Greater Magadha

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
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daverupa
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Greater Magadha

Postby daverupa » Wed Mar 06, 2013 9:46 pm

Greater Magadha: Studies in the Culture of Early India, by Johannes Bronkhorst

"Greater Magadha, roughly the eastern part of the Gangetic plain of northern India, has so far been looked upon as deeply indebted to Brahmanical culture. Religions such as Buddhism and Jainism are thought of as derived, in one way or another, from Vedic religion. This belief is defective in various respects. This book argues for the importance and independence of Greater Magadha as a cultural area until a date close to the beginning of the Common Era. In order to correct the incorrect notions, two types of questions are dealt with: questions pertaining to cultural and religious dependencies, and questions relating to chronology. As a result a modified picture arises that also has a bearing on the further development of Indian culture."

This book has been reviewed by Alexander Wynne.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Greater Magadha

Postby daverupa » Thu Mar 07, 2013 1:39 am

On a speculative note, I wonder if this idea has any implications with respect (although admittedly vaguely remembered) to the occasions in the Upanishads of Kshatriyas instructing Brahmins.

Additionally, I wonder if formless meditation first arose in this Greater Magadha, finally to meld with the Vedic culture. The context around jhana & the formless attainments, as well as the development of perception-feeling-cessation, can perhaps be refined.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Greater Magadha

Postby Dmytro » Thu Mar 07, 2013 4:24 am

Thank you, Daverupa!

This can be complemented by articles:

Michael Witzel
The Development of the Vedic Canon and its Schools : The Social and Political Milieu

Both the Malla and Vr ji apparently immigrated into the east only after the end of the Vedic period, but well before the time of the Buddha (c. 400 B.C.). This must have been one of the last great infiltrations in Vedic times of western peoples into the lower Gan gå area. More or less about this time the so-called second urbanization began as well.

Nevertheless, the settlement pattern in the east was not as homogenous as it was in the more western areas where the indigenous population had become Indo-Aryan in language and culture since the Mantra period. Instead, the Kosala-Videha area was one of great mixture of peoples. There were some earlier eastern Indo-Aryan settlers, the local Munda people and some Tibeto-Burmese elements. Then, various types and groups new immigrants entered from the areas further west. These were some brahmanically oriented tribes but also other non-orthoprax Indo-Aryan tribes such as the Malla and V rji. They immigrated from northwestern India into Bihar which had been already settled by the old, para-Vedic Indo-Aryan tribes such as the Iksvåku, Kosala, Kåśi, and Videha.

Many of these tribes, including the Śakya to whom the Buddha belonged, are called asurya in ŚB. For it is the Sakya and their neighbors, the Malla, Vajji, etc. who are reported in the Påli texts as builders of high grave mounds, such as the one built for the Buddha. According to ŚB 12.8.1.5 the “easterners and others(!)” are reported to have round “demonic” graves, some of which may have been excavated at Lauriya in E. Nepal. These graves are similar to the kurgan type grave mounds of S. Russia and Central Asia. However, the origin of the Śakya is not as clear as that of the Malla and Vr ji. They may very well have been (northern) Iranian, and would then constitute an earlier, apparently the first wave of the later Śaka invasions from Central Asia.

...

The eastern region thus supplied the ideal ferment for the meeting of ideas and the development of new concepts. Just as the break-up of the old tribal society of the Rgveda saw strikingly new developments in ritual and the emergence of the brahmanical pre-scientific science of homologies (bandhu), the new stratified and partly aristocratic, partly oligarchic society of the east witnessed the emergence of many of the typically Upanisadic ideas.

By the time of the Buddha (c. 400 B.C.), wandering teachers of all sorts were normal appearances in the towns and villages of the east (Dīghanikåya 2). We get a glimpse of the earlier state of this phenomenon when Yåjñavalkya leaves home (BĀU 4.5.15). If we may trust the BĀU and ŚB accounts of Uddålaka's travels in the Panjab, he reached both the western and the eastern ends of Vedic India in his travels. In fact, the geographical horizon of the early Upanisads stretches from Gandhåra to An ga.

http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~witzel/canon.pdf

Possible Iranian Origins for Sākyas and Aspects of Buddhism
Jayarava Attwood

http://independent.academia.edu/Jayarav ... f_Buddhism

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Re: Greater Magadha

Postby Kusala » Wed Mar 27, 2013 7:57 am

Dmytro wrote:Thank you, Daverupa!

