Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

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

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Mar 23, 2014 6:11 pm

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

Postby Indrajala » Tue Mar 25, 2014 11:05 am

Incidentally for some great information on what constitutes proto-Indo-European religion, at least under reconstruction, see the following:

http://piereligion.org/pierintro.html
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby Malcolm » Tue Mar 25, 2014 5:25 pm

Indrajala wrote:Incidentally for some great information on what constitutes proto-Indo-European religion, at least under reconstruction, see the following:

http://piereligion.org/pierintro.html


The answers to all of these questions and many more are to be found in Witzel's new book:

The Origins of the World's Mythologies. Oxford University Press

He has questioned the linguistic nature of the so-called Indus Script (Farmer, Sproat, Witzel 2004).[70] Earlier, he had suggested that a substrate related to, but not identical with the Austroasiatic Munda languages, which he therefore calls para-Munda, might have been the language of (part of) the Indus population.[71][72]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Witzel#Research
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby Indrajala » Wed Mar 26, 2014 6:41 am

One thing to add to the discussion is that reincarnation was clearly not a native doctrine to ancient Greek, Vedic or Persian cultures. With respect to the latter:

    Most of the Magian religion has vanished, but something is known from the relics of its texts which have found their way into the Zendavesta, especially the twenty-four hymns called yashts, which comprise the central section of that book. “Although all these hymns are used in the Zoroastrian services many of them basically date back to the pre-Zoroastrian period.” Another source is the evidence of the “repaganization” that followed the Zoroastrian reform; ritual practices presumably of Magian origin were reintroduced, including cattle sacrifice, haoma intoxication, and worship of the Mother Goddess Anahita, all of which Zoroaster had denounced. The pre-Zoroastrian religion of Persia appears, on the basis of the evidence from this repaganization, to have been not an early mystery cult, but a polytheism similar to that of books I-IX of the Rg Veda, to which it is directly related. The Magi in general seem to have been ritualists not primarily interested in doctrine, much like the Vedic priesthood in India. “Our sources,” notes Cook, “do not present the Magi as theologians. They functioned as officiating clergy and were essential above all to the fire cult.” Pre-Zoroastrian Persian religion and pre-Upanaṣadic Indian religion seem to have been very close. “I assume with most scholars,” says Tull, “that the type of religion characteristic of the Rg Veda also extended to Iran. It was the religion that was subject to the Zoroastrian reform.” In the Rg Veda we meet Mitra, Aryaman, Vāyu, Vata, and Yama, and in the Yashts we have Mithra, Airyaman, Vāyu, Vata, and Yima.” “The Indo-Iranian religion can be seen as belonging to a single tradition.” Thus, if the Rg Veda purveyed the doctrine of reincation there would be an implication that this doctrine belonged to the pre-Zoroastrian religion of Persia too. But except for the late tenth book (which seems to have received Mesopotamian influence), the Rg Veda itself does not involve any of the doctrines which West's hypothesis attributes to the Magi. Nor do the Zoroastrian texts imply the supercession of such doctrines by denouncing them. They do not denounce a doctrine of reincarnation, or of immanence, or of māyā, or of karma. Zoroastrianism does not seem to be a reaction against an earlier monism, but against an earlier polytheism of Vedic type.


Thomas McEvilley, The Shape of Ancient Thought Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies (New Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 2008), 123-124.

So, both Indo-Aryan (the Buddha's heritage) and Indo-Iranian cultures were at one point religiously quite similar, and neither taught reincarnation in the earlier forms of their extant literature.

It seems safe to say reincarnation was a non-Indo-European element of Śākyamuni's heritage.

Incidentally, Jayarava Attwood in his paper "Possible Iranian Origins of the Śākyas and Aspects of Buddhism" suggests a number of possible Iranian cultural elements that can be discerned in the Buddha's culture and ideas.

I imagine the Śākya clan among other settlers in the second urbanization of the subcontinent were from further west, so it seems likely a lot of Near Eastern culture and ideas -- much of it coming from high civilizations in Mesopotamia -- were passively adopted and brought into India. The Akkadian loanwords and Mesopotamian myths in the Rg Veda highlight this possibility.
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby Jayarava » Wed Mar 26, 2014 11:06 am

I'm coming a bit late to this so apologies if I repeat something or miss something. Apologies also that I've ended up going on at some length. This question has interested me since attended Richard Gombrich's Numata lectures in 2006 (that became the book What the Buddha Though). Something Prof Gombrich mentioned in passing was that Prof David Pingree had discovered clear evidence of Perisan influence in the Dīgha Nikāya.

