Buddhism Was Invented by the Greeks

I know this is a provocative title, but here I’m presenting a thesis that may have been overlooked due to assumptions we have in our minds about Buddhism. I don’t claim this is final proof, but this is an idea I had in my mind for some time. Buddhism has been always an example of Asian thought devoid of any European influence. But now, I’m crazy enough to say that it was invented by Europeans?! How could that be? Well, it was the Greek invaders who gave India the Buddha.

It is commonly said that the Buddha lived around the year 500 B.C. If you have studied Buddhist art, you know that there isn’t any image of the Buddha until the first century A.D. There isn’t neither any written record. The Pali Canon, the mother of all Buddhist scriptures, is usually asserted as being first century B.C. in origin, but reflecting hundreds of years of oral tradition. However, that is a legend. The older manuscripts that we have are from the 18th and 19th century.

There was a Greek writer, Megasthenes, who lived for ten years where the Buddha did, around the year 300 B.C. He makes no mention of Buddhism when writing about the religious practices of India.

So, when was the Buddha’s first appearance in history? Not until the first century A.D. At that time appears for the first time a fully evolved image of the Buddha.

There is no evidence of the existence of the Buddha in the B.C. era. People may mention king Ashoka, but there is no mention in his edicts of the Buddha or specially Buddhist practices, only concepts that were part of Indian culture.

After Alexander’s conquests, the Greeks set up kingdoms in Asia, along the so-called Silk Road. Their presence is established by the archeological record. The Greeks built distinctive cities, leaving their art and architecture.

It is among this Greek culture in Asia that we find the first appearance of the Buddha. Before the Greco-Buddhist art there is nothing Buddhist. We have the so called aniconic images, but they don’t have nothing distinctively Buddhist.

The history of art isn’t the only proof of the Greek origin of Buddhism. Guess when Buddhism starts to spread across Asia. First century A.D! It supposedly existed for half a thousand years, but after the first century A.D. it expanded throughout Central Asia and even China in less than a hundred years.

Maybe the Greeks didn’t invent Buddhism from scratch. It is probable that many local practices and beliefs where adapted and rationalized by the Greeks to form this new ideal.

Another interesting question is whether Christianity had any influence in this process. Mahayana Buddhism always has been compared to Christianity for its devotional practices, so, this isn’t a crazy bet.

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