Implications of the New Dating of the Buddha

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Cooking the Buddhist Books: The Implications of the New Dating of the Buddha for the History of Early Indian Buddhism

Charles S. Prebish
Utah State University

On the surface, new dating for the Buddha’s death doesn’t seem terribly earthshaking, either for Indian Buddhist history or for ancillary studies such as a consideration of Upāli and his lineage of Vinayadharas. Yet it is. If there is a new date for the Buddha’s demise, virtually everything we know about the earliest Indian Buddhism, and especially its sectarian movement, is once again called into question. Dates for the first, second, and third canonical councils—once thought to be certain—must now be reexamined. Kings who presided at these events must be reconsidered. Most importantly, the role of the great Indian King Aśoka, from whose reign much of the previous dating begins, needs to be placed under the scrutiny of the historical microscope again.

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