The racial appearance of the Buddha: Vasala 'outcaste'

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
thomaslaw
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The racial appearance of the Buddha: Vasala 'outcaste'

Post by thomaslaw » Tue Jan 12, 2016 2:03 am

Hi All,

In Sutta-nipaata 1.7 Vasala-sutta, the Buddha was being called as 'outcaste' (vasala-ka 'wicked outcaste') by a Brahmin (Sn 21: ' ''tatr' eve sama.naka, tatr' eve vasalaka ti.t.thaahii'' ti'. 'You are an outcaste, do not approach').

So, the Buddha was an 'outcaste' (vasala) to the Brahmin.

- Is it possible the racial appearance of the Buddha was 'non-Aryan', thus being called 'vasala' by the Brahmin?

Also, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakya" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; states thus:

“According to Hmannan Yazawin, first published in 1823, the legendary king Abhiyaza, who founded the Tagaung Kingdom and the Burmese monarchy belonged to the same Shakya clan of the Buddha.He migrated to the present-day Burma after the annexation of the Shakya kingdom by Kosala. The earlier Burmese accounts stated that he was a descendant of Pyusawhti, son of a solar spirit and a dragon princess.”

- Does anyone know which Burmese ethnic group currently considers themselves as the descendants from the same Shakya clan of the Buddha? If there exists such a group of people in Burma/Myanmar, their language may be the same or similar language of the Buddha?

Regards,

Thomas

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Re: The racial appearance of the Buddha: Vasala 'outcaste'

Post by Cittasanto » Tue Jan 12, 2016 12:13 pm

Hi,
He was probably darker skinned due to tanning in the sun. But he was probably referred to as an outcast because he was a Samana, not because of scin colour as it appears the cast system wasn't as rigid as it was today. There are some Hindus who disagree with the cast system's rigidity based on their texts. I'll see if I can find the sources later

Kind Regards
Cittasanto
Last edited by Cittasanto on Wed Jan 13, 2016 5:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
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Re: The racial appearance of the Buddha: Vasala 'outcaste'

Post by dagon » Tue Jan 12, 2016 12:44 pm

Cittasanto wrote:Hi,
He was probably darker skinned due to tanning in the sun. But he was probably referred to as an outcast because he was a Samanera, not because of scin colour as it appears the cast system wasn't as rigid as it was today. There are some Hindus who disagree with the cast system's rigidity based on their texts. I'll see if I can find the sources later

Kind Regards
Cittasanto
See the notes at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .piya.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
1.The abusive terms used by the brahman and the respectful address that follows need a word of explanation. The brahman had just prepared his offering to the great Brahma, his God, when his eyes fell on Buddha. To the brahman the sight of a samana, a shaven-headed recluse, was an unlucky sign. Hence he burst into angry words. The Buddha, however, was unruffled and spoke to him quietly in words of soft cadence. The brahman apparently was ashamed, and repenting of his folly, addressed the Buddha courteously. Comy. It is interesting to note the Buddha's stress on anger and hatred in his very first stanza.
metta

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Re: The racial appearance of the Buddha: Vasala 'outcaste'

Post by Cittasanto » Tue Jan 12, 2016 5:01 pm

Cittasanto wrote:Hi,
He was probably darker skinned due to tanning in the sun. But he was probably referred to as an outcast because he was a Samanera, not because of scin colour as it appears the caste system wasn't as rigid as it was today. There are some Hindus who disagree with the caste system's rigidity based on their texts. I'll see if I can find the sources later

Kind Regards
Cittasanto
EDIT - Spelling mistakes corrected.
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He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

thomaslaw
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Re: The racial appearance of the Buddha: Vasala 'outcaste'

Post by thomaslaw » Wed Jan 13, 2016 4:52 am

Hi

Thanks for the reply. But I think 'vasala' also refers to 'ca.n.daala', one of the low classes/clans/tribes. The commentary seems speculating the story!

Regards,

Thomas

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Re: The racial appearance of the Buddha: Vasala 'outcaste'

Post by Kusala » Wed Jan 13, 2016 6:47 am

thomaslaw wrote:Hi All,

In Sutta-nipaata 1.7 Vasala-sutta, the Buddha was being called as 'outcaste' (vasala-ka 'wicked outcaste') by a Brahmin (Sn 21: ' ''tatr' eve sama.naka, tatr' eve vasalaka ti.t.thaahii'' ti'. 'You are an outcaste, do not approach').

So, the Buddha was an 'outcaste' (vasala) to the Brahmin.

- Is it possible the racial appearance of the Buddha was 'non-Aryan', thus being called 'vasala' by the Brahmin?

