Questions for those familiar with Tamil History

Sankaran Panchapagesan panchap at ICSL.UCLA.EDU
Thu Jun 17 14:05:03 CDT 1999


> >Some believe that only those portions of the MB which teach
> >"brahminism by conduct" show Buddhist influence (i.e, they were
> >added later on), just as some believe that the Giitaa was a later
> >addition to the MB.
> Such arguments ignore the very complexity of the structure of the epic.
> There is almost no character in the epic whose birth is sufficient to
> determine caste. Vyasa's mother is a fisher woman, Dhritarashtra and Pandu
> are Vyasa's biological sons, as is Vidura. However, Vyasa is a Brahmana and
> Vidura is a Sudra, but the other two are Kshatriyas. The epic is designed
> fundamentally on the complexity and fragility of caste considerations.

Yes, you're right in the last statement, but I think all the resulting
caste associations are fully explained by the dharmaSAstras. i.e. the
caste of a person who is conceived by the (niyoga?) fasion in which Vyasa
begets Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidura, is completely determined by the
mother's caste, according to the dharmaSAstras, I think.

> argue that its portions on how conduct makes a brAhmaNa are Buddhist
> influenced ignores the basic theme of the epic.

But one thing: it is certainly true that the Buddhists are more likely to
argue for brahmin-by-conduct than the brahmins themselves. In the life of
the Buddha and Mahavira, there are numerous instances where they argue
against brahmins who claim brahminhood by birth, while the instances in
the Mahabharata aren't that many.
        Of course, in that case, if the influence were Buddhist in nature,
what reason would the brahmin(s) who composed the epic (historically
speaking) have, to incorporate the brahmin-by-birth concept?
        Is it possible that the two were entirely independent
formulations? Unless the verses in the Mahabharata and the Dhammapada are
almost identical.
        What do the dharmaSAstras say on this issue? Birth or conduct?


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