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Master Xu Yun (虛雲): Dating the Buddha’s Existence
By Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD
Working from the known facts, it is obvious that the philosophical (and sometimes ‘religious’) school of Buddhism exists today, as a distinct body of written material, specialising in the functionality of the human mind and body, within the physical environment. In this regard, this system of knowledge can be described as an early perceptual science, with the Buddha’s utterances bearing an uncanny semblance to classical Greek logic, and in many ways, appearing to represent an inner organisation of the thought processes that is remarkably ‘modern’ in its expression. This fact is probably the main reason why the Buddha’s philosophy remains perennially interesting to the West, despite the fact it originated thousands of years ago in ancient India. Having established the existence of Buddhism as a fact, the next logical question to ask is whether the Buddha existed as a real person? Whereas volumes of work can be produced to confirm the existence of Buddhist philosophy both historically and contemporarily, there is no such evidence that can be produced that proves the Buddha existed as an individual person. The problem is that virtually everything that is known about the Buddha is drawn from the recorded texts associated with him, or the schools that developed around his teaching, apparently after his death. In this regard, although there is a habit in the modern West to depict the Buddha as a ‘legally’ existing person, but in reality, no such proof exists, and all that is known about him is drawn from scriptural material that can only be described as ‘legendary’ or ‘mythical’ in nature, but even this observation is problematic, because some legends are very old, whilst others are relatively new (with hundreds of years separating the two categories). Brief snippets of apparent biographical information are contained in the Pali Buddhist scriptures (i.e. Dhamma), and in the Vinaya Discipline, but as Edward J Thomas points-out, this biographical material is often formed through commentaries later added to the scriptures by the various Buddhist schools that preserved and transmitted this material, and do not date back to the Buddha himself. The problem is that historical evidence for the Buddhist teachings (existing as a distinct body of knowledge) stems only from the time of the third council (where Buddhists gathered to chant the scriptures, and ensure a sense of orthodoxy), which took place around 247 BCE, and is recorded within the Theravada school (the only school that took part). This would suggest that the two Buddhist councils prior to this third gathering, have no basis in verifiable fact, even if they occurred in reality. However, some question even the authenticity of the third council, citing that this event is not recorded on the stone tablets, as created during the reign of Emperor Ashoka (c. 260-239 BCE). However, the fact that Empower Ashoka recorded Buddhist teachings on a number of stone stele, confirms that it is this time-period within which Buddhist teachings are first written down (i.e. engraved in stone), and are historically observable. In any event, Emperor Ashoka appears to have been the first to have committed the Buddhist teachings to writing, some 200 years prior to the fourth (Theravada) Buddhist council, where it is recorded that the Buddhist suttas (until then passed-on by word of mouth and committed to memory), were written onto palm-leaves in the Pali language. (Another ‘fourth’ Buddhist council was held in the first century CE in Kashmir – where the Mahayana doctrine was settled, and its preferred language transition from Prakrit to Sanskrit, to make its teachings more accessible to the common people).
The scattered information that could be construed as pertaining to the Buddha’s actual life (contained within the Pali Suttas and commentaries) was developed into entire biographical texts within the Mahayana tradition. This includes Vinaya texts preserved within the Tibetan tradition, as well as the Mahavastu, the Lolita-vistara, with both these latter texts containing evidence of being based on older teachings preserved in popular dialect, and accepted as true in a number of schools. Indeed, the Mahavastu itself was considered to be a Vinaya text associated with the Lokottara lineage of the Mahasanghika school. Another Sanskrit text containing apparent biographical information about the Buddha is the Abhinishkramana-sutra, which is only extant in its Chinese language version. The Nidana-katha literature of the Pali tradition, also gives the story of the Buddha to just after his Enlightenment, and this cluster of details may be considered within the context of the Buddha’s past-lives (as recorded in the Jataka). However, even with all this evidence, Edward J Thomas states:
‘These documents do not in themselves form a basis for a historical account. It is impossible to determine from them any credible chronology, and the Buddhists themselves failed to do so. The various calculations for the date of Buddha’s death in Pali and Sanskrit works vary by centuries.’
Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) stated in his text entitled ‘Degeneration of the Sangha in the Dharma-ending Age’, the following information regarding the traditional Chinese dating for the life-time of the Buddha, a dating system that is still in operation in Mainland China today:
‘It was proposed that monks and nuns should be allowed to get married, drink alcohol and eat meat, and be free of any disciplinary requirements. As soon as I heard these words, I instantly had a strong reaction against them, and thoroughly disagreed with their content. I treated these suggestions with contempt. The idea of abandoning the celebration of the Buddha’s birthday stemmed from the observation that different Buddhist traditions celebrate this event at different times. As far as I am concerned, this tradition is a legitimate Dharma-practice in China that is based upon the teachings of Indian Dharma-teacher Kasyapa-Matanga (摩騰法師 – Mo Teng Fa Shi) who travelled to China during the 1st century CE, met with, and instructed Emperor Ming (明帝 – Ming Di) of the Latter Han (r. 58-75 CE). Matanga taught that the Buddha was born during the 51st year (of the 60 year cyclical sequence found within the traditional Chinese lunar calendar) in the year of tiger, which is represented by the Chinese astrological symbols of the heavenly stem ‘Jin’ (甲) and the earthly branch ‘Yin’ (寅). Matanga further stated that the Buddha’s birth correlates to the 8th day of the 4th lunar month.
(Translator’s Note: In the Western year 2015 CE – the traditional Chinese Buddhist Calendar stood at 3042/43 years since the birth of the Buddha – this means that according to Chinese Buddhist tradition, the Buddha was born around the year 1028/29 BCE. If it is agreed that he lived around 80 years – then the Buddha entered nirvana in the year 948/49 BCE.)
The exact date of the Buddha’s birth occurred in the 24th year of the rule of the Zhou Dynasty monarch – King Zhao (昭王) – who reigned 1052-1002 BCE. Therefore the Buddha’s birth occurred in the year 1028/29 BCE according to Matanga. The shramana (沙門 – Sha Men) – or Buddhist monk known as Tan Mo Zui (曇謨最) – is recorded in the Wei Dynasty (386-557 CE) Book of History (魏書 – Wei Shu) as stating that the Buddha was born on the 8th day of the 4th lunar month, which was during the 24th year of the reign of the Zhou Dynasty monarch – King Zhao. The Buddha entered nirvana on the 15th day of the 2nd lunar month, which occurred in the 52nd year of the rule of the Zhou Dynasty monarch – Mu Wang (穆王) – who reigned 1001-947 BCE). This means that the Buddha died around 948/49 BCE. Throughout all of the subsequent Chinese dynasties, this tradition has been preserved and upheld. From the time of the Zhou Dynasty’s King Wang until now (1952/53) – it is agreed that 2981/82 years have passed since the time of the Buddha’s birth. However, there are now people who want to alter this date to just 2502 years since the birth of the Buddha – reducing the traditional years by around 480 years. As it stands, the Buddha was born before both Confucius (孔子 – Kong Zi) and Laozi (老子), but if this alteration is accepted, then the Buddha would be born after Confucius and Laozi. This Han Dynasty tradition should not be allowed to be destroyed, because it was brought to China from India by the Venerable Kasyapa Matanga and the Venerable Dharmaratna (竺法蘭 – Zhu Fa Lan). Today, the Dharma-ending Age is upon us, but when Matanga built the White Horse Temple (白馬寺 – Bai Ma Si) thousands of year ago in China, the times were brighter and nearer to the original light of the Buddha’s teachings. Matanga brought a relic of the Buddha from the time of Ashoka’s rule in India, and the Emperor Ming ordered that a pagoda be built in China to house it. Matanga also explained clearly the Buddha’s Way (佛道 – Fu Dao), and what is allowed and not allowed within genuine Buddhist practice. Matanga’s enlightenment was such that he leaped over the duality of form and non-form, and fully penetrated the profound emptiness (虛空 – Xu Kong), and his understanding of the Dharma was vast and great. In fact both these venerable Indian monks possessed the correct Buddha-dharma method, and later, the eminent Chinese monks such as Luo Shen (羅什), Fa Xian (法顯), Xuan Zang (玄奘), and Dao Xuan (道宣), as well as many well respected monks, did not dare to alter the Buddha’s teachings or the Buddhist calendar.’
