When the author of this website (Spirit of Truth) attempted to visit these links again in August 2012, they were found now to be ‘invite only’. Seems like the Satan’s World Order (really his chaos) doesn’t want you to know such truths that keep the world in a constant magnificent lie believing in lies, rather than what absolute truth is.
There is no politically correct or culturally
sensitive way to say this, so I will just get it out there plainly: there was
no life of the Buddha. The Buddha is a completely legendary figure. Just about
everything you have read in your religion textbooks about ancient Buddhist
history is totally wrong. Now, it gets even weirder: the person of the Buddha
was basically made up by Europeans.
Now, you are probably thinking I am a complete wacko or have some religious axe to grind, but I really don’t. For years I have been telling any of my students who bothered to ask, my three favorite religious teachers are the Buddha, Jesus, and Lao-Tzu. But, however much I like the idea and teachings of the Buddha, I am increasingly left with only one conclusion: there was no Buddha.
I am not relying on any mystical truths, or controversial theories, I am simply looking at the facts objectively and critically. If you look at the actual evidence, I think you will come to the same conclusion. Please, consider the facts for yourself.
Now, the important thing is to look at the actual facts. Not the websites, not the textbooks, not the interpretations. That is one big problem when you enter the world of Buddhism: you enter an echo chamber where everyone is simply repeating the words of other people. It is very difficult to get to the real evidence at the root of those interpretations. Those interpretations are embedded into textbooks, and that information is then propagated as popular belief through classrooms and in websites. As you read the websites and textbooks, you think you are accessing real evidence, but you aren’t. You are accessing interpretations. The interpretations are told in an historical story format, which obfuscates their non-historical and non-factual origin. In order to free your mind from all those echoes, you must simply return to the primary sources, to the actual evidence.
Looking at the actual evidence, you can draw your own interpretation. I suspect that is the key to understanding why the facts of Buddhism are never presented, only the story. When looking at the facts, the obvious interpretation is that the Buddha never existed, and the average textbook does not want to highlight that. That may sound odd, but it is true.
World religion textbooks are not about critical thinking, except for the chapter on Christianity and maybe the one on Judaism. In those chapters, you get exposed to the full dose of critical opinions, including source textual analysis, historical analysis, socio/economic/political analysis, gender/racial analysis, and probably more. However, in the chapters on the other religions, you do not get any of those critical perspectives.
Basically, most World Religion classes should be titled World Religion Appreciation, much like an Art Appreciation or Music Appreciation class. Like those traditional “appreciation” classes, in a World Religion class, you are supposed to sit back and admire the objects of study, coming to the conclusion of how beautiful, complex, and wonderful they all are. The typical World Religion class is designed to advance the postmodern agenda of the equality of all traditions, while also advancing the liberal agenda of mindless tolerance. I guess pointing out that some traditions are made up, based on purely legendary figures, is not a great example of the kind of non-critical appreciation that leads to mindless tolerance! Woops, looks like professor Halter did not get the memo…
One important thing to keep in mind is that some Buddhists do not care if the Buddha was real or not, and it is important to understand their logic. To them, the person of the Buddha does not matter, it is the teachings of the Buddha which are key. To them, it does not matter if a real Buddha existed or is completely imaginary, because the teachings ascribed to him are effective. Those teachings are what matters, whether they were enunciated originally by one historical man or not.
So, if you are tempted to get defensive or angry at me for questioning the historicity of the Buddha, please consider that Buddhist point of view. To people for whom reality has some bearing on what they consider to be religiously true, perhaps the non-existence of the Buddha will have a harsher impact.
Anyway, enough with the overall philosophical setting, on to the facts! [Due to the already-long-enough quality of this entry, I will jump right into the historical issues in the next post, found below.]
Buddhists give the date of Buddha’s death as 949 B.C. (with variants including
878 B.C. and 686 B.C.), while northern Buddhists gave 881 B.C., and the
southern Buddhists provide 543 B.C. as the correct year. More recent
scholarship began to settle on the year 486 B.C. or even 368 B.C., so many textbooks usually fudge the issue and say he was
born around 500 B.C. All methods rely on lists of kings and councils recorded
in the Buddhist tradition itself, tied into known history through the Mauryan
Emperors Candragupta and Asoka.
There is one big problem when you look for the historical Buddha: he wasn’t there. Literally, there is no evidence of the Buddha being spoken of or depicted anywhere near that time. Neither the Buddha nor Buddhism appears in the art, archeology, or written record of ancient India until the first century A.D. The skeptical mind is left wondering, why was there no Buddha until then? Why did Buddhism make absolutely no appearance for over 600 years after he was supposedly born? And why do so many people today talk about him as if he factually existed that early?
