Thursday, September 10, 2009

Was There a Personal Founder?

Senart in his Essai sur la légende du Buddha, and Kern in his Het Buddhisme in Indie, both hold that we have here to do with a sun-myth, and interpret the various features of the legend in a very ingenious way in accordance with that theory. This view has made few converts. Many incidents in the story are natural, and appear to be due to a real tradition; there is literary evidence of the early existence of the books, and the religion can be best understood if regarded as the work of a real personality of commanding greatness.[1]

[1]Recent archæological discoveries, of which an account is given by Mr. Rhys Davids in the Century Magazine, April 1902, place it beyond doubt that the Buddha really existed, and that pious offices were paid to his ashes after his cremation by the members of his own clan as well as by others. Inscriptions brought to light in 1898 show that the Sakhya clan, of which he was a member, dwelt at the time of his death in what is now a frontier district of Nepal. Three years before that event they were driven from their old capital Kapilavastu; but they formed a new one fifteen miles further south, just beyond the present frontier of Nepal, and there they erected a stupa or massive stone cairn, to guard the portion of the ashes of the Buddha which was committed to their keeping.

Scholars, however, are agreed as to the difficulty of drawing the line between what is history and what is legend. Even in the early Pali accounts the hero has become a religious figure, he wears titles which lift him above mankind, and he has supernatural powers at his command. A laborious critical process must be undertaken, comparing the various narratives with each other and testing them in other ways, before the real history can be regarded as made out beyond question.

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