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Matanga further stated that the Buddha’s birth correlates to the 8th day of the 4th lunar month.(Translator’s Note: In the Western year 2015 CE – the traditional Chinese Buddhist Calendar stood at 3042/43 years since the birth of the Buddha – this means that according to Chinese Buddhist tradition, the Buddha was born around the year 1028/29 BCE.

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In any event, Emperor Ashoka appears to have been the first to have committed the Buddhist teachings to writing, some 200 years prior to the fourth (Theravada) Buddhist council, where it is recorded that the Buddhist suttas (until then passed-on by word of mouth and committed to memory), were written onto palm-leaves in the Pali language.

(Another ‘fourth’ Buddhist council was held in the first century CE in Kashmir – where the Mahayana doctrine was settled, and its preferred language transition from Prakrit to Sanskrit, to make its teachings more accessible to the common people).

Brief snippets of apparent biographical information are contained in the Pali Buddhist scriptures (i.e.

Dhamma), and in the Vinaya Discipline, but as Edward J Thomas points-out, this biographical material is often formed through commentaries later added to the scriptures by the various Buddhist schools that preserved and transmitted this material, and do not date back to the Buddha himself.

The problem is that historical evidence for the Buddhist teachings (existing as a distinct body of knowledge) stems only from the time of the third council (where Buddhists gathered to chant the scriptures, and ensure a sense of orthodoxy), which took place around 247 BCE, and is recorded within the Theravada school (the only school that took part).

This would suggest that the two Buddhist councils prior to this third gathering, have no basis in verifiable fact, even if they occurred in reality.The problem is that virtually everything that is known about the Buddha is drawn from the recorded texts associated with him, or the schools that developed around his teaching, apparently after his death.In this regard, although there is a habit in the modern West to depict the Buddha as a ‘legally’ existing person, but in reality, no such proof exists, and all that is known about him is drawn from scriptural material that can only be described as ‘legendary’ or ‘mythical’ in nature, but even this observation is problematic, because some legends are very old, whilst others are relatively new (with hundreds of years separating the two categories).The shramana (沙門 – Sha Men) – or Buddhist monk known as Tan Mo Zui (曇謨最) – is recorded in the Wei Dynasty (386-557 CE) Book of History (魏書 – Wei Shu) as stating that the Buddha was born on the 8th day of the 4th lunar month, which was during the 24th year of the reign of the Zhou Dynasty monarch – King Zhao.The Buddha entered nirvana on the 15th day of the 2nd lunar month, which occurred in the 52nd year of the rule of the Zhou Dynasty monarch – Mu Wang (穆王) – who reigned 1001-947 BCE). Throughout all of the subsequent Chinese dynasties, this tradition has been preserved and upheld.The scattered information that could be construed as pertaining to the Buddha’s actual life (contained within the Pali Suttas and commentaries) was developed into entire biographical texts within the Mahayana tradition.

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