṃyukta-Āgama, purified of impurities, moved by compassion for beings, once roamed over the immaculate lower slopes of the mountain Laṅkā. From those were born [i.e. were ordained], a hundred times successively, disciples and disciples’ disciples possessed of the qualities of moral conduct, who were the ornaments of a dynasty of prominent kings, in spite of having renounced the splendour of royalty.
Such a vivid retrospective helps us to better locate one of the lineages that claimed to originate with Mahākāśyapa.78 Keeping alive the memory of its Indian origins, this religious group established itself long before in Laṅkā79 and displays intimate ties with the reigning dynasty.80 These roots are further stressed when in v. 7a–b Mahānāman, the last descendant of this lineage, is described:
āmradvīpādhivāsī pr̥thukulajaladhis tasya śiṣyo mahīyān*laṅkādvīpaprasūtaḥ parahitanirataḥ sanmahānāmanāmā •81
His [i.e. Upasena’s] foremost82 disciple, who resides in Āmradvīpa, the ocean of whose family was vast, who was born on the island of Laṅkā, who delights in the well-being of others, is the well-named Mahānāman.
The localisation of Āmradvīpa has been the object of a long debate,83 and the toponym as such is not attested except in another record probably commissioned by the same Mahānāman.84 Considering, however, that dvīpa is attested as referring to a sandbank in the middle of a river,85 in which meaning it overlaps with tīrtha, there is good reason to think that the monk Daṃṣṭrasena from Āmratīrtha who dedicated a statue at Bodhgayā in the same period86 actually came from the same monastery as Mahānāman. This toponym may in turn be identified with Ambatittha(ka) located near Mahiyaṅgana in central Laṅkā, referred to in the Mahāvaṃsa and later Sinhalese chronicles.87
The school-affiliation of Mahānāman’s lineage is difficult to determine. The fact that the various branches of the Sinhalese Sthaviras/Sthāviras (or Sthāvirīyas, P. Theriyas)88 were vying for royal support in the period preceding the great unification under the reign of Parākramabāhu,89 leads one to suspect that a lineage claiming familial ties with the ruling power should belong to one of these schools. To be sure, non-Theriya schools were present at the time in Laṅkā as well, even if very little is known about the history of their presence and the extent of their influence.90 The description of Mahānāman’s lineage, in v. 3a, as “transmitting the Saṃyukta-Āgama” (hereafter SĀ), at first sight does not correspond with the most common appellation of this division of the Mahāvihāra canon—the only extent Theriya canon—that is Saṃyutta-Nikāya.91 My attempt at locating the references to Kāśyapa’s legend in the second stanza within a specific family of narratives brought to light a close relationship with the texts of the Sarvāstivādins and the Mūlasarvāstivādins,92 and there is indeed a high probability that (Mūla-)Sarvāstivādin scriptures were transmitted in Laṅkā, and in particular a SĀ of that school.93 It might therefore be suggested that the branch of the Sūtrapiṭaka transmitted by the lineage of Mahānāman did not belong to a Theriya canon.94 However, there is a fair possibility that the use of the word āgama in the inscription was determined by the transposition in Sanskrit of its Pāli technical equivalent—i.e., the term nikāya.95 The inscription’s reference to this section of the canon, interesting as it is, does not allow a definitive conclusion about the school affiliation of Mahānāman and his lineage. Because of their connexion to the ruling dynasty, I am inclined to favour the hypothesis that these monks were indeed Theriyas—probably non-Mahāvihāravāsins, as what follows will illustrate. Being in contact with (Mūla-)Sarvāstivādin monks in their homeland as well as in Magadha, they seem to have accepted as authoritative that school’s narrative of Kāśyapa’s nirvāṇa, and were involved in its transmission in Laṅkā.