MESOPOTAMIA

In the Brahmajāla Sutta is a list of divination techniques which count as wrong livelihood for a bhikkhu. In fact these are in the section of text that is repeated in all of the first 13 suttas but is routinely left out of all by the first as a repetition. These divination techniques are so similar in form and content to a Mesopotamian Divination manual that survives in a cuneiform clay tablet that the Buddhists must have drawn on it as a source. Pingree argued that the obvious vector for spreading this text from Mesopotamia to India was the Achaemenid Empire (Ca. 550 BC- 330 BC) which exacted tribute from a province east of the Hindu Kush and West of the Indus. Whether this amounted to "control" is doubtful but the certain there was a Persian influence in the region, and almost certainly trade. Pingree sees other cultural influences in Indian literarture as well. Thus there was almost certainly no direct contact between Mesopotamian and Indian, but the Persian spread some Mesopotamian culture far and wide. For example, Persian administrators adopted first the cuneiform and then Aramaic writing systems.

See particularly: Pingree David. 1991. Mesopotamian omens in Sanskrit paper presented at La Circulation des biens, des personnes et des idées dans le proche-oriet ancien. Actes de la XXXVIIIe Recontre Assyriologique Internationale. Paris, 8-10 juillet. (Paper is in English).


INDUS VALLEY

With respect to any theory about the language of the Indus Valley civilisation I don't anyone has yet cracked it. The best efforts are those by Michael Witzel and Steve Farmer especially:

The Collapse of the Indus-Script Thesis: The Myth of a Literate Harappan Civilization. Steve Farmer, Richard Sproat, and Michael Witzel. http://www.safarmer.com/fsw2.pdf

Early Sources for South Asian Substrate Languages. Michael Witzel. http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~witz ... trates.pdf

Prof Witzel is kind enough to put much of his work online for free. Witzel argues that Munda is the best candidate for a language in the region of the Indus Valley based on loan words in Vedic. "An important result therefore is, that the language of the Indus people, at least those in the Panjab, must have been Para-Munda or a western form of Austro-Asiatic." (Early Sources: 15) But the fact is that we'll probably never know what language the Indus people spoke because the surviving evidence is so sparse.


GODS

One of the obvious conclusions about asuras and devas is that they are the common inheritance of the Indo-Iranian language speakers. A point is worth making here: language, culture and geography can be independent. So we know the Mitanni, for example, spoke an Indo-Iranian language of the Indic branch, and that they had some Indo-Iranian gods in their religion. But geographically they are far from other Indo-Iranian speakers. There is quite a good explanation for this in Frits Staal's book Discovering the Vedas. It's more important when we look at the central Ganges plain. Someone has already pointed out that many languages and cultures were found in the region.

Asuras and devas are not distinguished in the earlier parts of the Ṛgveda. Varuṇa for example is known both as deva and asura. Sorry I don't have references for this to hand, but get hold of Doniger's selected translation of the RV and check the intro and the index - I'm sure I've seen an example or two in there. So deva and asura were just two names for gods in Indo-Iranian. Zarathustra decided that devas (Av daiva) and the people who worshipped them (probably Indic speakers) were demonic (ca 1000 BC?). In Vedic, a conflict between two groups of poorly defined rival gods emerged, with devas being more highly thought of. This contention between the groups is part of the narrative of Churning the Ocean of Milk (samudra manthanam). Aspects of this narrative are preserved in the Pali Canon - a testament to the Brahmanisation of Buddhism. By this time the asuras are demons who have their own loka. But note that sometimes Buddhists count 6 rebirth realms and sometimes 5 - where devas and asuras inhabit the same loka.


BRAHMINS

I suppose most of us are now familiar with the two civilations theory independently proposed by Johannes Bronkhorst and Geoffrey Samuel. On the whole I prefer Samuel's presentation of the data because he is less concerned with proving a point, and his version of events requires less revision of history. The Brahmins saw the area east of the Yamuna/Ganges confluence as uncouth, if not demonic. By the middle of the first millennium BC they were beginning to make inroads into that region, however. The Central Ganges Valley (CGV), is what Bronkhorst calls Greater Magadha, but at this time was more accurately called Greater Kosala. Magadha was still rising up to become a military power, whereas well before that Kosala-Videha was the centre of civilisation in the region.

IN her book on the Upaniṣads (Text and Authority in The Older Upaniṣads. Leiden: Brill, 2008) Signe Cohen remarks that Brahmins in the CGV seem to be in conflict with Brahmins from the Āryavrata. The debate in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (BU) is between Yājñavalkya, representing the break away group aligned to the Yajurveda, and some Brahmins from the Āryavrata who trace their lineage to the Ṛgveda. A remnant of this distinction may well be found in the Pāli reference to "Brahmins from the Western region (brāhmaṇā pacchā bhūmakā SN 42.6:", who appear to have been a distinctive group. One of the characteristics of the late Vedic was the introduction of the idea of rebirth destinations based on karma and an end to rebirth. Karma is either puṇya or pāpa and those who do puṇya actions (probably synonymous with Vedic rituals) go to the sun or moon (this is the famous Pañca vidyā that Gombrich finds traces of in the Tevijjā Sutta). Those who perform pāpa actions are reborn as worms etc.

In BU the introduction of these new concepts of ethical karma and rebirth is done by a king. This anomaly has drawn much attention but no consensus. All we can agree on is that kings teaching Brahmins (and not the other way around) is strange. Where did these new ideas come from. Bronkhorst argues that they came from the śramaṇa communities, but in order to do so he has to revise the chronology of Indian history in a way that is not entirely convincing. Everything points to the early Upaniṣads being a couple of centuries older than the earliest Buddhist texts.


