Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Is the Buddha Real? Mythology over Chronology

Was there really a prince named Siddartha Guatama, protected from all knowledge of suffering until he left the palace and saw sickness and death? Did he live as an ascetic and teacher and provide a coherent, orderly set of teachings until he died in 483 B.C.?  

Not likely. Outside of the Buddhist scriptures themselves, there's no evidence such a person ever lived. 

Anyway, those scriptures are philosophical and spiritual documents, never intended to be histories.

Does it matter?  If we find out there was an historical Buddha exactly like the one in the Keanu Reeves movie, will that impact the Four Noble Truths? 

If we discover that the Buddha is a holy composite and that the dharma is the product of many wonderful teachers, will it change suffering in the world or make us more or less compassionate and aware?

So why was I so thrilled last year to meditate at Lumbini in Nepal, the Unesco-designated  site of the Buddha's birth?

I prayed in there and and other Buddha sites and found it hard to leave because they are so holy. Holy not because of what might have happened there but made holy by use. For untold centuries faithful people have gone to those places for inspiration and reminders of what is true and what is important.  

Mythologies carry more truth than chronologies.