There is further reason to think that Mahānāman’s lineage was particularly active in the diffusion of Kāśyapa’s legend. The Pāli Saṃyutta-Nikāya and the Chinese *SĀ/Za Ahan jing 雜阿含經 (T. 99), whose Indic text probably came from Laṅkā, are among the few sections of the extant canonical scriptures which dedicate much space to the great disciple.96 Within both collections, a thematic chapter, the *Kāśyapasaṃyukta (P. Kassapasaṃyutta), is dedicated to him.97 This affinity of the transmitters of the Saṃyukta branch of the Sūtrapiṭaka with the great disciple is further echoed by an assertion of Buddhaghosa’s Sumaṅgalavilāsinī, according to which Mahākassapa was entrusted the charge to transmit (P. vāceti) the Saṃyutta-Nikāya to his personal followers (P. nissitaka) after its collation at the first council.98 In transmitting this very branch of the canon, the lineage of Mahānāman therefore most probably conceived itself as the bearer of Mahākāśyapa’s legacy. As such, it may well have played a role in the diffusion of an account of Kāśyapa’s nirvāṇa in Laṅkā, where the narrative continued to live and was incorporated in later texts of the Mahāvihāra circulating on the island.99
Beside the transmissional specialty of this religious group, its portrayal in the third stanza100 clearly shows the tendency to depict the spiritual qualities of Mahānāman’s lineage in complete conformity with its eminent “forefather.”101 In particular, its characteristic of being “purified from their impurities” (viśuddharajas) appears to be directly connected, not only to a personal quality of Kāśyapa, but also to his “interregnal” mission. The epithet viśuddharajas is identical in meaning, and is probably a metri causa substitute for (vi)dhutarajas. In turn, this term is the equivalent of dhutakleśa (P. dhutakilesa),102 and both belong to the conceptual realm of ascetic practices, i.e. the dhutaguṇas (or dhūtaguṇas).103 Interestingly, in the Daśabhūmika of the Mahāvastu, the term dhutarajas occurs twice to qualify Mahākāśyapa,104 among other epithets qualifying the great disciple as the paragon of ascetic values and practices.105 Also, behind the terms (vi)dhutarajas and viśuddharajas, in both the Mahāvastu and our inscription, probably lies the idea that ascetic practices are beneficial to the preservation of the Dharma, while laxity leads to its loss.106 Therefore, viśuddharajas may be linked with another epithet given to the lineage, namely śīlaguṇānvita, “possessed with the qualities of moral conduct” (v. 3c).107 The same epithet is used in the description of the period of decline in the Rāṣṭrapālaparipr̥cchā to depict virtuous ascetics contrastively with lax monks, the main agents of the Dharma’s disappearance.108 Finally, the epithet dhutarajas occurs once more in the second part of the second Bahubuddhakasūtra (III.241–250)109 of the Mahāvastu to qualify the triple community of Maitreya’s disciples.110 The fact that the lineage of Mahānāman is described in the same way as the patriarch Mahākāśyapa, and as the future community of Maitreya in a text most probably circulating in Magadha at the time that our inscription was composed, may not be a pure coincidence. It could well be a means to create a connection between these three actors of the preservation of the Saddharma. The Sinhalese lineage might therefore have conceived itself as a reflection of its past model, and the anticipation of a future idealised community.
With this better understanding of the background of Mahānāman and the manner in which he defines his descent, it is interesting to look at another aspect of this monk’s self-representation, the aspirations expressed in the second part of the inscription, which formally records his religious foundation.
The Monk Mahānāman and His Aspirations
Mahānāman’s pious gift and the assignment of the merit generated by it are obviously connected with each other:
tenoccair bbodhimaṇḍe śaśikaradhavalaḥ sarvvato maṇḍapena •kā[nta]ḥ prāsāda eṣa smarabalajayinaḥ kārito lokaśāstuḥ || [v. 7]111vyapagataviṣayasneho hatatimiradaśaḥ pradīpavad asaṅgaḥkuśalenānena jano bodhisukham anuttaraṃ bha[ja]tām* || [v. 8]112
[v. 7cd] He [Mahānāman] caused to be erected on the exalted terrace of Awakening a temple—together with a pavilion—of the conqueror of Smara’s army, the teacher of the world, which was white like a moonbeam and pleasing from all sides.
[v. 8] By this meritorious act may people [or: may this person], having removed the attachment to sense-objects and having destroyed the condition of [mental] darkness, being detached, like lamps [or: like a lamp], the oil of whose receptacle has gone [consumed] and whose wick was spent and black, enjoy the ultimate bliss of Awakening.
