SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Osto, Douglas Edward (2004) The Gandavyuha-Sutra: A study of wealth, gender and power in an Indian Buddhist narrative. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

PDF - Submitted Version
Download (12MB) | Preview


In this thesis, I examine the roles of wealth, gender and power in the Mahayana Buddhist scripture known as the Gandavyuha-sutra, using contemporary textual theory, narratology and worldview analysis. I argue that the wealth, gender and power of the spiritual guides (kalyanamitras, literally 'good friends') in this narrative reflect the social and political hierarchies and patterns of Buddhist patronage in ancient Indian during the time of its compilation. In order to do this, I divide the study into three parts. In part I, 'Text and Context', I first investigate what is currently known about the origins and development of the Gandavyuha, its extant manuscripts, translations and modem scholarship. Next, using a relative chronology based on current research into the origins of the Mahayana, I argue for the 3rd century CE, as likely time of origin, and suggest Dhanyakataka/Dharanlkota as the place of origin for the text. In part II, 'Structures', I examine the text's worldview and narrative structures. In chapter 3, I investigate the notions of reality, society and the individual. In chapter 4,1 outline some key concepts developed by the Dutch narratologist Mieke Bal (1997) and demonstrate how these concepts may be utilised in an analysis of the Gandavyuha. I begin part III, 'Forces', by considering Derrida's (2001) notion of 'force' as a critique of structuralism's overly 'geometric' model in the study of narrative. In an attempt to synthesise structure and force in part III, I examine the various structures outlined in previous chapters in relation to the themes of wealth, gender and power, as they unfold chronologically within the narrative From this study, I conclude that in the Gandavyuha, wealth functions as a sign of spiritual status, the significant number of royal female kalydnamitras reflects the importance of female patrons at the time of the text's compilation, and the spiritual hierarchy within the story mirrors the political hierarchies of Buddhism's Middle Period in India.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:03

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item