Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Balkh, Bactria & The Early Development of Mahayana (100 BC)


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"Navbahar, the main monastery at Balkh became the center of higher Buddhist study for all of Central Asia. The Tokharian monk Ghoshaka was one of the compilers of the Vaibhashaka (a sub-division of the Sarvastivada School of Hinayana) commentaries on abhidharma and established the Western Vaibhashika (Balhika) School. Navbahar emphasized the study of primarily of the Vaibhashika (Tibetan: bye-brag smra-ba) abhidharma, admitting only monks who had already composed texts of the topic. Navbahar also housed a tooth relic of the Buddha, making it one of the main centers of Buddhist pilgrimage along the Silk Route from China to India.....From the Memoirs of Xuanzang, we learn that, at the time of his visit in 630 AD, there were in Balkh about a hundred Buddhist monasteries, with 30,000 monks, and that there was a large number of stupas, and other religious monuments and that Buddhism was flourishing in the Bactrian portion of Western Turk empire. He also described it as having strong links with the Kingdom of Khotan in the Tarim Basin....An Arab author, Omar ibn al-Azraq Al-Kermani, wrote a detailed account of Navbahar at the beginning of the 8th century that is preserved in a later 10th-century work, the Kitab al-Buldan by Ibn al-Faqih al-Hamadhani. He described Navbahar in terms strikingly similar to the Kaaba in Mecca, the holiest site of Islam. He described that the main temple had a stone cube in the center, draped with cloth, and that devotees circumambulated it and made prostration, as is the case with the Kaaba. The stone cube referred to the platform on which a stupa stood, as was the custom in Bactrian temples. The cloth that draped it was in accordance with Persian custom of showing veneration that applied equally to Buddha statues as well as to stupas..".....http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nava_Vihara

"The Yuezhi/Kushan integrated Buddhism into a pantheon of many deities and became great promoters of Mahayana Buddhism, and their interactions with Greek civilization helped the Gandharan culture and Greco-Buddhism flourish....The Yuezhi/Kushans expanded to the east during the 1st century CE to found the Kushan Empire. The first Kushan emperor, Kujula Kadphises, ostensibly associated himself with Hermaeus on his coins.".....http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuezhi#cite_ref-Watson.2C_Burton_1993._p._234_1-0

"Mahāyāna Buddhism including Zen was developed in Central Asia...."...http://www.kavehfarrokh.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/zen_buddhism_and_persian_culture_v1.pdf

".....elements of the Mahayana movement may have begun around the 1st century BC in northwestern India, at the time and place of these interactions. According to most scholars, the main sutras of Mahayana were written after 100 BC, when sectarian conflicts arose among Nikaya Buddhist sects regarding the humanity or super-humanity of the Buddha and questions of metaphysical essentialism, on which Greek thought may have had some influence: "It may have been a Greek-influenced and Greek-carried form of Buddhism that passed north and east along the Silk Road".....http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greco-Buddhism

"Buddhism can be classified into three schools: Theravāda 上座部, Mahāyāna 大乗and Vajirayāna 金剛乗. Theravāda is the oldest Buddhist school (250 BC). Mahāyāna arose in the area which encompasses northwest part of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, east part of Iran (1st BC-1st AD) under the strong influence of Iranian culture. Esoteric Buddhism arose until the 7th Century in the above area and spread to Tibet, Central Asia, China and Japan. Shingon-sect 真言宗and Tendai-sect 天台宗are its middle form. Vajirayānā 金剛乗 (Tibetan Buddhism) is its later form. They are also under the strong Iranian influence.".....

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"The Kushan king Kanishka, who honored Zoroastrian, Greek and Brahmanic deities as well as the Buddha and was famous for his religious syncretism, convened the Fourth Buddhist Council around 100 AD in Kashmir in order to redact the Sarvastivadin canon. Some of Kanishka's coins bear the earliest representations of the Buddha on a coin (around 120 CE), in Hellenistic style and with the word "Boddo" in Greek script.....Kanishka also had the original Gandhari vernacular, or Prakrit, Mahayana Buddhist texts translated into the high literary language of Sanskrit, "a turning point in the evolution of the Buddhist literary canon".....http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greco-Buddhism

