Oldest Buddhist Shrine Uncovered In Nepal

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Oldest Buddhist Shrine Uncovered In Nepal

Postby dzogchungpa » Mon Nov 25, 2013 10:39 pm

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Re: Oldest Buddhist Shrine Uncovered In Nepal

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Nov 25, 2013 11:22 pm

Excellent, it appears to confirm the historical dates we have for the birth of Buddha; around 563 BCE.
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Oldest Buddhist Shrine Unearthed

Postby Wayfarer » Tue Nov 26, 2013 12:31 am

scientists for the first time have uncovered archaeological evidence of when the Buddha's monumentally influential life occurred. Excavations in Nepal date a Buddhist shrine, located at what is said to be the Buddha's birthplace, to the sixth century B.C.

The research, published in the journal Antiquity, describes the remains of a timber structure about the same size and shape as a temple built at the same site in the third century B.C.


More details at

http://edition.cnn.com/2013/11/25/world ... ?hpt=hp_t3
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Buddha may have lived earlier than thought

Postby steveb1 » Tue Nov 26, 2013 12:47 am

[urlhttp://www.newser.com/story/178163/buddha-may-have-lived-200-years-earlier-than-believed.html[/url]

Ran across the article, "pinning it up" as an item of interest.
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Re: Oldest Buddhist Shrine Uncovered In Nepal

Postby reddust » Tue Nov 26, 2013 12:51 am

David N. Snyder wrote:Excellent, it appears to confirm the historical dates we have for the birth of Buddha; around 563 BCE.


That is amazing, I love this kind of news. Archeologist are finding older and older settlements pushing our history of civilization further back in time. I like to see science step back and go, "oh we have to change what we thought we knew about human development and culture!"

I think humans as we know have been around far longer than science thinks right now, the settlements in Turkey called Göbekli Tepe come to mind.
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Re: Oldest Buddhist Shrine Uncovered In Nepal

Postby dzogchungpa » Tue Nov 26, 2013 1:03 am

To be fair, I quote from the article:
Outside scholars applauded the discovery but cautioned against too hastily accepting the site as the oldest discovered Buddhist shrine without more analysis.

So let's not get TOO excited. Still, it's very interesting.
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Re: Buddha may have lived earlier than thought

Postby daverupa » Tue Nov 26, 2013 1:13 am

National Geographic wrote:Outside scholars applauded the discovery but cautioned against too hastily accepting the site as the oldest discovered Buddhist shrine without more analysis.

"Archaeologists love claiming that they have found the earliest or the oldest of something," says archaeologist Ruth Young of the United Kingdom's University of Leicester in an email message.
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Re: Buddha may have lived earlier than thought

Postby plwk » Tue Nov 26, 2013 2:10 am

(topics have been merged)
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Re: Oldest Buddhist Shrine Unearthed

Postby plwk » Tue Nov 26, 2013 2:11 am

(topics have been merged)
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Re: Oldest Buddhist Shrine Uncovered In Nepal

Postby plwk » Tue Nov 26, 2013 2:12 am

(topics have been merged)
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Re: Oldest Buddhist Shrine Uncovered In Nepal

Postby Will » Tue Nov 26, 2013 4:48 pm

One should refrain from biased judgments and doubting in fathoming the Buddha and the Dharma of the Buddhas. Even though a dharma may be extremely difficult to believe, one should nonetheless maintain faith in it. Nagarjuna
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Re: Oldest Buddhist Shrine Uncovered In Nepal

Postby sukhamanveti » Wed Nov 27, 2013 1:40 am

This news is utterly amazing to me. It wasn't that long ago that a host of respected scholars, including Charles Prebish, L.S. Cousins, Richard Gombrich, the late Heinz Bechert, the late André Bareau, and many others, insisted that the Buddha lived entirely or mostly in the 5th century B.C.E. and that earlier scholarship and certain well-known traditions were mistaken. Now it looks as though one of the older chronologies may have been vindicated.
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Re: Oldest Buddhist Shrine Uncovered In Nepal

Postby Malcolm » Wed Nov 27, 2013 2:06 am

sukhamanveti wrote:Now it looks as though one of the older chronologies may have been vindicated.


Not so fast. It is well established that the Buddha was born to his mother on a trip to a remote location. It is well known that ancient Indians maintained sacred groves [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_groves_of_India] from time immemorial.

Without datable evidence of specifically Buddhist artifacts, it is too soon to use this as supporting the more traditional dates.
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Re: Oldest Buddhist Shrine Uncovered In Nepal

Postby sukhamanveti » Wed Nov 27, 2013 2:33 am

Malcolm wrote:
sukhamanveti wrote:Now it looks as though one of the older chronologies may have been vindicated.


Not so fast. It is well established that the Buddha was born to his mother on a trip to a remote location. It is well known that ancient Indians maintained sacred groves [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_groves_of_India] from time immemorial.

Without datable evidence of specifically Buddhist artifacts, it is too soon to use this as supporting the more traditional dates.


