Dating the Buddha

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
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Ajatashatru
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Dating the Buddha

Postby Ajatashatru » Sun Jul 14, 2013 8:19 pm

Recently I have seen a trend of postdating Buddha among Western historians. The current accepted view is Buddha was born in 480 BCE and Parinibbana at 400 BCE. The view held by tradition is 563 to 483 BCE. Lately a few scholars have suggested that Buddha was born around 300 BCE, this was done to account for the supposed Greek influences of Buddha's thoughts. This view is gaining prominence. This I see as a way of the west to culturally appropriate Buddha from his Indic, dharmic roots.

A parallel movement I see is the rise of the so called 'secular Buddhism' espoused by the likes of Stephen Batchelor and Sam Harris. This also decontexualizes Buddhism and maps it onto a Western 'secular' framework while ridiculing the source civilization as "mystical" or "otherworldly". I find this trend very disturbing and I think its a perversion of Dhamma that is neatly prepackaged for modern consumerism.

Your thoughts will be appreciated.

-with metta

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Re: Dating the Buddha

Postby clw_uk » Sun Jul 14, 2013 9:15 pm

It may be historically inaccurate but I don't see how it's a "perversion of th dhamma"?
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Re: Dating the Buddha

Postby Aloka » Sun Jul 14, 2013 9:50 pm

Recently I have seen a trend of postdating Buddha among Western historians. The current accepted view is Buddha was born in 480 BCE and Parinibbana at 400 BCE. The view held by tradition is 563 to 483 BCE. Lately a few scholars have suggested that Buddha was born around 300 BCE



Perhaps you could give the names and references for the works of these scholars, please ?

Professor Richard Gombrich, historian and Pali & Sanskit scholar, said in his book "What the Buddha Thought"(first published 2009) that for a while modern scholarship dated the death of the Buddha at around 483 BC but that is too early and that the Buddha must have died around 405BC.

At the Wikipedia section for Richard Gombrich, it says:

He has been an active contributor to an ongoing discussion concerning the date of the Buddha's death, and has argued that data supplied in Pali texts composed in Sri Lanka enable us to date that event to about 404 BCE

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Gombrich



Ajatashatru wrote:A parallel movement I see is the rise of the so called 'secular Buddhism' espoused by the likes of Stephen Batchelor and Sam Harris. This also decontexualizes Buddhism.....


I cant see how your second paragraph connects with the first one about dates, sorry.

:anjali:
Last edited by Aloka on Sun Jul 14, 2013 10:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Kim OHara
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Re: Dating the Buddha

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Jul 14, 2013 10:08 pm

Ajatashatru wrote:Recently I have seen a trend of postdating Buddha among Western historians. The current accepted view is Buddha was born in 480 BCE and Parinibbana at 400 BCE. The view held by tradition is 563 to 483 BCE.

The arguments for the later dates seem sound (see Gombrich, as Aloka said) and it's worth bearing in mind that the earlier dates are (also) the result of relatively recent European-style historical research.
Ajatashatru wrote:Lately a few scholars have suggested that Buddha was born around 300 BCE, this was done to account for the supposed Greek influences of Buddha's thoughts. This view is gaining prominence. This I see as a way of the west to culturally appropriate Buddha from his Indic, dharmic roots.

I don't recall seeing anything about this. Names? Books?
Ajatashatru wrote:A parallel movement I see is the rise of the so called 'secular Buddhism' espoused by the likes of Stephen Batchelor and Sam Harris. This also decontexualizes Buddhism and maps it onto a Western 'secular' framework while ridiculing the source civilization as "mystical" or "otherworldly". I find this trend very disturbing and I think its a perversion of Dhamma that is neatly prepackaged for modern consumerism.

Frankly, I can't see much of a parallel. Looking for a more accurate date for the Buddha's life is historical research, while "secular Buddhism" is an attempt to bring the dhamma into line with the modern scientific/rationalist worldview. About all they have in common is that they are anti-traditional.
You may be making too much of an issue of both points.

:namaste:
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Re: Dating the Buddha

Postby Kare » Sun Jul 14, 2013 10:16 pm

Ajatashatru wrote:Recently I have seen a trend of postdating Buddha among Western historians. The current accepted view is Buddha was born in 480 BCE and Parinibbana at 400 BCE. The view held by tradition is 563 to 483 BCE. Lately a few scholars have suggested that Buddha was born around 300 BCE, this was done to account for the supposed Greek influences of Buddha's thoughts. This view is gaining prominence. This I see as a way of the west to culturally appropriate Buddha from his Indic, dharmic roots.