Besides the use of literary clichés and of a refined double entendre (śleṣa), reminiscent of Kālidāsa’s Raghuvaṃśa,113 the overall construction of the formula of assignment of merit is characteristic of its genre. The combination of an instrumental (kuśalena anena) with a third person imperative (bhajatām) is indeed well represented from an early period onwards,114 and it is also attested in an inscription from Bodhgayā probably belonging to the late 4th century ce.115 It is worthy of note that what is probably the earliest unequivocal attestation of Mahāyāna-type thought in Indian epigraphy, the famous Govindnagar inscription, dated from the 26th year of the Kaniṣka Era, has the same construction.116 The fact that another fragmentary inscription from mid or late 6th century Nepal preserves a similar construction,117 shows, together with our inscription, the lasting usage of such a formula in epigraphy.118 This type of construction is not exclusive to inscriptions, for it also occurs both in the canonical literature of the Śrāvakayāna as well as in texts labelled as Mahāyānasūtras.119 But, as we shall see, the benefit implied in the formula of the inscription is certainly connected with a path that is actively promoted in the latter kind of sources.
The manner in which the benefit and the beneficiaries are dealt with in the āryā stanza of our inscription merits to be clarified by its context of enunciation, before considering to what extent it is related to other epigraphical and literary evidence. Considering this formula in relation to the preceding stanza, it appears that it has been phrased in such a way as to correlate the benefit of the produced merit to the very experience of the night of Awakening commemorated by the pious foundation. The mention that the temple has been erected on the Bodhimaṇḍa is very significant in that regard, as this very spot of earth (pr̥thivīpradeśa)120 retains the “quintessence” of Śākyamuni’s Awakening,121 as well as that of his predecessors and successors. The prāsāda is dedicated to the “conqueror of Smara’s army,”122 which makes it likely that the temple hosted a statue of Māravijaya, as similar expressions occur in inscriptions engraved on pieces depicting such an event.123 In this context, the word bodhisukha of the dedicatory stanza naturally recalls the experience of the Buddha immediately following his Awakening.124
The succinct way in which the beneficiary of this bliss is denoted with jana in our inscription is ambiguous and can be understood in three ways: it can qualify all human beings or an undetermined group among them,125 but it can also be understood as equivalent to a personal pronoun pointing to the last person referred to in the preceding stanza, namely Mahānāman.126 The soteriological perspective would vary accordingly: the first option points towards the theory of universal Awakening, while the second may imply that the only people who will benefit from such a reward, are those who will be connected with the pious foundation of Mahānāman by ritually approaching the living manifestation of Awakening hosted in the temple.127 If we understand jana to have a pronominal function, this would constitute an example of an individual wish for perfect Awakening. Note that the compassionate component, which is central in the portrait of Mahānāman and his lineage,128 is compatible with any of the three options as the individual wish for Awakening is concomitant with the benefit of living beings. As the three kinds of soteriological scenarios are met with in sources connected with the Mahāyāna129—and, except in retrospective contexts, in these sources only—it is difficult on these grounds to determine which of these three possibilities was intended by the dedicator of the inscription.
In any case, the inscription of Mahānāman offers a conscious attempt to equate the Awakening embodied in the particular iconographic type of the Māravijaya established in the temple with the state aimed at by its dedicator, be that benefit enjoyed by himself alone or by “people.” Other examples will show how, in the very period characterised by the diffusion of the Māravijaya iconographic type at the site,130 a good number of epigraphical records stresses the donor’s wish for Awakening. Mahānāman’s aspiration is indeed far from original, and what appears to be a very interesting quotation of a praṇidhāna set-phrase occurs in an inscription found on a coping stone of the railing that surrounded the main temple of Bodhgayā. It is palaeographically datable to the second part of the 5th century ce and reads:131
laṅkādvīpanarendrāṇāṃ śramaṇaḥ kulajo <’>bhavat* <|>prakhyātakīrttir ddharmmā<
> svakulāmbaracandram[ā]ḥ<||> bhaktyā tu bhikṣuṇānena buddhatvam a[dhi]kāṃkṣatā <|>kārā ratnatraye samyak kāritā[ḥ] śāntaye nr̥ṇām* <||> 132ito mayā yat kuśalaṃ hy upārjjitaṃ <|>tad astu bodh(ā)y[a] ⏑ ¯ ⏑ ¯ ⏑ ¯ <|>⏑ ¯ ⏑ ¯ ¯ ⏑ ⏑ ¯ ⏑ ¯ ⏑ ¯ <|>śubhena tenaiva [pha]lena yujyatām* <||> 133
1c prakhyātakīrttir] PT; prakhyātakīrttīr B.2b a[dhi]kāṃkṣatā] T; abhikāṃkṣatā BP. The rubbing surely does not read bhi, as the akṣara clearly forms a closed loop. It has rather the shape of a dhi, even if the loop generally touches the foot of the akṣara in this script.1342c–d samyak kāritā[ḥ]] T; samyakkāritā B.3a ito] PT; tato B.upārjjitaṃ] PT; upārjjitam B.3b astu bodh(ā)y[a]] T; asty upādh[yā]ya B; astu bo[dhāya] P.3d yujyatām*] T; yujyatām* | P, who specifies that “the vertical stroke is employed to mark the end of the record.” I cannot see anything else than the peculiarly shaped virāma on the akṣara ma.
