The Milindapañha in the Context of History of Indian Civilization

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This paper restores the historical context of Milindapañha . The text is unique, because it is one of the very few documents of Ancient India, in which one of the authors is considered a Greek ( yavana ) as a participant in the dialog. To reconstruct the context of the book, the basic archeological data about the Indo-Greek Kingdom, including epigraphics, are summed up, as well as there are analyzed some references to the kingdom given in the Mahāvaṃsa , the earliest chronicle of Sri Lanka. These mentions in the Mahāvaṃsa are matched with the numismatics of Ceylon. From this analysis it is concluded that the document of Milindapañha was most likely created in Gāndhārī in the interval from the beginning of the 1st century B.C. to the end of the 1st century A.D., i.e. during the period of the domination of the syncretic culture of the North of India, combining Buddhism with certain elements of Hellenism. The treatise of Milindapañha was then preserved in Sri Lanka's tradition by continuing good political contacts with the Roman Empire after 400 A.D., that is, after the collapse of the Kushan and the Western Kshatrapas, the last dynasties that had previously preserved elements of Hellenism in the Indian subcontinent. The philosophical meaning of the treatise is then considered and it is concluded that in the text we can find direct references to the proto-Nyāya with the requirement to verify premises by examples. But the logical teaching of Milindapañha is far more archaic than the teaching of Nyāyasūtra , because only two sources ( pramāṇa ) of true knowledge are implicitly used: paccakkha (“obvious”) and anumāna (“inference”), and instead of the two verification methods called udāhārana and upamā , only one verification method called opamma is offered.

About the authors

Andrew N. Schumann

University of Information Technology and Management in Rzeszow

Author for correspondence.

PhD (philosophy), docent; head of the department of cognitive science and mathematical modelling

2, Sucharskiego Str., Rzeszow, 35-225, Poland


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Copyright (c) 2020 Schumann A.N.

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