How Emperor Ashoka Invented Indian Buddhism

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neander
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How Emperor Ashoka Invented Indian Buddhism

Post by neander »

Hello everybody,

I came across this article that seems well done and I post it for everyone ‘s perusal, I am not a Buddhist scholar so I cannot verify some data.

https://thesanghakommune.org/2017/03/27 ... 0232%20BCE.

Best,
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Queequeg
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Re: How Emperor Ashoka Invented Indian Buddhism

Post by Queequeg »

No. This fellow does not really understand Buddhism and attributes a level of genius to Ashoka and his ministers that is unfounded. He says that Buddhism is derived from Greek rationalism, but a close examination of the two systems shows they actually are not similar. Again, shallow understanding of both teachings. He also fails to appreciate Indian philosophy in its own right by claiming its a Greek derivative.

The empty throne and other aniconic representations of the Buddha are characteristic of Indian religious art before the influence of the Greek culture through Gandhara.

This would mean Ashoka made up Mahavira and Jainism, too.

There is no doubt that Ashoka was instrumental in the propagation of Buddhism and his influence is clear (consider the stupas referred to in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta), but there are historical facts referred to in the sutras/suttas that have been confirmed through archeological discoveries.

Its true there is no forensic evidence the Buddha actually existed. There is, however, a layer of Buddhist teaching that has been linguistically analyzed to suggest that it was from one person.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Upaya Chapter

純一実相。実相外。更無別法。法性寂然名止。寂而常渉照名観。
There is only reality; there is nothing separate from reality. The naturally tranquil nature of dharmas is shamatha. The abiding luminosity of tranquility is vipashyana.

-From Guanding's Introduction to Zhiyi's Great Shamatha and Vipashyana
neander
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Re: How Emperor Ashoka Invented Indian Buddhism

Post by neander »

Not being a scholar I have no opinion, moreover one should be also familiar with Indian history and philosophy and religion ( that is a immense field of study) and I am not, Johannes Bronkhorst ,among many other ,in “Buddhism in the shadow of Brahamins” devotes one chapter “the relics of Buddha” to the analysis of the subject and it seems that most of the scholars with some exception (Hendrik Kern) believe in the historical Buddha, he also disputes the fact the Buddhism was a revolution against Brahamin.

Having said that I agree with the Romans that history is written by the victors..so Ashoka probably promoted what he wanted to promote for his empire (it looks like he was not a pacifist https://bit.ly/3k5RxJA ...) also I think that some form of Buddhism , or if one wants the interpretation of some quote in the Buddhist literature are indeed very similar to Greek rationalism just think of Nichiren Daishonin — 'Buddhism is reason. Reason will win over your lord.' a rationalism maybe similar to Epicurus 's rationalism more that Aristotile as in any case Buddhism deal with feelings first..
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Queequeg
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Re: How Emperor Ashoka Invented Indian Buddhism

Post by Queequeg »

neander wrote: Fri Oct 16, 2020 2:24 pm Having said that I agree with the Romans that history is written by the victors..so Ashoka probably promoted what he wanted to promote for his empire (it looks like he was not a pacifist https://bit.ly/3k5RxJA ...) also I think that some form of Buddhism , or if one wants the interpretation of some quote in the Buddhist literature are indeed very similar to Greek rationalism just think of Nichiren Daishonin — 'Buddhism is reason. Reason will win over your lord.' a rationalism maybe similar to Epicurus 's rationalism more that Aristotile as in any case Buddhism deal with feelings first..
Nichiren is a terrible example to argue that Buddhism and Greek Rationalism have things in common. Nichiren appeared in Japan centuries after and thousands of miles from where the Buddha or Ashoka appeared.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Upaya Chapter

純一実相。実相外。更無別法。法性寂然名止。寂而常渉照名観。
There is only reality; there is nothing separate from reality. The naturally tranquil nature of dharmas is shamatha. The abiding luminosity of tranquility is vipashyana.

-From Guanding's Introduction to Zhiyi's Great Shamatha and Vipashyana
neander
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Re: How Emperor Ashoka Invented Indian Buddhism

Post by neander »

I agree that Nichiren is far away geographically and temporally , I was just referring to the concept

But think about Epicurus:

“It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself.”
― Epicurus

this could be related to Buddhanature..

