The Buddha in Early Christian Literature

A forum for scholastic discussion/debate.

The Buddha in Early Christian Literature

Postby Indrajala » Fri Aug 16, 2013 7:54 am

I found an interesting article worth reading. Quite rich, but not too long:

http://www.academia.edu/4222046/The_Bud ... Literature

    "In sum, then, while the reference to the Buddha found in Clement remains mysterious, in spite of a rather striking Manichaean parallel, it is at least clear that later writers such as Marius Victorinus and the Byzantine herisiologists closely associated the Buddha's name with Mani. Because of this, the Buddha became marginalized as a forerunner or teacher of one of the church's archenemies."


It is interesting how there were Indians and Bactrians in Alexandria, which leads me to think there probably was a Buddhist community there, though insignificant.

Given the trade contacts, as well, I imagine some Romans knew a bit about Buddhism early on (say, from the early empire onward) in the east, though we have no extant sources for this unfortunately.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5972
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Taiwan

Re: The Buddha in Early Christian Literature

Postby Indrajala » Fri Aug 16, 2013 8:07 am

This is also rather funny and I never knew about it:

    Interestingly enough, however, the story of the Buddha's journey into western discourse does not quite end here, since he seems to have gotten in through the back door, as it were. I'm referring here to the extremely popular legend from Byzantine hagiography of saints Barlaam and Joasaph. This story, which circulated in at least a dozen different languages, not least of which is the 8th-century Greek version attributed to John of Damascus, describes how Joasaph, the son of an Indian king, is lock-up by his father to prevent him from being converted to Christianity. Nevertheless, Barlaam, a monk, visits Joasaph in disguise and ultimately wins the conversion.

    This story, in its general frame, has long been recognized as a Christianized version of the legend of the Buddha, who lived a sheltered life of luxury under the protection of his father until he went out into the world and encountered a wandering ascetic, who started Gotama on his eventual path to enlightenment. But, based on textual evidence from Central Asia, it has been shown that Manichaeans played a key role in the transmission of this particular story into the west.

    Incidentally, the frame-story is not the only clue to its originally Buddhist origins. The name Ioasaph itself is ultimately a corrupted version of the Sanskrit term bodhisattva, which describes the ideal sage who postpones the full attainment of Buddhahood in order to alleviate the suffering of sentient beings.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5972
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Taiwan

Re: The Buddha in Early Christian Literature

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:36 am

Dear Ven.

Check out this thread!
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
User avatar
Sherab Dorje
Former staff member
 
Posts: 10182
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 9:27 pm
Location: Greece

Re: The Buddha in Early Christian Literature

Postby Greg » Fri Aug 16, 2013 5:26 pm

Thanks, that was an interesting article. I was a little surprised that in his discussion of Indian philosophical exchange with the Mediterranean, all of the works he cited were so old. I haven't read it (though I bought it - hey, the kindle version is only $3.03 for some reason), but I'm pretty sure The Shape of Ancient Thought by McEvilley establish that there was a lot more cross-cultural interchange than previously thought.

And then there is Pyrrhonism: How the Ancient Greeks Reinvented Buddhism . . .

" . . . a number of early Greek philosophers are reported to have traveled widely in the east, including Thales, Solon, Lycurgus, Cleobulus, Pythagoras, Eudoxus, and Democritus (who hailed, like Ascanius, from Abdera, and, according to Philo of Athens, was the philosopher of whom Pyrrho was `most fond'). Most of these figures went to Egypt and Persia (where they might have met Indians at court, in the markets, or at the temples), but Pythagoras and Democritus, at least, are said to have gone all the way to India before Pyrrho. Plutarch tells us of at least one report, by a certain Aristocrates, recording the voyages of Lycurgus `into Spain, Africa, and the Indies, and his conferences there with the Gymnosophists.' Herodotus gives us our account of the voyage of Scylax to India, and tells us that `the number of Indians is greater than any other people I know of.' These and likely other possibilities for contact and transmission of ideas seem to have existed very early on, as we have noted, and it would seem hardly surprising that Aristotle, who had one of the earliest and largest private libraries, might have been familiar with the quadrilemma from some early source he does not acknowledge."
Greg
 
Posts: 320
Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2011 6:42 pm

Re: The Buddha in Early Christian Literature

Postby cdpatton » Sat Aug 17, 2013 3:25 am

Indrajala wrote:I found an interesting article worth reading. Quite rich, but not too long:

http://www.academia.edu/4222046/The_Bud ... Literature

    "In sum, then, while the reference to the Buddha found in Clement remains mysterious, in spite of a rather striking Manichaean parallel, it is at least clear that later writers such as Marius Victorinus and the Byzantine herisiologists closely associated the Buddha's name with Mani. Because of this, the Buddha became marginalized as a forerunner or teacher of one of the church's archenemies."