[v. 1] There was a śramaṇa, born in the family of the kings of the Laṅkā island, Prakhyātakīrti, who dedicated himself to the Dharma [and, as such,] was a moon in the sky of his own family.
[v. 2] With devotion, this bhikṣu, longing for Buddhahood, properly performed acts of worship135 to the three jewels, aiming at the peace of men, [with the following vow:]
[v. 3] “Whatever merit I have acquired from this [pious act], may it be for Awakening. … … May this be enjoyed together with its excellent fruit.”
The reference to Prakhyātakīrti’s connections with the Sinhalese royal dynasty recalls the description of Mahānāman’s spiritual lineage, and therefore makes it likely that he belonged to a similar milieu, a milieu that was particularly zealous in making pious gifts and foundations at Bodhgayā.136 The use of the expression buddhatvam a[dhi]kāṃkṣatā in relation with śāntaye nr̥ṇām is very explicit as to the nature of the monk’s wish.137 It agrees in meaning with what was the third possible understanding in the case of Mahānāman’s inscription, namely an individual aspiration to Buddhahood for general welfare. This is evocative of the state of mind preceding the formulations of a praṇidhāna by a bodhisattva in narrative accounts. The first part of the third stanza, in vaṃśastha metre, also appears to be a variant of the type of praṇidhāna we find in various instances in a text like the Mahāvastu.138 For example, the following two half-verses from this text are part of a set of stanzas inserted in the narrative, and ascribed (artificially) to Śākyamuni after he has offered gruel and water to his predecessor of a remote past:139
te upetya vararūpadhāriṇobodhaye upajanenti mānasaṃ |<|>yam mayā kuśalam ārjitaṃ purātena me bhavatu sarvavaśitā |
1a vararūpadhāriṇo] Sb Ta Senart; vana° Sa1d sarvavaśitā] Sa Sb Ta; sarvadarśitā corr. Senart.140
Having approached those beautiful ones [i.e. the Buddhas], they conceive the thought directed towards Awakening:
“Whatever meritorious act I have formerly acquired, by virtue of that may I become possessed of all masteries.”
Turning back to Mahānāman and his time, there is other evidence from Bodhgayā that is worth considering in relation to our inscription. Nearby the findspot of Mahānāman’s slab, an inscribed pedestal of a broken statue was found by General Cunningham within the walls of a temple, located to the north of the main temple.141 It reads:142
¶deyadharmmo <’>yaṃ śākyabhikṣoḥ āmradvīpavāsisthaviramahānāmasya <|> yad atra puṇya[ṃ] tad bhavatu sarvasatvānām anuttarajñānāvāptaye <’>stu <||>
āmradvīpavāsisthaviramahānāmasya] T; amradvīpavāsi° F. The ā marker at the foot of the akṣara appears clear to me.sarvasatvānām] T; °sat<t>vānāṃ F.
