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Gautama Buddha is traditionally regarded as having a noble body with 32 signs of a Great Man and one of those signs are deep blue eyes.

I came across many online discussions about Buddha's ethnicity where some stated that Buddha's family - Sakya - was from Scythian descent. I also met some Ukrainians claiming that Sakyas were precisely from the land that now belongs to Ukraine.

Can someone answer the question providing reliable sources or evidence?

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    Science of beginning of 20th century wrongly identified Europeans with Aryans, that theory then inherited by nazists and then neo-nazists. So be cautious of such claims. – catpnosis Jun 23 '14 at 20:20
  • Maybe I didn't phrase the question clearly enough, but regardless of all the claims, I would just like to find out what was Buddha's ethnicity as I can't find a reliable evidence for this piece of information. – Rabbit Jun 25 '14 at 16:02
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    D Anthony makes a strong case that the language and general culture of the Indo European People originated about 6000 years ago in the Ukraine. People left the Ukraine and ended up all over the place OR at the very least the culture and the language moved. Ref: press.princeton.edu/titles/8488.html (And before people came to the Ukraine, they were from somewhere else). This has nothing to do with nazism, the scholarship is good. AND, let me emphasize, this doesn't mean the Buddha was from the Ukraine. He was in north east India/border of Nepal and had a language that originated in Ukr. – MatthewMartin Jun 29 '14 at 0:31
  • i thought the ganges basin, to the north – sorta_buddhist Aug 13 '16 at 12:35
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    Let's try not to turn the memory of the Buddha into a bone that different groups struggle over for their own selfish interests... – Ted Wrigley yesterday
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The historical Buddha Siddhartha Gautama was probably Indo-Aryan. He lived in what is today the Democratic Republic of Nepal. Nepal's ethnicity today comprise mixed race people of Indo-Aryan & East Asian ethnicities.

It is believed He spoke old Magadhi language. He belonged to the Ksyhtriya Varna of the Solar or Ikshvaku dynasty and Gautama Gotra. Before his enlightenment he was a practitioner of what is today called Hinduism.

Sakhya is derived from the Sanskrit word śakya which means capable, able [1]. Sakhyamuni just means a muni(renunciate) from the Sakhya tribe.

From Monier-Williams Sanskrit Dictionary, 2 of the meaning out of many others for the word sakya:

śākya m. Name of a tribe of landowners and kṣatriya - s in kapila -vastu - (from whom gautama - , the founder of Buddhism, was descended)

śākya mfn. derived or descended from the śaka - s (= śakā abhijano 'sya - ) gaRa śaṇḍikādi

Here the tribe of the Buddha is not given as decedents of Sakas(Scythians) since a distinction is made between Buddha's tribe and the Sakas.

The theory that Sanskrit speaking Aryans came from Southern Russia has been controversial and is disputed.

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakya

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    Indo-Aryan is a language family, not an ethnicity. Ethnicity is actually quite a slippery concept. – neubau Jun 26 '14 at 1:30
  • Indo-Aryan seems to represent an ethno-linguistic group according to wiki. It is family of languages but spoken by certain ethnicity of people. – Bharat Jun 28 '14 at 0:06
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Buddha was from the Saka tribe which is part of the Scythians. And the Scythians were a Thracian/Pelasgian tribe. The Thracians according to the historians covered a large area around the today's Black sea in Europe and Asia Minor. After the great flood which turned the big lake into the now Black sea many migrated to different parts of the world. According to Herodotus they were the most numerous nation on Earth after the Indians. The name Scythians comes from the word "skitam" which means to move a lot from place to place. They were the eastern Thracians.

The Pelasgian/Thracians were the most advanced people on Earth. They created the first civilisation on Earth and had knowledge in every sphere of life. They were the ones who through their migrations spread that knowledge to other people and parts of the world. Part of this knowledge was spiritual which was passed on to other people through the well known spiritual teachers from Pelasgian/Thracian ethnicity one of which was the one called Buddha. Buddha comes from the word "budia" which means awake.

Regarding the Aryans, the Aryans were later called Thracians. The old name of Thracia was Aria. So he was an aryan if we are to use the old name of the Thracians.

There is nothing wrong in calling oneself an Aryan if people are from this descend. I am proud to call myself an Aryan and to know that people like Buddha, Zaratustra, Lao Dzu, Dionysus, Orpheus, Zalmoxis and many more spiritual teachers shared the same blood as me.

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    It would have been good if you brought in a bit of what the scriptures have said about the Sakya Race. Specially of the incident of Prince Virudhaka and the Massacre of Sakya Tribe. – Saptha Visuddhi Aug 13 '16 at 14:07
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The only ethnicity claim that has any interest to me is the view, found expressed very rarely, that the Buddha may have been of mixed Mongolian-Aryan type ancestry, based on the location of Nepal and historical information concerning mixed race groups in Nepal as well as the physical description of the Buddha in the Pali Canon. The most academic reference I know of where this is mentioned is The Buddha and Dr. Fuhrer, by Charles Allen (London: Haus Publishing, 2008), p. 1. There is a very small amount of information online about this too.

