New Vistas in Early History of Buddhism
Buddhism literally throbs with the history and geography of India. The relics from Sanchi, Ajanta, Bharhut, Amaravati, Gandhara, Thotlakonda and Mathura link India with early Buddhism. The Indian tradition of tolerance and moderation goes beyond 6th century B.C. and primitive Buddhism can be traced in the Harappan era, but Buddhist history is a queer mix of facts and fiction that baffles the discerning reader.
The poet Goethe wrote; “Wer den Dichter will verstehen. Muss in Dichters Lande gehen.” ‘If you want to understand a poet, you must go to the poet’s land.’ Indeed, in order to understand Gautama Buddha one has to go to his true land which was Afghanistan not Nepal.
The startling recent discovery of a 6th century B.C.Buddhist site at Mes Aynak in Logar province of Afghanistan, 35 km south-east of Kabul has dramatic repercussions on Buddhist history. Mes Aynak is one of the greatest Buddhist sites in the world.
The Dreadful Nepalese Forgeries
Nepal is a beautiful country but Gautama Buddha of Nepal is a nauseating fraud. Nothing in the art, archaeology, history or literature of early Nepal has the faintest hint of Buddhism. Jonesean Scholars such as R. Thapar affirm that Gotama was from the Nepal area but this is denied by archaeology. C. Humphreys points to the stark ground reality,
The Lumbini gardens, where Gotama was born, lie in the difficult Nepal Terai, and Kusinara, where the Buddha passed away, has little to show’.
In contrast to gullible historians the renowned Belgian scholar E. Conze also flatly dismisses the fanciful text-based accounts,
To the modern historian, Buddhism is a phenomenon which must exaspera-te him at every point and we can only say in extenuation that this religion was not founded for the benefit of the historians. Not only is there an almost complete absence of hard facts about its history in India; not only is the date, authorship and geographical provenance of the overwhelming majority of the documents almost entirely unknown, ….
The way out of the chaos is shown by the British scholar T. A. Phelps whose painstaking study has exposed the dreadful forgeries of A. Führer who moved pillars and faked inscriptions and relics to falsely locate Lumbini. Nepal has no ancient Buddhist relics. Vincent Smith vehemently protested against the fabrications of Dr. Führer. Gotama was a prince but after he was abandoned in the wilderness of the Terai by the rogue Führer, his history went to pieces.
Photo Courtesy AP
Dazzling New Finds From Mes Aynak and Tepe Naranj Near Kabul
The discoveries cover more than one thousand hectares, and have unearthed temples, monasteries and about one thousand statues which cannot be compared with finds from any location in Nepal. The site is about 20km from the Indian border (pre-partition), and was probably within ancient ‘India’. The RigVeda names many rivers and tribes of Afghanistan which shows that it was a part of Vedic India. The new discoveries unmistakably indicate that Buddhism spread from Afghanistan and North-west India, not eastern India or Nepal. The discoveries at Bamiyan, Mes Aynak and Hadda highlight the primacy of Afghanistan and Gandhara in early Buddhist history.
Facade of a Vihara Probably Founded by Trapusa. Courtesy Brent E. Huffman
Mohammad N. Rasouli of the Afghan Archaeological Department points to the great antiquity of Mes Aynak;
“There is a temple, stupas, beautiful rooms, big and small statues, two with the length of seven and nine meters, colorful frescos ornamented with gold and some coins… Some of the relics date back to the fifth century (AD)… We have come across signs that there are items maybe going back to the era before Christ or prehistory…”
Was Mes Aynak Trapusa’s Vihara?
It is very rarely that archaeological discoveries can be directly linked to the literary tradition but Mes Aynak seems to offer an opportunity. As it has the second largest copper deposit in the world, its name may have been linked to copper. This reminds one of Trapusa and Bhalluka who first gave food to Gautama Buddha after his enlightenment. They are said to have built monasteries. As ‘Trapu’ in Sanskrit stands for ‘Tin’, Trapusa was a Tin-man or a Bronze-man and he may have founded the Mes Aynak Vihara. This makes it very likely that the Mes Aynak Vihara which is linked to copper was founded by Trapusa.
‘Nahoshet’ is the Hebrew word for copper. As ‘Nahos’ in Hebrew means ‘snake’, the Pali word for it i.e. ‘Naga‘ may also have designated copper. Thus the earlyname Mes Aynak may be surmised to be Mahanaga vihara which is mentioned in the Mahabharata. This is said to be in Rohana in Ceylon but early Lanka was in the north-west. Much has been written about the Silk Road but scholars such as R. C. Foltz have no idea that the important fact about it is that itpassed through the Buddhist heartland.
