Thursday, August 13, 2009


Religion can never reform mankind
because religion is slavery.

Seated Buddha (Flickr photo),Pakistan or Afghanistan, ancient region of Gandhara.

A myth is an idea that, while widely believed, is false. The religious myth is the most powerful device ever created and serves to manipulate and control society.

Certain Buddhologists have always doubted that Gautama Buddha was a historical person; there just isn't enough historical evidence to substantiate the claim. Since it's not possible to prove a negative, such as that Buddha never existed, skeptics are willing to concede that he could have been made up from a composite of several ascetics that perhaps flourished in Northwest India around mid-first millennium BCE. From archaeological and other evidence, it's likely that the religion was based on an Indo-Scythian who lived sometime in the 5th to 4th centuries BCE in the Greater Gandhara region, not in the Nepal Terai as is generally believed. The Indian name for Scythians is Saka (or Sakya); hence Buddha is also known as Sakamuni (or Sakyamuni), the sage of the Sakas. When the center of power of the Mauryan empire shifted east, the story of the Buddha—which had been transmitted orally for centuries—was written down and relocated to the Indo-Gangetic plains. But the Sakyans still retained the memory of the sage as one of their own. That is why we find that more—and earlier—sculpture and architecture made in the service of Buddhism has been found in Greater Gandhara than in any other part of ancient South Asia, and the earliest anthropomorphic images of the Buddha show distinctly Aryan features. And that is why the Sakas were most ardent in spreading Buddhism along the silk road into Central Asia, eventually to invigorate the air of China and Japan.

Map of Gandhara, (compiled and drawn by John C. Huntington, 1989, The Ohio State University), showing high density of Buddhist sites. Click to enlarge.
Only in Gandhara (Afghanistan) is it possible to make startling discoveries even today like Mes Aynak, a sprawling, approximately 1,600-year-old Buddhist monastery. [The claim is made that the site is 2,600 or even 5,000 years old; presumably this refers to the fact that beneath the Buddhist site there were older pre-Buddhist sites.]

Buddha statues at Mes Aynak, Afghanistan.

It could never happen in Nepal or North India in a thousand years because these lands were never the real homeland of Buddhism.

E. Senart was a late 19th century Buddhologist who leaned towards the idea that Buddha was a mythological creation, but for practical purposes he's willing to give Buddha the benefit of the doubt and concede he may have been historical. 

He claims that either the historical data are the primary nucleus of the story while the legendary elements represent an ulterior action, or inversely, the mythological traits form a connected whole which is grafted on  the historical data, if there really are any. He claims that it is the first point of view that has been held up to the present time and he seeks to show that we ought decidedly to substitute the second.

Here's a quote from his essay, E. Senart, Essai sur la légende de Buddha, 2e édit. 1882, pp. xi-xii.

"A sect has a founder, Buddhism like every other. I do not pretend to demonstrate that Sakyamuni never existed. The question is perfectly distinct from the object of this treatise, It follows, certainly, from the foregoing researches that hitherto the sacred personage has been given too much historical consistence, that the tissue of fables grouped around his name has been too facilely transformed, by arbitrary piecings, into a species of more or less unplausible history. Skepticism acquires from our analyses, in some regards, a greater precision: still, it does not follow that we should indefinitely extend its limits. In this epic and dogmatic biography, indeed, there remain very few elements which sustain a close examination; but to say this is not to say that among them there has not entered some authentic reminiscence. The distinction is certainly very difficult. Where we are not in a position to show for a tradition its exact counterpart in other cycles, a decision is an extremely delicate process. All that is suspicious ought not necessarily to be eliminated: it is right that whatever is rigorously admissible ought to be retained. There is no alleged deity—not Vishnu, or Krishna, or Heracles—for whom we might not construct a sufficiently reasonable biography by proceeding as has hitherto been done in regard to the legend of Buddha.
A clip from The God Who Wasn't There. Shows Jesus Christ was a myth and how religions can be founded on a lies.
"Under these reserves, I willingly recognize that there remain a certain number of elements which we have no absolute reason for thinking apocryphal: they may represent real historical reminiscences: to that, for my part, I have no objection. It is possible that the founder of Buddhism may have come from a tribe of Sakyas, though the pretended history of that race is certainly quite fictitious. It is possible that he may have come of a royal line, that he may have been born in a city called Kapilavastu, though this name arouses grave suspicions, opening the door to either mythological or allegorical interpretations, and the existence of such a town is very feebly certified. The name Gotama is certainly historic and well-known, but it is a borrowed name which tells us little. Much trouble has been taken to explain how this strictly Brahmanic patronymic might have passed to a family of Kshatriyas, [the warrior caste] . Apart from Buddha, it is above all closely associated with his supposed aunt, the legendary Prajápati... . I do not speak of his genealogy: it has certainly no value, being borrowed whole from epic heroes, in particular from Rama. On the other hand, it may well be that the teacher of the Buddhists entered on his religious career at the age of thirty-nine ..... ."

Dr. Ranajit Pal has pointed out that many famous cities in modern India had older counterparts in Iran-Baluchistan, which were parts of ancient Greater India, and that Sir William Jones' contention that Patna in eastern India was Megasthenes' Palibothra, (Pataliputra), was a fatal error that has no archaeological basis. Dr. Pal claims that Jones' view that the crucial state of Magadha was Bihar is also baseless. The first epigraphic mention of Magadha is an Asokan edict in faraway Bairat, and there is no evidence for an ancient Magadha in Bihar. Magan, in west-Baluchistan, must have been the early Magadha, he says.
Fatal errors indeed because they misled Sir Alexander Cunningham into mislocating Buddhist sites. The best circumstantial evidence I have for this is found in the introduction to the Vatsyayana Kamasutra, a third century CE textbook on erotic love written in Sanskrit, translated and introduced by Wendy Doniger:
"Its detailed knowledge of Northwestern India, and its pejorative attitude to other parts of India, particularly the South and the East, suggest that it was written in the Northwest; on the other hand, its reference to Pataliputra alone among cities suggests that it may have been written in Pataliputra (near the present city of Patna, in Bihar, as Yashodhara (who wrote the definitive commentary on this text, in the thirteenth century) believes to be the case."
Does that make sense? Doniger says the Kamasutra speaks pejoratively about the South and the East, and was thus probably written in the Northwest. But the only reference to a city is of Pataliputra, which, because of Cunningham, she (and practically everyone else) believes to have been in Bihar, in the East. Doesn't it make more sense that Pataliputra was in the Northwest, as the Kamasutra and Yashodhara in the thirteenth century clearly assumed?
Dr. Pal has also pointed out that had the Buddhist canon been formulated at Gaya, Varanasi or Nalanda we would have had ancient manuscripts from these places. But the oldest documents come from Gandhara. This cannot be accidental, he says.
Anyway, I'm running ahead of myself; just wanted to give credit to Dr. Pal for being first with the idea that Buddha was not from the Nepal Terai, but from Seistan, or Gandhara. His website: A New Non-Jonesian History of the World.

