Date of Buddha

Most of us are taught that Buddha was born around 560 to 550 B.C. However, once we start doing some research, we find evidence that this date may be too late. Buddha may have lived much earlier. Let us see how Buddha is dated.

Let us see the Traditional Theories at arriving date of Buddha.
  1. Long chronology Based on the Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa accounts which state that 218 years difference between Buddha Death and Ashoka Conversion. Which put date of the Buddha’s death is 544/543 B.C.E.
  2. Corrected chronology According to Richard Gombrich, Aśoka’s dates are approximately established by the synchronism between his 13th major rock edict, which is dated by scholars in the 13th year after his consecration, and the five monarchs of the Hellenistic world named therein as reigning at the time. The date of the edict must be 255 B.C., give or take a year; Aśoka’s consecration is accordingly dated 268 B.C. So the Date of Buddha's Death is 483BC
  3. short chronology Many Sanskrit , Tibetan and chinese traditions say the difference between date of Asoka coronation and Date of Nirvana of Buddha to be 100 years and Chinese accounts say 116 years. So the date can be anywhere between 544BC to 440BC depending on which theory you are following.
  4. Dot-ted record. This account, taken from Chi-nese sources and referred to initially by Tao-hsüan in the Ta t’ang nei tien lu, argues that when Upāli, first collected the Vinaya after the Buddha’s death, he marked a dot in the manuscript at the end of the pavarana, and continued the process in each year thereafter. His successors, Dāsaka, Sonaka, Siggava, Moggali-putta, Tissa, Caṇḍavajji, and so forth continued the process. Samghabhadra, who presumably translated the Samantapāsādikā into Chinese, is said to have put the 975th dot on the manuscript during a visit to Canton in 489 C.E., thus establishing the Buddha’s death in 486 B.C.E.
But we are not bothered by this relative chronology based on the date of Ashoka cornation. Since we have seen that Ashoka grandfather chandragupta Maurya is itself is not based on Solid evidence the article Did Megasthanese Meet Chandrgupta. We will go to the root of the evidences to see when he can be dated.

European Account
Since the records of ancient India give only the intervals between events but do not, like later records, date the events themselves, it is necessary in order to establish dates in Indian history to call on Greek historians. Indo-Greek relations developed as a result of the Indian campaign of Alexander the Great (327 BC). About 303 BC, the Indian Emperor Candragupta came to a territorial agreement and entered into diplomatic relations with Seleukos Nikator, Alexander's former general who ruled over Babylonia. Through the reports of the Greek ambassador Megasthenes, who was ambassador to the imperial court of palimbothra , Candragupta ( Sandrokottos ) became known to Greek historians, and through them we are able to date his accession to 321 BC. But this date is now disputed due to various reasons, Further Information on Chandgragupta and Alexander Date follow article Did Megasthanese meet Chandragupta Maurya. How Let us see

Purana Account
The Puranas provide a chronology of the Magadha rulers from the time of the Mahabharata war, Somadhi (Marjari) was the ruler. He started a dynasty that included 22 kings that spread over 1006 years.They were followed by five rulers of the Pradyota dynasty that lasted over 138 years. Then for the next 360years was the 10 rulers of the Shishunag family. Kshemajit (who ruled from 1892 to 1852 B.C.) was the fourth in the Shishunag dynasty, and was a contemporary of Lord Buddha's father, Shuddhodana. It was during this period in which Buddha was born. It was during the reign of Bimbisara, the fifth Shishunaga ruler (1852-1814 B.C.), when Prince Siddhartha became the enlightened Buddha. Then it was during the reign of King Ajatashatru (1814-1787 B.C.) when Buddha left this world. Thus, he was born in 1887 B.C., renounced the world in 1858 B.C., and died in 1807 B.C. according to this analysis.

Further evidence that helps corroborate this is provided in The Age of Buddha, Milinda and King Amtiyoka and Yuga Purana, by Pandit Kota Venkatachalam. He also describes that it is from the Puranas, especially the Bhagavat Purana and the Kaliyurajavruttanta, that need to be consulted for the description of the Magadha royal dynasties to determine the date of Lord Buddha. Buddha was the 23rd in the Ikshvaku lineage, and was a contemporary of Kshemajita, Bimbisara, and Ajatashatru, as described above. Buddha was 72 years old in 1814 B.C. when the coronation of Ajatashatru took place. Thus, the date of Buddha's birth must have been near 1887 B.C., and his death in 1807 B.C. if he lived for 80 years

Professor K. Srinivasaraghavan also relates in his book, Chronology of Ancient Bharat , that the time of Buddha should be about 1259 years after the Mahabharata war, which should make it around 1880 B.C. if the war was in 3138 B.C.

