If not sure about authenticity, compare with the suttas?

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.

Re: If not sure about authenticity, compare with the suttas?

Postby bharadwaja » Thu May 15, 2014 5:15 pm

Keeping the issue of PTS dictionary's accuracy aside, what makes you think Citaka and Pitaka are the same word?

Besides, what exactly is your point? Pitaka was never used in the Buddha's era to imply bucketing or sub-categorizing a collection. It only had a literal meaning, and that points to the non existence of an oral tradition in pre-sectarian Buddhism for the canon as a whole.
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Re: If not sure about authenticity, compare with the suttas?

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Thu May 15, 2014 5:37 pm

arhat wrote:Keeping the issue of PTS dictionary's accuracy aside, what makes you think Citaka and Pitaka are the same word?

Besides, what exactly is your point? Pitaka was never used in the Buddha's era to imply bucketing or sub-categorizing a collection. It only had a literal meaning, and that points to the non existence of an oral tradition in pre-sectarian Buddhism for the canon as a whole.


The word "pitaka" appears nowhere in the PTS Dictionary. It asked if I meant "citaka", which means pile. Which led me to conclude that we sort things into piles, such as when we wash clothing for folding and storage.: shirts, pants, underwear, etc. Ti-pitaka. Three Baskets or Three Piles...same difference.....or, not! :thinking:

Ti-pitaka: ' The Three Baskets', is the name for the 3 main divisions of the Pāli Canon: the Basket of Discipline Vinaya Pitaka, the Basket of Discourses Sutta Pitaka and the Basket ot Philosophy Abhidhamma Pitaka.


Seems like kind of a dopey argument on my part! Right!??? :popcorn:

I was mostly curious about the similarity of the words. I am sure that even Pali has changed in 2500 years. :namaste:
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
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Re: If not sure about authenticity, compare with the suttas?

Postby bharadwaja » Thu May 15, 2014 7:56 pm

The word "pitaka" appears nowhere in the PTS Dictionary. It asked if I meant "citaka", which means pile. Which led me to conclude that we sort things into piles, such as when we wash clothing for folding and storage.: shirts, pants, underwear, etc. Ti-pitaka. Three Baskets or Three Piles...same difference.....or, not! :thinking:

No you were shooting in the dark.

http://dsalsrv02.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/p ... :2766.pali

I was mostly curious about the similarity of the words. I am sure that even Pali has changed in 2500 years. :namaste:

Just because a dictionary suggests a word with a similar spelling ("prostate" vs. "prostrate") doesn't mean the words are related, even remotely.
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Re: If not sure about authenticity, compare with the suttas?

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Thu May 15, 2014 11:34 pm

Thanks. I wonder why your version has it and mine doesn't? :thinking:
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
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Re: If not sure about authenticity, compare with the suttas?

Postby bharadwaja » Thu May 15, 2014 11:43 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:In the lecture I cited above, Norman presents a well argued theory


I don't think so. His arguments are shaky and one sided. Here are his principal arguments and why I think they are shaky.

He says "There is no agreement among scholars about the date when writing first came into use in India" but this is dubious.

We know for certain that the earliest texts and inscriptions in India are all from the 3rd century BCE, writing cannot have been introduced in India before the 4th century BCE at the earliest. No one claims otherwise.

He says "If writing was in use during the early period of Buddhism, we should have expected to find rules laid down in the Vinaya governing the proper use and storage of
writing implements and materials, in the way in which we find instructions about everything else which concerns a monk’s daily life.
"

This is also shaky because he presumes that monks should have been the earliest writers or copiers of the sutta manuscripts.

Even if we assume they were, it is not necessary that they used writing for everyday use as to necessitate carrying writing implements along with them wherever they went.

Maybe they didn't even carry the written texts around with them but deposited them for safekeeping at reliable places or monasteries. Monasteries cannot have been used for any other principal purpose in Ashoka's time (other than as a storehouse and copying place for manuscripts) since monks in the early monastic tradition never lived in a single place... the entire paribbajaka i.e. wandering mendicant tradition (which some people wrongly call the sramana tradition) was about living a homeless (non-settled) existence. Monks cannot have lived for extended periods in or around a single monastery. But texts had to have a place to be preserved and copied.

Norman says "The vocabulary of the early texts is centred around the words for hearing, from the root śru - to hear, and for speaking from the root vac to speak" and uses this as an argument to prove that there was no word for "reading".

