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Greco-Buddhism, or Graeco-Buddhism, is the cultural syncretism between Hellenistic
Hellenistic
culture and Buddhism, which developed between the 4th century BC and the 5th century AD in Bactria
Bactria
and the Indian subcontinent, corresponding to the territories of modern-day Afghanistan, Tajikistan, India, and Pakistan.[citation needed] It was a cultural consequence of a long chain of interactions begun by Greek forays into India
India
from the time of Alexander the Great, carried further by his successors' establishment of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom and, later, Indo-Greek Kingdom, and extended during the flourishing of the Kushan
Kushan
Empire. Buddhism
Buddhism
was then adopted in Central and Northeastern Asia from the 1st century AD, ultimately spreading to China, Korea, Japan, Siberia, and Vietnam.

Contents

1 Historical outline 2 Cultural interaction

2.1 Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great
in Bactria
Bactria
and India
India
(331–325 BC) 2.2 Mauryan
Mauryan
empire (322–183 BC) 2.3 Greek presence in Bactria
Bactria
(325 to 125 BC) 2.4 Indo-Greek Kingdom
Indo-Greek Kingdom
and Buddhism
Buddhism
(180 BC – AD 10)

2.4.1 Coinage 2.4.2 Cities 2.4.3 Scriptures

2.5 Kushan
Kushan
empire (1st–3rd century AD)

3 Philosophical influences 4 Artistic influences

4.1 Anthropomorphic representation of the Buddha 4.2 Hellenized Buddhist
Buddhist
pantheon

5 Exchanges

5.1 Gandharan proselytism in the East 5.2 Greco- Buddhism
Buddhism
in the West 5.3 Buddhism
Buddhism
and Christianity

6 See also 7 Notes 8 References 9 External links

Historical outline[edit]

Indo-Greek territory.[1][2][3]

See also: History of Buddhism The interaction between Hellenistic Greece
Hellenistic Greece
and Buddhism
Buddhism
started when Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great
conquered the Achaemenid Empire
Achaemenid Empire
and further regions of Central Asia
Central Asia
in 334 BC, crossing the Indus and then the Jhelum River
Jhelum River
after the Battle of the Hydaspes
Battle of the Hydaspes
and going as far as the Beas, thus establishing direct contact with India. Alexander founded several cities in his new territories in the areas of the Amu Darya
Amu Darya
and Bactria, and Greek settlements further extended to the Khyber Pass, Gandhara
Gandhara
(see Taxila), and the Punjab region. These regions correspond to a unique geographical passageway between the Himalayas
Himalayas
and the Hindu Kush
Hindu Kush
mountains through which most of the interaction between India
India
and Central Asia
Central Asia
took place, generating intense cultural exchange and trade. Following Alexander's death on June 10, 323 BC, the Diadochi
Diadochi
or "Successors" founded their own kingdoms in Anatolia
Anatolia
and Central Asia. General Seleucus set up the Seleucid Empire, which extended as far as India. Later, the eastern part of the Seleucid Kingdom broke away to form the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
(250 BC-125 BC), followed by the Indo-Greek Kingdom
Indo-Greek Kingdom
(180 BC - AD 10), and later the Kushan
Kushan
Empire (1st–3rd century AD). The interaction of Greek and Buddhist
Buddhist
cultures operated over several centuries until it ended in the 5th century AD with the invasions of the Hephthalite Empire
Hephthalite Empire
and the expansion of Islam. Cultural interaction[edit] See also: Hellenistic
Hellenistic
influence on Indian art The length of the Greek presence in Central Asia
Central Asia
and northern India provided opportunities for interaction, not only on the artistic, but also on the religious plane. Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great
in Bactria
Bactria
and India
India
(331–325 BC)[edit]

"Victory coin" of Alexander the Great, minted in Babylon
Babylon
c.322 BC, following his campaigns in India. Obv: Alexander being crowned by Nike. Rev: Alexander attacking King Porus
King Porus
on his elephant. Silver. British Museum.

When Alexander invaded Bactria
Bactria
and Gandhara, these areas may already have been under śramanic influence, likely Buddhist
Buddhist
and Jain. According to a legend preserved in the Pāli
Pāli
Canon, two merchant brothers from Kamsabhoga in Bactria, Tapassu and Bhallika, visited Gautama Buddha
Gautama Buddha
and became his disciples. The legend states that they then returned home and spread the Buddha's teaching.[4] In 326 BC, Alexander conquered the Northern region of India. King Ambhi of Taxila, known as Taxiles, surrendered his city, a notable Buddhist
Buddhist
center, to Alexander. Alexander fought an epic battle against King Porus
King Porus
of Pauravas
Pauravas
in the Punjab, at the Battle of the Hydaspes
Battle of the Hydaspes
in 326 BC. Mauryan
Mauryan
empire (322–183 BC)[edit] See also: Greco- Buddhist
Buddhist
monasticism The Indian emperor Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the Maurya Empire, re-conquered around 322 BC the northwest Indian territory that had been lost to Alexander the Great. However, contacts were kept with his Greco-Iranian neighbours in the Seleucid Empire. Emperor Seleucus I Nicator came to a marital agreement as part of a peace treaty,[5] and several Greeks, such as the historian Megasthenes, resided at the Mauryan
Mauryan
court.

The Hellenistic
Hellenistic
Pataliputra
Pataliputra
capital, discovered in Pataliputra, capital of the Maurya Empire, dated to the 3rd century BCE.

