Was Gautama really a prince?

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Re: Was Gautama really a prince?

Post by Sariputta » Sat Jul 13, 2013 5:49 pm

I don't want to revive dead threads but this is the information I have gathered from some research into Buddha's origins. First Keay is correct in his statement that Buddha was born in a tribal republic where the most influential family were the Shakyas. Suddhodhana was the elected head of the republic (ganarajya, incidentally official Hindi name for Republic of India is Bharat Ganarajya.). Needless to say Suddhodhana was a first among equals.

This era was the rise of kingdoms and the downfall of the tribal republics (which closely resembled the early Aryan societies). We can see this by the expansion of the kingdom of Magadha. King Bimbisara started this trend and it was followed by his son Ajatashatru who defeated the powerful Licchavi clan of the Vaji confederacy and of course the anhiliation of Buddha's own clan by the kingdom of Koshala. The Arthashaastra, the political treatise written by Chanakya, mentions how to eliminate tribal republics by using propaganda, assassinations, and other morally questionable things. Ironically Kalinga that Emperor Ashoka conquered was also a tribal republic.

As we know from history, the thing that transformed Buddha's Dhamma from just another sect of the Gangetic plains to a worldwide religion is state support. Massive state support from Emperor Ashoka. Ashoka is said to have built over 80,000 viharas and propagated Dhamma across Asia. Ever since then, due to its highly organized community and its large centralized structures: Buddhism has been dependent on state support for its survival. More specifically imperial support. Due to this, maybe later Buddhists liked to imagine Shakyamuni as being an actual prince.

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Re: Was Gautama really a prince?

Post by shaunc » Sun Jul 14, 2013 6:53 am

Personally I don't think it really matters that much to lay practitioners like myself how the Buddha made his livelihood prior to enlightenment. What makes the Buddha special to me are his teachings. As a westerner in this day & age I feel extremely lucky to have learned some of his dharma. It's not that long ago in History that most westerners wouldn't have even heard of Buddhism.

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Re: Was Gautama really a prince?

Post by greentara » Mon Jul 15, 2013 6:20 am

Of course Mahavira has a very similar princely background as the Buddha.....so which narrative came first?
All great teachers have their story and the story must be in accordance with the appetite of the listener, not with the realities of life.

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Re: Was Gautama really a prince?

Post by jmlee369 » Tue Jul 16, 2013 8:21 am

Earlier in the thread, people discussed the statement that all Buddha's follow the same life narrative. However, if I remember correctly, Shakyamuni Buddha's prediction about Maitreya Buddha states that he will be born into a Brahmin family. Just thought I'd throw that out there.

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Re: Was Gautama really a prince?

Post by greentara » Tue Jul 16, 2013 1:56 pm

If the prediction be that the Maitraya Buddha be born a Brahmin. Does any great teacher spring to mind?

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Re: Was Gautama really a prince?

Post by Rakshasa » Tue Jul 16, 2013 6:38 pm

In "Original inhabitants of Bharatvarsa or India" by Oppert, Gustav (1893), the Shakyan tribe is claimed to be an original (Dravidian, non-Aryan, and non-Saka) tribe of India which was close to similar other tribes like Koliyas and Mallas. If this is so, then the theory of caste system of Indo-Aryans doesn't apply to them. The terms like "Khattiya" and "Brahmin" etc were only mildly known by them from the influence from the western Indo-Aryans and their culture.

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Re: Was Gautama really a prince?

Post by cdpatton » Wed Jul 17, 2013 4:23 am

Not all Buddhas were assumed to be born to ksatriya families, anyway. One need only read the Mahapadana-sutta and anything else, really, on the topic in the canon. The princely story is the favorite, but allowance was made of birth to brahmins as well. But I find this thread much more revealing of modern sensibilities than of classical Buddhist ones. Yes, the story is of birth to kings or well-to-do brahmins - it is also of rejecting the elitist drama and taking up the path that is casteless and genderless. Gautama went so far as to open his samgha to women and affirmed that they became arhats as well, a sentiment which is taken for granted in today's society. I suppose if we were to update the story to modern times, then, Buddhas would be born to media moguls or multi-national corporate CEOs. The effect is the same - being born into what ordinary society thinks is the ideal life and abandoning it for something spiritually revolutionary.

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Re: Was Gautama really a prince?

Post by MaitriYNOD » Mon Aug 05, 2013 7:29 pm

He may not have been a prince, but this does not disprove his luxurious upbringing under his father's doting care. My personal opinion on the Twelve Deeds formula for how Buddhas manifest in this world is that it is a convention of Indian literature. I personally don't find it inspiring, but in any case it doesn't seem to detract from the methods and philosophy of the Dharma whether or not Shakyamuni was a carbon copy of every other Buddha.
I am a lustful, angry dullard with no power of realization. Do not put anything I say into practice without first confirming it with a qualified teacher.

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