Will the Real Buddha Please stand up? Was there even a real historical Buddha?
I am not 100% sure that there even was a historical Buddha. I tend to believe, but I have no evidence.
1) Do we have physical proof of his, his bones? How do we know that they belong to him and not some ascetic in those times?
2)We don't even know his name. Buddha is a title = Awakened one. Gotama is a clan name. Sakyamuni = Sakyan sage. None of them are first names.
The Buddha is on the whole an allegorical fiction these days, and we don't really know if he was ever anything more. Close attention to our earliest textual authorities reveals no recorded first name. The name Siddhartha appears only in later sources. His supposed surname was from one of the oldest and most prestigious Brahmin lineages mentioned in the Ṛgveda: Gotama (=most cows) from which we get the Surname Gautama (meaning ‘related to [the ancestor] Gotama). This is not a name that Kṣatriya can have been called, let alone someone who was most likely entirely outside the Brahmanical varṇa system. where I copied this
3) His biography is contradictory. We know the popular story about a rich prince who at age of 29 sneaked with the help of Channa the charioteer from the palace at night leaving his kingdom, wife and day old child.
- Even in the prime of youth, with black hair, against the wish of mother and father, when they were crying with tearing eyes, I shaved head and beard, donned yellow robes leaving the household became homeless. mn36
Apparently in this story:
i) his mother was alive, she did not die when he was born.
ii) Buddha did not sneak out from palace at night. He became a monk in front of their eyes.
iii) No mention of wife and child
iv) He is describe to be in "prime of youth
" a strange description of 29 year old in ancient world with much shorter life expectancy. Youth today, when lifespan is longer, means (16-24) if not teenager or even younger.
The text reinforces his young age with several terms: dahara, yobbana and paṭhama vaya. The word dahara means 'little, a young boy, a youth'. Buddhaghosa glosses it with taruṇa 'a tender young age, esp. a young calf'. The second word, yobbana, also means 'a youth'. The phrase paṭhama vaya means in 'the first stage of life', as opposed to middle age and old age. However the text also says he shaves off hair and beard (kesa-massuṃ ohāretvā) and this is common to all of the various narratives of the Buddha's going forth. Unless this is simply a stock phrase the youth must have passed puberty, and had a year or two to grow a beard. But not much more: if we were to describe a grown man as 'a boy' or 'a youth' it would seem awkward at best. I think we could say that this is describing a youth of 15 or 16. The tradition later made him 29, which is into middle-age by the standards of the day. link