Saturday, November 10, 2012

Greek/Bactrian Buddhism (200 BC)

"Greek Buddhism flourished in Bactria for hundreds of years before Tantric Buddhism became the official religion in Tibet.....

Click on the map to enlarge.

"Herodotus wrote about Bactrian gold....Bactria was (and is) the premier resource of Lapis Lazuli, which supplied the Egyptian Pharaohs from 3100 BC through to the end of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, when Egypt became a province of Rome under Augustus Caesar in 30 BC...Spinels (previously called Balas Ruby) were found in Badakshan, Afghanistan, near the Oxus......Bactrian Emeralds were found in the crevices of the rocks during the prevalence of the Etesian winds.....wikipedia

"For at least two centuries prior to Alexander's arrival in 330 BC, Bactria had been a prized part of the Achaemenid Empire (559-330 BC) and, before that, the Median Empire (728-559 BC). ...The wide fertile plains that stretched between the northern slopes of the Hindu Kush and the Oxus River during ancient times, the valuable Silk Road trading centers and rich gold, silver and lapis deposits in the nearby mountains made Bactria a highly prized satrapy (regional governorship) for the Achaemenid Persians."......http://www.cemml.colostate.edu/cultural/09476/afgh02-06enl.html

"Under the leadership of Alexander's former soldiers and their descendents, the Bactrian Greeks created a Hellenic-inspired kingdom in the heart of Central Asia. The Greeks' capitol at Bactra (present-day Balkh) included a huge Seleucid-era fortress and Hellenistic-style architecture. Corinthian capitals that once adorned large multi-columned palaces, discovered at Balkh, date from this early period.....http://www.cemml.colostate.edu/cultural/09476/afgh02-06enl.html

Since Greek prisoners captured in the many wars that took place between the Achaemenids and Greeks during the 5th and 4th centuries BC were often exiled to Bactria, the indigenous population of Bactria already included a high percentage of Greeks when Alexander's army arrived there in 329-328 BC. These battle-hardened Bactrian Greeks, frequently employed by the Acheamenids in major battles and conscripted by Alexander for his own campaigns in the East, formed the backbone of a force that dominated Bactria from the mid-3rd to the second half of the 2nd century BC....http://www.cemml.colostate.edu/cultural/09476/afgh02-06enl.html

"One of the distinguishing features of the Gandharan school of art that emerged in north-west India is that it has been clearly influenced by the naturalism of the Classical Greek style. Thus, while these images still convey the inner peace that results from putting the Buddha's doctrine into practice, they also give us an impression of people who walked and talked, etc. and slept much as we do. I feel this is very important. These figures are inspiring because they do not only depict the goal, but also the sense that people like us can achieve it if we try" (The Dalai Lama, foreword to Echoes of Alexander the Great, 2000).

A Gandharan bodhisattva, ca. late 1st–2nd century

"According to an ancient Sri Lankan source, the Mahavamsa, Greek monks seem to have been active proselytizers of Buddhism during the time of Menander: the Yona (Greek) Mahadhammarakkhita (Sanskrit: Mahadharmaraksita) is said to have come from "Alasandra" (thought to be Alexandria of the Caucasus, the city founded by Alexander the Great, near today’s Kabul) with 30,000 monks for the foundation ceremony of the Maha Thupa ("Great stupa") at Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka, during the 2nd century BC.."

In order to propagate the Buddhist faith, Ashoka explains he sent emissaries to the Hellenistic kings as far as the Mediterranean, and to people throughout India, claiming they were all converted to the Dharma as a result. He names the Greek rulers of the time, inheritors of the conquest of Alexander the Great, from Bactria to as far as Greece and North Africa, displaying an amazingly clear grasp of the political situation at the time.

The Gandhāran Buddhist Texts (oldest Buddhist manuscripts yet discovered, from ca. 1 CE) are attributed to the Dharmaguptaka school. And some believe that the founder of that Buddhist school was...a Greek ....."Dhammarakkhita (Pali, "protected by the Dharma"), was one of the missionaries sent by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka to proselytize the Buddhist faith. He is described as being a Greek (Pali yona) in the Mahavamsa, and his activities are indicative of the strength of the Hellenistic Greek involvement during the formative centuries of Buddhism. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharmaraksita) ....."One of the major missionaries was Yonaka Dhammarakkhita. He was...a Greek monk, native of ‘Alasanda’ (Alexandria). He features in the Pali tradition as a master of psychic powers as well as an expert on Abhidhamma......(http://newbuddhist.com/discussion/13687/oḍḍiyana-interesting-tidbits)

The Legacy of the Indo-Greeks starts with the formal end of the Indo-Greek Kingdom from the 1st century CE, as the Greek communities of central Asia and northwestern India lived under the control of the Kushan branch of the Yuezhi, apart from a short-lived invasion of the Indo-Parthian Kingdom.[1] The Kushans founded the Kushan Empire, which was to prosper for several centuries. In the south, the Greeks were under the rule of the Western Kshatrapas.