There has been some debate about whether to identify the dedicator of the statue with the one who founded the temple. While John F. Fleet and Alexander Cunningham, followed by Sylvain Lévi, assumed this Mahānāman to be the same person as the Mahānāman of the long inscription,143 Vincent Smith has argued against this interpretation. The dissimilarity between the two inscriptions in terms of language led him to reject this identification.144 However, the linguistic argument is not decisive, and may actually be insignificant if we acknowledge the possibility that Mahānāman was not the composer of both dedicatory inscriptions and that two different mediums may have been used according to the importance of the donation. While he may have put great care in composing (or having composed) a panegyric to commemorate the foundation of the temple, he may merely have ordered a formulaic donative inscription to be engraved to record the gift of the statue.145 Moreover, the palaeographic features of the two inscriptions are closely related,146 and the main observation to be drawn by comparing the two scripts is that the long inscription was engraved with more care and flourish, which may well be explained by an original intention that it be ostentatiously exposed to a public. Finally, the way in which Mahānāman is referred to in the two inscriptions rather shows a difference in genre than in person. While the short inscription lists, in a frozen formula, his title, status, and provenance, the ornate epigraph is more concerned with his eminent origins and moral qualities. I therefore assume a unity of intention, and consider the formula of the small donative inscription in the light of the parallel formula in the longer inscription. Considering what precedes, it seems quite certain that anuttarajñānāvāpti, though ambiguous in itself, should in this context at least be understood as anuttara
hetusampannena pi sace jīvamānakabuddhass’ eva santikā patthentassa patthanā samijjhati parinibbute buddhe cetiyasantike vā bodhimūle vā patthentassa na samijjhati.
Even if he is endowed with the [two preceding] causes [i.e., human existence and the possession of the male attributes], if [his] resolution is made in presence of a living buddha, it is fulfilled, but not if it is made, when the buddha has entered parinibbāna, at a cetiya or near the bodhi-tree.
An important aspect of this set of practices connected with the Bodhimaṇḍa, namely the number of people expected to reach Awakening through the benefit of the pious foundations of Mahānāman and his fellow monks, is still unclear. Indeed, there seems to exist in the short dedicatory formula of Mahānāman an ambiguity regarding these beneficiaries parallel to the one already observed in the case of the long inscription.156 Lance Cousins has pointed out the syntactical ambiguity of the second phrase of what Schopen calls the “‘classical’ form of Mahāyāna inscriptions” (in tad bhavatu sarvasattvānām anuttarajñānāvāptaye). He argued that sarvasattvānāṃ is not necessarily linked with anuttarajñānāvāptaye since the latter is sometimes omitted.157 There is indeed a small number of cases that seem to show an undeveloped version of the dedication formula, ending with sarvasattvānāṃ.158 The autonomous existence of this simple tad bhavatu sarvasattvānāṃ formula seems to be confirmed by the inclusion of the imperative <’>stu which governs anuttarajñānāvāptaye in a number of inscriptions—among them Mahānāman’s short record.159 Considered together, these occurrences suggest that the verb (a)stu is not to be discarded as being redundant in view of the presence of bhavatu, as it was by previous scholars.160 Rather, it is to be understood in the aforementioned cases as the mark of an extension of a more simple formula ending in sarvasattvānāṃ. Therefore, our inscription should be translated as follows:
This is the pious gift of the śākyabhikṣu,161 the venerable (sthavira) Mahānāman who resides in Āmradvīpa. Whatever merit there is in this [gift], may it be for all beings. May it be for the/their attainment of supreme knowledge.
Even if some uncertainties remain, there are a number of conclusions that can be drawn at this point. First, it is fairly certain that the dedicatory formulas used in the large Mahānāman inscription and in the smaller one show that Mahānāman represents himself as en route for Buddhahood, an expectation that is characteristic of the Bodhisattvayāna and certainly constitutes one of the unifying ties of the Mahāyāna nebula.162
Moreover, the foregoing offers new evidence that this kind of thought was entertained by someone who, at the same time, stressed his affiliation to a religious group of specialists transmitting a significant portion of the Sūtrapiṭaka, i.e. the Saṃyukta-Āgama of a certain nikāya.163 The monk Mahānāman situates himself as the heir of an elaborate lineage devoted to the faithful transmission of the teachings received directly from Mahākāśyapa and promoting the legacy of that illustrious patriarch. Both the lasting presence of Kāśyapa and the rigour of his descendants guarantee the preservation of the Dharma.
