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ZHANG Yu | The Indian epic Mahābhārata – On Its Relationship with Buddhism and Chinese Literature

Release Date: 2017/8/25 10:38:05

 ZHANG Yu | The Indian epic Mahābhārata – On Its Relationship with Buddhism and Chinese Literature

The Mahābhārata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India. It is of considerable breadth and unique character, and has been described as "the longest poem ever written".

 

On the morning of August 22, ZHANG Yu from Shanghai International Studies University gave an introductory talk on the epic and its connection with Chinese literature.

 ZHANG Yu | The Indian epic Mahābhārata – On Its Relationship with Buddhism and Chinese Literature

 

The epic is traditionally ascribed to the sage Vyāsa, who is also a major character in the epic. There have been many attempts to unravel its historical growth and compositional layers. The oldest preserved parts of the text are thought to be not much older than around 400 BCE, though the origins of the epic probably fall between the 8th and 9th centuries BCE. The core story of the work is that of a dynastic struggle for the throne of Hastinapura, the kingdom ruled by the Kuru clan. Among the principal works and stories in the Mahābhārata are the Bhagavadgītā, the story of Damayantī, an abbreviated version of the Rāmāyaṇa, and the story of Ṛṣyasringa, often considered as works in their own right. As is remarked in the final notes of the work itself, “With respect to the right method, interest, the passions and release, what is here is also elsewhere and what is not here is not found elsewhere”. Citing Maurice Winternitz’s History of Indian Literature and Giovanni Verardi’s Hardship and Downfall of Buddhism in India, Professor ZHANG mentioned that many Brahmin books, writings, myths and legends contain Buddhist messages. Some of the important chapters in Mahabharata, such as the Bhagavad-gita, and the Peace in Bhishma, also gave expression to Buddhist thoughts. Mahabharata’s core ideas also unfold around the concepts like law, interests, desire and liberation. While the narrative style of Mahabharata, with respect to the description of many well-known stories, divine transformation and rhetorics, are used in Chinese literature as well.

 ZHANG Yu | The Indian epic Mahābhārata – On Its Relationship with Buddhism and Chinese Literature

ZHANG Yu | The Indian epic Mahābhārata – On Its Relationship with Buddhism and Chinese Literature

 

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