The 36 Indo-Greek kings known through epigraphy or through their coins belong to the period between 180 BCE to 10–20 CE.....

Isidorus of Charax in his 1st century CE "Parthian stations" itinerary described "Alexandropolis, the metropolis of Arachosia" as being Greek:....."Beyond is Arachosia (Old Persian Hara[h]uvati, Avestan Haraxvaiti)). And the Parthians call this White India; there are the city of Biyt and the city of Pharsana and the city of Chorochoad (Haraxvat) and the city of Demetrias; then Alexandropolis, the metropolis of Arachosia; it is Greek, and by it flows the river Arachotus(Harahvati). As far as this place the land is under the rule of the Parthians."—"Parthians stations", 1st century CE.

Greek warriior in the Sampul tapestry, woollen wall hanging, 3rd–2nd century BC, Sampul, Urumqi Xinjiang Museum.

Map of the region of Greco-Bactria Shambhala, circa 180 BC. (Click on the map to enlarge.

1 BC.......Indo-Greek Kingdom, Hermaios, c. 40 - 1 B.C.....Hermaios was the last Indo-Greek king of Bactria. With his defeat by the Kushan ruler Kujala Kadphises, the isolated Greek area in India, which had lasted three centuries, came to an end. Some biblical scholars believe he was one of the three kings to visit the baby Jesus....Scythian kingdom of Chorasmia, centered at Balkh. This scarce coin features a stylized portait of Hermaios on the obverse and a horse on the reverse.

"Balkh (ancient Bactra).....Nothing is more evocative of the history of ancient Afghanistan as the name of Balkh as it is linked to the epic of the Aryan people. One thinks of the land of Hystaspa, Yama, and Zoroastre. What is certain is that by the third millennium B.C. the so called Bactrian civilization places itself between the septentrional cultures of Central Asia, Ouzbek, and Tadjik, and the ones from the Indus valley to the South and Iran to the West. The excavations of the Dashli site are of great importance for a better knowledge of protohistoric Bactria. ...Under the Achemenids, Bactria became an important satrapy, with the city of Bactres (Balkh) as its capital. The remnants of that period (sixth-fourth centuries B.C.) were unearthed on the Altin 10 site. Alexander the Great kept Bactres (Balkh) as the capital of Bactria but transformed it into a Greek city. Most western archaeologists coming to Afghanistan began excavating on the site of today’s Balkh precisely because by 250 B.C. it was the capital of the Greek-Bactrian kingdom.......The plan of the ancient city of Balkh, such as it was drawn up by the DAFA architect Marc Le Berre, is composed of a low city on the northeastern side of a citadel (Bala Hissar) with a more or less circular, irregular geometrical shape. The ancient levels probably go back to the Achaemenid period (sixth-fourth centuries B.C.) and the most recent layer from the 17th century A.D......The tumultuous history of Balkh is associated with both glorious and tragic events of Central Asia. We know that Genghis Khan had this “mother of the cities” destroyed from top to bottom in 1221. But when Marco Polo visited Balkh a half a century later he mentioned the existence of “many beautiful palaces and marble houses.”...http://www.cemml.colostate.edu/cultural/09476/afgh08-01enl.html

Gandhāra (Sanskrit: गन्धार Gandhāra, Urdu: گندھارا Gandhāra, Pashto: ګندارا‎, Punjabi: گندھارا, Persian: ویهیند) is the name of an ancient kingdom (Mahajanapada), located in parts of modern-day northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan.[Gandhara was located mainly in the Peshawar Valley, the Pothohar Plateau and the Kabul River Valley. Its main cities were Purushapura (modern Peshawar), literally meaning "city of men",and Takshashila (modern Taxila) .

the development of "Ghandaran" Buddhist art, an amalgamation of Greek, Iranian and Indian influences.

