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Why Did the Buddhists Adopt Sanskrit?

Vincent Eltschinger
  • Corresponding author
  • Section des Sciences religieuses, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris, France
  • Other articles by this author:
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Published Online: 2017-09-02 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opli-2017-0015

Abstract

Western scholarship has long wondered about the reasons that led the Buddhists, or, to be more precise, specific sectarian components of the Indian Buddhist communities (most conspicuously the [Mūla]sarvāstivādins), to abandon the Middle Indic vernaculars as their scriptural, scholarly and probably vehicular language, to turn to Sanskrit, the celebrated and elitist language of Brahmanical scriptures (first and foremost the Veda), ritual, and culture. The fact is all the more intriguing that insistent Buddhist traditions traced to the Buddha himself, apparently a champion of regional languages, a prohibition to use Sanskrit or, at least, to emulate Brahmanical linguistic behavior. The present paper presents a partly new hypothesis concerning one aspect of this important sociolinguistic phenomenon by looking into the legitimations provided by these Buddhists for studying (Sanskrit) grammar

Keywords : Buddhism; Sanskrit; Indic grammar; Sarvāstivāda; Buddhist sociolinguistic attitudes; Hieroglossy; Proselytism; Debate

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About the article

Revised: 2017-02-16

Accepted: 2017-02-07

Published Online: 2017-09-02

Published in Print: 2017-08-28


Citation Information: Open Linguistics, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 308–326, ISSN (Online) 2300-9969, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opli-2017-0015.

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