The exact nikāya affiliation of Mahānāman’s lineage—i.e. the school in conformity with whose Vinaya he was ordained and whose core scriptures he transmitted—is difficult to establish. While the inscription conveys motifs that seem indicative of a certain influence of Sarvāstivādin sources on the ideas of this Sinhalese group, this does not account for an affiliation. If, as is likely, this religious movement were to belong to a subschool of the Theriyas,164 probably non-Mahāvihāravāsins, the inscription would provide genuine Indian evidence of a reality otherwise only known through a Chinese reflection of it. Mahānāman and his compatriots, who express their wish for Awakening in the inscriptions of the period concerned, could indeed be representatives of the group which, according to Xuanzang, writing a few decades later, dominated the Bodhgayā religious landscape, namely the Mahāyāna-Sthaviras (Chin. dasheng shangzuo 大乘上座) residing at the Mahābodhi-Saṅghārāma.165 As this label seems essentially the product of a foreign taxonomy166 and does not convey much by itself, one should beware not to subsume under a frozen category the complex identities evinced by the Bodhgayā materials. Some scholars have raised the possibility that the group that was prominent in Bodhgayā upon Xuanzang’s visit might have been affiliated to the Abhayagiri nikāya.167 Tempting as this hypothesis is, given the Abhayagirikas’ known openness towards the new doctrines, there remains unsufficient evidence to sustain this hypothesis.
Lastly, we can return to the place ascribed to Mahākāśyapa within the ideological system of Mahānāman’s long inscription. Being addressed as an accessible figure of worship, he assumes a crucial role in the definition of Mahānāman’s identity. The spiritual ancestor imbued with auctoritas sustains the monk Mahānāman as he expresses an aspiration belonging to a trend of thought that distances itself from an older theory of salvation. A figure belonging to that older system of ideals is at the very centre of this shift, as he is redefined to fit in another soteriology.168 The fact that the term adhimuktivaśitā (or vimuktivaśitā standing for the same) is used to refer to Mahākāśyapa’s power of determining the perdurance of his body (adhiṣṭhāna) could indeed well illustrate a conscious attempt to dress the arhat in a bodhisattva garb.169
Most of the present research was carried out at the International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden, during the winter 2008/2009 and with financial support from the Gonda Foundation. The article was revised and updated in the summer 2012, when I was back in Leiden as a postdoctoral fellow. Versions of this paper were presented at the conference “Buddhism Across Asia: Networks of Material, Intellectual and Cultural Exchange” organized by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore (February 16, 2009), at the symposium “Textual Approaches to the study of Indian and Tibetan cultures,” organised by the Gonda Fellows at the International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden (April 16, 2009), and at the 5th “Journée ‘Monde indien’,” organized by the UMR 7528—Mondes iranien et indien, Paris (March 19, 2010). I would also like to express my gratitude to Cristina Scherrer-Schaub, Jonathan Silk, Seishi Karashima, Peter Skilling, Arlo Griffiths, Dominic Goodall, Thomas Cruijsen and Giuliana Martini, who read successive versions of the present paper and gave perceptive suggestions and corrections. The last four of them, moreover, all helped correcting my English, with great patience. Any errors that remain are my own.
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Lévi 1929, 47. The article was reprinted in Bacot et al. 1937.
See Scherrer-Schaub 2007, 182–183.
See below, p. 18.
Paranavitana 1962. The origin of his proposition lies in a hesitation between the two eras found in the index of Fleet 1888, 325. This would allow dating the inscription seventy years earlier and fit better with the known dates of the author of the Mahāvaṃsa.
On these connections, see Mitra 1971, 62–65; Gunawardana 1979, 243f.; Dehejia 1988, 89–101; Ahir 1994, 23–33; Frasch 1998, 71–76.
Fleet 1888, 277.
Lévi 1929, 42: “La Mahāvyutpatti XXVII donne une liste des 10 vaśitā des Bodhisattva; la vimuktivaśitā n’y figure pas, mais on y relève un mot très analogue à vimukti, l’adhimukti [Mvy §776 = Tib. mos pa la dbang ba] qui constitue la sixième des 10 vaśitā.”
See Lévi 1929, 42–46. See also Kośa LaV 5:119 and n. 2. In recent years, scholars who have directed some attention to the relationship between Mahākāśyapa and Maitreya did not take this particular power into consideration. Cf. Deeg 1999; Silk 2003; Klimburg-Salter 2005. François Lagirarde highlights the motive of the non-decaying body in his presentation of a Thai version of the Kassapanibbāna, but his understanding of the mechanism at work is rather unsatisfactory. Cf. Lagirarde 2006, 86–87.