Dalai Lama quoting: "If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change" means he recognizes the power of Greek atomists philosophers.. of course Buddhism is not only Dalai Lama's Buddhism, and his Buddhism is not only this quote..

Please note that I am not saying that Buddhist was created ex novo from Greek rationalism infused into pre-Buddhist Indian religiosity, I do not know ..but still there are similarities here and there, the Greek were powerful thinkers, very powerful...

with respect,

neander
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Queequeg
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Re: How Emperor Ashoka Invented Indian Buddhism

Post by Queequeg »

neander wrote: Fri Oct 16, 2020 3:49 pm I agree that Nichiren is far away geographically and temporally , I was just referring to the concept

But think about Epicurus:

“It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself.”
― Epicurus

this could be related to Buddhanature..
No. Buddhanature is the quality of sentient beings that makes their awakening possible.
Dalai Lama quoting: "If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change" means he recognizes the power of Greek atomists philosophers.. of course Buddhism is not only Dalai Lama's Buddhism, and his Buddhism is not only this quote..
No. It does not mean he recognizes anyone's power. HHDL considers materialism a wrong view. He is saying if there were some overwhelming proof of some materialist article of faith he would have to accept it. What I know of HHDL, he probably said that with a smile on his face knowing full well its a trick answer. From the Buddhist perspective, which is itself open to investigation, the kinds of view advanced in science-ism (something a little different than science) is rather naive.
Please note that I am not saying that Buddhist was created ex novo from Greek rationalism infused into pre-Buddhist Indian religiosity, I do not know ..but still there are similarities here and there, the Greek were powerful thinkers, very powerful...
Similarities are shallow. Hardly powerful.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Upaya Chapter

純一実相。実相外。更無別法。法性寂然名止。寂而常渉照名観。
There is only reality; there is nothing separate from reality. The naturally tranquil nature of dharmas is shamatha. The abiding luminosity of tranquility is vipashyana.

-From Guanding's Introduction to Zhiyi's Great Shamatha and Vipashyana
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Re: How Emperor Ashoka Invented Indian Buddhism

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relational_frame_theory

The idea here is that simply "finding similarities" sometimes has nothing to do with whether or not things are connected to one another. You can do the thought experiment yourself by picking out a few different things and figuring out how they are similar. If you try, you'll find that your mind can actually find similarity in very disparate things.

So, the common practice of saying "this philosophy is similar to this one because of x" often doesn't even have to do with the content, but how people naturally make associations which are based on abstractions that we make similar in our head...not actual empirical similarity.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low
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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: How Emperor Ashoka Invented Indian Buddhism

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Archaeologists' discovery puts Buddha's birth 300 years earlier than Ashoka
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/ ... pal-durham
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avatamsaka3
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Re: How Emperor Ashoka Invented Indian Buddhism

Post by avatamsaka3 »

From the article cited in the original post:
The Buddha’s physical existence cannot be proven, logic dictates, because he never existed in the physical sense. The Buddha is a rhetorical device designed to facilitate Emperor Ashoka’s new political, cultural and social vision for the India that he conquered.
And how do we know that "he never exited in the physical sense"? If the existence can't be proven, how could the non-existence?
This lack of objective evidence logically suggests that the Buddha did not physically exist – but this does not necessarily mean that this is the last word on the matter.
No, lack of evidence doesn't suggest anything. His tomb could be lying in the ground somewhere and we haven't found it.
Buddhist countries such as Thailand, Sri Lanka, Burma or Nepal, etc, exist within the imagination of Emperor Ashoka, and accept without criticism everything contained within the Buddhist teachings.
Not true. Plenty of knowledgeable people question what's in the Canon, and often with good reason. In fact, the Buddha himself rejected blind faith.
Monks are viewed as superior to nuns, and monastics superior to the laity
Superior only from the point of view of social standing. In terms of the teachings, only an ariya being is truly superior.
Whereas Emperor Ashoka sought to prevent and stop all meat-eating (and thereby animal slaughter), many Buddhists today eat meat (accept in China), thinking that hurting animals is in accordance with the Buddha’s teaching.
No, they think that not eating meat makes no sense if it's already meat. Sentient beings should be protected otherwise.
By training the mind to assess and record the physical (knowable) world through a scientific-like adherence to the observation of ‘cause’ and ‘effect’ of matter and its functionality. This transition from idealism (i.e. the inner generated delusion of theism) to a perceptual science premised upon the precise observation of physical matter,
No, the Buddha was not a materialist.
Karma as a vehicle for divine intervention in the physical world (Brahmanism), was transformed through Buddhism into a logical observation of the process of the physically observable world.
Wrong and wrong. The Buddha certainly did teach the principle of Kamma-Vipaka. He clearly taught it! And again, he was not a materialist. He did not just teach "observing" things.
The Buddha, although stating that what he teaches is a ‘rediscovery’ of an ancient system of Indian understanding, the reality is that India had never known such a manner of understanding existence prior to Emperor Ashoka.
This is almost certainly wrong. Look at any of the samaṇa sects. Look at elements of Hindu thought.
neander
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Re: How Emperor Ashoka Invented Indian Buddhism

