Books on Early Mahayana Development, History and Sutras

A forum for those wishing to discuss Buddhist history and teachings in the Western academic manner, referencing appropriate sources.
Padmist
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Books on Early Mahayana Development, History and Sutras

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Please recommend.
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jake
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Re: Books on Early Mahayana Development, History and Sutras

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Padmist wrote: Tue Jan 19, 2021 2:07 am Please recommend.
What have you already read?
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FiveSkandhas
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Re: Books on Early Mahayana Development, History and Sutras

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Joseph G. Walser
Genealogies of Mahāyāna Buddhism: Emptiness, Power and the question of Origin
"Genealogies of Mahāyāna Buddhism" offers a solution to a problem that some have called the holy grail of Buddhist studies: the problem of the “origins” of Mahāyāna Buddhism. In a work that contributes both to a general theory of religion and power for religious studies as well as to the problem of the origin of a Buddhist movement, Walser argues that that it is the neglect of political and social power in the scholarly imagination of the history of Buddhism that has made the origins of Mahāyāna an intractable problem. Walser challenges commonly-held assumptions about Mahāyāna Buddhism, offering a fascinating new take on its genealogy that traces its doctrines of emptiness and mind-only from the present day back to the time before Mahāyāna was “Mahāyāna.”
"One should cultivate contemplation in one’s foibles. The foibles are like fish, and contemplation is like fishing hooks. If there are no fish, then the fishing hooks have no use. The bigger the fish is, the better the result we will get. As long as the fishing hooks keep at it, all foibles will eventually be contained and controlled at will." -Zhiyi
Padmist
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Re: Books on Early Mahayana Development, History and Sutras

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FiveSkandhas wrote: Tue Jan 19, 2021 8:11 am Joseph G. Walser
Genealogies of Mahāyāna Buddhism: Emptiness, Power and the question of Origin
"Genealogies of Mahāyāna Buddhism" offers a solution to a problem that some have called the holy grail of Buddhist studies: the problem of the “origins” of Mahāyāna Buddhism. In a work that contributes both to a general theory of religion and power for religious studies as well as to the problem of the origin of a Buddhist movement, Walser argues that that it is the neglect of political and social power in the scholarly imagination of the history of Buddhism that has made the origins of Mahāyāna an intractable problem. Walser challenges commonly-held assumptions about Mahāyāna Buddhism, offering a fascinating new take on its genealogy that traces its doctrines of emptiness and mind-only from the present day back to the time before Mahāyāna was “Mahāyāna.”

What did I just read? My heard hurts. :crying: It's a difficult book to read. But I will get it. Thanks so much.
Here's the review that made my head spin.

https://jcrt.org/religioustheory/2019/1 ... beysekara/
Padmist
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Re: Books on Early Mahayana Development, History and Sutras

Post by Padmist »

jake wrote: Tue Jan 19, 2021 7:10 am
Padmist wrote: Tue Jan 19, 2021 2:07 am Please recommend.
What have you already read?

Paul Williams Mahayana book only.
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jake
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Re: Books on Early Mahayana Development, History and Sutras

Post by jake »

Padmist wrote: Tue Jan 19, 2021 2:34 pm
jake wrote: Tue Jan 19, 2021 7:10 am
Padmist wrote: Tue Jan 19, 2021 2:07 am Please recommend.
What have you already read?

Paul Williams Mahayana book only.
The Second edition of that book is pretty good with few exceptions. What didn't you like about it? Or on what specifically are you seeking to learn more? Historical/Academic understanding? Doctrinal? In which tradition do you practice? That may provide some insight into which focus areas might be of interest.
Padmist
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Re: Books on Early Mahayana Development, History and Sutras

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I just want a historical account of how Mahayana started and developed. Not for religious practice.

I'm Tibetan Buddhist.
Malcolm
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Re: Books on Early Mahayana Development, History and Sutras

Post by Malcolm »

Padmist wrote: Tue Jan 19, 2021 3:32 pm I just want a historical account of how Mahayana started and developed. Not for religious practice.

