Sunday, September 10, 2023

The Lotus Sutra is not a counter-example to the Kuzari Principle

 A National Experiential Tradition is defined as:

1)     a tradition accepted by a nation about its own history

2) a tradition that describes a national experience of a previous generation of that nation

3) a national experience that would be expected to create a national       memory that would continue until the time when the tradition is in place.


The Kuzari principle says that national experiential traditions are true.


Some critics think that the events described in the Buddhist Lotus sutra are a  counter example to the Kuzari principle. Here I will show that those events do not satisfy the definition of an NET and therefore are not counterexamples to the Kuzari principle.


Here is a summary of the four main ways in which those events fail to meet the condition of the of the of the definition:


A, It is not clear that the events describe large scale human participation at all. Many of the beings described are clearly not human. Even when human terms are used, the numbers are clearly symbolic and not literal. That creates the impression that there is no description of a real human historical event. [So  2) is violated since a national event is a large scale human event.]


B. Even if we took the description to refer to large scale human participation, there is no description of the human group constituting a nation who could be the ancestors of a nation that possessed the tradition describing the events. See my discussion of the battle of the Milvian bridge in Reason to Believe pp. 272 - 274 for the significance of lacking national identity. [So 1) and 2) are violated.]


In addition, the Lotus sutra originated in a culture distinct from the descendants of the supposed original event.

According to the New World Encyclopedia (

The Lotus Sutra was published in Kashmir (or Punjab) during the Kushan dynasty, under king Kanishka´s reign. The Kushan dynasty was a different civilization than the Haryanka dynasty (that is king Ajātaśatru´s dynasty, who was allegedly present with his people when the Buddha performed the miracles).

As you know, one key component of the Kuzari Argument is (2) a national experience of a previous generation of that nation; that´s because if a relevant enough event happened, it should have left a memory on that nation as a whole, and that makes it verifiable.

It seems that the sutra doesn’t meet this requirement because this book was published by a nation that wasn´t the same nation where the miracles allegedly happened, and therefore the verifiability of the event fades away.

If someone in the Kushan empire asked “how come anybody knows about it” the fourth council would reply, “that´s because it didn´t happened to us, it happened to a different people and those people aren´t here” that means it´s unverifiable and therefore the Kuzari argument would not apply to the Lotus Sutra.


 This crucially violates 2). My thanks to Marcus Rayek for this crucial information.


C. The Lotus sutra is revered only by one of the three major branches of Buddhism, namely Mahayana. That means that it's authority as a direct revelation from God it's not accepted by the other two schools, namely Theravada and Vajrayana. That means that the veracity of the historical event is rejected by a large portion of the of those who are faithful to Buddhist tradition. That suggests that even in Mahayana it was not regarded as historical fact, but rather as a poetical exposition of fundamental beliefs and practices with which the other two branches somewhat disagreed, rather than a disagreement about an event of revelation. That being the case, the description of the historical events in the Lotus sutra cannot be regarded as a tradition accepted by a nation about its own history. [So 1) is violated.]



D. The date of origin of the Lotus sutra is very much in doubt. Here are the words of one of the translators of the sutra []:

We do not know where or when the Lotus Sutra was composed, or in what language. Probably it was initially formulated in a local Indian dialect and then later put into Sanskrit to lend it greater respectability. All we can say for certain about the date of its composition is that it was already in existence by 255 ce, when the first Chinese translation of it was made.

From another source []:

The Lotus Sutra was probably compiled in the first century C.E. in Kashmir, during the fourth Buddhist Council of the newly founded Mahayana sect of Buddhism, more than 500 years after the death of  Sakyamuni Buddha [1] It is thus not included in the more ancient Agamas of Mahayana Buddhism, nor in the  Sutta Pitaka  of the Theravada Buddhists, both of which represent the older Buddhist scriptures that can be historically  linked to Sakyamuni Buddha himself.


Given that date for its composition, we can either say it is meant as a literal history and comes into existence in violation of the Kuzari principle, or we can say that it is meant as poetry - and not as literal history - and does not violate the principle. There is no convincing reason that we should opt for the former over the latter. [So 1) is violated.]


