Buddhism in ancient Israel and Arabia -by Professor A.D.T.E. Perera-Courtesy: Daily News ( Vesak 2549 – 2005)
The Buddha Statue in Khurul Monastery in southern Russia.
(Formerly, Associate Editor, Encyclopaedia of Buddhism, Government of Sri Lanka, publication, Research Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of New Mexico, USA, Guest Research Fellow, Department of Disarmament and Development, UNO, New York)
The publication of a research paper recently, written by the great scholar Most Ven. (Dr.) Paravahera Pannananda Nayaka Thera, the Chancellor of the Ruhunu University of Sri Lanka, has caused waves of speculation on the ocean of historical research. The learned Thera has identified pre-Islamic Arabia as the possible location of the hometown of a Great Buddhist Monk named Punna Thera who was a disciple of Sakyamuni Buddha.
Ven. (Dr.) Pannananda Nayaka Thera has taken steps further by identifying the Sacred City “Mecca” in Arabia, as the place where an original Buddhist Shrine was built at the behest of Ven. Punna Thera while the Buddha was alive. According to the thesis of Ven. (Dr.) Pannananda Nayaka Thera there were four Buddhist monasteries caused to have been built by the Buddha’s pupil Ven. Punna Thera and all those four temples were sanctified by the Buddha Himself who had arrived in aerial cars from India to far West Arabia. The aerial cars were provided by the King of Gods, Sakra.
Until the publication of this learned paper, based on original Buddhist texts and their commentaries, no one seems to have ever ventured to give thought to such a possibility, that Buddhism had been established in a West-Asian region which was the meeting point of East West cultures in the old world, the entrepot as it were, as far back as the 6th century B.C. while Gautama Buddha was still living.
Other than sporadic references and short essays on Buddhist missionaries that went to West Asian cities, several centuries after the passing away of the Buddha, there was no major research done on this subject of Buddha’s teachings beyond the Indian sub-continent during the very lifetime of the Buddha.
Although mighty civilisations and empires arose in this region of Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Myceneans, Cretans, Athenians, Persians, Hittite, Mittanni, that have left indomitable marks of their grand cultures, historians were only satisfied with on the spot investigations and locating this entire network of pre-Christian kingdoms as an agglomeration with constant warfare with one another and not as one that had potential to communicate and build contact with the regions and kingdoms outside their own theatre.
References to merchants, caravan traders, kings and courtiers and men in search of learning trekking dangerous desert terrain from East to West and vice-versa are found in ample in early Buddhist texts and related narrative literature like the Jataka Stories. But these were not taken seriously by the historians or archaeologists to investigate possible historical sites and their survivals.
Such behaviour on the part of academies was not unusual because the early scholars who wrote and edited Buddhist books were mostly Europeans who would not have given thought to establish the cultural communication, the Eastern World had had with the people outside their kingdoms during such a hoary antiquity when the forefather of Europeans were living under sub-cultural conditions.
The great barriers of communication caused by terror-striking deserts like Taklamakan and Gobi and huge snow capped mountains like the Himalayas and the freezing weather patterns coupled with ferocious nomadic people wielding broad swords and riding on fast moving ponies who inhabited these regions were all witnessed by the pioneer Western scholars like Sir Auriel Stein, Paul Pelliot, Albert Grunweddel, Ludwig Bachhofer, E.J. Rapson, Helmuth Von Glasenapp, Le Gocq, Guesseppe Tucci and many others who travelled in Asia in search of literary and cultural survivals of great Eastern civilisations. Their first impression would have been very likely, “that other than conquering armies of ferocious nomadic tribes like Arabs, Scythians, Yeuh Chihs, Hepthalites or Hunas, Tocharians, Tartars and Mongals, no other sensible people would ever have dared to cross these terrible barriers in search of better pastures. Hence, “the meeting of cultural conscious people, learned men, monks and eremites in search of divine wisdom, Truth or Sat (hence Sathnyasi Sannyasi) who preferred seclusion more than vain glory adventures was a remote possibility,” would have been the conclusion of the historian and the research scholar of decades gone by.
The Holy Bible relates how the ruthless armies of war-lords have devastated these regions and taken captive thousands of POWs, as slaves. The history of Egyptian Pharaoes, Sumarians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Hittites, Greeks, Medians, Cretans, Achaemenids, was one that has recorded intermittent warfare and ruthless carnage spelled by those jingoistic bellicose rulers on their dependant, less powerful neighbours.
One might say such a background would never have encouraged visits or religious leaders and men of learning to cross the boundaries of their own native lands and enter alient territory, and those references to visits of men in quest of learning and religious wisdom from far away lands were mere fanciful stories concocted by pious monks to enhance the importance of their own sects, creeds and religious schools.
However, a major breakthrough has now been made by the scholar Thera mentioned above, who has marshalled his facts gleaned from authentic sources of early Buddhist literature.
Being a student of archaeology myself, I have had that discipline moulded under that polymath late Professor Senerath Paranavitana, when he was my Guru as the first professor of Archaeology at Peradeniya University. I had the good occasion to do some major research in religious archaeology while being an Associate Editor of the Encyclopaedia of Buddhism when the late Professor G.P. Malalasekera of international flame was its Editor-in-Chief in the late sixties and early seventies and later with yet another luminary, the late Professor A.L. Basham during my stay at the Australian National University, in Canberra.
While tracing possible survivals of Buddhism’s expansion from its birthplace, the Middle India, I was fortunate enough to trace a few localities outside India, towards Far West and beyond the Northern barrier of Himalayan terrain where flourishing cultures of Buddhist Kingdoms had sprung up during pre-Christian centuries.
However, I was rather hesitant to locate any of those pre-Christian Buddhist Kingdoms that existed on the great Northern Highway, the cponymous “Uttrapatha”, (the “Silk Route” as some writers name it) during the very life-time of the Buddha.
With bare facilities at my disposal and with guess work, possibilities, probabilities, and plausibilities, I launched upon my initial archaeological research. Later my views were placed before the readers and students through the Encyclopaedia of Buddhism and other research papers addressed before a couple of International Academic Conference Seminars.
However, with the publication of the essay on “Buddhism in Arabia before Islam”, by the learned Thera, my interests were again kindled and I was compelled to make further research into those localities where I have done preliminary research some time ago and had given up half-way, because I felt that it would be a waste of time to construct and revive lost and forgotten cultures without substantial evidence, especially literary and archaeological.
The present research study is an assay to marshal whatever evidence at my disposal, collected over the past many years to reweave a broken fabric is it were, whereby I would be able to present a picture of that past golden age during which our Lord Gautama Buddha lived and tirelessly served the mankind for 44 years to save the sentient beings from “universal suffering” (Dukkha) by expounding The One and The Only Way “The Nobel Eightfold Path” (Ariya Attangika Magga).
Scientific discipline that one acquires through modern learning alone, does not help one to get a correct perspective of the deeds, contributions and behaviour of those great men who lived in the past. When people failed to understand the behaviour of such great men, they were scoffed off, rediculed and condemned as mystics, fanatics, magicians, and the like. Jesus Christ was crucified, as a rebellious traitor, Corpenicus and Gallileo were condemned to death by the Catholic Church of Rome, Socrates was poisoned, Zorastrar was murdered, Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead. Several attempts on the life of Gautama Buddha were recorded. Buddha’s greatest disciple Ven. Maha Moggallana Thera was beaten to death (mistaken identity, the texts say, but who knows).
As far as Buddha’s teachings are concerned, the philosophy and the doctrine, it is the consensus of a large number of scholars of the present and the past century, that what the Buddha taught was unique. Teachings of no other founder of a religion on this planet earth can be said similar or identical, let alone superior to the Buddha’s “Dhamma” or teaching. This Dhamma which is better called Saddharma is now enshrined in the copious volumes known as the Tripitaka.
A former Oxford Don and Vice President of India, the late Professor Sarvapalli Radhakrishan while praising the Buddha’s teachings, tried to identify Buddha’s Dharma as an off shoot of the Vedic tradition or Vedanta, but subsequent scholars have found such theorising is not far from being partial. Both oriental and Western scholars more or less agree that Buddha’s teachings are ‘unique’ and incomparable to any philosophy of East or West, and the “Path” (Maga) laid down by the Buddha for the liberation of mankind was unheard of before in any other religious system. Why should mankind need salvation from an inconsistent existence, embroiled in impermanance (Annicca), causing pain and unsatisfactoriness (Dukkha), and without any cogent reason to accept the presence of an enteral soul (Anatta)? That salvation or perfect liberation should not be shrouded in mystic terms, ascribed to an unknown unseen, divine being, the creator god.
It is because of this specific reason that men of great learning, philosophers, kings, courtiers and people of all walks of life, of all ranks of the society e.g. bankers, princes, princesses, courtesans, military men, highwaymen, uncouth demonic characters, robbers, beggars, scavengers and the like all had gone and surrendered before the Bhagavat Gautama Buddha, The Supreme Saviour and sought refuge in Him, His dhamma and His Noble Disciples, the eremite Ariya Sangha, by uttering the solemn stanza: “Buddham Saranam Gacchami”. It was the Buddha who showed for the first time in the history of mankind that one should surrender before the incomparable Guru, His teachings and His Noble Disciples. Thus the phrase “Saranam Gacchami” (surrender) entered into the religious vocabulary of the Buddhists.
Buddhists in every Buddhist country, worship the Buddha not as a great divine, supernatural, esoteric. Being, but as a Great being far, far, above all the mighty unseen ontological divine beings.
The Buddha was thus considered During His lifetime, the Buddha had manifested all the psychic excellences and powers that are unmatched by any of the supernormal powers of those great beings including the misconceived divine being of Creation as was known at that time by the name Brahma or Maha Brahma.
The Buddha had scaled the length and breadth of the uninhabited regions as well as the inhabited regions of this planet earth. His three visits to Sri Lanka although some do consider such references as mythical and fabulous, are only a bare fraction of the lands the great Buddha had traversed using both His physical composure and enormous psychic powers.
The above short prolegomenon I am constrained to add to this present essay, on “Buddhism – ‘a great civilising factor – “in Arabia and surrounding West Asian regions,” because without which the reader would find it somewhat a thrust upon him unprepared and unexpectedly.
Coming back to the “latest theory’ the Buddhism was introduced to Arabia during the very lifetime of the Buddha”, we now embark upon to present before the scholarly world our own investigations made over a period of more than two decades. Our researches have yielded some fascinating data that we are fortunate enough to have struck upon.
These information we hope will enable us to further substantiate the thesis of the learned Thera Venerable (Dr.) Paravahera Pannananda, that “Buddhism was the Religion of Arabia before Islam” that brought a great civilising effect on those people who were worse than the lost sheep in a desert wilderness.
“Had Buddhism been introduced to Arabia several centuries (at least five or six centuries) prior to the Christian era, why don’t we get any traces of its remains either in the form of religious literature or archaeological survivals?” would be the logical question one would raise.
Again one may ask, “had the Great Buddha been such a supra – human or a hyper – human Being, His visit and stay in this part of the world would have made an indelible impression on the minds of the people of these regions. Therefore what are the survivals of such an impressive effective impact?”
Through our investigations we are now in a position to bring out a substantial amount of information that throw light on the hidden history of the spread of Buddhism not only in Arabia but in many other kingdoms in West-Asia as well, during pre-Christian centuries.
The Buddhist texts refer to many instances of foreigners from distant lands coming to worship the Buddha, having heard of His presence ‘that a Great Being who calls Himself, the Buddha has appeared in the world’ and residing in Middle India (Magadha Kingdom). The story of Punna Thera is one such episode in which the main characters, Punna Thera and his brother were caravan traders from Sunaparanta.
According to textual reference, the very first lay disciples of Gautama Buddha, even before the Buddha established His Bhikkhu community namely the Sangha (also called the Buddhaputtras or sons of the Buddha) were also two caravan leaders who came from Uttrapatha (the Great Northern Highway) in their trading missions. They were known by their names Tapassu and Bhalluka. Buddhist texts refer to them as the first two lay followers of the Buddha, who surrendered before the Buddha and His Doctrine (who sought refuge in the Buddha and the Dhamma). The Pali phrase “Buddham Saranam Gacchami, Dhammam Saranam Gacchami” was first uttered by those two trader brothers who offered to the Buddha a regal repast full of “mead and pop-corn (fried grain). This type of food must have been a common food item, if not the staple diet, among the West Asians and those people who lived in the peripheral regions where corn and barley are grown as staple food.
Holy Bible says that John, the Baptist was in the habit of eating ‘locusts dipped in honey’. The Bible translators of medieval times at King James behest must have mistaken an early Greek or The home country of the two caravan leaders Tapassu and Bhalluka who were the Buddha’s first lay disciples has been located at “Balkh’, a city in ancient Bactria and north of present day Afghanistan, through which ran the famous Great Northern Highway, “Uttarapatha”.
The Buddhist Jataka tales have many references to such caravan leaders who had braved the hazards of highwaymen-ridden dangerous desert tracks and arrived in Jambhudveepa (India).
Amongst those nomadic desert dwelling plundering tribal people, notorious were the Beduin Arabs. They were known for their cruelty, harsh behaviour, plundering and killing their victims to earn a living.
The navigator who sailed across the Red Sea and kept his anonymous record of ‘The Periplus of the Erythean Sea”, narrates in no ambiguous terms the ferocious nature of those tribes who inhabited mainland and literal Arabia. He advises all sailors to avoid dealing with these nomadic uncouth Beduin Arab tribes of desert posts.
The story of Punna Thera as related in early Buddhist texts is exactly a reminder of those ferocious tribes in the Western regions (Aparanta). But Punna Thera, a well disciplined disciple of Gautama Buddha, knew that he could handle those uncouth people who were His kinsmen.
Ven. Punna Thera who settled with his own following of monks at Sunaparanta, having caused to be built – four temples at the following sites: Ambahatta Pabbata, Samudragiri Vihara (a temple near the sea) where there was a magnetic rock engirting a stone platform used as a promenade for monks meditation practice.
The first Shrine built for Punna Thera was named Ambahatta Pabbata by the Pali scribes of Buddhist texts. The name suggests that it was either a rock-cut shrine or a temple built on a natural eminence (Amba or Amra Pabbata eminence).
I dare to identify this shrine Ambahatta or Ambatta of the early Buddhist texts with the pre-Islamic shrine Amrah on the Northern end of the Dead Sea.
A modern historian describes this shrine as follows: “Qusayr Amrah” meaning the little castle of “Amrah” stands on the edge of a wadi in the desert of the Northern end of Dead Sea. Here too among the remains of ancient monuments is a structure with a hemispherical dome, resembling a Buddhist Stupa (tope).