It is interesting how there were Indians and Bactrians in Alexandria, which leads me to think there probably was a Buddhist community there, though insignificant.

Given the trade contacts, as well, I imagine some Romans knew a bit about Buddhism early on (say, from the early empire onward) in the east, though we have no extant sources for this unfortunately.


My understanding is that Gandhara was culturally Hellenistic after Alexander. Which adopted Buddhism as its religion and used Persian writing and political systems. It was truly a "pivotal" civilization. I think it functioned very much as a bridge between East and West.
User avatar
cdpatton
 
Posts: 114
Joined: Mon Jul 05, 2010 5:01 am
Location: Minnesota, USA

Re: The Buddha in Early Christian Literature

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Aug 17, 2013 8:47 am

cdpatton wrote:...and used Persian writing and political systems.
It used Ancient Hellenic writing for adminsitrative purposes, though edicts would have been written in a variety of languages (like Asokas edicts) because of the multi-cultural nature of the region. As for political systems: What constitutes a "Persian" political system? It was an Imperial system imposed by military conquest by Alexander the Greats forces. He would then impose governers. After the death of Alexander the Great, and the collapse of his Empire, the governers became emperors of the regions that were assigned to them.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
User avatar
Sherab Dorje
Former staff member
 
Posts: 10182
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 9:27 pm
Location: Greece

Re: The Buddha in Early Christian Literature

Postby Indrajala » Sat Aug 17, 2013 8:54 am

It is worth recollecting the Seleucid Empire had a Hellenisation policy in effect, and they were in direct contact with the Maurya state.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seleucid_Empire
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5972
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Taiwan

Re: The Buddha in Early Christian Literature

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Aug 17, 2013 9:02 am

Actually, now that I thought about it, this model of conquering and then imposing governers accountable to an emperor would have been a Persian invention. Ancient Hellenes were more into city-states utilising democracy, tyrrany, or a royal family.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
User avatar
Sherab Dorje
Former staff member
 
Posts: 10182
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 9:27 pm
Location: Greece

Re: The Buddha in Early Christian Literature

Postby Indrajala » Sat Aug 17, 2013 9:03 am

gregkavarnos wrote:Actually, now that I thought about it, this model of conquering and then imposing governers accountable to an emperor would have been a Persian invention. Ancient Hellenes were more into city-states utilising democracy, tyrrany, or a royal family.


How would the Seleucid model be classified?
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5972
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Taiwan

Re: The Buddha in Early Christian Literature

Postby cdpatton » Sat Aug 17, 2013 4:07 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
cdpatton wrote:...and used Persian writing and political systems.
It used Ancient Hellenic writing for adminsitrative purposes, though edicts would have been written in a variety of languages (like Asokas edicts) because of the multi-cultural nature of the region. As for political systems: What constitutes a "Persian" political system? It was an Imperial system imposed by military conquest by Alexander the Greats forces. He would then impose governers. After the death of Alexander the Great, and the collapse of his Empire, the governers became emperors of the regions that were assigned to them.


I'm no expert on the subject, but I've been reading _The Grandeur of Gandhara_ that gives an historical outline of the region. The first to arrive in Gandhara were the Achaemenids and their form of governance was imposed to convert what was basically a backwater area into a functional province of their empire. The area was divided into two satrapies - Taxila and Gandhara. The thinking is that it was the Achaemenids imposing the use of a single dialect (Gandhari) for administrative purposes that began to forge a regional identity. It was also the Achaemenids' imperial needs that led to the adoption of the Karoshthi script for writing Gandhari (they preferred to use an Aramaic script, but it was inadequate for writing Gandhari) - this was all before Alexander arrived to conquer everything.

Thus, the basic infrastructure of governance and communication was in place when the region was brought into the Hellenistic world by Alexander's conquests. I am thinking the local practices remained mostly unchanged, but Gandhara became part of a much wider civilization after Alexander.

