"History is what we know. If what we know is wrong, history is wrong." This statement is probably true for the case of the history of Buddhism!
"Two hundred years ago, India was seen as a place with little history and less culture. Today it is revered for a notable prehistory, a magnificent classical age and a cultural tradition unique in both character and continuity. ...." wrote the HarperCollins Publishers on the back cover complimenting John Keay's excellent book on India Discovered: The Recovery of a Lost Civilization.
The Thai God, Pout or Codom (Buddha or Gautama), as appears in a French account had been worshipped in India for thousand years. William Chambers who had first reported on the boulders temples of Mahabalipurum, read the French account of Thailand and made the important identification of the Thai god, known as Pout or Codom who had once been worshipped in parts of India. (Keay, pp.66-67)
But how was India turned to be a cradle of world culture and how Thai god or Buddhism was drag-netted from its authentic origin in the Suwannabhumi (where Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Burma and Raman are presently located)? Why was there no one aware of the existed history of Buddhism and its ancient scripture available in those countries?
The answers were found from various documents remarkably synthesized and presented by John Keay.
In “The Legacy of Pout”, Keay mentioned the work of Captain E. Fell who, after frequent visits to Sanchi (Sanji), described the marvelous stone carving depicting various aspects of stone temples, erected pillars, well designed and carved to portray stories of certain religion related ceremonies and convinced that Sanchi was Buddhist.
To this, Keay observed “…if Sanchi was Buddhist though, where were the Buddha’s followers today?”
“The answer was almost everywhere,” Keay asserted, “Ladakh, Nepal, Tibet, China, Burma, Thailand and Ceylon-except India. Buddhism engulfed the subcontinent, but in India it was unknown.”
Yes, why Buddhism was not practiced in India? The answer? Buddhism had never started in India because the country was predominantly under Hinduism. Thanks to Artist William Simpson’s work in water color (1862), our analysis of the stupas at Sanchi revealed clearly that the stupas were in no way Buddhist. Focusing at the sculpted reliefs coving their gateways, there was at least one naked lady. If they were Buddhist, such naked or nude portrays of male of female would not be permitted. The stupas at Scanchi were definitely not Buddhist.
Thanks also to Artist J. C. M (1814) depicting in water color the ruin Brahmin temple of Boddh Gaya which was identified Buddhist by a British archeologist. Comparing the original temple and the present one, there are many alterations and modifications to make the Brahmin temples the Buddhist.
Then, who were responsible for informing and misleading people in the whole world to believe that Buddhism originated in India?
During 1812-1867, five British archeologists, namely James Prinsep, Brian H. Hodgson, Francis Buchanan, a Mr. George Turnour (Ceylon), and Alexander Cunningham (a son of famous poet- Allan Cunningham), revealed the series of information misleading themselves to the conclusion that Buddhism originated in Hindustan (present India).
Among these archeologists, Alexander Cunningham had the strongest commitment to trace the history of Buddhism. During 1834-54, Cunningham excavated many places in Sarnath, Bhilsa, Sanji. Probably unaware of the fact that the authentic history of Buddhism had already existed in Thailand and its neighboring countries, Cunningham managed to rewrite the history of Buddhism basing on a few Buddhist artifacts found during excavation. He was also partially credited for compiling the history of India and dubbed as the “old campaigner.” For his archeological works, he was knighted in 1887.
Fig 1 Pratat Sri Song Rak: Buddha's Birth Place in Loey
For more than thousand years, people in Thailand and Laos believe that their Lord Buddha was born in the present land known as Suwannabhumi (mentioned in the Tripitaka as "Chompoo Dwip-meaning the land of Chompoo trees).
In Thailand, Laos, and Burma, there are ten thousands of Buddhist artifacts, temples, chedi, Buddha's foot prints, images, laser-like imprint of Buddha's shadows on cave walls, ancient scripture describing the presence of Lord Buddha in many ancient cities and towns, and relics of Lord Buddha and of his disciples.