Therefore, according to this preserved Chinese understanding of the details of the Buddha’s life-time – he lived between 1028/29 BCE - 948/49 BCE. If this is the case, why is it that other parts of Asia (and the West), generally state that the Buddha’s life-dates are 563 BCE – 483 BCE? How can there be a discrepancy of some 465 years when the traditional datings for the Buddha are analysed? Master Xu Yun mentions that in the 1950’s there was a movement underway to ‘change’ the older (and accepted) Buddha dates for an era much nearer our own, a process that brought the Buddha’s assumed existence 480 years forward in time. This change was partly brought about through pressure from Western scholarship (that ignored the Chinese evidence), but focused exclusively upon the traditions of the Theravada school. Indeed, two significant world events happened in the Theravada school – the sixth Buddhist council (1954-1956) – and the 4th World Buddhist Conference of The World Fellowship of Buddhists (1956). During these events, it was decided that all the different lineages of the Theravada school should ‘standardise’ the dates for the Buddha’s life-time, and abandon all those dates that differed. Of course, the Mahayana school of Mainland Chinese Buddhism did not participate in these events, and so did not have to defend their own traditional dates or accept the new orthodoxy. It is interesting that Master Xu Yun knew of these trends in world Buddhism prior to their unfolding – even though he did not participate in their development. Why did Asian schools of Buddhism accept the Western scholarship, when Buddhism was not indigenous to the West? The answer is that the calculations arose out of the forensic assessment of a number of Buddhist texts, and therefore could be said to have originated within Buddhism itself. The problem with this kind of dating (extrapolated from spiritual or religious texts), is that it appears very similar to the manner in which Christian scholars decided that the world was created by god in the year 4004 BCE (by apparently adding all the dates together in the bible). However, as this type of ‘literalism’ has set the agenda for the modern interpretation of the Buddha’s dates, its process must be thoroughly investigated in this article.
With the arrival of Alexander the Great in India (in 327 BCE), a recognisably ‘Western’ system of dating Buddhist events within an over-all chronology becomes apparent, although, of course, not without its problems and intrigues. Prior to this, the Indian dating system measured time between events, but gave no method of viewing all the events recorded in an over-arching system of chronology. Events and happenings were ‘separated’ by specific time-spans, but not united in an objective and unfolding chronology (defined by a specific ‘starting point’ in the time being measured). HW Schumann suggests that it is only through Greek historians (and their methodology) that early Buddhist history is able to be dated at all. Not only did India and Greece begin trade links, but in 303 BCE, it is recorded that Emperor Candragupta Maurya established a territorial agreement with Alexander the Great’s former general – Seleukos Nikator – who now ruled over Babylonia. Through detailed reports sent from Pataliputta by the Greek Ambassador Megasthenes, Candragupta became known to Greek historians, and through their efforts, it is known that Candragupta came to the throne in 321 BCE. HW Schumann states that knowing this date allows for a logical chronology to be applied to the Singalese Buddhist texts entitled ‘Dipavamsa’ and ‘Mahavamsa’ (compiled between the 4th to 6th centuries CE), both of which ascribe certain biographical details to the Buddha. For instance, both texts state the Candragupta reigned for 24 years (until 297 BCE), and his successor - Bindusara - ruled for 28 years (until 269 BCE). Bindusara’s son – Emperor Ashoka – then took 4 years to eradicate all challenges to his rule, before firmly establishing his reign in 265 BCE. Now, as both the Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa state that Emperor Ashoka ascended the throne 218 years AFTER the ‘parinibbana’ (i.e. ‘final extinction’, or ‘death’) of the Buddha, it can be logically extrapolated that the Buddha died in the year 483 BCE. As it is agreed (through reference to various Buddhist texts) that the Buddha lived for 80 years, his birth can be fixed to the year 563 BCE.
