Greek Buddha : Pyrrho's Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia
Greek Buddha shows how Buddhism shaped the philosophy of Pyrrho, the famous founder of Pyrrhonian scepticism in ancient Greece. Identifying Pyrrho’s basic teachings with those of Early Buddhism, Christopher I. Beckwith traces the origins of a major tradition in Greek philosophy to Gandhara, a country in Central Asia and northwestern India.
Pyrrho of Elis accompanied Alexander the Great to Central Asia and India during the Graeco-Macedonian invasion and conquest of the Persian Empire in 334–324 BC, and while there met with teachers of Early Buddhism, a philosophy that Beckwith analyzes in depth. Using a range of primary sources, he systematically looks at the teachings and practices of Pyrrho and of Early Buddhism, including those preserved in testimonies by and about Pyrrho, in the report on Indian philosophy two decades later by the Seleucid ambassador Megasthenes, in the first-person edicts by the Indian king Devana?priya Priyadarsi referring to a popular variety of the Dharma in the early third century BC, and in Taoist echoes of Gautama’s Dharma in Warring States China. Beckwith demonstrates how the teachings of Pyrrho agree closely with those of the Buddha sakyamuni, “the Scythian Sage.” In the process, he identifies eight distinct attested philosophical schools in ancient northwestern India and Central Asia, including Early Zoroastrianism, Early Brahmanism, and several forms of Early Buddhism. Beckwith then shows the influence that Pyrrho’s brand of scepticism had on the evolution of Western thought, first in Antiquity, and later, during the Enlightenment, on the great philosopher and self-proclaimed “Pyrrhonian,” David Hume.
Greek Buddha demonstrates that through Pyrrho, Early Buddhist thought had a significant impact on Western philosophy.