This book The Date of the Historical Sakyamuni Buddha includes fifteen articles on the date of the historical Sakyamuni Buddha, ten of which submitted by Indian scholars to a Workshop on the subject held in 1990, three by scholars from outside and two English translations of old French articles of importance. Many of these contributions take into account the papers submitted to a Conference on the subject held at Gottingen in 1988. The consensus of the articles in this book is in favour of confirming 483 (486) B.C. as the date of the Parinirvana of the historical Buddha as against any later date.
Professor A.K. Narain is Emeritus Professor of History and of Languages and Cultures of Asia, University of Wisconsin, Madison (USA) and Founder-Director of the Bhikkhu Jagdish Kashyap Institute of Buddhist and Asian Studies, Sarnath, Varanasi (India). Formerly he has been Manindra Chandra Nandy Professor of Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology, Banaras Hindu University. He has been Chairperson of the Buddhist Studies Programme at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is the Founder of the International Association of Buddhist Studies and has been the Editor-in-Chief of its periodical the JIABS. He is now the Editor-in-Chief of the Indian International Journal of Buddhist Studies(IIJBS).
The date of the historical Siddhartha Gotama, the Sakyamuni Buddha is one of the most important dates of world history and civilization. This is so for not only the history of Buddhism and Buddhists all over the world but also for its bearing on the dates of monarchs and institutions, ideas and interactions of world significance. This is why, inspite of the fact that most of the Buddhists accepted the traditional date of 543 B.C. to celebrate the Buddha-Jayanti, and that most of the modern scholarship and standard books of reference fix it around 480 B.C., recently a well organized seminar on the subject was held at Gottingen. A set of Pre-prints of many papers presented at the Seminar were made available to us. These papers have now been published. I take this opportunity to thank Professor Bechert for taking me on, and inviting me to contribute a paper on the subject to be included in the 2nd Volume of his Seminar papers. While preparing the paper for him I thought also of having a Workshop on the subject in India in order to provide a forum for interested scholars and an opportunity for some loud thinking and response to the papers presented at the Gottingen Seminar.
Accordingly under the sponsorship of the Bhikkhu Jagdish Kashyap Institute of Buddhist and Asian Studies, Sarnath-Varanasi, a Workshop was held on the 12th and 13th May, 1990 to discuss the problem of the date of the historical Buddha. Thirty-four scholars participated in the six sessions of the Workshop. About half of them presented their papers examining afresh the relevant sources and the various theories on the problem. Both textual and non-textual material as well as issues, directly or indirectly related, like the date of Mahavira, were examined. Some of the participants, who were acquainted with the contributions of Professor Heinz Bechert and the Seminar on the subject organized by him in 1988 at Gottingen, took this opportunity to critically examine their findings. Our plan was to publish all the papers submitted to our Workshop after due revision by their authors as well as a summary of discussions on them. But for one reason or another this could not be done and when I found unlimited waiting was not in the interest of the subject, we published in 1994 whatever papers we had received in a special issue (Vol. VI) of The Indian Journal of Buddhist Studies. We had thought also of including English translations of some important papers in French and German contributed to the Gottingen seminar in order to acquaint our readers with their contents and conclusions. But in this matter again we did not succeed for whatever reasons. Since this special issue of the IJBS was well received, more than one publisher showed interest in republishing it in a book form. The result is this publication and we thank Messrs B.R. Publishing Corporation, New Delhi for it.
The present volume includes eleven papers read in our Workshop and three which were sent by mail. We have also included English translations of two old but very important papers related to the problem of the date of the Buddha written in French, one by F.W. Thomas and another by Andre Bareau. At the end, there is a bibliography consolidating in one place the references used by the contributors.
The editor regrets to inform that four of the eminent contributors to this volume, Shri Krishna Deva, Professor S.S. Mishra, Professor Upendra Thakur and Professor B.P. Sinha passed away before the publication of this volume. I dedicate this volume to their memories.
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