"Vairocana Buddha is the central Dhyani Buddha of the Five Buddhas, known also as the Great Sun Tathagata (Dainichi Nyorai).....The image of Vairocana within the Diamond, or Vajradhatu, Mandala is known as the Wisdom Truth Body of the Great Sun....Some people assume that Vairocana, the Great Sun Tathagata, is the Sun God. However, I feel that while the Great Sun Tathagata is synonymous with the sun itself, which turns darkness into brightness, the suns light is divided into day and night, and there are places where sunlight can never reach. Thus, the word great is added to the word sun to signify that the light of the Buddha is undivided by day or night, interior or exterior areas, as the wisdom light of the Great Sun Tathagata shines completely in equanimity throughout all dharma realms."...http://www.voyagestohell.com/tbs/books/051_highest_yoga_and_mahamudra/03_meditation_of_vairocana.htm

"Central Asia......At the time when Zen Buddhism were transmitted along the trans-Asian trade route known as the Silk Road, various religions such as Mithraism, the cult of Mitra and Anahita, Zoroastrianism (Mazda worship), the Greek polytheism, the cult of local heroes (Siyavush in Khorezm and Sogd), early Mahāyāna Buddhism, Hinduism and the Nestrian Christianity flourished along this route.. The major transmitters of Buddhism to China were the Iranian peoples of Parthia, Bactria, and Transoxiana, whose convenient position between east and west enabled them to serve as middlemen along the Silk Road. The latter group in particular, known as the Sogdians, established communities along the trade routes from Iran and India all the way into China....Many important features of Mahāyāna Buddhism display Iranian influences, such as the soteriological (salvation) function of Maitreya 弥勒(the one who helps people toward salvation) and the Buddha-nature 仏性(Manichaean particle of Light). Central deities also had Iranian origins....."....http://www.kavehfarrokh.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/zen_buddhism_and_persian_culture_v1.pdf

." the story of the great debate between Chinese and Indian Buddhism that is supposed to have taken place at Samyé monastery under the aegis of the emperor Tri Song Detsen? The debate is certainly presented in religious terms, as a battle between two interpretations of the Buddhist scriptures. On the Chinese side, the Chan approach of the single method: the realization of the nature of mind leading to instant enlightenment. On the Indian side, the gradual approach of the six perfections leading to a gradual awakening in ten stages.".......http://earlytibet.com/2010/03/31/tibetan-chan-iv/

""Northern Buddhism" sometimes refers to Buddhism as practiced in East Asia and the Tibetan region- particularly China, Tibet, Korea, Mongolia, Japan, and Vietnam. It is often held to by synonymous with Mahayana. However, the term Northern Buddhism is also sometimes used to refer specifically to Tibetan (including Mongolian) Buddhism. In this terminology, the Buddhism of China, Japan etc. is called Eastern Buddhism. The Brill Dictionary of Religion uses the term Northern Buddhism in a sense exclusive of tantric Buddhism."...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern,_Eastern_and_Northern_Buddhism

"The Southern Buddhism flourished in Ceylon, where the famous Buddhaghosha wrote in the fifth century some commentaries on the canon of the little vehicle. Then, spreading to Burma, it replaced there, about the sixth century and again in the fifteenth, the meagre remains of the mahayanist propaganda of the time of A6oka and Kanishka. The Mahayana, however, had a great triumph in other countries. In India itself the Mahayana and the Hmayana existed side by side for some long time, but both eventually were forced to give way, first by Brahmanism and then by the creed of Islam. The fall of Buddhism began with the eighth century. By the thirteenth it was no longer a living force in Central India, but it continued at the foot of the Himalayas and in the east of the peninsula. In the fifteenth century it disappeared from Bengal, and it is to be met with to-day, disfigured under the form of Lamaism, only in Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, and Ladak, and in some communities settled about its historic seats, such as Benares or Bodh -Gaya. To-day attempts are being made to re-establish Buddhism in India. Unfortunate in its own country, the faith has succeeded better in less civilized districts or in those whose inhabitants were less enervated than the Hindus by religious musings and magical practices. From India primitive Buddhism and, subsequently, the Mahayana spread first to the neighbouring countries, to Eastern Bactria and Gandhara..."The Gods of Northern Buddhism: Their History, Iconography and Progressive, Evolution Through the Northern Buddhist Countries [Alice Getty]



John Hopkins.....Northern New Mexico….April 2013


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