Gandhāra is noted for the distinctive Gandhāra style of Buddhist art, which developed out of a merger of Greek, Syrian, Persian, and Indian artistic influence. This development began during the Parthian Period (50 BC – AD 75). Gandhāran style flourished and achieved its peak during the Kushan period, from the 1st to the 5th century. It declined and suffered destruction after invasion of the White Huns in the 5th century.

The Kingdom of Gandhara lasted from the early 1st millennium BC to the 11th century AD. It attained its height from the 1st century to the 5th century under the Buddhist Kushan Kings. The Hindu term Shahi is used by history writer Al-Biruni to refer to the ruling Hindu dynasty that took over from the Turki Shahi and ruled the region during the period prior to Muslim conquests of the 10th and 11th centuries.

The region shows an influx of southern Central Asian culture in the Bronze Age with the Gandhara grave culture, likely corresponding to immigration of Indo-Aryan speakers and the nucleus of Vedic civilization. This culture survived till 1000 BC....The Gandhāris, along with the Balhika (Bactrians), Mūjavants, Angas, and the Magadhas, are also mentioned in the Atharvaveda

Gandhāra is also thought to be the location of the mythical Lake Dhanakosha, the birthplace of Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. The bKa' brgyud (Kagyu) sect of Tibetan Buddhism identifies the lake with the Andan Dheri stupa, located near the tiny village of Uchh near Chakdara in the lower Swat Valley....(Pakistan / North-West Frontier / Bat Khela /archaeological site...Coordinates: 34°42'45"N 72°1'44"E...Nearby cities: Mingora City Swat)

The Gandharan city of Taxila was an important Buddhist[9] centre of learning from the 5th century BC to the 2nd century....Cyrus the Great (558–530 BC) built the first "universal" empire, stretching from Greece to the Indus River. Both Gandhara and Kamboja soon came under the rule of the Achaemenian Dynasty of Persia during the reign of Cyrus the Great or in the first year of Darius I. The Gandhara and Kamboja had constituted the seventh satrapies (upper Indus) of the Achaemenid Empire.

By about 380 BC Persian hold on the region weakened. Many small kingdoms sprang up in Gandhara. In 327 BC Alexander the Great conquered Gandhara and the Indian Satrapies of the Persian Empire. The expeditions of Alexander were recorded by his court historians and by Arrian (around AD 175) in his Anabasis Alexandri and other chroniclers many centuries after the event.

One of the main characteristics of Gandharan art is that we can see the first instance of the representation of the Buddha in human form, previously he was considered beyond the reach of artists. A main characteristic of Mahayana Buddhism is that it stresses the idea that the historical Buddha should be regarded as one of many Buddhas as opposed to the idea of an unattainable ideal. Also we begin to see the idea of the layman attaining Enlightenment emerging in Mahayana and this is reflected in the more frequent portrayal of laymen in religious Buddhist art.The oldest dated monument attesting Mahayana Buddhism was found in Gandhara dating back to the late 1st century AD and is in a distinct Indian/Iranian Shahnameh style. Also the famous image of the "Persian Boddhisattva", a Khotanese painted panel from 8th century AD, stylistically resembles a Bodhisattva while showing a very strong influence of the Persian art of the period, the face even closely resembles that of the Persian hero from the Shahnameh, Rostam.Iranian influence is also found in the figure of the Buddha Amitabha, the way he is so closely related to eternal light and endless life is very similar to the Iranian Time God, Zurvan. Scholars agree that this notion of Iranian influence is certainly possible especially during the formative phase of Central Asia when Iranian and Indian concepts came into close contact.

The Gandhāran Buddhist Texts are the oldest Buddhist manuscripts yet discovered, dating from about the 1st century CE. They are written in Gāndhārī, and are possibly the oldest extant Indic texts altogether.

The Gandhāran Buddhist Texts (oldest Buddhist manuscripts yet discovered, from ca. 1 CE) are attributed to the Dharmaguptaka school. And some believe that the founder of that Buddhist school was...a Greek ....."Dhammarakkhita (Pali, "protected by the Dharma"), was one of the missionaries sent by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka to proselytize the Buddhist faith. He is described as being a Greek (Pali yona) in the Mahavamsa, and his activities are indicative of the strength of the Hellenistic Greek involvement during the formative centuries of Buddhism. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharmaraksita) ......"One of the major missionaries was Yonaka Dhammarakkhita. He was...a Greek monk, native of ‘Alasanda’ (Alexandria). He features in the Pali tradition as a master of psychic powers as well as an expert on Abhidhamma.

