Thursday, 29 October 2009

Celtic Buddhism - Buddhism in pre-Christian Britain

Pages from Buddhism in pre-Christian Britain by Donald A. Mackenzie, published by Blackie and Son Ltd, Glasgow and London, 1928

Click images to enlarge

Saint Origen wrote that Buddhists and Druids coexisted in pre-Christian Celtic Britain

So did Ashoka's missionaries reach the Celts and establish Buddhism as far west as Britain?

Is the meditating figure on the Celtic Gundestrup Bowl the Buddha of the West, Virupaksha?

Celtic Buddhism? Points to ponder

  • So perhaps the Druids were influenced by or adopted the Buddhist teachings they encountered.
  • The Druids were pan-Celtic and travelled unhindered from one end of the Celtic world to the other, ie from Galatia in the east, westward through Balkans, Austria, Helvetia, Gaul, Galicia, Britain and Ireland.
  • The main Druidic college was in Britain on the Isle of Anglesey. It drew teachers and students from Ireland, Britain and Continental Europe.
  • Origen attributed the rapid and unobstructed growth of Christianity in Britain to the foundations laid by the teachings of the Druids and Buddhists.
  • The Gundestrup bowl, a beautiful piece of pre-Christian Celtic craftsmanship, seems to show a meditating Buddha.
  • Triskeles - classic Buddhist symbols - also appear in pre-Christian Celtic designs.
  • Celtic mystical art often displays elaborate knotwork designs, which symbolize the interconnectness of all phenomena. Similarly Buddhist philosophy is concerned primarily with interconnectness. In fact, it is the relationships, the interdependencies that are the reality, since objects or subjects are nothing but their connections to other objects and subjects.
  • The Buddhist teaching on Dependent Relationship states that phenomena exist in three fundamental ways. Firstly, phenomena exist by dependence upon causes and conditions. Secondly, phenomena depend upon the relationship of the whole to its parts and attributes. Thirdly, and most profoundly, phenomena depend upon mental imputation, attribution, or designation. According to John Michael Greer, Druid philosophy has a similar division into three 'elements' which are known in old Welsh as Gwyar (change, causality), Calas (structure) and Nwyfre (consciousness).

- Sean Robsville

Related Articles:

Cauldron, Chalice and Grail Symbolism in Buddhism and Celtic Wicca

Numinous Symbolism - Pagan, Buddhist and Christian

Celtic and Buddhist Symbolism - Triskeles and the Three Hares

C J Jung, Buddhism, Tantra and Alchemy

Buddhism, Shamanism and the Use of Entheogens (Psychedelic agents)

Buddhist Halloween

External Links

Celtic Buddhism Homepage
Celtic Buddhist Art



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another great blog! I also wanted to point out the possible connection between the Hindu Vedas and Northern European belief systems. Another interesting point to consider is the presence of the "red-haired" mummies discovered in China. They are so well preserved and are clearly wearing something akin to a tartan. "Recent excavations in the Tarim Basin in Xinjiang province have uncovered more than 100 naturally mummified corpses of people who lived there between 4,000 and 2,400 years ago, indicating that the Aryan race of red and blonde hair with blue eyes lived in this area at one time. The bodies were amazingly well preserved by the arid climate, and according to the New York Times "...archaeologists could hardly believe what they saw."

The mummies had long noses and skulls, blond or red hair, thin lips, deepset eyes, and other unmistakably Aryan features. Dr. Victor H. Mair of the University of Pennsylvania said, "Because the Tarim Basin Caucasoid corpses are almost certainly representatives of the Indo-European family, and because they date from a time period early enough to have a bearing on the expansion of the Indo-European people from their homeland, it is thought that they will play a crucial role in determining just where that might have been." ( Personally I believe that the opposite is true. I believe that the European Man came out of or was part of this pre-existing culture that has been found around the world...including China. ..Sutherland)
They have some wonderful photographs on this page
One last comment is regarding my own ancestry. I have strawberry blond hair and blue eyes. My family is all of Northern European/UK stock. In my human biological variation class, we all tested our mitochondrial DNA. This form of DNA testing only follows the maternal lineage. When I got the results of the MtDNA test I learned that the person in the world with the closest match to my MtDNA hailed from Mongolia. Bizarre huh? I am an archaeologist with a lifelong interest in religion.(