Buddhism as a Kenyan heresy

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Fri Nov 8 04:26:39 UTC 2002

Well, another tangent on a tangent from S. Guha:

At least we know now,  where this comes from.

At 06:31 PM 11/7/2002 -0500, S. Guha  wrote:

>I do regret that a joking reference to our common African descent should
>have so upset Herr Professor Witzel and led him to bombard the list with so
>much irrelevant information.

"Herr" Witzel was not uspet at all about our common ancestors.
Instead,  he has written, in the intro chapter of  the book mentioned in
his original email:

"Wie wir nun aufgrund von genetischen Untersuchungen wissen, stammen alle
nun lebenden Menschen von einer Mutter in Afrika ("African Eve") ab, deren
mitochondrisches DNA wir alle in uns tragen. Ebenso haben wir einen nicht
unbedingt gleichzeitigen Stammvater, der sich aufgrund von Mutationen im
Y-Chromosom nachweisen laesst. Bekanntlich ist etwa vor 50.-75.000 Jahren
eine Gruppe von anscheinend nur 2.000-10.000 dieser neuen Menschen ueber
den Nahen Osten nach Europa und ueber Suedarabien oder den damals trockenen
Persischen Golf nach Indien eingewandert, von wo sie bis nach Ostasien und
Australien gelangten."

Second, the "irrelevant information"  was necessary to dispel some wrong
notions (e.g. on N.Iranian).
Apparently it still has not yet helped to inform the historian Guha well
enough, for :

>The relevant question simply is:
>The Buddha as a founder of a major religion is located in a religious
>milieu and tradition.

The complex social and religious  INDIAN milieu (in Bihar) has been
referred to several times in earlier emails. Closer study advised.

>What were the geographical boundaries of that tradition at the relevant
>time? (By boundaries of the tradition I mean the zone within which schools
>of thought regularly contended and communicated.)

As Prof. Guha will know, this  is easily visible e.g. in the older
Upanisads (see summary in Olivelle's Up. transl., or in more detail in
OpMin 2):

Gandhara and Madra to Videha.

However, trade extended much beyond  that. The Balhika  (Bactria) name is
attested from the Atharvaveda onwards.
See Persica 9 (1980).

Trade in fact seems to have extended even to the Altai and beyond, see the
recent paper by Y. Vasilkov (in Russian only) on the finds of Indian-made
bronze mirrors and the old Indian silk shirt, found in Saka etc.graves
there (400 BCE--).
No one has recorded --like Herodotos-- what they may have talked about at
their caravan stops.

>If this boundary extended North of Merv, I would be happy to see the

This was not said (about boundaries of tradition). Re-reading advised.

>But as far as I can see the named personages in the tradition appear to
>have lived, preached and argued within north India.

(And Nepal). And, who doubted that? Re-reading advised.

>Whether some branch of the Saka came to North India in the first half of
>the 1st millennium BCE
>simply has no bearing on this issue - nor does the veritably Pauranika spew
>of names that adorn Professor Witzel's rejoinder.

So says Prof. Guha. ---  Still, lack of background information; as for "no
bearing", a study of the (Kosala-)Videha social situation is re-advised
(summary in OpMin 2).
And, see additional notes above.

Hope this helps.
Cheers, MW

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list