But even Ashoka in his (written) rock edicts says things like "This edict is to be listened/heard every 4 months..." (not "read"). Just because he uses the words listen/hear, it doesnt mean some or all of Ashoka's edicts were once part of an oral tradition before they were finally written down as rock edicts.

Similarly Ashoka in another edict says "These Dhamma texts -- Extracts from the Discipline, the Noble Way of Life, the Fears to Come, the Poem on the Silent Sage, the Discourse on the Pure Life, Upatisa's Questions, and the Advice to Rahula which was spoken by the Buddha concerning false speech -- these Dhamma texts, reverend sirs, I desire that all the monks and nuns may constantly listen to...", and this by the same logic does not mean these suttas that Ashoka was referring to by name and suggesting they be heard, were part of a putative oral tradition.

Norman also says "The word bhāṇaka means speaker, from the root bhaṇ “to speak”, and is another of the items of vocabulary which suggest that the early Buddhists used an oral tradition."

However there are no bhāṇakas mentioned either in the canon itself or anytime within the first 10 centuries of Buddhism. Even Buddhaghosa who is the first to mention a bhāṇaka uses it only once in relevance to the sutta pitaka and does not mention that bhāṇakas followed an independent oral tradition. So to use a single occurence of this word virtually a millenium after the buddha's time (and by redefining it) to argue for a great oral tradition in the Buddha's era is kind of odd..

Norman further says "...but everyone, I think, agrees that during the early period of Buddhism, even if writing was available, all teaching was by oral methods, and the Buddhist scriptures were transmitted orally, as was also the case with the brahmanical texts." So here we come to the crux of the argument, he is relying on dogma (i.e. "everyone agrees so it must be true") to prove that there was an oral tradition, not because there is any evidence for it, but due to the existence of much evidence against it. He also brings the red herring called the 'brahmanical oral tradition' of the vedas to suggest that buddhists must have adopted the brahmanical oral tradition. However the brahmanical oral tradition was specifically designed for the vedas, applying it for the tipitaka was wholly impossible (see below).

ancientbuddhism wrote:do you have evidence for your claim?


I have evidence that bhanakas are not mentioned at all in the canon.

Nor could they have followed the vedic oral tradition for preserving the pali canon intact since the vedic oral tradition depended on significant linguistic tools and grammatical study which is all still practised in India , it is extremely rigorous and time-consuming, it depends very heavily on grammatical study, I am convinced it can never have been used by the sangha (it took decades of vedic study for a brahmin to become fully proficient in the oral tradition).

ancientbuddhism wrote:Lecture VIII – Buddhism and Canonicity – of the same series cited above, discusses tipiṭaka and the idea of a pāli-canon in general. That the tipiṭaka would be considered as representing a physical collection of texts originally, was not mentioned, although the nearest equivalent to ‘canon’ he comes up with is “…Buddhavacana “the words of the Buddha””.

So how were the suttas transmitted if there was no compilation of them i.e. a canon? How did people know which sutta was what (as Ashoka refers to some of the suttas by name)?
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Re: If not sure about authenticity, compare with the suttas?

Postby bharadwaja » Thu May 15, 2014 11:45 pm

Ron-The-Elder wrote:Thanks. I wonder why your version has it and mine doesn't? :thinking:

The t in Piṭaka has a dot under it, i.e. it is a retroflexed t (that doesn't exist in English), not the dental t which does. You were trying to query with the dental t.
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Re: If not sure about authenticity, compare with the suttas?

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Fri May 16, 2014 3:52 am

arhat wrote:
Ron-The-Elder wrote:Thanks. I wonder why your version has it and mine doesn't? :thinking:

The t in Piṭaka has a dot under it, i.e. it is a retroflexed t (that doesn't exist in English), not the dental t which does. You were trying to query with the dental t.


Thanks. I couldn't even see the "retroflex" character due to being poorly sighted at the resolution & enlargement on my computer screen. If you know: "How do I readily get that and other characters on my keyboard?"

Thanks. :namaste:
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
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Re: If not sure about authenticity, compare with the suttas?

Postby Ron-The-Elder » Fri May 16, 2014 4:13 am

Found this in the Pali Section :reading: :

पिटक ; piṭaka ; a basket ; a container ; one of the three main division of Pāli Canon .


source: http://dictionary.tamilcube.com/pali-dictionary.aspx

....which I will reference in the future when using Pali---->English Dictionary:

source: http://dsal.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/pali/

Thank you very much for your help! :bow:
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
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Re: If not sure about authenticity, compare with the suttas?

