The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
Post Reply
User avatar
aflatun
Posts: 812
Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2016 2:40 pm
Location: Bay Area, CA

The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by aflatun » Sun Mar 25, 2018 1:53 am

The idea of the historical Buddha is one of the most basic and familiar in the field of Buddhist studies, but also one of the most confusing and problematic. On one hand, the Buddha is universally agreed to have lived; but, on the other, more than two centuries of scholarship have failed to establish anything about him. We are thus left with the rather strange proposition that Buddhism was founded by a historical figure who has not been linked to any historical facts, an idea that would seem decidedly unempirical, and only dubiously coherent. Stuck in this awk-ward situation, scholars have rarely been able to avoid the temptation to offer some suggestion as to what was likely, or ‘must’ have been, true about him. By the time they get done, we end up with a flesh and blood person – widely considered to be one of the greatest human beings ever to have lived – conjured up from little more than fancy. Here I would like to try to shed some light on this problem by reviewing the scholar-ship that introduced and sustained the idea of the historical Buddha. Though several valuable studies of this work have already appeared, they generally depict the process as one of progressive, ultimately successful, discovery. What I will try to suggest is that, if we pay close attention, it turns out that no discovery was actually made, and that no basis for treating the Buddha as a historical figure has yet been identified.
The Idea of the Historical Buddha

I'll be re reading this one soon, I was underwhelmed on the first pass...
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

User avatar
Dhammarakkhito
Posts: 984
Joined: Tue Jun 27, 2017 7:31 am
Contact:

Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by Dhammarakkhito » Sun Mar 25, 2018 4:39 pm

the problem is whoever wrote this doesn't consider the early buddhist texts as genuinely historical. i was having a discussion like this with a non-buddhist friend, he's still under the impression that we are part of a tradition loosely pieced together about 200 years ago
1) vakkali sutta, if you see the dhamma you see the buddha
2) dona sutta, the buddha not a human being
without realizing important doctrinal points like that your view will be quite hazy. the arrival at the authenticity of the early buddhist texts would be good for a pinned resource: https://ocbs.org/wp-content/uploads/201 ... ticity.pdf
https://sites.google.com/site/santipada ... allytaught

another important point is that the buddha didn't actually exist, only conventionally. there was a historical figure we can point to as being the buddha, but it is like speaking of a fire that has exhausted its fuel
"Just as the ocean has a single taste — that of salt — in the same way, this Dhamma-Vinaya has a single taste: that of release."
— Ud 5.5

https://www.facebook.com/noblebuddhadha ... 34/?type=3

http://seeingthroughthenet.net/
https://sites.google.com/site/santipada ... allytaught

User avatar
Bhikkhu Pesala
Posts: 3728
Joined: Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:17 pm

Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Mar 25, 2018 8:14 pm

AIM ForumsPāli FontsIn This Very LifeBuddhist ChroniclesSoftware (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)


User avatar
aflatun
Posts: 812
Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2016 2:40 pm
Location: Bay Area, CA

Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by aflatun » Sun Mar 25, 2018 10:00 pm

