The Historical Origins of "Western" Buddhism?

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Re: The Historical Origins of "Western" Buddhism?

Postby Kim O'Hara » Wed May 15, 2013 1:27 pm

Aemilius wrote:Vasubandhu mentions in his Abhidharmakosa in some topics the opinions of western monks and sometimes also foreign monks, the footnotes give sanskrit names for these. These names are rather obscure, but the general thought is that the foreign and western monks, that Vasubandhu has met and known, are from Persia or from other countries west of India or northwest of India. They may also be from Ionia, or Bactria, which are names for the lands in Greece in ancient sources. The dates for first western or foreign monks in buddhist India are thus much earlier than generally thought.

That may be so but for the purposes of the OP ("This isn't so much a question when the Dharma was introduced to Europe and America, but rather how or when the orientation for what constitutes perhaps "Adapted" Buddhism emerged?"), surely they are irrelevant?

:namaste:
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Re: The Historical Origins of "Western" Buddhism?

Postby Indrajala » Wed May 15, 2013 5:21 pm

Aemilius wrote:The dates for first western or foreign monks in buddhist India are thus much earlier than generally thought.


There were Buddhists in the Greek and Persian cultural spheres. In 224, about the time Vasubandhu wrote his work, Persian Buddhists found themselves under an intolerant state:

    As for the westward extension of Buddhism it is still not clear how far to the west Buddhism penetrated. On the basis of archeology it had been inferred that it never flourished west of the line joining Balḵ to Qandahār, the so-called “Foucher line,” named after the famous French archeologist (Foucher, I, pp. 155-57; II, pp. 281-82). After Zoroastrianism had become the official religion of the Sasanians in a.d. 224, other religions, including šamans and brahmans (i.e., Buddhists and Hindus) were not tolerated, as we know from the inscriptions of the priest Kartīr (Back, p. 415).


http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/buddhism-i

There were of course Hellenic Buddhists much much earlier, especially after Alexander's men settled in the north-west.
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Re: The Historical Origins of "Western" Buddhism?

Postby Seishin » Wed May 15, 2013 5:59 pm

Indrajala wrote:
Image


I love how one of the monks has an unobrow :twothumbsup:

Gassho,
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Re: The Historical Origins of "Western" Buddhism?

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 16, 2013 4:41 am

Here's another specimen from the reign of Kanishka I.



Image



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanishka
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Re: The Historical Origins of "Western" Buddhism?

Postby kirtu » Thu May 16, 2013 6:31 pm

Current western Buddhism is a phenomena a maximum of 1 1/2 centuries old and most would say younger than that. Greeks and Persians were indeed part of the Buddha's original dispensation but Bactria and Gandhara are long gone and are historical footnotes. Their art and history may play a part in spreading Buddhism in the future (afterall, one can't claim accurately that Buddhism is truly foreign to western culture) but that does not play a role in the life of the average westerner today.

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Re: The Historical Origins of "Western" Buddhism?

Postby Aemilius » Sat May 18, 2013 9:57 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:That may be so but for the purposes of the OP ("This isn't so much a question when the Dharma was introduced to Europe and America, but rather how or when the orientation for what constitutes perhaps "Adapted" Buddhism emerged?"), surely they are irrelevant?

:namaste:
Kim


As I understand "adapted buddhism" it surely arose in the Indian subcontinent, when people decided what they would accept from the teaching of Tathagata Shakyamuni, and what they would not accept; what they would change in their lives, and what they would not change.

We can certainly see buddhism as a collection of ideas, that can be practiced and that have been practiced, without the label of "buddhism". Such ideas could include for example vegetarianism and pacifism. These ideas have existed in Europe for a very long time. Ofcourse you can't prove thay they all derive from a buddhist influence, but they equally well could stem from a buddhist influence. The writing of history is mostly very biased, with a nationalistic bent. Therefore we cannot find any such truths in the written history, that buddhism has even existed or has influenced people and nations. In the written history every new idea and new influence is put in the name of a familiar, nationally and culturally accepted person.
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Re: The Historical Origins of "Western" Buddhism?

Postby Zhen Li » Fri May 31, 2013 2:05 am

kirtu wrote:Current western Buddhism is a phenomena a maximum of 1 1/2 centuries old and most would say younger than that. Greeks and Persians were indeed part of the Buddha's original dispensation but Bactria and Gandhara are long gone and are historical footnotes. Their art and history may play a part in spreading Buddhism in the future (afterall, one can't claim accurately that Buddhism is truly foreign to western culture) but that does not play a role in the life of the average westerner today.

Kirt

I think if one is aware of it, however, it can help to remove the delusion that the Dharma is somehow "foreign."

That's of course a surface aid. Ultimately the Dharma isn't foreign to anyone, but when first approaching it, many people will take it on the material level. It's skillful means.
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Re: The Historical Origins of "Western" Buddhism?

Postby Nilasarasvati » Fri May 31, 2013 3:02 am

Adamantine said:

The real point of interest historically, is the two-way influence: how modernity or western culture may transform the way Buddhist teachings are understood or interpreted, evolving into new traditions altogether: but also, equally and maybe more significantly: how has Buddhism specifically influenced and transformed major elements of western culture and history in the interim. Probably both directions of influence need to be understood together because there must be some deep mutually interdependent relationship when looking with a wide lens.


This is really really important because, as we fail to remember sometimes, Western Imperialism transformed the entire planet. Values, mores, interpretations, philosophies, sciences, and worldviews from Spain, Portugal, France, England, the Netherlands, Germany totally transformed every culture with the few exceptions that locked them out (with more or less success) like Japan and Tibet.

So it's important to think precisely about that idea of modernism and how it's really influenced everything even before Westerners began to take an interest in Buddhism.

For example, people like the Navayana or Dalit (outcaste) Buddhists of India, who were reacting to centuries of caste-based oppression from Dharmic systems of hegemony and, as a result, converted to Buddhism (because it rejects caste) but then, with a strong influence from Anarchist, Communist, and other Modernist and Materialist thinkers, rejected Buddhist notions of reincarnation because they claimed to embrace Western Science and secular humanism (and reincarnation was the primary justification used for their status as Dalits) This movement has its roots in the late 1800s among a people who were, culturally, linguistically, historically closer to the origins of Buddhism than Tibetans or Chinese or of course any Westerners.
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