Post by neander »

see this:

https://tricycle.org/magazine/myth-historical-buddha/

"This may seem like stating the obvious, but is it really? If the Buddha hadn’t existed, perhaps he would have been invented anyway. Indeed, whatever the facts might be, the life of the Buddha as it comes down to us is largely fabrication. So what do we actually know about the Buddha? It is fair to say that he was born, he lived, and he died. The rest remains lost in the mists of myth and legend: his miraculous conception and birth, the extraordinary events and circumstances of his life, and the like. The fact that similar events are also said to have occurred during the life of the founder of Jainism, Mahavira (another allegedly historical figure), indicates that a degree of caution must be exercised in accepting their factual basis.

Early Buddhism centered largely on the worship of stupas, memorials that focus on the main episodes of Siddhartha’s life—in particular the four stupas in Kedarnath, Dvarka, Puri, and Rameshvaram that commemorate his birth, his awakening, his first sermon, and his final nirvana. These became oft-visited sites of pilgrimage. As a result, the life of the Buddha took a monumental turn, in every sense of the word.
.....
The early community expanded the narrative of the Buddha’s life; then, having increased the number of episodes relating to that life, legend then turned to his past lives. According to the Buddhist doctrine of karma, the Buddha’s present life was simply the result of a long series of previous lives, in which the Buddha-to-be was reincarnated as various different beings, both animals and humans. These past lives form the focus of texts known as Jatakas. This same model is applied to the existence of other past buddhas. There is also mention of the future buddha, Maitreya, who it is said will appear in several million years, although his “biography” remains somewhat vague. The Mahayana tradition in particular speaks of numerous cosmic buddhas, who are already present—although invisible to the human eye.

Initially presented as some kind of superhuman being, the Buddha was therefore gradually transformed into some kind of god. This development is documented in some scriptures of the Mahayana. In the Lotus Sutra, for instance, the Buddha himself calls his own historical authenticity into question. This coup de théâtre takes place in a text with wide-ranging influence across East Asia. During a sermon, the Buddha declares to his disciples that he has already guided numerous beings toward salvation. Faced with their skepticism, he calls upon these beings to show themselves, and a multitude of bodhisattvas suddenly spring up from the ground. ..
"
------------------------
So everything is a moot point..and this applies also to the Buddadharma, even if I have no opinion about Buddhist history, not having myself enough knowledge (moreover the Buddhist literature is immense and only a minimal part has been translated ), there is no doubt in my mind that any Buddhist school has its own agenda...it is up to each man to use what is useful for his life.
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Kim O'Hara
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Re: How Emperor Ashoka Invented Indian Buddhism

Post by Kim O'Hara »

neander wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 8:25 am see this:

https://tricycle.org/magazine/myth-historical-buddha/
What you've posted here does not align at all well with your OP.
Which of them do you believe?
...
So everything is a moot point..
No.
Some things are known.
...and this applies also to the Buddadharma, even if I have no opinion about Buddhist history, not having myself enough knowledge
So you're saying you don't know anything but we must all be wrong anyway?
:rolleye:
(moreover the Buddhist literature is immense and only a minimal part has been translated ), there is no doubt in my mind that any Buddhist school has its own agenda...it is up to each man to use what is useful for his life.
:offtopic:
And what about every woman?
:focus:

We do try to be kind to new members but we do also like to see some goodwill and thoughtfulness from them .