This can be complemented by articles:

Michael Witzel
The Development of the Vedic Canon and its Schools : The Social and Political Milieu

Both the Malla and Vr ji apparently immigrated into the east only after the end of the Vedic period, but well before the time of the Buddha (c. 400 B.C.). This must have been one of the last great infiltrations in Vedic times of western peoples into the lower Gan gå area. More or less about this time the so-called second urbanization began as well.

Nevertheless, the settlement pattern in the east was not as homogenous as it was in the more western areas where the indigenous population had become Indo-Aryan in language and culture since the Mantra period. Instead, the Kosala-Videha area was one of great mixture of peoples. There were some earlier eastern Indo-Aryan settlers, the local Munda people and some Tibeto-Burmese elements. Then, various types and groups new immigrants entered from the areas further west. These were some brahmanically oriented tribes but also other non-orthoprax Indo-Aryan tribes such as the Malla and V rji. They immigrated from northwestern India into Bihar which had been already settled by the old, para-Vedic Indo-Aryan tribes such as the Iksvåku, Kosala, Kåśi, and Videha.

Many of these tribes, including the Śakya to whom the Buddha belonged, are called asurya in ŚB. For it is the Sakya and their neighbors, the Malla, Vajji, etc. who are reported in the Påli texts as builders of high grave mounds, such as the one built for the Buddha. According to ŚB 12.8.1.5 the “easterners and others(!)” are reported to have round “demonic” graves, some of which may have been excavated at Lauriya in E. Nepal. These graves are similar to the kurgan type grave mounds of S. Russia and Central Asia. However, the origin of the Śakya is not as clear as that of the Malla and Vr ji. They may very well have been (northern) Iranian, and would then constitute an earlier, apparently the first wave of the later Śaka invasions from Central Asia.

...

The eastern region thus supplied the ideal ferment for the meeting of ideas and the development of new concepts. Just as the break-up of the old tribal society of the Rgveda saw strikingly new developments in ritual and the emergence of the brahmanical pre-scientific science of homologies (bandhu), the new stratified and partly aristocratic, partly oligarchic society of the east witnessed the emergence of many of the typically Upanisadic ideas.

By the time of the Buddha (c. 400 B.C.), wandering teachers of all sorts were normal appearances in the towns and villages of the east (Dīghanikåya 2). We get a glimpse of the earlier state of this phenomenon when Yåjñavalkya leaves home (BĀU 4.5.15). If we may trust the BĀU and ŚB accounts of Uddålaka's travels in the Panjab, he reached both the western and the eastern ends of Vedic India in his travels. In fact, the geographical horizon of the early Upanisads stretches from Gandhåra to Anga.

http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~witzel/canon.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Possible Iranian Origins for Sākyas and Aspects of Buddhism
Jayarava Attwood

http://independent.academia.edu/Jayarav ... f_Buddhism" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


Thanks, Dmytro. :namaste:
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Re: Greater Magadha

Postby Indrajala » Sat Apr 27, 2013 6:03 am

Bronkhorst incidentally also discusses why Sanskrit came to be adopted as the lingua franca of Buddhists in the north despite it really being a language of Brahmans.

I wrote a summary here:

http://huayanzang.blogspot.com/2012/12/ ... dhism.html

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Re: Greater Magadha

Postby daverupa » Sat Apr 27, 2013 3:40 pm

Indrajala wrote:Bronkhorst incidentally also discusses why Sanskrit came to be adopted as the lingua franca of Buddhists in the north despite it really being a language of Brahmans.

I wrote a summary here:

http://huayanzang.blogspot.com/2012/12/ ... dhism.html


I thought it was a useful read; "cultural colonization" is an apt phrase for quite a number of reasons.

Thankee-sai!
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Greater Magadha

Postby daverupa » Sat Jan 17, 2015 3:00 pm

http://dharmawheel.net/posting.php?mode=quote&f=77&p=268044

Kim O'Hara wrote:Possible, I guess, but how are you defining "Magadha religion"? What do we know about it?


Indrajala wrote:

Magadha religion as in the ancestral mythology and religious concepts of the area where the Buddha was born and lived (in Bronkhorst's terms, 'Greater Magadha'). We know that there was a largely common pantheon with the Vedic Brahmans to the west (Brahma, Indra, etc.), who incidentally regarded Magadha as a land of asuras where they spoke a strange accent. Nevertheless, they had a common Indo-European heritage which at that point incidentally was not so distant from the Indo-Iranian religions (Zoroastrianism and the earlier traditions it was based on). We can learn a lot from examining parallels.

To put this into perspective let's look at a map:

Image

The western regions were the heartland of Vedic Brahmanism. The east was basically a close relative, though not having adopted many of the customs and ideas like caste and so on. They were like two sons of the same mother having gone different ways.

