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The great saga of the Greek buddhists?

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  Quote Decebal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: The great saga of the Greek buddhists?
    Posted: 17-Jan-2007 at 10:59

I stumbled upon this interesting detail recently and I thought I could share it. It turns out that a Greek Buddhist monk leading an expedition of 30000 monks travelled over 4000KM from Alexandria on the Caucasus (north of Kabul) all the way to Sri Lanka for the dedication of the great stupa in Anuradhapura around 136BC. I find this fascinating. Aside from the cross-cultural implications, this means that a virutal army of Buddhist Greeks and Central Asians could travel unimpeded through all of India. That must have been quite a sight. Below are some quotes that give more info...

 

Mahadhammarakkhita (Sanskrit: Mahadharmaraksita, litteraly "Great protector of the Dharma") was a Greek (in Pali:"Yona", lit. "Ionian") Buddhist master, who lived during the 2nd century BCE during the reign of the Indo-Greek king Menander.

In the Mahavamsa, a key Pali historical text, he is recorded as having travelled from Alasandra (thought to be Alexandria-of-the-Caucasus, around 150 kilometers north of today's Kabul, or possibly Alexandria of the Arachosians), with 30,000 monks for the dedication ceremony of the Maha Thupa ("Great stupa") at Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka, when it was completed shortly after the death of the Sri Lankan king Dutthagamani Abhaya (r. 161- 137 BCE).

The head of this Buddhist community at Alasandra was a Greek (Yona) Buddhist elder whose religious name was Mahadhammarakkhita ("Great protector of the Dharma), indicating the direct involvement of Greeks in the development of the faith, in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent.
They were able to travel unhindered south as far as Sri Lanka, indicating some kind of stable political situation along the west coast of the Indian subcontinent, especially at a time when the Sunga Empire in the east was persecuting Buddhists.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahadharmaraksita

Alexandria of the Caucasus was one of the capitals of the Indo-Greek kings (180 BC-AD 10). During the reign of Menander I the city was recorded as having a thriving Buddhist community, headed by Greek monks. In Buddhist literature, the Greek (Pali: Yona, lit: "Ionian") Buddhist monk Mahadhammarakkhita (Sanskrit: Mahadharmaraksita) is said to have come from Alasandra (thought to be Alexandria of the Caucasus), with 30,000 monks for the foundation ceremony of the Maha Thupa ("Great stupa") at Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka:

"From Alasanda the city of the Yonas came the thera (elder) Yona Mahadhammarakkhita with thirty thousand bhikkhus." (Mahavamsa, XXIX)


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandria_of_the_Caucasus


Further info:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruwanwelisaya

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  Quote Spartakus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Jan-2007 at 16:44
Really interesting!Tongue
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  Quote konstantinius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Jan-2007 at 18:47
It is hella interesting! It takes Alexander's great cultural experiment to new heights. If accurate it also shows the ability humans have to combine and merge different cultural elements into one.
Would the city they set out from be Alexandria Sogdiana?   
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  Quote chimera Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Feb-2007 at 16:20
Pali Sanskrit from Sri Lanka is closely linked to Buddhism in Thailand. The Greek-Bactrian Punjab is also connected with Kambojas and "Cambodia". This adds to the posssibility that Preak Khan temple at Angkor Wat which is described as having a Greek-style shrine, does in fact have Greek background.  So Greek influence stretched from Marseilles France to Cambodia. Typhon the Greek storm-god became "typhoon" of south China seas._OED 'typhoon'.
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Feb-2007 at 00:49
Well, I heared before that Greeks have a very important impact in Budism. There is even a style called Greek-Buddist that spread across Asia.
 
I have also found certain clues of Greek influences in the field of Mathematics. If one read the works of Aryabatta, it is surprising to find the similarities between ancient geometry and methods to the work of that Indian genious. I believe Aryabatta was following a long tradition and was influenced by Greek mathematics.
 
So, the link exist.
 
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  Quote Yiannis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Feb-2007 at 12:07
Originally posted by pinguin

Well, I heared before that Greeks have a very important impact in Budism. There is even a style called Greek-Buddist that spread across Asia.
 
 
Most prominent representative is the Gandhara art and the Indo-Greek kingdoms that fostered it..
 
 
 
 
 
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  Quote chimera Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Feb-2007 at 16:18

Reference.com/encyclopedia:

Original Home of Kambojas

Main article: Kamboja Location

Analysis of ancient Sanskrit texts and inscriptions place the Kambojas, Gandharas, Yavanas (Greeks), Madras, and the Sakas in the Uttarapatha - the northern division of Jambudvipa (the innermost concentric island continent in Hindu scripture). Geographically, this area sat along, and was named for, the main trade route from the mouth the Ganges to Balkh, now a small town in Northern Afghanistan. Some writers hold that Uttarapatha included the whole of Northern India and comprised very area of Central Asia, as far as the Urals and the Caspian Sea to the Yenisei and from Turkistan and Tien Shan ranges to as far as the Arctic (Dr S. M. Ali)."(end quote).

The Balkh are evidently the Bulgarians of Balkans. It seems that some Greeks were known very early to IndoEuropean Sanskrit Brahmins.
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  Quote pekau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Feb-2007 at 17:30

What the... there were Greek Buddhists? How did Buddhism spread over Greece in the ancient times? 