A parallel movement I see is the rise of the so called 'secular Buddhism' espoused by the likes of Stephen Batchelor and Sam Harris. This also decontexualizes Buddhism and maps it onto a Western 'secular' framework while ridiculing the source civilization as "mystical" or "otherworldly". I find this trend very disturbing and I think its a perversion of Dhamma that is neatly prepackaged for modern consumerism.

Your thoughts will be appreciated.

-with metta


I recommend taking a closer look at what scholars have said about this matter.

A good place to begin is this: http://www.amazon.com/When-Did-Buddha-Live-Indo-Buddhica/dp/8170304695/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1373839977&sr=8-4&keywords=dating+the+buddha
Mettāya,
Kåre

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Re: Dating the Buddha

Postby clw_uk » Sun Jul 14, 2013 10:49 pm

I would also like to add, why would it matter in, relation to dhamma, when the Buddha was born?


Why would it matter if there was influence from Greeks? He did have teachers before he was enlightened and he grew up surrounded by Jainism and brahminism etc. As I said before, I don't see how this matter except In relation to historical accuracy.

Also as others have pointed out, the dating of the Buddhaslife and "secular buddhism" (whatever that is, people can't seem to decide) are separate.
“The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised." Verses on the Faith Mind, Sengcan

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Re: Dating the Buddha

Postby Ben » Sun Jul 14, 2013 11:05 pm

Ajatashatru wrote:This I see as a way of the west to culturally appropriate Buddha from his Indic, dharmic roots.


I would appreciate it if you could expand on this and please include evidence of your claims.
kind regards,

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Dating the Buddha

Postby Ajatashatru » Sun Jul 14, 2013 11:31 pm

Have any of you even read Batchelor's "Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist"? After reading this dishonest, disgusting book don't you see how Buddhism is being made to conform to a gross materialistic impression in the West? This is totally against Buddha's teachings. Batchelor dismisses all talk of reincarnation in the Pali Canon as being useless memes of Indian civilization. What this guy does not know or wish to conceal is that Buddha rejected the materialistic philosophy of Ajita Kesakhambali. It is adhamma to make Buddhadhamma conform to a materialist outlook. Buddhism and all dharmic traditions are against materialism and by reducing Buddhism to such a watered down version, the westerners are distorting and perverting Buddha's message. In short Buddhism is going the way of Yoga in the West as some fad for modern consumerism.

As for dating the Buddha, Bechert is the scholar who is proposing this ridiculously recent date. What strikes me is all the current Indology scholars like Witzel, Olivelle, and Lance Cousins. Again the Pali Canon specifically mentions the traditional date, there is no reason to deny it. Buddhists unlike Hindus recorded history very well. Their records of dynasties such as the Sishunags, Nandas, Licchavis, Mauryas, etc. are impeccable. What strikes me here is how the whole academic community jumped on the bandwagon when these later dates were postulated. If this is not deliberate Eurocentrism..then what is?

And it makes a lot of difference to me when some people claim Buddha was influenced by Greek thought, as his philosophy firmly belongs to the Sramana stream of Dharma and that has its roots in the Indus Valley Civilization.

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Re: Dating the Buddha

Postby Ben » Sun Jul 14, 2013 11:37 pm

Thank you but you have only given us your unsubstantiated opinion.
I see no evidence of 'cultural appropriation' in your posts as a result of modern scholars dating the Buddha.
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Dating the Buddha

Postby Ajatashatru » Sun Jul 14, 2013 11:43 pm

Ben wrote:
Ajatashatru wrote:This I see as a way of the west to culturally appropriate Buddha from his Indic, dharmic roots.


I would appreciate it if you could expand on this and please include evidence of your claims.
kind regards,

Ben


What I am going to expand on is not my original thought, I am influenced by the Hindu thinker Rajiv Malhotra who has studied all Dharmic traditions (including Theravada and Madhyamika) and wrote a magnificent book that reverses the gaze, ie looks at the Christian West through a dharmic perspective.

Anyways he coins a term "digestion" which is what stronger civilizations due to weaker civilizations. He gives the example of a tiger killing and eating a deer. The tiger (stronger civilization) gets enriched by the deer's meat and increases its vigor, while the deer (weak civilization) literally turns into a pile of shit. We have seen how the Christians appropriated Easter, Christmas, the cross symbol, etc. from so called "pagans" while at the same time hunting them into oblivion. As a result, Christianity gets enriched and its links to paganism erased due to its exclusivist ideology. This is digestion. This is like a thief looting a house and then burning it down to destroy the evidence.