By way of proof of his absence, there was a Greek writer, Megasthenes, who lived for ten years, around 300 B.C., in the very heartland of where the Buddha had taught, and he makes no mention of Buddhism when describing the religious or social practices of India. There were also no sculptures or art that exist from B.C. that talk about Buddha.
Of course, the Buddhists admit that there was no representation of the Buddha then. So, how do they account for this 600 year absence? The Buddhists claim that there was some kind of prohibition on representing the physical form of the Buddha, which, for some reason, was overturned in the first century.
When was the Buddha’s first appearance in history? Not until the late 1st century A.D., at the very earliest. “The image proper, that is, a fully evolved image with anthropomorphic dimensions, appears around the 1st century A.D. There is, amongst the Buddha statues, reported from Mathura, a dated one of A.D. 81. Some of the gold and copper coins of Kanishka, who ruled from 78 A.D. onward, have Buddha images on their reverse” [from www.exoticindiaart.com/article/lordbuddha] (If the previous link has went dead, a copy of that link can be found here;
of the Buddha
By the way, that early date for the reign of the Emperor Kanishka has been overthrown by the carbon dating of ancient Buddhist writing, and is no longer tenable. So the middle 100’s A.D. is a more accurate timetable for those first Buddhist-inspired artifacts [from www.nzherald.co.nz/category/story.cfm?c_id=82&ObjectID=10371631].
The oldest extant Buddhist writings we have are the so-called “Dead Sea Scrolls of Buddhism,” the Kharosti Scrolls. Currently housed at the British Library, these scrolls are 60 fragments of text written in the ancient Kharosti script on birch bark, and are the earliest known Buddhist writings. They were produced by monks in the Greco-Buddhist society around Gandhara (more on that later). They are dated as early as 130-250 A.D.
The Pali Canon, the mother of all Buddhist scriptures, is usually asserted be first-century B.C. in origin, reflecting hundreds of years of oral tradition. However, that claim is itself based on legend, and the manuscripts we have available are no older than the 18th or 19th centuries A.D., and “the textual traditions of the different Buddhist countries represented by these manuscripts show much evidence of interweaving” [www.palitext.com/subpages/lan_lite.htm]. The basic fact is, in the Pali Canon, there is a lack of historical dates or descriptions of the Buddha that would provide any historical context or clues. The Pali Canon mostly details teachings and rules for monks, not Buddha as a person.
Besides that lack of an actual Buddha, there is also little evidence for even assuming they were written B.C. It is a huge body of literature, with many obvious layers [“there are texts within the canon either attributed to specific monks or related to an event post-dating the time of the Buddha or that can be shown to have been composed after that time” [from www.buddhacommunity.org/scriptures.htm]. Which passages are the oldest, when were they written? Very hard to say. [Read some of the mind-numbing discussion of the issues related to dating the Pali Canon here. See a nice basic overview summary of the Canon here and a more in-depth summary, here.]
Another basic problem is that if the lists of kings and masters are not accurate, then the chronology is totally thrown off. The variability of the chronologies accounts for the wide range in dates used traditionally by the various Buddhist schools. In fact, it is not until the time of the commentaries of Buddhaghosa, Dhammapala, and others -- that is to say, the fifth to sixth centuries A.D. -- that we can know anything definite about the actual contents of this canon, according to the leading expert in Pali Canon studies, Dr. Gregory Schopen.
In other words, there is no hard evidence in the B.C. era to indicate the conception of the Buddha. Everything that is today cited from the B.C. era as being Buddhist, actually has almost nothing Buddhist about it. So, what evidence for the B.C. Buddha is there?
I have already discussed King Asoka, and the fallacious idea that he was a Buddhist, here. In summary, when you actually read the authentic pillars, there is no mention of the Buddha or Buddhism, only general concepts that were in Indian culture at the time, such being peaceful and doing your dharma.
The history of Buddhism is also supposedly traced into cave art and architecture as early as the 2nd century B.C. However, here, as before, there is no Buddha to be found. Here is a typical admission: “Ajanta caves and those at Pitalkhora, Kanheri, Bhaja, Karla etceteras powerfully depict this transition. The 2nd century B.C. caves have simply a stupa, without any kind of Buddha's anthropomorphic representations, enshrining them…” [From www.exoticindiaart.com/article/lordbuddha]
In other words, yes, the early stupas had artistic representations in them, but those representations weren’t of the Buddha! Why classify them as Buddhist at all? Good question. The standard rationalization is that those early caves were representations of the past lives of the Buddha. Ok, now think about that. Supposedly, those early Buddhist monks represented the Buddha’s past lives, but not his actual life? By that logic, any sculpted scene, no matter how unrelated, can be interpreted to be a past life of the Buddha in retrospect.
