Proof of the Buddha's Existence

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Dhammakid
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Proof of the Buddha's Existence

Post by Dhammakid »

Hello all,
First: Quite frankly, I don't care if there's no proof of the Blessed One's existence. The teachings are relevant enough in my life that I will follow them regardless of whether or not he actually existed.

But I am curious. I remember watching the BBC documentary "Life of the Buddha" and it mentioned a stupa with writing on it saying something about the Buddha. What other proof is there, if any?

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Re: Proof of the Buddha's Existence

Post by Sobeh »

That so many people decided his life and words were important enough to base a lifestyle on is a relatively strong statement supporting the historicity of the Buddha.
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Re: Proof of the Buddha's Existence

Post by Dhammakid »

Hi Sobeh,
I understand your point, but to be honest (and not hurtful), the same can be said for Christ, but there is very little actual evidence of his existence.

Just because people believe in the Buddha and follow his teachings doesn't mean he actually existed. If that's the case, the millions of children who believe in Santa Claus might be on to something :tongue:

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Re: Proof of the Buddha's Existence

Post by Sobeh »

Define 'actual evidence' as you understand it in this context, please, otherwise we'll be sure to misunderstand one another.
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Re: Proof of the Buddha's Existence

Post by Dhammakid »

Sobeh wrote:Define 'actual evidence' as you understand it in this context, please, otherwise we'll be sure to misunderstand one another.
Yes, definitely.

What I mean is: aside from the few small pieces of historical documentation (all of which have been found to be unreliable), there is no further evidence for the existence of a man named "Jesus the Christ" or "Jesus of Nazareth" who was born of a virgin, performed numerous miracles, was crucified and ressurected. There may be record of a man named Jesus who lived in Nazareth at that time, but that's like saying there's record of a man named Michael who lived in California a hundred years ago. It doesn't prove anything.

Furthermore, a cursory perusal of countless savior myths from various religions around the world will reveal that the story of the Christian Jesus Christ was plagiarized almost entirely, and that he actually personifies the sun god worship of ancient pagans.

What I'm looking for is solid proof - reliable historical documentation, governmental record (i.e. "governing body" or systematized record-keeping, etc),a familial bloodline, something, anything. I'm assuming that because he was of royal birth, there has to be something out there documenting his existence.

I'm am not versed on what constitutes "solid proof" or "historical proof," but if someone here is, I would like to hear what they have to say. To my understanding, there is in existence tooth and hair relics, and I know there are key landmark sites one can visit, as well as the stupa I mentioned in my first post. Is there anything else out there?

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Re: Proof of the Buddha's Existence

Post by DNS »

See also:

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=4073" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Dhammakid wrote: Furthermore, a cursory perusal of countless savior myths from various religions around the world will reveal that the story of the Christian Jesus Christ was plagiarized almost entirely, and that he actually personifies the sun god worship of ancient pagans.
And also the Greek gods, who were also busy impregnating virgin mortal women, well before the story of Jesus.

But the story of Buddha is much different, a mortal man, born from a man and woman, not from the highest caste (a Khattiya which is high, but still not a Brahmin), who may have performed some miracles, but didn't care much for them or for others exhibiting them. And he said that there can be other Buddhas, that he is not the seal or final prophet, not the beginning nor the end. Buddhism is the only major religion where followers can attain to the same status as the founder.
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Re: Proof of the Buddha's Existence

Post by Individual »

Dhammakid wrote:Hello all,
First: Quite frankly, I don't care if there's no proof of the Blessed One's existence. The teachings are relevant enough in my life that I will follow them regardless of whether or not he actually existed.

But I am curious. I remember watching the BBC documentary "Life of the Buddha" and it mentioned a stupa with writing on it saying something about the Buddha. What other proof is there, if any?

:anjali:
Dhammakid
I don't know or care to know. Sorry to sound so cynical in your thread, but from what I've seen on what "mainstream historians" believe about Jesus Christ, I really wouldn't give them any credit on what they believe about Buddha -- much less what the fringe groups believe.

If you examine the details of archaelogical digs and source documents, it's an interesting discussion, but history is and has always remained something like a conspiracy theory. People have to weave together pieces of disconnected evidence to create a story which they think makes sense. History, then, is more of an art than a science, because it relies so heavily on subjective interpretation. That is, the story people create is always influenced by their background. It's amazing, for instance, to see how differently American educational institutions vs. British educational institutions describe the American Revolutionary War -- and that was only a few hundred years ago! And today, both sides are allies, yet we still maintain slightly different histories.

We have a lot of Australian members in this forum. I would guess that your own country has some kind of pleasant-sounding story on how you peacefully displaced the Aboriginals, how white Europeans established hegemony through non-violent and voluntary cooperation with the natives.

Any history of the Buddha would also be a pleasant story, yet we could never verify it as true or false, even though our intuition tells us that some part of the story might be wrong. Or we could blindly accept a particular story as fact which is just as bad.

In any case, what's the origin of this curiosity? How can you not care, yet also be curious?
Last edited by Individual on Sat Oct 02, 2010 3:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Proof of the Buddha's Existence

Post by Sobeh »

Dhammakid wrote:I'm am not versed on what constitutes "solid proof" or "historical proof
With history there is sometimes an intersection of primary source documents when they describe the same thing from different perspectives. When this happens we have a strong reason for accepting what is written about, not with respect to ontological facts but with respect to epistemological ones. For example, besides various orthodox and heterodox gospels about Jesus there are numerous letters coincident with his life and times. He was also written about by Josephus (a historian), Tacitus, and Martyr, and together with many other documents the weight of evidence proves a historical Jesus existed who preached an interpretation of Judaism (denying this claim is tantamount to denying History as a modern discipline, which is unwarranted hyper-skepticism). With the Buddha we have similar textual references - for example, the Jains have a corpus of literature which records the Buddha, and this is of course alongside the slew of texts such as the Nikayas and the Agamas.

