Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby Indrajala » Mon Jun 23, 2014 6:56 pm

Wayfarer wrote:Interesting post!

What is the relationship of your thesis, if any, to Johannes Bronkhurst's book, Buddhism in the Shadow of Brahmanism? I haven't read it in depth but am aware of it, and it is available for loan at the University library.


It is worth reading cover to cover. I'm using it in my research at the moment again.

Also his other book Greater Magadha is worth reading. Perhaps read this one first.
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby Jayarava » Tue Jun 24, 2014 4:19 pm

Mkoll wrote:I appreciate the work you and other "non-religiously affiliated" scholars do in this field. You write well and have some interesting ideas.


Thanks, but I am "religiously affiliated"! I'm a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order and have been a Buddhist for about 20 years. Jayarava "whose roar is victory!" is the name I was given when I was ordained. I just haven't let that get in the way of thinking critically.
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby Rakshasa » Sat Jun 28, 2014 7:49 am

I doubt the claim the the Sakyas, and thus the Buddha, were of Saka/Iranic origin. Buddha has been described as a man of "dark skin" in the Early Buddhist texts (Pali canon mainly). He has been described as often getting discriminated by the Brahmins (Indo-Aryans) especially in matters related to caste and "superiority". Indo-Aryans (Brahmins) were themselves not very distinct from the other Iranian traditions in history. In fact, the rituals described in Zoroastrianism, and as they are still practiced today in India, are very similar to the Brahmanic rituals. And the place where the dissimilarity comes from is because of the influence of the Shramanic and animistic aspects that Brahmanism picked up through its course in Indian history. So the clan of Buddha would have found themselves closer to the Brahmins, being of Iranic descent themselves, than to the culture of Magadha. But this is not the case.

He is clearly not described as a "Caucasian" in the scriptures. And since in ancient India the differences between the Caucasian Iranic peoples (including the Brahmins) and the natives were far more pronounced, the persistent reference to Buddha as "dark and menial" by the Brahmins certainly gets greater significance. So clearly the Sakas were not Caucasians. Furthermore, the Buddha was very close to the Mallas, who themselves were native tribes.

Since this discussion also involved "genetics", I would like to point out my personal judgement based on various studies, and practically living all over India, that the Caucasians of India today mostly descended from the Indo-Scythian, Kushan/Yue-Chih, and Hepthalite stocks, if not as much from the Indo-Aryans. It is well known that during the Buddha's time, there were no Jats, Meds, Gujjars, Rajputs and Marwari in India, who are the present "Caucasoid" population of INdia. In fact, Jats, Gujjars , Rajputs, Khatris alone comprise of most of the population of North Western India. When the BRitish arrived in India, they were mistaken in concluding these to be descendants of ancient Indo-Aryans due to their distinct appearance compared to Central, Southern And Eastern Indians. Because they had originally not factored in the other Iranic or Central Asian tribes which migrated as late as post-Guptas (Gujjar started arriving to India only a few centuries prior to the Muslims). So, considering this scenario where the Jats/Indo-SCythians, Gujjars/Hepthalites/Kashmiris, Rajputs/Kushan/Hunas etc did not yet exist in the domain of the Buddha (and they are half of the North western Indians today), the only Caucasian tribes that the Magadhans had encounters of even relations with were the Indo-Aryans (all Brahmins).
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby Zhen Li » Sat Jun 28, 2014 6:05 pm

It is possible that the Indo-Aryans at that time did not undergo a wholesale replacement of the earlier populations, this is the case in many migrations, where the societal superstructure undergoes transition to the hands of a different ethnicity, but most people's ethnicity doesn't change much. This is also something that, if I recall correctly, is the case with the Saxons in Britain, where we are finding now due to genetic research that for the most part, the earlier Britons likely were not replaced, but adapted to the culture and language of the invaders - as contrasted with much of North East Britain, where the Norwegian and Danish Vikings for the most part transplanted the entire population. However, looking at the genetic research, apparently things point to the wholesale integration of Indo-Aryans around 3500 YPB (http://genepath.med.harvard.edu/~reich/ ... _India.pdf)

