A country and its people. The name is probably the Pāli equivalent for
Ionians, the Baktrian Greeks. The Yonas are mentioned with the Kambojas in Rock
Edicts v. and xii of Asoka, as a subject people,
forming a frontier district of his empire. The country was converted by the
Thera Mahārakkhita, who was sent there after the Third Council (Mhv.Xii.5;
In the time of Milinda the capital of the Yona country was Sāgala (Mil..1). It
is said (Mhv.Xxix.39) that at the Foundation Ceremony of the Mahā Thūpa, thirty
thousand monks, under Yona Mahādhammarakkhita, came from Alasandā in the Yona
country. Alasandā was evidently the headquarters of the Buddhist monks at that
time. Alasandā is generally identified (See, e.g., Geiger, Mhv. Trs. 194, n.3)
with the Alexandria founded by the Macedonian king (Alexander) in the country of
the Paropanisadae near Kābul.
In the Assalāyana Sutta (M.ii.149), Yona
and Kamboja are mentioned as places in which there were only two classes of
people, masters and slaves, and the master could become a slave or vice versa.
The Commentary (MA.ii.784) explains this by saying that supposing a brahmin goes
there and dies, his children might consort with slaves, in which case their
children would be slaves. In later times, the name Yavanā or Yonā seems to have
included all westerners living in India and especially those of Arabian origin
(Cv.Trs.ii.87, n.1). Yonaka, statues, holding lamps, were among the decorations
used by the Sākiyans of Kapilavatthu (MA.ii.575). The language of the Yavanas is
classed with the Milakkhabhāsā (E.g., DA.i.276; VibhA.388).
The Anguttara Commentary (AA.i.51) records that from the time of Kassapa
Buddha the Yonakas went about clad in white robes, because of the memory of the
religion which was once prevalent there.