Astronomical Account
A search was made from 1900 BCE to 400 BCE for the sequence of events: winter solstice, lunar eclipse, solar eclipse, followed by Vaisakha poornima, the full moon day of Buddha nirvana. It is found that there are only 14 dates possible for this sequence of events to occur:1807 BCE, 1694 BCE, 1659 BCE, 1510 BCE, 1250 BCE, 1192 BCE, 1138 BCE, 1119 BCE, 1062 BCE, 1007 BCE, 765 BCE, 690 BCE and 560 BCE. If a time limit of about three months (the time that Buddha spends in sravasti before attaining his nirvana) is imposed, then the time intervalbetween winter solstice and vaisakha poornima must be less than 90 days and that vaisakha poornima should occur before the vernal equinox, as winter solstice occurred after his arrival at sravasti. With this restriction, most of the dates do not qualify, leaving only two dates 1807 BCE and 1510 BCE as possible dates. It is interesting to note that the ‘traditionally’ accepted dates, 544 BCE, or 483 BCE, or any of the recently revised dates do not fit the picture. One additional piece of astronomical information is needed to fix the date.

The Samyutta Nikaya , Part I, sugatta Vagga, Book II, Chapter I, Devaputtasa yuttam,suttas contain ten units in all, two of them to relate to kassapa. The others are devaputtas who visit Buddha. Sengupta identifies kassapa with prajapati and hence with winter solstice. He regards the other deities as adityas The first devaputta to visit is to be taken as the lord of the month of the lunar eclipse. We take a hint from a listing of the sons of aditi in taittirya aranyaka dhata aryaman. If we assume as Sengupta did, kassapa as dhataa or prajapati, his visit would indicate the arrival of winter solstice. Aryaman would be the first ‘devaputta’ to visit as the deity of the month, i.e., the presiding deity of the nakshatra of the full moon, where the lunar eclipse occurs. In 1510 BCE the lunar eclipse occurs at uttaraphalguni, whose deity is bhaga. In 1807 BCE, the lunar eclipse occurs at purvaphalguni , with aryaman as the deity. So the year is 1807 BCE

Furthermore, astronomical calculations by astronomer Swami Sakhyananda indicates that the time of the Buddha was in the Kruttika period, between 2621-1661 B.C.

Pali and Ceylon Chronicles
Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa , give the traditional figure of 218 years between the death of the Buddha and the conversion of Asoka is best taken as conventional. It amounts to the claim that between the death of the Buddha and the conversion of Asoka, there intervened
  • A first major event occuring after 100 years, this being the standard conventional interval of prediction in the later Buddhist literature
  • A second major event, occurring after another 100 years, this event being the rise of the ruler patron, or the coronation of Asoka.
  • A third event, occurring after a further 18 years. We may note that according to his own inscriptions, it was in the 18th year of his reign that Asoka was persuaded to accept Buddhism.
The alternative interval of 256 years, is based on counting backward from a later date in Asoka's reign, namely, the year of his abdication to pursue a life of virtue. This is the information given by the chronicles , the western scholars have taken the difference in years between ashoka , buddha and Megasthanese – Chandragupta meeting to date Buddha.

The Ceylonese Pali traditions leave out the kings mentioned RockEdicts from list of Asoka’s kingdoms, whereas Rock Edict XIII includes them. In fact, as many scholars have noted, the character of Asoka from Ceylonese and other traditions is precisely (as RK Mukherjee has said) what does not appear in the principal edicts. Rock Edict XIII, the famous Kalinga edict, is identified as Asoka’s. It was, however, Samudragupta’s (Samudragupta was a great conqueror and a devout admirer of Asoka. He imitated Asoka in many ways and also took the name Asokaditya. In his later life, he became a sanyasi).

Tibet Account
The Kalachakra tantra puts the life of Sakyamuni Buddha in the 9th. Century BCE William Jones, on the basis of Tibetan records infers that Buddha lived in the 11th century B.C. A number of Tibetan documents place Buddha at 2100 BC.



China Account

Fa-hsien was in India and at Patliputra c. 410 AD. He mentions a number of kings, but makes not even a fleeting reference to the Gupta, even though according to European scholars he came during the height of their reign. Fa-Hien puts Buddha’s Nirvana at 1050 B.C.

Qin Shi Huang, who is said to have suppressed Buddhism, in the same way that he suppressed all other Chinese philosophy. His reign lasted from 246 BCE to 221 BCE. Han Wei, a noted researcher from the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, found evidence in the Historical Records, which were written in 104 BC. Silk Road archaeologist WANG Jianxin said Han's research sounded "reasonable" .

The Weilüe reports a tradition that an envoy of the Yuezhi king who gave oral teachings on Buddhist sutras to a student in 2 BCE

Greek Accounts
Seven Sages of Greece (Dated 620-550 B.C ) surprisingly give the Buddhist Teachings.

Thyagaraja Aiyer in his book "Indian Architecture" observes," Here lies Indian Sramanacharya from Bodh Gaya, a Buddhist monk taken to Greece by his Greek pupils and the tomb marks his death about 1000 B.C." If the Buddhist monk went to Greece in 1000 B.C., then the Buddha must have lived at least a few centuries earlier.

Somayajulu places Chandragupta Maurya in the 14th century B.C. This puts the Buddha three centuries earlier, i.e., in the 17th century B.C.