I wouldn't say it's absolutely certain that the Buddha was a Dravidian or "Ancestral South Indian", yes the 'sangha' is called black, but the Buddha is individually usually referred to as golden. This might suggest that he was closer in relation to some of the Tibet-Burman hill tribesmen of Nepal, who are yellow/golden skinned. Though certainly the caste rejectionism of Buddhism probably played a bigger role than the texts suggest, and likely attracted a larger number of outcastes, black and yellow, than would be suggested by the thesis that the Sakyas were Indo-Aryans and that the Buddha 'reformed' 'Hinduism'. Regardless, I think it most likely that he was, as much of the Sangha probably was, a mix of Indigenous and Indo-Aryan ethnicities - I don't buy into the idea that the presence of Brahmanical elements (e.g. claiming to be descended from the solar dynasty) in the Sutras is a conspiracy of later Brahman-caste compilers. Everything seems to point to the idea that these groups mixed very early on, and developed more racist ideologies later - otherwise the genetic data wouldn't show that most Indo-Aryans are mixed with Ancestral South Indians, or that there are no pure Ancestral South Indians at all any more, except on the Andaman Islands. I think the idea of thinking of the Buddha, Sangha, or anyone, as one race or another, is probably missing the point about the early history of these peoples - not only did they mix, but there's pretty much no one who is purely one race or the other anymore - the Indian ethnicities are mixes of all sorts of things, outcastes are Indo-Aryans, just as Brahmins are Dravidians. This is also one of the main argument against the Mimamsaka view (specifically that of Kumarilla) of Caste - clearly the castes didn't remain pure since the time of Manu, since Brahmins sometimes also have black skin, large lips and curly hair, and Sudras sometimes have olive skin and aquiline noses.

On that note, it might be useful to look at what is actually said about caste, and it's somewhat strange that we find very little caste rejection after the Nikaya/Agama literature, i.e. nothing in Abhidharmic writings or early philosophical writings. It's only in the 6th Century CE that Dharmakirti engages in an argument against caste - and strangely, he doesn't refer to any of the arguments in Nikaya/Agama literature, though later writers do. In Eltschinger's "Caste and Buddhist Philosophy," he looks at these arguments, including those of Aryadeva, Vasubandhu, Dharmapala, and Candrakirti. It's possible that by the 6th Century, Buddhists, realising they were seriously on the decline, had to appeal to anti-caste sentiments to attract outcastes to the order and maintain their numbers. But fundamentally, without the support of a king (of which the Palas provided the final, but unsuccessful, aid), the Sangha couldn't maintain itself - at least in the traditional monastic setting, which is one major factor in the upsurge at that time in lay/non-celibate monasticism.
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby Jayarava » Fri Jan 23, 2015 12:14 pm

Rakshasa wrote:Buddha has been described as a man of "dark skin" in the Early Buddhist texts (Pali canon mainly). He has been described as often getting discriminated by the Brahmins (Indo-Aryans) especially in matters related to caste and "superiority".


Has he? Could you cite some examples? My reading is that he is usually described as having golden skin colour - typical of the Iranian or North Indian patrician families. Perhaps you are thinking of the way that some Brahmins refer to śrāmaṇas as 'black'? I think in this case it's a metaphor, because the Brahmins refer to themselves as white (sukka) and they were certainly not literally the colour of semen. I've written about one of these passages.

Rakshasa wrote:Indo-Aryans (Brahmins) were themselves not very distinct from the other Iranian traditions in history. In fact, the rituals described in Zoroastrianism, and as they are still practiced today in India, are very similar to the Brahmanic rituals.


Well you say this, but the basic similarity of using fire in rituals aside, there is very little in common between Vedic and Zoroastrian religion. They are about as close as Buddhists who do fire pujas and Hinduism. Not at all close.

Rakshasa wrote: So the clan of Buddha would have found themselves closer to the Brahmins, being of Iranic descent themselves, than to the culture of Magadha. But this is not the case.


This is simply false. It betrays a rather limited understanding of the cultures involves. The Brahmins cannot be described as being of Iranic descent. The speakers of Iranian languages and the speakers of Indic languages have a common ancestor (ca 2000 BC). We call the reconstructed proto-language Indo-Iranian. But the split is evident in the first archaeological evidence we have of the languages. While language and culture are not identical there is every reason to believe that as languages drifted apart so did cultures.

Rakshasa wrote:He is clearly not described as a "Caucasian" in the scriptures.


Agreed. And nor are iranians or Indians ever described as "Caucasian". Nor is anyone but a native of the Caucasus region ever referred to that way these days by scholars. Race is a very tricky concept. It has no basis in any empirical fact. Even skin colour is only skin deep and changes much faster than gene mutations. It's a response to levels of sunlight over relatively short time periods compared to what genetics can resolve.

Rakshasa wrote:Since this discussion also involved "genetics", I would like to point out my personal judgement based on various studies, and practically living all over India, that the Caucasians of India today mostly descended from the Indo-Scythian, Kushan/Yue-Chih, and Hepthalite stocks, if not as much from the Indo-Aryans.