Dhammarakkhito wrote:
Sun Mar 25, 2018 4:39 pm
the problem is whoever wrote this doesn't consider the early buddhist texts as genuinely historical.
Of course, but from his point of view there is no reason whatsoever to do so.
David Drewes wrote:Some, no doubt, will wish to say that it is unreasonable to ask for proof beyond the testimony of Buddhist tradition...The problem here is that it is not clear that the tradition itself envisioned the Buddha as an actual person. Early Buddhist authors make little effort to associate the Buddha with any specific human identity. Familiar narratives of the Buddha’s life may seem to tell the story of a specific person, but these are only found in late, non-canonical texts. Early texts, such as the suttas of the Pali canon, say hardly anything about the Buddha’s life, and identify him in only vague terms. Rather than a specific human teacher, he appears primarily as a generic, omniscient, supra-divine figure characterized primarily in terms of supernatural qual-ities. Indeed, although this fact is almost invariably obscured in scholarship, early texts fail to provide us with a proper name. Though we often hear that the Buddha was Siddhārtha Gautama of the Śākya clan, the name Siddhārtha (and its variants, Sarvārthasiddha, etc.) is not attested in any early source. We do not, for example, find it used as a name for the Buddha anywhere in the Pali canon. Linking the Buddha to the Śākyas certainly seems to provide realistic historical texture, but as Wilson pointed out long ago, the Śākyas are not mentioned in any early non-Buddhist source (1832a: 7–8, 1856: 247). Further, according to ancient tradition, the Śākyas were annihilated prior to the Buddha’s death, suggesting that Buddhist authors themselves may have been unaware of their existence. The entire clan could easily be entirely mythical. This leaves only Gautama, which is not so much a name as an epithet identifying the Buddha as being associated with the Gautama gotra, one of eight ancient gotras, or lineages, recognized by Brahmanical tradition that are said to have descended from eight mythical ṛṣis. Though it is often presented as the Buddha’s surname, the term has a broader application than Śākya. All the Śākyas in Buddhist texts are Gautamas, and many others besides. Central figures in other Indian traditions, including the Upaniṣadic sage Yājñavalkya; Indrabhūti, said to have been Mahāvīra’s chief disciple; and the traditional founder of the Nyāya darśana, are also identified as Gautamas.
1) vakkali sutta, if you see the dhamma you see the buddha
2) dona sutta, the buddha not a human being
This for me is enough, and is the only Buddha I'm concerned with. But not everyone sees it this way.
without realizing important doctrinal points like that your view will be quite hazy. the arrival at the authenticity of the early buddhist texts would be good for a pinned resource: https://ocbs.org/wp-content/uploads/201 ... ticity.pdf
https://sites.google.com/site/santipada ... allytaught
Good sources but based on my memory of the authenticity paper no evidence substantiating a historical person is presented that would meet the author in the OP's standards. As I recall they invoke what Drewes refers to as the "Great Man theory" below:
David Drewes wrote:To summarize the process as it played out in Western scholarship: Despite travelers’ and missionary reports that had been coming in for centuries, in the early nineteenth century very little was known, and leading scholars regarded the Buddha’s historicity as an open question. Sustained academic engagement with the question of Buddhism’s origin began in the late 1820s with Hodgson’s announcement that Nepalese Sanskrit texts trace the origin of Buddhism to a lineage of seven Buddhas and claim to preserve the teachings of the final Buddha, Śākyamuni. Over the next several decades, scholars struggled to make historical sense of these basic facts. They spent the first two decades ruminating over the problem of the previous Buddhas, never so much solving it as giving it up in frustration. Following the publication of Burnouf’s Introduction, they shifted their focus to the final Buddha and spent roughly four more decades proposing one answer or the other on the question of whether or not he was historical. Though the historical faction won out, the scholars involved never cited any relevant facts, or made any significant argument in support of their views. Burnouf cited no more than pious Nepali belief. Hardy cited nothing, and eventually abandoned the idea. Max Müller treated Wilson’s doubts as legitimate until he later rejected them without any explicit justification. Koeppen, early Oldenberg, and Lamotte relied on versions of the Great Man theory, according to which it is inconceivable that Buddhism could have arisen without a powerful founder. Rhys Davids, later Oldenberg, and Bareau relied on ad populem arguments, which are inherently fallacious. Though it is often thought that evidence for the Buddha’s historicity was found in Hodgson and Burnouf’s Sanskrit or Rhys Davids and Oldenberg’s Pali texts, this is not the case. None of these scholars made arguments from evidence. Although Thomas, Lamotte, and Bareau were all strong advocates of the idea of the historical Buddha, they each concluded that no evidence could be identified. In the decades since Lamotte and Bareau, scholars of early Buddhism have continued to presume the Buddha’s historicity, without adding anything to the old attempts to establish it.
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

User avatar
Dhammarakkhito
Posts: 984
Joined: Tue Jun 27, 2017 7:31 am
Contact:

Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by Dhammarakkhito » Mon Mar 26, 2018 4:05 am

scholars know 'he' existed by looking at artifacts, right; relics? maybe someone can come and explain
"Just as the ocean has a single taste — that of salt — in the same way, this Dhamma-Vinaya has a single taste: that of release."
— Ud 5.5

https://www.facebook.com/noblebuddhadha ... 34/?type=3

http://seeingthroughthenet.net/
https://sites.google.com/site/santipada ... allytaught

User avatar
Dhammarakkhito
Posts: 984
Joined: Tue Jun 27, 2017 7:31 am
Contact:

Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by Dhammarakkhito » Mon Mar 26, 2018 4:09 am

the problem is no one else is capable of displaying and expounding the dhamma so effectively as the buddha. some of his disciples are quite remarkable, but they didn't discover it for themselves; they were guided.
i have found dealing with skeptics to be frustrating, because i have the faculty of faith, so i take a lot of the dhamma in without getting bogged down in the particulars.
"Just as the ocean has a single taste — that of salt — in the same way, this Dhamma-Vinaya has a single taste: that of release."
— Ud 5.5

https://www.facebook.com/noblebuddhadha ... 34/?type=3

http://seeingthroughthenet.net/
https://sites.google.com/site/santipada ... allytaught

User avatar
Dhammarakkhito
Posts: 984
Joined: Tue Jun 27, 2017 7:31 am
Contact:

Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by Dhammarakkhito » Mon Mar 26, 2018 4:38 am

"Just as the ocean has a single taste — that of salt — in the same way, this Dhamma-Vinaya has a single taste: that of release."
— Ud 5.5

https://www.facebook.com/noblebuddhadha ... 34/?type=3

http://seeingthroughthenet.net/
https://sites.google.com/site/santipada ... allytaught

User avatar
DooDoot
Posts: 1878
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by DooDoot » Mon Mar 26, 2018 10:31 am

Dhammarakkhito wrote:
Sun Mar 25, 2018 4:39 pm
1) vakkali sutta, if you see the dhamma you see the buddha
2) dona sutta, the buddha not a human being
without realizing important doctrinal points like that your view will be quite hazy.
:goodpost: :anjali:

User avatar
cappuccino
Posts: 1240
Joined: Thu Feb 11, 2016 1:45 am

Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by cappuccino » Mon Mar 26, 2018 4:19 pm


Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 10 guests