Long before the word 'missionary' came to be synonymous with Christianity" Buddhist monks ('dharma-bhanakas') were traipsing across Asia. Travelling the Silk and Spice Routes they spread their doctrines all the way from Khotan in central Asia to Antioch and Alexandria in the west. One such visit is documented in 20 BC in Athens. A Buddhist philosopher, Zarmarus, part of an embassy from India, made a doctrinal point by setting himself alight. His tomb became a tourist attraction and is mentioned by several historians.

It seems the original Therapeutae were sent on an Indian embassy to Pharaoh Ptolemy II in 250 BC. The word 'Therapeutae' is itself of Buddhist origin, being a Hellenization of the Pali 'Thera-putta' (literally 'son of the elder.') Philo Judaeus, a 1st century AD contemporary of Josephus, described the Therapeutae in his tract 'De Vita Contemplativa'. It appears they were a religious brotherhood without precedent in the Jewish world. Reclusive ascetics, devoted to poverty, celibacy, good deeds and compassion, they were just like Buddhist monks in fact. From the Therapeutae it is quite possible a Buddhist influence spread to both the Essenes (a similar monkish order in Palestine).

Gnosticism is Influenced by Buddhism , which was a religion of quite a different order to earlier 'pagan' cults. It was a scriptural religion, making a strong appeal to the emotions. It offered a moral code – and hope. The Gnostic idea of liberating the soul from entrapment in matter is not dissimilar to the teachings embodied in the "4 Noble Truths" of the Buddha.The Greek details presented above are also sometimes dated before Alexander, so the argument that Buddhism came to Greece only after Alexander invasion does not hold water. Greek and some parts of then India like Bactria were part of Persian empire of Darius, so the exchange of ideas is not confined to Alexander era.

Korea Account
Hwanin or Divine Regent is a figure in Korean mythology. Hwanin is an alias of Indra. Hwanin is the name on Buddhism of Indra, this name is widely used in east Asia. We have evidences that Hwanin being used in 3rd Century BC in Korea.

South East Asia Traditions

Japan, Thailand, , Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia follow the Ceylon (Sri Lanka) date.
Christian Account
Apart from similarities between buddha and Jesus Christ, Most Important account has been the Barlaam and Josaphat story, which is the Christianized version of Buddha Story.

Max Muller stated that missionaries also were sent more than thirty years prior to Ashoka's reign

Philo noted the presence of Buddhists in Alexandria, Egypt.
Conclusion
The above accounts say that Buddha can be earlier than the said dates of 560BC and Western and Indology Scholars have not even explained the contradictions in their own calculations. The fundamental sheet Anchor theory (Megasthanese -Chandragupta Meeting) is itself not established. The Indian literary accounts are being dismissed summarily. And Western scholars themselves dont provide any evidence to backup their account. Since Chandragupta Maurya date by Western and Indology scholars is disputable, Buddha Date is also susequently disputable. Regarding what is being said in Ashoka Edicts and what are the claims made on the edicts , we will see in another article. For now Buddha date is nowhere settled. Date by Indian Literary sources and Astronomical calculations is 1807 BC.
Source
  • The Date of the Buddha by E Bruce Brooks
  • Re-establishing the Date of Lord Buddha by Stephen Knapp
  • A short note on the date of Buddha nirvana using planetarium software B. N. Narahari Achar
  • Indian Architecture by Thyagaraja Aiyer
  • Cooking the Buddhist Books by Charles S. Prebish 
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7 comments:

  1. Great blog, your work is important and timely.

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  2. I would add that there is no evidence Emperor Ashoka was a Buddhist. His edicts and actions are more Jain than Buddhist.
    Pls see my research -
    http://www.pushti-marg.net/bhagwat/ashoka.htm

    ReplyDelete
  3. Edicts do not talk about any religion, It is the Indology scholars telling it is Buddhist edicts.

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  4. how they exactly date rock edicts? because any paleographic method cannot be relied to be exact truths.... they are highly approximated reconstruction.... will there be any mis dating of rockedicts

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  5. Exactly Durai
    No accurate method to date Edicts, unless it refers to someone who can be dated or script in the inscription can be dated. The dating of Ashoka rock edicts is on the basis that it refers to four kings, who are equated to four kings in Greece, who can be dated. But if this equation is false, again the dating goes for a toss.

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  6. This is an excellent article. I would like to know what are the dates for Valmiki and Panini. Are they as the western historians claim or are they actually a lot earlier also?

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  7. Therapeutae/Thera-putta account is interesting. I remember reading in Swami Vivakanada's life history this following incident: Swami vivekananda was travelling by ship and woke up on account of a dream. In the dream, the relation between christianity and the dhErapuTTa sampradaya was mentioned to him by a monk further saying by digging in some island, the evidences can be found. After waking up, he asks the captain of the ship and realizes they were travelling near the mentioned island only. It was commented that swami vivekananda was not interested in pursuing it as it is not necessary to know them since all religions teach the same good.

    ReplyDelete

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