[[More support for this conclusion is fund in the following quote from the first source above:

In these opening sentences we are still in the world of historical reality or possibility, in a setting in the outskirts of the city of Rajagriha in northern India in which Gautama, or Shakyamuni, very probably did in fact propound his doctrines in the sixth or fifth century bce.

But as Ananda proceeds to describe the staggering number and variety of human, nonhuman, and heavenly beings who have gathered to listen to the Buddha’s discourse, we realize that we have left the world of factual reality far behind. This is the first point to keep in mind in reading the Lotus Sutra. Its setting, its vast assembly of listeners, its dramatic occurrences in the end belong to a realm that totally transcends our ordinary concepts of time, space, and possibility. Again and again we are told of events that took place countless, indescribable numbers of kalpas, or eons, in the past, or of beings or worlds that are as numerous as the sands of millions and billions of Ganges Rivers. Such “numbers” are in fact no more than pseudo-numbers or non-numbers, intended to impress on us the impossibility of measuring the immeasurable. They are not meant to convey any statistical data but simply to boggle the mind and jar it loose from its conventional concepts of time and space. For in the realm of emptiness, time and space as we conceive them are meaningless; anywhere is the same as everywhere, and now, then, never, forever are all one.]]



In addition, other contradictions and historical problems are pointed out below.









Chapter I



[Text in italics is my addition of historical information.]

Thus have I heard. Once the Buddha was staying in the city of Rājagha, on



Oxford Reference › view › authority.2...


The capital of Magadha until the end of the Haryaṇka dynasty. Built by King Bimbisāra,

Bimbisāra › viewbydoi › auth...


Founder of the Haryaṇka dynasty and first king of Magadha.which he ruled for 52 years (c.465–413 bce) from his palace in Rājagṛha.

So the city was built no earlier than 465 B.C.E. This date is consistent only with the latest dates for Buddha’ life. According to the earlier dates these events could not have happened in his lifetime.










the mountain called Gdhrakūṭa, together with a great assembly of twelve

thousand monks, all of whom were arhats whose corruption was at an end,

who were free from the confusion of desire, who had achieved their own

goals, shattered the bonds of existence, and attained complete mental discipline.

Their names were Ājnāta kauṇḍinya, Mahākāśyapa, Uruvilvakāśyapa,

Gayā kāśyapa, Nadī kāśyapa, Śāri putra, Mahā maudgalyāyana, Mahā kātyā -

yana, Aniruddha, Kapphia, Gavāṃ pati, Revata, Pilinda vatsa, Bakkula,

Mahā kauṣṭhila, Nanda, Sundarananda, Pūr a maitrā yaṇī putra, Subhūti,

Ānanda, and Rāhula.


20 names for 12,000 monks.


All of them were great arhats, known to the assembly.

There were in addition two thousand others, both those who had more to

learn and those who did not. The nun Mahā prajāpatī was there, together with

her six thousand attendants; and also the nun Yaśodharā, Rāhulas mother,

together with her attendants.

There were also eighty thousand bodhisattva mahā sattvas, all of whom

were irreversible from highest, complete enlightenment (anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi).

They had obtained the dhāraṇīs, were established in eloquence,

and had turned the irreversible wheel of the Dharma. Each had paid homage

to countless hundreds of thousands of buddhas, planted roots of merit in their

presence, and had always been praised by those buddhas.


“Countless” clearly contradicts “hundreds of thousands”. In any case, it is clearly impossible for any real human being to receive homage from hundreds of thousands of real human beings.


They had also cultivated

compassion within themselves, skillfully caused others to enter the

wisdom of a buddha, obtained great wisdom, and reached the other shore. All

of them were famous throughout countless worlds and had saved innumerable

hundreds of thousands of sentient beings. They were Manjuśrī, Avalo -

kiteśvara, Mahāsthāmaprāpta, Nityodyukta, Anikipta dhura, Rat na pāni,

Bhaiajyarāja, Pradānaśūra, Ratnacandra, Can dra prabha, Pūra candra,

Mahāvikramin, Anantavikramin, Trai lokya vikrama, Bhadra pāla, Maitreya,

Ratnākara, and Susātha vāha.

These are the names of all 80,000?!


