Tuesday, June 7, 2016

How Buddhism influenced ancient Greeks

Christopher I. Beckwith, Greek Buddha; Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Wisdom Quarterly
Gandhara art: the first human representations of the Buddha were Greco-Buddhist.

Greek Buddha (Beckwith/amazon.co.uk)
Pyrrho of Elis went with Alexander the Great to Central Asia and India during the Greek invasion and conquest of the Persian Empire in 334-324 BC.

There he met with early Buddhist masters. The book Greek Buddha: Pyrrho's Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia shows how their early Buddhism shaped the philosophy of Pyrrho, the famous founder of Pyrrhonian skepticism in ancient Greece.

Author Christopher I. Beckwith traces the origins of a major tradition in Western philosophy to Gandhara, a country in Central Asia between Buddhist Afghanistan [likely the country of the Buddha's birth] and northwestern India.

Empires of the Silk Road (C. I. Beckwith)
Beckwith systematically examines the teachings and practices of Pyrrho and of early Buddhism, including those preserved in testimonies by and about Pyrrho.

These are found in the report on Indian philosophy two decades later by the Seleucid ambassador Megasthenes, in the first-person edicts by the Indian King Devanampriya Priyadarsi referring to a popular variety of the Dharma in the early 3rd century BC and in Taoist echoes of Siddhartha Gautama's Dharma in Warring States China.

The future Buddha Maitreya dressed as a Central Asian king, Ladakh, Himalayas (wiki)
Central Asian Origins of Science
Beckwith demonstrates how the teachings of Pyrrho agree closely with those of the Buddha Shakyamuni, "the Scythian Sage" -- the Sage (muni) of the Shakya clan (Shakyians = Scythians, Sakas).

In the process, Beckwith identifies eight distinct philosophical schools in ancient northwestern India and Central Asia, including early Zoroastrianism (the pre-Christian teachings of Zarathustra), early Brahmanism (the Vedic spiritual inheritance and books of knowledge of the Brahmin priestly caste), and several forms of early Buddhism.

Nagarjuna's Middle Way: The Mulamadhyamakakarika (Classics of Indian Buddhism)
He then shows the influence that Pyrrho's brand of skepticism had on the evolution of Western thought, first in Antiquity, and later during the Enlightenment, on the great philosopher and self-proclaimed Pyrrhonian, David Hume.

Greek Buddha demonstrates that through Pyrrho, early Buddhist thought had a major impact on Western philosophy. More
What if an ancient Greek philosopher traveled to India with Alexander the Great and became a monastic practitioner who taught Buddhism to the Greeks? Greek Buddha offers dramatic new evidence of the true character of early Buddhism and the foundations of Western philosophy still impacting us today. Do the claims stack up? (wiseattention.org)

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