Postby Qianxi » Fri May 16, 2014 9:02 am

arhat wrote:Norman also says "The word bhāṇaka means speaker, from the root bhaṇ “to speak”, and is another of the items of vocabulary which suggest that the early Buddhists used an oral tradition."

However there are no bhāṇakas mentioned either in the canon itself or anytime within the first 10 centuries of Buddhism. Even Buddhaghosa who is the first to mention a bhāṇaka uses it only once in relevance to the sutta pitaka and does not mention that bhāṇakas followed an independent oral tradition. So to use a single occurence of this word virtually a millenium after the buddha's time (and by redefining it) to argue for a great oral tradition in the Buddha's era is kind of odd..


According to Speaking for Buddhas: Scriptural Commentary in Indian Buddhism by Richard Nance,( un-numbered page + notes ) 'bhāṇaka' is found on 2nd century bce - 1st century ce Prakrit donative inscriptions in Sri Lanka and on a couple of 2nd century bce inscriptions in India. Interestingly I think the Sri Lankan inscriptions imply that the bhāṇakas specialise in one Nikaya (Dighabhanaka, Majjhimabhanaka etc.), but in the Indian inscriptions they are just bhāṇakas without a specialisation.

I think there may be some sources preserved in Chinese that touch on this topic, i'll have a look.

EDIT: In MN 33 and its Chinese parallels http://suttacentral.net/mn33 there's reference to 'those who know the agamas, memorise the dhamma, memorise the vinaya and memorise the matikas' "āgatāgamā dhammadharā vinayadharā mātikādharā" (I may well be wrong with that translation, please correct me.)

There's also talk in the Theravada Vinaya of putting people together who have similar interests: http://suttacentral.net/en/pi-tv-bu-vb-ss8
Then the venerable Dabba, the Mallian, being so chosen, assigned one lodging in the same place for those monks who belonged to the same company. For those monks who knew the Suttantas he assigned a lodging in the same place, saying: “These will be able to chant over the Suttantas to one another.” For those monks versed in the Vinaya rules, he assigned a lodging in the same place, saying: “They will decide upon the Vinaya with one another.” For those monks teaching dhamma he assigned a lodging in the same place, saying: “They will discuss dhamma with one another.” For those monks who were musers he assigned a lodging in the same place, saying: “They will not disturb one another.”..who lived indulging in low talk and who were athletic...who came in late at night..


The first three kinds of monk sound a bit like the purported bhāṇaka specialisation system, perhaps an early form where instead of specialising in a Nikaya the monks memorised a whole pitaka. I admit the 'musers', the athletes and the night owls don't really fit the pattern.

The Pali for that vinaya passage: http://suttacentral.net/pi/pi-tv-bu-vb-ss8
Sammato saṃghena āyasmā dabbo mallaputto senāsa­na­paññā­pako ca bhattuddesako ca. Khamati saṃghassa, tasmā tuṇhī, evametaṃ dhārayāmī’”ti.

Sammato ca panāyasmā dabbo mallaputto sabhāgānaṃ bhikkhūnaṃ ekajjhaṃ senāsanaṃ paññapeti. Ye te bhikkhū suttantikā tesaṃ ekajjhaṃ senāsanaṃ paññapeti—“te aññamaññaṃ suttantaṃ saṅgāyissantī”ti. Ye te bhikkhū vinayadharā tesaṃ ekajjhaṃ senāsanaṃ paññapeti—“te aññamaññaṃ vinayaṃ vinicchi­nis­santī”ti. Ye te bhikkhū dhammakathikā tesaṃ ekajjhaṃ senāsanaṃ paññapeti—“te aññamaññaṃ dhammaṃ sākacchissantī”ti. Ye te bhikkhū jhāyino tesaṃ ekajjhaṃ senāsanaṃ paññapeti— “te aññamaññaṃ na byābādhissantī”ti. Ye te bhikkhū tiracchā­na­ka­thikā kāya­daḷhi­bahulā viharanti tesampi ekajjhaṃ senāsanaṃ paññapeti—“imāyapime āyasmanto ratiyā acchissantī”ti. Yepi te bhikkhū vikāle āgacchanti tesampi tejodhātuṃ samāpajjitvā teneva ālokena senāsanaṃ paññapeti. Apisu bhikkhū sañcicca vikāle āgacchanti—“mayaṃ āyasmato dabbassa mallaputtassa iddhi­pā­ṭihā­ri­yaṃ passissāmā”ti.
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Re: If not sure about authenticity, compare with the suttas?