Edited by pekau - 10-Feb-2007 at 17:31
     
   
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  Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Feb-2007 at 20:49
Buddhism didn't spread to Greece, Greeks spread to the majority buddhist Afghanistan and Pakistan
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Feb-2007 at 21:21

Yes, and Greeks were and important starting point for the glorious period of ancient India called the Guptas. Somehow, after Alexander's invasion, India woke up to new influences, and lived a brilliant age of intellectual development.

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  Quote chimera Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Feb-2007 at 22:31
"According to Klaus K. Klostermaier, in his book A Survey of Hinduism pg 18-19: "The kings of Magadha and Malwa exchanged ambassadors with Greece. A Maurya ruler invited one of the Greek Sophists to join his court, and one of the greatest of the Indo-Greek kings became famous as the dialogue partner of the great Buddhist sage Nagasena, while in the opposite direction, Buddhist missionaries are known to have settled in Alexandria, and other cities in the Ancient West. It is evident then, that Indian thought was present in the fashionable intellectual circuit of ancient Athens, and there is every reason to suppose that Indian religious and philosophical ideas exercised some influence on early and classical Greek philosophy. Both Greeks and Romans habitually tried to understand the religions of India by trying to fit them as far as possible into Greco-Roman categories. Deities in particular were spoken of, not in Indian but in Greek terms and called by Greek names. Thus Shiva, was identified as "Dionysos," Krsna (or perhaps Indra) as "Heracles." The great Indian epics were compared to those of Homer. Doctrinally, the Indian concept of transmigration had its counterpart in the metempsychosis taught by Pythagoras and Plato; nor was Indian asceticism altogether foreign to a people who remembered Diogenes and his followers."
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Feb-2007 at 07:43
Yes, Indian's though was present in Classical Greece and Rome.
But it also interesting to notice the opposite is also true:
 
Classical Greek though was present in India, particularly with the Greek-Buddists and in the development of mathematics.
 
What this show? That civilizations never develop alone.
 
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  Quote Decebal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Feb-2007 at 09:52
Originally posted by chimera

The Balkh are evidently the Bulgarians of Balkans. It seems that some Greeks were known very early to IndoEuropean Sanskrit Brahmins.
chimera
Confusedwhat are you talking about? Balkh is a city in Central Asia. The Bulgarians of the Balkans didn't even exist as a people until after the 8th century AD, more than a millenium after these events....
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  Quote Spartakus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Feb-2007 at 11:12
Let me clear sth out.There is a difference between Classical Hellas and Hellenistic Hellas.Classical Hellas ends before Alexander's conquest .Until that time,Hellas was culturally pretty much "isolated" , always concerning it's relations with the East,and the only  State with very systematic trade ,except the Hellenic colonies throughout the Mediterranean,was the Persian Empire and ,more specifically, in the Middle Eastern area.Therefore,the Indian thought cannot be present during Classical Hellas or in the achievements of the Classical Hellens.Hellenic thought came in touch with India only during Alexander.

Therefore,Hellenistic Hellas may have come in touch with Indian thought,but not Classical Hellas.
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  Quote chimera Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Feb-2007 at 16:25
Bulgarians of Balikh:
Hurrians of 1400BCE had Vedic gods and moved into Asia Minor. Jason and argonauts reached Colchis in Georgia, indicating at least that Greeks were familiar with the geography.
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  Quote Hellios Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Feb-2007 at 16:52
 
Hellenic-style Buddhist stupa:
 
Indo-Greek art in Gandhara:
Source: same
 
Seach words:
Hellenistic India
Indo-Greek
Indo-Greek culture
Indo-Greek kingdoms
Indo-Greek religion
Greco-Buddhist art


Edited by Hellios - 11-Feb-2007 at 18:30
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  Quote ijimon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Feb-2007 at 20:02
Originally posted by chimera

This adds to the posssibility that Preak Khan temple at Angkor Wat which is described as having a Greek-style shrine, does in fact have Greek background. 
 
Except that this was built way way way after any "Greek Buddhists" traveled to sri lanka. And this was a Hindu shrine.
 


Edited by ijimon - 11-Feb-2007 at 20:08
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Feb-2007 at 20:21
Well, didn't Greek-Buddist architecture influence Hindu architecture?
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  Quote Preobrazhenskoe Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Feb-2007 at 15:01

The ironic thing is Buddhism did not penetrate regions of East Asia until the 1st century AD (Eastern Han Dynasty in China), while there were thousands of Greek Buddhists hundreds of years before this point (not that there's much of a trace of it anymore, while East Asia in general maintains its Buddhist legacy).

 
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  Quote chimera Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Feb-2007 at 17:35
Major Buddhist Sites: India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Tibet
After a horrifying period of war, the Hindu temple complex of Angkor Wat and the Buddhist Angkor Thom are again accessible. Angkor Thom was the creation of ...
www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/history/sites.htm - 35k - Cached - Similar pages
Greek and Roman temples are explicitly copied as at Capitol DC and school/courthouse buildings after 2000 years. As with sacred texts, Greek and Persian culture evidently persisted at Angkor, just as Gr. democracy ideals do in the west. Reversing that, it appears that the Meru architecture in Angkor was present as an ideal in India when the travellers left Punjab.
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