I have drawn on the contributions made by earlier scholars and researchers in support of my conclusions; where I have done so, I have cited the sources. Of course the opinions expressed or conclusions reached here are tentative. In fact, I shall be satisfied if they are regarded as worthy of serious consideration and lead to discussion.


"Behold, he shall come up like clouds,
And his chariots like a whirlwind.
His horses are swifter than eagles.
Woe to us, for we are plundered!"

Thus prophesized Jeremiah of Judea around 627 BCE, (Jeremiah, 4:13). In about 625 BCE the horsemen known to the Assyrians as Iskhuzai, and Greeks as Skythos or Skutai, (Scythian), invaded Syria and Judea and would press as far south as Egypt.

Scythian nobleman and his wife on the Central Asian steppes. (National Geographic).
The Scythians were a nomadic Central Asian steppe people; branches of these people migrated south into Persia and India, (where they are called Sakas), and west into the Black Sea area. Herodotus was the first to write a detailed history of them; many of his observations have been proven as reliable by recent archaeological findings. Here he describes the burial of their kings under huge mounds.
Their kings are buried in the territory of the Gerrhians, at the point where, traveling upstream, the Borysthenes ceases to be navigable. On the death of one of their kings, they dig a huge square pit in the ground there, and when this is ready they take up the wax-covered corpse (which has previously had its stomach opened up, cleaned out, filled with chopped galingale, incense, celery-seeds, and aniseed, and then sewn back up again) and carry it in a wagon to another tribe. The people to whom the corpse has been brought do what the Royal Scythians have already done: they cut one of their ears, shave their heads, slash their arms, mutilate their foreheads and noses, and pierce their left hands with arrows. Then the king’s corpse is taken on its wagon to another one of the tribes within the Scythian realm, with its retinue being made up of people from the tribe to which the corpse had previously been transported. Finally, after going around all the tribes with the corpse, they come to the Gerrhians, who are the most remote of the tribes within the Scythian realm, and to the tombs. Here, they lay the corpse in his grave on a pallet. Then they stick spears into the ground on both sides of the corpse and make a roof out of the wooden planks covered with rush matting. There is still open space left within the grave, and in it they bury, after throttling them to death, one of the king’s concubines, his wine-server, cook, groom, steward, and messenger, and some horses and a proportion of his other possessions, including some golden cups. They do not put anything of silver or bronze in the grave. Then they cover the grave with a huge mound of earth, and they all eagerly compete with one another to make the mound as big as possible. (Herodotus The Histories translated by Robin Waterfield.)
The kurgans or burial-mounds that dot the Ukrainian and south Russian steppes and the forest steppes bear testimony to Herodotus’ accuracy here. Sixth- and fifth-century royal tombs were as Herodotus describes, rectangular shafts between 10 and 15 meters deep, within a raised mound above. Some later mounds are as high as a three-story building, and the base of the mound can extend to a diameter of over 100 meters.

Buddhist texts claim that Chandragupta, the founder of the Mauryan empire and King Ashoka's grandfather, was related to the Buddha’s Sakya clan, others that he was related to the Nandas. If we believe the Buddhist claim that he was a Sakyan, or Indo-Scythian, this would explain, for example:
  1. The use of animals and most often the lion on the capital of the Ashoka columns and as the Mauryan royal emblem; the Sakas introduced animal art to India.
  2. Construction of stupas (burial mounds) all over India, derived from the steppes burial mounds.
  3. The Buddhist wheel motif is derived from the wagons and chariots of the steppes.
  4. The concept of the universal monarch, or chakravartin, is derived from the steppe peoples.
Modern scholars have also written extensively of them; according to A History of Russia, Central Asia, and Mongolia, by David Christian:

The diagonostic features of 'Scythic' culture were:

1. the adoption of iron metallurgy;

2. the use of akinakes, a short sword, of specific design and systematic development;
3. the customary conservative use of artistic motifs, particularly the stag and the animal combat, all of which are combined with,

4. the customary nomadic life and a patriarchal, little centralized social organization;
5. the use of improved compound bows;
6. the widespread use of bronze cauldrons;

7. the making of 'deer stones' (olenniye kamni); and perhaps, most important of all,
8. the appearance for the first time in the steppes, of complex horse harness, which suggests a qualitative improvement in techniques of riding.
As can be seen in the maps below, tribes of Scythians were moving slowly into Gandhara and Northwest India. By the first century CE, they controlled much of this area. So it seems entirely plausible that Buddha could have been a member of this powerful tribe. 515 BCE: Saka was the Persian name for the Scythians. In 515 BCE they occupied the western Asian steppes, (red circle), northwest of Greater Gandhara, (light blue circle). Buddha was born between the periods shown in this and the following map, [i.e. between 515-301 BCE], somewhere in or near the red or blue circles. Click to enlarge maps which are taken from Penguin Atlas of Ancient History, (copyright infringement not intended). 301 BCE: The bulk of the Sakas were still in the western Asian steppes, but of course, some tribes must have trickled into Greater Gandhara long before a Saka kingdom arose there. The Mauryan empire, (blue circle), had arisen in Gandhara and further east in India proper.
192 BCE: Sakas still in western Asian steppes but Mauryans fade from Gandhara at this time. 145 BCE: The Sakas are still on the west Asian steppes but begin to be pressured by the Yuezhi, (green circle); the Indo-Greek kingdom of Menander, (of Milindapanha fame) is established in Gandhara, (blue circle).74 BCE: The Sakas, driven southeast into Gandhara by the Yuezhi, (Kushans), finally establish their kingdom in Gandhara. The Indo-Greek kingdoms collapse. 44 BCE: The Sakas are still in Gandhara; eventually they are driven by other steppe peoples east into India proper.
By the first century CE the Indo-Scythians, or Sakas, controlled a large chunk of territory in North-West India and what is now Pakistan and Afghanistan.