Postby Qianxi » Fri May 16, 2014 10:01 am

Thinking about it, there's probably something quite significant in the transition from "dhammadharā, vinayadharā, mātikādharā" in the suttas to "suttantikā, vinayadharā, dhammakathikā" in the vinaya.
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Re: If not sure about authenticity, compare with the suttas?

Postby bharadwaja » Fri May 16, 2014 5:31 pm

Qianxi wrote:'bhāṇaka' is found on 2nd century bce - 1st century ce Prakrit donative inscriptions in Sri Lanka and on a couple of 2nd century bce inscriptions in India. Interestingly I think the Sri Lankan inscriptions imply that the bhāṇakas specialise in one Nikaya (Dighabhanaka, Majjhimabhanaka etc.), but in the Indian inscriptions they are just bhāṇakas without a specialisation.

OK thanks, if that was the case, I don't dispute that the bhanakas existed in early Buddhism, if they did exist in the BC era then I do accept that there may have been a bhanaka system. I dispute the interpretation that they were an independent oral tradition or by implication that they existed in the pre-writing era. The fact that they are found on inscriptions is itself the best proof that Buddhists used writing between 4th and 1st centuries BCE before the canon reached Sri Lanka. Most if not all the earliest writings of India from this era are Buddhist. I do accept that both in the Buddha's era and later, there were people who memorized some suttas verbatim. These would have predominantly been verse sutras, and not prose. Certainly the idea that people in the pre-writing era memorized large prose sutras verbatim, or even entire nikayas or pitakas verbatim, is fanciful.

EDIT: In MN 33 and its Chinese parallels http://suttacentral.net/mn33 there's reference to 'those who know the agamas, memorise the dhamma, memorise the vinaya and memorise the matikas' "āgatāgamā dhammadharā vinayadharā mātikādharā" (I may well be wrong with that translation, please correct me.)


There is also the compound pitaka-dhara found in post canonical texts and dhara (from the verbal root dhr- which means to bear) literally means "bearer" i.e. basket-bearer or container-carrier.
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Re: If not sure about authenticity, compare with the suttas?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Fri May 16, 2014 6:09 pm

I don't think so. His arguments are shaky and one sided. Here are his principal arguments and why I think they are shaky. ...


The use of writing during this period is not so critical as whether the saṅgha used it. Is there any real evidence to suggest they did?

Also, a dhammadhara as one who remembers the Dhamma is just as figurative as piṭaka for the organisation of a greater collective endeavor of information to remember. Are there any real evidences you know of that indicate the use of dhara or piṭaka with reference to physically bearing and storing these texts? Otherwise your claim, although interesting, is truly as you say 'one sided'.
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Re: If not sure about authenticity, compare with the suttas?

Postby bharadwaja » Fri May 16, 2014 8:44 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:The use of writing during this period is not so critical as whether the saṅgha used it. Is there any real evidence to suggest they did?


In fact all the earliest manuscripts of India have some relevance to Buddhism or the other (and some are suttas)... can you explain that?

Are there any real evidences you know of that indicate the use of dhara or piṭaka with reference to physically bearing and storing these texts? Otherwise your claim, although interesting, is truly as you say 'one sided'.

Dhara can be used both for physical (literal) and non-physical "bearing". Piṭaka was never used in a non-physical sense in BCE India, can you prove otherwise?

Here are some quotes from Indian literature for your benefit...

Rāmāyaṇa, 2.33.5.1 - khanitra piṭake cobhe mamānayata gacchataḥ
Mahābhārata 1.57.20.2 - alaṃkṛtāyāḥ piṭakair gandhair mālyaiśca bhūṣaṇaiḥ
Laṅkāvatārasūtra 2.136.2 - tatra sarvakuśalamūlotsargaḥ katamaḥ yaduta bodhisattva piṭaka nikṣepo'bhyākhyānaṃ ca naite sūtrāntā
Aṣṭāṅgahṛdayasaṃhitā 3.13.62.2 piṭakair avakīrṇo 'tipītalohitapāṇḍuraiḥ
Ānandakanda 2.8.35.1 asnigdhaṃ rūkṣamityuktaṃ visphoṭaṃ piṭakaṃ tathā
Revākhaṇḍa 191.23.2 dadrūpiṭakakuṣṭhāni maṇḍalāni vicarcikāḥ //
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Re: If not sure about authenticity, compare with the suttas?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Sat May 17, 2014 2:51 am

In fact all the earliest manuscripts of India have some relevance to Buddhism or the other (and some are suttas)... can you explain that?