See especially Watanabe 1977; Eckel 1992, 90–94; Eltschinger 2001, 62–74. The latter scholar’s very interesting contribution on the concept is summarized in English in Eltschinger 2008, 279–281. In the same proceedings, see also Katsura et al. 2008, 419–422.
Cf. Jaini 1977, 402.10–13: tat punar etad adhiṣṭhānaṃ na kevalaṃ jīvata eva | kiṃ tarhi? adhiṣṭhānaṃ mr̥tasyāpi sthirasyaiva tu vastunaḥ || [530cd] āryamahākāśyapādhiṣṭhānena tadasthiśaṃkalāpasthānaśravaṇāt sthirasyāsthilakṣaṇasya na māṃsarudhirādīnām asti || Vasubandhu does not appear to express his personal disagreement vis-à-vis the Vaibhāṣika tradition on which he mainly relies. Note also that the conception according to which the adhiṣṭhāna of a creation (nirmāṇa) lasts after the death of the adhiṣṭhātr̥, be he a bodhisattva or a buddha, is also found in the Bodhisattvabhūmi. Cf. Wogihara 1930–1936, 64.23–25 quoted in Eltschinger 2001, 68n279. See also Kritzer 2005, 140–141. I have been unable to trace the belief according to which the deities play a role in the process of conservation of Kāśyapa’s body. See, however, my remarks in n. 61.
Eltschinger 2008, 279.
Cf. Lévi 1929, 45–46. He notes for example: “Le terme śubhabhāvanā, employé metri causa, est une périphrase exacte de samāpatti, car bhāvanā est expliqué par Vasubandhu comme samāhitaṃ kuśalam [Kośa 273.22, ch. IV, kār. 123 cd], ‘le bien à l’état de recueillement’.”
See Lévi 1929, 38–40 for another interpretation.
Cf. Cousins 2003, 12–13 and n. 46. See also Gnoli 1977–1978, 1:167.4, 2:137.18; Mvu 1:194.5–7. Lévi argued that behind the expression lies a hidden reference to Vasubandhu. Cf. Lévi 1929, 38–39. This interpretation is not altogether impossible, but it is difficult to prove.
Cf. Barua 1934, 70, no. 10 = IBH, Bodh-gayā no. 18.
Schopen 1985, 41n93.
See Cunningham 1892, 60, and the sketch of the Mahābodhi’s courtyard (pl. XVIII) where the temple in question is marked by the letter H.
Cf. Fleet 1888, 278; Cunningham 1892, 60; Lévi 1900, 408–409.
Lévi 1900, 409, also noted the “curieux contraste” emerging from the confrontation of the two epigraphs and, while still accepting the identity of the two Mahānāmans, remarks: “Le génitif Mahānāmasya pour Mahānāmnas, en face du nominatif régulier Mahānāmā employé dans le premier texte [v. 5], suffit à déceler un rédacteur plus familier avec le pracrit qu’avec le sanscrit.” On this common feature of Buddhist Prakrits, see BHSG §17.14. Smith, who seems to have been shocked by this disjunction, makes a lot of this irregular genitive ending and expresses the following question: “If they were identical why should pure paṇḍit’s Sanskṛit be used in the one inscription, and Prakṛitized Sanskṛit in the other?” Cf. Smith 1902, 198. Smith therefore suggested that “the donor of the image may have been the Mahânâman who was the spiritual grandfather of the builder of the temple” (193). In his second article, Lévi (1929) did not address this question anymore and seems to have accepted most of Smith’s criticisms.
Cf. Fleet 1888, 278; Smith 1902, 198.
Cf. Cousins 2003, 20. The only reference Cousins provides (n. 65) in support of this is Cohen’s 2000 article (30n68), which mentions (it does not “give” or list, much less quote) six examples from Ajaṇṭā. In fact, when we look at the ninety-nine inscriptions gathered in Cohen’s corpus of Ajaṇṭā inscriptions (2006), there are actually only two instances where the anuttarajñāna element might have lacked from the beginning. Cf. Dhavalikar 1968, 149–150, no. 3; 152–153, no. 5 = Cohen 2006, 289, no. 64; 307, no. 27. Other inscriptions (such as Cohen’s no. 12, 63, 95) are too fragmentary to prove anything. Cohen’s edition of inscription no. 89 is problematic, but the rubbing provided by Dhavalikar makes it impossible to check. Cf. Dhavalikar 1968, 150–151, no. 4 and fig. 4. Even if Cohen’s reading were to be accepted, the formula recorded would be somewhat odd and diverging from the more common construction. Therefore, there remain only the two inscriptions from Ajaṇṭā, which were already considered by Schopen (1985, 39n88), together with three others from other sites. On these five cases, see the following note.
