Historical Evidence for the Buddha

Please Sir, Mister Schubring is not addressing Pārśvanātha in an explanatory way.
Scholarship of Dr. Jyoti Prasad Jain is sound.
Dr. Jyoti Prasad Jain is a well known Indian scholar.

Also please Sir, may you consider Pārśvanātha’s concept of eight karmas as covered in the "Sayings of the Seers".


Apologies for the misunderstanding, page 87 was curiously missing from the archive.org file, and the article after also mentioned Schubring as one source.

Upaya or skillful means is a teaching which might not be literally true, but which nonetheless helps someone come to a realization of the Ultimate Truth. Skillful means is also referred to as provisional truth:

In the Lotus Sutra, the historical Buddha Shakyamuni says his enlightenment is so far beyond our understanding, that he can only communicate it through similes and parables, various forms of upaya or skillful means.

It doesn’t matter whether or not Amida Buddha is a historical being, if what he symbolizes (as a upaya) is the Ultimate Truth itself. What matters is that Dharma-body, that which Amida Buddha signifies, is a true reality.

However, the source of skillful means does matter, since only an enlightened being such as the historical Buddha is qualified to know which provisional teachings will lead others to the Ultimate Truth of enlightenment.

Amida Buddha, as a symbol of the Dharmakaya, would be meaningless if there wasn’t the historical Shakyamuni in the first place, who experienced the Dharmakaya for himself, and then symbolized it as Amida Buddha.

In the Nembutsu, the name of Amida Buddha, Namu-Amida-Butsu, we are led by Dharma-body to the Pure Land, the realm of Nirvana. The heaven-like language used to describe the Pure Land is also a upaya for Nirvana itself.

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Where in the LS does he say this exactly, if you don’t mind me asking?

One of the most troubling ideas in Buddhism to me. Whule i think an Enlightened being can know what is skillful, i think it is very very easy for a non Enlightened person to make bad mistakes on this. Additionally

Additionally, training one 's mind to be comfortable with non literal or non factual ideas (which are not understood and presented as simile, metaphor, or parable) can give one future difficulty with seeing as it is. And that is potentially disasterous for individuals and communities. If i get the impression a teacher is dishonest, it reflects badly into what they are saying, and where they are from, to me.

Added: i see this partly as a matter of mental habits, and what one builds, and what one wants to eliminate.

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If the historical Buddha didn’t teach about Amida Buddha, then what matters, under the concept of skillful means, is that enlightened teachers who came after Shakyamuni taught about Amida instead.

It’s taught throughout the Lotus Sutra, but most prominently in the second chapter:

The Buddha addressed this concern in the parable of the burning house:

In the second chapter, the Buddha explains the importance of upaya, and he illustrates this in the third chapter with the parable of the burning house. In this parable, a man comes home to find his house in flames while his children play happily inside. The father tells the children to leave the house, but they refuse because they are having too much fun with their toys.

The father finally promises them something even better waiting outside. I have brought you pretty carts drawn by deer, goats, and bullocks he said. Just come outside, and I will give you what you want. The children run out of the house, just in time. The father, delighted, does make good on his promise and acquires the most beautiful carriages he can find for his children.

Then the Buddha asked the disciple Sariputra if the father was guilty of lying because there were no carts or carriages outside when he told his children there were. Sariputra said no because he was using an expedient means to save his children. The Buddha concluded that even if the father had given his children nothing, he was still blameless because he did what he had to do to save his children.
An Explanation of Upaya in Buddhism

A Buddha can use any device for leading others to enlightenment, even if that device isn’t literally true itself, as long as that device doesn’t cause any harm in the process.

When modern-day gurus use skillful means as an excuse to abuse drugs and alcohol or engage in promiscuous sex, they are violating the true spirit of skillful means.

The concept of upaya in the Lotus Sutra is little different from the Pali concept of Buddhist teaching as a provisional raft to the other shore of Nirvana.

You seem to miss my concerns, friend. It is not the out-n-out frauds; it is the best intentioned just not Enlightened yet people trying to use skillful means which inspire concern in me, for those they affect including themselves.

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As a Pure Land Buddhist, I’m most interested in Amida Buddha as a skillful device (upaya) for understanding the Dharmakaya, and the Pure Land as a skillful device for understanding the realm of Nirvana. Other forms of upaya or skillful means aren’t really an interest of mine.

According to T’an-luan, all Buddhas, including Amida, have two bodies (aspects):

  1. Dharmakaya of Dharma-nature and 2. Dharmakaya of Expediency (upaya).

The first is the ultimate, unconditioned reality beyond form, which is equally shared by all Buddhas[2], while the second is the specific and particular manifestation of each Buddha for the sake of saving sentient beings.

The relation between the two is described as follows:

"From the Dharmakaya of Dharma-nature originates the Dharmakaya of Expediency; through the Dharmakaya of Expediency, the Dharmakaya of Dharma-nature is revealed. These two Dharmakayas are different, but inseparable; they are one but not the same.”. . .

"Unconditioned Dharmakaya is the body of Dharma-nature. Because Dharma-nature is Nirvanic, Dharmakaya is formless. Because it is formless, there is no form which it cannot manifest."
Master T’an-luan on Amida Buddha and the Pure Land (the doctrine of the two Buddha bodies) | AMIDA-JI RETREAT TEMPLE ROMANIA 阿 弥 陀 寺

I see all the celestial buddhas and bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism as symbolic of the one Dharmakaya, similar to how Smarta Hindus see the various gods of Hinduism as symbolic of the one Brahman:

Because of the Buddha’s concept of skillful means, I see nothing wrong with interpreting Amida Buddha and the Pure Land symbolically.

