The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
Sobhana
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Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by Sobhana » Tue Jun 05, 2018 10:53 am

If there was no "historically existing figure known as Siddhārtha Gautama" wouldn't that mean, there also was no person who actually became the Buddha. Therefore there are no teachings of an enlightened being, but just something coherent that worldings created.

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Sam Vara
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Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Jun 05, 2018 11:20 am

Sobhana wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 10:53 am
If there was no "historically existing figure known as Siddhārtha Gautama" wouldn't that mean, there also was no person who actually became the Buddha. Therefore there are no teachings of an enlightened being, but just something coherent that worldings created.
His exact name aside, I think you make a very sound point. The same applies to Christianity, where unless one believes in the historicity of the incarnated Jesus, one might as well trust in the best-expressed wishful thinking of earlier generations. Had some human not achieved liberation from samsara, then the whole path is not tried and tested by any human. Lack of faith in that human undercuts rational faith in the Dhamma, and in the Sangha. There would merely be unenlightened beings expressing their ideas of what enlightenment was.

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cappuccino
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Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by cappuccino » Tue Jun 05, 2018 11:22 am

doubt is how to lose an opportunity, especially this opportunity

therefore only someone stupid will doubt, this especially

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cappuccino
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Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by cappuccino » Tue Jun 05, 2018 11:27 am

of course proof is waiting for one with faith

not for one without faith

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Grigoris
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Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by Grigoris » Tue Jun 05, 2018 1:20 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 8:43 am
I guess it's useful to have a focus for refuge...
Maybe. But I prefer taking refuge in the ideal rather than a sack full of impurities... ;)
But, as I'm sure I've said before, it seems supremely ironic to claim that science and other forms of western thought are materialistic, and then get upset when those thought worlds don't match the Buddhist thought world (I was going to say "religion" but it's a bit of a loaded term...).
Indeed!
ye dhammā hetuppabhavā tesaṁ hetuṁ tathāgato āha,
tesaṃca yo nirodho - evaṁvādī mahāsamaṇo.

Of those phenomena which arise from causes:
Those causes have been taught by the Tathāgata,
And their cessation too - thus proclaims the Great Ascetic.

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mikenz66
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Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Jun 05, 2018 7:30 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 11:20 am
His exact name aside, I think you make a very sound point. The same applies to Christianity, where unless one believes in the historicity of the incarnated Jesus, one might as well trust in the best-expressed wishful thinking of earlier generations. Had some human not achieved liberation from samsara, then the whole path is not tried and tested by any human. Lack of faith in that human undercuts rational faith in the Dhamma, and in the Sangha. There would merely be unenlightened beings expressing their ideas of what enlightenment was.
Sure, but why should the faithful be worried about the "historicity" definitions of the academy that they consider to have the wrong world-view in the first place?

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Mike

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Sam Vara
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Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Jun 05, 2018 8:09 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 7:30 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 11:20 am
His exact name aside, I think you make a very sound point. The same applies to Christianity, where unless one believes in the historicity of the incarnated Jesus, one might as well trust in the best-expressed wishful thinking of earlier generations. Had some human not achieved liberation from samsara, then the whole path is not tried and tested by any human. Lack of faith in that human undercuts rational faith in the Dhamma, and in the Sangha. There would merely be unenlightened beings expressing their ideas of what enlightenment was.
Sure, but why should the faithful be worried about the "historicity" definitions of the academy that they consider to have the wrong world-view in the first place?

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Mike
I'm not sure that the faithful would consider that the academy is wrong in every respect. Academicians might be interested purely in the Buddha as an historical personage, but the faithful would certainly need some kind of historical Buddha in order to underpin their faith. All Buddhists are historians, even though they tend in the main to be amateur and unsystematic historians. They may not be too interested in the exact date and historical context of the Buddha's enlightenment, but if they don't see it as an actual event in real history then they put themselves in a distinctly odd position.

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mikenz66
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Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Jun 05, 2018 8:41 pm

Hi Sam, I am not disagreeing that the faithful of any religion are likely (I don't think it is universal) to believe that certain things "actually happened" (resurrection, awakening under the bodhi tree, etc). What I am questioning is why there is a need to appeal to historical analytical or scientific methods to validate these beliefs. The teachings of Buddha (or Christ) do not appear to be compatible with (current) scientific and historical models (aka theories), so why is there this yearning to be accepted by the users of those models? To put it in a provocative way, it seems to betray an underlying insecurity

[Perhaps your good wife has some interesting perspectives on this...]

