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Nepal - Newar Tib Trade and Domestication of Simhalasartha Avadana

Nepal - Newar Tib Trade and Domestication of Simhalasartha Avadana

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Newar-Tibetan Trade and the Domestication of "Siṃhalasārthabāhu Avadāna"Author(s): Todd T. LewisSource:
History of Religions,
Vol. 33, No. 2 (Nov., 1993), pp. 135-160Published by: The University of Chicago PressStable URL:
Accessed: 19/11/2009 00:21
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Todd T. LewisNEWAR-TIBETANTRADE ANDTHEDOMESTICATIONOFSIMHALA SA R THABAHUAVADANA
INTRODUCTION
Thisarticlepresentsananalysisof apopulardidacticstory(avaddna)of IndicMahayanaBuddhism that is stillimportantintheNewar Bud-dhistcommunityofKathmandu,Nepal.Drawingon atranslation of thetext andanthropologicalresearchinNepalthatdemonstratesthe text'smultifacetedrelationshipwithin Newarsociety,itisconcerned withthenature oftheNepalesecommunity'sincorporationofthestory,auniversalprocessinthesuccessfulmissionary adaptationofBuddhisminvenuesthroughoutAsia.1 Afterdefiningthisphenomenon,which Irefer toas"domestication,"Idemonstratehow thenarrative elementsof theSimhalasarthabahuavadanahavebeenadaptedtoandadoptedwithinthe BuddhistmercantilecommunityofKathmandu,for whomlong-distancetrade withTibet was animportantundertaking through-out thelast millennium.Forthesereasons,focus on thedomestication
Earlyversions of thisarticlewerepresentedat the1991South AsiaMeetings,Univer-sityofWisconsin-Madison,atthe1991 HarvardUniversity HimalayanSeminar,and atthe 1992AnnualMeetingsoftheAmerican OrientalSociety.Iwouldlike toacknowl-edgefundingfrom theWenner-GrenFoundation forsupportingtheresearch onwhichthisstudyisbased.Specialthanksgoto JohnEspositofor hisreadingthemanuscript.Thisarticle is dedicatedtoPratyekManTuladhar,formerLhasatrader,generousinfor-mant,and truekalydnamitra.
1
ThepublishedNewariversion of thistextisfoundinBhikshuSudarshan,Sim-hasarthabdhu va KabirKumdrBdkhan(Kathmandu:Cvaspasa,1967).Amonographpresentinga full translationofthis Newar avadanaand astudyof itsdomesticationisinpreparation.
?1993byTheUniversityofChicago.Allrightsreserved.0018-2710/94/3302-0002$01.00
 
Newar-TibetanTradeof narrative traditionssuggestshowproblematicit is torelyonliterarytexts to "center"representationsof the tradition.
I. BUDDHIST TEXTUAL BACKGROUND
One attribute of Gautama Buddha as a"greatteacher ofgodsand men"wasdoubtlesshis skillfulturningofastoryto demonstrate apoint,awakeningdoctrinalinsight throughnarrative illustrations.Suchpara-bles are foundinall canonscompiledbyall schools.Numerous storiesattributedtoSakyamuniarekarma-retributionstoriesillustratingthecause and effectof moral actions.Throughoutits firstmillennium,Buddhist literati collected suchtales,calledavadana andjatakas.Manyarepan-Indic,redacted to conform toBuddhistdoctrine, ethics,andhagiography.As indicatedbyitstitle,an avadana("significantdeed"or"adventure")s a form of Buddhist literature thatimpartssim-plereligiousinstructionthroughthe actions of the Bodhisattva or an-otherspirituallyadvancedbeing.2Familiaritywith thismaterial,andpublicrecitation ofit,eventuallybecamearecognizedmonasticavocation,as one textnotessix suchroles withinthesamghathat include"folklorists"(tirascakathika).Themagnitudeof their collectionsisstriking,asclearlythisgenrefound awidespreadaudienceamongthelaity,mostlikely throughtheperfor-manceofpublic storytelling.3It is notmyintention to rehearsethe sto-rytellingtextualtradition but to examineonesingleavadanain context:theNewar recensionof theCaravanLeader SimhalaAvadana.4
2EtienneLamotte,History ofIndian Buddhism: From theOriginsto theSakaEra,trans. SaraWebb-Boin(Louvain:InstitutOrientaliste,1988),p.146.3TheNewar Buddhistsamgha'sroleaspublicizerof avadanas andjdtakasstill en-dures.Thereisalsoevidence ofsamtghamemberskeeping personalstory compilationsthatare usedwhenthey accompanydisciplesto Buddhistpilgrimagesitesaround theKathmanduValley.AsI-Tsingremarkedin690 c.E.:"Theobjectofcomposingjatakasin verse is to teachthe doctrineof universal salvationina beautifulstyle, agreeabletothepopularand andattractive to readers"(J.Takakasu, trans.,ARecordofthe BuddhistReligion[London:Clarendon,1896],p.163).Fewanthropologicalstudiesof textsinliv-ingBuddhistcontextshave beenrecorded,with theexceptionof Robert F.Spencer,"EthicalExpressionsin a BurmeseJataka,"JournalofAmerican Folklore 79(1966):278-301.MargaretConeand RichardF.Gombrichpresentsome commentson the Ves-santara Jatakain ThePerfectGenerosity ofPrince Vessantara(Oxford:Clarendon,1977).A useful collectionof Buddhisttales,withanalyticalcommentary,isfoundinRoyC.Amore andLarryD.Shinn,LustfulMaidens and AsceticKings(NewYork:Ox-fordUniversityPress,1981).A recentstudy byMadhu BazazWangu,"Hermeneutics ofa KashmiriMahatmyaTextinContext,"in Texts inContext,ed.JeffreyR.Timm(Al-bany:StateUniversityofNew YorkPress,1992),pp.147-68,examines thecompositionof a"new" Hindutext in relationto itssociopoliticalcontext.4The classicresourceis MauriceWinternitz,AHistory ofIndianLiterature,3vols.,trans.Mrs.S.Ketkar(Calcutta:Universityof CalcuttaPress,1933).Valuable recent dis-cussionsarefoundinJohnS.Strong,"TheTransformingGift:AnAnalysisof Devo-tional ActsofOfferinginBuddhistAvadanaLiterature,"History ofReligions18,no. 3(1979):221-37,TheLegendofKingAsoka(Princeton,N.J.: PrincetonUniversityPress,1983),andTheLegendand Cultof Upagupta(Princeton,N.J.:PrincetonUniversityPress,1992).
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