|Asia 200 BC showing outlines of "great footholds of clans" (maha-janapadas) and empires (consolidated lands), like the Greco-Bactria Kingdom in Indo-Greek Afghan Gandhara.|
|Chakra at center of Indian flag|
|Golden Buddha (Boddo) coin (miami.edu)|
King Milinda questions Ven. Nagasena
|The metallic Milinda/Menander I coin|
The conclusion states that it contains 262 questions, but the editions available today only contain 236. Although not included as a canonical text in the traditions of all the Theravada countries, this work is much revered throughout and is one of the most popular and authoritative Buddhist works in Pali [a uniquely Buddhist language very similar to Sanskrit].
Composed around the beginning of the common era and of unknown authorship, it is set up as a compilation of questions posed by King Milinda [Greek King Menander I] to a revered senior monk named Ven. Nagasena.
|Nagasena answers the king's many questions|
The area corresponds with much of present day Afghanistan. King Menander's realm would have included Gandhara, where Buddhism was flourishing at that time.
What is most interesting about the Milindapañha is that it is the product of the encounter of two great civilizations -- Hellenistic Greece and Buddhist India [which in ancient times included all of modern Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan, which is what Gandhara was]. So it is of continuing relevance as the Wisdom of the East meets the modern Western world.
- [NOTE: It is more likely that Buddhism co-arose in Afghanistan because the Buddha was from there. The evidence for this is more archeological than anything. Afghanistan contains the earliest anthropomorphic depictions of the Buddha, the largest Buddha figures, the richest and most massive temple complexes, such as the incomprehensible finds at 2,600-year-old Mes Aynak near the modern capital of Kabul. Buddhism is currently thought to be 2,600-years old. Is it reasonable to believe that the first year the Buddha began teaching in India, someone thought to found a massive temple with monastic residences?]