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(The failure to) Go West

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 6:23 am
by retrofuturist
Greetings,

Buddhism seemed to travel happily in an Eastern direction across the Asian continent... I'm just wondering what forces stopped it making much progress in the westerly direction too?

I recall seeing that there was once some kind of Buddhist presence in Pakistan and Greece, but what exactly happened? What stopped the Dhamma's westward march?

Metta,
Retro. :)

Re: (The failure to) Go West

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 8:11 am
by appicchato
Hi Paul,

Hmmm...good question...

I just went here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Se ... lla-search" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Just starting to snoop around a little though, and not much...yet... :reading:

Re: (The failure to) Go West

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 8:50 am
by Dmytro
Hi Retro,

You may find interesting the page:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Therapeut%C3%A6" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Metta, Dmytro

Re: (The failure to) Go West

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 9:09 am
by retrofuturist
A post from Genkaku that he could not get to stick...
I don't know the historical answer, but the first thing into my head was that it did make it (via the Silk Route?) to Afghanistan where the Taliban, in later times, blew up the statues at Bamiyan. And the spread to Afghanistan was more than cosmetic if I judge from a friend of mine who said she was once doing zazen behind a large Buddha statue in Afghanistan when someone passed by and dropped a few coins in her lap.
Metta,
Retro. :)

Re: (The failure to) Go West

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 1:19 pm
by christopher:::
Dmytro wrote:Hi Retro,

You may find interesting the page:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Therapeut%C3%A6" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

excerpts:

Therapeutae

The Therapeutae (male, pl.) and Therapeutrides (female, pl.), according to the account in De vita contemplativa by the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 BCE - 50 CE) who appears to have been personally acquainted with them, were "philosophers" (cf. I.2) that lived on a low hill by the Lake Mareotis close to Alexandria in circumstances resembling lavrite life (cf. III.22), and were "the best" of a kind given to "perfect goodness" that "exists in many places in the inhabited world" (cf. III.21). Philo derives the name Therapeutae/Therapeutides from Greek θεραπεύω in the sense of "cure" or "worship" (cf. I.2), whilst Pseudo-Dionysius favours the meaning "servants".

According to Philo, the Therapeutae were widely distributed in the Ancient world, among the Greeks and beyond in the non-Greek world of the "Barbarians", with one of ther major gathering point being in Alexandria, in the area of the Lake Mareotis. They lived chastely with utter simplicity; they "first of all laid down temperance as a sort of foundation for the soul to rest upon, proceed to build up other virtues on this foundation" (Philo). They were dedicated to the contemplative life, and their activities for six days of the week consisted of ascetic practices, fasting, solitary prayers and the study of the scriptures in their isolated cells, each with its separate holy sanctuary, and enclosed courtyard...

::::::

The similarities between the Therapeutae and Buddhist monasticism, a tradition earlier by several centuries, combined with Indian evidence of Buddhist missionary activity to the Mediterranean around 250 BCE (the Edicts of Ashoka), have been pointed out. The Therapeutae would have been the descendants of Ashoka's emissaries to the West, and would have influenced the early formation of Christianity. The linguist Zacharias P. Thundy also suggests that the word "Therapeutae" is only a Hellenisation of the Indian Pali word for traditional Buddhists, Theravada. In general, Egypt had intense trade and cultural contacts with India during the period, as described in the 1st century CE Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.

Asoka_Kaart.gif
Asoka_Kaart.gif (19.67 KiB) Viewed 2283 times
Fascinating!!

:namaste:

Re: (The failure to) Go West

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 6:51 pm
by rowyourboat
I wonder if they were somehow wiped out or fell out of favour by a more user friendly religion?

Re: (The failure to) Go West

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 8:21 pm
by BubbaBuddhist
and would have influenced the early formation of Christianity.

How interesting, especially in light of Gnosticism, which had many ideals similar to Buddhism and which was unfortunately utterly destroyed.

J

Re: (The failure to) Go West

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 8:38 pm
by DNS
Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face,
tho' they come from the ends of the earth!


Rudyard Kipling


I think it was the cultural and religious differences that kept it from spreading West. But thank goodness for Anagarika Dharmapala, Henry Olcott, and others who did make it come full circle to the West and back again.

Re: (The failure to) Go West

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 8:46 pm
by Mexicali
There are a handful of surviving references to Buddhism in the Hellenistic world scattered around. One says that a Greek monarch converted to Buddhism but there's no independent verification of this.

Not the only, or even main, factor, but one of the huge checks to Buddhism's westward expansion was the rise of Islam.

Re: (The failure to) Go West

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 9:00 pm
by vitellius
Here is an English translation of the only account of Therapeutae monks:
http://cornerstonepublications.org/Phil ... iants.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Re: (The failure to) Go West

Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 12:04 am
by genkaku
Oleksandr wrote:
Here is an English translation of the only account of Therapeutae monks:
http://cornerstonepublications.org/Phil ... iants.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Interesting, if not easy, reading. Thanks.