The Ethiopians make their gods black and snub-nosed. The Thracians make theirs have gray-eyes and red-hair. And if oxen and horses and lions had hands and could paint with their hands, and produce works of art as men do, horses would paint the forms of the gods like horses, and oxen like oxen, and make their bodies in the image of their own.
Xenophanes (circa 570-circa 478 BCE.)

Seated mustachioed Buddha.Pakistan or Afghanistan, ancient region of Gandhara, 1st-2nd century CE.

Since the 19th century certain Buddhologists have speculated that Buddha was a member of the Scythian steppe nomads, some of whom had been encroaching since the mid-first millennium BCE into the Gandhara region, becoming sedentary in the process, eventually reaching northwest India and founding an empire there in the first century BCE.

"Even a cursory acquaintance with later Vedic texts, like the Upanisads, and that of the earliest Buddhist and Jain texts leaves the reader wondering whether they can possibly refer to the same society, even though admittedly there is a time gap of a thousand years between their composition. The Sanskrit texts evoke a mostly agrarian way of life in which states play a minor part and status is governed by lineage and ritual observance. Buddhist and Jain texts, on the other hand, portray a network of functioning states, each with an urban nucleus heavily engaged in trade and production. Here wealth as much as lineage confers status. Indeed, the Buddhist concept of ‘merit’ as something to be earned, accumulated, occasionally transferred and eventually realized seems inconceivable without a close acquaintance with the moneyed economy." 

This is strong circumstantial evidence for the Buddha, or the man who the story of the Buddha was based on, actually having been a Gandharan, where urbanization developed ahead of north and east India.

Another piece of circumstantial evidence is found in the Digha Nikaya [DN 1.90-95] which tells a story of Buddha's people, the Sakyas/Scythians, as being 'foreign.' They are described by Ambattha as "fierce, rough spoken, violent, wanderers (sometimes incorrectly mistranslated as menials, but refers to their mendicant lifestyle; or could it be a slight on their nomadic past?). They do not respect Brahmins, nor pay homage to them." Upon visiting Kapilavatthu, hometown of the Sakyas, Ambattha explains them as those who "sat upon high seats in meeting halls, engaging in laughing, rough playing, poking each other with fists and fingers and paid no regard to [Ambattha]." In referring to Buddha, the "Scythian-sage" (Sakyamuni), he [DN 3.144] "has blue eyes." See here and here.

Relief panel with the Dipankara Jataka, (Megha and the Buddha Dipankara). Pakistan, Swat Valley, circa 2nd century CE.

The most visual circumstantial evidence, as the relief panel and Buddha image above show, is that Gandharan artists were still representing Buddha, (present and previous buddhas), as Aryans wearing Greek togas well into the Common Era.These are some observations to support the contention that Buddha was a Saka/Scythian:

1. Buddha was of the kshatriya (warrior) caste; foreign invaders were always co-opted into this caste by the Brahmins;

2. Buddha rejected the caste system;

3. Buddhism introduced animal motifs to India derived from the steppe peoples: the stag or deer, symbol of Buddha's first sermon in the deer park; the horse--Buddha rode out of his father's palace as a renunciate on his horse Kanthaka, which was immediately taken to heaven to be reborn among the gods; the Scythian eagle and lion griffins used as motifs at Barhut and Sanchi stupas, etc;
Relief panel with the Buddha's first sermon, showing the wheel and deer symbols.Pakistan, ancient region of Gandhara, circa 2nd century CE.

4. The cremation of bodies and the erection of burial mounds, or stupas (topes), previously unknown in India.

5. The Buddhist ideal of the chakravartin, or wheel-turning, world-conquering monarch, to which kings aspired, a concept borrowed from the steppe peoples who must have been quite familiar with wheels and wagons;

6. One of the 32 marks of the mahapurusha, or great man (Buddha was one), was that he had blue eyes. This would indicate that Buddha was an Iranian/Caucasian.

1. From Relics of the Buddha by John S. Strong:

"This is not the place to examine the origin of the chakravartin ideal and its influence on the legend of the Buddha. Suffice it to say that the parallelism between the Buddha's funeral and that of a chakravartin continues a theme already implied in the doctrine of the twin careers of a mahapurusa. It is sometimes argued that this association with great kingship was intended to enhance the prestige of the Buddha as a figure of great distinction. At the same time, however, it is important to see one of the more specific implications of this. 

Jean Przyluski, who has looked into Northwest Indian, Hellenistic, and, ultimately, Ancient Near Eastern traditions as sources of at least parts of the chakravartin mythology, has argued that we should look in the same direction for the origins of relic worship in India. [Watch "Alexander the God King."] He points out that Alexander the Great was divinized and that a dispute erupted over his body, which the Macedonians felt would bring happiness and prosperity to the land where it was kept. Even more specifically, he cites the case of King Menander, whose ashes (according to Plutarch) were divided among the cities of Northwest India, which erected mnemeia, [memorials, i.e., caityas], over each portion. 

For Przyluski, then, the veneration of a great being's remains was intimately linked to the nascent cult of the chakravartin and both were imported ideologies. This is important because, if it is true, the fact that Buddha's body is to be treated as though it were that of a great king may not simply be intended to "glorify" or "divinize" him. More basically, it may be related to the injunction that his relics be preserved, and that his body not be handled like those of ordinary beings or of other sannyasins, whose remains were not preserved."

2. From The Indian Saint; or, Buddha and Buddhism: A Sketch, Historical and Critical, by Charles D. B. Mills, 1874:

[Samuel] Beal [translator of Buddhist Records of the Western World from ancient Chinese], however, advances the opinion that [Buddha] was of Scythian descent. A branch or clan of this race, he thinks, may have penetrated Northern India, as another did Assyria about this time, and Buddha was born of this blood, a descendant of Chakravarttins or Wheel Kings, i.e., universal monarchs. Sakya's directions as to the funeral obsequies to be observed after his death, the cremation of the body, and the subsequent erection of mounds, or topes, in such numbers over India,--all, he deems, indicate a foreign parentage for this saint... But this of the directions is very probably a subsequent invention; it certainly comports little with his known character, and especially with the light esteem, almost the contempt, in which he is represented to have held the body. The weight of the evidence seems altogether in favor of the view that he was of the Aryan race and family of the Sakyas.