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It is likely that he was Indo-Aryan, descended from the Scythians, the Sakya clan.

Genetic research shows that blue-eyes originated around the northwest coasts of the Black Sea (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-511473/All-blue-eyed-people-traced-ancestor-lived-10-000-years-ago-near-Black-Sea.html) which is the same region that the Scythians were allegedly from.

It is also likely that the first people with blue eyes were all black-haired rather than light-haired as ancient Europeans are found to have dark-hair and blue-eyes, indicating that light hair came separately from blue-eyes and maybe more recently as well (http://www.livescience.com/42838-european-hunter-gatherer-genome-sequenced.html). Where light hair comes from is still a mystery, it may have come from the Neanderthals. Modern day Europeans are likely not Aryans but Aryans admixed with Neanderthals or mutated into something else, which explains their features.

It is not that uncommon to see people in modern day India and Nepal with black hair and blue eyes just as Siddhartha Gautama was described.

But it is also important to note that The Buddha was against the caste system and someone's ethnicity does not make one an arahant. An arahant is someone who is free from mental effluents, pains, taints, hankers, fermentations (Âsavas).

He used many arguments against the caste system in the Assalayana Sutta (MN 93) mainly arguing that good deeds are good for anyone of any caste and that bad deeds are bad for anyone of any caste, also using a clever analogy that anyone of any caste can make a fire and the fire would still be a fire with a flame regardless of the person who made the fire.

"No, Master Gotama. The fire made by those born from a noble warrior clan, a brahman clan, or a royal clan... would have flame, color, & radiance, able to do whatever a fire might be needed to do. And the fire made by those born from an outcast clan, a trapper clan, a wicker workers' clan, a cartwrights' clan, or a scavengers' clan... would have flame, color, & radiance, able to do whatever a fire might be needed to do. For all fire has flame, color, & radiance, and is able to do whatever a fire might be needed to do." (Assalayana Sutta, MN 93)

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Literature doesn't show the blue eyes but the beautiful brown eyes reflecting loving-kindness. We opine that he was belong to Tibeto-Burman lineage. In Pali words, his clan is Thet-kya သက်(Sanskrit- Sakya or Shakya). Thet-kya means capable man. They are also called Thar-ki-ya သာကီယ means who established city or society in teak (Tectona grands Linn) forest. When Theit-dhat-hta (Siddhartha) became Buddha, he spoke all his teaching in Pali (Magadha Language) instead of his own language as it only represent the minority in the region. Magadha language was widely used by people in Magadha (nowadays Patna in India) of Ganges valley. His clan was wiped out by Kaw-tha-la (Kosala) King 'Vidudabha Virudhaka' in BC500. The nearest lineage of his clan nowadays is Newar of Nepal.

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Since the answer page cannot be linked, I reproduce here the entry in Monier-Williams Sanskrit Dictionary (http://www.sanskrit-lexicon.uni-koeln.de/monier/) for the word śaka:

Name of a particular white-skinned tribe or race of people (in the legends which relate the contests between वसिष्ठ and विश्वामित्र the शकs are fabled to have been produced by the Cow of वसिष्ठ , from her sweat , for the destruction of विश्वामित्र's army ; in Mn. x , 44 , they are mentioned together with the पौण्ड्रकs , ओड्रs , द्रविडs , काम्बोजs , जवनs or यवनs , पारदs , पह्लवs , चीनs , किरातs , दरदs , and खशs , described by Kull. as degraded tribes of क्षत्रियs called after the districts in which they reside: according to the VP. iv , 3, king सगर attempted to rid his kingdom of these tribes , but did not succeed in destroying them all : they are sometimes regarded as the followers of शक or शालि-वाहन , and are probably to be identified with the Tartars or Indo-Scythians [Lat. Sacae] who overran India before the Aryans , and were conquered by the great विक्रमा*दित्य [q.v.] ; they really seem to have been dominant in the north-west of India in the last century before and the first two centuries after the beginning of our era) AV.Paris3. Mn. MBh. &c

If you can't read the Devanagari, comment on the part of the article which seems enlightening regarding your question and I will give you the transcription.

The word śākya is a simple derivation (patronymic) of the word śaka, meaning someone descended from the śakas. One of the names of the Buddha, śākyamuni, simply means the sakya sage. So this is why the Buddha is supposed to be of Scythian descent.

Apart from that, I wouldn't give too much on the mahāpuruṣalakṣaṇas, the signs of the great man, since these are evidently a later addition from a time of inflationary claims to buddhahood and arhatship to somehow regulate the distribution of charismatic authority. That the Lakkhana Sutta (DN 30) is a late sutta is already evident by linguistic features, metre for example.

  • You seem to have chosen the wrong meaning for sakya out of the various meanings given in the sanskrit dictionary. – Bharat Jun 25 '14 at 19:59
  • The point is that śākya cannot be derived from śakya, which as you say means able. – zwiebel Jun 26 '14 at 7:07
  • And what is sakhya? – zwiebel Jun 26 '14 at 7:09
  • Note that Monier-Williams dictionary is from the 19th century, so some parts may be out of date with the modern understanding (or doubts). – ShreevatsaR Jun 26 '14 at 14:06
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According to modern research, Aryans most likely came from Iran. Where they came from before that, remains the favorite subject of most glorious speculations, as evidenced by many answers here.