Also, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakya" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; states thus:

“According to Hmannan Yazawin, first published in 1823, the legendary king Abhiyaza, who founded the Tagaung Kingdom and the Burmese monarchy belonged to the same Shakya clan of the Buddha.He migrated to the present-day Burma after the annexation of the Shakya kingdom by Kosala. The earlier Burmese accounts stated that he was a descendant of Pyusawhti, son of a solar spirit and a dragon princess.”

- Does anyone know which Burmese ethnic group currently considers themselves as the descendants from the same Shakya clan of the Buddha? If there exists such a group of people in Burma/Myanmar, their language may be the same or similar language of the Buddha?

Regards,

Thomas
I did some research on the subject and concluded that the Buddha, without a shadow of a doubt, was an Aryan. The Pali Cannon describes the Buddha as tall, handsome, blue eyed...from Afghanistan to Northern India, you find people that could possibly be the descendants of the ancient Aryans...

Here's an Afghan man

Image

School girl from Northern India

Image
Image

"He, the Blessed One, is indeed the Noble Lord, the Perfectly Enlightened One;
He is impeccable in conduct and understanding, the Serene One, the Knower of the Worlds;
He trains perfectly those who wish to be trained; he is Teacher of gods and men; he is Awake and Holy. "

--------------------------------------------
"The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One,
Apparent here and now, timeless, encouraging investigation,
Leading to liberation, to be experienced individually by the wise. "

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Re: The racial appearance of the Buddha: Vasala 'outcaste'

Post by Dhammanando » Wed Jan 13, 2016 7:02 am

Kusala wrote:I did some research on the subject and concluded that the Buddha, without a shadow of a doubt, was an Aryan. The Pali Cannon describes the Buddha as tall, handsome, blue eyed...from Afghanistan to Northern India, you find people that could possibly be the descendants of the ancient Aryans...
These descriptions are from the list of the thirty-two marks of a mahāpurisa. Was it also normal for the ancient Aryans to have forty teeth, sheathed penises and webbed fingers?

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Kusala
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Re: The racial appearance of the Buddha: Vasala 'outcaste'

Post by Kusala » Wed Jan 13, 2016 7:07 am

Hehe :mrgreen: Good one, Venerable Dhammanando! The 32 marks is weird... :thinking:
Image

"He, the Blessed One, is indeed the Noble Lord, the Perfectly Enlightened One;
He is impeccable in conduct and understanding, the Serene One, the Knower of the Worlds;
He trains perfectly those who wish to be trained; he is Teacher of gods and men; he is Awake and Holy. "

--------------------------------------------
"The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One,
Apparent here and now, timeless, encouraging investigation,
Leading to liberation, to be experienced individually by the wise. "

SarathW
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Re: The racial appearance of the Buddha: Vasala 'outcaste'

Post by SarathW » Wed Jan 13, 2016 7:33 am

What are the 32 marks?
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: The racial appearance of the Buddha: Vasala 'outcaste'

Post by Dhammanando » Wed Jan 13, 2016 9:26 am

SarathW wrote:What are the 32 marks?
The marks along with their past causes:

https://suttacentral.net/en/dn30

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Re: The racial appearance of the Buddha: Vasala 'outcaste'

Post by Kusala » Wed Jan 13, 2016 10:07 pm

thomaslaw wrote:Hi All,

In Sutta-nipaata 1.7 Vasala-sutta, the Buddha was being called as 'outcaste' (vasala-ka 'wicked outcaste') by a Brahmin (Sn 21: ' ''tatr' eve sama.naka, tatr' eve vasalaka ti.t.thaahii'' ti'. 'You are an outcaste, do not approach').

So, the Buddha was an 'outcaste' (vasala) to the Brahmin.

- Is it possible the racial appearance of the Buddha was 'non-Aryan', thus being called 'vasala' by the Brahmin?

Also, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakya" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; states thus:

“According to Hmannan Yazawin, first published in 1823, the legendary king Abhiyaza, who founded the Tagaung Kingdom and the Burmese monarchy belonged to the same Shakya clan of the Buddha.He migrated to the present-day Burma after the annexation of the Shakya kingdom by Kosala. The earlier Burmese accounts stated that he was a descendant of Pyusawhti, son of a solar spirit and a dragon princess.”

- Does anyone know which Burmese ethnic group currently considers themselves as the descendants from the same Shakya clan of the Buddha? If there exists such a group of people in Burma/Myanmar, their language may be the same or similar language of the Buddha?