I'm Tibetan Buddhist.
The traditional accounts and the accounts of western scholars are quite divergent. I personally prefer the traditional accounts, such as Buton's, Taranatha's, and so on.

That said, Indo-Tibetan Buddhism by Snellgrove is ok.

Indian Esoteric Buddhism: A Social History of the Tantric Movement is interesting for a review of post-Gupta Indian Buddhism.

I never read the Williams book. He became a Catholic.

Indian Buddhism: A Survey with Bibliographical Notes by Hajime Nakamura
"Nonduality is merely a name;
that name does not exist."
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FiveSkandhas
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Re: Books on Early Mahayana Development, History and Sutras

Post by FiveSkandhas »

Padmist wrote: Tue Jan 19, 2021 3:32 pm I just want a historical account of how Mahayana started and developed. Not for religious practice.

I'm Tibetan Buddhist.
The origin of Mahayana is one of the most contentious and unsettled questions in all of academic Buddhist studies. For many years, students were actually warned by their professors that investigating this issue too closely would be tantamount to "career suicide." Most courses on Buddhist history in the late 20th century glossed quickly over the issue or stated that it was unknown.

The "taboo" against investigating Mahayana origins arouse because in early Buddhist scholarship (i.e. 19th and early 20th century), there was a tendency (often called "Protestant Buddhism") to normatively privilege Theravada and early Buddhism over Mahayana and Mantrayana, which were seen initially as "corruptions of the true original Buddhism."

Around the middle of the 20th century this prejudiced view rightly fell out of favor, and new respect began to be accorded to Mahayana. However, because earlier theories of Mahayana's origin were tainted by a "rhetoric of decline," academics in the latter half of the 20th century tended to avoid the whole issue all together. Some vague theories existed, but they were not deeply backed up with evidence or given much emphasis in scholarship.

This state of affairs appears to be finally changing, however, and the question of Mahayana origins has been explored in greater depth and with less hesitation in recent years. Perhaps the most frank and comprehensive attempt to address the issue is the somewhat-recent book I mentioned above. There is still much work to be done in this field however.

Earlier explanations, when offered at all, tended to vaguely posit early Mahayana as a kind of "lay movement" or a trend connected with devotionalism or "stupa worship." These rather under-evidenced positions are gradually being replaced by a belief that early Mahayana was not sharply separated from monastic "18 schools" Buddhism and probably was practiced initially by monks who also practiced earlier forms concurrently. Rather than a break with "old Buddhism", the tentative trend is to see early Mahayana as something that emerged from within older traditions and was practiced with them side-by-side by a subset of scholastic monks.

Later of course it took on a life of its own. Silk road influences may also have played a part in differentiation of Mahayana from older schools, but the extent of such influences is still controversial.
"One should cultivate contemplation in one’s foibles. The foibles are like fish, and contemplation is like fishing hooks. If there are no fish, then the fishing hooks have no use. The bigger the fish is, the better the result we will get. As long as the fishing hooks keep at it, all foibles will eventually be contained and controlled at will." -Zhiyi
Padmist
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Re: Books on Early Mahayana Development, History and Sutras

Post by Padmist »

FiveSkandhas wrote: Tue Jan 19, 2021 11:38 pm
Padmist wrote: Tue Jan 19, 2021 3:32 pm I just want a historical account of how Mahayana started and developed. Not for religious practice.

I'm Tibetan Buddhist.
The origin of Mahayana is one of the most contentious and unsettled questions in all of academic Buddhist studies. .....

Your analysis is spot on. I started on this journey because discussing Buddhism online ultimately gets you exposed to arguments by others that their form of Buddhism is the pure, original, text-based, historical-based. It's not until you actually dig deeper at the evidence and then dig even deeper after that that you see the error of such claims. I'm in my early stages on my research (LaMotte, Williams, Nattier) but I'm getting an impression that Mahayana IS the true form of Buddhism.
Last edited by Padmist on Wed Jan 20, 2021 12:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
Malcolm
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Re: Books on Early Mahayana Development, History and Sutras

Post by Malcolm »

Padmist wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 12:43 am
FiveSkandhas wrote: Tue Jan 19, 2021 11:38 pm
Padmist wrote: Tue Jan 19, 2021 3:32 pm I just want a historical account of how Mahayana started and developed. Not for religious practice.