Excellent points, of course. Julia Shaw expresses similar caution in the Nat Geo article. I only say "may have been." Still the possibility is exciting to me. I look forward to future research into the shrine and more information as to the reasons behind Robin Coningham's confidence in his conclusions.
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Re: Oldest Buddhist Shrine Uncovered In Nepal

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Nov 27, 2013 4:02 am

This is pretty big news; hope it pans out the way it is looking so far. I believe previous to this the only hard-core archeological evidence of the life of Buddha were the Edicts of Ashoka, the Tripitaka and the matching of the archeological finds at Buddhist sites with the Tripitaka account. This would add a much older account and evidence.
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Re: Oldest Buddhist Shrine Uncovered In Nepal

Postby anjali » Wed Nov 27, 2013 4:16 am

Although not evidence per se, there is one bit of info from the National Geographic article that seems to support the hypothesis: "The tree roots appear to have been fertilized, and although bodhigara are found in older Indian traditions, the shrine lacked the signs of sacrifices or offerings found at such sites."

To undermine this circumstantial support it is only necessary to show that there is at least one bodhigara from another older Indian tradition not having signs of sacrifices or offerings present.
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Re: Oldest Buddhist Shrine Uncovered In Nepal

Postby yegyal » Wed Nov 27, 2013 4:59 pm

Scholars are coming out of the woodwork to denounce this as baseless hype. Basically all they have found is that there was a wooden structure beneath the Ashokan temple that predates it, but there isn't the slightest shred of evidence that this previous structure had anything to do with Buddhism.
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Re: Oldest Buddhist Shrine Uncovered In Nepal

Postby Jayarava » Fri Nov 29, 2013 11:01 am

I've posted a detailed review of the original article from the journal Antiquity on my blog.

As at least a few others have noted the discovery is significant and fascinating but there is nothing to link the pre-Asokan layers with Buddhism. Indeed when you look closely there are other reasons to question the interpretation of the evidence. Tree shrines are ubiquitous in India from neolithic times to the present. They are far from limited to Buddhists.

The main evidence comes from a 50x50cm hole which is really rather small. The so-called tree shrine is off centre under the Asokan structure - its well defined edge (both at the paving level and the post hole level) goes right through the middle of the Mayadevi Temple. A lot of the interpretation seems to depend on the idea that the centre of the tree shrine coincides with the Asokan structure. For example lack of roof tile shards in the dig are said to reflect an open centre. But the centres of the two structures do not coincide and this interpretation is thus wrong. Asokan monuments often expanded concentrically outward from existing monuments, but not here.

The question of why Asoka's architects would obliterate an existing tree shrine is not addressed. Compare the situation at Bodhgaya where the temple was build bedside the tree, not partially on top of it.

The post holes reflect unevenly spaced, oddly shaped, and irregular diametered posts. The idea that they represent a "fence" or "railing" is based on the presence of stone railings at Sanchi and Bodhgaya. But such stone railings as survive are evenly spaced, symmetrical, and regular. Thus from what we can see the post holes represent something almost completely unlike later railings. It looks more like a rough stockade than a carefully constructed shrine boundary.

The lack of alignment and the clearly rough and wonky nature of the fence that fits the post holes point to a discontinuity between that layer and the Asokan structure. Clearly humans had lived on the alluvial flood plain at Lumbini for some centuries before our best guesses for the lifetime of the Buddha. According to Buddhist historical narratives these were the Śākyas. Possibly originally from Iran, the Śākyas were by definition not Buddhist.

These things seem pretty obvious and it is surprising that the authors of the article have ignored them. They have opted for a sensationalist approach - carefully hedged in the article, but uncritically in the media reports. No doubt many Buddhists will uncritically adopt the media reports as "proof" of their beliefs, but sadly they are being mislead.

We still do not know for sure when the Buddha lived and, despite the headlines, we have no reason whatever to review our current best guesses about the dates - different dates are accepted by different communities, but scholars now largely accept that the Buddha, if he lived at all, died ca. 400 BCE. This consensus has not changed the acceptance of other dates in various Buddhist traditions.
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Re: Oldest Buddhist Shrine Uncovered In Nepal

Postby Jayarava » Fri Nov 29, 2013 11:04 am

sukhamanveti wrote:Now it looks as though one of the older chronologies may have been vindicated.


I've responded to the headlines below and also in depth on my blog. But no there is nothing in the report that reflects on any of the chronologies for the Buddha despite how it is being reported. Indeed the evidence in the original article is pretty thin and has been interpreted with a clear bias and really we can say has been misrepresented as bearing on the dates of the Buddha.
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Re: Oldest Buddhist Shrine Uncovered In Nepal

Postby Jayarava » Fri Nov 29, 2013 11:16 am

Malcolm wrote: It is well established that the Buddha was born to his mother on a trip to a remote location. It is well known that ancient Indians maintained sacred groves [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_groves_of_India] from time immemorial.


Ah no. This is not a "well established fact". It is a mythic narrative from late sources that probably has no basis in fact. Or perhaps we should say that there are not "facts" associated with this traditional story. Indeed if one compares the narrative of which this is an aspect, with the other biographical narrative (usually thought to be older) found in fragments in texts such as the Ariyapariyesana Sutta, we find they disagree at almost point.

There are no "well established facts" about the Buddha. The first facts about Buddhism date from the time of Asoka and these are scant and difficult to interpret.

However you are right that Indians of all kinds have maintained tree shrines from neolithic times right up to the present. My critique of the interpretation of the evidence found at the dig is further down in this thread.

Malcolm wrote: Without datable evidence of specifically Buddhist artifacts, it is too soon to use this as supporting the more traditional dates.


Indeed. This is quite true. In my review of the article I argue that the evidence they found can more plausibly be interpreted as a discontinuity. All we have to date is some charcoal fragments at the bottom of a hole. They have no cultural information. It is far more likely that the structure, if it was a structure, was built by pre-Buddhists.
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