Thursday, August 13, 2009


1. This video explains Buddha's Enlightenment, but it also goes on to state that Buddha expressly forbade images of himself to be made. Now where do they get this? In the entire corpus of Buddhist literature, scholars have been able to find only a single, indirect reference to a proscription against the creation of Buddha images, and that is limited to the context of a single Buddhist sect, (See John C. Huntington, "The Origin of the Buddha Image: Early Image Traditions and the Concept of Buddhadarsanapunya.") The video takes us to Ajanta to show that images of Buddha were absent in the early paintings and sculptures , and only two centuries later was this rule broken and Buddha images began to be made, in the ancient Gandhara region, due to Greek influence. Some buddhologists believe that if the Buddha is not shown simply indicates that the Buddha was not present at the time depicted in the painting or sculpture, such as pilgrimage sites after the death of the Buddha. And the Buddhist symbols the pilgrims are worshipping, such as his footprint, the Wheel of Dharma, a stupa, or whatever, is actually the focus of the sacred site. See here, and video #5 below for a traditional view of aniconism.
When the Buddha died, according to legend his relics were divided into eight portions and placed in stupas. If his relics could be worshipped, what would be the point in prohibiting his image from being worshipped too? After all, the purpose of dividing up and distributing the relics was to propagate the faith. Any site which gained those relics automatically became a sacred site. If buddha images could also help propagate the faith, well and good.
According to Sally Hovey Wriggins in Xuanzang, A Buddhist Pilgrim on the Silk Road, "Accurate likenesses exist in only three replicas which the Buddha was said to have granted in his lifetime--the sandalwood image made for King Udayana, the golden image made for King Prasenajit, and the shadow."

If this is correct, the Buddha himself had no objection to having images made. Indeed, I cannot see what objection Buddha would have had to creating images in his likeness, if it would help his followers to remember him by and propagate the faith.

The video also claims that a century after Buddha's death, missionaries spread Buddhism westwards to Gandhara where hundreds of monasteries were established. Some cults and religions, such as early Christianity after Constantine and the cargo cults of New Guinea, may have grown rapidly, but as I've argued elsewhere, this could hardly have happened to a religion like Buddhism in a mere century or two after the death of its founder. But after Ashoka, Buddhism being a scripture religion with a strong appeal to emotional devotees and rational intellectuals alike, a religion driven by powerful expansionist forces in human shape: zealous missionaries, talented scholars surrounded by devoted pupils, and ingenious translators, did make quite rapid headway in gaining converts.
2. The video above, taken from the BBC series "In the footsteps of Alexander the Great," shows scenes from Gandhara, such as the Swat Valley.
3. The video above shows the Bamiyan buddhas, in the Greater Gandhara region, being destroyed, and rebuilt.
4. Alexander-the God King, (parts 4 & 5), above and below, claim that the divinity of Alexander the Great set the example for the divinity of Jesus and Buddha (Part 4 begins at 6:45 minutes).

5. Aniconism in Early Buddhist Art, above, (Open Source Buddhist Research Institute - Madison), gives a traditional view of aniconism, which refers to the art in which portrayals of the Buddha in human form did not occur.

6. The Jataka Tales, above, (Open Source Buddhist Research Institute - Madison), gives a traditional explanation for the sources of the Buddha's birth stories.
7. Nalanda: A History Through Architecture (above) shows just how vast the Buddhist university at Nalanda was before it was destroyed by Muslim invaders in the twelfth century CE. You can watch another video on Nalanda here.
8. Gandhara Art and Archaeology (above).

9. Ancient Buddhist Kingdom, Bamiyan Valley (above).

10. Sanchi Stupa (above).

11. Bharhut Stupa (above).
12.Sarnath (above).

13. Greek Buddhism (above).

by Mike Watters through professor Rev. Dr. James Kenneth Powell II, 

Well, where to start! This is a compendious 41 min detailed study of the intriguing interactions among Greeks, Indian and Buddhism as a major conduit of communication. I learned a lot in this. I had associated the Skeptics and Stoics with possible Buddhist connections, but not the Cynics. Diogenes is certainly a Buddhist man in the West. The contrast between his view and Socrates/Plato was well stated. He is certainly more in agreement with the Buddha than the others. Watters chronicle of the origins and development of the Alexandrian then Ashokan civilizations was concise yet replete with sufficient details. The travels of the 2 Greek Dharmaraksitas was in particular fascinating. I hadnt heard of this man! Taking Greek Buddhist to Sri Lanka, so far away amazing! The King Menander segments really push home Buddhisms taking root in central Asia and the philosopher Nagasenas argument was a pivotal moment in history. Super job transitions, panning far more than I requested - one of if not the very best ever.

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