Re: (The failure to) Go West

Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 12:40 am
by BubbaBuddhist
I love stuff like this. Thanks!

J

Re: (The failure to) Go West

Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 3:20 am
by christopher:::
Pretty fascinating implications. This would make a good movie/book...
Move over DiVinci Codes....

The Therapeutae of Antiquity


Check out:

300 CE -- Porphyry

ON ABSTINENCE FROM ANIMAL FOOD
BOOK 4: 6-22

Re: (The failure to) Go West

Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 5:04 am
by Individual
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Buddhism seemed to travel happily in an Eastern direction across the Asian continent... I'm just wondering what forces stopped it making much progress in the westerly direction too?

I recall seeing that there was once some kind of Buddhist presence in Pakistan and Greece, but what exactly happened? What stopped the Dhamma's westward march?

Metta,
Retro. :)
Christians and Muslims with swords, I think. Thankfully, it snuck its way in under the guise of secular philosophy and was mysteriously re-discovered in modern times, and is slowly chipping away at traditional western superstitions and misconceptions.

Re: (The failure to) Go West

Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 5:09 am
by pink_trike
Individual wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Buddhism seemed to travel happily in an Eastern direction across the Asian continent... I'm just wondering what forces stopped it making much progress in the westerly direction too?

I recall seeing that there was once some kind of Buddhist presence in Pakistan and Greece, but what exactly happened? What stopped the Dhamma's westward march?

Metta,
Retro. :)
and is slowly chipping away at traditional western superstitions and misconceptions.
...or layering more superstition and misconceptions on top of multiple layers of delusion and magical thinking. Not all types of "Buddhism" are appropriate for the collective Western mind in the condition its in, imo.

Re: (The failure to) Go West

Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 5:35 am
by christopher:::
pink_trike wrote: ...or layering more superstition and misconceptions on top of multiple layers of delusion and magical thinking. Not all types of "Buddhism" are appropriate for the collective Western mind in the condition its in, imo.
Fighting words, lol... :tongue:

Image

Re: (The failure to) Go West

Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 5:50 am
by retrofuturist
Greetings pink_trike,
pink_trike wrote:Not all types of "Buddhism" are appropriate for the collective Western mind in the condition its in, imo.
...says the self-confessed non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training. ;)

Metta,
Retro. :)

Re: (The failure to) Go West

Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 5:58 am
by pink_trike
After 10 years of intensive psychotherapy, a monkish life, and nearly 3 decades of practice. Whippersnapper. ;)

I've seen too many people here in the U.S. over the last 30 years lose their minds after they become involved with some types of Buddhism, and worked with too many of them in my private practice. If I was the king of the world, I'd mandate that Westerners start with a decade of strict Theravada _practice_

Re: (The failure to) Go West

Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 7:34 am
by Dmytro
Hi,
There are a handful of surviving references to Buddhism in the Hellenistic world scattered around. One says that a Greek monarch converted to Buddhism but there's no independent verification of this.
In my opinion, there is independent verification:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menander_I" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Metta, Dmytro

Re: (The failure to) Go West

Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 12:59 pm
by genkaku
If I was the king of the world, I'd mandate that Westerners start with a decade of strict Theravada _practice_
Dear PT -- Crass (but apt) phrase alert!

There used to be a saying that went something like, "he's so dumb, he'd f*** up a wet dream." And I imagine that any one of us might be accused of the same. In my view, there just plain does not exist a thing that is so good or true or warming that it cannot lead a person down some silly or painful garden path: It is the individual, after all, and his or her understanding or misunderstanding that counts ... not the thing that is so good and pure.

To my way of thinking, people choose their lies. Maybe very good lies, maybe very deluded lies, maybe some mixture ... it depends on the individual, not on the praise or blame that anyone else might heap on the lie. But the important part of this scenario is not the cringing that may follow the use of the word "lie," but the willingness, based on honest-to-goodness suffering, to get to the bottom of that lie ... to see things through ... right down to the truth.

Buddhism is not built for people who get things right. If they got things right, why would they bother with Buddhism in the first place? I simply don't know a practicing Buddhist who has not made and who does not continue to make mistakes ... sometimes things that can be corrected, sometimes leading to some very profound psychological misadventures. But whatever their mistakes, the imperatives of suffering mean, for many people, that they feel they must choose some way to find relief. Sometimes they choose wisely. Sometimes not. Either way, there is suffering and a longing to end that suffering.

Is Buddhism a better choice than, say, skeet shooting? Maybe so, but I have not consulted with the skeet shooters of this world, so the fact is I don't honestly know. I do know what I have chosen. I do try to avoid subtle and gross mistakes ... and often fail. But is there a fail-safe way, even in Buddhism? I doubt it. There is just this effort, whatever it is. There are pointers from good friends and a number of enemies, but in the end, there is just this effort ... and a hope that I will see things through for once in my life.

Sorry for all the blither.