However, matters do not rest here on this most contentious of issues. Rock Edict 13 of Emperor Ashoka commemorates his bloody victory over Kalinga (Orissa), which apparently occurred 8 years after his ascending to the throne. This Rock Edict may have been issued 12 years after that event, and as it mentions the names of 5 non-Indian kings (that the Ashokan Court was in regular contact with), this information can be used to arrive at a slightly different date for the Buddha’s life. The 5 kings are Antiochus II (Syria), Ptolemy II (Egypt), Antigonus (Macedonia), Magas (Cyrene), and Alexander (of Epirus), with the last year that all 5 kings were still alive - equating to 258 BCE (the latest possible year the Rock Edict could have been engraved). Following this logic, if 12 years are added to 258 to arrive at Emperor Ashoka’s coronation, the year 270 BCE is gained. If 218 is then deducted from 270 BCE, the year for the Buddha’s death is fixed at 488 BCE – with his birth at 568 BCE. This situation now gives 3 possible dates for Emperor Ashoka to have ascended the throne –, 270 BCE, 269 BCE and 265 BCE. An added complication lies in the process of dating Bindusara’s reign, as in the Brahmanic ‘Puranas’ text, it is stated that he ruled for just 25 years instead of 28 years. The modern trend in Buddhology, however, is to bring the Buddha’s life-time ever closer to the common era, with many scholars suggesting that the Buddha died between 411 BCE to 400 BCE (premised upon certain styles of reading what is considered ‘internal’ evidence, present within the Buddhist texts themselves).
Having already presented the traditional Chinese dating for the Buddha (being 1028/29 BCE - 948/49 BCE), as elucidated by the Chinese Ch’an Buddhist monk - Master Xu Yun – it is interesting to note another Chinese Buddha dating system (presented by HW Schumann), referred to as the ‘Dotted Chronicle’ of Canton. Schumann states that it functioned up until the year 489 CE (where it possessed 975 dots), and consisted of a dot being added for each year after the Buddha’s death. Although the Chinese could not have started this calendar immediately after the Buddha died in ancient India, its calculation is uncanny in its resemblance to various aspects of contemporary Western scholarship, stating that the Buddha died in the year 486 BCE, with his birth being around 566 BCE. Interestingly, although many within Chinese Buddhism use the date expressed by Master Xu Yun (and other Chinese Buddhist monastics), contemporary Chinese language encyclopaedia texts tend to offer the dates of 566 BCE – 496 BCE to express the Buddha’s life-time – whilst leaving ample space for modification of this position. What is important to note is that both Chinese and Japanese Buddhist scholars have shed doubt on the Western reliance upon Southern Buddhist (i.e. ‘Theravada’) sources to date the Buddha, whilst completely neglecting Northern Buddhism (i.e. ‘Mahayana’). As the dating of Emperor Ashoka is open to much dispute, Japanese scholars have suggested that the Buddha’s death could have occurred between either 387 BCE – 384 BCE, or 390 BCE – 387 BCE - questioning the Theravada scriptural dating, and instead suggesting that the Buddha passed-away 116 years before the reign of Emperor Ashoka (and not the assumed 218 years of the Theravada position). This re-dating is premised upon a close examination of early Sri Lankan history and the subsequent development of the Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa texts, with the observation that Buddhism had already split into at least 18 different schools by the time of Emperor Ashoka’s reign, and that non-Theravada texts give different dates for key Buddhist-related events. Furthermore, despite a certain speculation that the Buddha’s ‘Shakya’ was ethnically ‘Aryan’ in nature, it has been suggested that in fact the Shakya clan was probably genetically related to certain longstanding indigenous Himalayan groups, such as the Kirati and Newar people of Nepal, and the people of Bhutan and Sikkim, etc, but does not include the Gurkha ethnic group.