The actual life of the Buddha eventually was depicted in stupa art, but not until hundreds of years later, well into the A.D. era. Those other sculptures are said to be early Buddhist, but in fact, they are pre-Buddhist or non-Buddhist.
For further discussion of the historical evidence of the Buddha, see below.
So, as detailed in my previous article on the
historicity of the Buddha, there is no depiction or reference to the Buddha in
the B.C. era. Basically, the person of the Buddha was invented in the first and
second century A.D. Here comes the weird part, because you won’t believe who
invented him! It is an outrageous shock to even say it, but it cannot be
avoided: the Buddha was invented the Europeans! What, you say? He was an
Indian! How could the Europeans have invented him?
I know, it is strange beyond comprehension, its strains credibility, it seems to go against everything our minds want to think about Buddhism. But the fact remains, it was Greek invaders who gave Asia the Buddha. Greeks set up kingdoms in Asia, along what would be known as the Silk Road, following the conquests of Alexander. Their presence is not a matter of historical myth-making either, this is established by the archeological record. The Greeks built very distinctive cities, leaving us a trove of Greek art, coins, architecture, and so on, being excavated today in the modern countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Anyway, it is among this Greek culture of ancient India and Asia that we first see the appearance of the Buddha. Do a search for Greco-Buddhist art or culture, and you will be presented with a cornucopia of information. Look for anything Buddhist prior to this time, and you have a big fat zero, nada, nothing. They are so desperate to find anything Buddhist before the Greeks that anything that appears in northern India with a lion, footprints, a throne, a wheel, or a tree, is asserted to be Buddhist [see a typical example the traditional school of interpretation here].
For example, consider this revealing gem: “On one of the pillars of the North Gate at Sanchi, there is a representation of a monkey making an offering of a bowl of honey to the Buddha, whose presence is symbolized by a tree and an empty throne. This recalls an event that is supposed to have taken place in the town of Vaisali; the episode is commonly found in art, but it does not figure in literary accounts of the Buddha's life until centuries later. Clearly, alongside the biographical tradition there existed a sculptural tradition which interacted with it in sometimes complex ways” [found here].
In other words, there was no Buddha there in the art itself (see the piece for yourself here), and nothing related to even the supposed life of the historical Buddha. However, this pre-Buddhist religious art/story was later sucked into Buddhism, as Buddhists asserted that all such non-Buddhist art was actually depicting the past lives of the Buddha.
This role of the Greeks is the big ugly white elephant in the room that prevents anyone from critically examining the origins of Buddhism. For the last 150 years, Buddhism is the primary example of Asian wisdom, non-Christian, even pre-Christian, the opposite pole of everything European. What a buzz-kill to find out that the ancient Greeks invented it…
Apparently “there was nothing in earlier Indian statuary to suggest such a treatment of form or dress, and the Hindu pantheon provided no adequate model for an aristocratic and wholly human deity”. Think of the implications of that. In a land where the incarnations of Vishnu, such as Rama and Krishna, had supposedly lived thousands of years before [see my discussion of When Was Krishna Born here], there was nothing in the Hindu pantheon that could model a human deity. What this really proves is the late invention of the incarnations of Vishnu, well into the A.D. era also. [Incidentally, Hindu art began its development in 1st and 2nd century A.D., and found its first inspiration in Buddhist art.]
This conclusion is not just from the history of art, either. Guess when Buddhism actually began to spread as a religious movement? After the first century A.D! Again, we have to face facts versus legends. In the legend, Buddhism existed in India for half a thousand years B.C., but for some reason left no artifacts and underwent no expansion. In real, documented history, Buddhism appears in the late first century A.D. and quickly begins missionary movements throughout Asia. In other words, once it actually appeared, within a century, Buddhism moved throughout central Asia and into even China by 200 A.D.
These historical facts empirically demonstrate when Buddhism was actually invented. Religions don’t get invented, disappear for 600 years, then suddenly appear in art, architecture, writing, and sociological force, after leaving no record of their existence for the majority of a millennium. In fact, corroborated by lots of historical evidence, Buddhism first appeared among the Greeks in India in the late first century A.D., where it suddenly burst forth in art, architecture, scripture, and missionary activity throughout Central Asia and China.
It is probably a bit unfair to say the Greeks invented Buddhism, as if from scratch. Probably what happened is that a number of popular local practices, teachings, legends, and pilgrimage sites came together under the syncretistic and rationalizing impetus of Greek culture.
Of course, the million dollar question is whether Christianity had any influence on that process. When you talk about a personal-savior cult arising in Greek culture in the late first century A.D., it is difficult not to have Christianity come to mind, but Mahayana Buddhism plays that role out in the Greek outposts of India. Just a chance coincidence? Hmmm….
Labels: Buddhism, Hinduism