ŚĀKYAS

In an article in the JOCBS (http://www.ocbs.org/ojs/index.php/jocbs/article/view/26) I argued for another view based on some informal comments by Michael Witzel. The theory is that the new ideas came into the region from outside and that they were influenced by Zoroastrianism. I developed his notion that the Śākya tribe were Iranian in origin. "...tribes such as the Śākyas are largely absent from the Vedic literature and, where they are noticed, their customs are “strange”, but they are at the forefront in Buddhists texts, suggesting a late migration into the Bihar region; the name Śākya appears to be cognate with Śaka; burial practices in Magadha similar to Central Asia; incest marriages; and post-mortem judgement of actions of the body, speech and mind triad."

Sometime after the Ṛgveda was finished (ca 1200-1000 BC) but before the Buddhist texts were composed, a number of Iranian tribes settled in Panjab: including the Śākya, Vṛjji, Malla and many others mentioned in Pāli, but not in the Ṛgveda. They brought their own language and culture but assimilated quickly. Compare the Normans who arrived as Norwegian vikings and within a generation or two were fully assimilated French speakers. In 850 BC +/- 10 years the climate of all Eurasia shifted so that India was warmer and drier, which set tribes on the margins of the deserts in motion. They could not move into the Āryavrata because the Brahmins would not have welcomed them. So they moved east until they ended up on the margins of Kosala, and were subsequently absorbed into Kosala (and this may well be why some claims to relations with the Kosalan ancestor King Okkāku aka Ikṣvaku are preserved in the Canon).

The Śākyas interest us in particular of course since they are the Buddha's tribe. They claim to be descended from an sibling marriage (common in Iranian royalty, in imitation of Egypt) but shameful in the major Indian cultures. They speak of the actions of body, speech and mind determining one's afterlife destination. Their burial mounds (which become stupas in India) are unlike the Vedic mounds. The idea of cousin marriage, which someone has mentioned, is an artefact of the Pāli canon being written down in Sri Lanka where Dravidian marriage customs are the norm. There is no credible evidence for cousin marriage.

So these Iranian derived tribes arrive in the Central Ganges Valley. They meet indigenous people speaking Munda, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman languages. They meet the first wave of Indic speakers (who are distinct from their Vedic speaking cousins - see Madhav Despandhe's essay on Indic dialects in Aryan and Non Aryan in India). There is considerable interaction and the first śrāmaṇa religions emerge from this melting pot.


KARMA & REBIRTH

I have a forthcoming paper (wrangling with the editor at present) which describes the history of karma and rebirth like this. Generally speaking people in India in 800 BC believed in a rebirth eschatology. One died in this world (ayam lokaṃ) and was born in the other world (paraṃ lokaṃ) - the old binary distinction is often see in Pāli. One lived there for a long time until one died and was reborn here. Around and around. And everyone was happy with this because those who had gone before (Skt. pretaḥ < pra√i) were there. One was either living here with one's family, or there with one's ancestors. Now someone in this thread argues against rebirth being the Vedic view, but this was disproved some time ago by Joanna Jurewicz. see for Example: Rebirth eschatology in the Ṛgveda in search for roots of transmigration. Indologica Taurinensia, 34 (2008). It now seems clear that Ṛgveda has evidence of this basic binary kind of rebirth eschatology that is described by Gananath Obeyesekere in his book Imagining Karma.

And then the Śākyas arrived and, being at least influenced by Zoroastrianism, they believed in a single destination afterlife based on actions of body, speech and mind. What emerged was a hybrid system that gradually became more complex. The hybrid model has a round of rebirth that continues based on actions of body, speech and mind unless one makes an effort. This version of the afterlife portrays that round as unattractive (for the first time) and offers an alternative single destination. A fairly simply hybrid like this is what appears in Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad. Later versions, as found in Buddhist and Jain texts is more sophisticated with multiple rebirth destinations, but terminology (like ayaṃ/paraṃ lokaṃ) often reflecting an earlier stage of development.

The Śākyas retained the idea that judgements about the afterlife destination where impersonal and impartial. And quite uniquely in India the mechanism for deciding one's afterlife destination did not involve a deity or anthropomorphic representation. Karma is still a supernatural force, still carries out all the same functions as moral gods, but is not personified, except to some extent in the figure of Yama who presides over hell. This is an odd transformation I have yet to fully investigate, because in the Vedas Yama is the first human being to find his way to the ancestors, a trail blazer, and thus ought to live above the sky with them. How he comes to live in the underworld is a mystery to me.

