Yeshe D. wrote: kirtu wrote:
Yeshe D. wrote:The Indian Nikāya schools who only accepted the Āgamas (and corresponding Nikāyas) as the Buddha word. These schools were mainstream until at least the 5th or 6th century CE. The "Mahāyāna" was comprised of some marginal groups which existed on the fringes of the mainstream institutions until at least this time.
This date range and interpretation is not correct.
It is quite correct, considering all available sources, including Faxian (Fa Hsien
No your assertion is wrong. I cannot account for Schopen and Boucher but they are either selecting data or haven't analyzed it correctly. I don't know for sure but probably Schopen and/or Boucher aren't well versed in mathematics and haven't considered the speed of religious diffusion over time considering the data reported.
This is what is not wrong with your assertion: The Indian Nikāya schools who only accepted the Āgamas (and corresponding Nikāyas) as the Buddha word. These schools were mainstream until at least the 5th or 6th century CE.
They were probably mainstream until then although the history may be more complex (for example the Tibetan history states that they formed a schism with the orthodox minority school which became the Mahasangika).
This is what is wrong in your assertion: The "Mahāyāna" was comprised of some marginal groups which existed on the fringes of the mainstream institutions until at least the 5th or the 6th century.
Why? Because the Mahayana
was represented in cities and whole monasteries in places in the northern and central Indian subcontinent by the time of Fa Hsien
's journey. Therefore it was not marginal. Your argument is like asserting the Mormon or Anglican Church's are marginal in Protestant Christianity. They are in a minority position and are highly correlated according to geographic, economic and ethnic characteristics but are not marginal.
The second thing is the dates given. Fa Hsien
's journey occurred from about 399 to 412 CE. Fa Hsien
himself can be safely assumed to have been a Mahayana
adherent or at least to have been familiar with the Mahayana
in his kingdom in China at the time because be returned with a complete copy of the Mahasanghika Vinaya. It would strain credulity to assert that the Mahayana
had just appeared in his kingdom during his lifetime (although that might have happened) and that Fa Hsien
was one of the early adopters of the Mahayana
in China. Therefore it is more likely that the Mahayana
had representation as a monastic institution in his part of China by the 4th century CE.
However during his journey Fa Hsien
is asserting that thousands of monks in some places are Mahayana
monks. Outside of the influence of a charismatic religious source or founder or sudden religious fervor or hysteria or forced conversion, thousands of people do not suddenly convert to a faith in one location or convert over a large area and then spontaneously co-locate. Fa Hsien
did not note a charismatic religious source or hysteria and spent some time in many of the places along his journey so he would have been able to observe the people carefully (there is one possible exception noted - in northern India in particular he notes the presence of significant stupa veneration - it is possible that this arose shortly before his journey as a significant galvanizing element). Outside of some galvanizing element it takes generations for people to assemble together over time and form a stable social structure. A minimum of three generations would push the date back to the 3rd century CE. Since society forms a network, and since networks have constraints, religious phenomena and esp. diffusion can be modeled (I don't however know of any studies doing this).
If the Mahayana
were actually marginal and existed on the fringes until the 5th or the 6th century then Fa Hsien
could not have noted it's presence in northern and central India during his journey. If the Mahayana
had arisen in northern India as a marginal movement then Fa Hsien
could not have noted thousands of Mahayana
monks before 414 CE. If it had been an actual marginal movement at that time it could not have spread outside of one geographical region and would not have been represented in northern and central India and Fa Hsien
's corner of China because religious movements don't spread rapidly in short periods (outside of the presence of a charismatic leader or some hysterical event and these are always noted). The Mahayana
almost certainly minimally existed as a presence (at least an option) prior to Fa Hsien
's birth in the early part of the 4th century and given his reports of thousands of Mahayana
monks almost certainly three generations before that pushing the date back to the 3rd century.