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Austin Cline

The Nazi Buddhist God from Space

By February 8, 2013

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In 1939, a Nazi archaeological expedition brought a 24-centimeter tall statue of the Buddhist God Vaisravana from Mongolia to Germany. They seem to have been attracted to it primarily because it is emblazoned with the swastika - and the Nazi form of the swastika, not the traditional Buddhist version which goes in the opposite direction. What they didn't know is that it was fashioned from a meteorite.

Buddha Giving the First Sermon
Buddha Giving the First Sermon
Photo: Hulton/Getty

It's also not clear whether the Buddhists who originally fashioned the iron-rich statue knew of its extraterrestrial provenance, but they wouldn't have been the first to use such material for religious purposes and even to venerate rocks from space. Quite often, meteorites were sought out and used for special purposes.

Other venerated objects are thought to have had similar extraterrestrial origins - including the Black Stone in Mecca, Saudi Arabia - but Wadhwa says it is difficult to verify these assumptions because the objects have never been fully analysed scientifically. And none of these supposed meteorite fragments has been carved into a religious sculpture, making the Space Buddha the only one of its kind.

Meteoritic metal is associated with a number of ancient cultures, says Matthew Genge at Imperial College London. "There are reports of Egyptian necklaces including meteoritic metal," he says. "But there is no evidence that the Egyptians were aware of their extraterrestrial provenance."

In Tibet, though, meteoritic iron was long known as namchag, or "sky iron", says Buchner's team, suggesting the locals were aware of the origins of the unusual material.

"There is no definitive evidence that ancient peoples witnessed and revered meteorite falls," says Genge. "However, the chances are good. There are so many modern witnessed falls that ancient people must have seen them. They are such special events that they must have attracted awe and speculation."

Source: New Scientist October 6, 2012

This raises question of how much and what sort of influence meteorites might have had on the development of religion on our planet. There has to have been at least some influence, but I wonder if any religions were started or had their course significantly altered on account of meteorites.

Comments
February 8, 2013 at 2:08 pm
(1) Jockaira says:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3013146.stm

The abovementioned incident and its exhaustive scientific investigation is pretty good proof that metorites can have a significant effect on religion and its followers. In this particular case there are not only historical writings with reliable dating but also nice photographs and theorizing by reputable scientists about the “impact” upon a personage pivotal in the developement of early Christianity.

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