"The absence of the Buddha image in early Buddhist art has been as diversely interpreted. It is largely believed that the Buddha had himself prohibited his images.....Vinaya of the Sarvastivadins in his Studies in Buddhist Art of South Asia under "The Origin of the Buddha Image". The passage is an indirect injunction against his image making, but the words used in it comprise as much a sanction for it. In the passage, Anathapindika asks the Great Lord," World honored one, if images of yours are not allowed to be made, pray, may we not at least make images of Bodhisattvas in attendance upon you?" The Buddha gives his assent to it."

Homer composed the Illiad and Odyssey in the 8th Century BC. About the same time that Rome was founded. 500-50 BC was the Golden Age of Greece..

According to tradition, Menander embraced the Buddhist faith..He is described as constantly accompanied by a guard of 500 Greek ("Yonaka") soldiers,....In the Milindanpanha, Menander is introduced as "King of the city of Sâgala in India, Milinda by name, learned, eloquent, wise, and able; and a faithful observer, and that at the right time, of all the various acts of devotion and ceremony enjoined by his own sacred hymns concerning things past, present, and to come. Many were the arts and sciences he knew--holy tradition and secular law; the Sânkhya, Yoga, Nyâya, and Vaisheshika systems of philosophy; arithmetic; music; medicine; the four Vedas, the Purânas, and the Itihâsas; astronomy, magic, causation, and magic spells; the art of war; poetry; conveyancing in a word, the whole nineteen.

According to an ancient Sri Lankan source, the Mahavamsa, Greek monks seem to have been active proselytizers of Buddhism during the time of Menander: the Yona (Greek) Mahadhammarakkhita (Sanskrit: Mahadharmaraksita) is said to have come from "Alasandra" (thought to be Alexandria of the Caucasus, the city founded by Alexander the Great, near today’s Kabul) with 30,000 monks for the foundation ceremony of the Maha Thupa ("Great stupa") at Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka, during the 2nd century BC:

100 BC... Apollodorus (c. 130–87 BCE) The Greeks who caused Bactria to revolt grew so powerful on account of the fertility of the country that they became masters, not only of Bactria and beyond, but also of India, as Apollodorus of Artemita says: and more tribes were subdued by them than by Alexander...Menander ( ruler of the Indo-Greek Kingdom from either 165 or 155 BC to 130 BC) is one of the few Bactrian kings mentioned by Greek authors, among them Apollodorus of Artemita, quoted by Strabo, who claims that the Greeks from Bactria were even greater conquerors than Alexander the Great, and that Menander was one of the two Bactrian kings, with Demetrius, who extended their power farthest into India:

GREEKS AND ROMANS...."laid out their cities with some understanding of external drala...There was some power and wisdom in the Roman civilization which we should not overlook." (Trungpa: 1984..pg 111)

...Homer composed the Illiad and Odyssey in the 8th Century BC. About the same time that Rome was founded. 500-50 BC was the Golden Age of Greece...

"The Mithraic tradition thrived in Asia Minor and at it's center at Trebizond the Greeks identified him with Helios. It was here that Mithra acquired the pointed cap. See the Greek artists of the school of Perganum." (Hawkes: 1962..pg 182)...Mithras entered the Roman world in the 1st century BC. The great sun temple to Jupiter-Baal as the Sun, at Baaleck (Heliopolis), built during the 2nd century AD..."Plato idealized Sun worship and called the Sun the offspring of the first god." (Hawkes: 1962..pg 198)...

The Gandhāran Buddhist Texts (oldest Buddhist manuscripts yet discovered, from ca. 1 CE) are attributed to the Dharmaguptaka school. And some believe that the founder of that Buddhist school was...a Greek ...."Dhammarakkhita (Pali, "protected by the Dharma"), was one of the missionaries sent by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka to proselytize the Buddhist faith. He is described as being a Greek (Pali yona) in the Mahavamsa, and his activities are indicative of the strength of the Hellenistic Greek involvement during the formative centuries of Buddhism. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharmaraksita) ......."One of the major missionaries was Yonaka Dhammarakkhita. He was...a Greek monk, native of ‘Alasanda’ (Alexandria). He features in the Pali tradition as a master of psychic powers as well as an expert on Abhidhamma.

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Email....okarresearch@gmail.com

John Hopkins.....Northern New Mexico….November 2012

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