The second temple built for Punna Thera was named Samudragiri Vihara which had a magnetic stone promenade within a stone enclosure. But the great noise of the sea prevented Ven. Punna Thera from engaging in his much desired meditation.
I identify this temple site with the famous ‘Temple of Jerusalem’ where a magnetic rock is located. In Hebrew or Aramanic language Sela (which takes the form Patra in Latin or Greek?) refers to a stone or rock. Sela is also traceable to Indo-European origin. In Pali or Sanskrit, Sela-Saila are synonyms for rock, stone, mountain.
I am constrained to identify the Temple site at Jerusalem, the Holy of the Holiest of Christendom, as the exact location of the ancient Buddhist monastery Samudragiri Vihara built for Punna Thera, within close proximity to the sea. This might have been an ancient Judaic religious site where a Jewish temple complex dedicated to Jehowah, the great sacrificial god, existed, and later appropriated by those who were converted by Punna Thera to the peaceful non-sacri-ficial religion of the Buddha. This was exactly the case in regard to many early Buddhist religious sites and shrines. This was the case in ancient pre-Christian era Sri Lanka and also in India.
According to the Buddhist texts, the noisy waves of the sea close to this shrine, Ven. Punna Thera had tamed using his psychic (Iddhi) powers.
Buddhist textual references mention that Punna Thera through his psychic powers caused the noisy sea to be calm (dead as it were). Hence the subsequent name ‘Dead Sea’ as mentioned above in this essay. Earlier it was known as the ‘Sea of Arabah’.
A similar fete has later been attributed to Jesus also or Jesus Himself had performed a similar fete six hundred years later through his own psychic powers (Iddhi or Iddhi bala in Buddhism).
The third temple was Matulagiri where the noise of birds troubled Punna Thera’s meditation and finally Ven. Punna Thera left for the fourth temple built for him by his rich caravan trader brother and that was named Makulakarama. This fourth temple is the one which the learned Ven. (Dr.) Pannananda Thera identified as the present ‘Mecca’ shrine in mainland Arabia.
At Sunaparanta, Ven. Punna Thera got down red-sandal wood to build a hall for the Buddha (Candana sala) Red Cedar was used by Biblical Kings of Jerusalem David, Solomon etc., also, for the construction of temples. This was an ancient architectural practice in this part of modern Israel, the pre-islamic State of Arabah where flourished the Nabatean Kingdoms.
According to the story in the early Buddhist texts, the Samudragiri Temple was quite close to the sea, but today Jerusalem stands about fifteen (15) miles away from the Dead sea as the crow flies.
Those who may disagree with my proposed identification might pose the question “How can a temple lying 15 miles away from the Dead Sea cause obstruction to its indwellers on account of the great noise of the sea? Surely, the Buddhist texts refer to an incident that had taken place more than 2,500 years ago.
In places where inland seas or lakes, that are fed by rivers, the possibility of narrowing the shore region by accumulated silt or the contraction of the inland sea or lake owing to dry climate was possible. The great Gobi and Taklamakan deserts in Central Asia were once a large inland sea according to marine scientists and geologists. The sediment, brought up over the past centuries by the Great rivers Ganges and Brahmaputra in East bengal have pushed the sea-shore back several miles into the Indian Ocean.
Therefore what could have taken place during a long period of 2,500 years at Dead Sea littoral can be easily understood and need not be emphasized further.
It is quite possible that Jerusalem was at close proximity to the “Sea of Arabah’ as the “Dead Sea” was then known at the time of Punna Thera (Cir. 6th century B.C.).
Even the name “Jerusalem” can be considered as an early Aramaic form of ‘Samudra Giri’, the name of the Buddhist Shrine complex. The term giri meaning ‘rock’ can be equalled with the term Sela (later Petra) referring to ‘a rock” among Aramaic or Hebrew speaking people in ancient sinai-Arabah region. Sala, Saila, Sela (meaning rock or stone), although taken as an Indo-European phonetic term could have either got into Aramaic or Hebrew (both of the semitic family) or could have been borrowed from Semitic to Indo-European.
‘Jeru-Salem’ if it was an original formation meaning ‘rock near sea’ was expressed in Buddhist text as ‘Samudra – Giri’ when put into early Indian (Sanskrit or Pali). One has to further investigate whether ‘Jeru’ or ‘Jericho’ (another ancient site near Arabah sea) has any relation to ‘Samudra’ or sea in ancient Indic phonemes.
Although our explanation is hypothetical, yet the fact remains, that Jerusalem was an ancient Holy Place where stood at least some of the items that are referred to in Punna Thera story.
We quote “There was a Sacred Rock (As-Sakhra) at Jerusalem, the place of pilgrimage for Muslims also. This was the ancient rock which formed the highest point in the temple area and on which David’s altar probably once stood.”
“Muslims believe that this was the precise point from which Mohammed had made his miraculous ascent to heaven.”
“The rock on which apostle of Allah set his foot when he ascended into heaven. This reference may be a survival of an historic event that took place in Ven. Punna Thera’s time when our Lord Bhagavan Buddha visited and sanctified the Rock Shine and placed His ‘Sacred Foot Print’, on the stone altar or dais there, a practice or an act the Buddha had done in sanctifying and appropriating such stone “Altar Shrines” of pre-Buddhist religious cult worshippers even elsewhere.
The Tamkita Manca’, the stone dais of Yakkha cult worshippers in Gaya district in India, is found even up to this date. But it is now appropriated by Hindus who have converted it to a Hindu shrine and is known as ‘Visnupadam’ (foot print of Visnu).
The Great Chronicle of the sinhalese, the Mahavamsa, refers to a similar incident when the Buddha gifted to the Naga cult worshippers of ancient Sri Lanka two such stone daises sacred to them (one in Kelaniya and the other in Nagadeepa in northern Sri Lanka) having first seated on them and thus having made them sanctified.
Coming back to West-Asia, “Abd-al-Malik (A.D. 685-705) was the builder of the dome of the rock at Jerusalem”.
“Then Abd-al-Malik built above Sakhra a dome and hung it around with curtains of brocade and he instituted door-keepers for the same, and the people took the custom of circumambulating the rock, even as they had paced round the Kabah (in Mecca!) and the usage continued thus all the days of the dynasty of Ummayads.
The Caliph of Damascus (of Syria, former Aram) of a vast Muslim empire in the 6th century A.D. thus built a dome above the rock and installed a practice of circumambulating at Jerusalem. This practice of worshipping sacred sites or objects, is one that is common to Buddhism as has been instituted by Buddha Himself. It is known in Buddhist Texts as ‘Pradaksina, that is going round a sacred object or person worthy of worship, in a clockwise manner for three times.
The third temple built for Punna Thera was known as “Matula Giri”, again a rock-hewn temple as the name suggests. This site was found not quite proper for the secluded hermit life of a Buddhist eremite of Punna Thera’s bearing, because of the noise made by large flocks of birds.
It is not possible for us to identify any ancient temple site in this part of Arabia close to “Dead Sea, with this third temple built for Punna Thera.
However, archaeologists have found several ancient temples of pre-Islamic Arabia within this locality. At Petra (or ancient Sela) a city few miles south of the ancient township Punon) referred to above and identified by us as the birth place of Ven. Punna Thera) are remains of large rock-cut shrines. Several cave shrines dating back to the period of the proto-Arabic Nabetean Kingdom of pre-Christian centuries have also been discovered in and around the Dead Sea.
At Petra (Sela), the chief attraction was a rectangular “black stone’ worshipped as a monument for the god of those ancient people. Further more the Arab god Allah, Allat, Al-Uzza was worshipped in the kabah and possibly represented by the famous ‘black stone’ in that place.
Strangely enough sacred stone altars have been objects of worship in a far wider area in ancient Asia. Early Buddhist texts refer to these shrines as cult objects of those peoples of the Non-Aryan (or Non-Indo-European) stock who considered their chief God as ‘Yakkha’ (Yaksha). Those stone altars were named ‘Tamkita manca’ in ancient Buddhist texts.
In pre-historic, pre-Buddhist Sri Lanka also, such stone altars were referred to as objects of great religious significance and later appropriated by Buddhists who converted them as memorials or symbols of Buddha worship.
Our aim in this research study is not merely to identify possible sites in ancient Arabia with those referred to in the story of Ven. Punna Thera, but also to investigate further for more evidence to substantiate the thesis of the great scholar monk Ven. (Dr.) Pannananda Maha Thera who alone had made this remarkable research into Buddhist texts to locate the birth place of Punna Thera in far-West Arabia.
The learned Ven. Pannananda Thera suggests that the fourth temple named Makulaka Arama built for elder Punna Thera could be possibly the Islamic Sanctum Santorum, the shrine at Mecca. The name mecca (Mekka) agrees well with the temple (Arama) by the name Makulaka phonetically. But the problem lies how to draw a comparison between proper names found in the Indo-European group with one found in a different linguistic family, for Arabic being a language of the Semitic group.
However, the fact that the religious dialect of those regions, West of Hindukush up to the Mediterranean lands during the centuries before the Christian era was ‘Aramaic’ and the difference of opinion of scholars whether Aramaic the ‘Lingua-franca’ of the region was of Semitic or Indo-European origin is a matter worth further investigation and careful scrutiny. Even Jesus Christ preached His sermons in Aramaic.
As we have suggested above, the few centuries in between the date of the Buddha’s Presence in Magadha (Middle India) kingdom and the birth of Jesus Christ in Israel (ancient Arabah) have seen remarkable historical episodes in the Kingdoms along which passed the great trunk-route Uttarapatha, the Northern Highway linking East and West of the then known civilised world.
Now one may wonder what are the available archaeological evidence of this region, the north west part of Arabia, to locate possible Buddhist sites that could be traced back to pre-Islamic or even pre-Christian period.
Our investigations proved successful with substantial evidence and we are now able to locate not one but several sites that could reasonably be related to the period of Punna Thera’s habitation in Sunaparanta and the four monastic establishments or temples built at the request of Thera Punna.
The very name ‘Sunaparanta’ has two words combined to give a meaning – ‘a far away country’, according to ancient Buddhist texts. That is ‘Suna’ and ‘Aparanta’ which also means, Suna of Aparanta. ‘Suna’ a locality in the major region or country of Aparanta. Aparanta according to Buddhist texts is the habitat of
Aparantakas (a community or race) from a major region called Aparagoyana which is one of the four great continents according to the geography of the time of Buddha. It is to the West of Sineru. Sineru is the hub or centre of the Earth according to the reckoning of ancient Indian geographers and astronomers.
According to the Buddha’s Sermons (Suttas), when the sun rises in India it is the middle watch of the night in Aparagoyana. The sunset in Aparagoyana is the midnight in Jambudveepa (India), and sunrise in Aparagoyana is noon in Jambudveepa, sunset in Pubbavideha and midnight in Uttarakuru.
When we take into consideration this above explanation in early Buddhist Texts of the position of the sun in relation to the regions of Earth, it can be surmised that Pubbavideha is ‘Far-East’, Uttarakuru is the land of the ‘Americas’, and Aparagoyana is the whole of ‘Europe’.
These geographical identifications of earth’s localities by the Buddha, and commented upon by the Buddha’s disciples of the past, would have made the Europeans of Mediaveval centuries, reeling with laughter and those who pronounced such geographical identifications, (that reveal parts of the Earth having daytime while some other parts in the darkness of night, thereby suggesting the global shape of the Earth), would have been condemned to death on stakes and spikes for distorting the minds of the faithful on the belief in God’s great creation (what the Roman Catholic Church had done to poor Copernicus and Galileo).
The Buddhist texts show how the Great Buddha had rejected over and over the belief in an “Eternal Being”, who is the creator of Earth and heavenly bodies with all the living beings.
Moreover, this geographical explanation is a clear verdict that the Buddha had a very scientific view of the planet Earth and considered it (the Earth) to be a globe around which the light (of the sun) falls in an anti-clockwise pattern. This factor alone shows the great knowledge that our Bhagavat Buddha and His Noble Arhan disciples (the Maha Sangha) had about the Earth and other galaxies including our own ‘Milky way’ which was named Mangala Cakkavata. “The Blessed Circular Cosmic Abyss”, which is quite in tune with the modern scientific discoveries made after the discovery of the telescope in the middle ages. It is because that the Buddha had a clear view of the luminous stars and planets, the heavenly bodies in the sky that he scoffed at Charletan astrologers and prognosticators, and declared ‘Kim Karissanti Taraka’ (What can the stars do to humans).
Coming back to Sunaparanta debacle, let us continue to untwine the tangle by investigating further some survivals of pre-Christian archaeological data. Suna was a locality of the major region Aparanta (Hence Sunaparanta). Apranta means ‘far-end’ (Anta) of the Western border (Apara), when viewed from Magadha Kingdom in india of the continent Aparagoyana, the early name for Europe as we can now correctly conjecture, where only bullock-cart tracks (Goyana) were available and not great highways like the Uttarapatha and the Daksinapatha opened for thousands of caravan traffic.
Sunaparanta was apparently the Culdesac or the terminus of the ‘Great Northern Highway’ (Uttarapatha, that linked Mongolia, China, Central Asia, South Russia and the major centres of the then known civilised world the Kingdoms of Egypt, Assyria, Aram (Syria), Arabia, Babylonia, Persia etc.
Part of the Aparanta region is also known as the Levant region, an area of strategic importance for European powers even during Napoleonic wars. It was in this Levant region, where so much brisk trade took place with East and West and wars fought to capture its entre port trade. Beyond this is the great ocean the mediterranean and lands with difficult narrow paths, cart tracks (Goyana) and not highways Pathas) until the Romans built such roadways – Via Roma after the Great military genius Julius Caesar’s advance through Gaul to British Isles and declaring ‘Vini-vidi-vici’.
Where was the locality ‘Suna’ that has become famous or got such an importance for the Great Buddha to pay a visit and stay there on the invitation of Arhant Punna Thera (Worthy One). Araha or Arahan is an epithet of both the Buddha and His Noble disciples.
We have no hesitation in identifying the ancient ‘Suna’ of Buddhist texts with the historic ‘Sinai’ region between Egypt and Israel. ‘Sinai’ tract has been the bone of contention between the Arabs and the Jews, from pre-Christian centuries onwards. In the recent times ‘Sinai’ area was captured by the Jews from Egypt during the seven days war Israel waged with the combined armies of several Moslem States headed by Muhammed Abdul Nasser of Egypt. It is not etymologically impossible to compare Suna of Buddhist texts with ancient Biblical Sinai. But to strengthen our identification we need further evidence.