I don't agree with Mills' last part where he states that Buddha held the body in light esteem. In fact, Buddha had a very high opinion of himself and always wanted to be treated in a special way.

3. From
The Indian empire: its people, history, and products
By William Wilson Hunter (published 19th century).

There are indications that a branch of the Scythian hordes, who overran Asia about 625 B.C., made its way to Patala on the Indus, the site selected by Alexander in 325 B.C. as his place of arms in that delta, and long the capital of Sindh under the name of Haidarabad. One portion of these Patala Scythians seems to have moved westwards by the Persian Gulf to Assyria; another section is supposed to have found its way northeast into the Gangetic valley, and branched off into the Sakyas of Kapilavastu, among whom the Buddha was born.

During the two hundred years before the Christian era, the Scythic movements come a little more clearly into sight, and in the first century after Christ those movements culminate in a great Indian sovereignty. About 126 B.C., the Tartar tribe of Su are said to have conquered the Greek dynasty of Bactria, and the Graeco-Bactrian settlements in the Punjab were overthrown by the Tue-Chi, [Yuezhi].
The football-field-size burial mound that Scythians made with sandstone from nearby cliffs which were the forerunner of Buddhist stupas. Above is Arzhan-2 in Tuva's Valley of the Tsars. (National Geographic, copyright infringement unintended). Archaeologists found undisturbed wooden vault with two skeletons and 44 pounds of gold (2). They also found rare remnants of clothing (3), a horse grave (4), but nothing at (1) where kings were usually buried.

Two centuries later, we touch solid ground in the dynasty whose chief representative, Kanishka, held the Fourth Buddhist Council, circa 40 A.D., and became the royal founder of Northern Buddhism. [Historicity of Fourth Council now doubted.] But long anterior to the alleged Tue-Chi settlements in the Punjab, tribes of Scythic origin had found their way into India, and had left traces of non-Aryan origin upon Indian civilization. The sovereignty of Kanishka in the first century A.D. was not an isolated effort, but the ripened fruit of a series of ethnical movements.
Coin of Kanishka, Pakistan, region of ancient Gandhara, circa 130 CE. Reverse, Hindu deity; Kanishka also struck coins with Buddha on the reverse, (below), where Boddo is clearly stamped.
Certain scholars believe that even before the time of the Buddha, there are relics of Scythic origin in the religion of India. It has been suggested that the Asvamedha, or Great Horse Sacrifice, in some of its developments at any rate, was based upon Scythic ideas. 'It was in effect,' writes Mr. Edward Thomas, 'a martial challenge, which consisted in letting the victim who was to crown the imperial triumph at the year's end, go free to wander at will over the face of the earth; its sponsor being bound to follow its hoofs, and to conquer or conciliate' the chiefs through whose territories it passed. Such a prototype seems to him to shadow forth the life of the Central Asian communities of the horseman class, 'among whom a captured steed had so frequently to be traced from camp to camp, and surrendered or fought for at last.' The curious connection between the Horse Sacrifice and the Man Sacrifice of the pre-Buddhistic religion of India has often been noticed. That connection has been explained from the Indian point of view, by the substitution theory of a horse for a human victim.
Workers unearth the remains of 14 sacrificed horses; a measure of wealth on Earth and in the hereafter, horses were the mainstays in many Scythian graves. This herd is modest--Scythian graves elsewhere have been found with hundreds of horses. (National Geographic).

Whatever significance may attach to this rite, it is certain that with the advent of Buddhism, Scythic influences made themselves felt in India. Indeed, it has been attempted to establish a Scythic origin for Buddha himself. One of his earliest appearances in the literature of the Christian Church is as Buddha the Scythian. It is argued that by no mere accident did the Fathers trace the Manichaean doctrine to Scythianus, whose disciple, Terebinthus, took the name Buddha. As already stated, the form of abjuration of the Manichaean heresy mentions [Buddha and the Scythian or Sakya], seemingly, says Weber, a separation of Buddha Sakya-muni into two. The Indian Buddhists of the Southern school would dwell lightly on, or pass over altogether, a non-Aryan origin for the founder of their faith. We have seen how the legend of Buddha in their hands assimilated itself into the old epic type of the Aryan hero. But a Scythic origin would be congenial to the Northern school of Buddhism: to the school which was consolidated by the Scythic monarch Kanishka, and which supplied a religion during more than ten centuries to Scythic tribes of Central Asia. [However, in the following article, the Sakas are said to be related to the East Iranians (i.e. they were Indo-Aryans).]

4. From Earth to Heaven--The Royal Animal-Shaped Weights of the Burmese Empire by Donald and Joan Gear:
The invasions of the Greeks, Sakas, Parthians and Kushans into the Bactria and north India regions between the 1st century BCE and 2nd century CE led to one of the most creative periods in the history of India’s art. Another important influence was that of the Romans from about the 1st century BCE to the 4th century CE.

In Ordos, bronzes with animal decoration continued until about the 5th or 6th century CE. This region is sometimes referred to as the last stand of animal art. At some time before the 2nd century BCE the Yueh-chieh [Yuezhi] in present day Kansu, not far from Ordos then at its peak of abundant production, must have contacted the Sakas of near Lake Balkash and acquired knowledge of its stag art, which, in modified form, could have been transmitted south through Szechwan to the semi-nomadic tribes of Yunnan. The Yueh-chieh subsequently drove out the Sakas (about 160 BCE) who then moved into northwest India, (Gandhara), while the Yueh-chieh became the Kushans at the west end of the Tarim basin.

