Friday, October 23, 2009

Analyzing Sources II

B- Sources that refer to either the birthplace of Sariputra or a place called Nalanda but not both together in a given context

For this we first discuss the Fahien account that Visited birth place of Sariputra “Nala” but doesn’t mention any thing about Nalanda. Fahien visited Nala around 407 AD when Raja Vikramaditya was the king.

Fahien reached at this place traveling 1 Yojan south west from Indrasaila Guha and finds one stupa which he says still existed. He says that Sariputra was born and died at the place, and there was a stupa built at the site where his body was burnt.

Fahien has provided pretty detailed description of all the monasteries and ruins of monasteries that he witnessed. It is evident when we read the accounts of Gridhkutta, Indrasaila guha and Venuwan, but such detailed description of the sariputra stupa is missing and that would lead us to conclude that perhaps the stupa at the birth place of Sariputra was not huge or majestic enough. For when he went to Rajgriha to visit the stupa built by Ajaatsatru over his share of Buddha’s body relics, he speaks at length about its size, magnificence and appearance.

Also if we observe the word used for describing the Sariputra’s stupa is “still in existence”, which may mean that it was not in the best condition. From this we may confer that at the time of Fahien’s visit the place was not of much relevance as far as monastic activities are concerned. According to lama Taranatha during the time of Fahien’s visit the place must be an important destination.

He also associated Nalanda with Asanga and Vasubandhu. Other historical evidences maintain that Vasubandhu was a prominent adviser to the king Samudra gupta in 330AD. Both were born in Purushapura (modern Peshawar) and there were active in around Ayodhya.

Also Fahien didn’t mention about any monastery at the present site of Remains of Nalanda Mahavihara and would be corroborated by the archaeological finds which suggest that the structure wasn’t built before the gupta period.

Other sources which have a mention about Nalanda are Jain and brhaminical literature. These sources talk about Nalanda but don’t have any reference to the Birth place of Sariputra.

But still one possibility remains that the birth place of Sariputra is different from the Nalanda (Pavarika + University site) and there still exists a monastic establishment at birth place of Sariputra called “Nalanda” and it was here that Nagarjuna was an Acharya.

To come to any conclusion we need to carefully observe what Xuanzang and Fahien say and what they don’t say about the birth place of Sariputra. Xuanzang when he reached Kalpinaka found a stupa built by Ashoka Raja at the place of Parinirvan, he gives a complete account of how Sariputra joined the Sangha and his association with Moggallana and also how he achieved Nirvana. Xuanzang doesn’t say anything about any monastery existing or any monastic ruins. Xuanzang has given a complete description about the structures and establishments at the places he visited. His complete silence raises doubt if there was any small or big monastery existing at the place before his visit.

The detail he has given about the Nalanda Mahavihar doesn’t find any mention about any contribution of Ashoka. The chronology of monastic units provided by Xuanzang starts with king Sakraditya which according to him was already in ruins in the 7th century.
The list of Acharyas who were associated with Nalanda provided by Lama Taranatha includes Nagarjuna, Asanga and Vasubandhu. Xuanzang visited the very places where these Acharyas made their major contributions and in his description of Nalanda he never associates any of these Acharyas with Nalanda mahasanghrama.

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