It is in the Sinai tract the ancient township Punon is located quite surprisingly yet fortunately helping to strengthen our identification of Sunaparanta with this part of West Asia. We may surmise that Punon is a variant form of Punna Thera the name of the Buddha’s great disciple who dared to go back to His motherland despite the warning by the Buddha that Sunaparanta is a country inhabited by ferocious wicked people, as is aptly described a few centuries later by the anonymous author of the “Periplus’.
Great persons are identified by their place of birth or else the names of great persons are attributed to the place of their birth. This practice is found even at present.
On this contention, it is not difficult to locate the ‘Punnon of Sinai’ as the home town of “Punna of Suna” of the major region Aparanta. Hence, Punna Thera of Sunaparanta of the ancient Buddhist texts.
A little towards South of Punon is the ancient city of Sela (or Petra in roman times) which has yielded rock – cut temples, houses, tombs, religious altars, etc. Sela is a city mentioned in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible. It was the meeting place of caravan traders from East and West. To quote from a historian: “The historical city Petra was the same as Biblical Sela (or Selah) famous for its beautiful rock-hewn temples, houses, tombs, altars.”
The author further states: “The rock-hewn temples remain to attest the splendour which this place enjoyed when caravans brought in and out of it, riches of all the East.”
Hence the caravan leaders of the like of Punna Thera and his brother, hailing from Buddha’s time would have easily given their family name to this town, know as Punon or else they got themselves identified with the town that was their place of birth, as Punna of Suna (or if modernised Punon of Sinai). Thus, Punna of Suna in the State of Aparanta should no more be a mystery shrouded with the passage of time.
Now the question can be raised, if Punna and Suna as proper names could be derived from existing or existed historical sites, why not the name Paranta or Aparanta?We have found that on the same analogy, even this is not an impossibility if we consider that the ancient Jewish Kingdom or locality Arabah of the lager Nabatean Kingdom was just located in the site where we traced Punon and Sinai.
Even the inland sea around which we have located the temples built for Punna Thera was first known as the “Sea of Arabah” and later called the ‘Dead Sea’. It was the Nabatean Kingdom of Arabahs and Jews, which later formed into smaller Arab Kingdoms, during the pre-Christian centuries and afterwards, when the Nabateans were defeated.
The world ‘Arabah’ sometimes found as ‘Araba’ could be traced back to ‘Aparanta of early Buddhist texts. It could be surmised that this region that was originally called ‘Aparanta’ in the Pali texts had got into Aramaic or proto-Aramaic, a form like Apara or Abara and had called this region Apara, a short form of Aparanta which term later formed into Araba-Arabah through syncope and metathesis. It should also be noted that according to Bible scholars Aramaic was ‘Lingua-franca’ of the whole of West Asia during pre-Christian centuries. Even the Great Buddhist Emperor Asoka had to issue his rock-edicts in Aramaic and Brahmi both, when he addressed his people in the north-western part of India.
That is how we surmise that this area had received the name ‘Arabah’ and the adjoining sea also got the name ‘Arabah Sea’.
Later, when the Nabatean Kingdom of the Aramaic speaking people who were dominant in this part, fell to Hebrew speaking Jews (after the ruthless and devastating conquests by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans), the Arabahs were pushed southwards. These people begun new kingdoms for themselves of and took the name Araba as their clan name or ethnic identity in contradistinction to Hebrew speaking Jews of Israel. We suppose that our view is a very logical reasoning as to how the Arabs and their country Arabia appeared in the world (Arabi in Sinhalese).
Therefore we suggest that after the Nabatean rulers, the smaller kingdoms that were established were referred to as those of the Arabas and finally when the Jews opposed those Arab Kingdoms, (Where the major religious cult worship was not centred around Jehowah but round Alaha), those Arab Kingdoms had to demarcate their own boundaries as distinct from the Jewish States of Israel – Judea etc. Thus, the constant wars between Alaha’s people and Jehowah’s people field the pages of Middle East history from pre-Christian centuries up-to-date. It is a pity that Ven. Punna Thera’s effort to establish the ‘Rule of Righteousness’ under the Kingdom of Arahan Buddha (Buddha Rajyaya or Buddah Ksetraya), turned to be a battle field of ruthless, bellicose jingoes.
When these Arab Kingdoms were pushed further towards mainland Apranta (Apara – Araba), it is quite likely that the whole region got the name Arabia from pre-Christian pre-Islamic times.
If any other acceptable theory to trace the origin of the name Arabah-Araba-Arabia of those pre-Christian people and their original homeland around Dead Sea and north Arabia could be brought forward by any research scholar or historian and if that could be proved scientifically and logically acceptable, we shall definitely withdraw our above proposition with due difference to such scholarship.
The possible identification and that also hypothetically of sporadic sites in West – Asiatic region, alone will not help us to determine that Buddhism was established in this part of the world during the very lifetime of the Buddha and prevailed as the religious faith of many people throughout the pre-Christian centuries.
Therefore we have extended our survey into the field of religious cults and practices as well as ancient religious literature, art and architecture also to trace possible clues of Buddhism’s penetration in to this region so that our hypothesis should be confirmed absolutely.
One of the remarkable clues in our investigation to locate Punna Thera’s Ministry in West Asia is the name ‘God’ for their creator God, the Divine Father. It is in the Christian Holy Bible only that this word appears and could be traced back to the time of Jesus Christ, although Bible translators (into English language) use the word ‘God’ even with reference to the pre-Jesus Christ, Supreme Divinity in the Old Testament.
Prior to the use of the term ‘God’ in the Holy Bible, as derived from Greek to English the old Aramaic texts of the Holy scriptures (the Bible!) known as Peshitta give the name Alaha for God. This is very intriguing. Even the Holy Quaran has ‘Allah’ for God which is identical with Aramaic Alaha, phonetically.
However, nowhere it is explained how this term Alaha-Allah had entered into pre-Christian and Christian – Muslim religious texts. Finding the origin of this Aramaic term ‘Alaha’ and the Arabic or Islamic term ‘Allah’ has enable us to solve a major riddle in regard to the term ‘God’ which overtook the word Alaha for the supreme Divine Being in the Christian Bible but had been retained in the Muslim Quaran.
Meanwhile it is also noteworthy that the Jewish term Jehowah (Heb: Yahaweh) for the “Creator”, ‘the Divine Being’, ‘Supreme God’ had never been used by Jesus Christ in the Christian Bible or by Prophet Mohammed in the Holy Quaran.
Why did they prefer Alaha and allah to the Jewish ‘Jehowah’, needs explanation by both Bible and Quaranic scholars, and how these terms Alaha-Allah for the ‘Supreme Creator’ came into the ‘Holy Scriptures’ of these two major religions, viz. Christianity and Islam also has to be explained and answered.
The other problem that baffled us in our present quest is the word ‘God’ which is widely used in almost every theistic religion, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Shikh, Parse, Bahai and may be English translations of the Texts of Judaism when they refer to their Supreme Divine Being and explain their doctrine in English.
We had to explore to a great extent, to seek and find out a solution to the mysterious origin of these two words ‘Alaha and God’. We inquired from many reputed scholars and various learned authorities of many theistic religions. But unfortunately, the answer was an emphatic ‘we don’t know’, no one could seemingly present a reasonable or acceptable answer to my inquiry. The final reply of all these learned men was that the word God is as mysterious and elusive as God himself, and no one will ever be able to solve this mystery. That was God’s wish they all declare with gusto, and with a sarcastic wink at poor me, as if asking, “who are you puny fellow to know about the origins of mighty God?
However, being a God loving person, I was not discouraged at all with such replies, and I continued my search in every available dictionary, lexicon and encyclopedia, but not trace was there in any of these publications for the etymological origin of the word ‘God’ to determine whether it is from an Indo-European origin of Semitic origin or from any other linguistic family.
Now, back to “Punna of Suna” (or Punon of Sinai).
Punna Thera, the great disciple of our Buddha had attained the highest path in Buddha’s dispensation. Therefore he was one of the ‘Maha Araha’ a great worthy one (also, Arahan or Arahat). Our Bhagavat Buddha was called ‘Bhagava Arahan’ as the ‘Blessed Worthy One,” the sinless One, in the famous stanza the Buddha taught His disciples to repeat, instead of seeking divine help and going after unseen divine beings who are at the same time neither fully sinless or fearless according to Buddha’s judgement.
The word ‘Araha’ means the ‘worthy One’ the ‘sinless One’, an epithet of the Buddha and also of His great nobble sinless disciples who too were called ‘Araha’.
Incidentally in the Holy Bible (New Testament), Jesus Christ is also called a sinles person.
Had the Great Elder Punna Thera established Buddha’s dispensation (the Church or Sasana) in this part of Arabia (the “Sinai-Arabah” region) and had there been several hundreds or thousands of Ven. Punna’s converts to Buddhism, and among them a few hundred had entered the Buddha’s order of monks and had attained the final stage of liberation called the stage of Araha, surely this word Araha would have been a household word among the first Buddhist converts in West Asia, the people of Sinai-Arabah area where we have located Buddhist monasteries that were established during the very lifetime of our Gautama Buddha.
Therefore we are very happy to declare for the great delectation of Buddhists all over the world, that the strange word ‘Alaha’ by which the old Greek bible or the proto-Greek Aramaic Bible also known as the Peshitta manuscripts, identified the Glorious One, the Blessed One, The Supreme One, the God was nothing other than the epithet ‘Araha’ of our Buddha which even today millions of Buddhists all over the world in Buddhist countries especially, chant as a devotional hymn in praise of the Buddha. It is thus:
“Itipisobhagava – Araham – Samma – Sambuddho,
Vijja Charana Sampanno – Sugato Lokavidu,
Anuttaro – Purisa – Damma – Sarathi Sattha,
Devamanussanam – Buddho – Bhagavathi.”
He indeed is the Buddha, the Blessed One, the Sinless One (Araha), the Supreme Enlightened One (Samma Sambuddho) who is endowed with knowledge and virtue auspicious, knower of the whole cosmos, a guide incomparable for the training of individuals, teacher of divine beings and humans, Enlightened and Holy.”
Thus we have solve a major part of the mystery in regard to the epithet for the Supreme Being, the glorious, sinless Lord, who is Araha – Alaha – Allah, in Buddhism, Christianity and Islam all.
One may question us how can Araha become Alaha and more so Allah? The answer is quite simple to linguists and philologists, who are aware of the linguistic law – Rhotacism – whereby ‘R’, and ‘L’ can interchange. (Refer also, Lambdacism)
Historians of Arabic and Jewish religions have found that Alaha, Allah and Allat had originated from the Sinai region, which is exactly the location we have identified with Suna – Aparanata of the Punna story of early Buddhist texts.
Among the higher gods who were worshipped by Bedouins of the deserts of North Arabia, the most important was Allah, Allat, Al-Uzza. They were pre-Islamic gods. Even prophet Mohammed’s father bore the name ‘Abd-Allah’ or ‘Abdullah’, meaning a worshipper or servant of Allah. Allah was worshipped in the Kabah and possibly represented by the famous blackstone in that place. “Allat” is believed to have been introduced into Arabia from Syria (ancient Aram) according to inscriptional evidence.”
Let us now turn to the other problem, the most baffling question of the etymological origin of the word ‘God’. We have searched high and low, to solve the mystery of ‘God’. We turned our investigations into almost every available lexicon, dictionary and encyclopoedia, without any avail.
No publication that we have surveyed could give us an explanation as to how the word ‘God’ originated in the World. Finally we had to give up all our hopes and prayed to God to help us., “Oh, God lead me from darkness to light’ – “Tamaso majyotir gamaya”, and lo, there appeared the light, “Aloko Udapadi”, as the greatest of all Arahat, the Supreme Buddha declared.
We can now with assurance declare that the word ‘God’ is derived from nothing else but the word ‘Buddha’, “How could that be?” will be the question of all those God fearing good souls.
Our researches proved that this word “God” is nothing but a derivative of the word “Buddha” from the secondary formation “Boddo”, an early form, how the ancient Indo-Greeks, (also known as Bactrian Greeks), Sakas, Parthians, and Kushanas (Yue-Chih) used in their documents to name the Great Lord, Bhagavat Buddha.
The name “Buddha” with “d” as a dental consonant is quite difficult, I have observed, for many westerners to pronounce. Even at present, this happens to be so. In USA and in Australia, during my University lectures (In these two countries) I have found many Westerners (Europeans) pronounce the word Buddha always with a cerebral ‘d’. When I tried to correct them in my classroom, it was the most difficult task for them, to pronounce “Buddha” and sound the dentall ‘d’.
They make a jaw breaking effort, yet without success and pronounce, ‘Buddha’ like ‘Buddo’ or ‘Boddo’ (‘d’ as in ‘door’ or “do”). sometimes I got amused but often disappointed, yet I could not help it but had to tolerate their great difficulty in pronouncing the name ‘Buddha’.
However, now I feel happy that I had the good occasion to confront with such people because this very experience has been a pointer to solve the most intriguing thing, how the mystery word “GOD” appeared in the world.
In the coins issued by early Indo-Greeks (also known as Bactrian-Greeks), Scythians, Sakas and Kushanas of West Asia who were converted to Buddhism (a few centuries after the Alexandrian conquests of Persia and other kingdoms of Middle East) have for the first time in history of Buddhist iconography, the image of Buddha on the obverse side of their coins. This numismatic evidence is like “God sent” to me, the only clue to solve the present problem of the etymological origin of “God”.
Through my recollections, how my American and Australian students pronounced the word “Buddha” during my university lectures, I managed to trace its roots in the Indo-Greek numismatics. It could be presumed that the same problem had been encountered by the western people whether they be Greeks of West-Asians. They too must have pronounced the name “Buddha” as “Boddo” and inscribed it on the reverse side of their coins. the best example is the coin issued by the great Kushana Emperor Kanishka, with a standing image of the Buddha (on the obverse) with the legend BODDO.
Araha and Allah
I am sure the Bactrian Greeks (or the Indo-Greeks) as they were called by several scholars, to distinguish them from Selcuicid Greeks) had not used the dental ‘d’ in BODDO legend of the coins that was inscribed on the obverse side. Thus Bhagavat Buddha had been introduced to West-Asia and Middle East, as a Great Superhuman being worthy of worship, under the epithet “Boddo” during the first century of the Christian era and would have possibly replaced the former ‘Araha’ -Alaha (Allah) ideal of the original Buddhism (the Theravada ideal as some scholars would prefer, to distinguish original Buddhism), that the great monk Ven. Punna established in Sunaparanata (the Sinai-Arabah region), his homeland, as we have demonstrated already (the West-Asian region).
