There is a very beautiful story about the last moment of Buddha’s quest towards enlightenment hidden behind the “earth witness” mudra, one of the most iconic images of Buddhism. Buddha sits in meditation, with his left palm turned upright, in his lap, and his right hand touching the earth.
According to About encyclopedia article, the story goes like this:
Moments before Buddha realized enlightenment, he was attacked by the demon Mara. The demon came with his army of scary monsters. But Siddharta did not move. Mara then claimed that his spiritual accomplishments were greater than Siddhartha’s and that the enlightenment should be his. His monsters cried out: “I am his witness!”. “Who will speak for you”, asked Mara? Siddhartha touched the earth, and the earth roared, “I bear you witness!” Mara disappeared. As Venus, the morning star rose, Siddhartha realized enlightenment and became a Buddha.”
“Earth witness” in Mesoamerica
“Cool story”, you say, “but your title said something about Sea peoples and Mesoamerica…”. Well, yes, that is the whole point. Strange as it may sound, I have discovered this story by doing research on Olmec and Maya civilization.
It is kind of strange to see these figures from Mexico, sitting so peacefully, in a pose very similar to “earth witness”. Did they also attain enlightenment?
Now, this discovery did not surprise me much. In the article Who (when and how) was the first to discover America I have already proposed a simple theory that “sea peoples” were the first to reach Mesoamerica, by simply following the ocean currents. This contact could have happened around 1,500 BC. In other words, around the same time when there was a huge cultural rise in the cultures of Mesoamerica.
I am well aware that this timeline is almost 1,000 years older than Buddhism. However, I believe that connection is still possible because no religion known to man had developed from scratch. There is plenty of evidence all around on the endurance of the power of the symbol.
Dragon boats and the sea peoples
If the “sea people” had really arrived in Mesoamerica, how did their boats look like? It is a fact that we have no shipwrecks from this in the region. But perhaps a drawing from the Aztec codex Laud could give us some idea.
This codex dates to the prehispanic period, leaving no room for the possibility of European influence. But IF this is really a representation of the ship, the resemblance to the ships of ancient sea travelers around the world is astonishing. There would be just too many examples to list here, but some of the most important ones would surely be the following:
And of course, one must not forget Chinese dragon boats, whose tradition is said to go back for more than 2500 years.
Not that the unique feathered headdress, so characteristic for sea peoples from Egyptian depictions are missing in ancient Mesoamerican art.
A Phrygian cap and the bearded figures
Furthermore, we know that the sea people had spread across the whole of the Mediterranean. In those days, people of Balkans, Greece and Anatolia had a fashion of wearing a so-called Phrygian cap. Isn’t it strange that we see it also in Mesoamerican art?
It is important to note that Native American genetics doesn’t really support beard as the one depicted above, as well as on dozens of other figurines. Here are some more examples:
And in the end, maybe the most characteristic face of all, seen in almost all four corners of the world:
These are just some of the bizarre similarities between ancient cultures of Mesoamerica and other corners of the ancient world. Besides the lotus pose, some of the figurines are in “yoga-like” positions, others have elongated skulls, the practice well documented in Scythian culture, as well as Ancient Egypt. Mesoamericans also practiced mummification while the similarities in terms of construction of Pyramids and other megalithic structures are already common knowledge. I simply can’t agree that all of this is a result of coincidence.
The Montezuma speech
There are many books who speak about Mesoamerican legends of people coming from the sea in a distant past. Maybe the most famous of all accounts is (controversial) Montezuma speech, as described in the letter of conquistador Cortez to the Spanish king.
Apparently, he claimed that the Aztecs are offsprings of people who in a distant past came from the sea, guided by a certain prince. The Prince departed with a minor crew, leaving most of his people in the land of Aztecs. He returned again many years later. But upon his second arrival, he found that his people assimilated into the local society, settling down with local wives. They refused to go back with him. And so the prince left again, prophesying that someone will return one day to claim what was his. The Aztecs saw the arrival of the Spaniards as a fulfillment of that prophecy.
Whether this account is true or not I don’t know. But strange similarities still remain. This is a very long topic and therefore my second article on the subject of sea peoples. In the next one, we will talk about some interesting clues regarding their identity.