fredag 8 augusti 2008

On Buddhism (and its relation to Mazdayasna)

Dear Peter

Thanks for a great posting, this is most interesting!!!

Ascribing Indian origin to "wise men" in Eastern Asia is really an old and often even racist way of projecting "wisdom" to their teachings. But this is just as false as the Greek ascriptions to Arab and African thinkers in Europe or the Arab ascription to Iranian thinkers in the Islamic world. Why would China and Japan be any different?

Since Boughton's breakthrough in 1999 anthropologists are reasonably sure that Bodhidharma was not Indian (and definitely not of South Indian origin) but instead of Persian/Central Asian origin. In other words, Bodhidharma came from the Zoroastrian empire at the time. He was not born a Buddhist. But Buddhist and Zoroastrian syncretism was strong in Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia at the time.

We as Zoroastrians should of course push this research further. It is all about reconquering our past, our history and our pride. Neighbors to the west and east of Persia have constantly tried to steal the achievements of our culture. Bodhidharma is a case in point. There is nothing Indian about his writings at all. There were no proto-Bodhidharmaists at the time in India. None. But there wew thousands of them in Persia (Zoroastrians). So let's use our logic here but also be open to further new discoveries. However, the reappropriation of our history must be a priority. May the truth prevail.

I have had many Zen teachers throughout the years and made many Zen friends both in Japan and in Europe. They constantly stress both the pre-Buddhist origins of Zen (Zen practices were around in Japan for hundreds of years before the largely unwritten culture was appropriated by Buddhism in the 13th century) and its distance from mainstream Buddhism, espceially on the issue of what you refer to as "rebirth" (of which Pure Land Buddhism is the dominating today).

So I suppose we have to agree to disagree for now on the issue of the "buddhismness" of Zen and Chan, although I'm of course listening to your arguments and constantly am willing to change my own views. Again, may truth prevail. Buddhism has strong voices and lots of resources. Perhaps we need to build the same resources for Zoroastrianism to get at a balanced truth. My focus is on showing the RELATIONSHIP between Buddhism and Zoroastrianism and their mutual assistance (although I even more so stress the closeness between Taoism and Zoroastrianism, with Taoism as the real Zoroastrian religion of China and The East).

May the discussuons continue, here and elsewhere.


2008/8/8 Peter M. Schogol
- Dölj citerad text -

Dear Alexander,

Your understanding of Buddhism is peculiar and in one case incorrect.

Historians of religion as well as practicing Chan/Zen Buddhists recognize Bodhidharma's birthplace as southern India near Madras (Chennai). He was not a Persian born in Central Asia.

Buddhists prefer "rebirth" as the translation of the Sanskrit punarbhava rather than "reincarnation." In Mahayana Buddhism rebirth is integrally connected to karma, and karmic rebirth is taken as a given in the writings of the Chan/Zen patriarchs. Whether you or I believe in rebirth (or reincarnation, if you wish) is irrelevant. To conclude, assuming you do, that the teaching of rebirth is incidental to Buddhism is merely wishful thinking. And your point that we shouldn't just buy any argument because it has been repeated by others is the sort of thing I would expect from someone who isn't hearing what they want from scholarship.

I know little about many things but I can hold my own in a discussion of Buddhism.


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