The Saka retained some of their animal art but the Yueh-chieh abandoned theirs. The region from the Black Sea to Mongolia, including Central Asia, from before the 8th century BCE was occupied by nomadic steppe tribes many culturally and probably ethnically related to the East Iranians (i.e. they were Indo-Aryans). Many belonged to the Saka group. Those occupying the region north of the Black Sea were named Scythians by the 8th century BCE Greeks, those west of the Altai mountains were called Saka by the pre-6th century BCE Persians and those east of the mountains, for convenience today, are called Saka-Siberian. On the northwest borders of China and in the Tarim basin region before the 2nd century BCE were the Yueh-chieh, also probably an Indo-Aryan people related to the Sakas. They were driven along with the Sakas by the Hsiung-Nu, a Turki people. The Indo-Aryans of about 2000 BCE and the Saka group are the most important of the steppe nomads to this work.

Firstly, this is because the Indo-Aryan peoples of 2000 BCE brought to India in the Vedic religion basic concepts held by the steppe nomads which, together with Indian animism, led to Hinduism and Buddhism. Secondly, it is because tribes of, or related to the Saka group repeatedly invaded India from 2000 BCE onwards, so spreading their culture from the kingdoms and republics they established in India and thus leading to the flowering of stone architectural animal art in India from about the 2nd century BCE.

The Saka influence on animal art appears to have flowed round both sides of the Tibet plateau and converged on southeast Asia. This flow of art and people may have led to the foundation of the first Burmese kingdom, Tagaung. The Yueh-chieh were driven away from their homeland by the Hsiung-Nu about the 2nd century BCE; part of the tribe moved south towards Burma and part moved west to the northern marches of India, changing their name to Kushan as they did so. There, for about five centuries, they became a great influence on the development of Mahayanist Buddhism and overland trade from the Persian to the Chinese borders.
During their migration they drove a part of the Sakas before them and these settled in west India before temporarily extending their sway to the east of India south of the Kushans. The persistence of the word ‘Saka’ in various forms in India and Burma is noteworthy. Sakka is another name of Indra, the Indo-Aryan and Hindu god. Saka is the name of the group of tribes of which the Scythians were one. The Sakas, ‘people of the stag,’ are associated with the animal symbols of the chakravartin, (universal ‘wheel-turning’ sovereign). Gautama Buddha was the Sakyamuni, the sage of the Sakyas.
Lion capital of the pillar erected by Asoka at Sarnath. Mauryan, circa 250 BCE. Chunar sandstone, Height 2.5m. (Archaeological Museum, Sarnath).

The lion is among the figurines created by the people of the Indus valley civilizations about 2000 BCE, though it does not become a frequently used motif, at least in durable material, until it was adopted by the Buddhists about the 3rd century BCE when it looks distinctly west Asian or perhaps Persian. The adoption of the lion motif instead of the tiger may have been because the Buddhists needed a royal symbol without the ferocious or steppe nomad association of the tiger, the emblem of the warrior caste into which Gautama Buddha was born. The stone-shafted pillars of India, usually referred to as Asokan pillars, can be separated into two age groups: pre-3rd century BCE and later. The early pillars bear, or bore, on their tops copper gilt images of the lion, the bull, and the elephant. Of these the lion image is by far the most frequent. It is also the youngest, replacing the bull and elephant images. It occurs in the region formerly occupied by the republican, warlike Licchavis and later by the Nandas. In style the images show the influence of the Anatolian Hittites (20th century-8th century BCE), as do those of the south Chinese lions of the 2nd century BCE—6th century CE. The Indian lion representation gradually changed its form, partly because most of the sculptors probably had never seen a lion, which was rare in India compared with west Asia and which today exists only in west India, and partly because it was intended to represent the broadcasting of a spiritual image. By the 11th century CE its shape had become unrealistic, humanoid, and subsequently became increasingly so.
Left: Gold stag headdress pin; the deer became an important Buddhist icon.
Stags appear to be particularly important in the art and myths of Central Asia, the steppes and Siberia from 1500 BCE and earlier. The stag was especially used by the Altaian Saka people. It was one of the three main animals represented in their art, the others being the horse and the tiger. In the Indus valley civilizations of about 2000 BCE stag-horns were emplaced on composite creations. Portrayals show that Agni was horned. Agni was one of the chief gods of the Aryan invasion from the steppes of about 1000 BCE. Stag representations are not found again until the last two centuries BCE but then seem to be replaced mainly by ruminants with unbranched horns or does.
The two thousand five hundred-year-old Pazyryk rug, found in 1949 on the steppes of Mongolia in a Scythian prince’s tomb, already displays all the symbols later to be associated with Buddhism: the lotus blossoms, solar symbols, stags, horses, and eagle and lion griffins.

Except in the Upper Punjab, the deer was not worshipped in India. The Punjabi worship was derived from the Sakas, ‘the people of the stag,’ from near Lake Balkash, who ruled various parts of northern India from about the 1st century BCE to the 4th century CE. The horned lion or lion-griffin reached the Indus valley about 2000 BCE. The griffin was utilized by Alexander the Great and he may have introduced or reintroduced it to India about 325 BCE. Certainly two griffins of about 3rd century BCE occur at Patna. Lion-griffins and eagle griffins were employed in the sculpting on the Indian Buddhist temples of the 2nd to 1st century BCE, the motifs possibly having been introduced by the Scythians (Saka) invaders. The griffin and the lion-griffin motifs were distributed by the steppe nomads on the artifacts manufactured in western Asia, just as they transmitted artifacts and motifs from the Orient.

The Scythians of east Asia adapted these motifs to their own requirements before the 7th century BCE. It is likely that the lion-griffin had reached the Altai, Siberia and China well before 1000 BCE. The Scythians preferred combat scenes with griffins as the aggressors and they themselves became especially associated with the griffin by the western world, which in fact made the association Scythia-griffin-gold because at that time, the Altai and adjacent regions produced much of the world’s gold. Lion-griffin figurines were present in Bactria in the 4th century BCE at a time when colonies of Greeks were working for the Scythians. In the 3rd-1st century lion-griffins were being made at Pazyryk in the Altai.

The Neolithic religions of the Eurasian agriculturalists appear to have been characterized by a belief in earth gods, i.e. those of the earth as a whole, of the soil and of the underworld. This belief is expressed most obviously in the forms of earth mounds, sometimes capped by stones, megaliths, dolmens, menhirs, small stone pyramids and other structures. Such occur in Central Asia, Tibet, Mongolia, Assam, Orissa, Southeast Asia, etc. Later the belief was expressed in the form of pillars in India, Yunnan and Vietnam, as stupas in much of the same region and, in Southeast Asia, as temples intended to represent mountains, e.g. many Khmer temples. The natural, or man-made, elevations seems to have been regarded as a substitute for the body of the local earth god (and later for the tribe itself symbolized through the ancestors of the rulers) within which was concentrated the power of the deity, a capping stone often serving to concentrate the power still more effectively.

