Historical Evidence for the Buddha

I really understand what you mean, what I want to say here is, ( this is just my guessing ), that because of the competition among these religious leaders so that one tends to reject the other. Both Buddha and Mahavira each claim to have attained enlightenment, but in the list of 28 Buddhas ( Khuddaka Nikaya, Buddhavamsa ), Mahavira was not included, nor is in the list of 24 Jain’s Tirthankaras, Gautama Buddha was also not included. What if…, early Jain literary writers were deliberately for some reason of rejection, ignores some of the historical facts ?..

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@Gabrial i have found wikipedia to be a very and unfortunately malleable source. I am surprised but not surprised that an article on secular buddhist did not say more of S. N. Goenka - Wikipedia or D.T. Suzuki.

of course, data seems endless, which is why, i think, as sentient beings we develip filters, almost to presort the deluge of data life offers. :slight_smile: Perhaps they are views, so should not be held too tightly.

Not randon, no, nor insignificant. If my concern for you was unwarrented, or expressed poorly so as to give offense, i apologize.


Most of the sources I am seeing have Jain scriptures entering literature from orality at approx 400 BC.

If we lean late in our dating of the Buddha, he had just started teaching possibly, no?

That would make the lack of references make sense.


I get it and agree. Different people may do different things: While Jains preferred to not mention the encounters the Buddhists were as explicit and open as possible about those interactions, maybe giving it an ending biased towards Buddha being able to convert or defeat Jain counterparts.
I think that what @Gabriel highlighted above may indicate that early Jain texts possibly referred to Buddhism in a very different way to how ealry Buddhist texts referred to Jainism.

No offense taken, no worries… The topic of secular Buddhism is, if one delves into the depth of it, of course immensely complex. Batchelor has a very different motivation than Kabat-Zinn or Goenkaji. The latter two had to make the message palatable to their audiences, Kabat-Zinn to a general western public, doctors, insurances etc, and Goenka to Indians who are still kinda allergic to the godless and brainy Gotama.

It’s a shame that I don’t remember where I read it, but Max Müller had some letter exchanges with Vivekananda who (to Ramakrishna’s dismay) loved Buddhism and asked him to tell him about the Buddha’s teaching. Vivekananda was strongly cautioned by others that Müller didn’t want to hear any supernatural clown-stories, so he presented a ‘cleaned-up’ version of Buddhism. And so one of the major authorities on Asian religions in the West became (and had the inclination all along) the voice of a philosophical version of Buddhism to his followers.


My understanding is that early Jainism is mostly recovered from the EBTs; whatever survives within the Jain tradition is from a later time period than the EBTs. I can’t recall where I read this though so it may be incorrect.

FWIW Bronkhorst believes the Buddha was particularly influenced by Jainism.

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These occurred not across a cross section in time, but rather over a 45 years period, so there must have been some overlap. Incidentally don’t jains believe their religion had many previous Mahavira type leaders? This only means that the Jain religion doesn’t start from when their scriptures were better organised- I think the Buddha said the Jains were somewhat in disarray after Mahavira’s demise, as their Dhamma wasn’t well organised. In any case even a memory of the Buddha’s teachings are found in the teachings of other religions is quite something.

I thought there was a Brahmanical source which refers to the Buddha and through his influence the Vedas were read a lot less and animal sacrifices or sacred fires became less, or something to that effect.

with metta

It would be great if we had certainty on this but alas we don’t. Meaning, no Buddhist or Jain sutta has a time stamp on it so we have to gather circumstantial evidence. So we have to rely on specialists.

The ones I read don’t see Jainism recovered from the EBTs at all. Rather they place the earliest Jain suttas pretty much at the same time period as the EBT, maybe a bit later. The numbers I see most are 4th-3th century BCE. Unfortunately there is considerably less scholarly attention to EJT than to EBT - even though the texts are a treasure trove to understand the EBT better, to see what was part of the ascetic discourse and what was original EBT.

Even though I find Bronkhorst usually too opinionated I would agree on that. If you just remember the ascetic practices the Buddha allegedly went through, they would pretty much fit into a Jain framework.

There is little doubt that the older Mahavira and his former student Makkhali Gosāla left quite a mark on the ascetic scene of Kosala and Magadha, so naturally the ascetic discourse in general (along with practices, concepts, expectations, comparisons) would have influenced the Buddha’s framing of his teaching against this ‘other’.


Yes, definitely complex. I suppose the histories of most religions or general philosophical systems or even histories of cultures are! And it seems imo that when complexity becomes too stressful or uncomfortable, simplification arises as first indication of a filter (or view) applied to data or experience.

I don’t see that as a problem, if a data or attention management technique. It is when the filter or view gets mistaken for or presented as The Truth that one bites one’s self in the butt, metaphorically. It is hard, maybe, not to cling to what seems to be necessary for cognitive non dissonance. One can forget time is not always the enemy; it is the medium in which we can work, and using different filters may just be part of the work.

Ah, but perhaps this tangent is merely one of personal interest. :slight_smile: What does it have to do with the historical Buddha? … as far as i can see at this time, the historical Buddha during his 45 or so years teaching, was that brilliant, that compassionate, truly Enlightened and Perfected.


Of some interest maybe:


The link doesn’t work for me, says I need to login, but very interested!

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Thanks for the article! Maybe you could still quote the passage you refer to? I don’t know how much the article represents current scholarship on Jainism, but if it does it would show several problems with opinion over evidence…

Schubring has often been quoted as a reference, I might look into him more

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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 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.