Vedali, or Veta, Veda, Bheta and Baiddha in Tibetan sources (Wyl. be ta, be da, bhe ta, bhaI d+dha) is the name of a place that you may encounter when Tibetans refer to southern India. The origins of this name can be traced back to a frequently quoted passage of the Lankavatara Sutra, which states:
- In Vedalī, in the southern part, a Bhikshu most illustrious and distinguished [will be born]; his name is Nāgāhvaya, he is the destroyer of the one-sided views based on being and non-being. He will declare my Vehicle, the unsurpassed Mahāyāna, to the world; attaining the stage of Joy he will go to the Land of Bliss.
This relevant passage is taken by Chandrakirti and later scholars as a prediction foretelling Nagajuna’s coming to this earth. Tibetan translators chose to render the Sanskrit name Vedali as ‘the country of Veta’ (Wyl. be ta’i yul).
Vedali has been variously identified with either Vidarbha or Andhra Pradesh. However, as treated in Tibetan sources Vedali should be understood as a directional designation—in this case “southern”—rather than a regional one. Regardless of Nagarjuna’s exact birthplace, Tibetan sources as well as recent academic research agree that Nagarjuna spent a significant part of his life in the lower Krishna valley, now in modern day Andhra Pradesh. Particularly Tibetan sources speak of Nagarjuna residing in Shri Parvata and in Dhanyakataka (Skt. Dhānyakaṭaka).
Many Buddhist monasteries once thrived in the fertile region of the lower Krishna valley. Buddhism was supported by the Satavahana (Skt. Sātavāhana) dynasty (~ 100 BCE – 300 CE) kings and the women of the subsequent Ikshvakus (Skt. Ikṣvākus) dynasty (225 CE – 325 CE). Benefactors’ inscriptions found at some of the archaeological sites indicate that the support for Buddhist monasteries continued until the early 5th century. Monastics travelling forth and back between South India and Sri Lanka maintained the Buddhist connection between these two regions at least until the 6th century. Nagarjuna and Aryadeva served as counselors to the Satavahana dynasty kings and in the Deccan region the Madhyamaka School flourished. Much later, the great scholar Chandrakirti likely lived in the lower Krishna valley as well. Evidence also suggest that the lower Krishna valley played an important role in the development of the early tathagatagarbha (‘buddha-nature’) literature. With the decline of royal patronage during the 6th century, Buddhist institutions in the Krishna and Godavari river valleys succumbed to the prevailing tide of medieval shaivite devotion. One of the few Buddhist sites still active in the seventh century was Jaggayyapeta.
- Chattopadhyaya, Alaka, and Lama Chimpa. Taranatha’s History of Buddhism in India. Edited by Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2010.
- Butön Rinchen Drup and Eugéne Obermiller. History of Buddhism (Chos ’Byung). Heidelberg: In Kommission bei O. Harrassowitz, 1931.
- Dudjom Rinpoche. The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals and History. Ed. Matthew Kapstein. Trans. Gyurme Dorje. Somerville: Wisdom Publications, 1991.
- Davidson, Ronald M. Tibetan Renaissance: Tantric Buddhism in the Rebirth of Tibetan Culture. Motilal Banarsidass Publisher, 2008.
- Dutt, Nalinaksha. “Notes on the Nagarjunakonda Inscriptions.” The Indian Historical Quarterly 7, no. 3 (1931): 633–53. http://enlight.lib.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-ENG/sha.htm.
- Dutt, Sukumar. Buddhist Monks and Monasteries of India: Their History and Their Contribution to Indian Culture. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2008.
- Gö Lotsawa. The Blue Annals. Trans. George Roerich. Calcutta: Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1949.
- Holt, Sree Padma, and A. W. Barber, eds. Buddhism in the Krishna River Valley of Andhra. State University of New York Press, 2009.
- Jo Nang Taranatha. The Seven Instruction Lineages. Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, 2007.
- Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra: A Mahāyāna Text. Translated from Sanskrit by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, http://lirs.ru/do/lanka_eng/lanka-sagathakam.htm.
- Mabbett, Ian. “The Problem of the Historical Nāgārjuna Revisited.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 118, no. 3 (1998): 332–346. http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-EPT/ian.htm.
- Nakamura, Hajime. Indian Buddhism: A Survey with Bibliographical Notes. Ed. Alex Wayman. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987.
- Radich, Michael. The Mahāparinirvāṇa-Mahāsūtra and the Emergence of Tathāgatagarbha Doctrine. Ed. Michael Zimmmermann. Hamburg: Hamburg University Press, 2015.