Celestial gods formed part of the cosmology but were less important than the earth gods. A link between the two kinds of god was often made by the use of a pillar or tree on or near the mound, but the elevation itself, especially if high, may have served as the link. Horse sacrifices, practiced by the Mongols, Turko-Tartars, Indo-European peoples and others, were always offered to the god of the sun and sky. The horse, especially a white one, symbolized the sun. In the Altai it was the function of the shaman, in a trance, to accompany the soul of a sacrificed horse on its celestial journey and also to offer horseflesh to the ancestors. Horse sacrifices and horse burials formed part of the burial rites of these peoples throughout the entire region, the best known being those of the Indo-Aryan Scythians, Sakas and other invaders of India. These rites and sun worship continued among the Mongols until after the 14th century CE, while Tartar chiefs continued to present thousands of white horses to the Chinese emperor until after the 18th century CE. In ancient India and elsewhere, long hair on shamans, such as the Ari favored, symbolized the snakes that appeared on the costumes and in the beliefs of the Central Asian shamans. The snake played an important role in Central Asian and Siberian mythology and on the shaman’s costume. The Indo-Aryans of about 1500 BCE, the Scythians of pre-8th century BCE and the Sakas of the same stock about 2nd century BCE all invaded India. They drank intoxicants like the Ari and took narcotics (soma, haoma) to attain ecstasy. The Sakas had ancestor cults. 

In Hindu-Buddhist cosmogony there are 33 gods who reside on the summit of Mount Meru, among whom Indra (Sakka) is king. In Central Asia the people of the Altai mountains have a belief in 33 heavens. In the 7th century BCE Saka-Siberian burial site of Tuva, just east of the Altai mountains, the chief’s tomb comprises a large central mound surrounded by a stone wall 44 meters away. The annulus so-formed is separated into sections by 32 radial spokes built of stones bearing incised depictions of horses. This is a temple of the sun. The number of 32 appears also as that of the number of bodily marks of the chakravartin. There seems to be good reason to think that the 32 fiefdoms of the chakravartin are derived from the solar cult of the Indo-Aryans and reached Burma through the Sakas.

The Aryan invasion of Persia and India of about 2000 BCE introduced the Vedic religion. The descendants of the Aryans and the Saka/Scythians (sun and snake worshippers) became allies perhaps before 700 BCE, the Sakas becoming known as ‘the serpent’ or naga race, while the naga itself became one of the most important associates of the Brahmanic, Hindu and Buddhist pantheons. According to the Indian Puranas, Gautama Buddha originated from the solar race of Iskshvahu and at the commencement of his ascetic life, he was protected by the naga king. Tombs of Gautama’s own Sakya tribe, excavated in the 19th century, each contained an effigy of a naga.

Naga king and his consort--Cave Temples, Ajanta, Maharashtra.

This is one of the several pieces of evidence linking Gautama Buddha with the steppe nomads. Vedism and indigenous animism merged to form Hinduism about the middle of the 1st millennium BCE, about the same time as Buddhism emerged. In the section entitled ‘Trade’ the voyages of the allied Sakas and Indo-Aryans as traders are mentioned and it is these which may have given rise to some of the Hindu legends, such as the ‘Churning of the Oceans,’ and the association of the naga with water. Beginning not later than the 2nd century BCE and increasing during the 1st and 3rd centuries CE, Buddhism spread to Central Asia under the dominant influence of the fervently Buddhist and-commercially-conscious Kushans, (the former Yueh-chieh), whose empire stretched from north India to Bactria and from the Parthian empire of Persia on the west to that of the Chinese Han empire on the east. Eastern Persia and much of Afghanistan also adopted Buddhism, parts remaining until after the Moslem invasion. 

In the shaman’s ecstatic techniques throughout central and north Asia, the number seven plays an important role, one which is due ultimately to influences from Babylon. On his costume, a Yurak shaman may have seven balls representing the seven celestial maidens. There are also the common beliefs in seven or nine each of celestial and infernal levels, though rarely, up to 33 occur. In his rites the Altaic shaman climbs a tree or a post notched with seven or nine steps to symbolize his ascent to the most powerful one. The seven steps are similar to the Buddha’s seven steps mentioned below, a concept derived from Buddhism’s parent, Brahmanism. In legend Buddha could walk immediately after his birth. He took seven steps in the direction of each of the cardinal points and claimed possession of the world. Seven days after Guatama Buddha’s birth his mother died. After Buddha’s enlightenment he meditated for three periods each of seven days. After these he was wrapped in seven coils of the serpent king, Mucalinda, and endured continuous rain for seven days. Seven also symbolizes the horse, one of the seven treasures of the chakravartin.


On these grounds, then, it is here submitted that the traditional figure of the Buddha, in its most plausibly rationalized form, is as unhistoric as the figure of the Gospel Jesus has been separately shown to be. Each figure simply stands for the mythopœic action of the religious mind in a period in which Primary-God-making had given way to Secondary-God-making, and in particular to the craving for a Teaching God who should originate religious and moral ideas as the other Gods had been held to originate agriculture, art, medicine, normal law, and civilisation.

Most Buddhologists concede that Gautama Buddha was a historical person, someone of flesh and blood who trod this earth, in the Ganges Plain in North India in the fifth-fourth century BCE. Unfortunately, there is no rock-solid evidence to corroborate this view; as in all matters regarding religion, we have to take it on faith. Do Buddhologists, when examining the historicity of Buddha, use the same exacting standards a historian would bring to examining the historicity of Alexander the Great, for example? If we compare Buddha with Alexander, who flourished at roughly the same time, we have so much more evidence for the latter, who founded several cities bearing his name (including Alexandria, Egypt); fought numerous battles and wars but was defeated only once, by his own troops; conquered a huge empire; contemporary historians wrote about him; contemporary coins exist which bear his image; his generals divided up his empire among themselves and claimed to be his heirs; and so forth. 

