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  • Tracing Thought through Things: The Oldest Pali Texts and the Early Buddhist Archaeology of India and Burma
  • Peter Skilling
Tracing Thought through Things: The Oldest Pali Texts and the Early Buddhist Archaeology of India and Burma. Janice Stargardt. Amsterdam: Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2000. 60 pp. ISBN 90-6984-304-8.

Tracing Thought through Things is the seventh Gonda lecture, delivered on 12 November 1999 at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. The author, Janice Stargardt, is one of the small number of British archaeologists who have given sustained attention to Southeast Asia. She starts with a concise review of the setting: archaeology in Indology; iron tools and food resources; continuity of settlement; and urbanization, trade, and Buddhism. Rice, "along with bananas and coconuts, may have been introduced into India from South East Asia" (p. 11). Iron production, agricultural developments, and rice cultivation were factors that "provided the necessary preconditions for the extraordinary flowering of new religious and philosophical thought in the 1st millennium BC, that shaped the intellectual and religious history, first, of India and then exerted a profound influence on the wider world" ( p. 12).

Unfortunately, problems arise when we come to Amarāvatī. The suggested association of the Caitika school (Stargardt uses the form Caityaka: the name is variously spelt, as we shall see) with the Great Caitya at Amarāvatī is not borne out by available evidence: at best it is a hypothesis that has [End Page 386] been exaggerated over the years until it has become fact.1 Two Amarāvatī inscriptions use the term. The first does not say, as rendered by Burgess, that the Great Caitya was "in possession of " "the school of the Caitikīyas," but that a "wheel of the Dharma" was set up and donated to that school at the western gate of the Mahācetiya of the Blessed One (bhagavāto mahācetiye cetikiyā naṃnikāsa [read nikāyasa] parigahe aparadāre dhamacakaṃdedham[maṃ ṭhā]pita).2 In the second inscription, "jaḍikyānam"—the form used here—can be dative or genitive plural. Its referent is ambiguous. It can refer to the donor or her husband (see Sivaramamurti, who, intentionally or not, is also ambiguous: "the wife of the householder Sidhatha of the Jaḍikiya school"). It cannot be a genitive plural referring to the Mahā cetiya, which belongs to the Blessed One (bhagavat). It could be dative plural: the lamp pillar was donated to the Jaḍikiyas: "Khadā, wife of the householder Sidhatha, with her daughters, sons, mother, brothers, daughters-in-law . . . have set up a lamp pillar for the Jaḍikiyas . . . at the foot of the Great Cetiya of the Blessed One."3 But the epigraph with its difficulties cannot be strong evidence for Caitikas "possession" of the Mahācetiya, and indeed we know very little about how the early caityas were managed.4

The Caitikas were an early branch of the Mahāsāṃghika school.5 In addition to at Amarāvatī, they are mentioned once each at Ajanta and Nasik.6 None of their scriptures survive, and virtually nothing is known about their doctrines: only three are listed in Vasumitra's classical compendium of tenets, all three shared by the Pūrvaśailas and Aparaśailas. (The Caitikas were not, as Burgess would have it, "otherwise called the school of the Pūrvaśailas.") It is sometimes assumed, quite wrongly, that the school had a special association with caityas, and that the presence of caityas or stūpas means the presence of Caityakas. On the contrary, Vasumitra ascribes to them the view that offerings to caityas do not bring great fruit.7

Caityas dominate the early Buddhist sites of India and South-East Asia.8 The ideology of relic worship, hence caityas, developed in the earliest Buddhism and continues to the present. Its authority rests in the words of the Buddha himself, in the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra—a fundamental text for all schools. The cult is not the property of any single school, and the main . schools all mencourage the worship of caityas. The Uttaragrantha of the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya makes frequent...


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