Thus within a century at least of the Christian era, the Buddha – Boddo – Bod – God, ideal had been established and had penetrated into the region of Sinai-Arabah where the Araha – Alaha Allah concept of the supreme sinless compassionate Lord, was prevailing.
Based on our new discovery, we do not hesitate to declare that the mystic word ‘GOD’ has gone into the Holy Scriptures of at least some of those West Asiatic people (who held Araha – Alaha – Allah as the Supreme Being) through the linguistic or philological formation of BODDO’, during the first century of the Christian era.
Jews who held “Torah” as their foremost Sacred Holy Scriptures would not have yielded to those extraneous religious texts or scriptures of the Buddhist Sects established by Punna Thera, wherein Araha, Alaha or Allah appeared variantly. This can be clearly seen in the firm stand of Jews in recognising Jehowah (Yehoweh) as their Divine father, the Supreme Creator, right throughout from pre-Christian centuries up to now, and not Alaha or even Allah as it has gone into Aramaic and Arabic Holy Scriptures, and more so the all loving compassionate Boddo, Bod, God who they thought would not conform to their ideal of an Eternal Creator God – Jehowah who does not hesitate to punish those who go against his commandments and covenents.
There must have been bitter resentment between the two factions, namely, the priests (or priest – kings) of Jehowah worshippers and the cave dwelling eremites who rejected the Jewish torah since the days of Ven. Punna who preached the peaceful doctrine of “Araha Sambuddo” and the “Kingdom of Righteousness and baptised their newly ordained novice monks (a custom that is still being continued in Theravada Buddhist countries), and eschewed circumcision and totally opposed animal sacrifice and killing in whatever form to appease an unseen divine being.
It could be surmised that these Araha or Alaha followers were primarily the Aparantakas or Arabah and later known as Arabs of the Nabatean kingdoms that prevailed in this region who called their supreme religious being, their saviour by the name of ARAHA or ALAHA and finally Allah.
A recent scholar while explaining ‘Allah’ as principal God of Mecca says, “He was also worshipped in other places throughout Arabia as is shown by the occurrence of the name in Sabean, Minean and particularly Lihyanite inscriptions”.
“Allat according to recent study of the complicated inscriptional evidence is believed to have been introduced to Arabia from Syria”. (ancient Aram) With the rise in power of Jehowah faction of the primary Jewish tribes who allied with the Alexandrian Greeks and then with the Imperial Rome, the followers of Alaha of the Arabah kingdom of Nabateans were persecuted and severely ill-treated, exiled and gradually pushed out of their original seat of power in Sinai-Arabah region (modern Palestine) and had to seek safety in mainland Arabia, where they established as strong opponents of Jehowah worshipping Jews, and also as their eternal rivals.
Meanwhile many of those innocent, peaceful, cave dwelling eremite monks would have been tolerated and allowed to stay in their rock-cut dwellings as long as they would mind their own business without interfering with the mainstream Jewish religio political strategy.
Thus the Araha – Alaha worshippers, the peace loving original Sinai people continued to stay in the region with their cave dwelling monks, later known as Essenes (may be a derivative from Suna-Sinai), performing their religious rites and obligations based on high ethical order, morality and righteousness, and safeguarding and promoting the study and practice of their original Holy Scriptures the “Peshitta”, as opposed to the Jewish Torah.
However, they too would have had to face occasional persecution according to the whim and fancy of the Jewish priest kings.
Buddhist Greek Kings
Thus the shrines and temples of those original Araha – Alaha worshippers founded in the vicinity of the Dead-sea would have continued to function despite the opposition of the jewsih priests at Jerusalem etc., and their lay followers of Jehowah, until the appearance of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist who, it is clear through Bibilical references, had tried to review the declining Alaha (Buddhalogy) religion that was yet surviving under great pressure with their temples either destroyed or appropriated by Jehowah followers.
During the same period one can witness that a neo-Buddhalogy was just emerging in the former Bactrian-Greek satrapies with territorial expansion of the imperial Kushanas under the great Buddhist Emperor Kanishka (cir.ist.Century,A.C.)
Bactrian Greek Kings like Minander (of Milindapanha fame) had already become devout patrons of Buddhism. The rule of emperor Kanishka gave a great impetus to Buddhism by spreading it in far away territories beyond his imperial frontiers.
Emperor Kanishka’s period was exactly the time Jesus Christ and John the Baptist were operating in Jerusalem, and propagating the “Good News” of the “Kingdom or Righteousness” which the Israeli Jews could not have correctly grasped, and most unfortunately misunderstood to the great misfortune of John and Jesus Christ.
Jews were hesitant to crush the new movement, a revivalist campaign, of Jesus Christ at first, may be because of his affiliations with imperial Kushanas. However they killed John and framed charges against Jesus, a rebel against Imperial Rome.
The large followers who accepted Jesus’ teachings, too must have made the cunning Jewish priests, at first, hesitant to do any harm to Jesus. Therefore they tried various strategies to entrap him.
It could be surmised that the “Arahan Buddha” followers were still holding on to their scriptures the “Peshitta” and the temples in the vicinity of Jerusalem.
Their presence during the pre-Christian (pre-Jesus) days can be definitely proved by the re-discovery of the famous “Dead-Sea Scrolls” in the early fifties of the present century, the scriptures that belonged to the cave and forest dwelling monks known as Essenes and written in arachic Aramaic script.
According to the scanty information that was made available to the scholarly public by those Jewish-Hebrew scholars who jealously guard the “Dead-Sea Scrolls” for nearly fifty years without publishing them, under various pretexts, these documents belonged to the monks dwelling in forest or cave hermitages and were later called Essenes.
The name “Essenes” could very likely be a later Jewish term from an original name derived from “Suna-Sinai” the homeland, Sunaparanatha where Ven. Punna established his group of Suna (Sinai) monks as demonstrated by us above.
The ‘Dead-Sea Scrolls” do not refer at all to a higher Divine Being by the name of Jehowah, unless the recent editors (who jealously guard these documents) tend to interpolate or smuggle in, the name Jehowah, in between the lines of these ancient religious scriptures written in Aramaic.
It is remarkable that without any such evidence at their disposal, as the newly discovered “Dead Sea Scrolls”, some European scholars of the early decades of the present century have suggested that the “Essenes” could be an “original forgotten Buddhist Sect.”
Although the Jews rejected “the religion of the Araha” (or Alaha), the Arabs, from the original Arabah stock, were fortunate enough to have adhered to the great doctrine found in the “Scriptures of Araha” and preserved by the monks of the Sinai-Arabah region, (the Dead-Sea region).
That is why the scholars of Islam have found it possible to declare that the concept of Allah is pre-Mohammed and had possibly derived from a religious concept got down from Sinai-Arabah area (or Israel-Palestine of the present day).” This observation confirms our derivation of Essenes from an original religious community from Sinai.
Most of the pre-Christian and later (appropriated) Islamic temple sites in Arabia as referred to above, including the famous shrine at Mecca (which was identified by the great scholar monk Ven. Dr. Pannananda Mahathera, as the Makulaka monastery of the Buddha’s day) has as the central object of worship a “Sacred stone dais”.
The megalithic “Asanaghara” shrines of ancient pre-historic Sri Lanka and India that were appropriated by the Buddhists later, are a noteworthy clue which provides the missing link between early (original) Buddhist temple sites in South Asia and West Asia (middle East).
On the other hand, most of the religious practices of early Christian religion show that the Christian Church had no approval of Judaism. Judaic religious practices were anathema to the teaching of Jesus Christ. Christian religion abhorred massacre of animals for sacrifice, circumcision, gullible adherence to Sabbath rituals and practices, no prayers or invocations for Jehowah the Creator, But of course, the greatest love and devotion to “the most compassionate righteous God, the Divine Loving Father in the Eternal Heaven” is emphasised.
We wish to present a few more evidence to substantiate our thesis that the Buddha’s religion introduced to West Asia by Ven. Punna Mahathera, survived as a counter religious force to Judaic Monotheism, (in the same way original Buddhism played as a counter force to monotheistic, animal sacrificing Brahmanic Hindu religion in India) for many more centuries, preserving its originality intact until it was absorbed and assimilated into the two faiths namely. Christianity preached by Jesus Christ and Islam preached by Prophet Mohammed, yet preserving a good portion of Buddha’s original Doctrine – “Saddharma” and early Buddhist religious cults and practices like, circumambulating sacred objects of worship. erecting domes above shrines to symbolize the vastness of Buddha nature like the ‘vault of the sky’ or heavenly spheres; worshipping the great Buddha symbolically in the sacred seat or dais, fiery flame; crescent moon to remind the Buddhist Sabbath or Poya retreat; rejecting anthropomorphic images of the Supreme Buddha who is ineffable, elevating the Doctrine (Dhamma) on same part with the Great Divine Lord.
In the teachings of Jesus Christ, there are clear evidence to prove that He had definitely preached the Buddha’s religion. ***
Now that we have produced substantial evidence to prove that they very name ‘God’ is a derivative of the name ‘Buddha’ through the Bactrian Greek – Saka – Scythian – Kushana word Boddo – Bod, it is incumbent on us to provide further facts to strengthen our thesis.
Jesus Christ never referred to a Supreme Divine Being by the name of Jehowah, the ancient Aramaic Peshitta scriptures, through which the original Jesus teachings as found in the Holy Bible were formulated, always had Alaha for the Supreme Being.
The Christian Bible that was translated through Greek into English from original teaching of Jesus in the Aramaic language, had for the first time the word ‘God’, the Divine Father.
The metamorphosis of Alaha to God could be clearly observed during this period of transition from original Peshitta scriptures (or texts) to Jesus teachings. The reason for this transformation we have amply demonstrated above.
Jesus never preached on an everlasting, eternal heaven or Hades as is found in most other theistic religious systems. Jesus categorically denied such beliefs when He declared “heaven and earth will not last but my doctrine will last.” Jesus emphasised that everything will pass over. This is in conformity with Buddhism which declared everything is impermanent (anicca) and the ‘Doctrine’ of Nibbana the Supreme Bliss is eternal, Sanatana Dhamma. Jesus said, “my doctrine is not mine.”
Jesus, chief disciples were males. Jesus and John both spoke about the ‘son of God’, ‘Children of God’. This was quite consonant with the epithet of a noble disciple of the Buddha who is truly a Buddhaputto, a son of the Buddha, a son of Boddo, (Bod – God).
It was Jesus who emphasised the supreme love, the great compassion, which is ‘Mahakaruna’ in the teachings of our Lord Bhagavat Buddha (e.g. mettanca sabhalokasmin – Manasambhavaye aparimanam).
No divine punishment or wrath or an unseen power, heavenly authority, is there in the teachings of Jesus Christ. His God (Bod -Boddo – Buddha) was omnipotent or all powerful, omniscient or all knowing (Sabbannu, epithet of the Buddha) all love Mahakaruniko Natho Hitaya Sabbapaninam for the Buddha), all righteous, all just, all merciful, the entire cosmos (or creation as the Bible translators put it) is under His command or rule (Lokavidu epithet of the Buddha). He is the universal monarch and His kingdom or righteousness is Supreme (Buddha Rajjyaya or Buddha Khetta).
“That kingdom of my father,” Jesus emphasised, “is not within this world” (of sinful craving, hatred and ignorance loha, dosa and moha as Buddha explained). Jesus stopped the age-old Jewish religious rite of killing animals for sacrifice (like what the Buddha and his noble disciples did in India against the Brahmanic Hindu yagas by which thousands of innocent animals were killed to appease unseen, ferocious, vindictive imaginary divine beings).
Jesus ridiculed the Jews for their foolish practice of religious rites and rituals, like gullible adherence to Sabbath and circumcision. Jesus declared, “Sabbath is for man and man is not for Sabbath,” thus elevating the position of man even above the divine commands which was in consonance with one of the early Buddhist concepts of understanding man as ‘one who has’ an elevated mind (man or mana = mind + ussa = elevated hence manussa – man).
“Those followers of the kingdom of God are to seek righteousness above all. This reminds us of the Buddha’s admonition – “first establish in morality” (sile patithaya naro sapanno). “Man is like a God when he has learned the lessons of mercy,” Jesus said, thus bringing God down to earth.
Sassanian kings of West Asia even issued coins identifying “Buddha as the Divine Ruler” or God in the present sense. King Peroz I in his coins engraved the seated image of the Buddha on a throne with the legend, ‘Bulda-Yazde’ on it the Buddha’s figure is shown with a halo of flames. ‘Bulda-Yazde’ means ‘Buddha the King’ which is very much similar to Islamic expression ‘Allah-hu-Akbar’, Allah is the ruler. Sinhala Buddhists always address the Buddha as Budurajan, (Buddha the king).
Jesus abhorred accepting money and property, a rule for Buddhist monks from the very beginning of Buddhism, which practice had been strictly adhered to by the Essenes, the cave dwelling eremites of Jerusalem who lingered for several centuries even after the severe persecution of ‘God’s people (Buddho’s people), the Buddhists, by the followers of, Jehowah and the cruel priests of Jerusalem, as the Dead Sea Scrolls do divulge. Incidentally it is stated in the Holy Bible that the Jews even hated God, which is a clear proof that God of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with Jehowah.
Even a bad thought, let alone fornication, is a sin, taught Jesus, thus reminding the Buddhists of the Buddha’s saying, cetanaham bhikkhave Kammam vadami. Jesus said: “Love thy lord, thy God, through thy whole heart, whole soul and whole mind. This is exactly a revised version of the Buddha’s admonition to His disciples – ‘love me and have faith in me and my Dhamma, all of you who are directed towards the blissful state of Svarga – ‘heaven’ (mayadhamme mayi saddhamattam pemamattam, sabbte sagga parayanti)
In every sermon of Jesus Christ that has come down to us in the Holy Bible (may be after so many alterations, deletions and revisions over many centuries in the past), we can get a glimpse of Buddha’s universal message of Karuna and Pragna, that is loving kindness and cultivation of insight. Jesus practised meditation and fasting as a good exercise for pacifying and purifying the mind (Samatha bhavana) before reaching wisdom and insight (Vidassana bhavana).
