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Gale: Buddhism and Islam

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.religion.buddhism,talk.religion.buddhism,alt.sufi,alt.islam.sufi,alt.religion.islam,talk.religion.misc,talk.religion.newage
From: (nagasiva)
Subject: Gale: Buddhism and Islam
Date: 22 Apr 1996 05:48:23 -0700

[from Tariqas Elist (sufism): Gale ; repost permission recvd]

The topic on the relationship between Islam and Buddhism shows far more 
tension than harmony, which makes me question the validity of 
associating the Quranic zulkifl with Buddha  and especially amongst the 
sunna theological commentators -- unless it is some esoteric symbolism 
that seems to have not been known to the early Muslims. Otherwise why 
would there have been such a systematic destruction of Buddhist 
monasteries and libraries.  As early as the mid 8th century, the Korean 
Buddhist Ou Kong writes about purposely avoiding the Muslim-occupied 
parts of Afghanistan, because of the danger it imposed to Buddhists, as 
he made his way to India.  And the 9th century Kalachakra Tantra (one of 
the most important for the later Tibetan schools, ie. Gelugpa) 
prophesizes: about "Madhumati" as a false impostor who would destroy 
much of Buddhism  of course something similar happened when Mahmud of 
Ghazna destroyed the main Buddhist learning centers of India, especially 
Nalanda, in the 12th century.  The Tibetan version of armageddon in some 
of the Shambala myths, or in the Khotanese versions with the coming of 
Maitreya,  pitches the battle between Buddhism and Islam. (this info I 
remember while researching at the Tibetan Archives in Dharamsala in the 
80s, although I do not remember the title of the exact source). As Islam 
pushed into Central Asia, many of the Muslim rulers saw themselves as 
fighting a holy war to destroy Buddhism, and this destruction was quite 
systematic. Even some Sufis, such as Fahr aldin Razi went as far as to 
deny Hinduism as a part of the prophetic tradition, whereas other Muslim 
traditions, eg, al-Biruni, and others, included Hindus in this line as a 
result of identifying Ibrahim with the Arabic barahima for brahmans.

At the positive side of the picture, the most frequent Arabic titles for 
Buddha are al-budd (in Persian: but) and budasf or budisfiya, the latter 
referring to bodhisattva.  Shahrastani in the 10th century actually 
writes that Buddhism is "very near to the teachings of the Sufis" and 
identified it as a "search for Truth"  Shahrastani goes on to say that 
Buddha is al-Hadir.  And a 19th Persian text on Tibet refers to the 
statues of Buddha as al-Hadir; the Naqsbandiyya in Central Asia, who 
were instrumental for bringing Islam to this Buddhist region, also made 
this identification. (if anyone on Tariqas can help me with 
understanding this word al-Hadir, I would appreciate it; my 
understanding is that it deals with "multiple personality" and thus 
Enoch, Hermes, Elias, Jeremiah, etc. are al-Hadir; this transliteration 
may also be different because my source for this is from a French text 
through the Vaticans Pontificio Instituto di Studi Arabi e 
dIslamisticii).  Another Sufi, Ala al-Dawla al-Simnani represented the 
Buddhists on their behalf to the royal Iranian court.  An interesting 
piece of historical trivia is that the famous Central Asian Buddhist 
cave temples at Toyug, near Turfan, became a seat for Qalandar dervishes 
who considered the caves as the abode of the "seven sleepers".  And in 
the Tarim basin during the 14th century, the local Buddhist monastery 
and a Sufi tekke co-existed side-by-side.  We should be reminded that by 
these centuries, Buddhism in Central Asia and the China basin was almost 
exclusively in its tantric form of vast iconography  the northern 
school of the Chan-HuaYen relationship already having succumbed for the 
most part to the more popular southern school at the end of the Tang.

Other interesting tidbits:  When the jesuit missionary expeditions  
Matteo Ricci, Bento de Gois, Francis Xavier -- were making their way to 
Tibet in the middle ages, they associated with Muslim merchants in India 
for receiving travel instructions and info on the culture.  What they 
received was the Indian Muslim perception that Tibetan Buddhism was a 
form of Christianity (either spoken of as authentic or degenerate, but 
usually the latter). The Portugese Jesuit, Antonio de Andrade, actually 
thought the Tibetans were a lost Christan group that became mixed with 
the indigenous religions when he encountered them.

Finally, I have to admit that in all my research in this area, the term 
zulkifl has never appeared.  And I have never seen any word associated 
with India or a region thereof even similar to it.  Budd and budasf are 
consistent terms for Buddha in Muslim literature, identifying Buddha or 
the community he founded in the Quran is something quite different.  

Blessings to all,  Nur Jemal Gale

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