The Buddha and the Upanishads

Timothy Lubin LubinT at WLU.EDU
Mon Dec 11 16:10:21 UTC 2006

The analogy is amusing but misleading: the range and nature of our
sources on Napoleon permit much greater certainty.  A better analogy
would be the "quest for the historical Jesus."  In that case, the chief
sources can much more confidently be dated much closer to the life of
the subject, but there is still considerable doubt about what they can
tell us about the historical personage.
My own skepticism relates not to the value of grappling with the texts
and commenting on historical events; it applies only in cases where the
result seems to be largely an endorsement of hagiography as fact.  

>>> Som Dev Vasudeva <somadevah at MAC.COM> 12/11/06 1:56 AM >>>

Its seems to me that the expressed scepticism about the value of
grappling with early textual sources to interpret and then comment on
historical events easily can be taken too far (particularly by scholars
not actively engaged in philological work themselves). This is not at
all a new phenomenon, consider the amusing but brilliant spoof produced
Richard Whately in 1819, "Historic Doubts Relative To Napoleon
Buonaparte" :

"What, then, are we to believe? If we are disposed to credit all that
is told us, we must believe in the existence not only of one, but of
two or three Buonapartes; if we admit nothing but what is well
authenticated, we shall be compelled to doubt of the existence of

It appears, then, that those on whose testimony the existence and
actions of Buonaparte are generally believed, fail in ALL the most
essential points on which the credibility of witnesses depends: first,
we have no assurance that they have access to correct information;
secondly, they have an apparent interest in propagating falsehood;
and, thirdly, they palpably contradict each other in the most
important points."

Somadeva Vasudeva

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