However, while Buddha was "an arya" (noble) by upbringing, he was probably not an Aryan ethnically.

Sidhartha was born around 600 BCE, in a rural province of Koshala kingdom, located to the east of a small river, Achiravati, on a road half way between Kapilavastu, the main town of the Shakyas (the family of the father) and Devadaha, the main town of the Kolyas (the family of the mother). This place is now known as Lumbini in modern Nepal.

Koshala was a non-Aryan kingdom. The closest ethnically Aryan kingdom was Panchala, to the west. Shakyas and Kolyas both were non-Aryan ethnicities and remote relatives of a non-Aryan dynasty that ruled Koshala.

According to Jain texts, Gotami was his mother's last name, which he used as an alias when he became a bhikshu.

  • Panchala was a Vedic kingdom. Draupadi, a central figure in Hindu epic Mahabahrata was from Panchala. If Vedic = Indo-Aryan, then He was an Indo-Aryan. Interesting note about Jain texts. Indo-Aryans are actually proto Indo-Iranian people and have nothing to do with Germanic or Russian origins and probably different from Mesopotamians too but having common ancestry with them. – Bharat Jun 25 '14 at 23:26
  • RBK, Shakya's lands were in north-eastern Koshala, not in Panchala, which was much further west. – Andrei Volkov Jun 26 '14 at 1:19
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Skythians / Sakia Saka Sakyans (different ways to write it in English), and Sarmatians and Taurian Tavry - are synonyms for the same indo-european (arian) ethnicity scattered on a vast territory, and therefore living under different names in space and history. Of course they were a bit mixed with other ethnicities in the bordering regions, sometimes with other indo-european tribes or non-indo european.

Buddha Sakia muni was no doubt a Wiseman of the Saki tribe, because the whole Buddhist knowledge and scripts is using sanskrit/ arian words immensely close to slavic languages. Sanskrit is the closest to sanskrit among the whole indo-european family of languages. Buddha comes from budit'(see sansrit and Russian or any slavic language) to wake up - the awake one. When indian sanskritologists come to Russian villages, they do not need translator.

Buddha's tribe was just one of the aryan tribes that migrated down to India. In Vedas there are scriptures describing where they came from. Many river names or places are still in the north of Russia. Vedas is a Sanskrit and Russian Word for Knowledge. The words wissen or wisdom all come from the word vedat, meaning "to know". The words knowledge, cognition, kenntniss and znat (from russian) are words of the same root. Every linguist knows it.

Ayurveda is the folk modification of the word aryaveda - arian knowledge. That is why the most ancient and well known clinic of ayurveda in Kottakkal has the name Arya Vaidya Sala, and not Ayurveda Sala.

Every indian knows that aryans came from the north to Industan. They were tall white-skinned blonds with blue eyes, and they brought the Vedas to Hindustan. Every linguist and also every genetic specialists knows about the split of the R1 haplogroup 4500 years BC. That's when this single ethnicity of protoindoeuropeans (=aryans) got split in the north of Russia, and started migrating in different directions to the West to form the west European tribes (Celtic, Germanic, Romanic, ancestors of some Greeks tribes, or R1B haplogroup today).

The second haplogroup R1a are protoslavic tribes which are the same ethnicity known under the names as follows: Taurian, (Th)Frakian, Skythian, Sakian, and Sarmatian (migrated to spread and settle from Elba (Laba) to Japan). Some of their tribes spread further southwards to India and also to the Arabic world to Egypt, and even reached China. That's why Pharaos had blue eyes and belonged to R1a. Persians of aryan type are also R1a. That's where the world Iran comes from. Pharsi is an indo-european language. In Tibet and China there are not only excavations with R1a mummified bodies of ancient tribes, but also the cultural symbolism and texts hold many traces.

Protoindoeuropeans or Aryans everywhere spread their knowledge with them and the lifestyle where ever it matched. Tibetan Buddhist Tantra (Journey to Daikini Land) says it was inherited from Ishvara- That is Shiva or Siva or Svarog or Zeus, or Jahveh or Saboath, Savaof or Sevas- an Aryan name for God.

The protoindoeuropean tribes R1 split into R1a and R1b split and started their migration downwards from the North of Russia most probably due to the climate change. Buddha Sakia Muni was just one of them. Saki or Sakian word for scythian (ancient slavic or Russian) ancestry places and culture is known for example in the Crimea (Tavrida) - Saki - Lake for example. The same tribes you see in the North of Pakistan, or Afganistan, Kashmir, Tajikistan.

If you travel from China to Pakistan you will see plenty of white European blue-eyed and blond or fair-hair people. Looking absolutely Russian. Their language is indoeuropean, close to Russian. You will confuse them with slavic looking Russians and they will take slavic looking Russians travelling there for their own, if they get dressed typical of these places. These tribes have million different names there. But it is the same ethnicity with some linguistic and of course cultural modifications throughout history. But everywhere you find the same main elements.

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