Saturday, October 25, 2014

Was there ever an Afghan-Buddhism?

Laila Re, Wisdom Quarterly, poet-in-residence, Dhr. Seven and Amber Larson (eds.)
Modern Afghanistan was once ancient Shakya-land (Sakastan/Sistan), Indo-Scythia, a country (janapada) west of anything that could be called "India" where the Shakya clan, the Buddha's family, ruled from Kapilavastu, aka Bamiyan (

How big Shakya-land with its three capitals?
Was there ever such a thing as Afghan-Buddhism?  There absolutely was. And what it was like is till to be determined by scholars hard at work piecing together the recently discovered Gandharan texts. Buddhist texts. The Buddha's family were Scythians who roamed and held land throughout Central Asia in what may now be termed Indo-Scythia: now Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and northwestern India (Kamboja and Gandhara, eventually extending their influence as far east as Bihar, where Prince Siddhartha became the Buddha). The clan met with tragedy during the Buddha's own life from a related rival clan. All the evidence is there little disturbed masked by this cover story by British and Indian archeologists to locate Kapilavastu, the Shakya-land capital in Hindu-India controlled Nepal. But the truth is much more fascinating and sensible.
What is Within Me
Laila Re, edited by Wisdom Quarterly (Bella Esqh)
Pieces to Peace (Laila Re/amazon)
What is within me
is within you, too
and it’s a reflection of our Divine source,
the Motherverse.
and as our first Mother said,
i am We,
and may you hear
and may you see We in everything,
even in the coldest breeze.
just open your eyes
to the Signs,
something inextricable from you and me.
it’s this Energy
made from the same tree,
the tree of eternity.
and hopefully we can see
we have just been killing our own family.
you’re killing my family.
they’re killing my family.
this is the pain i feel daily
that’s haunting me,
terrifying me,
killing me slowly,
knowing i can’t stop the killing spree.
the Gods and Goddesses,
the Afrikan Kings and Queens,
are our ancestry.
we are all Divine
but have we forgotten this,
or is this the scheme.
let’s get back to what’s real
so we can re-learn
the most powerful force in the Universe,
the Black Hole.
let’s start back at the womb
and be reborn
into reality,
into our Oneness,
a cosmic bliss.
it is
within me,
within you,
electrons and protons we’re exchanging,
even in our simplest interactions,
inextricably We.
Laila Re, B.A., B.Ed, M.Ed. York University, is an Afghan-Muslim peace activist, poetess, and teacher. She was born in 1987 in Kabul, but left her native land [the original Scythian "Shakya-land," where the Buddha was born] along with her family due to civil war. They then lived in Islamabad, Pakistan (a.k.a. ancient Gandhara) as refugees before migrating to Toronto, Canada in 1991. She has lived there ever since and visits the U.S. She is the author of Pieces to Peace (2014) and Wisdom Quarterly's Poet-in-Residence.

Down with the U.S. military-industrial complex's occupation of Afghanistan! (
Buddhism in ancient Afghanistan
Gandhāran Buddhist texts (Wikipedia edited by Wisdom Quarterly)
Buddha stone relief from Gandhara (Durham Museum/Akuppa/
Gandhāran texts
Pāli Canon
1st Council
2nd Council
3rd Council
4th Council
First Sangha
 ├ Ekavyāvahārika
 ├ Lokottaravāda
 ├ Bahuśrutīya
 ├ Prajñaptivāda
 └ Caitika
 ├ Mahīśāsaka
 ├ Dharmaguptaka
 ├ Kāśyapīya
 ├ Sarvāstivāda
 └ Vibhajyavāda
  └ Theravāda
The Gandhāran Buddhist texts are the oldest Buddhist manuscripts yet discovered, dating from about the first century CE [Note 1]. They are written in Gāndhārī and are possibly the oldest extant Bactrian and Greco-Indian texts altogether.

They were sold to European and Japanese institutions and individuals and are currently being recovered and studied by several universities. The texts are in a considerably deteriorated state. (That they survived at all is remarkable).

But educated guesses about reconstruction have been possible in several cases using both modern preservation techniques and more traditional textual scholarship, comparing previously known Pāli language and Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit versions of texts.

Other Gandhāran Buddhist texts -- "several and perhaps many" -- have been found over the last two centuries but then lost or destroyed [2].

The texts are attributed to the Dharmaguptaka sect by Richard Salomon, the leading scholar in the field [3], and 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" [4]. More
  1. "UW Press: Ancient Buddhist Scrolls from Gandhara".
  2. Between the Empires: Society in India 300 BCE to 400 CE by Patrick Olivelle. Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 357 [1].
  3. "The Discovery of 'the Oldest Buddhist Manuscripts'" Review article by Enomoto Fumio. The Eastern Buddhist, Vol NS32 Issue I, 2000, p. 160.
  4. Richard Salomon. Ancient Buddhist Scrolls from Gandhāra: The British Library Kharosthī Fragments, with contributions by Raymond Allchin and Mark Barnard. Seattle: University of Washington Press; London: The British Library, 1999, p. 181.
The British Library Collection
In 1994 the British Library acquired a group of some 80 Gandharan manuscript fragments from the first half of the 1st century. They were written on birch bark and stored in clay jars, which preserved them. They are thought to have been found in western Pakistan (which was the location of Gandhara), in clay jars which were buried in ancient monasteries.

A team has been at work trying to decipher the manuscripts: Three volumes have appeared to date (2009). The manuscripts were written in Gāndhārī using the Kharoṣṭhī script and are therefore sometimes also called the Kharoṣṭhī Manuscripts.
The collection is composed of a diversity of texts: a Dhammapada (aphorisms with origin stories), discourses of the Buddha (sutras, e.g., that of the Rhinoceros Horn), Avadanas and Purvayogas, commentaries and Abhidharma ("Ultimate Doctrine") texts.

There is evidence to suggest that these texts may belong to the Dharmaguptaka school, a Buddhist Nikaya ideology (Salomon 2000, p. 5). There is an inscription on a jar to that school, and there is some textual evidence as well. On a semi-related point, the Gandhāran text of the Rhinoceros Sutra contains the word mahayaṇaṣa, which some might identify with the later Mahāyāna school (Salomon, 2000, p. 127).

However, according to Salomon, in Kharoṣṭhī orthography there is no reason to think that the phrase in question, Amaṃtraṇa bhoti mahayaṇaṣa ("There are calls from the multitude"), has any connection to Mahāyāna (Salomon, 2000, p. 127). 

The Senior Collection
The Senior collection was bought by R. Senior, a British collector. The Senior collection may be slightly younger than the British Library collection. It consists almost entirely of Pali canonical sutras, and, like the British Library collection, was written on birch bark and stored in clay jars [5].

The jars bear inscriptions referring to Macedonian rather than Indian month names, as is characteristic of the Kaniska era from which they derive [6]. There is a "strong likelihood that the Senior scrolls were written, at the earliest, in the latter part of the first century A.D., or, perhaps more likely, in the first half of the second century. This would make the Senior scrolls slightly but significantly later than the scrolls of the British Library collection, which have been provisionally dated to the first half of the first century" [7]. More
5. The Senior Manuscripts: Another Collection of Gandhāran Buddhist Scrolls by Richard Salomon. Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 123, No. 1 (Jan.-Mar., 2003), pp. 73-92.
6. Ibid., pp. 77. 
7. Ibid., pp. 78.

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