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Thread: Can we reconstruct mahayana Greco-Buddhism(doctrines, practices, rituals)?

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    Veteran Member Jacques de Imbelloni's Avatar
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    Default Can we reconstruct mahayana Greco-Buddhism(doctrines, practices, rituals)?

    Greco-Buddhism, or Graeco-Buddhism, is the cultural syncretism between Hellenistic culture and Buddhism, which developed between the 4th century BC and the 5th century AD in Bactria and the Indian subcontinent. It was a cultural consequence of a long chain of interactions begun by Greek forays into India from the time of Alexander the Great.

    Mahayana GrecoBactrian-Buddhism has had a large influence in china, japan and tibet.
    Can we reconstruct the doctrines, practices and rituals of Graeco-Buddhism, by using the textS that survived via zen/chan?



    This type of buddhism should also include a good chunk of greek paganism in it.







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    There are antique books that talk about the Hellenistic element in Japanese Buddhism. It also exists in Tibetan Buddhism. I think I read somewhere that the Bodhisattva Manjushri evolved from Hellenistic solar deities.



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    Veteran Member Jacques de Imbelloni's Avatar
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    Nio

    Niō (仁王) or Kongōrikishi (金剛力士) are two wrathful and muscular guardians of the Buddha standing today at the entrance of many Buddhist temples in East Asian Buddhism in the form of frightening wrestler-like statues. They are dharmapala manifestations of the bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi, the oldest and most powerful of the Mahayana Buddhist pantheon. According to Japanese tradition, they travelled with Gautama Buddha to protect him and there are references to this in the Pāli Canon as well as the Ambaṭṭha Sutta. Within the generally pacifist tradition of Buddhism, stories of dharmapalas justified the use of physical force to protect cherished values and beliefs against evil. The Niō are also seen as a manifestation of Mahasthamaprapta, the bodhisattva of power that flanks Amitābha in Pure Land Buddhism and as Vajrasattva in Tibetan Buddhism.



    Hellenistic influence

    Kongōrikishi are a possible case of the transmission of the image of the Greek hero Heracles to East Asia along the Silk Road. Heracles was used in Greco-Buddhist art to represent Vajrapani, the protector of the Buddha, and his representation was then used in China and Japan to depict the protector gods of Buddhist temples. This transmission is part of the wider Greco-Buddhist syncretic phenomenon, where Buddhism interacted with the Hellenistic culture of Central Asia from the 4th century BC to the 4th century AD.




    Nio Zen Buddhism

    Nio Zen Buddhism was a practice advocated by the Zen monk Suzuki Shōsan (1579–1655), who advocated Nio Zen Buddhism over Nyorai Zen Buddhism. He recommended that practitioners should meditate on Nio and even adopt their fierce expressions and martial stances in order to cultivate power, strength and courage when dealing with adversity.[5] Suzuki described Nio as follows: "The Niō (Vajrapani) is a menacing God. He wields the kongōsho (vajra) and he can crush your enemies. Depend on him, pray to him that he will protect you as he protects the Buddha. He vibrates with energy and spiritual power which you can absorb from him in times of need."

    Last edited by Jacques de Imbelloni; 07-15-2019 at 03:26 PM.

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    Dharmapalas as Heracles, I never thought about that. It makes sense because Dharmapalas also wield clubs, attributes of Heracles. Their muscular physique also mimics Heracles'. Note that Heracles also has a lion-skin. Tiger and lion skins are also worn by Shaiva deities (Shiva and his attendants, manifestations), and Dionysus is also depicted wearing the skin of a big cat. Alain Danielou, a brilliant French scholar of Hinduism and practitioner of Shaivism (he was initiated into a Shaiva sampradaya as a yogin), wrote a book Dionysus and Shiva that explains possible interaction between Greco-Roman and Indian archetypes along trade routes. Notice that the Anatolian deity Cybele, called Magna Mater, who became a prominent deity in the later Roman empire is depicted on a chariot pulled by lions. The Hindu goddess Durga rides a lion and Kali rides a tiger.

    Fuente de Cibeles, Madrid Spain.



    Durga on Lion





    Kali on a Tiger



    Hellenistic Egypt was the meeting place of several belief systems which may explain the similarities between some Buddhist and Christian parables.


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    https://greekasia.blogspot.com/2019/...T4cNKHoFMuYplw

    ANCIENT GREEK BUDDHISM


    Ancient Greek Buddhism is highlighted by two main points: the sculptural depiction of The Buddha and the textual report on King Menandros’ becoming a Buddhist adept. The 304 questions to King Menandros (reign: ca. 155-130 BCE), the Milindapanha (a paracanonical work as from ca. 150 BCE), is a dialogue between the Greek sovereign of Hellenized Asia and the Venerable Nagasena. This resulted in the ruler’s acceptance of the Dharma as a lay disciple who subsequently had Buddhism disseminated throughout Indo-Greece.



    Bhikkhus and bodhisattvas circumambulating a stupa in Hellenistic style with Corinthian pillars

    His guru’s guru was by the way a Greek, the renowned Dharmarakshita, a given which is illustrative for the Greeks’ embracement of Buddhism in the Hellenized territories. Twenty-six Greek kings after Menandros were Buddhist until the demise of the Indo-Greek Kingdom in the year zero. The Milindapanha is a “reader’s digest” covering the most important Buddhist themes: (1) The 4-Ennobling Realities, (2) The 8-Fold Balancing Practice. (3) The 3-Empirical Marks of Existence, (4) The 3-Poisons, (5) The state/trait of Nirvana, (6) The notion of Karma, (7) The 5-Skandhas (psychological modalities), (8) The provisional self and ultimate not-self, (9) The Dependent Origination hypothesis, (10) The smallest units of experience: dharmas, (11) The 6th Sense: the mind’s eye, (12) The 12-Meditations themes, (13) The 4-Foundations of Mindfulness, (14) The 4-Immeasurables and (15) The 24-Patthanas: the functional/conditional relations between Karma, skandhas and dharmas.