You would have to explain which of this ‘all’ and what relevance. There is relevance, I have argued as much myself, but that is another topic. The context of the question is evidence of the saṅgha using writing during the period discussed, which if I am understanding you would have been in use already by the First Council?

Dhara can be used both for physical (literal) and non-physical "bearing". Piṭaka was never used in a non-physical sense in BCE India, can you prove otherwise?

Here are some quotes from Indian literature for your benefit...


Actually piṭaka has little relevance (citing non-Buddhist texts does not make that either) to your claim, unless you can show where there is evidence in the EBT's, or paracanonical Buddhist texts referencing that period, that baskets of texts were being stored during the Tathāgata’s career (or just after his parinibbāna and before the first recitation), or hauled to Sri Lanka prior to the written canon we know of .

The use of dhara, with reference to doctrine is within the context of memory e.g.

58. <10> One should cultivate one of great learning, expert in the doctrine (dhammadharaṃ), a noble friend possessed of intelligence. Knowing one’s goals, having dispelled doubt, one chould wander solitary as a rhinoceros horn.” [Norman – The Group of Discourses (Suttanipāta 1.3) p. 7)

The idiom “Bahussutaṃ dhammadharaṃ …” is also at Th. 1035

And unless there is evidence suggesting otherwise, there is no reason to claim this is not with reference to an oral memory.

The practice of catechetical instruction was already known in the Nikāyas e.g. Samiddhi Sutta AN. 9.14, and many of the Tathāgata’s discourses likewise were interrogatory in style.
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

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Re: If not sure about authenticity, compare with the suttas?

Postby Sylvester » Sat May 17, 2014 3:32 am

I thought that the existence and persistence of deictic pronouns in the suttas is taken by scholars to be evidence that the suttas were not set to writing until the oral forms had ossified and it became inviolable?
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Re: If not sure about authenticity, compare with the suttas?

Postby bharadwaja » Sat May 17, 2014 2:11 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:You would have to explain which of this ‘all’ and what relevance. There is relevance, I have argued as much myself, but that is another topic. The context of the question is evidence of the saṅgha using writing during the period discussed, which if I am understanding you would have been in use already by the First Council?

As I have said, all, if not most of the earliest manuscripts of India are Buddhist (and Buddhists, in the context of BCE India, means the monastic tradition). But it appears to me you are not familiar with early Indian epigraphy, so you are asking me which of this "all"? That the buddhists used written texts in the time of Ashoka does not necessarily have to mean they wrote/copied those texts themselves.

So, far from the wrong but common inference that the Buddhists did not use writing for the canon, it appears from extant archaeological and linguistic evidence that it was only the Buddhists initially, and the Jains after them, who used writing, and that too mainly to record the canon.

Actually piṭaka has little relevance (citing non-Buddhist texts does not make that either) to your claim, unless you can show where there is evidence in the EBT's, or paracanonical Buddhist texts referencing that period, that baskets of texts were being stored during the Tathāgata’s career (or just after his parinibbāna and before the first recitation), or hauled to Sri Lanka prior to the written canon we know of .


The fact is that the word piṭaka in ancient India (as evidenced independently above) was never used in a non-physical sense. Your claim is that in early Buddhism alone piṭaka was used in a non-literal sense, but I have already mentioned that the early buddhist canonical literature don't mention piṭakas at all (because piṭakas were not used to store dhamma texts in the Buddha's era). So even after this much clarification, you keep clinging to your misconception, I don't understand why. Besides it is not even an Indo-Aryan word, it is a Dravidian borrowing used in Pali & Sanskrit, cf. Tamil peṭṭakam

The use of dhara, with reference to doctrine is within the context of memory e.g.

58. <10> One should cultivate one of great learning, expert in the doctrine (dhammadharaṃ), a noble friend possessed of intelligence. Knowing one’s goals, having dispelled doubt, one chould wander solitary as a rhinoceros horn.” [Norman – The Group of Discourses (Suttanipāta 1.3) p. 7)

The idiom “Bahussutaṃ dhammadharaṃ …” is also at Th. 1035

And unless there is evidence suggesting otherwise, there is no reason to claim this is not with reference to an oral memory.