Chandragupta's grandson Ashoka
Ashoka
embraced the Buddhist
Buddhist
faith and became a great proselytizer in the line of the traditional Pali
Pali
canon of Theravada
Theravada
Buddhism, insisting on non-violence to humans and animals (ahimsa), and general precepts regulating the life of lay people. According to the Edicts of Ashoka, set in stone, some of them written in Greek[6] and some in Aramaic, the official language of the Achaemenids, he sent Buddhist
Buddhist
emissaries to the Greek lands in Asia and as far as the Mediterranean. The edicts name each of the rulers of the Hellenistic
Hellenistic
period:

The conquest by Dharma
Dharma
has been won here, on the borders, and even six hundred yojanas (4,000 miles) away, where the Greek king Antiochos (Antiyoga) rules, and beyond there where the four kings named Ptolemy (Turamaya), Antigonos (Antikini), Magas (Maka) and Alexander (Alikasu[n]dara) rule, likewise in the south among the Cholas, the Pandyas, and as far as Tamraparni.[7]

Ashoka
Ashoka
also claims he converted to Buddhism
Buddhism
Greek populations within his realm:

Here in the king's domain among the Greeks, the Kambojas, the Nabhakas, the Nabhapamkits, the Bhojas, the Pitinikas, the Andhras and the Palidas, everywhere people are following Beloved-of-the-Gods' instructions in Dharma.[8]

Finally, some of the emissaries of Ashoka, such as the famous Dharmaraksita, are described in Pali
Pali
sources as leading Greek ("Yona") Buddhist
Buddhist
monks active in Buddhist
Buddhist
proselytism (the Mahavamsa, XII[9]), founding the eponymous Dharmaguptaka
Dharmaguptaka
school of Buddhism.[10] Greek presence in Bactria
Bactria
(325 to 125 BC)[edit] Main article: Greco-Bactrian Kingdom

The Greco-Bactrian city of Ai-Khanoum
Ai-Khanoum
(c.300-145 BC) was located at the doorstep of India.

Alexander had established in Bactria
Bactria
several cities (Ai-Khanoum, Bagram) and an administration that were to last more than two centuries under the Seleucid Empire
Seleucid Empire
and the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, all the time in direct contact with Indian territory. The Greeks sent ambassadors to the court of the Maurya Empire, such as the historian Megasthenes
Megasthenes
under Chandragupta Maurya, and later Deimachus under his son Bindusara, who reported extensively on the civilization of the Indians. Megasthenes
Megasthenes
sent detailed reports on Indian religions, which were circulated and quoted throughout the Classical world for centuries:[11]

Megasthenes
Megasthenes
makes a different division of the philosophers, saying that they are of two kinds, one of which he calls the Brachmanes, and the other the Sarmanes..." Strabo
Strabo
XV. 1. 58-60[12]

The Greco-Bactrians maintained a strong Hellenistic
Hellenistic
culture at the door of India
India
during the rule of the Maurya Empire
Maurya Empire
in India, as exemplified by the archaeological site of Ai-Khanoum. When the Maurya Empire was toppled by the Shunga Empire
Shunga Empire
around 180 BC, the Greco-Bactrians expanded into India, where they established the Indo-Greek Kingdom, under which Buddhism
Buddhism
was able to flourish. Indo-Greek Kingdom
Indo-Greek Kingdom
and Buddhism
Buddhism
(180 BC – AD 10)[edit]

Greek Gods and the "Wheel of the Law" or Dharmachakra: Left: Zeus holding Nike, who hands a victory wreath over a Dharmachakra
Dharmachakra
(coin of Menander II). Right: Divinity wearing chlamys and petasus pushing a Dharmachakra, with legend "He who sets in motion the Wheel of the Law" (Tillya Tepe Buddhist
Buddhist
coin).

Main article: Indo-Greek Kingdom The Greco-Bactrians conquered parts of North India
India
from 180 BC, whence they are known as the Indo-Greeks. They controlled various areas of the northern Indian territory until AD 10. Buddhism
Buddhism
prospered under the Indo-Greek kings, and it has been suggested that their invasion of India
India
was intended to protect the Buddhist
Buddhist
faith from the religious persecutions of the Shungas (185–73 BC), who had overthrown the Mauryans. Zarmanochegas
Zarmanochegas
was a śramana (possibly, but not necessarily a Buddhist) who, according to ancient historians such as Strabo, Cassius Dio and Nicolaus of Damascus traveled to Antioch
Antioch
and Athens
Athens
while Augustus
Augustus
(died AD 14) was ruling the Roman Empire.[13][14] Coinage[edit] The coins of the Indo-Greek king Menander I
Menander I
(reigned 160-135 BC), found from Afghanistan
Afghanistan
to central India, bear the inscription "Saviour King Menander" in Greek on the front. Several Indo-Greek kings after Menander, such as Zoilos I, Strato I, Heliokles II, Theophilos, Peukolaos, Menander II
Menander II
and Archebius
Archebius
display on their coins the title "Maharajasa Dharmika" (lit. "King of the Dharma") in Prakrit
Prakrit
written in Kharoshthi. Some of the coins of Menander I
Menander I
and Menander II
Menander II
incorporate the Buddhist
Buddhist
symbol of the eight-spoked wheel, associated with the Greek symbols of victory, either the palm of victory, or the victory wreath handed over by the goddess Nike. According to the Milinda
Milinda
Pañha, at the end of his reign Menander I
Menander I
became a Buddhist
Buddhist
arhat,[15] a fact also echoed by Plutarch, who explains that his relics were shared and enshrined.[16]

A coin of Menander I
Menander I
(r.160-135 BC) with a dharmacakra and a palm.

