Filial Piety and the Monk in the Practice of Indian Buddhism
A Question of "Sinicization" Viewed from the Other Side
In memory of my father-in law, V. L. Thorpe
IN HIS CATALOG of Indian Buddhist epigraphical material, the final version of which was published in Kyoto in 1979, Shizutani Masao lists more than two thousand separate inscriptions,1 These inscriptions come, of course, from all periods and virtually every part of India and have been thoroughly mined by historians, but not, unfortunately, by Buddhist scholars. Buddhist scholars, in fact, have shown very little interest in this material, especially those scholars writing on the development of Buddhist doctrine--this in spite of the fact that this material contains considerable information about such important matters as the conception of the Buddha or Buddhas, the conception or conceptions of merit and religious acts, and the nature of the actual, as opposed to the ideal goals of religious activity among practicing Indian Buddhists. In fact, this epigraphical material has, as I have said elsewhere, at least two distinct advantages. First, much of it predates by several centuries our earliest actually datable literary sources. Second, it tells us what a fairly large number of Indian Buddhists actually did, as opposed to what--according to our literary sources--they might or should have done.2 But in addition to these two advantages, there is a third: this material, in a considerable number of cases, tells us what individuals themselves--whether laymen or monks--hoped to accomplish by those religious acts which they chose to record.
Originally published in T'oung Pao, Revue internationale de sinologie 70 ( 1984): 110-126. Reprinted with stylistic changes with permission of E. J. Brill.