The Location of Kapilavastu
However, after rejecting the Nepalese stories and and shifting the locale to the north-west a bold new history of Buddhism emerges. The true geographical location of Kapilavastu has puzzled historians for more than a century. Vincent Smith’s mysterious statement;
…the mystery of Kapilavastu will continue for many years to be the sport of unverified conjecture.
can only be understood vis-à-vis the the forgeries of Führer. It is most natural to presume thatKapilavastu was in Afghaniatan where the most radiant Buddhist relics have been found. In fact an echo of Kapil (avastu) can be heard in the name Kabul itself. The Pali texts mention one Kubulagalla in Rohana which appears to be Kabul. The Buddhist texts assert that Kapilavastu was situated between Deva-daha and Rama-gama. Devadaha appears to be Daykundi province near Ghazni which was once a great center of Hinduism and Buddhism.
Devadaha of the Pali texts was Daykundi west of Ghazni. Was Gayti the Early Gaya?
Although there are many locations having Ram-names in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Ramgulin Kafiristan seems to be the Ramagama of the Buddhist texts.
The fantastic finds at Tepe Naranj and Mes Aynakstrongly hint that the Buddha’s birthplace was in this area. Naranj echoes the name of Nalanda (‘r’ -‘l’ and ‘j’-‘d’) and Sakawand which was a famous Hindupilgrimagecenter may have been Shakyavati or Kapilavastu.
The location of Sakawand is disputed. It is usually given a late date but its antiquity can be seen from its name was Takht-i Jamshid. The name of Babylon echoes an ancient city-name Babil which was in the East. Babil is cognate with Kabil or Kapil. Babil is the same as Bawermentioned by E. Herzfeld as a city founded by Jamshid. This is supported by the name Takht-i Jamshid of Saka-wand. However, there were other Takht-i Jamshids. Sakáwand was in the territory of Kabul and is mentioned by both Istakhrĩ and Ibn Haukal as one of the dependencies of Bámĩán, along with Kábul, Ghaznĩ, and Parwán. Idrĩsĩ gives it as being seven days journey from Kábul. Cunnin-gham placed it near Jalalabad which seems to be incorrect. One of the maps of the Encyclopedia of Islam, which may be more accurate, places Sakáwand west of Mes Aynak on the Logar river.
A splendid gilded Head of Buddha from mes Aynak
An Early Nalanda in Afghanstan
The Chinese pilgrim Xuan Zang wrote that Gautama Buddha once had his capital at Nalanda and gave “alms without intermission “. Even after allowing for the occasional flights of fancy of narrators, it is difficult to reject all the stories linking Gautama with Nalanda. But this is denied by the archaeological scenario at Nalanda in Bihar which developed only after the fifth century AD. Although most historians choose to ignore the finer details, a closer examination reveals hidden layers in the history of Buddhism.
Tepe Naranj Echoes Nalanda
Not very far from Mes Aynak is Tepe Naranj which has also produced many splendid stupas and other artifacts. The name Mahanaga vihara may allude to the land of the Nagas which may have extended from the Jiroft area to Afghanistan. This reminds one of Erapata Nagaraja immortalised in the Buddhist texts. The Nagas were seen as semi-divine and were strong and handsome. Asoka, who was allegedly very naughty in his youth, was sent to a Naga teacher. Naga maidens were famous for their beauty and many Epic heroes had Naga wives. Their kingdom is called Nagaloka, or Patalaloka, which is filled with resplendent palaces, ornamented with precious gems. Nagas were usually associated with wealth and treasure. Erapata Nagaraja is depicted in the beautiful stone carvings at Bharhut in his two forms, first as a serpent and secondly as a human being with serpent hoods attached to the back of his head. With his Queen and daughter he is shown advancing to the Buddha and then kneeling before him.
Naga King Erapata and his retinue worshipping the Buddha (2nd Cent BC)
The Nepalese forgeries are also exposed by the discovery of Buddhist stupas at Thotlakonda, Bavikonda and Pavurlakonda near Vishakhapa-ttanam. The name Thotlakonda resembles the name Tathagata of Gotama and Pavurlakonda is a clear echo of Baveru or Babil. Surprisingly the sites go back to 300 B.C. which is far earlier than Nalanda which is not far from Nepal. Lars Fogelin’srecent book on
Thotlakonda is the most ancient Buddhist site(300 B.C.) in India
Thotlakonda is entitled “Archaeology of Early Buddhism” but curiously, as with G. Schopen of UCLA, his early Buddhism does not relate to Nepal, the Führerian venue of early Buddhism. He explains the name Pavurlakonda from Telegu language and totally misses the echo of Babil or Kapilvastu. Roman silver coins have been found here showing its maritime links with the west but Fogelin fail to realize is that the monks may have come from Deval which was near Babil or Kapilvastu and was the abode of Asoka.
Debala Mitra found nothing in Nepal that goes beyond 2nd century B.C. Recently R. Conningham has endorsed Kapilavastu in Nepal focussing on the chalcolithic relics and partly negating Debala Mitra’s work. This is superficial scholarship. Conningham is totally unaware of Jones’ blunder and the fact that Buddhism and Zoroastrianism are sister religions. In Merv and other sites Buddhist and Zoroastrian relics are found side by side. Nepal simply does not come into the scenario of early Buddhism.