    A turning point in the life of Siddharta Gautama toward becoming The Buddha- leaving the family’s palace in search of awakening, guarded by the unbeatable Heracles with his club on the left and by the fortunate Tyche, the protector of cities on the right.


    Before the Asian Ancient Greek Buddhist era (2nd century BCE), the Buddha was depicted by his footsteps, a wheel or a stupa.


    The Greek influence on Buddhism is most dramatically visible in the statues, images of The Buddha as Apollo wearing a himation since about King Menandros’ conversion. Centuries before there were only aniconic depictions of The Buddha: footsteps, bodhi tree, lotus flower, throne and wheel. The Greek Pantheon seems to be inspirational for the development of the Mahayana pantheon and its airy bodhisattvas. Notably, these flirtations with metaphysics were disclaimed by the Buddha Gautama. The Greek Gods Heracles, Tyche and Zeus paralleled and developed into Maitreya (loving-kindness), Avalokiteshvara (compassion) and Manjushri (wisdom).




    Third picture: the Buddha as a manifestation of Apollo flanked by Heracles (with power bat) who later became Maitreya/metta/loving-kindness and Tyche (with cornucopia, horn of plenty) who became Avalokiteshvara/karuna/compassion.


    s syncretism in Ancient Greek Buddhism was evidently functional in the evolution of Mahayana and can be conceived as the proto-Mahayana phase of Buddhism. From a Buddhist point of view, it is safe to infer that accepting/adopting Hellenistic mythical figures was part of upaya, skilful method, which warranted adjustment/survival of Buddhism for 2600 years in various places and cultures. Conclusion: There is no compelling need to learn Buddhism via the Far East, because of half millennium cross-fertilization with Hellenism, Buddhism already belonged to and has been part and parcel of Western civilization during 2200 years.


    Fourth picture: three times The Buddha standing in Hellenistic toga as Apollo.



    The above picture explains what could be called Proto-Mahayana, the prototype of what later on (as from the year 0) was developed into a full-fledged Mahayana through the Buddha sitting in lotus posture with Bodhisattva Maitreya on the left, whose hair is tied in a Heracles knot and (unseen) carrying an elixir flask in hand (previously a knot) and Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara on the right, whose hair is covered by an Eastern turban and (unseen) holding a wreath in hand,previously a cornucopia. On the back left-side Hariti, a Zoroasterian symbol for motherly love and compassion who later fused with Tyche transformed into Avalokiteshavara, a male figurehead, and on the back right-side Vajrapani, Northern Indian symbol for an adamantine (diamond-like) bodhicitta.
    Last edited by Jacques de Imbelloni; 02-19-2020 at 12:37 AM.

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    JFoliveras, digital painting

    MENANDER I SOTER (called Milinda in Indian sources) and his Buddhist teacher Nagasena.

    Menander I was an Indo-Greek king who lived in the 2nd century BC. Under his reign, the Indo-Greek kingdom reached its height. Menander became a patron of Buddhism and is said to have reached Nirvana. While Alexander never made it past the Indus Valley, Menander launched a military campaign to northeast India, reaching Pataliputra, the former Mauryan capital, and the Ganges. At his death, his remains were placed inside stupas distributed across his kingdom. Menander’s discussions with Nagasena are recorded in the text called Milinda Panha.

    THE INDO-GREEK KINGDOM: In the late 4th century BC, Alexander the Great conquered the Indus Valley, a part of which was already under Persian rule before him. He planned to keep pushing into India attacking the Nanda Empire, but his army mutinied after a costly battle at the Hydaspes and he was forced to leave India. After Alexander’s death, the Indian satrapies were part of the Seleucid Empire, but Seleucus’ rule in India didn’t last long. Chandragupta Maurya fought a war with Seleucus and won, forcing him to surrender the Indian territories conquered by Alexander a few years earlier. The Indus Valley was now part of the Mauryan Empire. Chandragupta’s grandson, Ashoka the Great, adopted Buddhism, becoming the first Buddhist ruler in history. Ashoka introduced Buddhism among the Greek colonists that Alexander had settled in north-western India, now under Mauryan rule. Greek Buddhist missionaries participated in the delegations that Ashoka sent to Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, the Seleucid Empire was having trouble. The Parthians were getting stronger, and the Greco-Bactrian kingdom became independent from the Seleucids. The Mauryan Empire was eventually overthrown by the Shunga dynasty, and shortly after, Demetrius I of Bactria invaded the Indus Valley, restoring Greek rule in north-western India. At first, these Indian territories were ruled from Bactria, until the reign of Apollodotus I, who finally stablished an independent Indo-Greek kingdom. This kingdom was already religiously syncretic, with the gods of the Olympus coexisting with Buddhism and Hinduism, but it was under Menander I that Buddhism became the main religion. The Indo-Greek kingdom ended up being overrun by nomadic tribes. The Yuezhi, future founders of the Kushan Empire, and the Indo-Scythians, put an end to the Indo-Greek kingdom and stablished their own kingdoms. The Hellenistic art school of Gandhara, however, continued under the Indo-Scythians and the Kushans for centuries. At some point between the Indo-Greeks and their successors from the steppe, the first anthropomorphic representation of the Buddha was made in a Hellenistic style, sometimes accompanied by the Greek demigod Herakles as his bodyguard.


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