- Shimada, Akira. Early Buddhist Architecture in Context: The Great Stūpa at Amarāvatī (Ca. 300 BCE - 300 CE). Boston: Brill, 2012.
- Tucci, Guiseppe, Tibetan Painted Scrolls, Two Volumes. Bangkok: SDI Publications, 1999.
- Walleser, M., and B. Schindler. “The Life of Nagarjuna from Tibetan and Chinese Source.” In Asia Major: Birth Anniversary Volume. Delhi, 1979.
- Walser, Joseph. “Locating Nāgārjuna.” In Nāgārjuna in Context: Mahāyāna and Early Indian Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005, 59-88.
- Walser, Joseph. Nagarjuna in Context: Mahayana Buddhism and Early Indian Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.
- White, David Gordon. The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.
- Yeshe Tsogyal. The Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, Vol. I & II. Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978.
- The Sanskrit Version of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra reads: dakṣiṇāpathavedalyāṃ bhikṣuḥ śrīmān mahāyaśāḥ / nāgāhvayaḥ sa nāmnā tu sadasatpakṣadārakaḥ // Lank_10.165 // prakāśya loke madyānaṃ mahāyānamanuttaram / āsādya bhūmiṃ muditāṃ yāsyate 'sau sukhāvatīm // Lank_10.166 // Nāgāhvaya could also be read here, as done by the Tibetan translator, as who is called Nāga. The Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra: A Mahāyāna Text. Translated from Sanskrit by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, http://lirs.ru/do/lanka_eng/lanka-sagathakam.htm.
- The Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra most likely post-dates Nāgārjuna by a century or more. Nakemura suggests the 4th or 5th century as the most likely time of its composition. Hajime Nakamura, Indian Buddhism: A Survey with Bibliographical Notes, ed. Alex Wayman (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987), 230–31.
- Joseph Walser, “Nāgārjuna and the Ratnāvalī: New Ways to Date an Old Philosopher,” JIABS, no. 25 (1-2) (2002): 231–32; Gö Lotsawa, The Blue Annals, trans. George Roerich (Calcutta: Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1949), 35.
- The Padma Kathang presents India as a lotus-like maṇḍala whose center is Bodhgayā. It’s eight petals correspond to the four cardinal and four intermediate directions. Accordingly, Uḍḍiyāna represents the West, Bengal the East, Kashmir the North, Vedalī the South, Zahor the Southeast, Khangbu the Southwest, Tamradvīpa (Zangling) the Northwest and Kāmarūpa the Northeast. Guiseppe Tucci, Tibetan Painted Scrolls, Two Volumes, (Bangkok: SDI Publications, 1999), 736. Yeshe, Tsogyal, The Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, Vol. I & II, (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978), 73.
- Modern day Nagarjunakonda, 16°31′18.82″N 79°14′34.26″E.
- Joseph Walser, Nagarjuna in Context: Mahayana Buddhism and Early Indian Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), 87–88; Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals and History, ed. Matthew Kapstein, trans. Gyurme Dorje (Somerville: Wisdom Publications, 1991), 480; Butön Rinchen Drup and Eugéne Obermiller, History of Buddhism (Chos ’Byung) (Heidelberg: In Kommission bei O. Harrassowitz, 1931), 127; Gö Lotsawa, The Blue Annals, 35; Ronald M. Davidson, Tibetan Renaissance: Tantric Buddhism in the Rebirth of Tibetan Culture (Motilal Banarsidass Publisher, 2008), 197; Jo Nang Taranatha, The Seven Instruction Lineages (Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, 2007), 4–7. Modern day Dharanikota near Amaravati, 16.579444°N 80.311111°E.
- Joseph Walser’s recent research suggests Yajñaśri, who ruled from Amaravati (ca. 175–204 CE), as the most likely Sātavāhana patron of Nāgārjuna. See: Joseph Walser, “Nāgārjuna and the Ratnāvalī: New Ways to Date an Old Philosopher,” 261–62.
- Michael Radich, The Mahāparinirvāṇa-Mahāsūtra and the Emergence of Tathāgatagarbha Doctrine, ed. Michael Zimmmermann (Hamburg: Hamburg University Press, 2015), 82, http://hup.sub.uni-hamburg.de/volltexte/2015/153/pdf/HamburgUP_HBS05_Radich.pdf.
- Sree Padma Holt and A. W. Barber, eds., Buddhism in the Krishna River Valley of Andhra (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2009), 127–28.