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Mike

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Sam Vara
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Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Jun 05, 2018 9:59 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 8:41 pm
Hi Sam, I am not disagreeing that the faithful of any religion are likely (I don't think it is universal) to believe that certain things "actually happened" (resurrection, awakening under the bodhi tree, etc). What I am questioning is why there is a need to appeal to historical analytical or scientific methods to validate these beliefs. The teachings of Buddha (or Christ) do not appear to be compatible with (current) scientific and historical models (aka theories), so why is there this yearning to be accepted by the users of those models? To put it in a provocative way, it seems to betray an underlying insecurity

[Perhaps your good wife has some interesting perspectives on this...]

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Mike
I don't think that there is such a big difference between believing that certain things happened, and having some sort of historical evidence for them. The reason for this is that (unlike science!) history as a discipline is very weak at actually proving anything at all. The very best historical "evidence" that the Buddha existed is not much better than that held by a faithful practising Buddhist: we believe that there was such a person because the coherence of a set of alleged teachings, and the coherence of contemporary and near-contemporary responses, suggest that this person was one individual of real flesh and blood. I don't think that any historical theory about the Buddha could be much more compelling, to be honest. (The same applies, of course, to the likes of Jesus, Plato, Lao Tzu, etc.)

The "underlying insecurity" is, I think, built into faith from the outset. We find that a set of ideas appeals to us, or meets a need; the ideas can only rise above wishful thinking if there is a guarantee of their historical (or scientific) groundedness; but the presentation of the ideas is such that this foundation is not available. The faithful person can then, depending on temperament and skills, downplay that necessity for historicity and focus on the scientific angle. This is far more common, and hence we see a lot of threads here, and articles, etc., which justify Buddhism in terms of it being in accordance with established science such as neuroplasticity, evolutionary psychology, quantum mechanics, etc.. Or sometimes people engage in a type of speculative anthropology which argues that Buddhism is validated by its similarity to other belief systems. These are just different ways of dealing with that "underlying insecurity", as far as I can see. You probably find the quest for historical knowledge a bit more odd because you are a scientist, but I think it comes from the same need for certainty as the attempts to show that Buddhism is somehow scientifically valid.

Ultimately, of course, the faith is tested through living it, rather than trying to "prove" it through grounding it in some sort of historical or philosophical or scientific knowledge that cannot be disputed. But we just happen to be insecure beings, and the need for certainty sometimes jumps ahead of the practice.

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mikenz66
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Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by mikenz66 » Wed Jun 06, 2018 12:37 am

Interesting points, Sam,
Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 9:59 pm
...
The "underlying insecurity" is, I think, built into faith from the outset. We find that a set of ideas appeals to us, or meets a need; the ideas can only rise above wishful thinking if there is a guarantee of their historical (or scientific) groundedness; but the presentation of the ideas is such that this foundation is not available. The faithful person can then, depending on temperament and skills, downplay that necessity for historicity and focus on the scientific angle. This is far more common, and hence we see a lot of threads here, and articles, etc., which justify Buddhism in terms of it being in accordance with established science such as neuroplasticity, evolutionary psychology, quantum mechanics, etc.. Or sometimes people engage in a type of speculative anthropology which argues that Buddhism is validated by its similarity to other belief systems. These are just different ways of dealing with that "underlying insecurity", as far as I can see. You probably find the quest for historical knowledge a bit more odd because you are a scientist, but I think it comes from the same need for certainty as the attempts to show that Buddhism is somehow scientifically valid.
Actually, I was lumping History into the same materialistic basket as science... :tongue:

And there are two levels of this: 1. Consistency with current knowledge/accepted facts; 2. Possible consistency in the future. I think it's silly to get upset with 1, since scientific and historical knowledge is likely to evolve - especially science, since that's what it is designed to do...

I don't want to veer off-topic too much, but the problem with the "science validations" is that they tend to be focussed on what can be measured, which tends to be rather superficial, such as meditation practices making people more relaxed, happier, and healthier, and lighting up activity in certain areas of the brain.
Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 9:59 pm
Ultimately, of course, the faith is tested through living it, rather than trying to "prove" it through grounding it in some sort of historical or philosophical or scientific knowledge that cannot be disputed. But we just happen to be insecure beings, and the need for certainty sometimes jumps ahead of the practice.
A useful observation!

