How about an Early Buddhism timeline?

I often wonder if the manuscripts in Sri Lankan archives has been properly studied and dated!?

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I created an preliminary bibliography here: Bibliographies for Buddhist Studies. I think a good starting point.

I read a good part into that topic and the most influential paper in support of the 400 B.C. date seems to be the paper by Haertel on the archaeology of the ancient Buddhist sites, in Bechert (ed.) 1988: Symposien zur Buddhismusforschung IV/1 – The Dating of the Historical Buddha. Most scholars who believed beforehand that the 480 B.C. date is the more likely alternative adapted their appraisal accordingly.

A paper of a lesser known symposium held after Bechert’s was supporting the 480 B.C. date. The paper of Krishna Deva The Antiquity of Sites Related to the Buddha in Narain (ed.) 2003: The Date of the Historical Sakyamuni Buddha, which contains the contributions to the symposium, fundamentally and heavily questions the results of Haertel, for me convincingly showing that almost all the key sites mentioned in the EBTs existed around 480 B.C. and far earlier, this being in contradistinction to Haetels presentation. Krishna Deva was closely involved in excavations himself. To me that moves the barrier quite strongly down to 480 B.C.



You don’t have a copy of this, do you? I can’t find it online.

However, a good summary of relevant points is made in
Hans Loeschner’s Kanishka in Context with the Historical Buddha and Kushan Chronology:

Perhaps, but it is the argument by Gombrich based on a revised understanding of the Dipavamsa lineages that is most often referred to as far as I know.


Please see PM.

Thanks for the reference.

As far as I remember he questioned in his argument mainly the plausibility of five teachers spanning a time of over two hundred year, as many others did too on the same lines. I think he doubted any reference above 80 years or so lifespan as unlikely. I found that he perhaps reasoned from a perspective too heavily influenced by a conventional Western lifestyle. I mean at the historical times concerned the way of life was common among monks which modern science finds as conducing very well to longevity – eating little, proficiency in meditation, good exercise and probably more. I can imagine the given times therefore being close to truth. But who knows …


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I agree that we should be cautious about making assumptions as to lifespan, we can all think of examples of bhikkhus living long and productive lives into their 90s.

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Mahayana concepts like transference of merit and emptiness can be found in the Pali suttas, at least in seed form. Buddhist devotionalism can be found in the Pali suttas as well, and is widely practiced in Theravada countries today.

The historical event which really paved the way for Mahayana Buddhism was the Second Buddhist Council and its resulting schism:

The Second Council is commonly said to have resulted in the first schism in the Sangha, probably caused by a group of rigorist reformists called Sthaviras who split from the more liberal, but orthodox, majority Mahāsāṃghikas.[3] After unsuccessfully trying to modify the Vinaya, a small group of “elderly members”, i.e. sthaviras, broke away from the majority Mahāsāṃghika during the Second Buddhist council, giving rise to the Sthavira sect.[4] Regarding this matter, L. S. Cousins writes, “The Mahāsāṃghikas were essentially a conservative party resisting a reformist attempt to tighten discipline. The likelihood is that they were initially a larger body, representing the mass of the community, the mahāsaṃga.”[5]
Second Buddhist council - Wikipedia

The Mahāsāṃghika were the precursor to the Mahayana, just as the Sthaviras were the precursor to Theravada.

When one looks at the doctrinal similarities between the Mahāsāṃghika and the Mahayana, the Mahayana doesn’t seem so innovative after all:

Also, some Mahayana sutras were first written down around 100 BCE, the same time that the Pali scriptures were first written down.

The Pratyutpanna Samādhi Sūtra, the first sutra to mention Amida Buddha, was first written down around 100 BCE. The oldest parts of the Lotus Sutra were also first written down around 100 BCE.