Friday, March 20, 2009

Buddhism in ancient Egypt

“It would seem that Buddha was an Egyptian priest, chased from Memphis by the persecution of Cambyses. This tradition would justify the portrayal of Buddha with woolly hair. Historical documents do not invalidate this tradition…There is general agreement today on placing in the sixth century not only Buddha but the whole religious and philosophical movement in Asia with Confucius in China, Zoroaster in Iran. This would confirm the hypothesis of a dispersion of Egyptian priests at that time spreading their doctrine in Asia. (p.287)”

Anta Diop in The African Origin of Civilization .

Diop's mention of Memphis is quite interested because it is here that Petrie (1908) found evidence of Buddhist colonist, which he claimed dated back to the Persian period of Egypt (c 525-405BC). he wrote:

"on the right side, at the top is the Tibetan Mongolian, below that the Aryan woman of the Punjab, and at the base a seated figure in Indian attitude with the scarf over the left shoulder. These are the first remains of Indians known on the Mediterranean. Hitherto there have been no material evidences for that connection which is stated to have existed, both by embassies from Egypt and Syria to India, and by the great Buddist mission sent by Asoka as far west as Greece and Cyrene. We seem now to have touched the Indian colony in Memphis, and we may hope for more light on that connection which seems to have been so momentous for Western thought" (p.129).

If Petrie's dating is correct this puts Buddhists in Egypt two hundred years before Asoka, sent Buddhist missionaries to Egypt.


W. M. Flinders Petrie, The peoples of the Persian Empire, Man (1908) No.71:pp.129-130.

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