From Nagarjuna in Context (p.20~21):
(Sorry for the poor formatting.)
Another fruitful line of inquiry has revolved around the question of the geographic spread of Maháyána. Three authors in particular have written in this vein. In 1921, Charles Eliot was perhaps the first to suggest a northwest Asian influence on (and possible origin for) Maháyána. Although he notes that many features of Maháyána are also present in Hinduism—thus ruling out a foreign origin for Maháyána—he does indicate that some peculiar features of Maháyána have more in common with Persian religion than Indian. Following the line of inquiry begun by Sylvain Lévi, who argued for a Tokharian origin of the bodhisattva Mañjusrô,18 Eliot points to the similarities between the Maháyána Buddha, Amitábha, and the Zoroastrian
god Ahura Mazda. He writes that both Ahura Mazda and Amitábha are deities residing in a paradise of light. In both cults, the practitioner is led to this paradise of light after reciting the name of the deity.
Finally, Eliot remarks on the homophony between the names of Amitábha’s paradise (Sukhávatô) and the name of Ahura Mazda’s abode (Saukavastan).
He summarizes his findings as follows:
Thus all the chief features of Amitábha’s paradise are Persian: only his method of instituting it by making a vow is Buddhist. It is true thatvIndian imagination had conceived numerous paradises, and that the early Buddhist legend tells of the Tushita heaven. But Sukhávatô is not like these abodes of bliss. It appeared suddenly in the history of Buddhism as something exotic, grafted adroitly on the parent trunk but
sometimes overgrowing it.
Almost a century later, the hypothesis of a Persian origin for Buddhas such as Amitábha and Kíitigarbha has yet to be either confirmed or refuted as there remains so little evidence for a cult of either of these Buddhas in India.
Any thoughts on this?
Would the validity of Pure Land Buddhism be destroyed if it could be proven that the early Pure Land ideas arouse more from Zoroastrianism rather than a strictly Buddhist environment?