As foreseen by the Buddha, in his admonition to Ven. Punna, ‘under violent, inhuman persecution and threats by the followers of Jehowah (the Jewish priests) of Sinaiparan (Sunaparanta) original Buddhism established by Punna Thera and his disciples and followers of the Nabatean kingdom of Arabah (around Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth) up to Sinai area, had retreated to mainland Arabia and Syria where they continued to survive as Arabs (or Beduin Arabs – Buddhist Arabs!), who build shrines with crowning domes, just like the Buddhist architectural type found in stupas (dagabas) in honour of their supreme blessed One, Alaha or Allah (or Allat) who was eventually deified as a merciful being, the Supreme Lord who is the great divine ruler (Allah-hu Akbar).
If our surmise and explanations can be justified, then it could be argued that in those Arab states where the Aramaic language prevailed, the Buddhist scriptures and practices too continued to serve with occasional changes and growth of extraneous cults and practices. That is why in every pre-Islamic Arab shrine we get domical structures which surmount the main temple like in Buddhist stupas. There are also sacred stone altars, platforms and stone daises that are the main attraction in those shrines e.g. at Jerusalem, Amrah, Petra, Mecca, etc.
At the beginning these Alaha worshippers were aniconic like original Theravada Buddhists. But gradually Buddha images and icons of other divinities and royal patrons were also introduced to embellish the inside walls and grottos of these Arab religious shrines dedicated to Alaha (Allah). That is why and how, when prophet Mohammed reached Mecca and Jerusalem and other early pre-Islamic Arab shrines and sanctuaries (more than one thousand years after Punna established Buddhism in Sunaparanta), he found the presence of images which he condemned and destroyed in his iconoclastic ardour, mistakenly believing that those were shrines of Jews, the arch-enemies of Arabs.
Yet, we are fortunate to get a few survivals among which are early representations of the Buddha (in the exact manner how the Buddha images were carved in early sites of traditional Buddhist countries), crudely carved, e.g. the stone image of ‘Amyado of Shukayamim’. According to a recent scholar this is ‘a complete statuette in the round, carved in alabaster. The modelling is done with care but the lower part of the body is quite out of proportion, due no doubt to considering the head as the most important part. The inscription of the base gives the name of ‘Ammyada’ of ‘Shukaymim’.
It could be presumed the name ‘Shukaymim’ of the figure represented in this statute as given in the archaic inscription carved out at the bottom, have preserved for posterity the revered name ‘Shakyamuni’ of Bhagavat Buddha, how the Lord Buddha is reverently addressed by the Buddhists in India, Tibet, China, Korea and Far-East as well as in Theravada countries like Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Kampuchea, Laos, Vietnam and was also found in the earliest pillar inscription of emperor Asoka installed at Lumbini.
With no contact with centres of Buddhist learning and culture for predominant Buddhist kingdoms in Asia, these ‘Alaha – Allah’ shrines of mainland Arabia, Middle-East and West Asia continued to exist for centuries and provided religious ardour to the common folk and rulers as well. With the passage of time, these temples, their resident monks and their followers were subject to the influence of local popular cults and beliefs of various supernatural beings and divinities, thus giving rise to new syncretistic religions and religious sects.
Thus by the time of Prophet Mohammed (cir 6th century AC), the origin of the concept of Alaha and Allah, worship was totally forgotten and shrouded in obscurity, excepting a few surviving early religious cults and scriptures handed down from generation to generation which preserved the basic tenets of former Arahat (Arahan) ideal of original Theravada Buddhism introduced by Ven. Punna, such as a high moral code (Sila), belief in rebirth in heaven and a final eternal blissful state (devaloka, brahmaloka and Nibbana), perambulating as a mode of worship (pradaksina), wearing white clothes to signify religious sanctity (odata vasana), repeating many names of the Lord in praise of Him (nava arahadi Buduguna), no anthropomorphic images but aniconic, symbolic representations of the Lord (like a dais or altar, asana, flame of fire; foot print, dome or domical roof.)
God from Buddha
The reader of the present essay may now seek an explanation from us as to why and how the word ‘God’, if it was derived from ‘Buddha’ giving ‘Buddo-Bod’, was used by Jesus Christ and His followers had the Buddha been worshipped and was known as Araha or Alaha (and later Allah) among the West Asian countries of Aramaic speaking people including the communities with whom Jesus had moved. This was exactly a problem that had baffled us also. The answer to this problem can be found in the religio-cultural developments in the region under review.
The learned thesis by Ven. Dr. Pannananda Mahathera, quoted above, has prompted us to survey a wider geographical region from middle India to West Asia via the then civilised lands like Persia, Syria, Babylonia.
Had we embarked on our investigation on the origin of the word ‘God’ without understanding and analysing the political and religious background of this region, we would not have been able to find any answer to the problems that we faced.
The period during which Buddha was preaching His ‘Saddharma’ and establishing the ‘Kingdom of righteousness’ or ‘Buddha Rajjyaya’ (Buddha Khetta) in the circa sixth century BC had witnessed the emergency of various kingdoms and their merging into powerful monarchies in and around India, e.g. China, Achaemenid Persia, Egypt, Syria, Assyria, Greece, Crete, Babylonia and the Magadha Kingdom of India.
Middle East and West Asia had witnessed the greatest impact of politico-cultural upheavals of this period, mainly because of the influx of so many people to these regions through the great international highway, the eponymous Uttarapatha (Silk Route, as some do call). We have already referred to this phenomenon. The availability of such an international trunk-route that served as quick passage for information also, caused the spread of the news of the birth of such a Great Being, a Supreme Buddha beyond the farthest corners of the east and the west.
Confucius in China and Greek philosophers were made to know or they themselves knew the Buddha’s birth and appearance on earth. We may guess that such a person like ‘Pilotika’ who admired the Buddha so much and was instrumental in the preaching of the sermon ‘Culla Hatthipadopama’ (parable of the small elephant foot-print), was a Greek. Texts say he was golden hued in complexion. They very name sounds like ‘Plato’. We may suggest that Pilotika was a Greek of the Platonic school or family in Greece.
It could be demonstrated that the Buddha’s teachings had reached a far wider area than the scholars thought, during His very lifetime. Even the person Zoroastrar we wish to identify with possible evidence at our disposal, as an early convert to Buddhism. (See infra p)
However, all that had been done towards the spread and establishment of the Buddha’s ‘Saddharma’ and His ‘kingdom of Righteousness’, during the very lifetime of the Buddha by His Arahat monks and by the Buddha Himself, had experienced a setback within the very few centuries that followed the passing away of the Buddha, His Parinibbana.
There were various dissentient schools that wished to establish their own canon despite the original Theravada canon or ‘Tripitaka’. Thus such schools like Sarvastivadins, Sammityas, Purva and Appra Sailiyas, Mahasanghikas, Lokottara Vadin who were the precursors of the major dissentient school of Buddhism, the Mahayana, appeared in India. A few decades before and after the Christian era saw the Satrapies of Scythians, Sakasa and Kushanas, consolidating themselves in the former Indo-Greek (or Bactrian Greek) held territories in the north-western parts of India and beyond.
The rise of emperor Kanishka, the mighty ruler of the Kushana dynasty had a great impact on Buddhism, because he patronised the new Mahayana church of Buddhism whereby the Gautama Buddha was elevated to the position of an Eternal Cosmocrator or a hyper-human being, eternally residing in the Cosmic Buddhasksettra, the Sukhavati heaven. In other words, the Great Buddha had been made an eternal divine being with innumerable Bodhistattvas (angels) attending upon Him, with the two primary acolytes Mahasthama and Avalokita (cf. the archangels of Christianity Michael and Gabriel who are supposed to be on either side of the God’s throne in the heaven).
After a ‘Sangayana’ a grand Buddhist synod of Mahayana monks held at Purushapura (modern Peshawar), emperor Kanishka also had acted like his great predecessor emperor Asoka the Maurya, in patronising Buddhism and sending missionary monks to disseminate the noble doctrine (Saddharma) of the Buddha, but unlike in the case of Asokan Buddhist missionary monks, Kanishka’s missionaries had a Mahayana tinge of the concept of the Buddha. (Some scholars refer to a Buddhist Council held by Kanishka at Vepulla mountain near Rajagrha and systematising a Mahayana treatise called the Vepulla Sutra).
Our investigations reveal that Jesus Christ and even his contemporary, the innocent monk John the Baptist, were born to families of original Alaha (Araha) school of Buddhism that was prevailing or surviving in the Israel Arabah region where Ven. Punna Thera’s monastic establishments were set up with Jerusalem as the headquarters.
The constant feuds between Jehowah worshipping Hebrew speaking Jewish tribes and the Alaha worshipping Aramaic speaking Jewish tribes who later became Arabs can be gleaned if one were to read carefully the Holy Bible and relevant scriptures. While the Hebrew speaking Jewish tribes and their scriptures in the Holy Torah the Aramaic speaking Jewish tribes had their scriptures compiled in the Holy Peshitta. This is a historical fact that cannot be disproved however much the Catholic church may dispute with us.
In the biography of Jesus Christ we can see how He challenged the Jewish priests who tried to dominate and monopolise the Holy Temple at Jerusalem and even gone to the extent of chasing the unscrupulous priests out of the premises of the Holy Sanctuary which must have been patronised by the Jehowah and Alaha worshippers both.
By the time Jesus was born in Jerusalem, Buddhism in its stronghold kingdoms in north-west India had developed into Mahayana under the patronage of Saka-Kushana monarchs as has been explained above. The Aramaic speaking territories of pre-Christian centuries received all the inspiration from those Buddhist kingdoms and moreso when emperor Kanishka expanded his territories under the Kushana empire.
Hence the change of doctrinal policy of Buddhism in these kingdoms it was natural for the ‘Aramaic world’ of West Asia also to receive its influences and impact.
Therefore it could be easily explained that Jesus Christ also had become an ardent follower of the new school of Buddhism which had powerful and rich monastic centres in the Kashmir, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asian region that was the territory in the heart of the powerful Kushana empire. This has been proved with evidence through archaeological discoveries by research scholars, who have found tangible evidence to prove Jesus’ presence in Kashmir which was the part of the great Buddhist empire of Sakas and Kushanas both, during the first century before and after the present era.
It could be surmised that Ven. Isa or Jesus the Jew. was sent to Israel, with the backing and blessings of the powerful Mahayana Buddhist monks of the Kushana empire who still would have had contacts with Alaha (Araha) Buddhists in Arabia and Palestine.
Kingdom of righteousness
Evidence at our disposal is strong enough to declare unequivocally that Jesus was selected as the ideal missionary to spread the neo-Buddhist doctrine codified after the great Buddhist synod held by Emperor Kanishka in the same way ‘Punna the Jew’ was granted permission to go to the same region five centuries earlier to establish the ‘Kingdom of Righteousness’ and the ‘Good News’ of the path to Supreme Bliss in Eternal Nirvana.
The date of Jesus ministry in Judae region (cir 25-32 AC) tallies well with the reign of emperor Kanishka according to the latest reckoning by scholars. Ven. Isa (or Jesus) had put a very bold front despite Jewish challenges and threats, even though he was aware that he was operating within the occupied territory of the Imperial Rome and under ever watchful hawkeyed cruel priests at Jerusalem (as reported in Dead Sea Scrolls), because Jesus was sure of the support that he could muster from the equally powerful Buddhist Empire of the Kushanas (See Bible. Math. 47:53).
While being under arrest, and his supporters led by Peter, tried to challenge the Roman gladiators, Jesus stopped his men to drive a doctrinal point, “Those who unsheathe their swords, will get killed by the very sword,” and reminded them of the great compassion (Metta) that one need cultivate even against the cruel enemies.
But Jesus did not hide the fact, “that if he wishes he can get thousands of angelic forces from the kingdom of his father to rescue him, “probably alluding at the powerful armies of the Kushana Emperor Kanishka who had established the most formidable Buddhist Empire after Asoka of India and before Kublai Khan of Mongal China.
Jesus, thus took the message of this neo-Buddhism with the Buddha elevated to the position of an ‘Eternal Supreme Divine Ruler’ to his home country the Judea region (former Arabah) where even during Jesus time, the monastic establishments and shrines would have definitely flourished under the eremites who lived in cave sanctuaries and followed saintly hermit lives around the Dead-sea littoral.
It would be interesting to refer to the hermit monks known as ‘Essenes’ who lived in caves and grottoes around the Dead sea region and the discovery of religious scriptures written on parchments from sanctuaries near the Dead sea and referred to as ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’. After nearly five centuries of the establishment of Sinai (or Esseni) Buddhist Church by Ven. Punna Mahathra, it could be presumed that there could have been a substantial number of followers of the great Alaha, the supreme compassionate father and his peaceful ‘Doctrine of righteousness’, even at the time of Jesus, both within Israel and in Arabia Proper.
It would not have been impossible for Jesus Christ to gather a large number of followers to his teachings which are based on the old original doctrine ‘Saddharma’ of the Buddha the great Arahan (Alaha), emphasising compassion and wisdom (metta and Prajna) as found in the Old Aramaic scriptures, the Peshitta, yet with a new emphasis by Jesus Christ and his apostles on the concept of the Buddha elevated far above that of Jehowah, the creator God of Torah. This is clearly reflected in the New Testament teachings of Jesus Christ.
The new teachings of Jesus must have brought shock waves on traditional Jews who during the pre-Christian centuries have been successful in curbing the extraneous Peshitta Scriptures and driving out the ‘Alaha’ followers beyond their territories to mainland Arabia, although they might have tolerated or were compelled to connive at some of the Suna (Sinai) monks, later called Esenes, who followed Alaha’s Dhamma to remain within their territory as long as they confine themselves to their cave dwellings and do not interfere with Jewish mainstream religio-politics with a vibrant monotheistic orientation.
The Jewish opposition to Jesus Christ was so formidable and unrelenting that the cunning Jewish priests (as was the case with many priests all over the world) must have obtained political backing of the Roman governors of the time to castigate Jesus as an apostate and also a potential usurper who speaks and assures of a ‘millennal kingdom of peace and righteousness’.
Finally Jesus Christ had to pay the penalty on the cross, although the Roman rulers were hesitant to take responsibility for executing punishment on Jesus Christ.
The final scene of the crucifixion is so dramatically portrayed in the Holy Bible, that anyone can understand how the vicious and cruel Jewish priests who framed Jesus, were insisting on nothing less than death penalty on him, while those who present were looking aghast. One can easily surmise that not only Judas, but several others too must have been bribed by the Jewish priests to cause harm to Jesus while he was under arrest. Jesus’s bold front before the Roman governor, shows that he was not expecting injustice from them. The Roman governor’s wavering attitude to pass judgement on Jesus, also shows that the Roman authorities too had a certain amount of fear not to antagonise Jesus and his Alaha, now ‘God’ followers who can get support from the imperial Kushanas who had by that time expanded their empire right up to western border to Imperial Rome.
