The Glories of Gandhara: Lessons for Identitarians

The Buddhist Literature of Ancient Gandhāra: An Introduction with Selected Translations
Richard Salomon
Somerville, Massachusetts: Wisdom, 2018

This is a fine book of translations of mysterious Gandharan Buddhist manuscripts. The context provided by Richard Salomon is excellent, providing a comprehensive overview of the little we know of ancient Buddhism and of the various sources: (enormous or fragmentary) Buddhist canons (Pali, Chinese, Tibetan, Sanskrit), archaeological sources (artifacts, inscriptions), and later legends and tales. Salomon emphasizes how little we know about ancient Buddhism from Gautama to Ashoka and indeed about ancient India in general.

Salomon’s long introductory chapters alone are worth the price of the book. I love it when a historian is able to draw a coherent picture from a great mass of wildly heterogeneous material (e.g. W. M. Sale on the Iliad, Brigitte Hamann on young Hitler, Fustel de Coulanges on the Indo-Europeans, David Engels on Roman decline).

Between the second century B.C. and the fourth century A.D., Gandhara, in what is today the rather hellish countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan, was a thriving Indic kingdom ruled by successive waves of Indo-European conquerors (Greeks, Scythians, Kushans . . .). As so often in multicultural empires, a period of syncretic flourishing was followed by total dissolution, with the disintegration of the state and of the ethnic elite with a stake in the commonwealth — quite comparable to what occurred in ancient Rome.

The typical appalling state of surviving Gandharan manuscripts

Salomon and his colleagues have been doing painstaking work over the past two decades collecting, reconstructing, and deciphering the Gandharan (overwhelmingly fragmentary) texts, of which there are about two-hundred. This book presents only a selection, the introductions and context being extremely detailed (often too much for laymen), typically longer than the translation. They have been able to draw a few significant insights.

Gandharan relief portraying the Trojan horse

First, an incongruity: while the hauntingly beautiful statuary art of Gandhara was clearly created under Hellenic influence, there is no discernible trace of Hellenic thought in the surviving manuscripts. Gandharan Buddhism appears to have been similar to Buddhism in other parts of ancient India and the variations in the text appear to be more due to the vagaries of an oral culture being put to paper for the first time rather than to doctrinal differences. Gandharan Buddhism may have pioneered Mahayana Buddhism, the dominant school in East Asia. It also seems that the Chinese Buddhist canon was translated from Gandhari sources.

“Boddo”: Greco-Buddhist coin made by the Kushan king, Kanishka (circa 127-150 A.D.). Gandharan sovereigns would portray various gods on their coinage, apparently adapted to their local subjects.

The Heracles of Hadda, Afghanistan, identified with Vajrapani, the Buddha’s protector.

We can say a few things about ancient Buddhism in general. It represented a rebellion against the brutally authoritarian, hierarchical customs and the reproductive values of ancient Hinduism, much as Greek philosophy and later Christianity challenged Homeric values. This marked a shift from the ancestral values of lordship and violence of the Indo-Europeans to “axial” values, favoring reciprocity and self-abnegation. In general, it seems to me that men gradually became exhausted with the “vitalist” values of the Vedas (Hindu scriptures), just as Homeric values gradually became exhausted due to the Malthusian pressures in settled, overpopulated areas. This led men to establish more conciliatory and de-escalatory values and ways of life, with less emphasis on classic Indo-European militaristic virtues that were so central to their conquests and their domination of conquered peoples.

Gautama Buddha’s message was universalist and open to all castes, spiritual merit being based on individual achievement, rather than one’s lineage. He challenged the spiritual monopoly held by the hereditary brahmin class. As Evola observed, it is intriguing that at the same time, ancient Buddhism also curiously asserted that buddhas can only be born of the brahmins or kshatriya (warrior) castes.

While ancient Buddhism demands respect for one’s parents and for society, it is a markedly dysgenic anti-familial and anti-natalist worldview, exhorting the best to become barren monks, dedicating themselves to contemplating reality rather than ensuring their posterity.[1] In this respect, the values of the Hindus’ Bhagavad Gita, emphasizing familial and political duty, reproduction, and a spirituality of detached action, strike me as much healthier for a people’s survival. Ancient Buddhism also affirms, uniquely among religions, not a denial but an indifference or even superiority to the gods.

Buddhist values — an adherence to truth, even the most unpalatable truths about the vanity of existence — in any healthy society must be counter-balanced by vitalist values. Japan, with its fusion of essentially pagan Shinto and various forms of Buddhism, did this best, culminating in Zen and the virtually unrivaled excellence of the samurai ethos.

