Beyond Class, Only Commentary

Rereading the Licchavis’ Origin Story in Buddhist Contexts


  • Charles S. Preston Millsaps College, Jackson, Mississippi



Nikāya Buddhism, Licchavis, Pāli Commentaries, class structure, narrative


The origin story of the Licchavis, retold in two commentaries on Nikaya texts, has received some scant attention in the modern scholastic record, yet has usually been either cast aside as so much myth or has been recast in thematic or structural studies that align it with other tales of incest, foundling narratives, or origin stories of gana-sanghas. This article argues against those interpretations and offers a thorough rereading of the story as not only encoding a class hierarchy but also, in so doing, critiquing the Brahmanical class structure and the concept of svabhava by birth. In this new interpretation of the story, and by reading it alongside other narratives, it becomes apparent that the origin story of the Licchavis makes sense within the context of the Buddhist commentaries where it is found. The account of their origins is not merely retelling an old story but furthering a Buddhist message.


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How to Cite

Preston, C. S. (2018). Beyond Class, Only Commentary: Rereading the Licchavis’ Origin Story in Buddhist Contexts. Buddhist Studies Review, 34(2), 181–204.