However unexpected, Jesus was crucified not by the Roman governor’s demand but by the demand of cunning and cruel Jewish priests. The final words of Jesus Christ on the cross, Eli Eli Lama Sabachhami’, is a mystery phrase to Bible translators who brought such a great person like Jesus to a very low pedestal and pointed out that Jesus was crying in agony and seeking divine intervention on his behalf.
Grace of Buddha
Had Jesus, studied Buddhism in India, in a monastery of the Gandhara empire somewhere in Kashmir, under emperor Kanishka’s patronage, he would never have sought the help of an unseen divine power, but would have definitely sought the Sublime grace of Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha (the Tri Ratna) as has been admonished by the Buddha Himself in the famous Dhajjhagga Sutta.
We shall make the Bible translators enlightened, that what the great Buddhaputtra (son of God) Jesus uttered on the cross, was nothing but reminding himself of the great qualities of the Buddha as a means of consolation and salvation from Sansaric bonds. Therefore we declare that what Jesus had uttered was nothing but the famous hymn in praise of the great God, the Supreme God, God of all Gods, Devatideva, Brahmatibrahma. Buddha (Bodo-God) – ‘Itipiso Bhagava Araham Samma Sambuddho etc.’ However Jesus was very weak and emaciated after the severe and painful trial the Jews meted out to him.
Therefore the feeble words Jesus had uttered, would not have come out through his lips properly or else, even if at all those words were properly pronounced, due to the great commotion, the vast crowd in front of the crucifixion, who were horrified to witness the grisly scene of such a compassionate person being crucified, could not have understood him.
Therefore what was left for the Aramaic Bible scribes and their later translators was a fraction of what Jesus had uttered. The line as it is now found in the Holy Bible as: ‘Eli Eli Lama Sabachtami” can be compared with ‘Araham Sammasambuddho’ in original Pali, which would have gone into Aramaic slightly differently during Jesus’ time, and could be surmised as, stood somewhat like ‘Alaham Lamma Samoccham’ and gone to Greek scribes as ‘Eli Eli Lama Sabocchami’ and had appeared in the English translations variantly.
If at all there were survivals of pockets of adherents of the original followers of Buddhism of the Alaha (Araha) school as taught by the great monk Ven. Punna to the people of Sinai – Arabah (Suna-Apranta) region, when Jesus appeared in the scene (roughly the same area but predominated by Jews, when the Arahabs were pushed into Arabia and Syria by the time Jesus was born) surely they would have got confused with the new concept of god (or Bod) as the supreme Omniscient Being, a divine father of great compassion residing in an eternal cosmic realm, (the Sukkhavati heaven of Mahayana Buddhism) and would have not supported Jesus fully or acceded to his teachings.
Moreover the Alaha devotees of original Buddhism in Arabah too would have by this time (nearly five centuries after Ven. Punna’s mission to Sunaparanta of ferocious people) dispersed far and wide owing to the formidable opposition of Jewish-Jehowah followers and had themselves settled down firmly in mainland Arabia and Syria and maintained the (Bedouin) Arab religious identity as a formidable religious fraternity opposing the Jewish-Jehowah worshippers.
Although the ‘Alaha’ worshipping Arabs did not approve of the new theistic ‘Boddo’ or ‘God’ doctrine of Jesus, they seem to have tolerated Jesus because his teachings on ‘righteousness and compassion’ and final emancipation in the, ‘kingdom of righteousness’ tally well with the teachings of the religion of Great Compassionate Almighty Alaha (Allah), according to which one could reach a temporary heaven after death through one’s meritorious acts and reach the final blissful eternal heaven by complete surrender to Alaha (Allah). Undoubtedly Arabs and Jews both would have accepted Jesus as a messenger of God and Alaha both. Even today Islam considers Jesus as a messenger of Allah.
Up till recently, the Arab-Jewish religious rivalry, although both communities trace their origin to the same ethnic stock, was a great mystery to Islamic and Christian religious historians. I am sure with our discovery of Alaha-Allah etymology in the original Theravada Buddhist term Araha which is an epithet of the Buddha and the Peshitta holy scriptures which preserved the name Alaha with reference to the great divine father, this problem is now solved considerably if not conclusively.
Jehowah of Jews
Our thesis is well substantiated by the fact that both Alaha (of the Peshitta-Aramaic Christian scriptures) and Allah (of the Quranic-Arabic scriptures) worshippers maintain that their compassionate God is one and the same, Jesus and Mohammed were messengers of the same compassionate God, who is the supreme ruler, the divine king of the ‘Kingdom of Righteousness’ which is diametrically opposed to the Jehowah (of the Torah-Hebrew scriptures) of the age-old traditional Jewish religion that was prevailing in Sinai-Arabah region, centuries before both Christianity and Islam originated in West Asia.
It could now be easily seen that in the first century AD this region of Sinai-Arabah (Suna-Apara of early Buddhist texts) of West Asia saw three different religious fraternities opposing one another and claiming allegiance to their own Holy Scriptures, namely (1) the Jewish Torah, (2) Christian Holy Bible (revised by Saul the former arch-enemy of Christ followers, who was later named Paul) and (3) Pre-Islamic Aramaic Peshitta Scriptures which later developed into Arabic Surah-Quran after Prophet Mohammed, the son of Abud-Allah, the servant of Alaha (or Araha).
Even the very word Bible is a mystery word we may say. The Jews do not have any Holy Scriptures by that name. Western scholars have tried to trace the name ‘Bible’ from the Greek word ‘biblios’ – which means papyrus bark used as a writing material or parchment paper. If Bible means a reference to a book only, surely most. If not all, of the books at that time must have been written on papyrus and the Jews too could have used the word for their Holy scriptures which too were written and preserved on papyrus parchments.
The original name of the Holy Scriptures of Aramaic speaking Jews (not Hebrew speaking Jews) and Arabs both, was Peshitta and not Bible or Torah. Why then the Christian Bible alone was named the Bible had to be investigated and solved.
This is a great mystery and we hope our recent discoveries will throw much light on the problem to solve this mystery. The translators of the original Greek Bible based on old Aramiac Scriptures, (Aramaic was the language used by Jesus himself, incidentally) state inter-alia. “Had the Peshitta been made by order of one of the rival churches, the others would have rejected it. But since all Christians, even the Muslims in the Middle East, accept and revere the Peshitta text, it proves beyond a doubt that it was in use many centuries before the division of the Church.”
The above facts show that the Holy scriptures as referred to by the name Peshitta and accepted as sacred by Arabic speaking Moslems and Aramaic speaking Jews and others of Middle East had nothing to do with the Jewish Torah. It is something entirely different and distinct from the Hebrew Jewish Torah.
It is through our observations, that these Aramaic scriptures were nothing but “Survivals of the original Buddhist teachings” of the Church established by Ven. Punna Thera that we can solve the mystery of the origin of not only Peshitta but also the three different sacred books – Torah, Peshitta and the Holy Bible.
There is not much problem as to the genesis of the Jewish-Hebrew Torah. The Holy Bible is of Christian origin after the peaceful mission of the great personage Jesus Christ. The problem now remains as to the origin of Peshitta based of the worship of a Supreme Being by the name of Alaha. If Peshitta was a compilation of Buddhist orientation or Buddhist doctrinal matters, as we do suggest, it has to be proved. Peshitta is the Aramaic name for the original Holy Scriptures. We quote: “This name was given to this ancient and authoritative text to distinguish it from other Bible translations – around 431-451 A.D.
Further “all Christians, even the Moslems in the Middle East accept and revere the Peshitta. Peshitta is without dispute even earlier than the writings of Bar-Dasan who was living in the second century Aramaic was the mother tongue of Jesus Christ and He preached His gospel in Aramaic”. Paul preached the Christian gospel written in Aramaic. His epistles were written…when Christianity had spread into Syria and parts of near East and India. “The word Peshitta means true and original Doctrine.
If we consider carefully and critically the above remarks about the Peshitta text (or the original versions of the existing Holy Bible, or to be more accurate the proto-Bible) much facts can be gleaned to solve the mystery of the Bible. First and foremost, now we know that it was respected and revered by the Christians and the Moslems both. It is quite unlikely that Jesus had preached a new or revised doctrine of the Jewish religion and wish to identify Torahic Jehowah with the Biblical God.
The great antipathy of Jews to Jesus Christ shows that His teachings were not in conformity with their religious ideals and scriptures. On the other hand if it was an entirely original doctrine of Jesus Christ, it would not have spread so quickly in such an alien land, in a vast area at the very first few decades after His death, namely, from Syria through Middle East to India, as Peshitta authorities record.
Our view, is (which is also the view of recent research scholars who have found substantial evidence of Jesus’ connections with Buddhist kingdoms of North West India of the period) that Jesus Christ was preaching the doctrine of the Buddha to those very Semitic communities who had already become adherents of Alaha (of Peshitta Scriptures), the great Arahan Buddha, centuries ago with the mission of Ven. Punna to Sinai-Arabah (Suna-Aparanta) region of the Nabettean monarchs.
Jesus and Mahayana Buddhism
However the teachings of Jesus seems not to be based on the Araha ideal of original Buddhism. Jesus had seemingly emphasised the new Buddhist doctrine as found in Mahayana Buddhism revised by Emperor Kanishka and his immediate predecessors of the Kushana Empire that spread throughout North-Western India into parts of Central Asia, Far East and Middle East.
Thus when Jesus emphasised the Buddha as Cosmocrator, the Universal Compassionate Father, such views would have been anathema to Jews of Jehowah’s religion. On the other hand Jesus’ God (Bod-Boddo) of the Eternal Blissful Heaven (Sukhavati of Mahayana Buddhism) would not have been easily understood by the original converts to Buddhism (those who held Alaha-Araha as their great Omniscient Lord), who were by that time had established in Arabia proper and other neighbouring kingdoms sporadically.
Saul who changed his name to Paul (later St. Paul) must have been either an honest and understanding convert to Jesus’ teachings of Boddo (God) as Cosmocrator, or else a cunning Jewish priest who wished to compromise with the Jews as well as with the Roman Caesars by presenting the new Christian Theology as an off-shoot of old Jewish religion of Jehowah worshippers which will not be a great threat to Roman religious institutions based on age-old thesistic concepts such as Jupiter (Zeus), Adonis, Venus, Hermes, Bachchus, Eros, et al.
Whatever the case may be, original teachings of Jesus Christ had to face great challenges and resulted in revisions and alterations, after several synods and colloquiums held by the Christian church fathers, before being acceptable to the rulers of Rome and their religious hierarchy to become one with the “Holy Roman Empire” which proved to be not so holy.
The very word ‘Peshitta’ for the Aramaic-Christian or proto-Christian canon can be traced back to an original Buddhist word for Lord Buddha’s teachings, namely ‘Bhashita’ which means “What was spoken” or the ‘original word’, ‘Truth’ and is also known as ‘Buddha Bhashita’.
The word “Peshitta” means “straight, sincere, true that is “the Original” and given to the ancient authoritative text to distinguish if from the other Bible revisions and translations.
Our contention that Buddhism in its original doctrinal form had spread along the Great Northern Highway, the Uttharapatha to several other kingdoms and regions outside India, during the very life time of the Buddha can be further substantiated if we analyse the religion of Ahura Mazda preached by Zoroaster in the Persian Empire of Achaemenids (present day Iran).
The God of Zoroaster was “Ahura Mazda”. Zoroaster was a contemporary of Gautama Buddha and was born around 570 B.C. according to ancient Iranian historiographical chronology.
The word “Ahura Mazda” has very close resemblance to “Arahan Buddha” which name had already spread beyond Arabia towards the Sinai-Jerusalem region through Ven. Punna’s mission and to the very heart of Achaemenid-Iran through the very first lay disciples of the Buddha, namely the two caravan leaders Tapassu and Bhalluka. It had been found that the birth place of Bhalluka was the township Bhalk a border township on the great trunk route Uttharapatha, close to or within the then achaemenid Empire.
The great Achaemenid (Persian) emperor Xerxes says: “That Ahura Mazda made his father Darius the Great, king of kings, while his grandfather Vishtaspa and great grandfather Rshama were both alive.
Zoroaster can thus be considered as a learned convert, a noble disciple of the great Ahura Mazda (Arahan Buddha) when Buddha visited these kingdoms beyond the north-west frontier of India, and preached the Good Doctrine “Zad Sparam” as found in the Avesta which is nothing but the “Sad Dharma” the Noble Doctrine of the Buddha.
The Arab historian, Mazudi (A.C. 956), states that king Histaspas’s (Vishtaspa, grandfather of Emperor Xerxes) residence was in the city of Balkh, the capital of Bactria.
In my article on Balkh (which appeared in the “Encyclopedia of Buddhism”) and ancient site where very early Buddhist monuments have been discovered, I have referred to the fact that the first two lay disciples of Lord Buddha namely, Tapassu and Bhalluka the caravan traders, had hailed from Balkh and had come through the northern high way (Uttharapatha) to India and met the Buddha. The two brothers became the first two lay disciples of the Buddha, by surrendering themselves before the Lord (see supra).
King Vishtaspa could have definitely heard of the Buddha and His “Saddharma” through such caravan leaders and other travellers. Zoroaster the Iranian too must have become a noble disciple of the Buddha having listened to the Buddha and understood His teaching (Saddharma).
Zoroaster a Buddhist
If the very first lay disciples of the Great Buddha were also Bactrians from Balkh, it is not unlikely that Zoroaster also had met the Buddha himself like the West Asian Ven. Punna the Arab (or Jew), who was a caravan leader himself from far away Sinai-Arabah (Suna-Apara). According to the same historian, “Zoroaster converted Vishtaspa, the father of Darius the Great and brought the kingdom under Righteousness”, also “the deliverer of the imperilled Empire with great wisdom and efficiency.”
The date of Zoroaster is further confirmed by the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus (cir. 360 A.C.), who says, “about the Magi and holy rites…. to this science the Bactrian Zoroaster made many contributions and after him the wise king Hystaspes, the father of Darius,” ….”Therefore it is possible when a date around 570-493 B.C. is assigned to Zoroaster lends some support.”
Incidentally, we may suggest that it could be quite possible that the three Magi who visited baby Jesus and advised Joseph and Mary to flee from possible Jewish dangers were either Zoroastrian Buddhist monks of the original Alaha (Araha) Buddhist group of Zoroaster’s founding or Buddhist monks of Punna’s group from Arabia.
