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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Kosalan Philosophy in the Kāṇva Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa and the Suttanipāta

  • Author(s): Bausch, Lauren Michelle
  • Advisor(s): Goldman, Robert P
  • et al.

This dissertation traces regional philosophy in religious texts, namely the Kāṇva Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa and the Suttanipāta. Receiving the Vedas in the East, Yājñavalkya and the Vājasaneyins enlivened earlier Vedic concepts and augmented Vedic propensities for asceticism. The region of Kosala flourished during the lifetime of Śākyamuni Buddha, and as a result, the Kāṇva School formed an important part of the cultural milieu in which the historical Buddha lived. The Suttanipāta depicts the Buddha as knowledgeable in Vedic practices and lore and as interacting with brāhmaṇas, arguably both before and after a separate Buddhist identity formed. Considering this background, the relationship between late Vedic and early Buddhist thought must be reassessed. Because value is acquired and erased when concepts circulate, the Buddha’s teaching in the Suttanipāta can be considered a philosophical project to create new concepts and to translate practices that respond to a changing milieu.

Through a close analysis of Yājñavalkya’s interpretation of the agnihotra and Sāvitrī ṛk as related to cognitive processes, this study uncovers the metaphysical meaning of philosophical concepts, such as svàr, vā́ja, dhī́, and prajā, etc. In particular, the dissertation demonstrates that Yājñavalkya’s concept of karma (rite) in the Kāṇva Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa implies what is called karmic retribution. Vedic concepts for the unmanifest govern the idea of karmic retribution and the goal of becoming cognizant of the inflow of unmanifest energy in conscious cognition. The Buddha again revitalizes these concepts when teaching a brāhmaṇa audience in the Suttanipāta. The Buddhist concepts of upadhi, āsava, crossing over to the far shore, and the serpent shedding his skin enliven earlier Vedic philosophy, which was expressed in systems of conceptual metaphors. In this way, Kosalan philosophy in the Kāṇva Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa and the Suttanipāta advances theories of causality and two modes of knowing—one karmically conditioned by past actions (saṃjñā/saññā), and the other a direct knowing (prajñāna/paññā) unmediated by karmic retribution.

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