In sharp contrast to the nothingness of Nepal, the antecedents of Buddhism abound in Seistan-Afghanistan-Gandhara. It is noteworthy that the earliest Buddhist artifacts have been found from this region. The claim that Gotama belongs to a later century is disproved by the date of Gomata who was Gotama. The claim of T. Insoll that ‘there is no contemporary evidence of the individual known as the Buddha.’ is empty and ignores the history of Gaumata and data from the Persepolis Tablets. The Jewish scholar Wendy Donigher writes that Vishnu deluded the Danavasto become Buddhists but forgets that Al-beruni gave Gotama’s name as Buddho-Dana which links him not only to the Danavas but also Daniel the Jew. Sudda-Yauda-Saramana of the Persepolis tablets was Gotam’s father Suddhodana and He is also named as Sudda-Yauda-Damana which shows that he was one of the good demons mentioned by W. Donigher. The Damanavadi Sangha mentioned by Panini alludes to the Sangha of the Buddhists. Gotama himself was Sedda Saramana of the tablets.
If Nepal had been Gotama’s homeland, Buddhist texts would have been in Nepali language, not Pali. The rise of Pali language has also puzzled scholars. Prof. Sukumar Sen wrote that Pali rose from the Ujjain area. This also clashes with Fuhrer’s Gotama of Nepal. Pali is allied to Avestan language which supports the origin of Buddhism in North-west India.
To find Gotama’s abode it has to be noted that early India was wider than British India. Vincent Smith agreed with Pliny that Gedrosia and Karmania were in India. This is also implied by Alexander’s victory over the Indians at Kohnouj in Karmania. A. Wink, quotes extensively from Mas’udi, but overlooks that the learned historian describes the journeys of Budasp or Buddha to Seistan, Zabulistan and Kerman. One can now recall that it was at Kuh-e Khwaja in Seistan, (~150 km from the Baluchistan border), that Sir Aurel Stein found an ancient Buddhist monastery. R. Ghirshman wrote that the Kuh-e Khwaja murals are the precursors of Gandhara art which reveals its true antiquity. Zabol near Ghazni echoes Kapil (vastu). The name Dahan-e Gholaman of another adjacent 6th century B.C. site echoes Gotama’s name. Kapil (vastu), or Babil was the holiest religious centre of the world. The name Babil is echoed in the name Pavurlakonda. The statement of the Lalitavistara that all the Buddhas are born at Kapilavastu is echoed by the name Prophthasia. Later Babylon (Babil) gained ascendancy. The fantastic recent find of about 10,000of ancient Buddhist fragments at Bamiyan, part of which is now in the Schoyen collection, shows that Buddhism
Bamiyan was near Kapilavastu, birth-place of the Buddha
was born here. The names Tiŝŝa, Siddharta and Suddho-dana, of the Persepolis tablets prove conclusively that Gotama was from Seistan-Baluchistan. About the iconography of a beautiful schist stele from Mes Aynak, G. Fussman of the College de France writes that the prince shown sitting under foliage of Pipal leaves is Siddhartha before his enlightenment. G. Schopen also writes about a “A cult tied to a cycle of festivals celebrating four moments, not in the biography of the Buddha but in the pre-enlightenment period of the life of Siddha-rtha.”, yet neither he nor G. Fussmanrecognizes the need to integrate the Mes Aynak findings with the priceless inscriptions from the Persepolis Tablets which mention Tissa, Sedda Saramana (Siddhartha), Sudda Yauda Saramana(Suddodhana) and Saman. G. Schopen’s video enlitled ‘Buddha as a Businessman’ is largely based on false Nepalese data. The Wikipedia also heedlessly places Gotama in Nepal.
The legacy of Gotama Buddha can be clearly seen in Persian literature. The resounding humanism of Jalaluddin Rumi, Hafeez, Attar, Omar Khayyam and Amir Khosrow cannot be grasped without the call of Brotherhood given by Gotama and echoed by Alexander and Asoka/Diodotus. Sufism is known to be a universal form of wisdom which has very ancient roots. That Fanâ of the Sufis is almost identi-cal to the Nirvāņa of the Buddhists, Moksha of the Hindus, Kephalia of the Manichaeans and Kaivaya of the Jainas is due to their common origin in Indo-Iran. A very large number of Sufi Saints were from Khorasan and Karman-Baluchistan where Buddhism once flourished. As W. Ball realized the caves at Chehelkhaneh and Heydari are linked to Buddhism. In fact these may also be linked to Mitraism/Mithraism.
The poignant story of Ibrahim ibn Adham of Balkh, one of the earliest Sufis, closely paralles the life history of Gotama Buddha and has been immortalized in the legend of Baarlamand Josaphat. This was a great religious document which highlights piety and in many cultures, it marked the beginning of literature.
The Dawn of Religions in Afghanistan-Gandhara-Punjab
Sir Aurel Stein found a Buddhist site at Kuh-e Khwaja in Seistan in 1916. There were many Buddhas before Gotama which implies that Buddhism was as old as Zoroastrianism. EarlyBuddhism was closely linked to Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, and Judaism which originated inAfghanistan-Baluchistan-Gandhara.