CONCLUSION

Thus my theory, backed by minimal evidence, is that the Śākyas injected something new into the two cultures picture from outside the region. It spread both east and west (most theories describe transfer of ideas east to west [Bronkhorst], or west to east [almost everyone else]). The Śākyas had assimilated and probably spoke an Indic language by this time, but this does not mean that they were culturally similar to Brahmins. Brahmins were well established in Kosala by the time of the Buddha and probably making further inroads, but they are treated as outsiders with outlandish notions in early Buddhist texts. But Brahmins soon become converts to Buddhism and had a major impact on how Buddhism developed. Brahmin families were literate, cultured, and sophisticated in their philosophy and outlook (i.e. they were the opposite of the cartoon bad guys we usually portray them as). Brahmin converts to Śrāmaṇa religions were scorned by the orthodox, but this did not prevent them from giving Buddhism quite a few ideas and practices. No where is this more clearly seen than in the biography of the Buddha which is tuned to Brahmanical sensibilities in innumerable ways, and more as times goes on. Not least in our founder carrying a prestigious and quintessentially Brahmin name: Siddhārtha Gautama. This name is very difficult to explain for a non-Brahmin even if we take him to be a kṣatriya, which I think is extremely unlikely. (I'm flogging an article about this at the moment, but no takers yet - a draft is here.)

My understanding is that the Buddha was probably culturally a mix of Iranian stock and indigenous inhabitants of the Himalayan foothills who spoke Munda, Dravidian and/or Tibeto-Burman languages. His tribe most likely spoke an Indic language and was thoroughly acclimatised to India except for a few remnants that point to Iran. During his lifetime and afterwards there was considerable and growing influence from Brahmins. Some minor influences from Persia are also detectable. Early Buddhism is a very mixed bag culturally. And one of the themes I'm exploring on my blog at present is the poor fit between some aspects of Buddhist ethics and Buddhist metaphysics. I take this to be evidence for the composite nature of Buddhism from the earliest period. I've quipped that it does not look like the work of one committee, let alone one person!

My inclination is away from seeing the Buddha as a founder figure, to seeing him more as a culture hero - a legendary embodiment of the values of the Śākyas (after all Buddhists were referred to as Śākyas for many centuries in India, particularly by their philosophical opponents). Thus he is more like Gilgamesh, Maui, or King Arthur than Jesus, Mohammed or Guru Nanak. He is an idealised, but also, by the time we meed him, Brahmanised, Śākyan.
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby Alfredo » Fri Mar 28, 2014 12:30 am

Thank you Jayarava! You have made me look at Sakyamuni Buddha in a fundamentally different way.

I have often wondered whether he existed historically. The extreme disagreement over dates, and formulaic nature of his life story, discourage confidence. The recent tree-ring dating from Lumbini has led to speculation that he lived in the 6th c. BC, but this begs the question of whether the tree-cult might have preceded the site's association with Buddhism. If the Buddha did not exist as a historical figure, then we have to ask what happened to cause this religious change. Rather than asking when the Buddha lived, we should be asking when his cult emerged. And was the myth a modified version of some previous one, perhaps from Iran? (There are many examples in which myths travel from culture to culture, changing gods or heroes along the way.)
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby Greg » Fri Mar 28, 2014 1:09 am

Yes, thanks Jayarava, interesting post and I'm glad someone is digging into this so thoroughly and ambitiously. It does raise a lot of interesting issues to ponder.
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby JamyangTashi » Fri Mar 28, 2014 1:29 am

Alfredo wrote:Thank you Jayarava! You have made me look at Sakyamuni Buddha in a fundamentally different way.

I have often wondered whether he existed historically.


One recent book addresses some of these questions and is available for free reading online, The Authenticity of Early Buddhist Texts. The book surveys a number of different areas of historical research. Two of the conclusions discussed in the book are:

The [Early Buddhist Texts] present a highly distinctive personal style, together with a number of revolutionary ideas, which conveys the flavour of a single and exceptional creator.
...
The EBTs are coherent and consistent—more so than any comparable literature—which indicates that they stem from a single charismatic source.
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby Sherlock » Fri Mar 28, 2014 2:46 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Indrajala wrote:Incidentally for some great information on what constitutes proto-Indo-European religion, at least under reconstruction, see the following:

http://piereligion.org/pierintro.html


The answers to all of these questions and many more are to be found in Witzel's new book:

The Origins of the World's Mythologies. Oxford University Press

He has questioned the linguistic nature of the so-called Indus Script (Farmer, Sproat, Witzel 2004).[70] Earlier, he had suggested that a substrate related to, but not identical with the Austroasiatic Munda languages, which he therefore calls para-Munda, might have been the language of (part of) the Indus population.[71][72]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Witzel#Research


There seems to be a lot of dissent among the Amazon reviews. Is it mostly coming from Hindu nationalists upset at Witzel for suggesting that Indo-Aryans are not native to India?

I know genetics don't necessarily tell the story of cultures and languages, but in many ways, it is more "rigorous" than linguistic reconstruction.

This site collates a lot of relevant genetic studies in anthropology.

I haven't looked in too much detail in the studies on South Asian DNA, but the Indo-European spread in Europe seems to be quite clear.