Charlie.
User avatar
cdpatton
 
Posts: 114
Joined: Mon Jul 05, 2010 5:01 am
Location: Minnesota, USA

Re: The Buddha in Early Christian Literature

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Aug 17, 2013 5:08 pm

cdpatton wrote:
gregkavarnos wrote:
cdpatton wrote:...and used Persian writing and political systems.
It used Ancient Hellenic writing for adminsitrative purposes, though edicts would have been written in a variety of languages (like Asokas edicts) because of the multi-cultural nature of the region. As for political systems: What constitutes a "Persian" political system? It was an Imperial system imposed by military conquest by Alexander the Greats forces. He would then impose governers. After the death of Alexander the Great, and the collapse of his Empire, the governers became emperors of the regions that were assigned to them.


I'm no expert on the subject, but I've been reading _The Grandeur of Gandhara_ that gives an historical outline of the region. The first to arrive in Gandhara were the Achaemenids and their form of governance was imposed to convert what was basically a backwater area into a functional province of their empire. The area was divided into two satrapies - Taxila and Gandhara. The thinking is that it was the Achaemenids imposing the use of a single dialect (Gandhari) for administrative purposes that began to forge a regional identity. It was also the Achaemenids' imperial needs that led to the adoption of the Karoshthi script for writing Gandhari (they preferred to use an Aramaic script, but it was inadequate for writing Gandhari) - this was all before Alexander arrived to conquer everything.

Thus, the basic infrastructure of governance and communication was in place when the region was brought into the Hellenistic world by Alexander's conquests. I am thinking the local practices remained mostly unchanged, but Gandhara became part of a much wider civilization after Alexander.

Charlie.
There is no doubt that the Persian Empire predated the Hellenistic Macedonian empire. The Macedonian Empire didn't really exist until about 320 years after the Persian Empires defeat by Hellenic forces (in modern Greece proper and then in the Hellenic regions of Asia Minor) which lead to the cessation of the expansion of the Persian Empire into Europe.

The Seleucids were just a continuation of the eastern part of the Macedonian Empire (after the death of Alexander the Great).
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
User avatar
Sherab Dorje
Former staff member
 
Posts: 10182
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 9:27 pm
Location: Greece

Re: The Buddha in Early Christian Literature

Postby cdpatton » Sat Aug 17, 2013 5:26 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
cdpatton wrote:I'm no expert on the subject, but I've been reading _The Grandeur of Gandhara_ that gives an historical outline of the region. The first to arrive in Gandhara were the Achaemenids and their form of governance was imposed to convert what was basically a backwater area into a functional province of their empire. The area was divided into two satrapies - Taxila and Gandhara. The thinking is that it was the Achaemenids imposing the use of a single dialect (Gandhari) for administrative purposes that began to forge a regional identity. It was also the Achaemenids' imperial needs that led to the adoption of the Karoshthi script for writing Gandhari (they preferred to use an Aramaic script, but it was inadequate for writing Gandhari) - this was all before Alexander arrived to conquer everything.

Thus, the basic infrastructure of governance and communication was in place when the region was brought into the Hellenistic world by Alexander's conquests. I am thinking the local practices remained mostly unchanged, but Gandhara became part of a much wider civilization after Alexander.

Charlie.
There is no doubt that the Persian Empire predated the Hellenistic Macedonian empire. The Macedonian Empire didn't really exist until about 320 years after the Persian Empires defeat by Hellenic forces (in modern Greece proper and then in the Hellenic regions of Asia Minor) which lead to the cessation of the expansion of the Persian Empire into Europe.

The Seleucids were just a continuation of the eastern part of the Macedonian Empire (after the death of Alexander the Great).


There's alot of confusion of Gandhara and Bactria when we talk about the region. Gandhara politically changed hands several times between the Persians, Bactrians (Greek), and Mauryans (Indian) before the Kushans (Greek-cultured Central Asians) arrived and created a stable empire with Gandhara as its seat. The Bactrians were ruled by Greek colonials - they used Greek coinage. Gandhara, though, kept its local language, but picked up all sorts of things from all their neighbors and rulers. Writing from the Persians, religion from India - both of which they then acted as a conduit for the other "side" of the world to pick those things up. Writing entered Asia through Gandhara's adoption of it under the Persians. On the other side, asceticism, mysticism, myth and hagiography, & the ideas of ahimsa and rebirth were carried to the West to fertilize thought in the Hellenistic world (Greece, Middle East, etc).

When I began to really find detailed information about the history of this region, it turned the wheels in my head. What would the world have looked like if Alexander had not arisen, or failed to conquer the Persians?

Charlie.
User avatar
cdpatton
 
Posts: 114
Joined: Mon Jul 05, 2010 5:01 am
Location: Minnesota, USA


Return to Academic Discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Astus and 8 guests

>