Thursday, November 16, 2006

Dalai Lama's science challenge for Buddha-date

In a teaching given in London, 1988, the Dalai Lama said "I personally feel it is quite disgraceful that nobody, not even among Buddhists, knows when our teacher, Shakyamuni Buddha, actually lived. I have been seriously considering whether some scientific research could be done. Relics are available in India and Tibet, which people believe derive from the Buddha himself. If these were examined with modern techniques, we might be able to establish some accurate dates, which would be very helpful" . He said "According to the viewpoint of the Kashmiri Pandit Shakyashri, who came to Tibet, Lord Buddha lived in India 2500 years ago. This accords with the popular Theravadin view, but according to some Tibetan scholars, Buddha appeared in the world more than 3000 years ago. Another group says it was more than 2800 years. These different proponents try to support their theories with different reasons, but in the end they are quite vague.
A teaching given in London, 1988. Translated by Geshe Thupten Jinpa and edited by Jeremy Russell. It was originally published in Chö-Yang (No.5) which was a magazine published by the Department of Religion and Culture of the Central Tibetan Administration, Dharamsala.

The site of enlightenment: The Bodhgaya Temple, or Mahabodhi Vihara as it is also known, was erected in the place where Buddha Shakyamuni gained enlightenment some two thousand five hundred years ago. Its origins are lost in time, but it is known that King Ashoka erected a shrine to Buddha here in the third century B.C.

No date for temple construction: In spite of extensive research by scholars, until this day no one has been able to give a definate date as to when this present temple was built, who constructed it or how long it took to be completed. It is generally believed that the Great Stupa must have come into existence between the fifth and seventh centuries A.D.More

Image of earlier temple dated 100BC:A relief from an older Stupa railing dated about 100BC gives an indication of what the early temple at Bodhgaya looked like; a two storied structure with a gabled roof built around the Bodhi Tree and supported by pillars. Inside a slab of stone, the Vajrasana (indestructable seat of enlightenment) sat by the decorated trunk of the Bodhi tree, behind which were two Tiratana symbols. This temple was probably called Vajrasana Gandhakuti and may have stood for several centuries, being repaired and added to from time to time.

Current statue 1700 years old;Today, the temple is a fifty metre tall pyramidal tower, crowned with a bell like Stupa. The base is a fifteen metre square two-storey structure supporting four smaller towers identical to their central counterpart. Inside the temple sits a large gilded statue of Shakyamuni Buddha in earth touching mudra. This image is said to be 1700 years old and is facing east exactly at the place where the Buddha, sitting in meditation with his back to the Bodhi tree, was enlightened.


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