As this brief analysis demonstrates, there is no objective evidence (outside of the Buddhist scriptures), that suggests the Buddha existed as a real and individual person. The methodology used by Buddhist scholars (in both the West and the East) has been to use the Buddhist suttas or ‘sutras’ as being historical texts – when in fact this body of literature is nothing of the kind. The Buddhist texts are a collection of primarily philosophical statements, explaining the Buddha’s position upon reality, and how human suffering (or ‘dissatisfaction’) is premised upon the presence of greed, hatred and delusion (as habitual thought patterns) in the mind, which produce (through ‘volition’) unwholesome actions in the body. Living a life full of bad actions inevitably creates a toxic environment within which all participating individuals reinforce the general state ignorance, and perpetuate it through ongoing and further unwise interactions. The Buddha clearly defines this reality, and teaches that through meditation (thought pattern modification), and moral discipline (behaviour modification), this cycle of ignorance can be completely broken and eradicated from the mind and body of the Buddhist practitioner. This Buddha’s approach is consistent throughout the Buddhist texts, and provides a definite sense of unity and continuation that many scholars have interpreted as being indicative of emanating from a definite and discoverable individual. The philosophical statements comprise the bulk of the Buddhist texts, which are often delivered with very basic and limited geographical and biographical information, which appears to be purely incidental in nature (as if it is only included as a means to deliver the philosophical content). The vagaries associated with the Buddha’s physical existence appear to add force to the transcendent nature of his teaching, as if his enlightenment more or less negated the validity of his physical existence. This interpretation of the Buddha ‘uprooting’ suffering in his mind and body, is of course, nothing short of removing any and all traces of a deluded sense of a permanent ‘self’ (or ‘atman’), and fully penetrating the ‘empty’ nature of perceptual reality. This teaching is expressed in a number of distinctive formats throughout the various Buddhist schools, and the Buddhist texts exist primarily to record and transmit this teaching, and not to glorify or emphasis the realiser of this truth. This is why the Buddha’s physical existence is easy to doubt, but difficult to prove. Of course, this understanding does not necessarily mean that the Buddha did not exist, but it is an interesting indicator and observation that serves as an intellectual barrier or ‘firewall’ that often serves to hinder ongoing research.
Just as research in Buddhology has begun to move the Buddha’s dates toward the common era (through the process of ongoing assessment of the internal structure of the Buddhist texts), an interesting archaeological discovery announced in 2013, suggests that a Buddhist temple in Nepal may date back to the 6th century BCE. British academic Robin Coningham, whilst excavating beneath the Maya Devi Temple, (situated in Lumbini, the now famous place assumed to be the birth of the Buddha), discovered a much older structure that appears to be a primitive Buddhist temple, constructed during an earlier time period, which pre-dates many of the assumptions concerned with the Buddha’s birth – but would fit the Chinese dot derived date of 566 BCE (to a certain extent). Sukumar Dutt relates how this site was lost for thousands of years, before being ‘officially’ rediscovered on December 1st, 1895, by archaeologist Dr Fuhrer, who had known about the place since 1894, after being of informed of a strange stone pillar (made of sandstone) found by the local Terai people, who had discovered it lying within a thick forested area, when using their axes to cut wood. (In fact, Dr Alois Anton Fuhrer had been assisting the Nepalese academic Khadga Samsher Rana when this important breakthrough was made, but this information is not included in Sukumar Dutt’s narrative).
This stone pillar had been raised by Emperor Ashoka around 245 BCE, and at some time in its history, it had been struck by lightning and broken in two. The Inscription written beneath the crack (translated by Dr Buhler in 1898) is in three parts and reads:
a) When king Devanampiya Piyadasi had been anointed twenty years, he came himself and worshipped (this spot), because the Buddha Shakyamuni was born here.
b) (He) both caused to be made a stone bearing a horse (?) and caused a stone-pillar to be set up (in order to show) that the Blessed One (Bhagavan) was born here.
c) (He) made the village of Lumbini free of taxes, and paying (only) one eighth share (of the produce).
This stone pillar had been earlier described by the Chinese explorer Xuan Zang (玄奘)[602-664CE] as being damaged ‘by the contrivance of a dragon’, which had served to ‘break it in the middle and make it fall to the ground.’ Arriving in Lumbini around the end of 637 CE, he found the area deserted and over-come with wilderness. Previously, when visiting the now ruined city of Kapilavastu, he had found a group of 30 monks who described the stone pillar of Ashoka (although no one had seen it for centuries), as a ‘great stone pillar with a horse on top’. This stone pillar was certainly rediscovered in the 1890’s, but it did not have a horse on top. The language of the inscription appears to be in an East Indian dialect – possibly that of the royal court of Pataliputra. This dialect replaces the letter ‘r’ with the letter ‘l’ in pronunciation, so that the name-place ‘Rummin’ with ‘Lumbini’. It is interesting to note that where the Buddha’s birthplace is mentioned in the scriptures, it is invariably rendered ‘Lumbini’, (or variants of), and never ‘Rummin’. If the name ‘Lumbini’ dates only from Ashoka’s inscription, why is it the only term used in the Buddhist texts, when these texts are considered ‘older’ than the inscription itself?