The ubiquitous symbol of the elephant in Indo-Greek coinage may also have been associated with Buddhism, as suggested by the parallel between coins of Antialcidas
Antialcidas
and Menander II, where the elephant in the coins of Antialcidas
Antialcidas
holds the same relationship to Zeus
Zeus
and Nike as the Buddhist
Buddhist
wheel on the coins of Menander II. When the Zoroastrian Indo-Parthian Kingdom
Indo-Parthian Kingdom
invaded North India
India
in the 1st century AD, they adopted a large part of the symbolism of Indo-Greek coinage, but refrained from ever using the elephant, suggesting that its meaning was not merely geographical.

Vitarka Mudra
Mudra
gestures on Indo-Greek coinage. Top: Divinities Tyche and Zeus. Bottom: Depiction of the Indo-Greek kings Nicias
Nicias
and Menander II.

Finally, after the reign of Menander I, several Indo-Greek rulers, such as Amyntas Nikator, Nicias, Peukolaos, Hermaeus, Hippostratos
Hippostratos
and Menander II, depicted themselves or their Greek deities forming with the right hand a benediction gesture identical to the Buddhist
Buddhist
vitarka mudra (thumb and index joined together, with other fingers extended), which in Buddhism
Buddhism
signifies the transmission of Buddha's teaching. Cities[edit] According to Ptolemy, Greek cities were founded by the Greco-Bactrians in northern India. Menander established his capital in Sagala
Sagala
(modern Sialkot, Punjab, Pakistan) one of the centers of the blossoming Buddhist
Buddhist
culture.[17] A large Greek city built by Demetrius and rebuilt by Menander has been excavated at the archaeological site of Sirkap
Sirkap
near Taxila, where Buddhist
Buddhist
stupas were standing side-by-side with Hindu
Hindu
and Greek temples, indicating religious tolerance and syncretism. Scriptures[edit] Evidence of direct religious interaction between Greek and Buddhist thought during the period include the Milinda Pañha
Milinda Pañha
or "Questions of Menander", a Pali-language discourse in the platonic style held between Menander I
Menander I
and the Buddhist
Buddhist
monk Nagasena.

According to the Mahavamsa, the Ruwanwelisaya
Ruwanwelisaya
in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, was dedicated by a 30,000-strong Yona
Yona
delegation from Alexandria on the Caucasus
Alexandria on the Caucasus
around 130 BC.

The Mahavamsa, ch. 29, records that during Menander's reign, a Greek thera (elder monk) named Mahadharmaraksita
Mahadharmaraksita
led 30,000 Buddhist
Buddhist
monks from "the Greek city of Alexandria" (possibly Alexandria on the Caucasus, around 150 kilometres (93 mi) north of today's Kabul
Kabul
in Afghanistan), to Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
for the dedication of a stupa, indicating that Buddhism
Buddhism
flourished in Menander's territory and that Greeks took a very active part in it.[18] Several Buddhist
Buddhist
dedications by Greeks in India
India
are recorded, such as that of the Greek meridarch (civil governor of a province) named Theodorus, describing in Kharosthi how he enshrined relics of the Buddha. The inscriptions were found on a vase inside a stupa, dated to the reign of Menander or one of his successors in the 1st century BC.[19] Finally, Buddhist
Buddhist
tradition recognizes Menander as one of the great benefactors of the faith, together with Ashoka
Ashoka
and Kanishka the Great. Buddhist
Buddhist
manuscripts in cursive Greek have been found in Afghanistan, praising various Buddhas and including mentions of the Mahayana
Mahayana
figure of "Lokesvararaja Buddha" (λωγοασφαροραζοβοδδο). These manuscripts have been dated later than the 2nd century AD.[20] Kushan
Kushan
empire (1st–3rd century AD)[edit] Main article: Kushan
Kushan
Empire The Kushan
Kushan
Empire, one of the five tribes of the Yuezhi, settled in Bactria
Bactria
around 125 BC, displacing the Greco-Bactrians and invading the northern parts of Pakistan
Pakistan
and India
India
from around AD 1. By that time they had already been in contact with Greek culture and the Indo-Greek kingdoms for more than a century. They used the Greek script to write their language, as exemplified by their coins and their adoption of the Greek alphabet. The absorption of Greek historical and mythological culture is suggested by Kushan
Kushan
sculptures representing Dionysiac scenes or even the story of the Trojan Horse
Trojan Horse
and it is probable that Greek communities remained under Kushan
Kushan
rule.[citation needed]

Hellenistic
Hellenistic
culture in the Indian subcontinent: Greek clothes, amphoras, wine and music. Detail from Chakhil-i-Ghoundi Stupa, Hadda, Gandhara, 1st century AD.

