Greek Buddha: Pyrrho’s Encounter with Early Buddhism in by Christopher I. Beckwith

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By Christopher I. Beckwith

Pyrrho of Elis went with Alexander the nice to vital Asia and India throughout the Greek invasion and conquest of the Persian Empire in 334-324 BC. There he met with early Buddhist masters. Greek Buddha indicates how their Early Buddhism formed the philosophy of Pyrrho, the recognized founding father of Pyrrhonian scepticism in historical Greece.

Christopher I. Beckwith lines the origins of an important culture in Western philosophy to Gandhara, a rustic in important Asia and northwestern India. He systematically examines the lessons and practices of Pyrrho and of Early Buddhism, together with these preserved in stories by way of and approximately Pyrrho, within the record on Indian philosophy twenty years later via the Seleucid ambassador Megasthenes, within the first-person edicts via the Indian king Devanampriya Priyadarsi bearing on a favored number of the Dharma within the early 3rd century BC, and in Taoist echoes of Gautama's Dharma in Warring States China. Beckwith demonstrates how the lessons of Pyrrho agree heavily with these of the Buddha Sakyamuni, "the Scythian Sage." within the method, he identifies 8 precise philosophical faculties in historical northwestern India and primary Asia, together with Early Zoroastrianism, Early Brahmanism, and a number of other different types of Early Buddhism. He then exhibits the impression that Pyrrho's model of scepticism had at the evolution of Western suggestion, first in Antiquity, and later, in the course of the Enlightenment, at the nice thinker and self-proclaimed Pyrrhonian, David Hume.

Greek Buddha demonstrates that via Pyrrho, Early Buddhist idea had a big impression on Western philosophy.

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10 The explanation for the similarity of these two passages could well be that the author of the “Anacharsis” quotation given by Sextus Empiricus had heard just such an argument, directly or indirectly, from a Scythian. This would have been a simple matter during the Classical Age because many Scythians then lived in Athens, where a number of them even served as the city’s police force. If it was a stock Scythian story, an eastern Scythian—a Saka—could have transmitted a version of it to the Chinese, so that it ended up in the Chuangtzu, which is full of stories and arguments of a similar character.

In general I have attempted to preserve recognizability for words that have been borrowed into English, such as mythos (rather than muthos) ‘word, story, fiction, myth’. For texts, in the most important cases I have consulted several editions, particularly the critical edition of Eusebius by Mras, the edition of fragments of Early Pyrrhonism by Decleva Caizzi, and the recent critical edition of Strabo by Radt. For other Greek works I have usually relied on the Loeb Library series. INDIC I generally follow traditional Indological practice in converting the often divergent Prakrit dialect spellings to Sanskrit, though Pali text titles are cited in Pali, and other Prakrit forms verbatim.

My goal throughout has been exclusively to examine the evidence as carefully and precisely as possible, and to draw reasonable conclusions based on it—while of course considering other studies that shed light on the problems or in some cases argue for a different interpretation. This sounds like a rather un-Pyrrhonian enterprise, but ultimately, and somewhat unexpectedly, it is what Pyrrhonism is all about. 1 See now Beckwith (2014). 2 Some of these problems are discussed in Chapter Three. See Appendix C for further details.

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