Not far from Ashoka’s stone pillar, was discovered the defaced shrine dedicated to the Buddha’s mother – Maya – although she was referred to by local people as ‘Maya Devi’, or ‘Goddess Maya’, and was worshipped very much like a Brahmanic deity - bringing ‘good luck’ to those offering blood-sacrifices at her feet. Obviously, thousands of years after its placement in the area, the locals had no idea about Buddhism or what the original purpose of this sandstone monument actually was. The relief shows Queen Maya stood holding the branch of a tree (after just giving birth – a traditional method in ancient India), whilst stood near her is the Buddha as a child, apparently already able to stand. At some point after the collapse of Buddhism in India, person’s unknown chiselled-out Queen Maya’s face in an attempt to hid her true identity (and therefore her historical Buddhist function). The date of this structure is unknown, but it is speculated that this structure probably dates back to the time of Emperor Ashoka’s visit to the site in 245 BCE. Also known locally as ‘Goddess of Rummin’, or ‘Rupa-dei’ - the shrine associated with her had been continuously built and re-built down through the centuries, with many discernible layers of archaeology present. The indigenous people had continued to treat the area as ‘holy’, but had no knowledge as to its original purpose. Although it is assumed that the local people had somehow ‘forgot’ the Buddhist identity of Queen Maya, and the ‘specialness’ of her son – the Buddha – Sukumar Dutt observes how odd it is that their ‘worship’ and ‘animal sacrifice’ at her shrine lasted unbroken for thousands of years, and was not disrupted or discontinued at any point. I have written elsewhere of the possibility that Buddhism might have been an ‘invention’ of Emperor Ashoka (drawing on many Indian and Greek philosophical trends), but Sukumar Dutt speculates that by the time the Ashokan stone mason scribes (lipikaras) put chisel to stone, the Buddha’s story might already have become a highly developed mythology no longer premised on any physical facts. Of course, as Buddhism became fashionable throughout the 20th century, the apparent Indian and Nepalese land-marks that serves as shrines became ‘modernised’ and developed to facilitate mass tourism from both the pious and curious alike. Heading into the 21st century, this is the historical background to the work of Robin Coningham (of Durham University). His excavation of Maya Devi Temple involved his team digging beneath the stone foundations (said to date back to Ashokan times), where the site of an earlier temple constructed entirely of wood was discovered. This older temple demonstrates that this site was used for centuries as a centre to worship ‘trees’, and it is interesting to consider at this juncture, the association between the Buddha and the fact that he is presented as sitting under the ‘Bodhi’ tree before gaining enlightenment, and that in early Buddhist iconology, the Buddha is often simply depicted as a ‘tree’, with no other elaboration being present. Robin Coningham states that his research suggests that in about 550 BCE, this earlier wooden temple transitioned from a place to worship trees, into a temple to venerate the Buddha. Although this interpretation has been taken at face-value by the mainstream press, its narrative appears highly simplistic and reaching – ignoring the association between tree worship and Buddha as tree iconology. Obviously if this research is correct, and assuming that the Buddha was a real person, then he must have lived and died prior to 550 BCE, as it seems unlikely that he would have permitted himself to have been ‘venerated’ whilst teaching his followers to give-up superstitious beliefs as spiritually unprofitable.
Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) states ‘Indian Dharma-teacher Kasyapa-Matanga (摩騰法師 – Mo Teng Fa Shi) who travelled to China during the 1st century CE, met with, and instructed Emperor Ming (明帝 – Ming Di) of the Latter Han (r. 58-75 CE)'. This appears to be the beginning of the Chinese tradition of Buddhism dating the Buddha’s existence to 1028/29 BCE - 948/49 BCE. Presumably, the Venerable Kasyapa-Matanga had travelled from India possessing a type of common knowledge that is lacking today in the Buddhist world, whilst having the functionality of the existing Chinese calendar (of repeating 60 year cycles), correctly explained to him by imperial Chinese scholars. If these two conditions existed and were fulfilled, then it is possible that Kasyapa-Matanga was able to convert an ancient Indian date into an equally ancient Chinese date. Since the advent of Greek influence in India from the 4th century BCE, it is within the realms of possibility that Indian scholars were able to use this ‘new’ Greek way of logically dating historical events in a correct chronological order, and that as a consequence, Kasyapa-Matanga understood exactly when the Buddha lived within the context of world history. Once in China, as he possessed a sense of a long chronological history, Kasyapa-Matanga was able to logically assess the Chinese 60 year cyclic calendar, and correctly calculate (backwards) the appropriate number of years, using the year he was living in as the starting point, arriving at the dates ‘1028/29 BCE - 948/49 BCE’. What is convincing about this process is that Master Xu Yun explains these dates within the context of a Chinese chronological history that is more readily accessible today to the average reader, and which can be checked and verified. All the royal Chinese (names and their dynastic dates) are correct without a single error. Furthermore, Chinese language history books appear to have recorded and retained this Indian monk’s understanding as conveyed to the Han Emperor Ming Di for centuries afterward, treating these dates as an example of reliable and objective history. This information – all but ignored by the West and the tradition of Southern Buddhism – may well preserve a far older ‘Indian’ record of the Buddha’s ancient existence. Whatever the case, the current level of scholarship outside of Mainland China remains more or less faith-driven, and similar in context to that practised by ‘literalist’ biblical scholarship, which seeks to ‘project’ significance upon rocks, places and names, a significance that is not academically present, or objectively provable. This explains why the current state of Buddhological studies remains ‘unconvincing’ and ‘reaching’ in both its methodology and assumption. In that body of knowledge, there is no convincing ‘objective’ evidence that the Buddha existed at all – it is merely ‘assumed’ (a priori) that he existed, and this is not good academia (in both the ‘Buddhistic’ and ‘secular’ tradition), as the Buddha taught the correct analytical use of the mind, that must be acknowledged as being on a par with the development of Greek logic. As matters stand, whilst wishful thinking and ‘literalism’ dominate Buddhology in the West, the older Chinese date as presented by Master Xu Yun remains far more convincing, simply because Master Xu Yun demonstrates a clear thinking process, and provides objectively verifiable dates (from within known Chinese history). Whereas Western Buddhology is content to move dates around a small envelope of time, ascribing and withdrawing significance at a whim, the Chinese Buddhist tradition retains its single and unchanged set of dates (that have been preserved for nearly two thousand years), and quietly awaits the academic field of archaeology to catch-up, by providing the objective history required as confirmation.
©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2017.
 Thomas, Edward J, The Life of Buddha as Legend and History, Kegan Paul, (1931), Page xxi (Introduction).
 Extracted from Master Xu Yun’s Chinese Language Autobiography (Translated by A Chan-Wyles PhD) http://wenshuchan-online.weebly.com/degeneration-of-the-sangha-in-the-dharma-ending-age.html
Accessed 12.5.2017. Although mentioned in Charles Luk’s English translation of Xu Yun’s biography entitled ‘Empty Cloud’, this text was omitted.
 Schumann, HW, The Historical Buddha – The Times, Life and Teachings of the Founder of Buddhism, Motilal Banarsidass, (2004), Pages 10 – 13 – Problems of Dating. (Translated from the original German language by M. O’C. Walshe).
 ‘Shakyamuni’ (释迦牟尼) https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/释迦牟尼#.E7.94.9F.E5.8D.92.E5.B9.B4.E8.80.83.E8.AD.89 Accessed 12.5.2017
 Archaeological discoveries confirm early date of Buddha's life https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131125121710.htm Accessed 13.5.2017
 Dutt, Sukumar, The Buddha and Five After Centuries, Luzac & Company, (1957), Page 22. Curiously, Sukumar Dutt states that Emperor Ashoka erected this stone ‘2,175’ years prior to its rediscovery in 1894 (which I assume is an editing error, as Sukumar Dutt is exact with all other dating). This would give the incorrect date of 281 BCE (prior to Ashoka ascending the throne). Contemporary estimates assume that Emperor Ashoka ascended the throne in 265 BCE – and as the stone pillar at Lumbini was erected 20 years after his ascension – logic dictates a date of 245 BCE.