Buddhism is highly diverse. Even the original sutras show Gautama as something of a naturalistic philosopher or a supernatural being. Buddhism later tended to become either a standard redemption faith (miracles, proliferation of supernatural savior deities, various postmortem rewards — a sure consolation for the peasants) or it turned into an uncompromising life-philosophy for an elite (most remarkably, Zen).

The Gandharan texts reflect most of these tendencies. There are many stories about the supernatural rewards (namely favorable rebirths) for those contributing to the Buddhist sangha (community). Most remarkably, the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, the foundational Mahayana text, claims that those copying the sutra will get more merit from such action than by saving all the beings in as many worlds as there are “grains of sand in the river Ganges” (356). Now that’s an incentive for memetic reproduction if I ever saw one.

Buddhist scriptures, including the Gandharan ones, reflect the same kind of incomprehensible text, institutionally self-interested stories, supernatural claims, surprisingly bitter polemics about obscure points of doctrine, and outright gibberish that one also finds in those of other world religions. There are however certain elevated passages which may reflect the serene mental states actually achieved by ascetics.

[The Buddha] had achieved absolute self-control and calm . . . guarded, his senses suppressed, masterful, he was like a clear, clean calm lake. . . . Just as a blooming lotus [is not touched]  by water, so I am untouched by the world. Therefore, brahmin, I am a buddha. (114-15)

Say what you want about the ancient traditions, these were created through generations of men’s difficult efforts to thrive in a much more painful and brutal world than ours.

Ancient Buddhist meditative techniques involved restraining of the senses, will, and even thoughts; contemplation of one’s mortality, corpses, the disgusting aspects of one’s body and food, and communal monastic life. The Buddha asserts: “Sensation, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness are not yours; abandon them” (147). And he further exhorts (I remove the brackets indicating Salomon’s reconstruction using parallel texts):

Trade what ages for the ageless,
what burns for what cools,
the supreme calm,
the ultimate rest from exertion. . . .
Endowed with proper conduct and with vision,
rejoicing in calming within himself,
he delights in relying on the path,
wise and strongly concentrated. (315-16)

Buddhism may be genetically dangerous, but its memetic successes in spreading and sustaining itself as a world-religion are manifest. In this respect, Buddhism has useful advice for European identitarians and traditionalists in their own ideological struggle to reform their society’s values. The Buddhist sangha, or monastic community, was nothing if not an institution for the spreading of certain values. To build a strong movement capable of spreading its values, one must also have harmony within that movement:

A monk who behaves disrespectfully and rudely towards the Teacher, who behaves disrespectfully and rudely toward the Dharma [the Teaching], who behaves disrespectfully and rudely toward the community of monks, and who does not fulfill his training, he creates argument in the community, and argument leads to the detriment of many people, to the unhappiness of many people, to the disadvantage of many people, to the detriment and suffering of gods and humans. . . .
Angry and hostile: For this root of argument, the antidote is physical acts of living kindness.
Negative and contentious: For this root of argument, the antidote is verbal acts of loving kindness.
Jealous and envious: For this root of argument, the antidote is mental acts of loving kindness. . . .
Devious and deceitful: For this root of argument, the antidote is proper conduct.
Obstinate in his own views and [holding] extreme views: For these roots of argument, the antidote is correct views. (306–7)

The Gandharan Dharmapada, a set of verses ascribed to the Buddha summarizing the core values of ancient Buddhism, defines the ideal brahmin (or elite) as follows:

One who utters speech that isn’t rough,
But instructive and truthful
So that he offends no one,
Him I call a Brahmin. . . .
One perfectly calmed, ceased,
A gentle speaker, not puffed up,
Who illuminates the meaning and the Dharma,
Him I call a Brahmin.[2]

We should not take these words too literally. Numerous people no doubt found many of Gautama’s doctrines profoundly offensive. The point is that we ought not offend or hurt our fellows — who most often are our own people — gratuitously, only when necessary, only when it is for their own good. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.

More generally, we would do well to heed the practices of past centuries, when people learned manners and were careful with their tongues, so as to reduce conflict among our peers.

With the fall of the Kushans in the fourth century, Gandharan Buddhism declined rapidly in the absence of royal patrons. Buddhist inscriptions disappear from around this period. Salomon writes:

[The Chinese pilgrim] Xuanzang’s travelogue shows Buddhism in Gandhara and the northwest to be alive, though not well, in the early seventh century. Over and over, he reports that monasteries are deserted or decrepit and that the remaining monks are few and often lazy and ignorant. (47)

Gandharan Buddhism was finally exterminated with the Muslim conquest of the region in the twelfth century. In its native India, Buddhism gradually and somewhat mysteriously died out, while Hinduism — ultra-conservative but emphatic about the familial duties of householders, including the brahmin priestly class — triumphed. The glories of Gandhara serve as a warning: a great empire may foster a magnificent culture, but without maintaining the people sustaining that empire and culture, nothing will remain, nothing but ruins and fragments amidst a more vicious humanity.

