Some time ago I had written about the translations of the Sahitya Akademi and how much I appreciated them. I had their selected collection of Medieval Indian Literature and a month ago, a good friend sent me a wonderful gift–the Ancient and Modern selections, each in three volumes. The ancient series has selections from Vedic Sanskrit, Pali, classical Sanskrit, Prakrit, Apabhramsa, Tamil and Kannada, while the modern series has the whole range of languages, which had not developed in ancient times.
Here is one of my favourite quotes from the Sutta Pitaka, a Pali text, on dialogues with the Buddha. Potthapada puts a question to the Buddha. ‘Is the world eternal? Is this alone the truth and any other view mere folly?’
‘That, Potthapada, is a matter on which I have expressed no opinion.’ Then Potthapada asked each of the following questions: ‘Is the world not eternal? Is the world infinite? Is the soul the same as the body? Is the soul one thing, and the body another? Does one who has gained the truth live again after death? Does he not live again after death? Does he both live again and not live again after death? Does he neither live again, and not live again after death? ‘ And to each one the Exalted One made the same reply: ‘That too, Potthapada, is a matter on which I have expressed no opinion.’
‘But why has the Exalted One expressed no opinion on that?’
‘The question is not calculated to profit, it is not concerned with the dhamma, it does not redound even to the elements of right conduct, nor to detachment, nor to purification from lusts, nor to quietude, nor to tranquilization of heart, nor to real knowledge, nor to insight, nor to nirvana. Therefore I express no opinion about it.’