And of course, if Alexander hadn't been a historical person, Greek history of the Hellenistic period would have to be rewritten entirely. In the case of the Buddha, whether he was a historical person or just a myth would make no difference to ancient Indian history. Even his supposed bodily relics, when held up to scrutiny, turn out to be non-human bones or teeth. The towns and cities supposedly associated with events in his life were determined by European scholars in the nineteenth century, with the help of travelogues left by Chinese pilgrims who had traveled in India more than a millenium before, centuries after he was supposed to have lived. Then we have stories written down four centuries and more after he was supposed to have flourished by disciples who were penning myths that had been handed down orally for centuries. The claim is made that Buddha was a prince, but historians say he couldn't have been because his father wasn't a king, the country he ruled being a republic; so obviously later disciples, or the people who were promoting Buddhism, embellished the story. Thus when Buddha comes to renunciate the household life, his sacrifice is seen as not merely the giving up of house and home, but the renunciation of palace and kingdom, and forfeiting the certainty of becoming a chakravartin king, or great wheel-turning monarch. Thus the greater the sacrifice, the greater the merit gained.

If we strip away all the myths and legends of the Buddha, we're left with the minimalist Buddha: an ascetic who meditated under a tree and came up with the four noble truths. Everything else he was supposed to have said were probably put into his mouth by later disciples who were intent in founding a religion. It has been said that the Buddha didn't make the Buddhists but that the Buddhists made Buddha.

The basic methodological principle that certain Buddhologists follow in trying to retrieve the historical Buddha from a thick overlay of mythology, to paraphrase Hermann Detering, who was writing about St. Paul, is simple: everything that somehow seems miraculous or imaginary is deemed unhistorical; and everything, on the contrary, that proceeds in a rational and natural way is historical. This method, however, has fatal similarity with a man who, at any cost, wanted to hold on to a historical kernel in the story about Little Red Riding Hood and, to this end, removed all the mythic components (the wolf who speaks, red riding hood and grandmother in the stomach of the wolf) in order to hold fast to the historical existence of a little girl named Red Ridinghood who visited her grandmother in the forest sometime long ago and met a wolf on her way.

From Pagan Christs John M. Robertson.

There is in fact no single detail in the legend that has any claim to critical acceptance; and the position of the latest conservatives, as Oldenberg, is finally only a general petitio principii. India, admits that candid scholar, always was, as it is, "a land of types," wherein the lack of freedom stunts the free growth of individuality; and in the portraits of the Buddha and all his leading disciples we have simply the same type repeated. Yet, he contends, "a figure such as his certainly has not been fundamentally misconceived." Critical logic will not permit such an a priori reinstatement of a conception in which every element has given way before analysis. It is but an unconscious resort to the old fallacy of meeting the indictment of a spurious document with the formula, "Who else could have written it?"

We recur to the old issue—the thesis that "every sect must have had a founder." Such was the unhesitating assumption of Minayeff, who did so much to bring historic clearness into early Buddhist history. "It is beyond doubt that at the origin of great historic movements always and everywhere appear important and historic personalities. It was so, certainly, in the history of Buddhism, and its development unquestionably commenced in the work of the founder." Here we have something more than the proposition of M. Senart—we have a doctrine which would ascribe to definite founders the cults of Heracles and Dionysos and Aphroditê, the worship of fire, and the institution of human sacrifice. Dismissing such a generalisation as the extravagance of a scholar without sociology, we bring the issue to a point in the formula of M. Senart. Plainly that is significant in the sense only that someone must have begun the formation of any given group. It is clearly not true in the sense that every sect originates in the new teaching of a remarkable personage. And we have seen reason to infer that there was a group of heretical or deviating Brahmanists, for whom "a Buddha" was "an enlightened one," one of many, before the quasi-historical Buddha had even so far emerged into personality as the slain Jesus of the Pauline epistles. Brahmanic doctrine, Brahmanic asceticism and vows, and Brahmanic mendicancy—these are the foundations of the Order: the personal giver of that rule and teaching, the Teaching God, comes later, even as the Jesus who institutes the Holy Supper comes after the eucharist is an established rite. Every critical scholar, without exception, admits that a vast amount of doctrine ascribed to Buddha was concocted long after his alleged period. It cannot then be proved that any part of the doctrine is not a fictitious ascription; and there is not a single tenable test whereby any can be discriminated as genuine. In the words of Kuenen, "we are not free to explain Buddhism from the person of the founder." Nor is there any more psychological difficulty in supposing the whole to be doctrinal myth than in conceiving how the later Brahmanists could put their discourses in the mouth of Krishna.

The recent attempts to establish the historicity of Gotama Buddha by excavated tomb-remains
—a kind of evidence which obviously could prove nothing as to the achievements or teaching of the person interred—have broken down on their merits. Dr. Fleet's claim to date an inscribed vase before Asoka's time on the strength of its letter-forms is peremptorily rejected; and Professor Davids’ theory that the remains found under one stupa are those of Buddha has to compete with the theory of Dr. Fleet that they are those of massacred Buddhana Sakiya = "kinsmen of Buddha," which in turn is rejected by M. Barth as an impossible interpretation.
On such lines there can be no establishment of any relevant historic facts; and we are left to the decision that "No extant inscription, either in the north or south, can be referred with confidence to a date earlier than that of Asoka.

Professor Kern, coming to conclusions substantially identical with those of M. Senart, posits for us finally an ancient Order of monks, absorbing an ancient popular religion, and developing for people of the middle and lower classes the ideals of a spiritual life current in the schools of the Brahmans and the ascetics. "It is very possible," he goes on, "that the Order had been founded—whatever be the precise sense which we attach to that word—by a single man peculiarly gifted, even as, for example, it is possible that Freemasonry may have been so founded. We may even, by an effort of imagination, adorn this founder with all sorts of good qualities; but we have no right to say that the amiability of the Buddha of the legend has any other origin than the antique belief according to which the Buddha, in his quality of cherishing sun, is manno miltisto" —the kindest of men, in the words applied by an old German prayer-chant to the deity.