Destruction of one of the famous giant Bamiyan Buddha statues by the Taliban in 2001.

 

Tragically typical current residents of the former Gandhara (Afghanistan).


[1] It is true that Buddhist texts sometimes claim that a pious householder can be as valuable as a monk, e.g.: “He who, though adorned, practices the Dharma, who is controlled, calmed, restrained, who lives a pure life, shunning violence toward all beings — he is a brahman, he is an ascetic, he is a monk” (196). In general, however, the main theme of Buddhism is a devaluation of householders in comparison with monks.

[2] Valerie J. Roebuck (trans.), The Dhammapada (London: Penguin, 2010), p. 86.

 

14 replies
  1. RoyAlbrecht
    RoyAlbrecht says:

    After reading this essay and many others like it…,
    meaning those that compare, evaluate and try to draw lessons useful for the situation that W.N.s find themselves in today…,
    one thing always seems to stand out…;
    The absence of actual first hand experience in the overall interpretations and dissections.

    Although the initiate’s self-perceived relative sense of grinding asceticism may at times seem insufferable, there is almost no question that if pushed just a little further the initiate is able to withstand…,
    “…that which is heaped upon him…”.

    Another thing that I have mentioned earlier is the lack of precise scientific language at the time when these ancient texts were written, that is now at our disposal.

    The quantum-gravitational component of life that leaves the remaining corpse at the moment of death, is in effect a continuation of life on a further reduced
    (meaning; similar to that which remains after a chemical reduction process)
    form of life and has its own innate “…reduced…” capacities for sensation.

    It is this “..reduced..” sense of being that imparts an “…expanded sense…” of existence…,
    one that can be brought back into the meme of the corpse…,
    should one find oneself destined to undergo such a return.

    The value of this “…experience…”, IMO should not be underestimated. For all those who share this experience, a sense of fellowship and communion in ethos is as self-evident and binding as a flash of lightning that is there and gone in an instant but remains forever seared upon the memory.
    It instantly imparts a wild sense of the infinite in the face of a finite corpulent death…,
    in short a sense of fearless inconsequential reality towards death in the face of insurmountable odds.
    It is how the 300 Spartans faced the 10’s of thousands of Persians at Thermopolis…, they knew something which requiring so much rigor to attain, yet was so extremely peaceful to behold,
    that death in the defense of that which upheld the people and culture synonymous with underpinning its existence,
    became a welcome and ennobling event.

    Reply
      • RoyAlbrecht
        RoyAlbrecht says:

        I suggest you refrain from commenting on things that you evidently have no clue about, because you are quite mistaken…, or (((purposefully misleading))) in your snide remark.

        Rigour Mortis or “…stiffness in death…” implies a cold, hard, lifeless body…,
        most unwelcome and definitely something to be avoided.

        Glandular secretions,
        typically cholesterol related molecules,
        are usually fat soluble and in fact have a slippery, greasy and globular or “…flexible…” feel to the touch.
        Anything but rigorous or hard and stiff…

        Moreover, kneading the glands that produce these glandular secretions usually require a state of flexibility that makes Rudolph Nureyev look like a National Level Gymnast by comparison.

        Testosterone is often the last metabolic consumable in a chain of consumables that become ever more toxin-free, and nutritionally refined and targeted before
        “…lift-off…” can take place.

        Meaning; during the last few weeks or months before attaining this self-induced, natural state of metabolic cryostasis,
        the purity of food for the human body increases while its amount decreases until one in effect begins to metabolize vibrantly life-giving and self-manufactured hormones themselves.

        Coupled with a continuous regime of aerobic fitness and relaxed neurological introspection-cum-relaxation (some call it meditation), the adherent’s state of being at the time of “…actual atmospheric breakthrough…”…,
        as opposed to mere “…sub-orbital flight…”,
        is nothing short of life affirming.

        So you can take your … [REDACTED]

        Reply
  2. PaleoAtlantid
    PaleoAtlantid says:

    Very interesting article. It would appear India survived the dysgenic social experiment of Buddhism and returned to its genetic roots via the resurgence of Hinduism. Are we today witnessing a variant of this process occurring in Europe? Some would say contemporary Christianity has resumed its globalist mission to the genetic detriment of Europeans, meanwhile European people, unlike ancient Indians, have no native historic religion to which they can return.