The Kushan
Kushan
king Kanishka, who honored Zoroastrian, Greek and Brahmanic deities as well as the Buddha
Buddha
and was famous for his religious syncretism, convened the Fourth Buddhist council around AD 100 in Kashmir
Kashmir
in order to redact the Sarvastivadin canon. Some of Kanishka's coins bear the earliest representations of the Buddha
Buddha
on a coin (around AD 120), in Hellenistic
Hellenistic
style and with the word "Boddo" in Greek script. Kanishka also had the original Gandhari Prakrit
Prakrit
Mahāyāna sūtras translated into Sanskrit, "a turning point in the evolution of the Buddhist
Buddhist
literary canon"[21] The Kanishka casket, dated to the first year of Kanishka's reign in AD 127, was signed by a Greek artist named Agesilas, who oversaw work at Kanishka's stupas (cetiya), confirming the direct involvement of Greeks with Buddhist
Buddhist
realizations at such a late date. Philosophical influences[edit] Several philosophers, including Pyrrho, Anaxarchus and Onesicritus, are said to have accompanied Alexander in his eastern campaigns. During the 18 months they were in India, they were able to interact with Indian ascetics, generally described as Gymnosophists
Gymnosophists
("naked philosophers"). Pyrrho
Pyrrho
returned to Greece and founded Pyrrhonism, the first Western school of skepticism. The Greek biographer Diogenes Laërtius explained that Pyrrho's equanimity and detachment from the world were acquired in India.[22] Pyrrho
Pyrrho
was directly influenced by Buddhism
Buddhism
in developing his philosophy, which is based on Pyrrho's interpretation of the Buddhist
Buddhist
Three marks of existence.[23] Another of these philosophers, Onesicritus, a Cynic, is said by Strabo to have learnt in India
India
the following precepts: "That nothing that happens to a man is bad or good, opinions being merely dreams. ... That the best philosophy [is] that which liberates the mind from [both] pleasure and grief".[12] The philosopher Hegesias of Cyrene, from the city of Cyrene where Magas of Cyrene
Magas of Cyrene
ruled, is thought by some to have been influenced by the teachings of Aśoka's Buddhist
Buddhist
missionaries.[24] Artistic influences[edit] Main article: Greco- Buddhist
Buddhist
art Numerous works of Greco-Buddhist art
Greco-Buddhist art
display the intermixing of Greek and Buddhist
Buddhist
influences in such creation centers as Gandhara. The subject matter of Gandharan art was definitely Buddhist, while most motifs were of Western Asiatic or Hellenistic
Hellenistic
origin. Anthropomorphic representation of the Buddha[edit]

An aniconic representation of Mara's assault on the Buddha, 2nd century AD, Amaravathi village, Guntur district, India.

Although there is still some debate, the first anthropomorphic representations of the Buddha
Buddha
himself are often considered a result of the Greco- Buddhist
Buddhist
interaction. Before this innovation, Buddhist
Buddhist
art was "aniconic": the Buddha
Buddha
was only represented through his symbols (an empty throne, the Bodhi
Bodhi
Tree, Buddha
Buddha
footprints, the Dharmachakra). This reluctance towards anthropomorphic representations of the Buddha, and the sophisticated development of aniconic symbols to avoid it (even in narrative scenes where other human figures would appear), seem to be connected to one of the Buddha’s sayings reported in the Digha Nikaya
Digha Nikaya
that discouraged representations of himself after the extinction of his body.[25] Probably not feeling bound by these restrictions, and because of "their cult of form, the Greeks were the first to attempt a sculptural representation of the Buddha".[26][page needed] In many parts of the Ancient World, the Greeks did develop syncretic divinities, that could become a common religious focus for populations with different traditions: a well-known example is Serapis, introduced by Ptolemy
Ptolemy
I Soter in Egypt, who combined aspects of Greek and Egyptian Gods. In India
India
as well, it was only natural for the Greeks to create a single common divinity by combining the image of a Greek god-king (Apollo, or possibly the deified founder of the Indo-Greek Kingdom, Demetrius I of Bactria), with the traditional physical characteristics of the Buddha.

Standing Buddha, Gandhara, 1st century AD.

Many of the stylistic elements in the representations of the Buddha point to Greek influence: himation, the contrapposto stance of the upright figures (see: 1st–2nd century Gandhara
Gandhara
standing Buddhas, the stylized curly hair and ushnisha apparently derived from the style of the Apollo
Apollo
Belvedere (330 BC) and the measured quality of the faces, all rendered with strong artistic realism. A large quantity of sculptures combining Buddhist
Buddhist
and purely Hellenistic
Hellenistic
styles and iconography were excavated at the modern site of Hadda, Afghanistan. The curly hair of Buddha
Buddha
is described in the famous list of the physical characteristics of the Buddha
Buddha
in the Buddhist
Buddhist
sutras. The hair with curls turning to the right is first described in the Pāli canon; we find the same description in the Dāsāṣṭasāhasrikā prajñāpāramitā.[citation needed] Greek artists were most probably the authors of these early representations of the Buddha, in particular the standing statues, which display "a realistic treatment of the folds and on some even a hint of modelled volume that characterizes the best Greek work. This is Classical or Hellenistic
Hellenistic
Greek, not archaizing Greek transmitted by Persia or Bactria, nor distinctively Roman."[27] The Greek stylistic influence on the representation of the Buddha, through its idealistic realism, also permitted a very accessible, understandable and attractive visualization of the ultimate state of enlightenment described by Buddhism, allowing it reach a wider audience:

One of the distinguishing features of the Gandharan school of art that emerged in north-west India
India
is that it has been clearly influenced by the naturalism of the Classical Greek style. Thus, while these images still convey the inner peace that results from putting the Buddha's doctrine into practice, they also give us an impression of people who walked and talked, etc. and slept much as we do. I feel this is very important. These figures are inspiring because they do not only depict the goal, but also the sense that people like us can achieve it if we try. — 14th Dalai Lama[28]

During the following centuries, this anthropomorphic representation of the Buddha
Buddha
defined the canon of Buddhist
Buddhist
art, but progressively evolved to incorporate more Indian and Asian elements. Hellenized Buddhist
Buddhist
pantheon[edit] See also: Buddhist art
Buddhist art
and Greco- Buddhist
Buddhist
art

Herculean depiction of Vajrapani
Vajrapani
(right), as the protector of the Buddha, 2nd century AD Gandhara, British Museum.

Several other Buddhist
Buddhist
deities may have been influenced by Greek gods. For example, Heracles
Heracles
with a lion-skin, the protector deity of Demetrius I of Bactria, "served as an artistic model for Vajrapani, a protector of the Buddha"[29] (See[30]). In Japan, this expression further translated into the wrath-filled and muscular Niō guardian gods of the Buddha, standing today at the entrance of many Buddhist temples.

A Buddhist
Buddhist
coin of Kanishka I, with legend ΒΟΔΔΟ "Boddo" (=the Buddha) in Greek script on the reverse.

According to Katsumi Tanabe, professor at Chūō University, Japan, besides Vajrapani, Greek influence also appears in several other gods of the Mahayana
Mahayana
pantheon such as the Japanese Fūjin, inspired from the Greek divinity Boreas through the Greco- Buddhist
Buddhist
Wardo, or the mother deity Hariti
Hariti
inspired by Tyche.[31] In addition, forms such as garland-bearing cherubs, vine scrolls, and such semi-human creatures as the centaur and triton, are part of the repertory of Hellenistic
Hellenistic
art introduced by Greco-Roman artists in the service of the Kushan
Kushan
court. Exchanges[edit] Gandharan proselytism in the East[edit] See also: Silk Road
Silk Road
transmission of Buddhism, Greco-Buddhist monasticism, and Dayuan

Blue-eyed Central Asian monk teaching East-Asian monk. A fresco from the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha
Buddha
Caves, dated to the 9th or 10th century (Kara-Khoja Kingdom).

Greek monks played a direct role in the upper hierarchy of Buddhism, and in its early dissemination. During the rule (165 BC - 135 BC) of the Greco-Bactrian King Menander I
Menander I
(Pali: "Milinda"), Mahadharmaraksita
Mahadharmaraksita
(literally translated as 'Great Teacher/Preserver of the Dharma') was "a Greek (Pali: Yona, lit. Ionian) Buddhist
Buddhist
head monk," according to the Mahavamsa
Mahavamsa
(Chap. XXIX), who led 30,000 Buddhist
Buddhist
monks from "the Greek city of Alasandra" (Alexandria of the Caucasus, around 150 km north of today's Kabul
Kabul
in Afghanistan), to Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
for the dedication of the Great Stupa
Stupa
in Anuradhapura. Dharmaraksita
Dharmaraksita
(Sanskrit), or Dhammarakkhita (Pali) (translation: Protected by the Dharma), was one of the missionaries sent by the Mauryan
Mauryan
emperor Ashoka
Ashoka
to proselytize the Buddhist
Buddhist
faith. He is described as being a Greek (Pali: "Yona", lit. "Ionian") in the Mahavamsa, and his activities are indicative of the strength of the Hellenistic
Hellenistic
Greek involvement during the formative centuries of Buddhism. Indeed, Menander I
Menander I
was famously converted to Buddhism
Buddhism
by Nagasena, who was a student of the Greek Buddhist
Buddhist
monk Dharmaraksita. Menander is said to have reached enlightenment as an arhat under Nagasena's guidance and is recorded as a great patron of Buddhism. The dialogue of the Greek king Menander I
Menander I
( Pali
Pali
"Milinda") with the monk Nagasena
Nagasena
comprises the Pali
Pali
Buddhist
Buddhist
work known as the Milinda
Milinda
Panha. Buddhist
Buddhist
monks from the region of Gandhara
Gandhara
in Afghanistan, where Greco- Buddhism
Buddhism
was most influential, later played a key role in the development and the transmission of Buddhist
Buddhist
ideas in the direction of northern Asia. Greco- Buddhist
Buddhist
Kushan
Kushan
monks such as Lokaksema (c. 178 AD) travelled to the Chinese capital of Loyang, where they became the first translators of Buddhist
Buddhist
scriptures into Chinese.[32] Central Asian and East Asian Buddhist
Buddhist
monks appear to have maintained strong exchanges until around the 10th century, as indicated by the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha
Buddha
Caves frescos from the Tarim Basin. In legend too Bodhidharma, the founder of Chán-Buddhism, which later became Zen, and the legendary originator of the physical training of the Shaolin monks that led to the creation of Shaolin Kung Fu, is described as a Buddhist
Buddhist
monk from Central Asia
Central Asia
in the first Chinese references to him (Yan Xuan-Zhi, 547 AD).[33] Throughout Buddhist
Buddhist
art, Bodhidharma
Bodhidharma
is depicted as a rather ill-tempered, profusely bearded and wide-eyed barbarian, and he is referred as "The Blue-Eyed Barbarian" (碧眼胡:Bìyǎn hú) in Chinese Chan texts.[34] In 485 AD, according to the 7th century Chinese historic treatise Liang Shu, five monks from Gandhara
Gandhara
travelled to the country of Fusang
Fusang
("The country of the extreme East" beyond the sea, probably eastern Japan), where they introduced Buddhism:

" Fusang
Fusang
is located to the east of China, 20,000 li (1,500 kilometers) east of the state of Da Han (itself east of the state of Wa in modern Kyūshū, Japan). (...) In former times, the people of Fusang
Fusang
knew nothing of the Buddhist
Buddhist
religion, but in the second year of Da Ming of the Song dynasty
Song dynasty
(485 AD), five monks from Kipin ( Kabul
Kabul
region of Gandhara) travelled by ship to Fusang. They propagated Buddhist doctrine, circulated scriptures and drawings, and advised the people to relinquish worldly attachments. As a result the customs of Fusang changed" (Chinese: "扶桑在大漢國東二萬餘里,地在中國之東(...)其俗舊無佛法,宋大明二年,罽賓國嘗有比丘五人游行至其國,流通佛法,經像,教令出家,風 俗遂改.")

Two half-brothers from Gandhara, Asanga
Asanga
and Vasubandhu
Vasubandhu
(4th century), created the Yogacara
Yogacara
or "Mind-only" school of Mahayana
Mahayana
Buddhism, which through one of its major texts, the Lankavatara Sutra, became a founding block of Mahayana, and particularly Zen, philosophy. Greco- Buddhism
Buddhism
in the West[edit]

Kandahar Bilingual Rock Inscription
Kandahar Bilingual Rock Inscription
(Greek and Aramaic) 3rd century BC by Indian Buddhist
Buddhist
King Ashoka. This edict advocates the adoption of "godliness" using the Greek term Eusebeia for Dharma. Kabul
Kabul
Museum.

Intense westward physical exchange at that time along the Silk Road
Silk Road
is confirmed by the Roman craze for silk from the 1st century BC to the point that the Senate issued, in vain, several edicts to prohibit the wearing of silk, on economic and moral grounds. This is attested by at least three authors: Strabo
Strabo
(64/ 63 BC–c. 24 AD), Seneca the Younger (c. 3 BC–AD 65), and Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
(23–79 AD). The aforementioned Strabo
Strabo
and Plutarch
Plutarch
(c. 45–125 AD) also wrote about Indo-Greek Buddhist
Buddhist
king Menander, confirming that information about the Indo-Greek Buddhists was circulating throughout the Hellenistic world. Zarmanochegas
Zarmanochegas
(Zarmarus) (Ζαρμανοχηγὰς) was a monk of the Sramana
Sramana
tradition (possibly, but not necessarily a Buddhist) who, according to ancient historians such as Strabo
Strabo
and Dio Cassius, met Nicholas of Damascus in Antioch
Antioch
while Augustus
Augustus
(died AD 14) was ruling the Roman Empire, and shortly thereafter proceeded to Athens
Athens
where he burnt himself to death.[13][14] His story and tomb in Athens
Athens
were well-known over a century later. Plutarch
Plutarch
(died AD 120) in his Life of Alexander, after discussing the self-immolation of Calanus of India (Kalanos) witnessed by Alexander writes: "The same thing was done long after by another Indian who came with Caesar to Athens, where they still show you 'the Indian's Monument,'"[35] referring to Zarmanochegas' tomb in Roman Athens. Another century later the Christian church father Clement of Alexandria (died AD 215) mentioned Buddha
Buddha
by name in his Stromata (Bk I, Ch XV): "The Indian gymnosophists are also in the number, and the other barbarian philosophers. And of these there are two classes, some of them called Sarmanæ and others Brahmins. And those of the Sarmanæ who are called "Hylobii" neither inhabit cities, nor have roofs over them, but are clothed in the bark of trees, feed on nuts, and drink water in their hands. Like those called Encratites in the present day, they know not marriage nor begetting of children. Some, too, of the Indians obey the precepts of Buddha
Buddha
(Βούττα) whom, on account of his extraordinary sanctity, they have raised to divine honours."[36] Buddhist
Buddhist
gravestones from the Ptolemaic period
Ptolemaic period
have also been found in Alexandria in Egypt, decorated with depictions of the Dharma wheel.[37] The presence of Buddhists in Alexandria at this time is important, since "It was later in this very place that some of the most active centers of Christianity were established".[38] The pre-Christian monastic order of the Therapeutae
Therapeutae
is possibly a deformation of the Pāli
Pāli
word "Theravāda,"[39] a form of Buddhism, and the movement may have "almost entirely drawn (its) inspiration from the teaching and practices of Buddhist
Buddhist
asceticism".[40] They may even have been descendants of Asoka's emissaries to the West.[41] Buddhism
Buddhism
and Christianity[edit] Main articles: Buddhism
Buddhism
and Christianity and Buddhist
Buddhist
influences on Christianity

Queen Māyā's white elephant dream, and the conception of the Buddha. Gandhara, 2-3rd century AD.