Europe was populated by dark-skinned hunter-gatherers who might have had light-hair and eyes throughout the Mesolithic, WHG (Western Hunter Gatherers) in short. In the Neolithic, around 7,500 years ago, groups of agriculturalists from the Middle East started moving into Europe. They shared some ancestry with the WHGs but 44% of their DNA came from a lineage which diverged from the main lineage of Eurasians (who later split into West and East Eurasians) early on. These Early European Farmers (EEF) did not mix with the existing WHG population, the population spread was demic, not clinal; i.e. they killed the hunter-gatherers and took their lands. Areas which were previously inhabited by WHGs were taken over by EEF descendants who did not incorporate WHG DNA. EEF spread throughout Europe, West to Iberia and north to Scandinavia. The genes for white skin seem to come from this period. Later on, around 4,000 years ago, a new group of West Asians came in. They spread throughout Europe though the West Asian component is lowest in Iberia, Sardinia and Finland. The surviving WHG DNA also mixed into the resulting population.

I think the picture is quite clear that the West Asians are Indo-Europeans. The areas where West Asian DNA is lowest were the main non-Indo-European-speaking regions in Europe historically. The Iberians probably spoke languages related to Basque, and the Finns also speak a non-Indo-European language.

The situation in India seems to be more complex, with East Eurasian-related groups already living in East India, Ancestral South Asians not closely related to any other population outside the subcontinent and Ancestral North Indians related to Central Asians and West Asians. There seems to be some presence of Caucasian DNA in Ancestral North Indian populations. The Ancestral North Indians actually apparently had been in India since 12,500 years ago, but only admixed with Ancestral South Indians around 4200-1900 years ago..

This is very interesting IMO, I'm not sure exactly what it means but to wager a guess, I think proto-Indo-Europeans weren't genetically distant from ANIs enough for a different population structure to be detected; their spread through India was more of a cultural phenomenon than in Europe and they influenced the pre-existing populations to mix. Dravidian speakers today also carry ANI DNA.
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby Malcolm » Fri Mar 28, 2014 3:02 pm

Witzel's book is not racist, he explicitly states that all human beings come from Africa, and that we have have a common ancestor. He is merely saying that are two streams of myth development, a northern and a southern one and that the southern one seems to lack certain themes found in the northern one. But he never says on the basis of this that the Laurasian stream is "superior" to the Gondwana stream. That is a fallacious imputation on the part of the reviewers.


Sherlock wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
Indrajala wrote:Incidentally for some great information on what constitutes proto-Indo-European religion, at least under reconstruction, see the following:

http://piereligion.org/pierintro.html


The answers to all of these questions and many more are to be found in Witzel's new book:

The Origins of the World's Mythologies. Oxford University Press

He has questioned the linguistic nature of the so-called Indus Script (Farmer, Sproat, Witzel 2004).[70] Earlier, he had suggested that a substrate related to, but not identical with the Austroasiatic Munda languages, which he therefore calls para-Munda, might have been the language of (part of) the Indus population.[71][72]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Witzel#Research


There seems to be a lot of dissent among the Amazon reviews. Is it mostly coming from Hindu nationalists upset at Witzel for suggesting that Indo-Aryans are not native to India?

I know genetics don't necessarily tell the story of cultures and languages, but in many ways, it is more "rigorous" than linguistic reconstruction.

This site collates a lot of relevant genetic studies in anthropology.

I haven't looked in too much detail in the studies on South Asian DNA, but the Indo-European spread in Europe seems to be quite clear.

Europe was populated by dark-skinned hunter-gatherers who might have had light-hair and eyes throughout the Mesolithic, WHG (Western Hunter Gatherers) in short. In the Neolithic, around 7,500 years ago, groups of agriculturalists from the Middle East started moving into Europe. They shared some ancestry with the WHGs but 44% of their DNA came from a lineage which diverged from the main lineage of Eurasians (who later split into West and East Eurasians) early on. These Early European Farmers (EEF) did not mix with the existing WHG population, the population spread was demic, not clinal; i.e. they killed the hunter-gatherers and took their lands. Areas which were previously inhabited by WHGs were taken over by EEF descendants who did not incorporate WHG DNA. EEF spread throughout Europe, West to Iberia and north to Scandinavia. The genes for white skin seem to come from this period. Later on, around 4,000 years ago, a new group of West Asians came in. They spread throughout Europe though the West Asian component is lowest in Iberia, Sardinia and Finland. The surviving WHG DNA also mixed into the resulting population.

I think the picture is quite clear that the West Asians are Indo-Europeans. The areas where West Asian DNA is lowest were the main non-Indo-European-speaking regions in Europe historically. The Iberians probably spoke languages related to Basque, and the Finns also speak a non-Indo-European language.

The situation in India seems to be more complex, with East Eurasian-related groups already living in East India, Ancestral South Asians not closely related to any other population outside the subcontinent and Ancestral North Indians related to Central Asians and West Asians. There seems to be some presence of Caucasian DNA in Ancestral North Indian populations. The Ancestral North Indians actually apparently had been in India since 12,500 years ago, but only admixed with Ancestral South Indians around 4200-1900 years ago..

