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OT Dating the Historical Buddha

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  • Derek
    Hi, All, A bit off-topic for the Pali list, but someone here may know the answer. I had always thought there were several methods for dating the lifetime of
    Message 1 of 11 , Dec 28, 2004
      Hi, All,

      A bit off-topic for the Pali list, but someone here may know the
      answer.

      I had always thought there were several methods for dating the
      lifetime of the Buddha. One gives 623 BC to 543 BC (the traditional
      dates, used to determine for example that AD 2005 = 2548 BE). All
      the others give approximately 563 BC to 483 BC (generally quoted in
      scholarly and historical works). See for example the discussion in
      H. W. Schumann, The Historical Buddha, pp. 10-13.

      However, recently I've come across references to a book I don't
      have, Heinz Bechert, The Dating of the Historical Buddha. Bechert
      proposes much more recent dates, up to a century later than
      previously thought. But then a review by L. S. Cousins in the
      Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society for 1996 says that Bechert has
      overstated his case.

      Does anyone know what is the current scholarly consensus for the
      dates of the Buddha?

      Derek.
    • Bhante Sujato
      Hello Derek As i understand, there is no scholarly consenus. I did read a rather remarkeable statment recently by Richard Gombrich that he had solved the
      Message 2 of 11 , Dec 28, 2004
        Hello Derek


        As i understand, there is no scholarly consenus. I did read a rather
        remarkeable statment recently by Richard Gombrich that he
        had 'solved' the problem, but i have not been able to come across
        the details of his argument. He says the parinibbana was at 404 BCE
        (plus or minus about ten years), which he arrives at because it is
        136 years before Asoka.


        in Dhamma

        Bhante Sujato



        --- In Pali@yahoogroups.com, "Derek" <derekacameron@y...> wrote:
        >
        > Hi, All,
        >
        > A bit off-topic for the Pali list, but someone here may know the
        > answer.
        >
        > I had always thought there were several methods for dating the
        > lifetime of the Buddha. One gives 623 BC to 543 BC (the
        traditional
        > dates, used to determine for example that AD 2005 = 2548 BE). All
        > the others give approximately 563 BC to 483 BC (generally quoted
        in
        > scholarly and historical works). See for example the discussion in
        > H. W. Schumann, The Historical Buddha, pp. 10-13.
        >
        > However, recently I've come across references to a book I don't
        > have, Heinz Bechert, The Dating of the Historical Buddha. Bechert
        > proposes much more recent dates, up to a century later than
        > previously thought. But then a review by L. S. Cousins in the
        > Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society for 1996 says that Bechert
        has
        > overstated his case.
        >
        > Does anyone know what is the current scholarly consensus for the
        > dates of the Buddha?
        >
        > Derek.
      • Bankei Yotaku
        Hello Derek and Bhante Sujato I remember reading Richard Gombrich s paper many years ago. It is in the volume mentioned by Derek (which is available in the
        Message 3 of 11 , Dec 28, 2004
          Hello Derek and Bhante Sujato

          I remember reading Richard Gombrich's paper many years ago. It is in
          the volume mentioned by Derek (which is available in the University of
          Sydney library).

          Gombrich bases his argument on (from memory) the succession of
          teachers and periods between master and disciples. From this he
          estimated the date of the Buddha going backwards.

          Here is the reference:
          Gombrich, Richard. 1992. "Dating the Buddha: a red herring revealed."
          in Dating of the historical Buddha / Die Datierung des historischen
          Buddha (Symposien zur Buddhismusforschung, IV, 2), The. Gottingen :
          Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1992. (Abh der Akad d Wissenschaften
          Gottingen, Phil-Hist Kl ; 3, 194). p. 237-259.

          If I get a chance during the holidays, I would like to go in a get a
          copy of this article and re-read it!