    Reply
    • RoyAlbrecht
      RoyAlbrecht says:

      Some would say contemporary Christianity has resumed its globalist mission to the genetic detriment of Europeans, meanwhile European people, unlike ancient Indians, have no native historic religion to which they can return.

      And this is why:
      being able to write the history books…,
      that keep those who are reading and believing what is written,
      enslaved by those who have written it…,
      is so important to (((them))).
      (((They))) would ban, censure, kill, mass-murder, poison, or ANTHING…,
      standing in (((their))) way.

      By having the history monopoly sewn up,
      and because so few people from the White Masses have been able to muster the strength and the courage to “…Understand themselves…”,-
      it enables (((them))) to purge the best bits of our history from the record
      and then pathologies,
      down the memory hole,
      that which remains…

      Others would say that it was Northern Europeans,
      who have given up looking for themselves…, –
      and those N.E.s that are actually still looking…,-
      are given a never-ending flow of Jew-stream garbage to choose from,
      so that before they know it,
      they are old and useless.

      Imagine imparting a White Nationalist force of Warrior Monks,
      trained by a consortium of Master White Trainers,
      in one massive location,
      with the tools required to literally,
      “….go ballistic…” in unison…,
      during a cloven of Jews debating the hedging of investments
      during profiting-off the mass-murder of the White Race?

      I can just see it now…,
      Wagner’s Valkyrie in the background through blue tooth and….,

      what did (((they))) say again?…;

      “… may His blood be upon our children’s children…”, or something like that?

      What do Jews say when accused of reciting these lines?

      Okay we all know what the Talmud says in this regard, don’t we?
      Something about having Him,
      and any one who believes in Him,
      boiled in a mix of digestive and male reproductive body fluids?

      Well I think they forgot a couple of things…,
      blood and the gnashing of teeth for starters…, especially if the White Warrior Monks should ever come to be.

      For it was ***Those*** [Aryans] on pre-historic virgin migrations,
      via open ocean going North Atlantic sailing vessels who,
      passed out an earlier version of White genes,
      which then mutated into the semi-skilled third world variant we have today,

      This “…primitive…” Third World Ape-Man hybrid actually took and preserved a system of,
      “…native historic religion…”,
      that originated with the White Man.

      But Whites wouldn’t know it even if We were looking at it in the face.

      Let us try to recognize the patterns that lead to verification of what we once knew,
      instead of today, simply following things we have been “…lead to believe…”,
      or are not real or
      are blasphemous to believe.

      Reply
      • John McArthur
        John McArthur says:

        James Boswell to Samuel Johnson “Indeed I come from Scotland, but I cannot help it.”

        Some Christians read the Jews calling for blood of Jesus to cover them as being mercy at work, for through Jesus they will be redeemed by the lamb they have killed.

        Peace.

        Reply
        • RoyAlbrecht
          RoyAlbrecht says:

          From a common sense point of view, which one of us actually takes pleasure from plunging a dagger into a living being?

          Yes, conditioning has taught us that hunting was part of our culture dating back to pre-historic times, but was it actually hunting or more like a form of euthanasia for the old, terminally ill or irredeemably injured
          or the culling of the newly born deformed or unwanted off-spring?

          From past experience,
          in southerly latitudes more so than in northerly ones,
          being a vegetarian had so many health and empathy related benefits,
          over an omnivorous diet,
          that it remains difficult to explain how anyone can not feel the pangs of death and suffering of any being that is having a dagger plunged into its body or dragged across its throat?

          As such, if nothing else, Christ’s lesson to the Jews and Pagans alike,
          by allowing himself to be crucified,
          was to amplify the feeling of guilt and shame of needlessly killing an innocent life.

          Who in their right mind actually takes pleasure in the act of mass murdering a Race of Whites in order to extinguish the memory of killing one of,
          if not the Most,
          innocent life that ever lived?

          Christ was trying to teach the Jews a lesson…, one that…, far from landing on deaf ears, landed on ears that have now become so psychopathic from having to repress their innate longing to be free from guilt, that it has morphed into the (((Convoluted Race of Mongrel Psychopaths))) we have dominating global events today.

          They must be called out to a man and held to account one way or another.

          Reply
  3. m
    m says:

    As the article points out, one must distinguish between the ‘metaphysical’ core of Buddhist teaching, and its outward, popular, ‘religious’ manifestations. An ethical universality claimed for Buddhism reflects the latter. However, personal ascesis or practice necessary to achieve what is called an enlightened or awakened state is quite difficult, and almost impossible for a modern to achieve. That aspect can rightly be called exclusive, and hence limited to an elect. To contrast, presuming or thinking that Buddhism offers something similar to an idea of ‘universal salvation’, such as is claimed to be available to Christians through a profession of faith, would be a misrepresentation of the doctrine.