This is very interesting IMO, I'm not sure exactly what it means but to wager a guess, I think proto-Indo-Europeans weren't genetically distant from ANIs enough for a different population structure to be detected; their spread through India was more of a cultural phenomenon than in Europe and they influenced the pre-existing populations to mix. Dravidian speakers today also carry ANI DNA.
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby Jayarava » Sat Apr 19, 2014 10:51 am

Sherlock wrote:The Iberians probably spoke languages related to Basque, and the Finns also speak a non-Indo-European language.


Basque is now thought to be distantly related to Caucausian languages. Finns and Estonians speak languages from the Finno-Ugric group - though they do have ancient loan words from PIE so must have been in contact with them ca 4000ybp probably in the region of the Ural mountains.



The thing about genetics in India is that everyone is related. The differences north/south are pretty minor. The differences between modern castes are also minor.
Climate change, Empires, trade, and persecution set people in motion spreading their genes before Brahmins imposed endogenous marriage on castes. But linguistically there is a lot more diversity since language changes much faster than genes.

The Dravidian languages are most likely related to Elamite from Elam in Mesopotamia. And the speakers of these languages seem to have entered Indian some time between 8kya and 5 kya. Thus genetic mixing only ca 5000 ybp sounds about right. On the other hand some South Indian Dravidian speakers have very old gene markers (ca 60kya) that show them to be directly descended from the first wave of modern human migrants out of Africa enroute to Australia and New Guinea. Again the initial number of Dravidian speakers seems to have been small.

Tibeto-Burman speakers belong to a larger language family including the Chinese languages and the people who spoke these languages probably arrived from the north-east. People who spoke Austro-Asiatic languages, of the Munda family, migrated into India from the east - through Burma before it became home to Tibeto-Burman speakers.

Asko Parpola has (speculatively) argued that another group of Indic language speakers entered India via Baluchistan and split into two groups: the Paṇḍu (= pale) who were the ancestors of the Paṇḍavas in the north; and the Elu who continued to migrate south along the coast and settled in Sri Lanka becoming the Indic speaking Sinhala people. Thus explaining this pocket of Indic in an otherwise Dravidian linguistic community. Though note that culturally the Sinhalese have much in common with their Dravidian speaking neighbours.

And on top of all this, or perhaps underlying it, are a number of language isolates especially amongst marginal tribes living hunter-gatherer lifestyles.

This is very interesting IMO, I'm not sure exactly what it means but to wager a guess, I think proto-Indo-Europeans weren't genetically distant from ANIs enough for a different population structure to be detected; their spread through India was more of a cultural phenomenon than in Europe and they influenced the pre-existing populations to mix. Dravidian speakers today also carry ANI DNA.


The conclusion that most geneticists seem to draw is that the population of India is thoroughly mixed despite the superficial differences in custom and language, and that the Indo-Iranian speakers who entered India ca 1500 BC were small in number (somewhere between 1000-10,000). It would be incorrect to call these people PIE as they had differentiated from the Europeans by that stage. It is usual to refer to the people in the region at that time as Indo-Iranian speakers. With Vedic being the oldest attested Indo-Aryan or Indic language.

I think we need to be quite careful. Proto-Indo-European is strictly speaking a linguistic label. The peoples who spoke PIE might not have shared a culture or a location. Certainly by the period we're talking about (migration into India through the Hindu-Kush) there were a number of culturally distinct groups speaking Indo-Iranian languages spread out across Asia from east to west. Indo-Iranian is a rather large and diverse family of languages and takes in settled kingdoms in Persia as well as steppe dwelling nomads (Śaka), Tarim Basin (Tochar, Khotan), and the Palmir Mountains (Gilgit). Not all speakers of Indo-Iranian would been able to understand each other - just as not all speakers of Romance languages can. And just as Spanish, French and Romanian culture are really very different (partly because of substrate cultures).

Culture, language and geographic location are independent variables.

What now seems to be the case is that multiple small groups of Indo-Iranian speakers migrated into India. For example the Śākyas were not part of the Vedic cultural milieu. They probably spoke an Indic language, though they may have originally spoken an Iranian language and picked up an Indic language during their initial stay in Rajasthan. If I'm right, they brought at least some Iranian/Zoroastrian characteristics with them that lingered, but they adopted many of the customs of the "indigenous" people on the margins of Kosala - presumably Tibeto-Burman and Austro-Asiatic (Munda) speakers. So the Śākyas had a distinct culture, adopted language and shared location because of migration.

The picture is really very complex and the study of genes is still coming on. The conjectures about the rate of gene/language change are difficult to verify. Some of the information is contradictory. Changes in genes cannot resolve times periods of less than about 1000 years at present - one needs always to look at the statistical and measurement error alongside the mid-point cited as the figure.
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby Jayarava » Sun Jun 22, 2014 11:49 am

JamyangTashi wrote:One recent book addresses some of these questions and is available for free reading online, The Authenticity of Early Buddhist Texts. The book surveys a number of different areas of historical research.


The book is certainly interesting, but one has to take into account that it is written by two Theravāda bhikkhus. They conclude that the early Buddhist texts are "authentic", but what else were they going to say? One has to take this book with a grain of salt. I respect Sujato, but the Theravāda bias is visible in all his work.

