Journal of Indian Philosophy

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 235–256 | Cite as

Aśvaghoṣa’s Viśeṣaka: The Saundarananda and Its Pāli “Equivalents”

  • Eviatar ShulmanEmail author


When compared with the Pāli versions of the Nanda tale—the story of the ordainment and liberation of the Buddha’s half-brother—some of the peculiar features of Aśvaghoṣa’s telling in the Saundarananda come to the fore. These include the enticing love games that Nanda plays with his wife Sundarī before he follows Buddha out of the house, and the powerful, troubling scene in which Buddha forces Nanda to ordain. While the Pāli versions are aware of fantastic elements such as the flight to the Himālayas, and while each adds its own unique emphases that re-shape the events, none raise such deep ambivalence as done by Aśvaghoṣa. The Comparison of the different tellings then raises a more general theoretical point in relation to Buddhist literature—that genre defines the special features of each adaptation of the story, rather than any historical conditions regarding transmission; the versions each conform to the specific intellectual context of the text that appropriates them. This understanding allows an advancement of the idea of genre in Buddhist canonical and semi-canonical texts.


Aśvaghoṣa Saundarananda Udāna Jātaka Buddhist literature Genre 


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Asian StudiesThe Hebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael

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