The Dharmakaya and Nirvana are aspects of the same Ultimate Truth, and one could say that Nirvana is the ultimate experience of awakening to the Dharmakaya, or that Dharmakaya is the content of Nirvana.

Shinran, like T’an-luan and Shan-tao, understood the Pure Land as the realm of Nirvana. This is why Shinran described rebirth into the Pure Land as “the birth of non-birth,” just as the Buddha described Nirvana as “the unborn.”

As a Buddhist with out interest in PureLands however, i am disappointed that a thread on historical evidence for the Buddha keeps being used as a platform for proselytizing Pure Land / Shin.

May your practice flourish.


@Kensho I share your view that there are many devices that are useful for seeing through delusion. From my perspective the problems start when unawakened ones start to argue about who’s ‘truth’ is right, or that the things some people find useful are wrong.

In fact, from a psychological perspective, I find that many aspects of buddhist teachings cater more or less well to individual cognitive differences and learning types.

Personally I see the greatest reliability in the most ‘basic’ of the EBT’s. Going from the 4 Noble truths, everything else can be derived. That is to say - the simplest, most straight forward, unadorned, unembellished practices have the highest likelihood to be most suited to the most people. The more complex, symbolic, idiosyncratic, or ‘tailored’ the practices, the smaller the group of people who may understand the base message correctly.

LOL, I can summarize this with 2 common english sayings

  • the K.I.S.S. principle,( keep it simple ‘stupid’), and
  • Horses for courses, (ie different things work best for different people)

This is why, for example, I like Ajahn Brahms emphasis on exploring and investigating all kinds of things so that we can find what works best for each of us.

Back to the OP -
Evidence for a historical Buddha does seem consistent. Everything written about the Dhamma that didn’t come from the historical Buddha, has been to a greater or lesser degree modified or adapted (all with the ‘good’ intention of making the dhamma more accessible to more people).

The wonderful thing is that Buddhism pursues an objective search for the truth of things - which focuses on demolishing our many, many delusions. By keeping this search as the purpose of our practice, we can be thankful for the vast array of teachings. It doesn’t work though, when we cling to any of them without subjecting them to the same investigation that the Lord Buddha said we should apply to all things.

May all beings find the Dhamma

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I don’t actually see that in the chapter though, that the Buddhadharma is so subtle it is impossible to expound it directly and the use of parables is necessitated.

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D. T. Suzuki made the point that the Mahayana sutras in general aren’t dependent on literal historicity as sources of spiritual truth:

If we take it to mean the lifeless preservation of the original, we should say that Mahayanism is not the genuine teaching of the Buddha, and we may add that Mahayanists would be proud of the tact, because being a living religious force it would never condescend to be the corpse of a by-gone faith. The fossils, however faithfully preserved, are nothing but rigid inorganic substances from which life is forever departed.

Mahayanism is far from this; it is an ever-growing faith and ready in all times to cast off its old garments as soon as they are worn out. But its spirit originally inspired by the [the Buddha] is most jealously guarded against pollution and degeneration. Therefore, as far as its spirit is concerned, there is no room left to doubt its genuineness ; and those who desire to have a complete survey of Buddhism cannot ignore the significance of Mahayanism.

It is naught but an idle talk to question the historical value of an organism, which is now full of vitality and active in all its functions, and to treat it like an archeological object, dug out from the depths of the earth, or like a piece of bric-&-brac, discovered in the ruins of an ancient royal palace.

Mahayanism is not an object of historical curiosity. Its vitality and activity concern us in our daily life. It is a great spiritual organism; its moral and religious forces are still exercising an enormous power over millions of souls; and its further development is sure to be a very valuable contribution to the world-progress of the religious consciousness. What does it matter, then, whether or not Mahayanism is the genuine teaching of the Buddha?
Is Mahayana The Genuine Teaching of the Buddha? – The Endless Further

From the Mahayana perspective, the historical Buddha planted a seed which ultimately blossomed into the Mahayana. It doesn’t matter if Mahayana Buddhism isn’t the original Buddhism, if it can trace its development back to the historical Buddha.

There really isn’t any form of Buddhism today that can claim to be the original Buddhism, and that’s perfectly okay:

Whose Buddhism is Truest?
No one’s—and everyone’s, it turns out.
Long-lost scrolls shed some surprising light.
By Linda Heuman

What I said is that, according to the Buddha of the Lotus Sutra, his enlightenment is so subtle it is impossible to expound it directly and the use of parables or other forms of skillful means is necessitated. This is little different from the Buddha of the Pali canon describing his teaching as a raft to the other shore of Nirvana, rather than the ultimate truth itself.

Fair enough. The path isn’t the shore.

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Sounds somewhat interesting but also seems a different topic.

It is actually

Lotus sutra says lying is basically ok as long as it’s upaya

The upayakausalya sutra goes further and says killing is ok as upaya

EBTs would not support this


Once again, the topic of this thread is “historical evidence of the Buddha.” The latter developments of Shin Buddhism have very little, if anything, to do with this topic, as interesting as it may be. Please start another topic to discuss the Pure Land beliefs, and leave this topic for those who wish to discuss the historical evidence of the Buddha Gautama.

Thank you, most kindly!


The thread seems to have completed its useful lifespan so the mods have chosen to close the Topic. Thank you to all the participants. Hopefully @Kensho was able to glean some useful information with regard to his initial request.