          Regards

          Terryw



          On Tue, 28 Dec 2004 22:08:12 -0000, Bhante Sujato <sujato@...> wrote:
          >
          >
          > Hello Derek
          >
          > As i understand, there is no scholarly consenus. I did read a rather
          > remarkeable statment recently by Richard Gombrich that he
          > had 'solved' the problem, but i have not been able to come across
          > the details of his argument. He says the parinibbana was at 404 BCE
          > (plus or minus about ten years), which he arrives at because it is
          > 136 years before Asoka.
          >
          > in Dhamma
          >
          > Bhante Sujato
          >
          >
          > --- In Pali@yahoogroups.com, "Derek" <derekacameron@y...> wrote:
          > >
          > > Hi, All,
          > >
          > > A bit off-topic for the Pali list, but someone here may know the
          > > answer.
          > >
          > > I had always thought there were several methods for dating the
          > > lifetime of the Buddha. One gives 623 BC to 543 BC (the
          > traditional
          > > dates, used to determine for example that AD 2005 = 2548 BE). All
          > > the others give approximately 563 BC to 483 BC (generally quoted
          > in
          > > scholarly and historical works). See for example the discussion in
          > > H. W. Schumann, The Historical Buddha, pp. 10-13.
          > >
          > > However, recently I've come across references to a book I don't
          > > have, Heinz Bechert, The Dating of the Historical Buddha. Bechert
          > > proposes much more recent dates, up to a century later than
          > > previously thought. But then a review by L. S. Cousins in the
          > > Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society for 1996 says that Bechert
          > has
          > > overstated his case.
          > >
          > > Does anyone know what is the current scholarly consensus for the
          > > dates of the Buddha?
          > >
          > > Derek.
          >
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        • rsalm
          ... Perhaps it is a bit off-topic, but I also would be interested in knowing the current state of the question. Derek mentions Shumann s discussion in The
          Message 4 of 11 , Dec 28, 2004
            Derek wrote:


            > A bit off-topic for the Pali list, but someone here may know the
            > answer. I had always thought there were several methods for dating the lifetime of the Buddha.



            Perhaps it is a bit off-topic, but I also would be interested in knowing the current state of the question. Derek mentions Shumann's discussion in "The Historical Buddha" (1982, pp. 10-13). The "Note on Chronology" on p. xii shows the author's openness to subtracting "115 years from the dates given for events in the life of the historical Buddha." Schumann traces this late dating to four articles in 'Persica' by P. Eggermont (between 1965 and 1979), later supported by Heinz Bechert (Indologia Taurinensia X, 1982).



            There is also a good but dated 4-page discussion of the Buddha's chronology in R.C. Majumdar, "The History and Culture of the Indian People," Bombay 1951 (pp. 36 f.). He treats the difficulties of the various theories, and writes in a footnote:



            "Cf. PHAI, 186, for a brief review of the different theories on the subject. Cf. also Geiger, Tr. of Mahavamsa, p. XII; EHI, pp. 49-50; CHI, I 171. Recently, Dr. E. J. Thomas has pointed out (B.C. Law, vol.2, 18-22) that according to the Sarvastivadins Asoka flourished one century after the Nirvana of Buddha, and this tradition may be traced even in the Sinhalese Chronicles. According to this date Nirvana falls in the 4th century B.C. and a Japanese scholar, quoted by Thomas, places this event in 386 B.C."



            I am taking this info. from a photocopy, and don't have the key to the abbreviations. The book is in my local library if someone is really interested (may contact me on or offlist). Majumdar concludes his discussion: "Thus the date 544 B.C. for the Buddha's death, as testified to by the Sinhalese reckoning of the Nirvana era, cannot be pronounced to be definitely wrong."



            -- In Vol. IV of K.R. Norman's Collected Papers (PTS) there is an article "Observations on the dates of the Jina and the Buddha." (I don't have access to it and don't know the date of the article.)



            It would be nice if someone in the group had the time and interest to research this topic!



            Rene



            > As i understand, there is no scholarly consenus. I did read a rather
            remarkeable statment recently by Richard Gombrich that he
            had 'solved' the problem, but i have not been able to come across
            the details of his argument. He says the parinibbana was at 404 BCE
            (plus or minus about ten years), which he arrives at because it is
            136 years before Asoka.




