Zom wrote:If someone attempts to make a point by means of parody, how is that a "lie"?
Too huge and too detailed sutta for a parody, especially if we take other same ("this topic") passages from other suttas. And what is more, when Buddha uses analogies, even "funny" ones, he usually make it clear that this is an analogy.
Too dangerous to consider it this way - because all suttas can be easily called "a parody", especially that on rebirth, kamma, nibbana, supernatural powers, and other aspects that can't be seen here and now.
No, I don't think DN 27 is a lie; I think it's parody/satire. But you make a good point. If people like Gombrich are correct in that DN 27 was actually meant to make fun of the very need for a cosmology as a foundation for religious development, then as John Holder notes, "it has the unfortunate side effect of opening the doors to endless debate about which parts of the Pali Canon are allegory and which are to be taken literally."
One can certainly subscribe to a literal interpretation of the events described in DN 27, and who's to say that it's not possible? Since the discourse begins as a story about the beginning of life on this world, it's not unreasonable to posit that the Buddha was merely using the story itself to illustrate his point to his audience; nevertheless, that doesn't mean that the story was simply concocted with no factual basis whatsoever. What is more intriguing to me, however, is whether stories like these evolved to counter the prevalent wrong views of the time, or whether they contain actual first-hand knowledge of the way in which our physical universe works.
I suppose that I've leaned more towards agnosticism when it comes to this particular subject — choosing instead to focus on how these teachings relate to the workings of the mind, and in particular, the arising of suffering and the cessation of suffering — but, I feel that it's important to have a clear picture of the context in which the Buddha was teachings in order to avoid misconceptions about those teachings.
While I agree with Gombrich that the basic principles of Buddhism are not affected by intellectual inquiry into the history of Buddhist texts and the development of the religion itself, such an inquiry can have a tremendous impact on how certain teachings are to be understood, and more specifically, the context in which these teachings are provided. Gombrich believes that we can discover the objective meaning of these ancient texts as opposed to the postmodern view that the meaning of a text has no inherent meaning apart from that ascribed to it by each reader or generation of readers, and I think this is an idea that's at least worth exploring.