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Mike

Saengnapha
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Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by Saengnapha » Wed Jun 06, 2018 5:03 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 9:59 pm
Ultimately, of course, the faith is tested through living it, rather than trying to "prove" it through grounding it in some sort of historical or philosophical or scientific knowledge that cannot be disputed. But we just happen to be insecure beings, and the need for certainty sometimes jumps ahead of the practice.
The need for certainty is always searching the past for clues to its own existence and validation. This is why citations are given as 'proof' of certainty but it can never be like this. The need for certainty must come under the light of attention as it is a conditioned response that is very deeply ingrained in all of us. It can only be let go of if you see it as it really is. Empty.

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Sam Vara
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Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by Sam Vara » Wed Jun 06, 2018 6:18 am

Saengnapha wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 5:03 am
Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 9:59 pm
Ultimately, of course, the faith is tested through living it, rather than trying to "prove" it through grounding it in some sort of historical or philosophical or scientific knowledge that cannot be disputed. But we just happen to be insecure beings, and the need for certainty sometimes jumps ahead of the practice.
The need for certainty is always searching the past for clues to its own existence and validation. This is why citations are given as 'proof' of certainty but it can never be like this. The need for certainty must come under the light of attention as it is a conditioned response that is very deeply ingrained in all of us. It can only be let go of if you see it as it really is. Empty.
The search for certainty can be elsewhere, I think - not just in the past. But otherwise, I entirely agree. A good point well made, Saengnapha.

Saengnapha
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Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by Saengnapha » Wed Jun 06, 2018 7:59 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 6:18 am
Saengnapha wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 5:03 am
Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 9:59 pm
Ultimately, of course, the faith is tested through living it, rather than trying to "prove" it through grounding it in some sort of historical or philosophical or scientific knowledge that cannot be disputed. But we just happen to be insecure beings, and the need for certainty sometimes jumps ahead of the practice.
The need for certainty is always searching the past for clues to its own existence and validation. This is why citations are given as 'proof' of certainty but it can never be like this. The need for certainty must come under the light of attention as it is a conditioned response that is very deeply ingrained in all of us. It can only be let go of if you see it as it really is. Empty.
The search for certainty can be elsewhere, I think - not just in the past. But otherwise, I entirely agree. A good point well made, Saengnapha.
Where else can it be but in the past which is what our thinking is. This is where the whole concept of Time/Space/Perfection is held. It is a myth concerning an imaginary person searching for some sanctuary.

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Sam Vara
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Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by Sam Vara » Wed Jun 06, 2018 8:09 am

Saengnapha wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 7:59 am
Sam Vara wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 6:18 am
Saengnapha wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 5:03 am


The need for certainty is always searching the past for clues to its own existence and validation. This is why citations are given as 'proof' of certainty but it can never be like this. The need for certainty must come under the light of attention as it is a conditioned response that is very deeply ingrained in all of us. It can only be let go of if you see it as it really is. Empty.
The search for certainty can be elsewhere, I think - not just in the past. But otherwise, I entirely agree. A good point well made, Saengnapha.
Where else can it be but in the past which is what our thinking is. This is where the whole concept of Time/Space/Perfection is held. It is a myth concerning an imaginary person searching for some sanctuary.
Well, given that this thread is about historicity, there is a difference between the certainty sought in the historical past, and that sought in the present ot future by means of logic or science.

Saengnapha
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Re: The Idea of the Historical Buddha

Post by Saengnapha » Wed Jun 06, 2018 8:47 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 8:09 am
Saengnapha wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 7:59 am
Sam Vara wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 6:18 am


The search for certainty can be elsewhere, I think - not just in the past. But otherwise, I entirely agree. A good point well made, Saengnapha.
Where else can it be but in the past which is what our thinking is. This is where the whole concept of Time/Space/Perfection is held. It is a myth concerning an imaginary person searching for some sanctuary.
Well, given that this thread is about historicity, there is a difference between the certainty sought in the historical past, and that sought in the present ot future by means of logic or science.
I think I understand what you are saying but would not agree that the search for certainty in the present or future is at all possible, but it does go on. The concept of certainty is introduced from the past, our inherited 'Mind', and is so completely believed that it extends its thinking into the present and future. Since certainty is a myth, the creation of time is also a myth where the search exists. All of this, is a misunderstanding and a misinterpretation. Logic is only based on the past knowledge we have of things and the future is a projection of this past knowledge. Wouldn't you agree?

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