Friday, May 17, 2013

Ancient Greek Buddhism (video)

Dhr. Seven and Amber Dorrian, Wisdom Quarterly;; Prof. Powell,;; I.B. Horner
East meets West under Himalayan Buddha, Thimphu, Bhutan (
Ancient Grecian/Gandharan Buddhas (RB)

Greeks invaded Buddhist India (Gandhara)
Ancient Greek Buddhism is highlighted by two main points -- the sculptural depiction of the Buddha and the textual report on King Menandros (Milinda, Menander), who become a Buddhist adept.
The 304 Questions of King Milinda, who reigned circa 155-130 BCE, is known as the Milindapanha (a para-canonical Pali work, circa 150 BCE). 
It is a dialogue between a Greek sovereign from Hellenized Asia and a very wise Buddhist monk and missionary, Ven. Nagasena. 
Greco-Buddhism (see Part II below)

This resulted in the ruler’s acceptance of the Dharma as a lay disciple who subsequently had Buddhism disseminated throughout Indo-Greece. His guru’s guru was by the way a Greek, the renowned Dharmarakshita, a given which is illustrative for the Greeks’ embracement of Buddhism in the Hellenized territories. Twenty-six Greek kings after Menandros were Buddhist.

The Milindapanha is a “reader’s digest” covering the most important Buddhist themes:

Imponderable 1: Buddha's range
(1) The Four Ennobling Realities, (2) The Eightfold Balancing Practice, (3) The Three Empirical Marks of Existence, (4) The Three Poisons, (5) The state/trait of Nirvana, (6) The notion of Karma, (7) The Five Psychological Modalities (Skandhas), (8) The provisional self and ultimate Non-self, (9) The Dependent Origination hypothesis, (10) The dharmas as the smallest units of experience, (11) The Sixth Sense or mind’s eye, (12) The Twelve Meditative Themes, (13) The Four Foundations of Mindfulness, (14) The Four Immeasurables, and (15) The Twenty-Four Patthanas or functional/conditional relations between karmas, skandhas, and dharmas. More
Gandhara civilization comes West (Gandhara Blog/
Buddhist Foundations of Western Civilization
Mike Watters (via Prof. Rev. Dr. James Kenneth Powell II,
(Part II/IV)

Greek Gandhara-style (RB)
This detailed 40-minute study of the interactions among ancient Greeks and Indian Buddhists as a major conduit of communication. Did the early Greek schools of philosophers known as the Skeptics, Stoics, and Cynics have Buddhist roots and connections?
Diogenes was certainly a Buddhist from the West. The contrast between his view and that of Socrates and Plato is clear. He is more aligned with the Buddha than they are. Watters’ chronicle of the origins and development of first the Alexandrian (Alexander the Great) civilization then the Ashokan (Buddhist King Asoka) is concise and compelling.
Kapilavastu was a crossroads (
The travels of two Greco-Buddhist missionaries (Dharmaraksitas) are especially fascinating, taking Greco-Buddhism to distant Sri Lanka. Greek King Menander (Milinda) show how Buddhism took root in (Siddhartha’s home territory in) Central Asia. The Buddhist philosopher-monk Nagasena’s argument was a pivotal historical moment in East-West relations.
  • The Land of the Shakyas, with Kapilavastu (which according to Dr. Pal is in modern Afghanistan/ancient Gandhara, not Nepal) as its capital, was a crossroads. It was bustling along the Silk Road that ran east-west and west-east even before Parthian Hellenistic Greco-Buddhist times, connecting the Western beyond with India, Gandhara, Central Asia, Persia, and the Far East.
The Gandhāran Buddhist Texts
 Wisdom Quarterly edit of Wikipedia entry GBT
Gandharan Dhammapada text (
It seemed to be all Greek to Western scholars who arrived in Central Asia. Gandharan Buddhist texts (e.g., translated by Michael P. Garofalo) are the oldest Buddhist manuscripts yet discovered, dating from about the 1st century CE (UW Press: Ancient Buddhist Scrolls from Gandhara, 2008). They are written in Gāndhārī and are possibly the oldest of all extant Indic texts.
They were sold to European and Japanese institutions and individuals and are currently being recovered and studied by several universities. These Gandhāran texts are quite deteriorated. (Their survival alone is extraordinary). 

Educated guesses about reconstruction have been possible in several cases using both modern preservation techniques and traditional textual scholarship, comparing previously known Pāli (the exclusively Buddhist language possibly spoken by the Buddha) and Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit versions of texts. Other Gandhāran Buddhist texts -- "several and perhaps many" -- have been found over the last two centuries but were lost or destroyed (Between the Empires: Society in India 300 BCE to 400 CE, Patrick Olivelle, Oxford Univ. Press, 2006).
The texts are attributed to the Dharmaguptaka sect by Richard Salomon, the leading scholar in the field (The Discovery of the Oldest Buddhist Manuscripts, review by Enomoto Fumio, The Eastern Buddhist, Vol. NS32, Issue I, 2000, p. 160). The British Library scrolls "represent a random but reasonably representative fraction of what was probably a much larger set of texts preserved in the library of a monastery of the Dharmaguptaka sect in Nagarāhāra," Salomon explains. More

Buddhist Questions of Greek King Milinda
I.B. Horner ["A Question (Solved by) Inference," Miln 329-347 abridged of Miln 5]
Then King Milinda approached [the Buddhist elder or thera] Ven. Nagasena, greeted him, and sat down at a respectful distance.
King Milinda, anxious [eager] to know, anxious to hear, anxious to remember, anxious to see the light of knowledge, anxious to break down the lack of knowledge, anxious to find the light of knowledge, anxious to expel the darkness of ignorance, aroused extreme steadfastness and zeal and mindfulness and clear consciousness, and spoke thus to Ven. Nagasena:
"Revered Nagasena, have you ever seen the Buddha?"

"No, sire."

"But have your teachers ever seen the Buddha?"

"No, sire."

"Revered Nagasena, if you have never seen the Buddha, and if your teachers have never seen the Buddha, well then, revered Nagasena, there is no Buddha; the Buddha is not manifested here."

[Nagasena:] "But, sire, did those former noble warriors [like the Buddha's family] exist who were the forerunners of your noble warrior dynasty?"
"Yes, revered sir; what doubt is there?"
"Have you, sire, ever seen the former noble warriors?"
"No, revered sir."

"But have those who have instructed you, sire -- [Brahmin] priests, generals, judges, chief councilors -- have these ever seen the former noble warriors?"

"No, revered sir."
"But if you, sire, have not seen the former noble warriors and if your instructors have not seen the former noble warriors, where are the former noble warriors?" More

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