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Buddha Probably never existed

Buddhism is undoubtedly one of the largest and influential religions in the modern World. Yet there might be good odds that the founder of the one of the most popular religions might have never existed on a first place. It would be wrong to completely deny the existence of some charismatic leader that started a movement known as Buddhism however many of the aspects of biography of Buddha- Gautama and his teaching indicate that this World religion was a product of many teachers that lived in separate time periods and had somewhat different ideas of achieving the enlightenment. Furthermore many aspects of the biography of Buddha has similar motifs in stories and legends of various groups of India and surrounding lands. It is probable that these legends simply were taken by the Buddhists to further enhance perfect image of prince Gautama that became known as Buddha.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The idea that a rich and powerful man leaves everything behind to achieve spiritual perfection is common in Sramana movement that pre- dated alleged dates of Buddha life. Founder of Jainism Rishabha was born before first human civilization appeared on Earth. He taught people 72 different sciences and left a whole civilization after himself. After he concluded all his deeds as the ruler of his people Rishabha divided his kingdom between two sons Bahubali and Bharata. Bharata recieved the northern part of his kingdom with capital of Ayodhya, while Bahubali got Southern Kingdom with Podanapur as the capital. Rishabha left his palace, went into forest and achieved enlightenment. He went on to preach non- violence, peace and school of though that became known as Jainism.

 

Sounds familiar? Well it doesn't end here. The twenty- fourth and last teacher of Jainism or tirthankara was Mahavira (599- 527 BC) or Vardhamana. He was born in Bihar, India in a royal family. At the age of 30 he left his home to look for Diksha or spiritual awakening. Mahavira achieved enlightenment or Kevala Jnana after twelfth years of mediation and ascetic life. He developed five rules for his followers: non- violence, truthfulness, non- stealing, chastity and possession.

 

With this amount of people willing to abandon their thrones and become monks it is unclear how did India find anyone to rule over its people. But nevertheless the question rises. Why would anyone create a fiction of Buddha and follow his teachings? There might be several reasons for that. First of all Buddha didn't have a personal secretary and we have no certainty of which teaching is his and which was invented by subsequent generations.

 

Unlike many of other famous religious leaders like Mohammed, Jesus Christ, Martin Luther Buddha did not enjoy interest of historians. We don't know the exact place of his birth or the exact date of his birth. The range when Buddha could have lived extends from 563 BC to 400 BC. Some archaeologists push the date of life of Buddha to the 5th century. It is explained by a fact that many of the settlements that Buddha allegedly visited during his life time did not exist before 500 BC according to radiocarbon dating that was carried out on these sites.

 

The earliest known records of Buddha existence belonged to the first century AD. In a collection of documents known as Gangharan Buddhist texts (discovered near Jalalabad, modern day Afghanistan) we find first reference to Buddha as a leader of a religious movement.

 

Hence any teaching could be attributed to Buddha. It makes ideas more valuable to community of Buddhists and it doesn't allow vanity to set in the heart of a teacher. Over a course of several centuries Buddhism gathered numerous teachings in huge volumes of sacred texts. What makes recreation of a possible existence of Buddha even more difficult is lack of consensus of Buddhist religious texts. Our main sources of Buddha biography Buddhacarita, Lalitavistara Sutra, Mahavastu and Nidanakatha portray different stories of his life. It might be difficult to even tie all these depictions to one single man. It is possible that they in fact describe several teachers that existed over course of history that became known as the Enlightened ones or Buddhas.

 

And finally creation of fiction of Buddha might have been created as an allegory of a man who gives up his or her physical possessions in favour of spiritual life. Group of people that formed Buddhism over course of centuries were most likely were from families of peasants, but a story of a prince who gives up lavish life for spiritual one appeased to the hearts of simple people. It gave hope that life in a palace is not that worthy of envy. In fact possessions were the source of all evil.

 

Mentality of Buddhism appeased not only to poor members of society, but also to the upper class. Many Indian rulers including king Ashoka the Great that ruled in the late third century BC helped spread of Buddhism. Certainly rulers didn't want to follow the example of Gautama Buddha, but this religion fit great with the ruling class. Instead of unruly class of peasants that wanted to take your possessions kings got people who followed a teaching that prohibited violence and regarded physical richness as an obstacle to true happiness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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