Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Greek King's Questions (Milindapanha)

Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly; John Kelly (trans.), Questions of King Milinda (excerpt, Miln 3, PTS: Miln 71-72; 82-83; 84BUDDHISM IN ANCIENT AFGHANISTAN
Kapilavastu, capital of Shakya-land, was beyond the northwest frontier of ancient India, which later became an ancient Greek empire, the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom of King Milinda.

Questions on Distinguishing Characteristics
Miln III.5.5: Transmigration and Rebirth {Miln 71}
Afghan Buddha (Gandhara)
KING MENANDER'S PALACE, Bactria (Afghanistan) - The king asked: "Venerable Nagasena, is it so that one does not transmigrate [sankamati, to transmigrate, pass over; go, cross over] yet one is reborn?" [patisandahati: to be reborn, rebirth, undergo reunion, relinking.]
"Yes, your majesty, one does not transmigrate yet one is reborn."
"How, Venerable Nagasena, is it that one does not transmigrate yet one is reborn? Give me an analogy."
"Just as, your majesty, if someone kindled one lamp from another, is it indeed so that the lamp would transmigrate from the other lamp?"

Shakyan/Bactrian princess, gold
[In other words, Would the flame die from the first candle, transmigrate, and be "reincarnated" in the new candle?]
"Certainly not, venerable sir."
"Indeed, your majesty, just so; one does not transmigrate yet one is reborn."

"Give me another analogy."
"Do you remember, your majesty, when you were a boy learning some verse [lesson] from a teacher?"
"Yes, venerable sir."
"Your majesty, did this verse transmigrate from the teacher?" [Did it go from the teacher to be reincarnated in the student?]
Hindu Kush is part of Himalayan range
"Certainly not, venerable sir."
"Indeed, your majesty, just so; one does not transmigrate yet one is reborn."
"You are clever, Venerable Nagasena."

[Is there a "soul"?]
Miln III.5.6: Soul {Miln 71}
"Soul" of Tibet is Hindu (
The king asked: "Venerable Nagasena, is a soul [vedagu, a "knower," a permanent subject of experience, a permanent self or soul] to be found?"
The elder Buddhist monk replied: "According to ultimate reality, your majesty, no soul is to be found."
"You are clever, Venerable Nagasena."
 [One may make an argument for it in conventional reality, and it indeed exists in normal terms of our experience. But what in the ultimate sense is being referred to?
Afghan monks discovered America
[That is what prevents liberating insight, "sainthood" (arhatship), enlightenment, and nirvana -- clinging to notions of a self. And what is the self in conventional terms? The Buddha talked about it the atta (a idea central to the concept of anatta, not-self), in terms of the Five Aggregates of Clinging.

These are the five composite categories of something regarded as unitive, unitary, noncomposite: form, feelings, perceptions, formations, and consciousnesses. Whereas form is the physical, the remaining four aggregates or heaps are mental or psychological, matter and mind, body and "soul," self as these four invisible processes.]

Vedagu is an interesting word, originally a Brahminical term related to mastery of the Vedas [the ancient sacred texts inherited by India and Central Asia from the much more ancient Indus Valley Civilization].

The Buddha appropriated the word to mean, "one who has attained highest knowledge," that is, synonymous with "arhat" [fully enlightened, accomplished disciple of the Buddha]. However, as the PED notes: "A peculiar meaning of vedagu is that of "soul" (lit. attainer of wisdom) at Miln 54 & 71."

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