Regards,

Thomas
Some Brahmins held the Buddha in high regard...the Brahmin, Cankti, for instance...

"...When this was said, the brahmin Cankī told those brahmins: “Now, sirs, hear from me why it is proper for me to go to see Master Gotama, and why it is not proper for Master Gotama to come to see me. Sirs, the recluse Gotama is well born on both sides, of pure maternal and paternal descent seven generations back, unassailable and impeccable in respect of birth. Since this is so, sirs, it is not proper for Master Gotama to come to see me; rather, it is proper for me to go to see Master Gotama.

Sirs, the recluse Gotama went forth abandoning much gold and bullion stored away in vaults and depositories. Sirs, the recluse Gotama went forth from the home life into homelessness while still young, a black-haired young man endowed with the blessing of youth, in the prime of life.

Sirs, the recluse Gotama shaved off his hair and beard, put on the yellow robe, and went forth from the home life into homelessness though his mother and father wished otherwise and wept with tearful faces. Sirs, the recluse Gotama is handsome, comely, and graceful, possessing supreme beauty of complexion, [167] with sublime beauty and sublime presence, remarkable to behold.

Sirs, the recluse Gotama is virtuous, with noble virtue, with wholesome virtue, possessing wholesome virtue. Sirs, the recluse Gotama is a good speaker with a good delivery; he speaks words that are courteous, distinct, flawless, and communicate the meaning. Sirs, the recluse Gotama is a teacher of the teachers of many. Sirs, the recluse Gotama is free from sensual lust and without personal vanity. Sirs, the recluse Gotama holds the doctrine of the moral efficacy of action, the doctrine of the moral efficacy of deeds; he does not seek any harm for the line of brahmins. Sirs, the recluse Gotama went forth from an aristocratic family, from one of the original noble families..."


http://www.wisdompubs.org/book/middle-l ... anki-sutta" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Image

"He, the Blessed One, is indeed the Noble Lord, the Perfectly Enlightened One;
He is impeccable in conduct and understanding, the Serene One, the Knower of the Worlds;
He trains perfectly those who wish to be trained; he is Teacher of gods and men; he is Awake and Holy. "

--------------------------------------------
"The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One,
Apparent here and now, timeless, encouraging investigation,
Leading to liberation, to be experienced individually by the wise. "

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Re: The racial appearance of the Buddha: Vasala 'outcaste'

Post by thomaslaw » Fri Jan 15, 2016 12:12 am

Hi Kusala

"Kusala wrote:

Some Brahmins held the Buddha in high regard...the Brahmin, Cankti, for instance...

"...When this was said, the brahmin Cankī told those brahmins: “Now, sirs, hear from me why it is proper for me to go to see Master Gotama, and why it is not proper for Master Gotama to come to see me. Sirs, the recluse Gotama is well born on both sides, of pure maternal and paternal descent seven generations back, unassailable and impeccable in respect of birth. Since this is so, sirs, it is not proper for Master Gotama to come to see me; rather, it is proper for me to go to see Master Gotama.

Sirs, the recluse Gotama went forth abandoning much gold and bullion stored away in vaults and depositories. Sirs, the recluse Gotama went forth from the home life into homelessness while still young, a black-haired young man endowed with the blessing of youth, in the prime of life.

Sirs, the recluse Gotama shaved off his hair and beard, put on the yellow robe, and went forth from the home life into homelessness though his mother and father wished otherwise and wept with tearful faces. Sirs, the recluse Gotama is handsome, comely, and graceful, possessing supreme beauty of complexion, [167] with sublime beauty and sublime presence, remarkable to behold.

Sirs, the recluse Gotama is virtuous, with noble virtue, with wholesome virtue, possessing wholesome virtue. Sirs, the recluse Gotama is a good speaker with a good delivery; he speaks words that are courteous, distinct, flawless, and communicate the meaning. Sirs, the recluse Gotama is a teacher of the teachers of many. Sirs, the recluse Gotama is free from sensual lust and without personal vanity. Sirs, the recluse Gotama holds the doctrine of the moral efficacy of action, the doctrine of the moral efficacy of deeds; he does not seek any harm for the line of brahmins. Sirs, the recluse Gotama went forth from an aristocratic family, from one of the original noble families..."

http://www.wisdompubs.org/book/middle-l" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; ... anki-sutta
--

Yes, this is very high regard, including the Buddha's appearance! But it does not imply the Buddha looks like an Aryan person: '... a black-haired ...'

