The Earliest Attested Forms of Buddhism
This chapter discusses the earliest attested forms of Buddhism. The earliest attested philosophical-religious system, which is both historically datable and clearly recognizable as a form of Buddhism is Early Pyrrhonism. Its central features correspond exactly to some of the central features of the traditional putatively “early” form of Buddhism presented in Pali canonical texts. However, the latter tradition of Buddhism also contains many elements which developed at the earliest in the Saka-Kushan period, three centuries after Pyrrho. They spread throughout the ancestors of the attested forms of Buddhism, creating Normative Buddhism. “Genuinely Early” Buddhism (or Pre-Normative Buddhism) is also attested in the travel account of the Greek ambassador Megasthenes, a Seleucid envoy sent from Alexandria in Arachosia to the court of Candragupta Maurya to negotiate a treaty that was agreed on in 305–304 BC, twenty years after Pyrrho's departure from India.
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