THE DHAMMA TIMES (6 July 2005)
Buddha is also a European saint
The ancient tale of Gautama Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism, spread from his homeland to Europe, where he became a Christian saint with the name of "Iosaphat."
That’s the conclusion of a group of Korean researchers who have conducted a multi-linguistic study of the westward spread of the story of the Buddha.
"It is apparent that the name Iosaphat originates from Buddha," Paik Seung-wook, a lecturer of Spanish at Seoul National University said.
According to Paik, while the Buddha’s tale spread westbound, his name "Buddha" or "Bodhisatta" in Sanskrit, changed gradually in accordance with various linguistic backgrounds with similar accounts of the tale.
For example, it changed to "Bodisav" in Persian texts in the sixth or seventh century, "Budhasaf or Yudasaf" in an eighth-century Arabic document and "Iodasaph" in Georgia in the 10th century.
The name in turn was adapted to "Ioasaph" in Greece in the 11th century, and "Iosaphat" or "Josaphat" in Latin since then.
"The gradual change of the name shows the westward spread of the tale from Nepal (where the Buddha was born) to Persia, the Middle East, Greece and Europe," Paik said.
Paik is a member of a project research team undertaking a study of the literary interchange between the East and the West. The Korean Research Foundation is sponsoring the study, and the study results were published in the June-July edition of the bimonthly "Antiquus."
As it spread, the tale adapted different versions according to various religious backdrops. In the Greek account, a hero Ioasaph, a prince in India, one day witnessed blind, sick and old people on the streets outside of the palace. The scenes shocked the innocent prince and led him to contemplate the agony and emptiness of life. One day, a Christian monk named Barlaam visited the anguished prince and taught him the religion. Enlightened, Ioasaph abandoned his secular values and led an ascetic life until his death. This account has a striking similarity to that of the Buddha’s tale.
In Europe, the story spread to most regions, especially since the 11th century, and the tale’s hero has been acclaimed as the champion of Christianity, not Buddhism.
"There are slight differences in accounts in different texts. For example, in an Arabic account, the prince married a woman, but in a Greek text, he overcomes temptation from female figures," Paik said.
According to Paik, there have been previous studies in Britain and Germany on the cultural transmission of Buddha’s tale to Europe, but he said this study is the first time scholars approached the subject in a comprehensive and multi-linguistic way.
"The research covered eight languages: Sanskrit, Georgian, Arab, Turkish, Persian, Greek, Latin and Spanish. Our team studied the original text in six languages, and the other two in English," Paik said. [KOREA TIMES]
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