Now the so called "secular", modern Westerners have and are indulging in this digestion. This is what I see is happening to Buddhism. All of its "mystical baggage" is shed as a unwanted by product of a backward civilization and it gets defined in the terms of Western secularism/materialism. I see "Western Buddhism" becoming a 15 minute session of concentration after a workout, inbetween the next Zoomba class. How ridiculous.

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Re: Dating the Buddha

Postby Ajatashatru » Sun Jul 14, 2013 11:45 pm

Ben wrote:Thank you but you have only given us your unsubstantiated opinion.
I see no evidence of 'cultural appropriation' in your posts as a result of modern scholars dating the Buddha.


By dating the Buddha so artificially late so as to allow Greek influence is cultural appropriation. Its like saying that jesus of nazareth was a delusional Buddhist monk.

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Re: Dating the Buddha

Postby Ben » Mon Jul 15, 2013 12:03 am

Ajatashatru wrote:
Ben wrote:Thank you but you have only given us your unsubstantiated opinion.
I see no evidence of 'cultural appropriation' in your posts as a result of modern scholars dating the Buddha.


By dating the Buddha so artificially late so as to allow Greek influence is cultural appropriation. Its like saying that jesus of nazareth was a delusional Buddhist monk.


If you wish to discuss this subject in a meaningful way then you will need to back up your opinions with evidence.
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Dating the Buddha

Postby Ajatashatru » Mon Jul 15, 2013 1:19 am

There are Western historians who agree with the traditional Theravada long chronology. Here is a critique of this post dating of Buddha by Giovanni Verardi (who has written an excellent book on the downfall of Buddhism in India). The problem is the Westerners who support the traditional chronology don't find much support, they don't get grants, etc.

http://www.docstoc.com/docs/121305094/B ... rardi-2004)

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Re: Dating the Buddha

Postby Ben » Mon Jul 15, 2013 3:29 am

Ajatashatru wrote:The problem is the Westerners who support the traditional chronology don't find much support, they don't get grants, etc.


Yet another assertion made without evidence.
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia
e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com

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Re: Dating the Buddha

Postby Anders » Mon Jul 15, 2013 8:30 am

I thought this was going to be about Yasodhara. :? :jumping:

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Re: Dating the Buddha

Postby Ajatashatru » Mon Jul 15, 2013 1:18 pm

Ben wrote:
Ajatashatru wrote:The problem is the Westerners who support the traditional chronology don't find much support, they don't get grants, etc.


Yet another assertion made without evidence.


Sir is it not evidence enough that almost every scholar jumped aboard the later dates and then the scholar who is supporting the latest date immediately found support from senior scholars like Witzel of Harvard.

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Re: Dating the Buddha

Postby daverupa » Mon Jul 15, 2013 1:57 pm

I am influenced by the Hindu thinker Rajiv Malhotra...


...who has written a book.

Reading these entries might clarify the foundational point of view being expressed by the OP.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Dating the Buddha

Postby pulga » Mon Jul 15, 2013 2:34 pm

clw_uk wrote:I would also like to add, why would it matter in, relation to dhamma, when the Buddha was born?


It doesn't matter.

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Re: Dating the Buddha

Postby daverupa » Mon Jul 15, 2013 2:49 pm

pulga wrote:
clw_uk wrote:I would also like to add, why would it matter in, relation to dhamma, when the Buddha was born?


It doesn't matter.


Well, it does help to circumscribe the possible length of time between the Buddha's teaching career and Asoka's missions, which helps to define the shape of the period within which the Nikayas formed up. In relation to the Dhamma which these texts indicate, this knowledge can be significant.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Dating the Buddha

Postby pulga » Mon Jul 15, 2013 3:24 pm

daverupa wrote:Well, it does help to circumscribe the possible length of time between the Buddha's teaching career and Asoka's missions, which helps to define the shape of the period within which the Nikayas formed up. In relation to the Dhamma which these texts indicate, this knowledge can be significant.


Do you really believe you'll ever arrive at any apodictic conclusion in the matter? The whole topic reminds me what the Buddha was trying to convey in the Brahmajalasutta: all historical theories, be they speculations about the past, the present, or the future, are a net of views derived from phassa.


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