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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Shape of Ancient Thought 5: The Link Between Pyrrhonism and Madhyamaka School of Buddhism

Guru Rinpoche
Guru Rinpoche: TIbetan Buddhism is Madhyamaka inspired Buddhism.

Thomas McEvilley on 'The Shape of Ancient Thought' (POST)

Shape of Ancient Thought 2: Similarities btwn Buddhism/Hinduism and Greek Philosophy (POST)
Shape of Ancient Thought 4: Ningishzida, Lord of the Underworld (POST

Pyrrhonism (wiki)
Madhyamaka (wiki)

Around page 400, McEvilley makes his move and posits that Pyrrhonism, a "a school of skepticism founded by Aenesidemus in the first century BC" is ultimately responsible for inspiring the Madhyamaka school of Buddhism, which is the earliest recorded evidence of logically rigorous philosophical thought. I think probably the essential weakness in his argument is the lack of chronology among documents pertaining to the Madhyamaka school of Buddhism. The central premise of his argument is that Pyrrhon, through his historically documented travels to Indo-Greece, diffused to the thinkers who laid out the tenets of Madhyamak Buddhism, which then diffused to Hinduism in the Upanshadic period (I think.) McEvilley also has another one of those great lists he generates,this one comparing Stoic/Cynic era Greek/Roman philosophy and Madhymak Buddhism:

1) Overhwelming emphasis on teaching by example rather then discourse
2) Frequent use of perverse, irrational or violent examples.

3) A requirement of total dedication and of signs of total dedication, from the student
4) The use of shocking and enigmatic verbl fomulae as teaching devices.
5) An emphasis on hardihood, indifference to pheomena and extreme simplicity or frugality of phycical milleu.
6) A mirthful attitude which expresses itself as ridicule of convention.
7) Extreme self possession, a mental balance impossible to disturb
8) A tendency to reject or neglect inherited doctrines such as reincarnation and purification, preferring the emptiness of no-doctrine.

To me this is like the ingredients of a religion. The elements, if you will.

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