The news of the discovery that Buddha was born in India stormed across the earth like tidal waves because of the British influence in their colonies spreading all over the world. It reached Thailand in the reign of King Rama IV (King Mongkut) who had been in the monkhood for many years before his succession to the throne. King Mongkut had a strong belief that the Buddha was born in Suwannabhumi. But at that time, there was no conclusion until 1867 (B.E 2410) when Cunningham wrote and spread the news about his reconstruction of Buddhism history--just a year before King Mongkut’s death. Had the King been living longer, there definitely must have been a protest from Thailand against British archeologists’ claim.
Three years later, a Dr. Bradley who set up the first printing shop in Thailand, gave a concerted support to the British claims by declaring that Thai writing system (alphabets and vowels) was derived from India. Dr. Bradley should have known that Thai systems of writing, Lai Sue Thai (Thai alphabets-ลายสือไทย) and Lai Sue Khom (Khom alphabets-ลายขอมไทย), were originated 6,750 years ago by Khun Sue Thai and his brother Khun Khom Thai! That is about two thousand years before the Sumerian.
Instead of trying to uphold Thailand’s own precious heritage and protest against this world class distortion, no single Thai bold enough to openly take any stand to counter attack the claims. At least three prominent, high ranking figures, two senior monks and one official, accepted the British’s theories. To the contrary, in the course of times, they advocated the new Buddhism history and spread it through out Siam. The terms used in Thailand such as Yonok, Milukha etc. were claimed to be derived from Greek’s. After B.E. 2440 (1897AD), the authentic version, Sankitiyawong, written by the Venerable Pra Wanarat of Wat Po in BE.2332 (1789 AD), was no longer in use by the Thai Sanka to show how civilized Thai monks were for not believing in Ajinteya stage or supernatural phenomena as mentioned in the Sankitiyawong.
Around B.E. 2440s or 1890s, the reactions and protests to the high ranking monks, ignited and begun by groups of Buddhist monks, were peacefully demonstrated. For example, a Venerable Pra Dhammachedi (Pan), a senior monk of Wat Mahanaparam Temple in Bangkok, wrote a book protesting the Thai Sangka for accepting the fact that the Lord Buddha was born in Hindustan, the belief presented by a group of eight Indians from Kasi who were accused by the monk for taking back to India the Buddhist scripture, teaching documents, and glossary. They returned to Thailand with the map of India marked with names of cities, rivers, mountains as appeared in the Buddhist Tripitaka.
Buddhist people were so upset about this distortion of the world history.
"…Old people were so mad to the accusation that the Buddha was Indian." recalled Professor Dr. Preedee Kasemsap, a former President of Thammasart University recalled.
Three groups of academic and researchers, ignited by the book and long doubts about the Lord Buddha being born Indian, began their studies on the original birthplace and whereabouts of the Lord Buddha during his 80 years until he entered nirvana in 543 BC.
Fig 2 Pra Taen Dong Rang: The Buddha's Death Place where the Lord Buddha passed away to enter Nirvana 543 BC. Province, Northeastern Thailand
Fig. 3 Cover of the book by John Keay (2001). This book, probably without the author's awareness, provides useful information on the works of British archeologists which caused the whole world to believe that Buddhism originated in India.
Fig 4 Cover of Sankitiyawong, the authentic History of Buddhism written in 1789 nearly 80 years before Cunningham’s reconstructed and distorted it.
Read special articles contributed by our members:
Reasons in brief why we believe the Buddha Birthplace is in Thailand. Please click
The search for the truth has already begun! We are positive that Buddhism took place in Suwannabhumi, not in India. We'd like to invite all interested parties to view some observations and artifacts and help provide us some technical supports to carry out the studies so that someday, a decade or a century, in the future the truth shall be revealed!
Summary of Research Findings:
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Updated: June 2003