The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Bodhidharma ''blue eyed Persian''
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Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th/6th century CE. He is traditionally credited as the transmitter of Ch'an (Sanskrit: Dhyāna, Japanese: Zen) to China, and regarded as its first Chinese patriarch....... the Japanese tradition regards Bodhidharma to be from Persia......(Masato Tojo, Zen Buddhism and Persian Culture).....Bodhidharma was primarily active in the lands of the Northern Wèi Dynasty (386–534). ....He is referred as "The Blue-Eyed Barbarian" (碧眼胡) in Chinese Chan texts......The earliest text mentioned Bodhidharma is The Record of the Buddhist Monasteries of Luoyang (洛陽伽藍記 Luòyáng Qiélánjì) which is compiled in 547 by Yáng Xuànzhī (Yang-Hsuan-chih 楊衒之), a writer and translator of Mahāyāna Buddhist texts into the Chinese language. Yang gave the following account: 'At that time there was a monk of the Western Region named Bodhidharma, a Persian Central Asian. "
"Bodhidharma and The Zoroastrian Origin of Zen (Chan) Philosophy Bodhidharma was clearly a Persian Zoroastrian trader, possibly a Mitharist of sorts. From Soghdia, a Persian kingdom in Central Asia (current Uzbekistan) with extensive trade connections to China. Zen as Persian and not Chinese or Japanese philosophy."....Jeffrey L. Broughton (1999): The Bodhidharma Anthology: The Earliest Records of Zen (Berkeley: University of California Press) .....Broughton notes that Bodhidharma was a Persian from Central Asia. ......This paper investigates the relationships between Mithraism, Persian culture, Zen and Mahayana Buddhism
"Zen Buddhism traces its lineage to a mythical monk Bodhidharma from the Silk Route around 500 AD who founded the Shao Lin Monastery in China. Bodhidharma was thus a missionary of Silk Road culture, .....Lost Asian Civilization Discovered in the 1990's in Central Asia & Afghanistan. It started around 3,000 BC and its last remnants were destroyed by the Mongolian invasion in the 1200s..... it appears that another River Civilization thrived around the rivers leading from the Himalayas north to the Aral Sea. These people built sophisticated hydraulic works and mined the Tin that fueled Mesopotamia’s Bronze age. in the 2,000s BC.
The main archeology sites were uncovered by Soviet Archeologists in the 1970’s, but remained unknown in the West until translation in the 1990’s. as you can see from the included map, this area would later become the Satrap of Bactria and includes the major silk route cities. Interestingly Chinese civilization arose 500 later than Bactria around 2,500 BC. I hypothesize that Bactria was a conduit for the transmission of Mesopotamian culture into China. Before you scoff, realize that the silk route trade would later be the conduit for Buddhism, Manichaean Thought, Christianity, and Islam into China. We know next to nothing about the first Bactrians, but we do know about Alexander’s campaigns to subdue Bactria. He left behind massive fortresses and ten,thousand Greek Mercenaries who he banished there. The Greek-Bactrian kingdom lasted for a couple of centuries and played a pivotal role in fusing Indian Buddhism and Greek art and probably Philosophy.
Their written artifacts barely survive, but we do know that in the 250’s two erudite greek scholars wrote greek language versions of Buddhist propaganda using using terms and phrases from Plato and Pythagorus. This greek culture became a center of Buddhist thought and missionary work. Bactria is where the jewish-christian prophet Mani went to learn Buddhism around 250 AD. Zarathustra is said to be born here. The sufi Movement is rooted here, this is the center from which the Barmakids translated Sanskrit texts into Arabic in the 700’s. This is either the birthplace of Mahayana Buddhism or one of the birthplaces around. This knew form of Buddhism arose around 100 AD and stressed Gnostic salvation.
This is the form of Buddhism that we know as Tibetan, Zen and Holy Land, rather than the Puritan Self-Denial of the Thai and Ceylonese arhats. This form became big on the Silk Road and was then reintroduced into India. I would argue that it is a syncretic Buddhism that mixed with the the gnostic Christianity Zoroastrianism and (probably) Neoplatonism that was brewing in this cauldron of cultural diffusion. Zen Buddhism traces its lineage to a mythical monk Bodhidharma from the Silk Route around 500 AD who founded the Shao Lin Monastery in China. Bodhidharma was thus a missionary of Silk Road culture, which was immersed in Mani’s gnostic ideas of immediate illumination, a distinctly zoroastrian concept which also made its way into Kabbalah, Freemasonry, Pietism, and Pentecostalism to name but a few. A complete account would talk about the renaissance of Islamic Thought in this area around the year 1000 and talk about the rise of the Sufis. This is an amazing crossroads of civilization where the regions of India, The Near East and China have always met....."
"Bodhidharma is said to be a blue-eyed Persian 碧眼胡僧 (Hekigan-kosō) in Zen tradition. “Blue-eyed Persian” means Hellenized Persian, and/or a Persian who has much knowledge about western culture. Mithra’s magi are such Persians."
"Dr. Masato Tojo has outlined a new article on the links between ancient Iran and the Zen Buddhist culture of Asia – Zen Buddhism and Persian Culture: An investigation on the Simurgh (Persian Phoenix) culture and Zen Buddhism"
"Zen is traditionally credited to be established at the Šaolin temple 少林寺 in China by a Persian wandering monk Bodhidharma. He came to China to teach a "special teaching not-written in the scriptures". The reason was that the teaching is so subtle that it is impossible to transmit it by the words.......Zen is thought to have developed as an amalgam of various currents in Mahāyāna Buddhist thoughts—among them the Vijnāna-vādin 唯識* Mādhyamaka 中観 philosophies and the Prajñāpāramitā 波羅蜜多literature—and of several traditions in China, particularly Taoism and preceding Mahāyāna Buddhism sect Kegon-šū 華厳宗(Ch: Huáyán-zōng). The first document which mentioned Zen as a distinct school of Buddhism was written in 7th Century. From China Zen subsequently spread south to Vietnam, and east to Korea and Japan."