Triratna News

Wise men disagree on site of nativity

On Mon, 6 January, 2014 - 00:35
Munisha's picture
At the end of November, a team of British and Nepali archaeologists announced that they had uncovered remains of the “earliest ever Buddhist shrine”, establishing the site of the Buddha’s birthplace in present-day Nepal. Though the story gained a lot of publicity, some found it unconvincing.

The team reported in the UK online archaeological journal Antiquity that they had unearthed a 6th century BC timber structure buried within the Maya Devi Temple in the town of Lumbini. Though historians had tended towards dating the Buddha’s birth around 400 BC, the team claimed this find established his birth a lot earlier. That the structure contained the remains of tree roots appeared to tie it in with the story that the Buddha’s mother gave birth to him under a tree.

Durham University archaeologist Robin Coningham said, “For the first time, we actually have scientific evidence leading to the establishment of a major Buddhist shrine. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility to speculate that the ancient tree at the centre of Lumbini’s holy site was the same tree that Buddha’s mother held onto when he was born, as described in Buddhist tradition. This is one of those rare occasions when belief, traditions, archaeology and science come together.”

However, there are those who variously consider the story inflated, misinformed, based on faulty premises, or providing little or no hard evidence. They include Professor Richard Gombrich of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies and the Triratna Buddhist Order’s Jayarava. Fellow Order member Dhivan thinks the temple find tells us more about “a sacred geography” than a physical location for the Buddha’s birth. Read on and see what you think.

Read the original article, in the online journal Antiquity.

For examples of how it was reported
read the BBC report
and watch and read NBC’s news reporting
Now read Professor Richard Gombrich’s short essay in Tricycle magazine
and Jayarava’s blog entry
Finally, read Dhivan’s take on the story.

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