See Fleet 1888, 279n3, 282; Chakravarti 1946, 95n2. When Schopen mentions our Mahānāman short inscription, he does not notice the presence of the verb ’stu. Cf. G. Schopen 1979, 5; 1985, 39n88. Von Hinüber did not take into consideration the double-imperative construction in his translation of the Aṣṭādaśasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā colophon, but rightly remarked elsewhere, about the colophon of Bhaiṣajyaguru’s Ms. Z, that in anuttarajñānavāpnuyāstu “sind zwei Formulierungen gekreuzt.” Cf. von Hinüber 1980, 54; 2004, 78. The interpretation given in Cohen 2006, 316, according to which stu would be “an orthographic symbol” that “indicates that the inscription continues after the physical break” is unconvincing, and contradicted by his own data (see his no. 70).
See for example La Vallée Poussin 1930, 21–23; Wangchuk 2007, 21f.
One could think, following Lévi 1900, 404, and contrastively to the former understanding by Fleet (1888, 278–279), that the word sthavira in the short donative formula could refer to “l’école à laquelle Mahānāman se vante d’appartenir.” If we look for parallel attestations in epigraphy, however, it seems clear that sthavira occurs in composition with the name of the donor in most cases unambiguously to designate his status as a monk. See for example, IBH, Sārnāth nos. 17, 92; Bihār no. 1, l. 5. The indicator of status may be abbreviated as stha as in IBH, Kurkihār nos. 6, 32 and 79. In all these cases, sthavira is without doubt a title, like bhadanta, which occurs in similar formulas. Cf. for example IBH, Ajaṇṭā nos. 22, 26 = Cohen 2006, nos. 35, 36. See also Schopen 1979, 18n25. When the element sthavira occurs, as in our case, in the middle of a complex compound having as first element a toponym—i.e. the place of origin of the monk—, the absence of syntactical marker makes its understanding less certain. See for example the inscription from Kurkihār, reading deyadharmo ’yaṃ kāñcisthaviramañjuśrīvarmmaṇaḥ. Cf. Banerji-Sastri 1940, 242, no. 18 = IBH, Kurkihār no. 18. Compare Banerji-Sastri 1940, 245 = IBH, Kurkihār no. 51. There is however no good reason to understand differently sthavira in complex compounds and in twofold ones. The formula recorded in a 10th century inscription from Bodhgayā has the compound śrīmatsomapuramahāvihārīyavinayavitsthaviravīryyendrasya, clearly showing that vinayavid and sthavira should be understood as titles insisting on the eminent position of the monk Vīryendra. Cf. Bloch 1912, 158 = IBH, Bodh-Gayā no. 28. Cf. also IBH, Hilsa no. 3, and also the references quoted in Skilling 2009, 65–66 and nn. 15–16. To conclude, though the scenario of a Sthavira affiliation is likely per se, Mahānāman’s title cannot be used in favour of this interpretation.
Cf. Beal 1884, 2:133; Li 1995, 258. The same school is also mentioned in reference to Kaliṅga, Bharukaccha and Surāṣṭra, Cf. Deeg 2012, 151. It is said to dominate in Laṅkā as well, an island to which Xuanzang did not travel personally. Beal 1884, 2:247; Li 1995, 307. On the various interpretations of the expression 大乘上座, see Watters, Yuan Chwang’s Travels, 2:136–138, 235; Lévi and Chavannes 1916, 46–49; Bareau 1955, 37, 243, 254–255; Lamotte 1958, 596–597; Wang 1994, 177–178; Bechert 1973, 13–14; 2005, 60–61. See also Walser 2005, 41–42, who however misunderstood Lamotte’s actual definition of the Mahāyāna-Sthaviras, (confusing his no. 5, p. 596 with no. 7, p. 597): his criticisms against the Belgian scholar are thus unfounded.
See, for instance, Bareau 1955, 243; Cousins 2003, 116.