The earlier idea that Buddhism was a reaction to Brahmanism is problematic. Geoffrey Samuel in his work The Origins of Yoga and Tantra Indic Religions to the Thirteenth Century explains as follows:

It would seem that by the time of the historical Buddha and of the Jaina teacher Mahāvīra, the generic Indo-Aryan cultural tradition was an accepted part of society through much of the Central Gangetic region. There were also Brahmins and a degree of movement between the Brahmins of this region and those of Kuru-Pañcāla. It seems clear, however, that the nature of Vedic and Brahmanical religion in this region was different and considerably less dominant than in the Kuru-Pañcāla region.


Geoffrey Samuel, The Origins of Yoga and Tantra Indic Religions to the Thirteenth Century (New Delhi, India: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 100.

Other sources of knowledge about religion in Greater Magadha can be discerned from looking at the Buddhist counterparts: the Jains for example. The culture of śramaṇas was basically widespread in Greater Magadha. Their ethics, so far as I know, were largely the same with minor variations. Likewise, the theory of karma had different interpretations. The Buddha's was just one of them.

So, the pantheon of early Buddhism had simply drawn from a mythology common to Greater Magadha and also to some extent the western regions of Kuru-Pañcāla. Likewise, the theory of karma and rebirth, and ideas of liberation from it, already existed and were widely discussed amongst the śramaṇas of Greater Magadha. By their own admission, the Jain tradition predated the Buddha by centuries.

Likewise, the Indo-Aryan pantheon had already existed for many more centuries. In fact, the Vedic gods appear in bronze age Mesopotamia in the kingdom of Mitanni between around 1500 BC–1300 BCE:

Image

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitanni

The Vedic gods in any case are descendants of the pan Indo-European religion. Thor, Zeus and Indra are the same god. Think also of Mount Meru and Mount Olympus.

Buddhism is therefore a product of its environment. The Buddha had some unique ideas which I personally appreciate deeply, but it was not necessarily so innovative in terms of his time. He likewise did not reveal some new pantheon or religion.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Greater Magadha

Postby sphairos » Mon Jan 19, 2015 9:46 pm

Ah, Greater Magadha is so great...
How good and wonderful are your days,
How true are your ways?

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Re: Greater Magadha

Postby Dhamma_Basti » Fri Jul 24, 2015 5:11 am

Needless to say while Bronkhorst's discoveries are certainly astonishing and interesting, they are also subject to criticism by a large part of the more conservative and traditionally orientated scholars of classical indology (such as Richard Gombrich).
I am currently writing a paper on exactly this issue (the topic being "what are the potencial flaws of Bronkhorst concept of Greater Magadha?") and if somebody here is interested I could upload it once it is finished. :)
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Re: Greater Magadha

Postby Kamran » Sat Jul 25, 2015 4:39 am

Dhamma_Basti wrote:Needless to say while Bronkhorst's discoveries are certainly astonishing and interesting, they are also subject to criticism by a large part of the more conservative and traditionally orientated scholars of classical indology (such as Richard Gombrich).
I am currently writing a paper on exactly this issue (the topic being "what are the potencial flaws of Bronkhorst concept of Greater Magadha?") and if somebody here is interested I could upload it once it is finished. :)


Please share it with us, sounds interesting.
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Re: Greater Magadha

Postby Dhamma_Basti » Thu Sep 24, 2015 6:36 pm

I am progressing with my paper but I am writing it in german and have no big motivation to translate it to english, so I feel sorry for you. But the quality of my research is also on a very low, pre-bachelor level , so there is not much you are missing. ^^

Just a couple of general remarks in contrast to the classical position of indologists such as Frauwallner or Gombrich:
- Bronkhorst claims that the concept of Karma and rebirth was first found in Magadha's religious movements and later appeared in the upanisads 'dressed up in a vedic garb'. This totally ignores the inscriptions of Aśoka, who does not mention any kind of a 'buddhist doctrine of karma' and at the same time the fact that the doctrinal development inside the upanisads in respect to the introduction of karma is in total quite harmonious and does not give us any real implication to state that it was suddenly introduced from an outside source. Much more likely that it was gradually introduced by constant exposure to non-aryian religions in the indian subcontinent, but this fact leaves Bronkhorsts whole concept quite in the dust. (Samuel Geoffrey is by the way following this idea.)