However, the above statements further confirm that Zoroaster was a Bactrian from Balkh, the place of origin of the very first, two lay disciples (Tapassu and Bhalluka) of our Lord Bhagavat Buddha. Furthermore it is stated that “Airan-vej’ the place where Zoroaster was born, “was in the direction of Ataropatakan (Azervaijan).”
“Ataropatakan” can easily be identified as an early Iranian term for the eponymous “Uttarapatha”, the Great Northern Highway which ran through ancient Iran via Balkh in Bactria, in north-western part of India, and connected Middle India up to Sri Lanka through Dakshinapatha (Dekkan) the Great Southern Highway.
According to Zoroaster’s biography, ‘he was taken to Ahura Mazda (Arahan Buddha) by an arch angel named ‘Vohu Manah’. It is likely that Vohu Manah may have been a great disciple of the Bhagavat Buddha. We may identify ‘Vohu Manah’ tentatively with ‘Moggalana’ the Great Buddha’s chief disciple along with Sariputta.
On the command of Ahura Mazda, Zoroaster went to meet king Vishtasp (father of the great monarch, emperor Darius) and converted him.
The above passages suggest that Ahura Mazda (Arahan Buddha) personally instructed Zoroaster at a very friendly level and that incident was not a mysterious divine intervention as some modern writers and pundits try to interpret without giving any thought to the historical background, and the political episodes that took place in the Achaemenid Imperial Court, and also the unforgettable geographical factor, the northern Highway’ Uttarapatha (“Ataropatakan” in ancient Persian), that linked northern India and Persia.
Light of Asia
As modern historians’ interpretations go Zoroaster’s founding of fire temples does not necessarily mean that the Zoroastrian religionists were fire-worshippers. They must have definitely lighted oil-lamps, and burnt incense, joysticks etc., in honour of the Great Compassionate Lord, the Bhagavat Buddha, the Supreme Light (“The Light of Asia” as Sir Edwin Arnold said, the flame of fire, the symbol how the Buddha was aniconically represented in pre-Christian art and sculpture), because Zoroaster’s teachings do not speak of fire-worship, or any invocation or incantation to a fire-god as the “Agni” cult of Indian Brahmins.
Zoroaster’s teachings are nothing but an emphasis on “Great Righteousness” like in the case of emperor Asoka’s conversion to Buddha’s doctrine of “Great Righteousness”.
Few religious terms of Zoroaster’s teachings as recorded in the Holy Text “Avesta” can easily help, even a modern day Buddhist layman, to understand the similarity of these doctrinal terms of Avesta with original Buddhist Textual terms, as for example, the selections of the book “Arda Virad” are called ‘Zad-Sparam” which can be easily compared with the Buddha’s noble Doctrine “Sad Dharma”.
The Holy Text ‘Avesta’ can be compared with the Buddhist term ‘Vastu’ or ‘Vattu’, e.g. Katha Vattu, and many Sanskrit Buddhist texts with name ending “Vastu” e.g. Maha Vastu.
The holy hymns or the stanzas of the sacred text Avesta are called ‘Gathas’ which is exactly the term used in original Buddhist texts and never found in contemporary religious texts of India or Vedic of Hindu origin.
The founder as well as expounder of ‘Righteousness’ (Zad Sparam) in the imperial court of the great Achaemendids, the revered Guru Zoroaster was however killed by his rivals, the enemies of the new religion, may be at the instigation of the cunning Jews as well as greeks, at the Imperial Court of the Persian monarch, who in subsequent centuries abetted with the Greek Alexander to spell doom to Persepolis and with the Roman Governor Herod to kill Jesus Christ.
When Zoroaster was killed, his temples and all his religious scriptures were put into flames. This shows that the killings of Zoroaster was an act of religious fanaticism. But the Doctrine of Ahura Mazda the Supreme Lord, the Great Compassionate Arahan Buddha, as we now dare to indentfy Him with Ahura Mazda, prevailed in Pesia for nearly 300 years until the last of the Acheamendid emperors Darius II was killed and his city Persepolis, the metropolis, the metropolis of a universal emperor who ruled a vast empire from Mediterranean sea up to the Himalayas in “Righteousness”, the pride of whole Asia was totally destroyed and ruthlessly burnt with all her buildings, religious scriptures and monks and monasteries by the vicious, bellicose Alexander the Greek who set forth from Greece having murdered his own father and mustering only 20,000 (twenty thousand) foot soldiers to meet the mightly Persian army of 600,000 (six hundred thousand soldiers).
Alexander in hell
In the ancient Iranian (Persian) records, this pathetic story is mentioned thus: “Alexander had destroyed all priests and learned men and self destroyed and he fled to hell.
Sir Mortimer Wheeler, the British archaeologist in his ‘Flames over Persepolis’ explains well, how the Greeks, possibly with their West Asian allies among whom were Jews and others in Sinai-Jerusalem region (who opposed the new religion of Alaha worshippers that was again spreading fast with the backing of Imperial Achaemendis) had first destroyed the frontier Satrapies of the Persian Empire like Egypt, Syria etc., and then gradually penetrated into Persia proper.
In the initial stages of Alexander’s campaign against Egypt and Syria, and Jews would have given him the fullest support to resolve old scores. The Greeks and Jews who lived within Persia as both prisoners of war and mercenaries and served in the Persian army and navy too, would have acted as spies to help the combined forces of Alexander and his Jewish allies to penetrate deeper into the heart of Persia, without much difficulty and made a sudden onslaught at Persepolis, like Prince Vijaya did to Lankapura (the prehistoric capital city of Sri Lanka around 550 B.C.). All these historical episodes prove beyond doubt, one salient fact, namely, although Buddhism the compassionate teachings of the Buddha for the establishment of righteousness (Saddharma) through moral order and mental culture, attracted to it vast crowds and was appealing to the intellectual community of the day, like the proto-Arabian Nabetean Kings, Syrian monarchs, emperors like Darius, Xerxes of Persia, Asoka of India, the Selucid and Bactrian Greek Kings like Minander (of Milindapanha fame), Kanishka the mighty Scythian-Kushana emperor, Devanampiyatissa of pre-Christian Sri Lanka, et al, and proved itself to be a great civilizing factor, yet it also proved to be a disastrous factor to great Kingdoms and empires to change from traditional jingoism to peace-making and peace-keeping with their powerful military machines put into cold-storage.
Miliary men and belicose war-lords, masquerading as peace-makers and peace-keepers, as in the present day, found easy access to those great peace loving, peaceful centres of civilization of Buddhist Kingdoms and also took the opportunity to pay off old scores.
Alexander’s conquests were not mere expression of gaining territorial expansion for the constricted Greek city states. It was also an attempt to check the tide of a new philosophy or a new moral order for the world, the “Doctrine of Universal Peace”, of the Lord of Peace “Santi Nayaka”, the Buddha Sakyamuni, that was gaining ground and fast spreading, with the backing of the most powerful empire of the day, the Achaemenid Empire of Persia, throughout the vast Persian Empire’s Satrapies and the Iands around and across the great northern highway-Uttarapatha- that linked the East and the West.
Old cults, rituals and practices which encouraged sacrifice of poor innocent dumb animals rared for killing in thousands on the altars of imaginary blood thirsty creator gods, priest-creaft thriving on witch-craft and state-craft both (as in the present day), war machinery, manufacturing of lethal weapons, war-chariots, arms deals, prisoners of war taken as quick money at public auctions on slave-trade, war booty which include children and women, worshipping heroes who unleashed armies of men trained to kill and destroy while they themselves remained behind barricades, bunkers and fortresses; false propaganda, nepotism mystieism and mystics, charlatans, quacks and mountebanks; magicians and astrologers all had to go “out of commission” with the Buddha’s “Enlightened Doctrine” (Saddharma), based on universal compassion and supreme wisdom (Karuna and Pragna) well established.
The founding of Righteousness or “Saddharma” (Zadsparam as how Zoroaster pronounced it in his own Persian tongue), based on intellectual investigation aimed at correct insight, was anathema to the followers of Jewish religion and Graeco-Roman theistic religion based on gods and divinities, ogresses and above all a hierarchy of toady priests.
Although wise kings and emperors accepted the great compassionate Buddha and His ‘Path of Salvation’, and the innocent peace loving common folk and learned men also wished to follow the doctrine of Salvation from the misery of existence-Samsara-there were others who could not afford to lose their interests, their vested interests as it were. They could not tolerate it all. Had they tolerated, their world would have collapsed, as Bernard Shaw had said “world exists because of intolerance.
Those comprised especially the priests at whose command the wheel of politics turned (excepting the saintly, learned, eremite monks) as is the case in present day politics, and their selfish followers at higher echelons, who held power through the weapons (like the present day gun-culture and bomb-culture saviours of mankind), the men who wished to keep the monopoly of the economic gains, the traders with their multinational and international network of circulation of goods, with prices controlled at their whim and fancy, with the backing of a coterie of money lenders and smiling financiers (exactly like some of the present day financiers).
Jesus Christ was too honest, cultured, learned and innocent a monk, a Buddhist monk we shall say without any hesitation, of the Mahayana denomination as we can prove now, who opposed those rascals openly without having a correct appraisal of their great power both in the public and underground carousals as well.
With his psychic powers (dhyanic powers), Jesus cured the sick, and tamed the ocean and must have thought that he could tame those sinners and culprits as well. Jesus trusted too much on the power of the Cosmocrator God (Bod-Boddo-Buddha) the Amitabha Buddha and his millions of angels (Bodhisattvas) in the Sukhavati heaven. He thought and expected that they would come to his rescue, against the sinful, satanic rascals who arrayed against him.
But at the end Jesus had to seek refuge only in the Alaha (Arahan Buddha) and His Sublime Doctrine (Saddharma). This is well reflected in the new testament episodes of the Holy Bible. This is the reaction by the selfish self interested people like the cruel priests at Jerusalem referred to in the Dead Sea Scrolls, to the early spread of Buddhism in those great seats of powerful empires and monarchies.
Alaha and Peshitta
The Jehowah followers with the help of theistic Greeks have curbed and pushed this tide of ‘Righteous Kingdom’ first established in West Asia in the Nabetean city states by Ven. Punna Thera. Yet those monks of Sinai-Arabah who established themselves in Punon, Jerusalem and Dead Sea littoral, who preserved the Sacred original Scriptures had to retreat to mainland Arabia and establish their religious centres with Araha (later become popular as Alaha-Allah) as the Great being, the compassionate Father and “Peshitta” as their Sacred Scriptures.
The few ‘Sinai’ monks and their harmless followers who were allowed to stay behind, ended up as ‘Essenes’ of Dead Sea Scrolls fame, in the chapters of west Asian religious history.
However without any contact with the original mainstream Buddhist Kingdom’s in the East, and Arabian religion of Allah-Allah worshippers had to survive till Jesus Christ appeared and spread the ‘Good News’ Gospel of God (Pustaka of Buddo’, Pustaka, in Sanskrit meaning ‘book’ had probably given ‘gospel’ in Aramaic, we may suggest.)
In the new gospel of Jesus Christ, the epithet Araha Alaha was retained but the emphasis was on the great ‘Bod’ the ‘God’ (Boddo of Bactrian, Saka, Kushana emperors) the Eternal Father in his highest Heaven ‘Sukkavati’ with millions of angels (or Bodhisattvas) headed by Michael and Gabriel (Mahakala and Avalokita in Mahayana Buddhism).
The Jews and their followers did not like this novel feature of a compassionate god who was not ferocious, not jealous or vindictive or ever ready to punish like their own creator Jehowah.
To crush the revival of neo-Buddhism introduced by the “prince of peace” Jesus Christ, the Jews conspired with the Roman governors in Judea and Jerusalem. Jews were successful in crushing this revival of Alaha (Araha) worshippers. They tortured, humiliated, crucified and killed their leader Jesus Christ.
They were not hesitant to destroy and appropriate their shrines and monasteries in Jerusalem area, and chased them away back to hinterland hide-outs, and mountain caverns and as refugees in Arabia, Syria and further East where they continued to worship, and revere the great lord ‘Araha’ as Allah, the ‘Supreme Ruler of Righteousness’, Allah the king “Allah-hu-Akbar”.
Meanwhile the cunning Jewish priests, the unscrupulous rabbies of the time, contrived in such a way for Rome to accept ‘God’ as the supreme divine lord, while they themselves continued to practise their original Hebrew scriptures in tact, as Torah of Jehowah, in contradistinction to the Aramaic Peshitta of Alaha worshippers who now emphasised Alaha in the new epithet God (or Boddo, or Bod).
It could also be possible, that Rome had tactfully compromised to accept God through fear of a possible attack or punitive expedition by the combined forces of the Scythian Tartar confederation of the Buddhist empire of powerful Kushanas under the mighty emperor Kanishka, or his subsequent heirs for persecuting their grand missionary Jesus Christ and his neo Buddhist followers. This had actually happened later when Allah worshippers rallied under one banner and punished the Holy Roman Empire and conquered the Eastern part of the empire, took over Constantinople and called it Istanbul and established the power of Allah as far as Spain and Portugal and Northern Africa. We may conjecture that the conquests of Huns under their mighty general Atila and devastating Europe upto Rome was also an act of retaliation. (Incidentally Huns or Hephthalities were Buddhist rulers).
Even the later expeditions of the great Buddhist emperors Kublai Khan and Jenghis Khan from Mongol China to the West, also can be taken as revengeful attacks for the harm done to the original Buddhist Churches of Punna, Zoroaster and later the Mahayana Sect of Ven. Isa or Jesus Christ. Great Kublai would have received the news of the ruthless persecutions of Araha (Alah) as well as God-Bod- (Boddo) worshippers, from itinerant Chinese monks and Arab caravan traders and travellers like Ibn-Battuta.
Jesus new religion ‘Christianity’ with the compassionate God the father at the head, spread with new gusto with Peshitta or Buddha’s spoken word Bhashita revised by the Jew Saul turned Paul, as the scriptural document of Divine inspiration and later amalgamated with elements from the Jewish Torah as the Old Testament to suit the Imperial Rome which declared Christianity its state religion under emperor Constantine.
Our investigations throw further light on yet another so far unknown aspect of the ‘Alaha – Boddo’ (or Arahan-Buddha) episode in West Asia. That is the introduction of another important attractive Buddhist text by Jesus Christ with much Mahayana overtones; a product of the Mahayana revival under emperor Kanishka who was a contemporary of Jesus Christ, to substantiate his thesis that Alaha of the old Peshitta scriptures was the same as supreme Buddha (the Amitabha Buddha the resplendent lord), the Boddo, the eternal ruler of the Cosmos, God.