I have already mentioned that "dhara" can be used both for physical (literal) and non-physical "bearing". In fact dhamma itself is derived from the same root (dharma; dhar = "to bear"). So i don't see what your point is when you tell me what I already know and acknowledge.

Besides the above translation is a poor one... it translates this passage:

Bahussutaṃ dhammadharaṃ bhajetha
Mittaṃ uḷāraṃ paṭibhānavantaṃ,
Aññāya atthāni vineyya kaṅkhaṃ
Eko care khaggavisāṇakappo

Bahussutam = "hearing" much (a figure of speech meaning "knowledgeable")
dhammadharaṃ = upholding/bearing dhamma (this has nothing to do with expertise or memory)
bhajetha = trying to associate with

So unless you don't know Pali yourself, there is no point citing a poor translation as an authority to justify clinging to an erroneous belief[/quote]

The practice of catechetical instruction was already known in the Nikāyas e.g. Samiddhi Sutta AN. 9.14, and many of the Tathāgata’s discourses likewise were interrogatory in style.

And what is that supposed to prove except that the interrogation happened orally in the buddha's time? Does that prove that the suttas (particularly the prose suttas) were orally transmitted?
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Re: If not sure about authenticity, compare with the suttas?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Sat May 17, 2014 5:31 pm

bharadwhatever wrote:As I have said, all, if not most of the earliest manuscripts of India are Buddhist (and Buddhists, in the context of BCE India, means the monastic tradition). But it appears to me you are not familiar with early Indian epigraphy, so you are asking me which of this "all"? That the buddhists used written texts in the time of Ashoka does not necessarily have to mean they wrote/copied those texts themselves.


Actually what you posted was…

bharadwhatever wrote:In fact all the earliest manuscripts of India have some relevance to Buddhism or the other (and some are suttas)... can you explain that?


The English is not clear, ESL perhaps? Nevertheless, if it is the earliest “Buddhist” manuscripts you are referring to as having relevance (to themselves?), what is your point? Can you show how ‘Buddhist’ manuscripts circa 1st century CE make your claim (see your post below) that the bhāṇakas were reciting from written texts. Also, are you indicating a 'Buddhist' written tradition prior to the parinibbāna of the Tathāgata and the recitations at the First Council?

bharadwhatever wrote:Bhanakas were not reciters from memory but readers from texts. In the early centuries of Buddhism not many could read aloud (i.e. recite) since most were illiterate, and those who could were held in high regard.

In the Vinaya I think, there is a story of Ananda correcting a bhanaka who reads out wrongly by mistake.
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: If not sure about authenticity, compare with the suttas?

Postby bharadwaja » Sat May 17, 2014 7:14 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:if it is the earliest “Buddhist” manuscripts you are referring to as having relevance (to themselves?), what is your point?

No that is not what I said. The earliest extant writings from India (from circa the era of Ashoka) are all (or mostly) Buddhist. What this means is that the Buddhists were the pioneers in the adoption of writing in India.
Can you show how ‘Buddhist’ manuscripts circa 1st century CE make your claim (see your post below) that the bhāṇakas were reciting from written texts

I didn't say that there were no buddhist manuscripts before the 1st century CE, but that seems to be your assumption. I simply said the bhāṇakas were not reciters from memory but rather literates who could (& did) read from manuscripts.

Also, are you indicating a 'Buddhist' written tradition prior to the parinibbāna of the Tathāgata and the recitations at the First Council?

I dont know if there was such a thing as the first council, because the canon itself is silent about it as far as I know.

If the vast majority of the canonical suttas were composed & recited at such a council for preserving them for posterity, they must have been immediately written down (by specialist scribes) in any script that was known/available.

But no I don't claim that there may have been a written tradition in the Buddha's lifetime.
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Re: If not sure about authenticity, compare with the suttas?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Sun May 18, 2014 12:09 am

No that is not what I said. The earliest extant writings from India (from circa the era of Ashoka) are all (or mostly) Buddhist. What this means is that the Buddhists were the pioneers in the adoption of writing in India.


I didn't say that there were no buddhist manuscripts before the 1st century CE, but that seems to be your assumption. I simply said the bhāṇakas were not reciters from memory but rather literates who could (& did) read from manuscripts.