- The very main fault in my eyes (and I see appearently nobody here really mentioned it despite of this being a theravada-forum) is Bronkhorsts implicated claim that the buddhist concept of anattā is not a reaction to the upanisadic idea of ātman. This is the logical result if he claims that the Bṛhad-Aranyaka-Upaniṣad and the Chandogya-Upaniṣad have been composed after the time of the Buddha. This would mean that the second sermon (Anattālakkhaṇa-Sutta) is not authentical, but was added at a later stage. Or that it does not refer to the Upaniṣads at all (what Bronkhorst tries to prove, but ultimately fails, if you compare his argumentation to that of Norman, Gombrich, Wynne and Samuel).

Given these facts Michael Witzel gave a nice summary of his own observations concerning the date-relationship of these texts, called 'moving targets'.
http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handl ... sequence=1" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Given the conclusion of Witzel, the observations about the language of the early canon as presented by Von Hinüber ( https://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/i ... /8977/2870" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; ) and Gombrichs very deep and well-presented analysis on the textual references (including satire and humor) made by the Buddha to the upaniṣadic worldview, there remains little of real substance that can be extracted from Bronkhorsts extraordinarily claims to rewrite the history of early India. ^^
Nevertheless this does not mean that what he claims is totally not reasonable, there are many points where I do agree, especially considering the underrated influence of eastern and non aryan religions into the vedic model.

I think his claims are mainly appealing to western 'new age buddhists' of the 20/21th century, who hold the Buddha and his main teaching in high esteem but at the same time are not much aware of the traditional points on such central points as the anattā-doctrine. At the same time he cannot expect much support from the buddhist traditions because his claims are contradicting their interpretation of the core teachings of the Buddha (we are not talking about some minor side-aspects here) and from the philological tradition as well because there is not much substance to his argumentation.

:)
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Re: Greater Magadha

Postby Dhammanando » Mon Sep 28, 2015 10:06 am

Dhamma_Basti wrote:The very main fault in my eyes (and I see appearently nobody here really mentioned it despite of this being a theravada-forum) is Bronkhorsts implicated claim that the buddhist concept of anattā is not a reaction to the upanisadic idea of ātman.


Whereas you, presumably, think that it is a reaction to the Upaniṣadic idea? But if so, what exactly would you mean by that? Are you making the bold claim that there wouldn’t be any anattā teaching had there been no Upaniṣadic attā teaching? Or the more modest claim that the manner in which the anattā teaching is formulated would be different from what it presently is?
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Re: Greater Magadha

Postby Dhamma_Basti » Mon Sep 28, 2015 10:40 am

Dhammanando wrote:
Dhamma_Basti wrote:The very main fault in my eyes (and I see appearently nobody here really mentioned it despite of this being a theravada-forum) is Bronkhorsts implicated claim that the buddhist concept of anattā is not a reaction to the upanisadic idea of ātman.


Whereas you, presumably, think that it is a reaction to the Upaniṣadic idea? But if so, what exactly would you mean by that? Are you making the bold claim that there wouldn’t be any anattā teaching had there been no Upaniṣadic attā teaching? Or the more modest claim that the manner in which the anattā teaching is formulated would be different from what it presently is?

I do claim that the anattā - teaching as it is understood in most references in the pāli-canon indeed goes back to a reactional understanding, very likely that it was aimed against the view presented in the upaniṣads from the very beginning. This is at least what K.R. Norman, Richard Gombrich and Bhikkhu Buddhadasa believe, just to name a few references - you will find endless more if you look for them. I do think however that the way the pāli-canon (and most of the buddhist tradition) turned a not-self doctrine into a no-self doctrine is already a departure from the Buddhas intention. A not-self doctrine can be reactional - it accepts that there is a teaching of a self, might even accept that the self (or this imagination of the self) does exist, but it denies that knowledge of it alone leads to liberation. Of course this could be aimed at a general understanding of the self which was held by other traditions (not just the upaniṣadic) as well, , but the way the teaching is worded and presented in the pāli-texts makes it very likely that it was directed against the upaniṣads from the very beginning. If it was not, than it was very soon after the death of the Buddha, before the compilation of the canon, already widely interpreted in this way.
Richard Gombrichs "How buddhism began" is a very illuminating read if you are interested in the textual relationship between the early upaniṣads and the buddhist canon, and Gombrich really provides some "flesh on the bone" when it comes to presenting convincing arguments, whereas Bronkhorsts largely fails to deliver decisive points in my eyes.
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Re: Greater Magadha

Postby Dhammanando » Tue Sep 29, 2015 5:54 am

Dhamma_Basti wrote:I do claim that the anattā - teaching as it is understood in most references in the pāli-canon indeed goes back to a reactional understanding, very likely that it was aimed against the view presented in the upaniṣads from the very beginning.