I'm Tibetan Buddhist.
The origin of Mahayana is one of the most contentious and unsettled questions in all of academic Buddhist studies. .....

Your analysis is spot on. I started on this journey because discussing Buddhism online ultimately gets you exposed to arguments by others that their form of Buddhism is the pure, original, text-based, historical-based. It's not until you actually dig deeper at the evidence and then dig even deeper after that that you see the error of such claims. I'm in my early stages on my research (LaMotte, Williams, Nattier) but I'm getting an impression that Mahayana IS the true form of Buddhism.
It’s a true form of Buddhism, not THE true form of Buddhism.
"Nonduality is merely a name;
that name does not exist."
—Kotalipa
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Aemilius
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Re: Books on Early Mahayana Development, History and Sutras

Post by Aemilius »

I have the impression that the Bodhisattvayana is older than the time of Siddhartha Gautama, i.e. it existed in India already at time of his propagation of the doctrine. It was called Bodhisattva-gana or something like that, it was not called Sangha. Gautama joined the Bodhisattva-order at some point of his career. This ofcourse is difficult to prove and this view is not found in many books. Nevertheless, the three kinds of draught animals in the Lotus sutra point to great antiquity, far beyond the life of Prince Siddhartha. The draught animals are deer, goat and bullock. Deer have been used as draught animals in Scandinavia and Germany in 1500's. In Germany it was only known as some kind of a yearly ritual use. Goats are depicted as the draught animals of Thor. Thus the story depicting these draught animals, or the whole Lotus sutra, may come from the period of Aryan culture before it came to India.
svaha
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1. (in english and sanskrit)
tingdzin
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Re: Books on Early Mahayana Development, History and Sutras

Post by tingdzin »

Preservation of an old motif in a scripture or object of art can not, of course, be used to demonstrate the antiquity of said scripture. This should be obvious.
Aemilius wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 10:03 am I have the impression that the Bodhisattvayana is older than the time of Siddhartha Gautama, i.e. it existed in India already at time of his propagation of the doctrine. It was called Bodhisattva-gana or something like that, it was not called Sangha. Gautama joined the Bodhisattva-order at some point of his career. This of course is difficult to prove and this view is not found in many books.
And from where did you get this "impression"?
thomaslaw
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Re: Books on Early Mahayana Development, History and Sutras

Post by thomaslaw »

This book may be relevant to your question:

The Notion of Emptiness in Early Buddhism by Choong Mun-keat (1995; second revised edition, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1999).

:reading: :buddha1:
PeterC
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Re: Books on Early Mahayana Development, History and Sutras

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Aemilius wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 10:03 am I have the impression that the Bodhisattvayana is older than the time of Siddhartha Gautama, i.e. it existed in India already at time of his propagation of the doctrine. It was called Bodhisattva-gana or something like that, it was not called Sangha. Gautama joined the Bodhisattva-order at some point of his career. This ofcourse is difficult to prove and this view is not found in many books. Nevertheless, the three kinds of draught animals in the Lotus sutra point to great antiquity, far beyond the life of Prince Siddhartha. The draught animals are deer, goat and bullock. Deer have been used as draught animals in Scandinavia and Germany in 1500's. In Germany it was only known as some kind of a yearly ritual use. Goats are depicted as the draught animals of Thor. Thus the story depicting these draught animals, or the whole Lotus sutra, may come from the period of Aryan culture before it came to India.
Doctrinally, sure, it goes back to Samantabhadra, or Vairocana, etc. in this mahakalpa alone. But textually, historically? That's a huge stretch. Were there Indic schools with similar ideas? Sure. Gautama wasn't the only person meditating in the fifth century BC. But a yana is a vehicle leading to liberation, it consists of more than just similarity between symbols and ideas. The deer, goat and ox existed as domesticated or semi-domesticated animals in India and many other countries.