Regards,

Thomas

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Re: The racial appearance of the Buddha: Vasala 'outcaste'

Post by Diego Hemken » Sun Jan 31, 2016 7:22 am

A samana is someone who lives in poverty. They do not wear cosmetics, jewelery, or fancy clothing. They do not bathe a lot. They wear just about the most basic clothing possible, a robe, often made of discarded rags and whatnot. They do not even sit on high chairs. Their food an shelter is by default meager. They do not enjoy entertainment, women, slaves, food at the wrong time, etc. They do not raise a family.

I think for all of these reasons it is easy to see why a Brahman, unaware of the attainments and nobility of the Buddha, would call a samana an outcaste. Being a samana is basically being a bum. A bum who is dedicated to sila and jhana, but still a bum.

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Re: The racial appearance of the Buddha: Vasala 'outcaste'

Post by thomaslaw » Thu Feb 04, 2016 11:21 pm

Diego Hemken wrote:A samana is someone who lives in poverty. They do not wear cosmetics, jewelery, or fancy clothing. They do not bathe a lot. They wear just about the most basic clothing possible, a robe, often made of discarded rags and whatnot. They do not even sit on high chairs. Their food an shelter is by default meager. They do not enjoy entertainment, women, slaves, food at the wrong time, etc. They do not raise a family.

I think for all of these reasons it is easy to see why a Brahman, unaware of the attainments and nobility of the Buddha, would call a samana an outcaste. Being a samana is basically being a bum. A bum who is dedicated to sila and jhana, but still a bum.
Hi Diego,

This is a good point! A samana being a bum is regarded as vasala 'outcaste' (or ca.n.daala) by the Brahman.

Thomas

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Re: The racial appearance of the Buddha: Vasala 'outcaste'

Post by frank k » Mon Jun 06, 2016 5:45 pm

On a related question, why are there no buddha images and statues where he looks like a bhikkhu wearing a vinaya compliant robe and hair that is less than 1 inch long?

Here's one a friend pointed out where the Buddha at least has a shaved head that looks like a bhikkhu. But the robe, not compliant:

http://www.art.com/products/p12260749/p ... s&stp=true" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Are there any others existing out there?
http://www.audtip.org" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; Audio Sutta Recordings

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Re: The racial appearance of the Buddha: Vasala 'outcaste'

Post by Dhammanando » Tue Jun 07, 2016 2:10 am

frank k wrote:On a related question, why are there no buddha images and statues where he looks like a bhikkhu wearing a vinaya compliant robe and hair that is less than 1 inch long?
Shakyamuni images in which he is depicted in a Vinaya-compliant patchwork robe are actually quite common in Tibetan statues and line drawings.

That the Buddha isn't normally shown with a shaven head probably reflects the wish of artists to emphasize his status as a mahāpuruṣa rather than as a śramaṇa. You can't do both: either you make him a skinhead ascetic or you depict him (as far as is artistically possible) in full possession of the thirty-two major and eighty minor marks of a great man; several of the minor marks have to do with his head-hairs.

Having said that, I do recall seeing sketches of a shaven-headed Buddha used as illustrations in a number of 19th century English and American works on the Buddha and his teaching. I think Warren's Buddhism in Translation was one of them.

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Re: The racial appearance of the Buddha: Vasala 'outcaste'

Post by Aloka » Tue Jun 07, 2016 6:46 am

Some interesting comments "On the 32 marks" and the Buddha's appearance, from Bhikkhu Sujato:

https://sujato.wordpress.com/2011/04/06 ... -32-marks/



:anjali:

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Re: The racial appearance of the Buddha: Vasala 'outcaste'

Post by srkris » Thu Jun 09, 2016 8:55 pm

thomaslaw wrote:Is it possible the racial appearance of the Buddha was 'non-Aryan', thus being called 'vasala' by the Brahmin?
What the Brahmin says is "tatreva muṇḍaka tatreva samaṇaka tatreva vasalaka - tiṭṭhāhi" - which literally means "Right there you bald-one, right there you ascetic, right there you low-life - stop (do not come any closer)!"

The buddha then gives him a lecture about the types of persons who are fit to be called vasala (low-life)... hence the name of the sutta (vasala sutta) and finally says birth does not make someone low, and the same birth does not confer brahminhood either. It is only by deeds that one becomes a vasala or a brahmin.

Thus it is clear that both the vasalas and the brahmins were part of the same 'heirarchical' society, and a 'vasala' may be anyone who is perceived to be of much lower birth than a brahmin within that society.

The bulk of the evidence from the Pali canon indicates that not only did the Buddha regard himself as Indo-Aryan (and called his path to Nibbana as the "arya atthangika magga" i.e. the Aryan eightfold path) but also (going by his intimate knowledge of the Vedic texts which were held by the Brahmins as their secret possession) that he had significant access to Brahmanical philosophy and religious knowledge and must have therefore possibly been a Brahmin himself or, being a Kshatriya (royal) studied under a Brahmin in his youth.