This was the text known as ‘Vepulla Sutta’ (or Vaitulya Sutra) which even tried to play havoc among Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka, during the early Christian centuries.
No one knows how the name Vepulla or Vaitulya was given to this extreme Mahayana text. According to some authorities Vepulla was the name given to the Mahayana treatise selected at the Buddhist synod held at Vepulla mountain near Rajgir in India under the patronage of emperor Kanisha.
If we analyses the Bible episodes we can glean some evidence to elarify the problem pertaining to Vepulla as well as the Holy Bible, the scriptures based of Jesus’ teachings.
Vepulla and Bible
It could be argued that an original Mahayana text named Vepulla, compiled in the Kushana Empire by the monks of the Mahayana denomination had gone to West Asia through Jesus Christ, or else the teachings of Jesus Christ based on Mahayana soteriological doctrines and written on parchment paper had been named ‘The Bible’ by Jesus and his apostles and was later brought to Eastern Churches (of Mahayana) where it took the name of Vepulla from Bible or a similar Aramaic name. (Bible, Bebul, Bebulla, Vepulla). Whatever the process that took place, the holy text Bible or Vepulla has all the Mahayana Buddhist affiliations, with the Buddha elevated to the position of a ‘Cosmocrator’.
The spread of Bible as Vepulla or a Mahayana text in ancient Sri Lanka even during the early Christian centuries can be proved by the survivals of such Biblical doctrines among early Sinhalese literature, e.g. pulling a speak out of another’s eye before removing a beam in one’s won eye; a wife is a gift of god (Bamba Ketu Hati). Archaeologists have even discovered a Nestorian Greek Cross from ancient Anuradhapura. Moreover the arrival of the monk Sanghamita in the 3rd century A.C. to propagate Vepulla doctrine and getting into the good books of the Sinhala Monarch at Anuradhapura is also noteworthy. The Mahayana monk Sangamitta’s original hometown is supposed to be in North-West India.
Belief in Jesus second coming is also comparable with the Sinhala legend of ‘Prine Diyasena’ (Jayasena, of. Jesu, Jesus) who will descend from heaven to establish a millennial peaceful rule.
Although Jesus Christ was crucified and killed by the Jews, his Bible text was acceptable to some Jews (both Hebrew and Aramaic speaking communities), as new gospel in which God the Supreme Lord appears with great power and compassion and wisdom, unlike Jehowah of Jewish Torah who was a jealous god, ever ready to punish ruthlessly the defectors and the miscreants.
Although the rulers in Syria and Palestine and other West-Asian kingdoms had condescended to accept the Holy Bible (the original Vepulla Sutta!) introduced by Jesus Christ, the Alaha oriented Peshitta scriptures also continued to survive along with the Bible, among those followers in Arab kingdoms and among the cave dwelling Sinai-monks who survived in the Dead Sea region as the Essenes. That is why the translators of the Peshitta (Greek Bible) found that Peshitta scriptures were acceptable both to Jews and Arabs.
The Arabs of mainland Arabia and of the Sinai-Palestine tract seem to have maintained strictly the original Peshitta texts, (without any Bible or Mahayana Vepulla interpretations introduced by Jesus Christ), of the original Supreme Lord Arahan Buddha as Alaha, Allah.
However with the passage of time, nearly one thousand years after the first mission of Ven. Punna the Arab Buddhist monk, when Mohammed, the son of Abdullah (servant of Allah) appeared on the scene, there must have arisen lot of confusion and misinterpretations as to the ‘teachings of Righteousness’, and the “Great Being” who was the originator of Righteousness; the Supreme Ruler of Compassion (Santinayaka as the Buddha was called).
Such a development was quite natural for any religious organisation, to receive extraneous beliefs, cults and practices into one’s own fold. However even up to the time of Mohammed the worship of the Higher Divinity Allah was prevailing among some Arab tribes. This Great Divine Being was variously worshipped as Allah, Allat and Al-Uzza.
Allah was the principal God of Mecca before the birth of Mohammed and was worshipped even by pagans according to Quaran. Even Mohammed’s father bore the name of Abud-Allah (Abdullah) meaning slave of Allah or one who has surrendered to Allah.
Abdullah means a person who has surrendered to Allah. We can compare this practice with the age old Buddhist practice of Surrendering before the Buddha by taking the solemn vow by uttering ‘Buddham saranam gacchami’. The first two lay disciples of the Buddha from West Asia (i.e., Balkh in Bactria, modern Afghanistan) were the first to take this vow according to Buddhist records.
The name Abdullah also suggests that there were practising Alaha religionists before the founding of Islam by Mohammed. It is quite obvious that Mohammed’s Islam is nothing but a revival of “Alaha’s Doctrine of Righteousness” the Saddharma of the Great Alaha (Arahan Buddha).
The fact that this Holy and Sacred concept of the name “Allah, Allat” according to ancient inscriptional evidence seems to have been introduced into Arabia from Syria and Northern parts of Arabia, also substantiates our thesis that it had its roots in the original Araha doctrine of the Buddhist Church in ‘Sinai-Arabah’ region established by Thera Punna, during the very life-time of our Lord Bhagavat Buddha.
Moreover ancient Syria is part of the territory ‘Sinai Arabah’ we have identified before, as the location where Ven. Punna thera had carried out his missionary work and established four Buddhist monastic sanctuaries.
We believe we have marshalled sufficient evidence to prove that the Buddha was the Great Supra-human being worshipped as Alaha in pre-Christian West-Asia, which name later changed through linguistic formations into Allah from the original Buddhist concept Araha, a synonym of the Great Buddha which means the “Sinless One”, the most worthy Lord, deserving worship and veneration both by the humans as well as divine beings (Araha Sambuddho Sattadevamanussanam).
Now let us analyses Islamic (Muslim) religious textual passages for possible survivals of Buddhist concepts and parallel terms.
Surrender to the Buddha
A reputed Islamic Scholar Professor Margoliouth has the following to say: “The original meaning of the name of Islam” as the title of this system is obscure, but its official interpretation is devoting the face (i.e. the person), in its entirety to Allah, the Arabic word for God, “Iddio”. The above statement shows that the Islamic religion is based on “Surrender to Allah”, was a basic tenet in Buddha’s teachings and practised by millions of Buddhists even today when they utter the solemn hymn or prayer, ‘Buddham saranam gachchami’ first uttered by the West Asian caravan leaders Tapassu and Bhalluka from Bactria according to the history of the Buddhist Church.
The word “Iddio” for God in Islamic tradition is also important as it is a word found in early Buddhism for great religious men who have gained higher psychic powers like the Buddha and his noble “Araha” bhikkhu disciples.
Prophet Mohammed’s successor was Ali meaning ‘sublime’ which can be compared with the original buddhist term Arya or Ari, by which term Buddhist monks were addressed, e.g. “Ariya and Ariya Samgha; Ariya savaka, Ari sangagana”, meaning ‘venerable’, ‘noble’, ‘respectful’.
The fact that Mohammed himself had to face assassination threats and how Ali and his successors fell victims to assassins, repeatedly, speak of the ferocious nature of those Jewish Arabic tribes, as has been aptly portrayed in the story of Thera Punna and also the anti-Alaha factions of Jehowah followers operating surreptitiously.
The white dress worn like a gown or toga by the Arabs is reminiscent of the “white dress’ Buddha had introduced for His lay disciples. This was known as ‘Odata Vasana’ in early Buddhist texts. This traditional Buddhist laymen’s garment would have gone into ‘Sinai-Arabah’ (Suna-Apara) region through Punna Thera’s lay followers which was the dress of Buddhist laymen in India as witnessed by Punna Thera himself before The became a convert to Buddhism. This white garment was variously called ‘Odataka; Odata Vasana; odata vatta’ in early Buddhist texts.
The shrines and temples built by pre-Islamic Arab kings and later appropriated by Mohammed and his followers were exact replicas of the architectural types of Buddhist monuments with domical super-structures. The Buddhist stupa or dagaba in India, Sri Lanka, and other early Buddhist kingdoms proved this fact. Even today every mosque has this domical roof resembling a Buddhist stupa.
In those early pre-Islamic shrines, there were artistic representations in sculpture and painting on the inside walls depicting divine beings and other personages.
A noteworthy discovery is the statue of ‘Ammyad Shukaymim’ carved out of alabaster stone in the round. This statue resembles very much a Buddha image. We have already referred to the inscription on the pedestal of this statue and compared it with the name of the Buddha Shakya-Muni. Several other statues like this one in more or less worn out state have also been discovered from ancient Himyante Kingdom of South Arabia dating from pre-Christian centuries up to the 6th century A.C. (cir: 115 B.C.-525 A.C.)
Ahymn to Allah by prophet Mohammed found in the Holy Quaran is an echo of the famous stanza in praise of Bhagavat Buddha referred to above (supra.n.39) This verse which Mohammed himself is traditionally reported to have declared equal in value to two thirds of the Quran. It is translated as follows:
“He is Allah, one Allah, eternal. He brought not both, nor hath he been brought forth, co-equal with him there hath never been any one”
Furthermore, there are ninety nine appellations to Allah. This reminds a Buddhist of the Buddha’s nine appellations called “Nava Arahadi Buduguna”.
The chapters of Holy Quaran are called ‘Surah’ which is quite identical with the Buddhist term Sutra (Sutta) for chapters or separate sermons or for the entire Buddhist Sutta Pitaka.
The practice of worship with circumabulation of sacred objects of shrines in Islam has its origin in early Buddhism in the practice of “Pradaksina”. This practice is said to have revived and re-instituted by Mohammed himself at such holy places like Sakhra in Jerusalem temple and Kabah Mecca temple.
The word ‘Kabah’ the name of the sacred shrine at Mecca reflects an original Buddhist term in it. That is ‘kube’ or ‘tube’ (from Stupa or thupa) used in every Buddhist country for the Buddhist relic mound (stupa, Thuap, tope, tepe) from Far-East to Central Asia and South Asia, e.g. Tope-i-Rustam, Adzina-tepe, Buddhist shrines discovered on the Silk-Route Uttarapatha.
In the present research study I have ventured to trace historical evidence based on literary and archaeological data to substantiate further our original hypothesis, that is, Buddhism was introduced to Middle-East and West-Asia (Arabia-Persia-Syria-Palestine-Israel, the Sinai Arabah in ancient documents, etc.) during the very lifetime of the Buddha.
In our attempt we have discussed only a bare fraction of the immense wealth of evidence that are at the disposal of the research scholar. Ours is however a humble attempt without much tools and facilities at our disposal and resources to further the accumulated knowledge gleaned from literary and archaeological and also art-historical sources.
We are sure with the opening of traffic for research scholars to these great seats of ancient cultural and religious wisdom, namely Arabia, Syrai, Israel, Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Egypt etc. and with the possession of modern tools of academic research, more light can be thrown on the hidden aspects of the original seats of establishment of the “Peaceful Doctrine (Saddharma) of our lord Sakyamuni Buddha the Boddo, the God and also to further the great and untiring efforts made by those early apostles of the Buddha hailed from Arabia and West Asia, the forefathers of the present day Arabs, Jews and the Persians, to propagate and preserve the ‘Good Norm’. the Good News Saddharma, Zad Sparam of the Buddha for the weal and welfare of the entire humanity.
Dead Sea Scrolls
We wish to add a further note regarding the original site that we have identified with the story of Punna Thera, that is the region around the ‘Sea of Arabah’ or ‘Dead Sea’ in Palestine where scholars have yielded some very valuable documentary evidence known as the “Dead Sea Scrolls” as far back as the early fifties of the present century.
It is very unfortunate that these scrolls, now given the name or acronym ‘MMT’ (Miqsat Ma’ase Ha-Torah) are kept in the dark for nearly half a century from the academic world, by those Jewish-Hebrew academics into whose hands these valuable religious documents of a sect of ancient cave dwelling eramites, have finally fallen. MMT critics say that “many of the mysteries of the MMT are far from solved”.
We now suspect and our suspicion is not without justification, that these ancient documents from Dead-Sea cave temple sites have also something to do with original Buddhist missionary activities conducted by the pioneer Jewish, Arab, Buddhist monk, the noble Thera Ven. Punna.
A fascicule of these scrolls termed MMT, edited by Jewish Hebrew scholars, has caused much disharmony among research scholars. This shows that there is something ‘fishy’ about the manner how these documents are handled and the way how the results of their studies are divulged. Some even have gone into litigation to rectify the damage caused to scholarship by those who claim to be the custodians of these so called MMT or Dead Sea Scrolls.
These ancient documents speak of a leader or teacher of righteousness, who is the head of the eramites of the Qumron group of caves. This teacher of the Qumron group was addressing his adversary, the Wicked priest of Jerusalem.
The editors of these documents say: “we really don’t know who is speaking and who is being addressed”.
However we may add those that, who have followed our arguments placed in this research paper, would not find it difficult to identify who are the Sectarian MMT and their adversary the wicked priest or priests of Jerusalem.
Another statement of the modern editors is as follows: “The third section of the MMT states that, ‘we have separated ourselves from the multitude of the people”, but it is uncertain whether this recalls a separation of the Qumron Sectarians from the mainstream Judaism as represented by the temple authorities in Jerusalem or some internecine dispute with the sect itself. It is not even, entirely clear that the ‘they’ group and the ‘You’ group are the same.”
According to our researches given in the present study the reader will not find it difficult to identify who these two groups are, the ‘they’ and the ‘you’ groups.
We may add emphatically that the ‘they’ group represents the wicked Jewish priests of Jerusalem who relentlessly opposed the Peshitta-Alaha ‘we’ group of the Sinai (Essene) Buddhist patriarchs.
However the modern editors have, got a remarkable guess in regard to the ‘we’ sect when they say: ‘In some ways they look like Essenes”, thus giving a final approval, as it were to our thesis.
Therefore we take this opportunity to request very kindly from the Jewish academics and those Israeli authorities who keep the ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ under their safe custody, still as a secret from the world at large, to release these documents in publications for the benefit of scholars and students of the world over, who are keen to know the truth and the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Because of the remarkable research study of the Maha Thera Ven. Dr. Paravahara Pannananda, the Chancellor of the Ruhunu University of Sri Lanka, quoting from original Buddhist texts, ‘On the establishment of the Buddha’s peaceful religion in Arabia, “we were enticed to do further research. All that we have discovered subsequently and presented in this brief study, are a result of this new light thrown on a so far hidden aspect of ‘West Asian religious history’ by the Ven. Maha Thera I am indeed beholden to him, who is also my Guru and Spiritual Advisor.
Courtesy: Daily News ( Vesak 2549 – 2005)