Please cite these "studies". I do cite my sources in my article. In making my argument I relied on a wide variety of evidence, the genetics is of relatively minor interest because it cannot resolve the time frames we are interested in. It's mentioned for the sake of completeness, but adds little or nothing to the argument about the origins of the Śākya tribe.
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Jan 25, 2015 3:29 am

Jayarava wrote:Has he? Could you cite some examples? My reading is that he is usually described as having golden skin colour - typical of the Iranian or North Indian patrician families. Perhaps you are thinking of the way that some Brahmins refer to śrāmaṇas as 'black'? I think in this case it's a metaphor, because the Brahmins refer to themselves as white (sukka) and they were certainly not literally the colour of semen. I've written about one of these passages.

He's probably referring to lines such as, "shaven little ascetics, menials, black scourings from Brahma's foot," "muṇḍakāsamaṇakā ibbhā kaṇhā bandhupādāpaccā," (D.I.90). So much of this dialogue is rhetorical in nature. But I don't think we can really say anything certain from this alone - nor can we say anything certain from the claim that he is golden. I'm inclined to think that whoever was writing or redacting the suttas in question actually were not eyewitnesses to an historical Gautama, and as with Buddhist art, the physical depiction of the Buddha is often a matter of prestige and power. In a world where Buddhists were in conflict with Brahmins, and especially folks who believed Mīmāṃsā type inherently physical caste, my guess would be: if the Buddha were black, he would end up being depicted as golden anyway, so we can't know either way!

I am also highly inclined away from the idea that the Buddha or the Śākyas had one racial origin or the other. This is simply unlikely, but not impossible; though I am somewhat more disinclined to believe arguments grounded in "histories of ideas," than, say, a philological argument, e.g. that Okkāka is non-Indo-European. Either way, what does it really matter if we are dealing with texts that are later than traditionally claimed? We're looking at early classical, and not late iron age materials, as far as can be determined with certainty, so questions of historical Buddhas and Śākyas is soooo far removed from the realm that transcends mere speculation that it seems to be to be a rather low brow pursuit, or one of poor/amateur or highly speculative scholarship, as far as contemporary Buddhology is concerned.
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby tingdzin » Fri Jan 30, 2015 6:18 am

Zhen Li's last sentence says it all. It can be fun to play these games, but beware of taking them too seriously.
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby LastLegend » Fri Jan 30, 2015 7:00 am

Some photos to spice thing up.

Image

Image
Image
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)

Linjii
―Listen! Those of you who devote yourselves to the Dharma
must not be afraid of losing your bodies and your lives―
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby LastLegend » Fri Jan 30, 2015 7:31 am

About the skin golden skin color of Buddha...that's one of his 32 marks. We will have golden skin too when we become Buddha.
NAMO AMITABHA
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NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)

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must not be afraid of losing your bodies and your lives―
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby Berry » Fri Jan 30, 2015 10:17 pm

LastLegend wrote:About the skin golden skin color of Buddha...that's one of his 32 marks. We will have golden skin too when we become Buddha.


This article "On the 32 marks" from Bhikkhu Sujato's blog might be of interest:

https://sujato.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/on-the-32-marks/
Leave the polluted water of conceptual thoughts in its natural clarity. Without affirming or denying appearances, leave them as they are. When there is neither acceptance nor rejection, mind is liberated into mahāmudra.

~ Tilopa
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby Zhen Li » Mon Feb 09, 2015 8:03 pm

Berry wrote:
LastLegend wrote:About the skin golden skin color of Buddha...that's one of his 32 marks. We will have golden skin too when we become Buddha.


This article "On the 32 marks" from Bhikkhu Sujato's blog might be of interest:

https://sujato.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/on-the-32-marks/

I think Sujaro certainly got it right with the ethos of myth over claim of historical truth. Some monks at some time evidently thought it'd both be okay to compose new scriptures and to be highly decorative in language when doing so, but this open acceptance seems to have crusted over time into something like canonicity. Tuladhar-Douglas has a lovely discussion of canonicity in buddhism that I thought was a fairly accurate description, that applies to early classical scripture compiling and for later composition, even up to the nineteenth century in Nepal's case. This can be found in his book Remaking Buddhism for Medieval Nepal. However, Sujato's assessment of the age of scriptures based on, for instance, verses, is not quite reliable. Actually, Tuladhar-Douglas does discuss that but it's even held within the tradition that the appearance of age or novelty doesn't account for the possibility that the apparent archaism of a certain text were intentionally placed there just because of that very reason—apparent archaism.
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