An Old Inscription from Amarāvatī and the Cult of the Local Monastic Dead in Indian Buddhist Monasteries
ALTHOUGH THEY HAVE yet to be carefully studied, scattered throughout extant Buddhist literature are references to permanently housing the mortuary remains of deceased monks. In both the Pāli Udāna and Apadāna, for example, there is a clear injunction addressed to monks--and monks alone--directing them not only to perform the funeral rites for a "fellow-monk" (sabrahmacārin), but to build a mortuary stūpa for him as well and to worship it.1 In the Pāli Vinaya there is an account that describes, in part, a group of nuns performing the funeral rites and building a stūpa for a deceased member of their group.2 In the account of the deposition of the remains of Śāriputra preserved in the Tibetan version of the Mūlasarvāstivāda-vinaya, there is a passage in which the placement of the monastic dead within the monastery complex is directly addressed. Here, the Buddha first gives instructions concerning the form of mortuary stūpa appropriate to different categories of individuals, starting with a buddha and ending with "stream-winners" (rgyun du zhugs pa) and "ordinary good men" (so so'i skye bo dge ba). He then says:
As Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana sat (in relation to the Buddha) when the Tathāgata was sitting, just so should their mortuary stūpas be placed as well. Moreover, the stūpas of various elders (sthavira) should be aligned in accordance with their seniority. stūpas of ordinary good men should be placed outside the monastery (dge 'dun gyi kun dga' ra ba, saṃghārāma).3
The Mahāsāṃghika-vinaya--according to de La Vallée Poussin--also contains such passages: "D'après le Mahāsāṃghikavinaya," he says, "des moines hommes du commun (pṛthagjana) ont aussi droit au stūpa, à savoir le Vinayadharadharmācārya, le Vaiyāpṛtyabhikṣu, le Vertueux-bhikṣu. Comme ils ne sont pas des Āryas,
Originally published in Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 14.2 ( 1991) 281-329. Reprinted with stylistic changes with permission of the editor.