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Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera
Historical Evidence of the Buddha
Gautama the Buddha was not a mythical figure but an actual, historical personality who introduced the religion known today as Buddhism. Evidence to prove the existence of this great religious Teacher are to be found in the following facts:
The testimonies of those who knew Him personally. These testimonies were recorded in the rock-inscriptions, pillars and pagodas made in His honour. These testimonies and monuments to His memory were created by kings and others who were near enough to His time to be able to verify the story of His life.
The discovery of places and the remains of buildings that were mentioned in the narrative of His time.
The Sangha, the holy order which He founded, has had an unbroken existence to the present day. The Sangha possessed the facts of His life and Teachings which have been transmitted from generation to generation in various parts of the world.
The fact that in the very year of His death, and at various times subsequently, conventions and councils of the Sangha were held for the verification of the actual Teachings of the Founder. These verified Teachings have been passed on from teacher to pupil from His time to the present day.
After His passing away, His body was cremated and the bodily relics were divided among eight kingdoms in India. Each king built a pagoda to contain his portion of the relics. The portion given to King Ajatasatthu was enshrined by him in a pagoda at Rajagriha. Less than two centuries later, Emperor Asoka took the relics and distributed them throughout his empire. The inscriptions enshrined in this and other pagodas confirmed that those were the relics of Gautama the Buddha.
'The Mahavansa', the best and authentic ancient history known to us gives detailed particulars of life as well as details of the life of Emperor Asoka and all other sovereigns related to Buddhist history. Indian history has also given a prominent place to the Buddha's life, activities, Buddhist traditions and customs.
The records which we can find in the Buddhist countries where people received Buddhism a few hundred years after the Buddha's passing away such as Sri Lanka, Burma, China, Tibet, Nepal, Korea, Mongolia, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos show unbroken historical, cultural, religious, literary and traditional evidence that there was religious Teacher in India known as Gautama the Buddha.
The Tripitaka, an unbroken record of His 45 years of Teaching is more than sufficient to prove that the Buddha really lived in the world.
The accuracy and authenticity of the Buddhist texts is supported by the fact that they provide information for historians to write Indian history during the 5th and 6th century B.C. The texts, which represent the earliest reliable written records in India, provide a profound insight into the socio-economic, cultural and political environment and conditions during the Buddha's lifetime as well as into the lives of His contemporaries, such as King Bimbisara.
Source: Buddhist Study and Practice Group, http://www.sinc.sunysb.edu/Clubs/buddhism/
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