The birth date and teachings of Gautama Buddha


Buddha Image

Siddhartha Gautama was born in north India (now Nepal) about some 600 - 1200 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. His birth date has been contentious with a general agreement among many scholars that Buddha died within a few years of 480 B.C. giving a birth date about 560 B.C.

Some Hindu Pundits define his birth date as 566 B.C, others have said his birth was as early as 1200 BC. and many modern Western scholars generally put the time of his birth or enlightenment as between 300 and 500 B.C.

So there is no unanimously accepted date for the historical Buddha’s life amongst scholars and in 1988, a symposium named “The Dating of the Historical Buddha” took place in Gottingen, Germany who arrived at 486 BCE to 261 BCE as the year of death.  Possible earlier dates (566 B.C. and earlier) are supported by the 2013 archaeological excavation at Lumbini; Buddha's birth place in Nepal where there is evidence of a Buddhist structure dated prior to the sixth century B.C.

Further evidence in China dated around the late Spring and Autumn Period (770- 476 BC) has been found in Chinese tombs near Chengdu that contain Buddhist iconography according to the Chengdu Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology however:

"Buddha was born on 6th April 2214 BCE. According to Tibetan Sa-skya-pa scholars, Buddha was born inthe Earth-Dragon year (2214-2213 BCE).
Buddha attains Mahaparinirvana on 23rd Mar 2134BCE. The Tibetan Sa-skya-pa tradition seems to bemost authentic and Kalhana’s Rajatarangini also supports it. According to Sa-skya-pa scholars, Buddha attained nirvana in the boundary of the Fire-Pig year (2134 BCE) and the Earth-Mouse year (2133BCE).)" Chronology of Ancient India

Given that the veneration of Buddha began in earnest after his death and the dating of the Lumbini evidence is dated near to 600BC, Buddha may have been born earlier which would better coincide with Chinese iconography as it must have taken time for news and teachings to travel to central China in an era of limited and slow communication.

Disturbing emotions not only disturb our own state of mind, they also disturb the minds of others. Self-centredness gives rise to fear and insecurity, which in turn creates distrust. This is why having an altruistic attitude brings a great sense of happiness and peace of mind.

His life was one of wealth, luxury and privilege. But after becoming aware of the suffering of the common people, he became so concerned, that he made it his mission to find a solution to end human suffering and in order to do this, he became a spiritual aspirant or seeker of knowledge.

As an ascetic* and spent time with followers of various spiritual traditions, trying out their practises and during an intense meditation he achieved complete awakening (Nirvana) which gave him insight into the nature and cause of human suffering and how to end it.

He described the cause of suffering as ignorance; this must have been obvious as education was mostly for the privileged and not universal. Life at this time was very simple, people lived by fishing hunting and growing crops, but it was also the beginning of a more cosmopolitan lifestyle when people began to wear cotton clothing.

To eliminate suffering he advised that practitioners learn to recognize and accept The Four Noble Truths, and take actions to end suffering by following the Eight Fold Path which would lead to the state of supreme liberation called Nirvana.

He became renowned for this achievement so much so that his peers saw him as a saint and after his death, the monks who knew him collated and wrote down his teachings which form the basis of Buddhism today.

Buddhism is not considered by Buddhists to be a religion, rather it is an experiment with the projected outcome of universal happiness, a subject that you take on and try out and if it works for you, then wonderful, your suffering will lessen and eventually cease altogether, although this may take several lifetimes.

There is nothing to believe in, or pray to unless you choose to believe in an afterlife in which the Buddha still exists. Following Buddhist practices is to accept the possibility that there is an end to suffering and being appreciative of those who have walked before and testify the validity of the path.

“Compassion is the very essence of Buddhadharma, and the main practice of a Mahayana Buddhist. It is the root of the Three Supreme Jewels—Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. It is the root of Buddha because all Buddhas are born from compassion. It is the root of Dharma because Buddhas give Dharma teachings motivated solely by compassion for others. It is the root of Sangha because it is by listening to and practising Dharma teachings given out of compassion that we become Sangha, or Superior beings.” — Geshe Kelsang Gyatso - “Eight Steps to Happiness”

Buddhist teachings fill many thousands of books which are all based on the Four Noble Truths and the Eight Fold Path.

Discovering Buddhism Module 1 - Mind and its Potential

* ascetic - a person who dedicates his or her life to a pursuit of contemplative or spiritual ideals

Books on Buddhism
Chengdu Institute of Cultural Relics and Archeology.


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