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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