JamyangTashi wrote:wo of the conclusions discussed in the book are:

The [Early Buddhist Texts] present a highly distinctive personal style, together with a number of revolutionary ideas, which conveys the flavour of a single and exceptional creator.
...
The EBTs are coherent and consistent—more so than any comparable literature—which indicates that they stem from a single charismatic source.


Again I think we see bias here. Someone who firmly believes in the authenticity of the texts and whose whole life is dedicated to that proposition, and who firmly believes in the historical Founder as a significant figure in history, concludes that the suttas are an authentic record of that Founder. But the authors have fallen into a powerful current of confirmation bias. They have too much riding on the issue to arrive at any other conclusion.

I would hotly dispute that the style of the Pāli texts is "highly distinctive" or "personal". The suttas are a hotchpotch of many different styles, a variety which is bewildering for anyone with a little Pāḷi who switches from one Nikāya to another. The Nikāyas are generally reckoned to have been preserved separately for a long time after they were written down. Buddhaghosa for example refers to reciters of the Majjhima and reciters of the Saṃyutta.

The style of the suttas is very far from personal. Most of the time it is dryly impersonal and corporate - espousing corporate values and ideals. What it looks like is a collation of various oral story telling traditions which substantially overlap. It's only the narratives of the texts themselves that indicate a single author. But the internal evidence of the texts is for multiple authors with a shared ideology. And I think the arguments are growing for that shared ideology to come from being part of the same (Śākyan) culture.

What we lack is an objective stylistic analysis of the language of the texts. And the fact that no one has yet bothered to do such a thing is telling. On the one hand the myth of the Founder overwhelms proper scholarly priorities (mostly associated with European and Asian scholarship). On the other the Americans tend to argue that the texts tell us nothing about the early Buddhist period and at best can only tell us about the period in which they were written down, and evidence for when this happened is limited to Sri Lankan legend. So no scholars are interested in what stylistic analysis could tell us, despite the widespread of electronic textual analysis in other fields.
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby Indrajala » Mon Jun 23, 2014 4:51 am

Jayarava wrote:The book is certainly interesting, but one has to take into account that it is written by two Theravāda bhikkhus. They conclude that the early Buddhist texts are "authentic", but what else were they going to say? One has to take this book with a grain of salt. I respect Sujato, but the Theravāda bias is visible in all his work.


I think Buddhist sympathizers in academia tend towards emotional appeals wrapped up in analysis. It is a fault, and definitely not a virtue. It isn't just Theravāda. Robert Thurman for example insists on a "demilitarized and peaceful Tibet" owing to Buddhist influences despite more objective history suggesting otherwise. That's just one example. In the case of studies on early Buddhism, it is revealing how the top guns in secular academia generally do not think we have access to the original teachings of the Buddha, whereas the bhikkhus generally insist we do. For example, Bronkhorst:

It is not easy to get a clear picture of the Buddha's original teaching. Certainly, its aim was to stop suffering and rebirth. To achieve this, the Buddha taught a path in which consciousness played a major role. This is clear from the awareness practices and from the four stages of meditation. In the highest stage of meditation, it is somehow possible, with the help of wisdom (prajñā), to bring about a decisive transformation. Once this happens, the goal is attained.


Johannes Bronkhorst, Buddhist Teaching in India (Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2009), 58


They have too much riding on the issue to arrive at any other conclusion.


Interestingly, many people involved in Mahāyāna have conceded that in fact their scriptures emerged long long after the Buddha passed away, and this is less of an issue as it is with Theravāda and their ideas on the authenticity of the Pali canon. Actually, it seems to me that Theravāda in modern times tries to preserve its self-worth based on the assertion that the Pali is the authentic record of the Buddha's teachings compared to the spurious canons of Tibet and East Asia. However, if this is undermined then a century or more of faith in such assertions is likewise shattered. That's too much to emotionally bear, which is sad in a way because you'd expect eminent Buddhist leaders to demonstrate more detachment.
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby Kim O'Hara » Mon Jun 23, 2014 5:22 am

Great discussion here recently!
:reading:
Indrajala wrote:Interestingly, many people involved in Mahāyāna have conceded that in fact their scriptures emerged long long after the Buddha passed away, and this is less of an issue as it is with Theravāda and their ideas on the authenticity of the Pali canon. Actually, it seems to me that Theravāda in modern times tries to preserve its self-worth based on the assertion that the Pali is the authentic record of the Buddha's teachings compared to the spurious canons of Tibet and East Asia. However, if this is undermined then a century or more of faith in such assertions is likewise shattered. That's too much to emotionally bear, which is sad in a way because you'd expect eminent Buddhist leaders to demonstrate more detachment.

That's true, but I think you have to bear in mind that the evidence for the lateness of the Mahayana scriptures is by now indisputable, whereas (as shown in this thread) there is far less evidence that the Pali scriptures may not be as old, or as authoritative, as Theravadins have long believed. That is, the relative weights of faith and historical knowledge are quite different in the two cases.