The reference to ‘manuscripts’ and ‘Indian epigraphy’ was unclear earlier. But working with what you have just given and with reference to earlier statements you made:

◦ If the bhāṇakas were reciting from manuscripts, what evidence can you provide other than to surmise that because a system of writing was in use during the ‘era of Ashoka’ that the early canon was preserved by the saṅgha in this way?

◦ Can you show that a writing system was introduced by the saṅgha (or 'Buddhists' on their behalf) for any purpose?

◦ When did the saṅgha begin using it?

◦ Did the saṅgha never use a mnemonic system with preference to a written one?

◦ I think you mentioned that others (not bhikkhus) were doing the work of recording and storing the materials for the bhikkhus to refer to; is there any evidence that shows this.

I dont know if there was such a thing as the first council, because the canon itself is silent about it as far as I know.

If the vast majority of the canonical suttas were composed & recited at such a council for preserving them for posterity, they must have been immediately written down (by specialist scribes) in any script that was known/available.

But no I don't claim that there may have been a written tradition in the Buddha's lifetime.


The canon is also silent about scribes and rubric manuscripts, but you seem convinced that this is the only way the canon was transmitted. I am not always satisfied with what tradition has given us, but this matter has adequate academic support, and you have not shown anything other than an interesting opinion thus far.
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: If not sure about authenticity, compare with the suttas?

Postby bharadwaja » Sun May 18, 2014 7:04 am

ancientbuddhism wrote:◦ If the bhāṇakas were reciting from manuscripts, what evidence can you provide other than to surmise that because a system of writing was in use during the ‘era of Ashoka’ that the early canon was preserved by the saṅgha in this way?

The evidence is threefold:

The first evidence is that the canon was put in a linguistic form which was previously unknown & unused (which scholars today call middle-Indic), and most if not all this difference between the earlier language and the canonical language is due to the following:
1. Irregularities in orthography (i.e. deficiencies in the script)
2. Scribal errors
3. Later linguistic standardization

The second evidence is the presence of BCE era manuscripts containing both suttas as well as non-sutta texts.

The third evidence is a literal oral tradition (of the vedic kind) which preserves not just the content but also the language and the exact pronunciation of the language needs significantly advanced linguistic scholarship and tools which the Buddhist sangha did not evidently possess.

◦ Can you show that a writing system was introduced by the saṅgha (or 'Buddhists' on their behalf) for any purpose?


Yes because nobody else used much (or any) writing apart from the sangha in the first few centuries of writing in India. All the early written manuscripts are Buddhist, I dont know of the existence of any non-Buddhist written manuscripts from the Ashokan era (+ or - one century)

◦ When did the saṅgha begin using it?


My understanding is that they began using it when the suttas were composed (at the putative first council), because there is proof against the existence of an oral tradition.

◦ Did the saṅgha never use a mnemonic system with preference to a written one?


For the prose suttas - no.
For verse suttas - perhaps but not evident.

◦ I think you mentioned that others (not bhikkhus) were doing the work of recording and storing the materials for the bhikkhus to refer to; is there any evidence that shows this.

No, the texts were used by bhikkus but it is not necessary that the physical activity of "writing" was necessarily done by them, specially in the first few centuries of writing. The Milindapanha contains some evidence of this. There the bhikku Nāgasena (circa 150 BCE) tells king Milinda:

"yathā, mahārāja, yo koci puriso rattiṃ lekhaṃ pesetukāmo lekhakaṃ pakkosāpetvā padīpaṃ āropetvā lekhaṃ likhāpeyya, likhite pana lekhe padīpaṃ vijjhāpeyya, vijjhāpitepi padīpe lekhaṃ na vinasseyya."

My translation of the above: 'Great King, when a man, during the night, desires to send a written letter, and after having a scribe called, has a lamp lit, and gets the letter written. Then, when the writing has been done, he extinguishes the lamp. But though the lamp had been put out the writing does not disappear.'

The canon is also silent about scribes and rubric manuscripts, but you seem convinced that this is the only way the canon was transmitted. I am not always satisfied with what tradition has given us, but this matter has adequate academic support, and you have not shown anything other than an interesting opinion thus far.


I have just quoted a statement above from the Milindapanha (from the Khuddaka Nikaya) which shows that Buddhists in India were well aware of scribes and writing in 150BCE (and generally, but perhaps not always, used scribes to do the writing just as I had thought), and we have suttas & non-sutta manuscripts from the same period (and archaeology might yet yield us other canonical and non-canonical manuscripts in future).
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