Did you know there are Tamil words in the Hebrew Bible? Tamil is the language of the Dravidian peoples at the very southern tip of India. King Solomon imported peacocks to his court from this area and, of course, there was no Hebrew word for peacock, so they called them by the Tamil word (or a very close approximation), tukki. This is not to say that the Hebrew Bible is Indian in origin (although Vatican scholars have just published a paper demonstrating the songs of Solomon are actually Tamil love poetry and the love they describe isn’t love of God, but good old fashioned, ahem, love). However, it shows there was significant trade and communication between these two regions of the world earlier and of greater degree than previously thought.
For example, the Gnostic Gospels, those books omitted from the New Testament, also provide evidence, such as the Six Perfections listed in the correct (that is, the Mahayana Buddhist) order. These virtues are often listed in religious and philosophical texts. Many agree on any four or five, but nowhere else can all six be found listed in order: generosity, morality, patience, diligence, concentration, and wisdom. (The Theravadans have four more: renunciation, honesty, loving-kindness, and equanimity.
These are just a couple things I learned this week at the lecture series being offered at UWest by Dr. Lewis Lancaster. The series is titled “Chinese Buddhism: A New Look,” though after two nights we’ve yet to get to China, but I like that because I find setting up the context is vitally important. It’s been fascinating.
Dr. Lancaster suggests that while trade with the Near East and Rome was strong (by sea and land) in the centuries after the time of the Buddha, it diminished significantly after the fall of Rome, which began its decline in the first centuries of the common era and was sacked by the Visigoths in 410. (And what did the Visigoths demand in tribute? Three-thousand tons of black pepper from India, which Rome actually had in stock, among other things.) Trade shifted from the west side of the Indian peninsula to the east side, around the Bay of Bengal and Southeast Asia. Thus Buddhism gained a stronger foothold there and its presence in the northwest (North India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, in the ports and along the land trade routes and the Indus River) slowly diminished, especially following the rise of Islam.
As fascinating as this is, I doubt I’ll have time or energy to detail everything I will be learning here in the blog. Although, it would be a wonderful study aid. I’ll be taking four classes: Spiritual Development, Interfaith Chaplaincy, Buddhist Meditation, and Religion, Science, and Society. I’m keeping my eyes open for a job, but I’ve determined not to start looking seriously for a few weeks. I want to get some sense of my class schedule, workload, and the area. This is very odd as I’ve not been unemployed since I was fifteen years old, but I think it will be good for me. I’ve never had the opportunity to be a fully-committed student. It would be lovely if I could find an academic means of support, a research grant or some such, and I will diligently search for one in the meantime.
My cat has just reminded me not to leave her out of this post. She has taken to sitting on window sills and in doorways. I’ve taken the cue from Harry for leaving the inner doors open during the day and locking the iron screens, which are just as sturdy as the solid wooden doors, complete with deadbolts. She likes to sit on the rug by the front door and look out. So far she has not tried to escape. She is still shy of Harry, but I suspect this is because he rarely sits down. He is always coming and going, gone during the day, working out as soon as he returns, and out to dinner with friends and family afterward. If he was still for any amount of time, I’m sure she would quickly discover another lap.
Today I’ve nothing to do, no plan. This evening my parents close on the sale of my condo in Lincoln. I’ll call them after to ensure it went through and then tomorrow I’ll call and take the utilities out of my name. Otherwise my entire list of goals includes finding the local NPR channel (check), eating lunch, eating dinner, washing the dishes, and reading. I might walk down to Garvey and explore some of the little markets or restaurants, but not too much as I’m saving my pennies until my aid comes through.
La, what a life!