Monday, October 27, 2014

Who were the Shakyans? (Pali canon)

G.P. Malalasekera (; Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly
The Buddha, Afghanistan, Indo-Greco Gandhara art, Bactria (Boonlieng/

The Buddha's final nirvana, Scythian-Gandhara art, stone relief (wiki)
The Buddha's family, the Shakyas, were the Sakkas of Sakastan, the Indo-Scythians of Central Asia, the Sakae of the north. His family was a successful tribe around Afghanistan (WQ).

Maitreya will be a Scythian
The Shakyas were a [Scythian] tribe in to the north and west of India, to which the Buddha belonged.

[One of] their capital[s] was Kapilavatthu [along the Himalayan foothills, not under Everest in Nepal but to the west in the Hindu Kush, closer to K2. In ancient times, the entire range was referred to as the Himavanta.]

Mention is also made of other Sākyan [Scythian] settlements, for example, Cātumā, Khomadussa, Sāmagāma, Devadaha, Sīlavatī, Nagaraka, Medatalumpa, Sakkhara, and Ulumpa. Within the Shākyan tribe there were probably several clans (gottā).

The Buddha himself belonged to the Gautama-gotta. It has been suggested (e.g., Thomas, op. cit., 22) that this was a Brahmin clan, claiming descent from the ancient isi Gautama. The evidence for this suggestion is, however, very meager. Nowhere do we find the Shākyans calling themselves Brahmins.

Buddha, Gandhara (Durham Museum)
On the other hand, we find various clans claiming a share of the Buddha's relics on the grounds that they, like the Buddha, were khattiyas, Sanskrit kshatriyas, "warrior" caste nobles (DN.ii.165).

It is stated that the Shākyans [wild Scythians] were a haughty [proud, rougher, more barbaric and insolent compared to the cosmopolitan] people [to the east living less nomadic lives] (Vin.ii.183; D.i.90; J.i.88; DhA.iii.163).

Hiouen Thsang, however, found them obliging and gentle in manners (Beal, op. cit., ii.14).
Shakyans were rich: gold Bimaran Casket for the Buddha's relics (British Museum/wiki)
When their former Prince Siddhartha, now "the Buddha" after his enlightenment, first visited them, they refused to honor him on account of his youth (35). The Buddha then performed a marvel and taught them the Vessantara Jātaka, and thereby subdued their pride.

They were evidently fond of sports -- as continues to be the case in Central Asia, which delights in archery and equestrian skills. Mention is made of a special school of archery conducted by a Shākyan [Scythian] family called Vedhaññā (D.iii.117; DA.iii.905). When Prince Siddhartha Gautama was ready to marry at 16, no fellow Shākyan [Scythian] family, tribe, or clan would consent until he demonstrated his proficiency in sport (J.i.58).

Greco-Bactrian Kingdom map of "India," ancient empires of Asia 200 BCE (wiki)
The Shākyans evidently had no king. Theirs was a republican form of government -- as miraculously continues to this day in traditional Afghan culture (being an amalgamation of post-Scythian tribes like the Hazara, Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, Kazakh, and other Central Asians -- probably with a leader, elected from time to time at what we would today call a "grand assembly" (Afghan loya jirga).
Ven. Nagasena, King Menander I, Bactria
The Buddha's father, "King" Suddhodana, say with a capital at Bamiyan and elsewhere (Kabul, Mes Aynak), would have been just such a tribal elder or chieftain.

The administration and judicial affairs of the clan (gotta) were discussed in their Santhāgāra, or Hall of Truth, at Kapilavatthu. (See, e.g., DN.i.91). The Shākyans had a similar Hall of Truth at Cātumā (MN.i.457). The Mallas of Kusinārā also had a santhāgāra (DN.ii.164) as did the Licchavis of Vesāli (Vin.i.233; M.i.228). All of the clans possessed their own territory (janapada), which grew and shrank with their warring and negotiations.

Afghanistan Loya Jirga
Modern loya jirga, Afghanistan (AP/BBC)
The Shākyans were very jealous of the purity of their race; they belonged to the ādicca-gotta (ādiccā nāma gottena, Sākiyā nāma jātiyā, SN. vs.423) and claimed descent from Okkāka...  More
  • The ancient "Aryan" (Iranian) ruling tribes, who are hypothesized to have spoken Proto-Indo-Iranian, came down in intermittent waves from Central Asia and Afghanistan. They practiced a sort of jirga-system with two types of councils -- simite and sabhā. The simite (summit) comprised elders and tribal chiefs. The ruler (elected leader) also joined sessions of the simite. Sabhā was a sort of rural council. It was used over time for the selection of rulers and headmen and the airing of matters of principle. From the time of the great Kushan ruler Kanishka to the 1970s, there were sixteen national loya jirgas and hundreds of smaller ones. The institution, which is centuries old, is a similar idea to the Islamic "shura," or consultative assembly (BBC).

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