Although the philosophical systems of Buddhism
Buddhism
and Christianity have evolved in rather different ways, the moral precepts advocated by Buddhism
Buddhism
from the time of Ashoka
Ashoka
through his edicts do have some similarities with the Christian moral precepts developed more than two centuries later: respect for life, respect for the weak, rejection of violence, pardon to sinners, tolerance. One theory is that these similarities may indicate the propagation of Buddhist
Buddhist
ideals into the Western World, with the Greeks acting as intermediaries and religious syncretists.[42]

"Scholars have often considered the possibility that Buddhism influenced the early development of Christianity. They have drawn attention to many parallels concerning the births, lives, doctrines, and deaths of the Buddha
Buddha
and Jesus" (Bentley, "Old World Encounters").

The story of the birth of the Buddha
Buddha
was well known in the West, and possibly influenced the story of the birth of Jesus: Saint Jerome
Jerome
(4th century AD) mentions the birth of the Buddha, who he says "was born from the side of a virgin,"[43] and the influential early Christian church father Clement of Alexandria
Clement of Alexandria
(died AD 215) mentioned Buddha (Βούττα) in his Stromata (Bk I, Ch XV).[36] The legend of Christian saints Barlaam and Josaphat
Barlaam and Josaphat
draws on the life of the Buddha. See also[edit]

Greco-Bactrian Kingdom Gandharan Buddhism Indo-Greek Kingdom Greco- Buddhist
Buddhist
Art Religions of the Indo-Greeks Buddhas of Bamyan Kushan
Kushan
Empire Mathura Pyrrho

Notes[edit]

^ Davies, Cuthbert Collin (1959). An Historical Atlas of the Indian Peninsula. Oxford University Press.  ^ Narain, A.K. (1976). The Coin
Coin
Types of the Indo-Greek Kings, 256-54 B.C. Ares. ISBN 0-89005-109-7.  ^ Hans Erich Stier, Ernst Kirsten, Ekkehard Aner. Grosser Atlas zur Weltgeschichte: Vorzeit. Altertum. Mittelalter. Neuzeit. Georg Westermann Verlag 1978, ISBN 3-14-100919-8. ^ Foltz, Religions of the Silk
Silk
Road, p. 43 ^ "The whole region from Phrygia to the Indus was subject to Seleucus. He crossed the Indus and waged war with Sandrocottus [Maurya], king of the Indians, who dwelt on the banks of that stream, until they came to an understanding with each other and contracted a marriage relationship. Some of these exploits were performed before the death of Antigonus and some afterward." Appian
Appian
History of Rome, The Syrian Wars 55 ^ For an English translation of the Greek edicts: Religions and Trade: Religious Formation, Transformation and Cross-Cultural Exchange between East and West. BRILL. 2 December 2013. pp. 65–. ISBN 978-90-04-25530-2.  ^ Rock Edict Nb.13, Full text of the Edicts of Ashoka. See Rock Edict 13 Archived 2013-10-28 at the Wayback Machine. ^ Rock Edict Nb13 (S. Dhammika) ^ Mahavamsa, chapter XII ^ Bhikkhu
Bhikkhu
Sujato. Abstract: Sects & Sectarianism. The Origin of the three existing Vinaya
Vinaya
lineages: Theravada, Dharmaguptaka, and Mulasarvastivada ^ Surviving fragments of Megasthenes:Full text ^ a b Strabo, XV.I.65: " Strabo
Strabo
XV.1". Perseus.tufts.edu. Retrieved 2010-09-01.  ^ a b Strabo, xv, 1, on the immolation of the Sramana
Sramana
in Athens (Paragraph 73). ^ a b Dio Cassius, liv, 9. ^ Extract of the Milinda
Milinda
Panha: "And afterwards, taking delight in the wisdom of the Elder, he handed over his kingdom to his son, and abandoning the household life for the houseless state, grew great in insight, and himself attained to Arahatship!" (The Questions of King Milinda, Translation
Translation
by T. W. Rhys Davids, 1890) ^ Plutarch
Plutarch
on Menander: "But when one Menander, who had reigned graciously over the Bactrians, died afterwards in the camp, the cities indeed by common consent celebrated his funerals; but coming to a contest about his relics, they were difficultly at last brought to this agreement, that his ashes being distributed, everyone should carry away an equal share, and they should all erect monuments to him." (Plutarch, "Political Precepts" Praec. reip. ger. 28, 6) p147–148 Full text ^ Milinda
Milinda
Panha, Chap. I ^ Thomas McEvilley (7 February 2012). The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies. Constable & Robinson. pp. 558–. ISBN 978-1-58115-933-2.  ^ Tarn, William Woodthorpe (24 June 2010). The Greeks in Bactria
Bactria
and India. Cambridge University Press. p. 391. ISBN 978-1-108-00941-6.  ^ Nicholas Sims-Williams, "A Bactrian Buddhist
Buddhist
Manuscript" ^ Foltz, Religions of the Silk
Silk
Road, p. 45 ^ "He would withdraw from the world and live in solitude, rarely showing himself to his relatives; this is because he had heard an Indian reproach Anaxarchus, telling him that he would never be able to teach others what is good while he himself danced attendance on kings in their court. He would maintain the same composure at all times." (Diogenes Laertius, IX.63 on Pyrrhon) ^ Beckwith, Christopher I. (2015). Greek Buddha: Pyrrho's Encounter with Early Buddhism
Buddhism
in Central Asia
Central Asia
(PDF). Princeton University Press. p. 28. ISBN 9781400866328.  ^ "The philosopher Hegesias of Cyrene
Hegesias of Cyrene
(nicknamed Peisithanatos, "The advocate of death") was a contemporary of Magas and was probably influenced by the teachings of the Buddhist
Buddhist
missionaries to Cyrene and Alexandria. His influence was such that he was ultimately prohibited from teaching." Jean-Marie Lafont, Inalco
Inalco
in "Les Dossiers d'Archéologie", No254, p.78 ^ "Due to the statement of the Master in the Dighanikaya disfavouring his representation in human form after the extinction of body, reluctance prevailed for some time". Also "Hinayanis opposed image worship of the Master due to canonical restrictions". R.C. Sharma, in "The Art of Mathura, India", Tokyo National Museum 2002, p.11 ^ Linssen, " Zen
Zen
Living" ^ Boardman[full citation needed] ^ 14th Dalai Lama, foreword to "Echoes of Alexander the Great", 2000. ^ Foltz, Religions of the Silk
Silk
Road, p. 44 ^ Images of the Herakles-influenced Vajrapani: Image 1, Image 2 Archived 2004-03-13 at the Wayback Machine. ^ Katsumi Tanabe, Alexander the Great: East-West Cultural Contact from Greece to Japan
Japan
(Tokyo: NHK Puromōshon and Tokyo National Museum, 2003). ^ Foltz, Richard, Religions of the Silk
Silk
Road, Palgrave Macmillan, 2nd edition, 2010, p. 46 ISBN 978-0-230-62125-1 ^ Broughton, Jeffrey L. (1999), The Bodhidharma
Bodhidharma
Anthology: The Earliest Records of Zen, Berkeley: University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-21972-4. pp. 54-55. ^ Soothill, William Edward; Hodous, Lewis (1995), A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist
Buddhist
Terms, London: RoutledgeCurzon https://web.archive.org/web/20140303182232/http://buddhistinformatics.ddbc.edu.tw/glossaries/files/soothill-hodous.ddbc.pdf ^ Plutarch. 'Life of Alexander' in The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans. (trans John Dryden and revised Arthur Hugh Clough) The Modern Library (Random House Inc). New York.p850 ^ a b Clement of Alexandria
Clement of Alexandria
Stromata. BkI, Ch XV http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf02.vi.iv.i.xv.html (Accessed 19 Dec 2012) ^ Tarn, The Greeks in Bactria
Bactria
and India ^ Robert Linssen, Zen
Zen
living ^ According to the linguist Zacharias P. Thundy ^ " Zen
Zen
living", Robert Linssen[page needed] ^ "The Original Jesus" (Element Books, Shaftesbury, 1995), Elmar R Gruber, Holger Kersten ^ "Certain Indian notions may have made their way westward into the budding Christianity of the Mediterranean world through the channels of the Greek diaspora." Foltz, Religions of the Silk
Silk
Road, p. 44 ^ McEvilley, p391