            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • rahula_80
            Hi, See 1. The Vedic Buddha Date http://www.vnn.org/editorials/ET0003/ET14-5679.html See also: http://www.geocities.com/narenp/history/info/epilogue.htm
            Message 5 of 11 , Dec 29, 2004
              Hi,

              See
              1. The Vedic Buddha Date
              http://www.vnn.org/editorials/ET0003/ET14-5679.html

              See also:
              http://www.geocities.com/narenp/history/info/epilogue.htm
              http://www.geocities.com/~ramayanam/india_history.htm

              2. Reestablishing the Date of Lord Buddha
              by Stephen Knapp
              http://www.stephen-knapp.com/reestablishing_the_date_of_buddha.htm

              3. The Date of the Buddha
              http://www.umass.edu/wsp/conferences/lectures/buddha.html

              4. The Date of the Historical Sakyamuni Buddha
              edited by A.K. Narain
              https://www.vedamsbooks.com/no31325.htm

              5. When Did The Buddha Live? : The Controversy on the Dating of the
              Historical Buddha--Selected Papers Based on a Symposium held under
              the Auspices of the Academy of Sciences in Gottingen/edited by Heinz
              Bechert. 1995, 387 p.,
              https://www.vedamsbooks.com/10723.htm

              6. The Dating of the Historical Buddha:A Review Article
              L. S. COUSINS
              http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucgadkw/position/buddha/buddha.html

              7. There is also an article, but the link has expired. Go to
              google.com, type "Buddha 788 BC"

              The text from that website:

              The distance from the start of the Ascending Passageway to the
              fourth Girdle Stone (of Buddha) is 1069.86801156 P". When you
              subtract this from the fourth Overlay (of Buddha), 1856.77471784 P" -
              1069.86801156 P", you get 786.906706285 P", or August 12th, 788
              B.C., the date for the Advent of Buddha. (see Figure 14)
            • sitalatwo
              dear souls for the knowledge here is a little extract from the lectures, given by Dr. Karunadassa (Sri- Lanka) As response to above discussion would like to
              Message 6 of 11 , Dec 30, 2004
                dear souls for the knowledge
                here is a little extract from the lectures, given by Dr. Karunadassa (Sri-
                Lanka)
                As response to above discussion would like to add a few words, on
                dating the time of Buddha's existence, probably it would sound a bit
                awkward, but never mind. There are different theories as all of you had
                agreed, about Buddha's birth, life and Parinibbana's dates. The Buddha
                had passed away/ attained Parinibbaana at his eighty years of age. After
                one month and two weeks (first week until Mahakasapa heard the new
                of Buddha's demise and on his way to Kusinara, then one more week
                took to distribute urn with relics of the Buddha among followers. First
                month of rein-season before Council started), there was held First
                Buddhist Council of Five Hundred Elders, later on, one hundred years
                after Buddha's demise, the Seven Hundred Elders' Council took place.
                Hundred and 18 years passed when Asoka took the throne and held
                third Council. It was the year 268 B.C.E. [So it will look like this –
                268+118+100=486 B.C.E. is the year of Buddha's demise. This
                calculation is according to the Sri-Lankan chronicles. According to well
                accepted data of his missionary years he spent Eighty years,
                486+80=566 B.C.E. the year of his birth].
                According to Bavya's countings, Buddha's death 160 years before
                Asoka's succession. (Nikaayabhedavibhanga-vyaakhyaana, Peking
                no.5640)
                According to Northern Buddhist Schools-116 years before Asoka took the
                throne. (stated by Japanese scholar Ui Hakuju, /1882-1963/, based on
                account that only five kings had ruled since Buddha's demise until
                Asoka's reign. Took evidence from sources of Northern schools, that
                mentioned 116 years passed since Buddha's demise and Asoka's reign.)
                For detailed reference look for the book `A history of Indian Buddhism,
                from Saakyamuni to Early Mahaayaana' by Hirakawa Akira. Edited and
                translated by Paul Groner. ` the survey of Indian Philosophy" with
                bibliography. Auther unknown to me and the name of the book might not
                be correct, but in anyway, word `the survey' is present in book's title.
                With hope it will help you
                Sitala ven