:namaste:
Kim
neander
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Re: How Emperor Ashoka Invented Indian Buddhism

Post by neander »

Kim O'Hara wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 11:44 am
neander wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 8:25 am see this:

https://tricycle.org/magazine/myth-historical-buddha/
What you've posted here does not align at all well with your OP.
Which of them do you believe?
As I wrote I posted the article (and the subsequent one) for everyone' s perusal , I do not have a scientific opinion on the subject (historical buddha) and I was interesting also in the opinion of people more versed in the subject.

In the relation to the various bouddhiste schools I think what I wrote i.e. that they are a moot point with their own agenda otherwise the Buddhist Forums wouldn't have so many different sections...(Mahayana, Tibetan etc..) that does not mean they are wrong neither that they are right, as Buddha said it is up to you to understand what works for you in relation to what you need that can also be a bit of this and that, Bruce Lee jkd style.
Last edited by jake on Sat Oct 17, 2020 1:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Fixed quote error.
avatamsaka3
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Re: How Emperor Ashoka Invented Indian Buddhism

Post by avatamsaka3 »

In the relation to the various bouddhiste schools I think what I wrote i.e. that they are a moot point with their own agenda
Let's look at the definitions of "moot":
subject to debate, dispute, or uncertainty
having little or no practical relevance, typically because the subject is too uncertain to allow a decision.
If we're looking at stories that cover the Buddha's life, then I agree that details should be challenged. Stories about the Buddha's supernatural powers are of little practical relevance to our lives, as well.

But you're missing the whole point. The core teachings can be verified through our own experience. When we hold on to things that change or disappear, do we suffer? When we expect life to be an unchanging bed of roses, do we suffer? When we spend time to calm our minds and stop running around chasing after things, is there any benefit? This is not a rigorous proof of the validity of the details of what he taught us to practice, but it's a way to begin validating them.
neander
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Re: How Emperor Ashoka Invented Indian Buddhism

Post by neander »

the core teachings are also a moot point;as I wrote that is why Buddhist forums have different sections for different schools, that is why in this forum discussions in each individual section of this forum cannot mention or compare other Buddhist school...

I am pretty new on this forum but you can easily see the bitter truth of religious and doctrinal disputes on this very forum (as elsewhere ) to the point that it has to be moderated.. (and I agree on this) the reason why there are disputes is because the core teachings are a moot point...

I agree with you on the verified part

But this is off topic...I posted this to know whether Ashoka invented Indian Buddhism and to get some additional insight and maybe literature about the historical Buddha (I used the search function but did not find much)
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Re: How Emperor Ashoka Invented Indian Buddhism

Post by avatamsaka3 »

the core teachings are also a moot point;as I wrote that is why Buddhist forums
No, they aren't.
I posted this to know whether Ashoka invented Indian Buddhism
I see no convincing evidence that he did.
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Re: How Emperor Ashoka Invented Indian Buddhism

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

neander wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 8:41 pm the core teachings are also a moot point;as I wrote that is why Buddhist forums have different sections for different schools, that is why in this forum discussions in each individual section of this forum cannot mention or compare other Buddhist school...

I am pretty new on this forum but you can easily see the bitter truth of religious and doctrinal disputes on this very forum (as elsewhere ) to the point that it has to be moderated.. (and I agree on this) the reason why there are disputes is because the core teachings are a moot point...

I agree with you on the verified part

But this is off topic...I posted this to know whether Ashoka invented Indian Buddhism and to get some additional insight and maybe literature about the historical Buddha (I used the search function but did not find much)
There is a set of views/beliefs/tenets (whatever you want to call them) which are common to all Buddhist schools, which are the “core teachings” and they are known as the Four Seals:
All compounded things are impermanent
All emotions are painful
All phenomena are without inherent existence
Nirvana is peace beyond extremes
(These are sometimes translated differently)

Any disputes among Buddhists lie outside these four.