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Re: The racial appearance of the Buddha: Vasala 'outcaste'

Post by thomaslaw » Fri Jun 10, 2016 3:28 am

srkris wrote:
thomaslaw wrote:Is it possible the racial appearance of the Buddha was 'non-Aryan', thus being called 'vasala' by the Brahmin?
What the Brahmin says is "tatreva muṇḍaka tatreva samaṇaka tatreva vasalaka - tiṭṭhāhi" - which literally means "Right there you bald-one, right there you ascetic, right there you low-life - stop (do not come any closer)!"

... Thus it is clear that both the vasalas and the brahmins were part of the same 'heirarchical' society, and a 'vasala' may be anyone who is perceived to be of much lower birth than a brahmin within that society.

The bulk of the evidence from the Pali canon indicates that not only did the Buddha regard himself as Indo-Aryan (and called his path to Nibbana as the "arya atthangika magga" i.e. the Aryan eightfold path) but also (going by his intimate knowledge of the Vedic texts which were held by the Brahmins as their secret possession) that he had significant access to Brahmanical philosophy and religious knowledge and must have therefore possibly been a Brahmin himself or, being a Kshatriya (royal) studied under a Brahmin in his youth.
---------
Dear Srkris (and all),

Could you give your Pali evidence that the Buddha regarded himself as Indo-Aryan? Thanks.

The term Aryan used in 'arya atthangika magga' does not refer to the path of Aryan race.

Also, being a Kshatriya, or accessing to the Brahmanical study, does not mean the 'racial appearance' of the Buddha must be an Aryan. E.g. the kingdom called Videha (capital city: Mithilaa), whose people were not Aryans.

Regards,

Thomas

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Re: The racial appearance of the Buddha: Vasala 'outcaste'

Post by srkris » Fri Jun 10, 2016 7:40 pm

thomaslaw wrote:Could you give your Pali evidence that the Buddha regarded himself as Indo-Aryan?
Buddha (DN3: Ambaṭṭha Sutta): "The rāja Okkāka is the ancestor of the sakyas."

Okkāka (Ikṣvāku) was a famous Vedic (pre-buddhist) king mentioned in the Ṛgveda and in many other pre-buddhist texts. The buddha traces his descent from this king.
The term Aryan used in 'arya atthangika magga' does not refer to the path of Aryan race.
In the Buddha's day, it did very much primarily refer to the Indo-Aryan ethnicity & its culture in India (and in nearby Achaemenid Persia it was used in pretty much the same sense, as an ethnic self-designation of the Persians). By calling it the Aryan eightfold path, the buddha was emphasizing that it was in accord with the high culture and ideals of the Aryan community, and was therefore not vile or blameworthy. As Buddhism in the centuries following the buddha's time became internationalized (spread to Sri Lanka and other countries), the ethnic sense was lost, and it was interpreted as an ethical ideal.

This is what the PTS Dictionary says:

Ariya (adj. -- n.) [Vedic ārya, of uncertain etym. The other Pāli forms are ayira & ayya]
1. (racial) Aryan D ii.87. <->
2. (social) noble, distinguished, of high birth. --
3. (ethical) in accord with the customs and ideals of the Aryan clans, held in esteem by Aryans, generally approved. Hence: right, good, ideal.

When the commentators, many centuries afterwards, began to write Pali in S. India & Ceylon, far from the ancient seat of the Aryan clans, the racial sense of the word ariya was scarcely, if at all, present to their minds. Dhammapāla especially was probably a non -- Aryan, and certainly lived in a Dravidian environment. The then current similar popular etmologies of ariya and arahant (cp. next article) also assisted the confusion in their minds. They sometimes therefore erroneously identify the two words and explain Aryans as meaning Arahants (DhA i.230; SnA 537; PvA 60). In other ways also they misrepresented the old texts by ignoring the racial force of the word. Thus at J v.48 the text, speaking of a hunter belonging to one of the aboriginal tribes, calls him anariya -- rūpa. The C. explains this as "shameless", but what the text has, is simply that he looked like a non -- Aryan. (cp ʻ frank ʼ in English).

Also, being a Kshatriya, or accessing to the Brahmanical study, does not mean the 'racial appearance' of the Buddha must be an Aryan.
I see this as empty speculation.
the kingdom called Videha (capital city: Mithilaa), whose people were not Aryans.
Said who?

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