This is the warranted attitude of scientific criticism; and the mere "may-be" as to the possible Founder is exclusive of any Evemeristic solution. M. Senart's necessary founder, and Professor Kern's possible founder, are wholly remote from the Buddha alike of the Buddhist and of the rationalising scholar, bent on saving a personality out of a myth. On the face of the case, there is a presumption that, while there may easily have been, "about 500 BCE, a man who by his wisdom and his devotion to the spiritual interests of his kind made such an impression that contemporaries compared him to a pre-existing ideal of wisdom and goodness, and that posterity completely identified him with this ideal,"
the Order was not founded by any such person. No Buddha made the Buddhists—the Buddhists made the Buddha.

An obviously sufficient conceptual nucleus for "the" Buddha lay in the admittedly general Brahmanic notion of "Buddhas." There is even a tradition that at the time when Sakyamuni came many men ran through the world saying "I am Buddha! I am Buddha!" This may be either a Buddhist way of putting aside the claims of other Buddhas or a simple avowal of their commonness. But a real Buddha would be a much less likely "founder" than one found solely in tradition. Any fabulous Buddha as such could figure for any group as its founder to begin with: to him would be ascribed the common ethical code and rules of the group: the clothing of the phantom with the mythic history of Vishnu-Purusha or Krishna, the "Bhagavat" of earlier creeds, followed as a matter of course, on the usual lines. M. Senart "holds it for established that the legend as a whole was fixed as early as the time of Asoka." Some of the latest surveys of the problem end in an inference that the oldest elements in the legend consist of fragments of an ancient poem or poems embedded in the Pitakas. The quasi-biographical colour further given to mythical details is on all fours with that of the legends of Joseph, Moses, Joshua, and Jesus, all late products of secondary mythology, in periods which systematically reduced God-legends to the biographic level. As we have seen, the fabrication of narrative-frames for the teachings ascribed to the Buddha was early an established Buddhist exercise. And this accumulation of quasi-biographical detail, as we have also seen, goes on long after the whole cycle of prior supernaturalist myth has been embodied. It is after Jesus has been deified that he is provided with a mother and a putative father and brothers; and it is in the latest gospel of all that we have some of the most circumstantial details of his life and deportment. There is even a case for the thesis that some of the characteristics of the Buddha are derived from sculptures which followed Greek models.

On these grounds, then, it is here submitted that the traditional figure of the Buddha, in its most plausibly rationalized form, is as unhistoric as the figure of the Gospel Jesus has been separately shown to be. Each figure simply stands for the mythopœic action of the religious mind in a period in which Primary-God-making had given way to Secondary-God-making, and in particular to the craving for a Teaching God who should originate religious and moral ideas as the other Gods had been held to originate agriculture, art, medicine, normal law, and civilisation. And if by many the thought be still found disenchanting, they might do well to reflect that there is a side to the conception that is not devoid of comfort. Buddhism, like Christianity, is from the point of view of its traditional origins a "failure." Buddhism, indeed, notably in the case of Burmah, has done more to mould the life of a whole people towards its ostensibly highest ethic than Christianity ever did; but Buddhism, being at best a gospel of monasticism, quietism, and mechanical routine, collapsed utterly in India, the land of its rise; and its normal practice savors little of moral or intellectual superiority to any of the creeds around it. Brahmanism, which seems to have ultimately wrought its overthrow, set up in its place a revived and developed popular polytheism, on the plane of the most ignorant demotic life. Christianity, in turn, professedly the religion of peace and love, is as a system utterly without influence in suppressing war, or inter-racial malignity, or even social division. The vital curative forces as against those evils are visibly independent of Christianity. And here emerges the element of comfort.

On our Naturalistic view of the rise of the religions of the Secondary or Teaching Gods, it is sheer human aspiration that has shaped all the Christs and all their doctrines; and one of the very causes of the total miscarriage is just that persistence in crediting the human aspiration to Gods and Demigods, and representing as superhuman oracles the words of human reason. Unobtrusive men took that course hoping for the best, seeking a short cut to moral influence; but they erred grievously. So to disguise and denaturalise wise thoughts and humane principles was to keep undeveloped the very reasoning faculty which could best appreciate them. Men taught to bow ethically to a Divine Teacher are not taught ethically to think: any aspiration so evoked in them is factitious, vestural, verbal, or at best emotionally superinduced, not reached by authentic thought and experience. When, haply, the nameless thinkers who in all ages have realised and distilled the wisdom or unwisdom given out as divine are recognized in their work for what they were, and their successors succeed in persuading the many to realise for themselves the humanness of all doctrine, the nations may perchance become capable of working out for themselves better gospels than the best of those which turned to naught in their hands while they held them as revelations from the skies.

The following quote, which could equally well apply to Buddha, is taken from the final two paragraphs of The Historicized Jesus? by Robert M. Price:

Traditionally, Christ-Myth theorists have argued that one finds a purely mythic conception of Jesus in the epistles and that the life of Jesus the historical teacher and healer as we read it in the gospels is a later historicization. This may indeed be so, but it is important to recognize the obvious: The gospel story of Jesus is itself apparently mythic from first to last. In the gospels the degree of historicization is actually quite minimal, mainly consisting of the addition of the layer derived from contemporary messiahs and prophets, as outlined above. One does not need to repair to the epistles to find a mythic Jesus. The gospel story itself is already pure legend. What can we say of a supposed historical figure whose life story conforms virtually in every detail to the Mythic Hero Archetype, with nothing, no "secular" or mundane information, left over? As Dundes is careful to point out, it doesn't prove there was no historical Jesus, for it is not implausible that a genuine, historical individual might become so lionized, even so deified, that his life and career would be completely assimilated to the Mythic Hero Archetype. But if that happened, we could no longer be sure there had ever been a real person at the root of the whole thing. The stained glass would have become just too thick to peer through.Alexander the Great, Caesar Augustus, Cyrus, King Arthur, and others have nearly suffered this fate. What keeps historians from dismissing them as mere myths, like Paul Bunyan, is that there is some residue. We know at least a bit of mundane information about them, perhaps quite a bit, that does not form part of any legend cycle. Or they are so intricately woven into the history of the time that it is impossible to make sense of that history without them. But is this the case with Jesus? I fear it is not. The apparent links with Roman and Herodian figures is too loose, too doubtful for reasons I have already tried to explain. Thus it seems to me that Jesus must be categorized with other legendary founder figures including the Buddha, Krishna, and Lao-tzu. There may have been a real figure there, but there is simply no longer any way of being sure."