Regarding whether the sutras (particularly the Mahayana sutras) were invented during the time of King Ashoka, there is some scholarly research that certainly leads to this conclusion.
But, what “invent” means in this context really needs to be examined. The Dharma as it is communicated is always being reinvented, even if the essential truth of the teachings is not. In other words, Ashoka may have commissioned the propagation of the Buddhist teachings according to the style of religious literature of the time.
The Sanskrit texts are so vastly different in style from the Pali, it’s hard to imagine that both were composed under the same patronage.
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neander
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Re: How Emperor Ashoka Invented Indian Buddhism

Post by neander »

Unfortunately due to time contraint I cannot go in details..but the situation in reality is far beyond what I wrote:

even if the main schools may have in theory some common grounds or beliefs in the four seals, de facto they disagree pointing out this behavior or that practice that implies they have a different understanding of the four seals but overall not only the "core teachings" are a moot point but the very words used for the translation of tenets like dukka,anitta etc are a moot point with dramatic consequences.. see:

https://puredhamma.net/logical-proof-th ... ha-anatta/
Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta – Wrong Interpretations - Daum

I was told that Samskrit requires 20 years to be fully grasped.

There is enough scholarly evidence to think that the four noble truth does not belong to original Buddhism, see Bart Dessein "the first turning of the wheel of the doctrine". "It is only after the explanation of the nature of the middle mode of progress that the ministry on the four noble truths follows" it is also quoted "account in the Pali Samyuttanikaya is parallel to the account in the Pali Vinaya, has already been shown by André Bareau ", you can find also a table with the comparaison of the sutra and many references to A. Bareau work with chronological details, it is a very interesting study.

I can go on and on with many Zen schools, not recognizing in theory or de facto many of the tenets , they often refer to predatory animals like tigers, lions who certainly do not meditate on the impermanence of this world.

Nichiren Buddhism (that i personally like) states that “earthly desires are enlightenment", Nichiren changed his mind many times but still realized there was something wrong in the whole system he studied " I have gone to many centers of religions during those 20 years in the quest to Buddhist truth, the final conclusion I arrived at was the truth of Buddhism must be in one essence..."

Please also note that as in the Abramitic religions parents scare children with the images of hell and devils so in many Buddhist schools and teachers at any level, there is a clear agenda to make people more and more depressed in order to control them, as Buddha said it is up to you to understand this cultivating a inner discipline and create your own path, freeing yourself and be a light for yourself....

I appreciate you inputs on Ashoka even if I would have liked to have some literature as reference to read when I will have time on the subject.

On this matter I also suggest you to read if you haven't done it yet "The spread of Buddhism"

Please note that there is a reason why this forum has 535239 posts and this is because people need clarification, people need clarification because the subject is complex and not clear even at fundamental level
Last edited by neander on Sun Oct 18, 2020 7:33 am, edited 3 times in total.
Bristollad
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Re: How Emperor Ashoka Invented Indian Buddhism

Post by Bristollad »

neander wrote: Sun Oct 18, 2020 7:13 am There is enough scholarly evidence to think that the four noble truth does not belong to original Buddhism, see Bart Dessein "the first turning of the wheel of the doctrine".
That's not what Professor Dessein actually says in the paper. He argues whether the four noble truths were taught first or whether a middle mode of conduct avoiding the extremes of ascetism and indulgence was the subject of that first discourse. He does not argue that "the four noble truth [sic] does not belong to original Buddhism."

Contrary to your assertion that you are just asking a question and putting it out there for discussion, it seems you already have very fixed views. The view that Emperor Ashoka invented Buddhism sounds similar to arguments that Emperor Constantine invented Christianity. Both views seem to be grounded in trying to define religion as only a political tool used by rulers to manipulate the gullible masses.
neander
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Re: How Emperor Ashoka Invented Indian Buddhism

Post by neander »

Bristollad wrote: Sun Oct 18, 2020 10:34 am
There is enough scholarly evidence to think that the four noble truth does not belong to original Buddhism, see Bart Dessein "the first turning of the wheel of the doctrine".


That's not what Professor Dessein actually says in the paper. He argues whether the four noble truths were taught first or whether a middle mode of conduct avoiding the extremes of ascetism and indulgence was the subject of that first discourse. He does not argue that "the four noble truth [sic] does not belong to original Buddhism."
Yes, I did not express the concept correctly: He states that "It is only after the explanation of the nature of the middle mode of
progress that the ministry on the four noble truths follows"

For Ashoka you did not read what I wrote
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Re: How Emperor Ashoka Invented Indian Buddhism

Post by Bristollad »

neander wrote: Sun Oct 18, 2020 11:18 am For Ashoka you did not read what I wrote
Uhm, yes I did read it.

You could claim I didn't understand what you'd written but to baldly state I didn't read it... :shrug:
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