There were altogether eighty thousand such

bodhisattva mahāsattvas.At that time Śakra, king of the devas,


Śakra (Sanskrit: शक्र ŚakraPali: सक्क Sakka) is the ruler of the Trāyastriṃśa Heaven according to Buddhist cosmology. He is also referred to by the title "Śakra, Lord of the Devas" (Sanskrit: Śakra devānāṃ indraḥ; Pali: Sakka devānaṃ inda).[1] The name Śakra ("powerful") as an epithet of Indra is found in several verses of the Rigveda.


Clearly a mythological figure not human.





was also there, attended by twenty

thousand devaputras. Candra, Samantagandha, and Ratnaprabha, and the

great devas of the four quarters were there, together with a retinue of ten

thousand devaputras. The deva putras Īśvara and Maheśvara were there,

attended by thirty thousand devaputras. Brahma, the lord of the sahā world,

as well as the great Brahma Śikhin and the great Brahma Jyotiprabha were

there, together with a retinue of twelve thousand devaputras. The eight nāga



Who were the Naga kings?


  • Vrisha-naga alias Vrisha-bhava or Vrishabha, possibly ruled at Vidisha in the late 2nd century. ...
  • Bhima-naga, r. c. 210-230 CE, probably the first king to rule from Padmavati.
  • Skanda-naga.
  • Vasu-naga.
  • Brihaspati-naga.
  • Vibhu-naga.
  • Ravi-naga.
  • Bhava-naga.

The Naga (IAST: Nāga) dynasty ruled parts of north-central India during the 3rd and the 4th centuries, after the decline of the Kushan Empire and before the rise of the Gupta Empire. Its capital was located at Padmavati, which is identified with modern Pawaya in Madhya Pradesh. Modern historians identify it with the family that is called Bharashiva (IAST: Bhāraśiva) in the records of the Vakataka dynasty.


So they are approximately 500 years after the life of Buddha. So this reference to human participation cannot be historically accurate.






namely, Nanda, Upananda, Sāgara, Vāsukin, Takaka, Anavatapta,

Manasvin, and Utpalakawere also there, each of them surrounded by several

hundreds of thousands of attendants.

There were four kings of the kiṃnaras


A kinnara is a creature from Hindu and Buddhist mythology. They are described as part human and part bird, and have a strong association with music and love. Believed to come from the Himalayas, they often watch over the well-being of humans in times of trouble or danger. An ancient Indian string instrument is known as the Kinnari vina.


So these are mythological creatures.







whose names were Dharma, Su -

dharma, Mahādharma, and Dharmadhara, and each had several hundreds of

thousands of attendants. The four kings of the gandharvas were there. They

were Manojna, Manojnasvara, Madhura, and Madhurasvara, each of them

also with several hundreds of thousands of attendants. There, too, were four

kings of the asuras,


Asuras (Sanskritअसुर) are a class of beings or power-seeking clans, related to the more benevolent devas (also known as suras) in Hinduism.[1]

Since no names are mentioned, this is an indefinite reference impossible to place historically.






 called Bain, Kharaskandha, Vemacitra, and Rahu, each

with several hundreds of thousands of attendants. Mahā tejas, Mahākāya,

Mahā pūra, and Maharddhiprāpta, the four kings of the garuḍas,


The Four Heavenly Kings are four Buddhist gods or devas, each of whom is believed to watch over one cardinal direction of the world. In the Sanskrit language of India, they are called the "Caturmahārāja" (चतुर्महाराज) or "Caturmahārājikādeva": "Four Great Kings". In Chinese mythology, they are known as "Sì Dàtiānwáng" (Chinese四大天王lit. 'Four Great Heavenly Kings') or collectively as "Fēng Tiáo Yǔ Shùn" (simplified Chinese风调雨顺traditional Chinese風調雨順lit. 'Good climate'). The Hall of Four Heavenly Kings is a standard component of Chinese Buddhist temples.


So the four kings are clearly not human kings.




 were there

together with several hundreds of thousands of attendants. Finally, King

Ajāta śatru, Vaidehīs son,

I find no historical reference for this person.


 So the bottom line is that all the references to the kings and their attendants are references to mythological creatures except for one set of kings who are four centuries too late. That means that the description of this being a large scale public event is entirely unreliable.




 was also there with several hundreds of thousands

of his attendants.

Also notice that all the numbers are in round thousands. There was no interest here in counting the number of actual participants. The numbers indicate great multitudes and perhaps relative size.