is great disagreement between the different Buddhist
traditions as well as between historians about
when the Buddha lived. The Theravada school using the ancient Sri Lankan chronicles
fixes the Buddha's birth in the year 624 BC. The Mahayana
tradition uses a variety of dates but most of them at
least 300 years later than the Theravada one. Since
the beginning of the century Western historians and
scholars have considered 560-63 BC to be the most likely
date of the Buddha's birth, in fact this has long been
considered the first certain date in Indian history.
at a recent international conference convened to discuss
the issue, all previously known evidence and research
as well as new findings in archaeology were reassessed
and the conclusion was that this date can no longer
be accepted. The general consensus now is that the Buddha
lived his whole life during the 4th century BC and that
the exact dates of his birth and death cannot be established.
This lack of certainty in no way casts doubt on the
Buddha's historicity but merely reflects the ancient
Indians lack of concern about chronology.
Bechert, (Ed.) Dating the Historical Buddha. Gottinger
Vol I, 1991; Vol II, 1993.