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.
1. Please be courteous at all times. If you’re engaged in any kind of discussion, be as prepared to listen as you are to express yourself. Remember that there’s always a real person behind a computer/device screen, and they are likely quite different from you.
2. Think twice before posting anything that’s likely to give offence or be inflammatory. That doesn’t promote good conversation. If you’re upset at something you see here, perhaps let a little time pass before responding. Bear in mind this isn’t a space to vent our views, it’s about exploring respectfully with others what it means to be a Buddhist within our community and in the modern world generally.
3. We may remove posts or comments that are considered off-topic.
4. Everyone has off-moments, and we’ll always try to be in friendly dialogue with you if a problem arises with one of your contributions. But we reserve the right to remove posts and comments (or even suspend user accounts) when we feel these guidelines are not observed.
Whatever you contribute, we very much encourage you to think about it in the light of the Buddhist ethical precepts around ‘Right Speech’. These encourage communication that is: truthful, kindly and gracious, helpful and harmonious.
We try to keep things light when it comes to moderation of posts and comments within this shared space. And we ask the community itself to lead with this. If you have seen something that concerns you, please feel free to contact us. However, we do ask that you bear in mind the following guidelines, which will help preserve a harmonious atmosphere throughout the site:
Remember there is always a person behind the post or comment you’re objecting to. They may just be having a bad day… If you’re upset, perhaps let a little time pass before responding to them or us.
Try contacting the person first in a spirit of open, courteous engagement to see if hearing their perspective changes your own view of things, or if hearing yours changes theirs.
Take care to make sure what you are asking us to look at is actually against the spirit of the group or the site itself, rather than simply a difference of view or of personal taste. If in doubt, ask a friend and/or the administrator of the group.
The most important things about this is the first bit: we ask the community to lead with this. That means you! Thanks for helping us promote good conversations on The Buddhist Centre Online.