Buddhism as 21st century spiritual philosophy

Exploring early Buddhism

Mike Meyer
Dec 18, 2018 · 9 min read

A surprising link to the distant past

The funny thing that happened was my nearly accidental discovery of new historical research in classical Greek history. Over the last fifteen years or so there has been new archeological discovery of old Buddhist documents related to the origins of ancient Buddhism in Central Asia. This has caused a reappraisal of at least one branch of classical Greek philosophy and the discovery of a much closer link between Athenian classical philosophy and the origins of Buddhism.

Updated history of early Buddhism

A broad knowledge of Buddhism was probably presented to you as part of Indian history in university world cultural courses. As a refresher there were Vedic traditions and then the Upanishads all as part of Hindu religious tradition and somehow this was part of an Aryan invasion of Indo European language group peoples who liked cows a lot and who displaced an earlier indigenous people. And then around 500 BCE there was the Buddha. From there, Siddhartha Gautama or just Gautama, became enlightened under a tree and pretty much Buddhism began. About 500 years later Buddhism, as a religion, spread to China and Southeast Asia and then the whole split into Mahayana that went to China and Japan and Hinayana (or Theravada) that stayed in Southeast Asia. After that the Japanese developed Zen Buddhism from Chinese Chan teachings and about five hundred years after that Alan Watts wrote about in 1957. Zen became a Beat thing and then a Hippie thing and ever since has been part of California and New Age culture.

The historical tradition

As with all the classical religions that usually require a savior like hero to embody divine ideals most all of what became the story of that hero was made up to meet all of the popular expectations. While we have some sense of what little may be historically valid in the Mediterranean religions including Christianity (almost nothing prior to 100 CE) in Buddhism we have nothing but the traditions developed hundreds of years later. There has been, sadly, very little real archeological work on ancient northern India.

Mike Meyer

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Educator, CIO, retired entrepreneur, grandfather with occasional fits of humor in the midst of disaster. . .