Thursday, 28 November 2013

Buddha's Birth Earlier than Previously Thought

When was the Buddha born? Until recently opinion dated his death to between 486 and 483 BCE or, according to some, between 411 and 400 BCE, at a symposium on this question held in 1988, the majority of those who presented definite opinions gave dates within 20 years either side of 400 BCE for the Buddha's death.

However, the discovery of a 2,600-year-old simple wooden shrine surrounding the ancient tree in Nepal to which the Buddha's mother clung as she gave birth looks set to revolutionise the understanding of the origins of one of the world's major religions.

Archaeologists digging beneath the sacred Maya Devi Temple at Lumbini have uncovered the first physical evidence to enable them to accurately date the nativity of Prince Siddhartha Gautama whose teachings are now followed by half a billion believers.

The extraordinary find suggests that the very earliest devotees -some 600 years before Christ - were vegetarian and eschewed material wealth in favour of spirituality as laid down by the prince who abandoned his high rank to seek out the path to Enlightenment.

A vast brick temple, which also predates the earliest known Buddhist structures, found at the same place suggests that the emerging religion enjoyed a wealthy benefactor before its adoption by the Emperor Asoka whose empire spread across most of the Indian sub-continent.

Professor Robin Coningham of Durham University, who co-led the international investigation with Kosh Prasad Acharya of the Pashupati Area Development Trust in Nepal, said: "This find completely resets what we are dealing with in terms of early Buddhist practice."

The failure to discover any physical evidence prior to a sandstone pillar laid by Asoka in 249BC marking the birth spot during- his visit, has long sown doubt over the chronology.

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