References[edit]

Vassiliades, Demetrios Th. 2016. Greeks and Buddhism. Athens, Indo-Hellenic Society for Culture & Development ELINEPA. Alexander the Great: East-West Cultural Contacts from Greece to Japan. Tokyo: NHK Puromōshon and Tokyo National Museum, 2003. Baums, Stefan. 2012. “Catalog and Revised Texts and Translations of Gandharan Reliquary Inscriptions.” In: David Jongeward, Elizabeth Errington, Richard Salomon and Stefan Baums, Gandharan Buddhist Reliquaries, p. 204, Seattle: Early Buddhist
Buddhist
Manuscripts Project (Gandharan Studies, Volume 1). Baums, Stefan, and Andrew Glass. 2002– . Catalog of Gāndhārī Texts, no. CKI 32 Jerry H. Bentley. Old World Encounters: Cross-cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-modern Times. Oxford–NY: Oxford University Press, 1993. ISBN 0-19-507639-7 John Boardman. The Diffusion of Classical Art in Antiquity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-691-03680-2 Shravasti Dhammika, trans. The Edicts of King Asoka: An English Rendering. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist
Buddhist
Publication Society, 1993. ISBN 955-24-0104-6 Richard Foltz. Religions of the Silk
Silk
Road, 2nd edition, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010 ISBN 978-0-230-62125-1 Georgios T. Halkias, “When the Greeks Converted the Buddha: Asymmetrical Transfers of Knowledge in Indo-Greek Cultures”, in Trade and Religions: Religious Formation, Transformation and Cross-Cultural Exchange between East and West, ed. Volker Rabens. Leiden: Brill, 2013, p. 65–115. Robert Linssen. Living Zen. NY: Grove Press, 1958. ISBN 0-8021-3136-0 Lowenstein, Tom (1996). The vision of the Buddha. Duncan Baird Publishers. ISBN 1-903296-91-9.  Thomas McEvilley. The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies. NY: Allworth Press and the School of Visual Arts, 2002. ISBN 1-58115-203-5 William Woodthorpe Tarn. The Greeks in Bactria
Bactria
and India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1951, ISBN 81-215-0220-9 Marian Wenzel. Echoes of Alexander the Great: Silk
Silk
Route Portraits from Gandhara, foreword by the Dalai Lama. Eklisa Anstalt, 2000. ISBN 1-58886-014-0 Paul Williams. Mahāyāna Buddhism: the Doctrinal Foundations. London–NY: Routledge, 1989. ISBN 0-415-02537-0

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