                --- In Pali@yahoogroups.com, "rahula_80" <rahula_80@y...> wrote:
                >
                >
                > Hi,
                >
                > See
                > 1. The Vedic Buddha Date
                > http://www.vnn.org/editorials/ET0003/ET14-5679.html
                >
                > See also:
                > http://www.geocities.com/narenp/history/info/epilogue.htm
                > http://www.geocities.com/~ramayanam/india_history.htm
                >
                > 2. Reestablishing the Date of Lord Buddha
                > by Stephen Knapp
                > http://www.stephen-
                knapp.com/reestablishing_the_date_of_buddha.htm
                >
                > 3. The Date of the Buddha
                > http://www.umass.edu/wsp/conferences/lectures/buddha.html
                >
                > 4. The Date of the Historical Sakyamuni Buddha
                > edited by A.K. Narain
                > https://www.vedamsbooks.com/no31325.htm
                >
                > 5. When Did The Buddha Live? : The Controversy on the Dating of the
                > Historical Buddha--Selected Papers Based on a Symposium held under
                > the Auspices of the Academy of Sciences in Gottingen/edited by Heinz
                > Bechert. 1995, 387 p.,
                > https://www.vedamsbooks.com/10723.htm
                >
                > 6. The Dating of the Historical Buddha:A Review Article
                > L. S. COUSINS
                > http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucgadkw/position/buddha/buddha.html
                >
                > 7. There is also an article, but the link has expired. Go to
                > google.com, type "Buddha 788 BC"
                >
                > The text from that website:
                >
                > The distance from the start of the Ascending Passageway to the
                > fourth Girdle Stone (of Buddha) is 1069.86801156 P". When you
                > subtract this from the fourth Overlay (of Buddha), 1856.77471784 P" -
                > 1069.86801156 P", you get 786.906706285 P", or August 12th, 788
                > B.C., the date for the Advent of Buddha. (see Figure 14)
              • R.O.Jadhao
                ... The link above is nothing but the reproduction of article below http://www.geocities.com/narenp/history/info/epilogue.htm ... This article seems biased
                Message 7 of 11 , Dec 31, 2004
                  > http://www.vnn.org/editorials/ET0003/ET14-5679.html
                  The link above is nothing but the reproduction of article below
                  http://www.geocities.com/narenp/history/info/epilogue.htm
                  >
                  This article seems biased one. The author seems to have two objectives in
                  mind 1) Proving that Vedic/ Hindu culture is the oldest and all other
                  cultures are recent and originated from them. 2) Proving that Buddhism and
                  Jainism are merely branches of hinduism rather than separate religion.
                  It seems that the author Prasad Gokhale, is an ardent member of the RSS. The
                  article draws heavily from only the Hindu scriptures with no regard for
                  archeological data which he claims in his article time to time

                  http://www.geocities.com/~ramayanam/india_history.htm
                  >
                  > 2. Reestablishing the Date of Lord Buddha
                  > by Stephen Knapp
                  > http://www.stephen-knapp.com/reestablishing_the_date_of_buddha.htm
                  >
                  These two articles also are reproduction of the previous articles.
                  > 3. The Date of the Buddha
                  > http://www.umass.edu/wsp/conferences/lectures/buddha.html
                  >
                  > 4. The Date of the Historical Sakyamuni Buddha
                  > edited by A.K. Narain
                  > https://www.vedamsbooks.com/no31325.htm
                  >
                  > 5. When Did The Buddha Live? : The Controversy on the Dating of the
                  > Historical Buddha--Selected Papers Based on a Symposium held under
                  > the Auspices of the Academy of Sciences in Gottingen/edited by Heinz
                  > Bechert. 1995, 387 p.,
                  > https://www.vedamsbooks.com/10723.htm
                  >
                  > 6. The Dating of the Historical Buddha:A Review Article
                  > L. S. COUSINS
                  > http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucgadkw/position/buddha/buddha.html
                  >
                  The article in above link seems to be written intelligently and well
                  researched.

                  Rajendra Jadhao
                • Ong Yong Peng
                  Dear Sukhdev, Jadhao and friends, please refrain from discussing RSS, Hindustan and non-related topics here. I will be reviewing previous messages, and all
                  Message 8 of 11 , Jan 3, 2005
                    Dear Sukhdev, Jadhao and friends,

                    please refrain from discussing RSS, "Hindustan" and non-related
                    topics here. I will be reviewing previous messages, and all
                    irrelevant ones will be disposed of from the archive.


                    metta,
                    Yong Peng.