It is important to note that these texts are not proof of the hagiography of these individuals, they only prove that there was such an individual about whom others wrote hagiographies. It is also important to reflect that a hagiography of Jesus makes many doctrinal claims about what the existence of Jesus the Christ means, whereas in Buddhism the related hagiography is wholly incidental to the Teaching.
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Re: Proof of the Buddha's Existence

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Individual wrote: We have a lot of Australian members in this forum. I would guess that your own country has some kind of pleasant-sounding story on how you peacefully displaced the Aboriginals, how white Europeans established hegemony through non-violent and voluntary cooperation with the natives.
Actually, we don't. Our historians do argue, quite vehemently, over specifics but in general we do all know what went on. At our least honest, we say as little as possible about the process of European settlement; at our most honest, we acknowledge (most of) the bad stuff and apologise for it.
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EDIT: Individual, I took 'your own country' to be 'Australia' and answered accordingly but then I looked back and couldn't see any Aussie replies earlier in the thread. I'll leave it, but I think someone's confused.
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Re: Proof of the Buddha's Existence

Post by Individual »

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Individual wrote: We have a lot of Australian members in this forum. I would guess that your own country has some kind of pleasant-sounding story on how you peacefully displaced the Aboriginals, how white Europeans established hegemony through non-violent and voluntary cooperation with the natives.
Actually, we don't. Our historians do argue, quite vehemently, over specifics but in general we do all know what went on. At our least honest, we say as little as possible about the process of European settlement; at our most honest, we acknowledge (most of) the bad stuff and apologise for it.
:namaste:
Kim

EDIT: Individual, I took 'your own country' to be 'Australia' and answered accordingly but then I looked back and couldn't see any Aussie replies earlier in the thread. I'll leave it, but I think someone's confused.
:thinking:
Kim
"Your own country" isn't directed towards the OP.
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Re: Proof of the Buddha's Existence

Post by Dhammakid »

Thanks for the responses everyone.

Individual: I agree with your points. It does make sense that any attempted historical narrative unintentionally reflects the historian's background, training, methodology or subjective beliefs, even if only in part. I'm not sure how I can be curious but not ultimately care, but I do know that's how I feel. I guess what I mean is that it would be cool if I could demonstrate such proof in discussion with my Christian family when the topic comes up, but even if I'm unable to, that doesn't mean I will stop practicing. I know for sure I would not practice Christianity even if proof of Jesus the Annointed One could be adequately demonstrated because I don't agree with the teachings of Christianity (and because there would be no reason to follow him as opposed to many others just like him, since there's nothing making him better than the other "saviors.")

David: Yes, indeed. There is strong evidence that the narrative of Jesus is plagiarized from the worship of Dionysus. Even more interesting is the near universal tradition of ecstatic dance and worship, which, when observed from a historical and modern day standpoint, resembles closely the worship habits of today's fundamentalists and born-again Christians (speaking in tongue, for instance).

Sobeh: The three sources of historical documentation of Christ are exactly what I was referring to when I said the few sources of his existence are known to be unreliable. I'm no historian so I can't back that up, but I will say I've read that on a number of occassions. And as a matter of fact, I've read documents quoting Christian apologists from a few hundred years after Jesus and them admitting that, in order to convert various pagans from other lands, they had to equate Jesus with various sun gods because the stories were nearly identical.

But yes, it's interesting to note that the Buddha is mentioned in the literature of other practices. I can attest to that myself, having studied and practiced Sikhism for some time and reading the Sri Guru Granth Sahib where it mentions on a number of occassions the order of Buddhas. But to my knowledge, isn't Jesus mentioned in the Quran?

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Re: Proof of the Buddha's Existence

Post by Dhammakid »

David: The discussion of which you provided the link provided great perspective for my question. Thanks. I didn't think about the oral tradition being most prominent in the time of the Buddha, and the culture of that time being mostly non-literate.

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Re: Proof of the Buddha's Existence

Post by pilgrim »

I can't even prove my great-grandfather existed..
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Re: Proof of the Buddha's Existence

Post by Spiny O'Norman »

pilgrim wrote:I can't even prove my great-grandfather existed..
If your grandfather hadn't existed then you wouldn't exist.

And by the same logic, if the Buddha hadn't existed then Buddhists wouldn't exist.

Spiny <making sharp exit before dodgy logic is challenged> :jumping:
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Re: Proof of the Buddha's Existence

Post by Sobeh »

Dhammakid wrote:The three sources of historical documentation of Christ are exactly what I was referring to when I said the few sources of his existence are known to be unreliable. I'm no historian so I can't back that up...
Well, asking for a link supporting such a claim deviates us from Buddhism a bit too much, so instead I will simply remark that blind skepticism is similar to blind faith, and skepticism about the existence of historical persons who have robust documentation is simply excessive; if the standards of the international community of historians aren't considered valid, the conversation becomes difficult to accomplish.

:heart:

P.S. There is no historical proof of Christ. There is only historical proof of Jesus. Remember to differentiate hagiography from history.
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