    Buddhism is often criticized for being ‘passive’. But one must understand the difference between inward and outward passivity. Far from being a passively meek state, ascetic practice requires an almost superhuman and intense effort, although the paradox is, that in order to achieve it, one must not put forth effort in the usual sense. In any case, it is not something learned discursively.

    Apart from its outward ‘ethical-religious’ trappings, there is no practical or intrinsic requirement in Buddhist ascesis that would necessarily preclude one from being a warrior, in the sense described in the Gita, where Krishna instructs Arjuna on the proper attitude a warrior must assume in order to kill enemies.

    All that said, there is nothing more ridiculous it seems than Westerners who shave their heads and don a red robe, fearing to step on an insect or eat a hamburger because of negative karmic consequences. Everyone has seen these sorts of people. I suppose they can be understood as a reaction within the context of general deracination, and resulting anomie, present in our grotesque, modern day materialistic life. Because of that I guess these types can more or less be given a pass. They don’t usually cause problems for anyone.

    Reply
    • RoyAlbrecht
      RoyAlbrecht says:

      “…However, personal ascesis [sic] or practice necessary to achieve what is called an enlightened or awakened state is quite difficult, and almost impossible for a modern to achieve.”

      There is a large dose of truth in the above comment although the word “…impossible…”, even though it is prefaced by “…almost…”, is wording that is innately “…half empty…” as opposed to a “…half full…” descriptive such as “…almost requires Fatal Intervention…”.

      Nevertheless, the rest of your points ring very true.

      (((X-tianity or Buddhism))),
      as practiced today by many Church Industrie$ or Monestarie$,
      are often a (((Bastardization))) of the Original Intent.

      Christ and His Disciples often endured identical hardships to the Buddha before “…indwelling…” in Enlightening Moments.

      Being far from an expert on ANY scripture belonging to ANY religion,
      off the top of my head,
      John on the Isle of Patmos just before writing the Book of Revelation,
      Daniel in the den of Lions,
      Christ’s 40 days in the desert,
      and loads of Vedic and other Monks throughout history,
      ALL go through strengthening and purification periods preceding Enlightening Moments.

      With regards to your “…almost impossible,,,” statement…,
      the (((Race of Mongrel Falsifiers))), at least at the Leadership Levels, know what the preconditions are to becoming Enlightened Spiritually.

      Quite frankly, I believe the (((Supreme Slut Mongrel in Chief and his Rabbinical Rapists))) use these Higher States of Awareness to keep track of the multitude of complexities involved in coordinating global action against dissent and those in favour of resource oligopol-ization and other Mass Movements.

      (((They))), IMO, are also involved in ANY activity which makes Spiritual Enlightenment more difficult to attain “…for moderns…”, as you put it.

      Things like the Fukushima Daiichi,”…mishap…”
      to the Exxon Mobile spill or
      the deforestation of untouched environments close to human habitation to the ever increasing
      Jew intervention in the forcing of foods upon us that are increasingly processed and require money to obtain.

      “…The war…”, so to speak, may seem to be upon White Males exclusively and on the European Race in general, but is, IMO, in fact,
      as the Bible proclaims,
      one of the (((Powers and Principalities of Satan))),
      to oppose everything and everyone that is of God.

      I agree with the ridiculousness of the ((( Fake-Buddhists or holier-than-thou “…Belieber-X-tians…” )))…
      They to a large extent suffer from what I really believe to be Jew Induced Demonosis as opposed to Psychosis.

      Reply
  4. Bob Matthews
    Bob Matthews says:

    Off topic slightly, more attempted propaganda regarding “Tudor” England, which despite the “sensationalist” headline contradicts itself later on in the article – talk about a “damp” squib!

    Reply
  5. Arya
    Arya says:

    Lol and then we’re back to Orthodox Sikhi which says a proper Sikh has a desire for vicious warfare.

    Also, just be aware that picture you posted at the end,

    Is of a homosexual & his boy lover..

    https://www.manglacharan.com/home/devi-in-khalsa-dharam-shaastar

    Weapons are form of Goddess.
    Gun control is blasphemy.
    No Gun is Illegal.

    Anyway,

    Don’t worry

    Many Sons
    Many Guns

    ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂਜੀਕਾਖਾਲਸਾ।।ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂਜੀਕੀਫਤਿਹ।।

    Reply

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