The Buddhist history topics in this section make for stimulating reading. Some have a focus on stupas, but many are simply interesting stories that are not well known. Some are controversial and under debate by scholars. Others are surprising because they don’t fit our preconceived notions. All of this material has come from recent scholarly investigation and can be researched further by you.
What really happened in those early days in India? How did the Buddha’s story spread out from South Asia? Much new information is coming to light, and the ramifications are great. For various reasons, the subject of early Buddhist history has been poorly researched. Scholars have historically relied on textual material to tell the story, rather than archaeological or epigraphical evidence. Now we are realizing that text based literary evidence is an idealized version of events, with scholars of the day motivated to address the deficiencies they saw around them. On the ground, a different Buddhism was happening.
Also, there has been no strong modern cultural or religious constituency in India to advocate the uncovering of the old truths. Because India has been and is currently dominated by the Hindu faith, followed by Islam, there is a general amnesia concerning the contribution of the Buddhist past.
Did you know that some early stupas in Gandhara, built in a quincunxial layout with pillars at the four corners were the architectural forerunners of the Islamic mosque and minarets? Did you know that the Grand Trunk Road through northern India, connecting up with the Silk Road to the north of Afghanistan went through the all important Gandhara, and that this was the way that Buddhism first migrated to China? Did you know that Gandhara (the modern day northern reaches of Pakistan and Afghanistan) was a hotbed of early Buddhism and was ruled by a succession of Greek and Scythian, then Bactrian and Kushan kings, and this was where the first Buddha images were carved in the Hellenistic style? Did you know that the Buddhist King Asoka, who consolidated almost the entirety of India and Gandhara into his kingdom in the 3rd century BCE, sent Buddhist emissaries as far away as Libya, Macedonia, Egypt and the Levant? And more surprising that these emissaries, promulgating the Buddha’s teachings and the value of ascetic and monastic lifestyles may have laid the ground for the pre-Christian communities that borrowed from this tradition more than a hundred years before the birth of the Christ? Read on….
This web site does not seek to stake out a position on any view as true or false, but strives to keep an open dialogue. What is fact and what is fiction? What is current accepted scholarship? And most importantly, can you read between the lines and find inspiration that is of personal value to you?
This web site is in an early stage of development. Articles will be added on a periodic basis.