Greek Buddha: Pyrrho’s Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia. By Christopher I. Beckwith. Princeton University Press, June 9, 2015. 304 pages. ISBN-10: 0691166447 ISBN-13: 978-0691166445
Scythians; Dharma (Buddhism)
In his book Greek Buddha: Pyrrho’s Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2015), Christopher Beckwith argues that not only was the Buddha a Scythian from Central Asia, but that the earliest reliable record of Buddhist teaching is to be found in a text attributed to Pyrrho, the Greek founder of philosophical scepticism, cited by the third-century Christian bishop Eusebius. This review considers these claims in the light of epigraphical, textual and archaeological evidence. It then offers an alternative account of Pyrrho’s possible encounter with Buddhist ideas during his stay in India as part of the entourage of Alexander the Great in the fourth century bce, and considers the formative role that the teaching of Democritus and his followers may have had in the evolution of Pyrrho’s sceptical attitude to life.