                    --- In Pali@yahoogroups.com, Sukhdev Singh wrote:

                    My second matter is that which R.O. Jadhao has refered to and that is
                    the RSS.
                  • Ong Yong Peng
                    Dear Sukhdev and friends, sorry I missed out your first question earlier. Most Buddhists follow the World Fellowship of Buddhist (WFB) in determining the
                    Message 9 of 11 , Jan 3, 2005
                      Dear Sukhdev and friends,

                      sorry I missed out your first question earlier. Most Buddhists follow
                      the World Fellowship of Buddhist (WFB) in determining the current
                      year, known as Buddhist Era (B.E.). This is based on the common dates
                      that the Buddha was born in B.C.E.623 and attained final nibbana in
                      B.C.E.543.

                      The new year of the B.E. begins on Vesak Day (22 May in 2005).
                      Presently, it is B.E.2548, and it will be B.E.2549 on May 22. Next
                      year Vesak, we will be celebrating B.E.2550.

                      The B.E. may not be the most accurate dating, and scholars may like
                      to have other alternatives provided for their studies. However, this
                      is one of the most established dating.

                      Using this dating, the Buddha passed away 2548 years ago. Given that
                      he lived for 80 years, the Buddha was born 2548 + 80 = 2628 years
                      ago, and that will be B.C.E.623 (2628 - 2004 - 1).

                      Hope that helps.


                      metta,
                      Yong Peng.


                      --- In Pali@yahoogroups.com, Sukhdev Singh wrote:

                      I have been 'lightly' following this subject due to the many weblinks
                      that have been offered for referal (couldnt make time to read all of
                      them). I have just one query for the moment, and that is, what is
                      the current "Buddhist date", including the "name of the year".
                    • Govinadsamy Gopalakrishna
                      Brother Ong, I agree and support you. We should refrain discussing non-related topics here. Best Regards. Ong Yong Peng wrote: Dear
                      Message 10 of 11 , Jan 4, 2005
                        Brother Ong, I agree and support you. We should refrain discussing non-related topics here.

                        Best Regards.

                        Ong Yong Peng <ypong001@...> wrote:


                        Dear Sukhdev, Jadhao and friends,

                        please refrain from discussing RSS, "Hindustan" and non-related
                        topics here. I will be reviewing previous messages, and all
                        irrelevant ones will be disposed of from the archive.


                        metta,
                        Yong Peng.


                        --- In Pali@yahoogroups.com, Sukhdev Singh wrote:

                        My second matter is that which R.O. Jadhao has refered to and that is
                        the RSS.






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                      • Gunnar Gällmo
                        ... Most ... This is correct according to the variety used in Ceylon, Burma and Siam, where the year of the Buddha s passing away is counted as year 1. In
                        Message 11 of 11 , Jan 4, 2005
                          --- Ong Yong Peng <ypong001@...> skrev:
                          Most
                          > Buddhists follow
                          > the World Fellowship of Buddhist (WFB) in
                          > determining the current
                          > year, known as Buddhist Era (B.E.). This is based on
                          > the common dates
                          > that the Buddha was born in B.C.E.623 and attained
                          > final nibbana in
                          > B.C.E.543.
                          >
                          > The new year of the B.E. begins on Vesak Day (22 May
                          > in 2005).
                          > Presently, it is B.E.2548, and it will be B.E.2549
                          > on May 22. Next
                          > year Vesak, we will be celebrating B.E.2550.

                          This is correct according to the variety used in
                          Ceylon, Burma and Siam, where the year of the Buddha's
                          passing away is counted as year 1.

                          In Siam, Laos and Cambodia, however, that same year is
                          counted as year 0, so the year 2500 started in 1956 in
                          the western countries, but in 1957 in the eastern
                          ones.

                          On Thai coins and bank-notes, I think the Buddhist
                          year is calculated according to the eastern variety -
                          with the further complication that they start it not
                          on Vesak day but January 1:st...

                          If anyone wonders about Western chronology, the
                          supposed year of the birth of Christ is counted as
                          year 1. There is no year 0 in Christian chronology, as
                          it was launched before the concept 0 was known in the
                          west. I think the very word "zero" comes from Arabic
                          "sifr", and the Arabs took the concept from India;
                          when the Indians started using it, I don't know.

                          Whether the starting years are actually quite in
                          accordance with historical facts, I think few
                          historians believe they are.

                          Gunnar

                          =====
                          gunnargallmo@...
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