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

Postby Mkoll » Mon Jun 23, 2014 5:52 am

Also, I'd like to hear the skeptics do more addressing of specific arguments and less engaging in circumstantial ad hominems and denunciations.

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

Postby Indrajala » Mon Jun 23, 2014 8:08 am

Mkoll wrote:Also, I'd like to hear the skeptics do more addressing of specific arguments and less engaging in circumstantial ad hominems and denunciations.

:thanks:


We cannot ignore that there is this bias in Buddhist Studies motivated by largely faith and religiously charged emotions. It leads to poor scholarship, which in effect is dishonest and misleading.
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby Mkoll » Mon Jun 23, 2014 8:21 am

Indrajala wrote:
Mkoll wrote:Also, I'd like to hear the skeptics do more addressing of specific arguments and less engaging in circumstantial ad hominems and denunciations.

:thanks:


We cannot ignore that there is this bias in Buddhist Studies motivated by largely faith and religiously charged emotions. It leads to poor scholarship, which in effect is dishonest and misleading.

Of course. What I'm saying is I'd like to see actual examples of this poor scholarship presented and met on equal ground with counter-arguments in a way that neophytes can judge the different positions for themselves . . . As opposed to circumstantial ad hominems, denunciations, and grumbling.

I know . . . I am grumbling about grumbling. But hey. :coffee:
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby Jayarava » Mon Jun 23, 2014 8:22 am

Mkoll wrote:Also, I'd like to hear the skeptics do more addressing of specific arguments and less engaging in circumstantial ad hominems and denunciations.

:thanks:


Hi James. I've yet to have this essay published, but there is a draft of my article on the Buddha's name here.

In this article I explore the name Siddhārtha Gautama and the names of some family members. It's a name resonant with incongruities: a Brahmin's name, a Brahmin name with implications of high status. Siddhārtha is what a Brahmin traditionally calls his first son, because that boy has achieved one of a Brahmins life goals - continuity through progeny. Gotama (the root form of Gautama) was one of the poets of the Ṛgveda and the Gautama clan feature prominently in Vedic literature down the ages: in the Ṛgveda; in the lineages recited in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad; in the Gautama Dharmasūtra. And so on. And this is only the start. If Gautama was indeed the family name then the natural person to be called that name was the living father of the clan, Suddhodāna, but he never is. Indeed Siddhārtha would not have been Gautama, but Gautamayana (on the model of Maudgalyayana).

Many other features of the Buddha's 'official' biography have been tailored to an audience at home with Brahmanical culture. But all the textual evidence (here my published work substantiates the claim) points to the Śākyas not being a Vedic tribe. Thus somewhere there is a contradiction. The sort of contradiction that can only come about through substantial modification. If we assume that the Buddha was not a Brahmin and not steeped in Brahmanical culture, as it seems nature to do based on other textual evidence, then the story has been substantially re-written. So much so that we cannot be confident of any personal detail. Indeed the second biography of the Buddha, mainly in the Ariyapariyesana Sutta, but also scattered about, contradicts the official biography in every detail. He was not 29 but a youth, not married, no son, mother still alive, left home with both parents watching on in tears. This is frequently glossed over, but the two stories are in fact mutually exclusive. And we have no objective was of telling which is true.

There are many other approaches to this that make the Buddha seem less and less an historical character. I'll be continuing to try to get my thoughts on this published, but it's slow work against the paradigm. In my view the Buddha is a culture-hero of the Śākya tribe rather than an historical figure. Many threads of cultural knowledge and aspects of Śākya identity and values were woven into the character of Gautama, and then before we see the records they are largely re-written for a Brahmanical culture. The latter places the re-write almost certainly post-Asoka when the Brahmins, taking advantage of the collapse of the Śrāmaṇa Mauryan Empire, began to consolidate their power-base across the entire Ganges Valley.

And by the way, just because I identify a persistent bias in the work of another scholar constitute an attack on that person. The fact is that Sujato has a good mind, writes well, and is generally a good bloke, but his scholarship is consistently biased towards the Classical Theravādin view. I'm not attacking him, it's just an observation about his published work. And one that needs to be taken into account especially as I'm beginning to see naive and uncritical references to his work amongst Buddhists. And it's not just him but other Buddhist scholar-monks as well. And they are starting to be a more dominant force in Buddhist scholarship, especially when it comes to translation studies. So it needs flagging up. Which is what scholars do. Without feedback and criticism, reasoning doesn't really work properly (see my blog on reasoning. I expect other scholars to poke holes in my arguments as well. I don't particularly enjoy it, but the truth and clarity are important enough for me to bear with it.
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Re: Śākyamuni's non-Indo-European heritage.

Postby Wayfarer » Mon Jun 23, 2014 9:06 am

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

Postby Mkoll » Mon Jun 23, 2014 2:22 pm

Hi Jayarava,

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

You guys tend to strike questions from a different angle than the more "religiously affiliated" scholars. It's nice to have access to different perspectives, each with their own particular merits and drawbacks.
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