I don’t think you’ve really answered my question. If I may put it another way...

Would you consider sakkāya-diṭṭhi, attavāda and asmi-māna to be universal afflictions among the unenlightened, and for which the development of insight into the anattā-ness of dhammas is the remedy? Or do you conceive them as afflictions that only troubled Indian adherents of Upaniṣadic philosophy, making anattā effectively irrelevant for anyone who is not an adherent of this philosophy (or some other philosophy resembling it)?
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Re: Greater Magadha

Postby cobwith » Tue Sep 29, 2015 6:35 pm

Dhamma_Basti wrote:I do claim that the anattā - teaching as it is understood in most references in the pāli-canon indeed goes back to a reactional understanding, very likely that it was aimed against the view presented in the upaniṣads from the very beginning.

Dhammanando wrote:Would you consider sakkāya-diṭṭhi, attavāda and asmi-māna to be universal afflictions among the unenlightened, and for which the development of insight into the anattā-ness of dhammas is the remedy? Or do you conceive them as afflictions that only troubled Indian adherents of Upaniṣadic philosophy


There could be no such thing as a "reaction to the Upanisadic idea," as far as Budddha never pronounced himself on what Atta (Self) could be.
He did articulate the notion of sakkāya (self) though; which explains what anatta means in that regard. Sakkāya-diṭṭhi (personality-belief/belief in a self), attavāda (theory of soul) and asmi-māna (ego-conceit) are all part of a same concept, namely that the body is nothing but the four physical properties (dhatu) - that we didn’t bring it with us when we came and won’t take it with us when we go. Through the power of discernment, we see that the body is nothing but a compound of the four physical properties, that these properties are part and parcel of the world and can’t be taken from it. We take stubborn possession of the body, latching on to it and wrongly assuming it to be the self. We must consider the four aspects of fire, earth, etc. properties until we see them in terms of three characteristics, i.e., that they are inconstant (anicca),stressful (dukkha),and not-self (anatta). We consider things in a way that leads us to latch on to them as belonging to us or as being the self; that leads us to self-identity view, the feeling that, ‘This is me,’ or ‘This is mine.’
The same applies to mental phenomena (the aggregates of mental phenomena, which include feelings, perceptions, fabrications, and consciousness.)
Through purification of view (ditthi-visuddhi) we examine physical and mental phenomena, analyzing them into their various parts, seeing them in terms of the three characteristics—as inconstant, stressful, and not-self.

Once clear insight arises right at the heart/mind, physical and mental phenomena disband simultaneously with right view, and in that instant one reaches the ultimate quality—the Unconditioned—that knows no arising or passing away.
Physical and mental phenomena disband and change of-lineage knowledge arises, enabling one to see the quality within one, that isn’t subject to arising or passing away. In the midst of physical and mental phenomena exists something that isn’t subject to arising and passing away. This is the opening onto nibbana; but this is not Atta.

Karuna
Last edited by cobwith on Tue Sep 29, 2015 8:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Greater Magadha

Postby Dhamma_Basti » Tue Sep 29, 2015 6:58 pm

Dhammanando wrote:
Dhamma_Basti wrote:I do claim that the anattā - teaching as it is understood in most references in the pāli-canon indeed goes back to a reactional understanding, very likely that it was aimed against the view presented in the upaniṣads from the very beginning.


I don’t think you’ve really answered my question. If I may put it another way...

Would you consider sakkāya-diṭṭhi, attavāda and asmi-māna to be universal afflictions among the unenlightened, and for which the development of insight into the anattā-ness of dhammas is the remedy? Or do you conceive them as afflictions that only troubled Indian adherents of Upaniṣadic philosophy, making anattā effectively irrelevant for anyone who is not an adherent of this philosophy (or some other philosophy resembling it)?

I see it in the first way. This however includes the second position as well, minus the fact that it would make the teaching of anattā irrevelant for other traditions/beliefs.

To make this point more clear: I think the Buddha was not happy with the teaching of realizing the ātman as means to liberation. This teaching is reflected in the upaniṣads and might have been present in the Jaina system and other ascetic traditions contemporary to him as well, but my knowledge of the Jaina sources is not deep enough to answer this question confidentily and reliable sources of the other traditions yet have to be found . It is reasonable to assume that there might has been a general concept of ātman at that time known to different sects, not only the upaniṣadic one, and thus the Buddhas critique of such a teaching was more general and not only aimed at the upaniṣadic model. However textual indications show that he was indeed familiar with the upaniṣadic concept, not only in a general philosophical way, but also on a textual level.
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