Would be interested to hear who asserts this, and on what textual / archeological / other basis.
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Aemilius
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Re: Books on Early Mahayana Development, History and Sutras

Post by Aemilius »

tingdzin wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 4:42 pm Preservation of an old motif in a scripture or object of art can not, of course, be used to demonstrate the antiquity of said scripture. This should be obvious.
Aemilius wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 10:03 am I have the impression that the Bodhisattvayana is older than the time of Siddhartha Gautama, i.e. it existed in India already at time of his propagation of the doctrine. It was called Bodhisattva-gana or something like that, it was not called Sangha. Gautama joined the Bodhisattva-order at some point of his career. This of course is difficult to prove and this view is not found in many books.
And from where did you get this "impression"?
From my meditation, the five eyes (chakshu), you know.
svaha
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1. (in english and sanskrit)
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Aemilius
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Re: Books on Early Mahayana Development, History and Sutras

Post by Aemilius »

PeterC wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 2:20 am
Aemilius wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 10:03 am I have the impression that the Bodhisattvayana is older than the time of Siddhartha Gautama, i.e. it existed in India already at time of his propagation of the doctrine. It was called Bodhisattva-gana or something like that, it was not called Sangha. Gautama joined the Bodhisattva-order at some point of his career. This ofcourse is difficult to prove and this view is not found in many books. Nevertheless, the three kinds of draught animals in the Lotus sutra point to great antiquity, far beyond the life of Prince Siddhartha. The draught animals are deer, goat and bullock. Deer have been used as draught animals in Scandinavia and Germany in 1500's. In Germany it was only known as some kind of a yearly ritual use. Goats are depicted as the draught animals of Thor. Thus the story depicting these draught animals, or the whole Lotus sutra, may come from the period of Aryan culture before it came to India.
Doctrinally, sure, it goes back to Samantabhadra, or Vairocana, etc. in this mahakalpa alone. But textually, historically? That's a huge stretch. Were there Indic schools with similar ideas? Sure. Gautama wasn't the only person meditating in the fifth century BC. But a yana is a vehicle leading to liberation, it consists of more than just similarity between symbols and ideas. The deer, goat and ox existed as domesticated or semi-domesticated animals in India and many other countries.

Would be interested to hear who asserts this, and on what textual / archeological / other basis.
There are many strands of knowledge in the world. You can for example follow the discussion about the the Indo-Aryan peoples or the Indo-Aryan migrations. One should not think that the ideas of liberation, reincarnation or higher knowledge etc.. do not exist elsewhere than in India. That would be a prejudiced, harmful and ignorant view. The idea of reincarnation has been shown to exist around the globe, for example in Australia, Americas,

in German paganism:
"Surviving texts indicate that there was a belief in rebirth in Germanic paganism. Examples include figures from eddic poetry and sagas, potentially by way of a process of naming and/or through the family line. Scholars have discussed the implications of these attestations and proposed theories regarding belief in reincarnation among the Germanic peoples prior to Christianization and potentially to some extent in folk belief thereafter." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebirth_i ... c_paganism

and in Celtic paganism:
"In the 1st century BCE Alexander Cornelius Polyhistor wrote:
The Pythagorean doctrine prevails among the Gauls' teaching that the souls of men are immortal, and that after a fixed number of years they will enter into another body.

Julius Caesar recorded that the druids of Gaul, Britain and Ireland had metempsychosis as one of their core doctrines:
The principal point of their doctrine is that the soul does not die and that after death it passes from one body into another... the main object of all education is, in their opinion, to imbue their scholars with a firm belief in the indestructibility of the human soul, which, according to their belief, merely passes at death from one tenement to another; for by such doctrine alone, they say, which robs death of all its terrors, can the highest form of human courage be developed.

Hippolytus of Rome believed the Gauls had been taught the doctrine of reincarnation by a slave of Pythagoras named Zalmoxis. Conversely, Clement of Alexandria believed Pythagoras himself had learned it from the Celts and not the opposite, claiming he had been taught by Galatian Gauls, Hindu priests and Zoroastrians."

