Dr. Alexander Berzin (with archeological information by Sergei Sokolov)Ancient India's influence reached deep into the west, and the Buddhism there spread throughout ancient Greece and Russia, eventually seeding Christianity.
BUDDHISM AND ISLAMThroughout the region [Russia, Central Asia, the New-istans], there are many indications of cultural borrowing between Buddhism and Islam. For instance, Kazakh Sufis not only believe in rebirth, but also identify reincarnations of past Sufi masters like the Tibetan and Mongol Buddhists do of their teachers.
The Sufis build shrines as graves for their masters, circumambulate them and light butter lamps, reminiscent of Buddhist practices around "stupas" of deceased masters.
Sufi meditation includes recitation of the Islamic equivalent of "mantras," often combined with breathing cycles, as well as visualization of the[ir] Prophet and spiritual masters.
PARTHIA AND BACTRIA [Iran and Afghanistan]
Historically, Buddhism was found in all five former Soviet Central Asian Republics that constitute West Turkistan: Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.
It initially spread in the first century BCE from Gandhara (modern Pakistan) and Afghanistan to the kingdoms of Parthia and Bactria. Turkmenistan and northeastern Iran constituted the Kingdom of Parthia; while southern Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and northern Afghanistan constituted the kingdom of Bactria .
Buddhism spread to Sogdia in central Uzbekistan and northwestern Tajikistan mostly from Bactria. The sixth century Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang (Hs"uan-tsang) reported two huge Buddhist monasteries at the Sogdian capital at Samarkand.
WESTERN TURK EMPIRE
In the seventh century, when the Turkic people from Mongolia conquered most of Central Asia, Buddhism spread from the Sogdians and from Kashgar/Khotan in southern East Turkistan to the Taraz (Talas) River valley in southern Kazakhstan and the Chu River valley in northern Kyrgyzstan.... These regions constituted parts of the Western Turk Empire .
In the eighth century when Tibet ruled East Turkistan, the Tibetans also occupied eastern Kyrgyzstan, bringing with them early Tibetan Buddhism.
Although Islam came to the southern part of these Central Asian republics in the ninth and tenth centuries, and to the northern part in the eleventh, Buddhism was not totally eliminated in the north.
Islam was always weak there and mixed with shamanism and even Buddhism. The main form of Islam throughout the region has always been Sufism [which many today treat as if it were a form of Buddhism, and RUMI A BUDDHIST, recognizing many similarities], a non-doctrinal sect that emphasizes meditation and a community of highly devoted practitioners living around a master.
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