Bones, Stones, and Buddhist Monks: Collected Papers on the Archaeology, Epigraphy, and Texts of Monastic Buddhism in India

By Gregory Schopen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
Burial Ad Sanctos and the Physical Presence of the Buddha in Early Indian Buddhism
A Study in the Archaeology of Religions

IT IS HARDLY REVOLUTIONARY to suggest that, had the academic study of religions started quite literally on the ground, it would have been confronted with very different problems. It would have had to ask very different questions, and it would have produced very different solutions. It would, in short, have become not the History of Religions--which was and is essentially text-bound--but the Archaeology of Religions. It would have used texts, of course, but only those that could be shown to have been actually known or read at a given place at a given time, or to have governed or shaped the kind of religious behavior that had left traces on the ground. In fact, texts would have been judged significant only if they could be shown to be related to what religious people actually did. This Archaeology of Religions would have been primarily occupied with three broad subjects of study then: religious constructions and architectures, inscriptions, and art historical remains. In a more general sense, though, it would have been preoccupied not with what small, literate, almost exclusively male and certainly atypical professionalized subgroups wrote, but rather, with what religious people of all segments of a given community actually did and how they lived.

All of this--since it did not happen--is, of course, totally academic. But-- and this is the beauty of it--since the History of Religions is also totally academic, it still might. In fact, what I will present here is meant as a small push in that direction. In what follows, I want to look at Indian Buddhism on the ground. It is, however, very clear to me that, since this is something of a

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