I have only heard of deer as a domesticated or draught animal in the Northern countries, including Russian and/or Siberian lands. There is no mention of it in the Jatakas for example, as far as I remember.
svaha
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1. (in english and sanskrit)
PeterC
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Re: Books on Early Mahayana Development, History and Sutras

Post by PeterC »

Aemilius wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 10:10 am There are many strands of knowledge in the world...
Sure, but still: would be interested to hear who asserts this, and on what textual / archeological / other basis. Or is it your theory?

Also the examples you offer also talk about some sort of eternal soul, which is definitely not the Bodhisattvayana.
tingdzin
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Re: Books on Early Mahayana Development, History and Sutras

Post by tingdzin »

It would of course be a mistake to think that Shakyamuni was operating in a cultural vacuum, and that his teachings had no precedents of any sort.
One is also entitled to his own interpretation of historical evidence. But if one stretches the evidence too far to fit one's own preconceptions or intuitions on how things should have been, one cannot expect anybody else to get on board.
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Aemilius
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Re: Books on Early Mahayana Development, History and Sutras

Post by Aemilius »

PeterC wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 11:07 am
Aemilius wrote: Thu Jan 21, 2021 10:10 am There are many strands of knowledge in the world...
Sure, but still: would be interested to hear who asserts this, and on what textual / archeological / other basis. Or is it your theory?

Also the examples you offer also talk about some sort of eternal soul, which is definitely not the Bodhisattvayana.
You must understand that there is no continual tradition reaching us from the time of Pythagoras, subtle things are always subtle, it is true of any tradition that says "reincarnation" or "consciousness" etc.. that the mind can and will reify them to be self-existing eternal entities. It is in the nature of language.

Who says this? One thing is what the various scholars publish in papers, another thing is what they say in lectures, and the third is what they say in private conversations. I think it is clearly evident from the things that exist, and that I referred to. You must be able to think for yourself also. I really can't say that it is my own theory that the Indo-Aryan peoples had a world view, and had spiritual traditions, before they migrated to different parts of the world. This has been said many times, emphasizing different things and diffrent ideas, depending on the person.

Thor Heyerdahl had the idea that Odin was a historical person, who lived somewhere in the area around the Black sea. I have a similar kind of view, namely that Odin is the same parson as the Oddiyan guru or Padmasambhava, and that he lived in Georgia, which is the original Urgyen (Ge-orgyen) i.e. the Oddiyan country. Guru of Orgyen was assimilated into Christianity as Saint George, the Patron Saint of Georgia.
Heyerdahl studied his ideas concerning Odin for many years.

Asko Parpola is a well known researcher in this area, his emphasis is on the hindu ideas:
"Books
1994: Deciphering the Indus Script, Cambridge University Press,
2015: The Roots of Hinduism: The Early Aryans and the Indus Civilization, Oxford University Press,
Selected articles
1988: The coming of the Aryans to Iran and India and the cultural and ethnic identity of the Dāsas, Studia Orientalia, Vol. 64, pp. 195–302. The Finnish Oriental Society.
2008: Is the Indus script indeed not a writing system? In: Airāvati: Felicitation volume in honour of Iravatham Mahadevan: 111–31. VARALAARU.COM, Chennai.

Reception
Parpola's long journal article The Coming of the Aryans is widely cited by historians and scholars of Indo-European Studies. Colin Renfrew, who has reviewed the article, called it a "richly annotated and well-illustrated essay," which brings together a number of different lines of arguments, including literary and archaeological. It contains rich and interesting insights into a variety of topics, including the "amalgamation of the Aryan and Dasa religions," and the Nuristani language.
Awards
Asko Parpola received the Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi Classical Tamil Award for 2009 on June 23, 2010 at the World Classical Tamil Conference at Coimbatore. In 2015, he was awarded India's Presidential Award of Certificate of Honour in Sanskrit. He is an honorary member of the American Oriental Society."

In the early (, middle or late) 1900's the issue was a dangerously political one, and thus the early translators like Rhys-Davids or Edward Conze didn't say anything about the possible connection of Dharma to the Indo-Aryan culture. Earlier Max Muller had said something about, for example in his book: F. Max Müller (1888) Biographies of Words and the Home of the Aryas. Kessinger Publishing reprint, 2004.
svaha
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1. (in english and sanskrit)
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