[Buddha-l] Barbaric not Buddhist

Piya Tan libris at singnet.com.sg
Mon Aug 1 18:56:26 MDT 2005

Thanks, Lance, for "vindicating" Dutthagamani, and Buddhists in general.

As we know the Mahavamsa is after all a hagiographical account more like the
Xiyuji (Journey West) to the Chinese than the chronicles of say Xuanzang.



"L.S. Cousins" wrote:

> The problem of exaggeration !
> >In the Mahavamsa, http://www.vipassana.com/resources/mahavamsa/mhv25.php
> >(see the last 10 or so para):
> >
> >King Dutthagamani ordered the death of millions of Tamil after defeating
> >King Elara.
> Since the population of the island is unlikely to have been as high
> as a million at this time, he clearly didn't. So the question is
> rather: did Mahaanaama, the much later author of the Mahaava.msa,
> think this is what happened. I don't believe so. I understand the
> king's guilt to arise from the deaths of the 'Tamils' in battle, not
> from any action of his after the battle.
> Part of the problem arises here from Geiger's translation. (Basically
> what is on the site referred to is a modernized version of Geiger.)
> 1. Geiger has: "When the king, after winning the victory, had slain
> all the" Tamils. But one should rather render: "After having brought
> about the death of all the Tamils, the king was victorious." [For
> reasons of readability, Geiger has reversed the main and subordinate
> clauses.]
> But even that is too much in a way. This is poetry and should be
> interpreted with care. Here Tamils refers not to an ethnic or
> linguistic group, but to a competing ruling class - the 32 Tamil
> chiefs, most of whom must have been something like local barons,
> warlords or even brigands. (For Mahaanaama, probably something like
> gangsters.)
> 2. Later Geiger has: [The king] knew no joy, remembering that thereby
> was wrought the destruction of millions (of beings)."
> Again, I would render this:
> [Despite obtaining royal luxuries, the king] "did not find happiness,
> remembering that an army has been slaughtered."
> The problem here is that the word akkho(b)hi.ni is rather rare. If it
> is a number (Skt ak.sobhi.nii), then it should refer to ten to the
> power of twelve or thirteen i.e. trillions of beings, not millions !
> Almost certainly, the correct meaning is 'army' (Skt ak.sauhi.nii).
> >When plagued with guilt,
> Guilt is rightly considered rather unwholesome in Buddhism. If one
> has done wrong, then rather than plaguing oneself with self-hate, one
> should get on and do something good.
> >he is calmed by "arhants, fully
> >enlightened beings" who tell him not to worry as he only killed one and a
> >half beings: "The one had come unto the (three) refuges, the other had
> >taken unto himself the five precepts. Unbelievers and men of evil
> >life were the rest, not to be esteemed more than beasts."
> This is again Geiger's translation. But I don't think the above
> correctly renders what is said. What they are saying to the King is
> rather: don't let your mind go over wholly to despair. If you do
> good, the path to heaven is still available. Note that they don't say
> that the path to enlightenment is available.
> It is of course a standard idea in all forms of Buddhism that killing
> spiritually advanced beings has greater adverse consequences than
> killing the less advanced. Similarly, killing ordinary good people
> ('the innocent') is worse than killing thugs. Killing animals is less
> serious than killing human beings but still wrong. So when it says
> that the others who died in the battle 'should be reckoned as
> comparable to animals', this does not mean what it would have meant
> to Europeans in the past; for whom the killing of animals (created
> for human use) is legitimate.
> The whole passage is a humorous story about mitigating extreme guilt
> - not about justifying killing.
> Geiger renders the concluding verse as follows:
> "Should a man think on the hosts of human beings murdered for greed
> in countless myriads, and should he carefully keep in mind the evil
> (arising from that), and should he also very carefully keep in mind
> the mortality as being the murderer of all, then will  he, in this
> way, shortly win freedom from suffering and a happy condition."
> >Christian missionaries, I was told, are now using this story widely to
> >discredit the Buddhist sangha in Sri Lanka.
> This seems improbable, but if true would be extraordinary hypocrisy,
> given what one finds in Christian writing of comparable date.
> Lance Cousins
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