Vassa: A blog for SCUBA

Heracles and Buddha by Oz
September 15, 2007, 4:57 pm
Filed under: Buddhism, history

Heracles: Yo, Buddha!
Buddha: Sup, Heracles. Been working out?

Part of my research at school involves looking at the rise and fall of cities, states, nations, and empires. Currently, I’m reading up on some South Asian history and came upon this strange period in history that resulted in a successful melting pot of cultures, specifically that of Greece and Buddhism. One of the kingdoms to emerge after the death of Alexander the Great was the Greek-Indo kingdom. This kingdom bordered the Mauryan empire, most famously led by Asoka, a great patron of Buddhism. The two states were very friendly, leading to a spread of Buddhism into the Greek kingdom, producing some very fascinating art, such as the one linked above.

Coins, busts, statues, Greek pillars, all became infused with Buddhist symbols and depictions of the Buddha and bodhisattvas. This cultural mixing also produced converts, the most well known of which is King Menander I, known to Buddhists as Milinda(in sanskrit). Buddhism has and is still sometimes reduced to Eastern mysticism or related to the mind effects of psychotropic drugs, as a different world ordinarily unknowable to Western minds. This, however, can stand as a successful historical example of West meeting with East, if we want to divide the world in this way. I’m sure this sycretism was made easier by the similarities between the Greek’s own Stoicism and Buddhist monastic practices and teachings. More on these similarities in the future.


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