bharad~ wrote:AB 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 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
Irregularities, errors and other anomalies would be expected with the homogenisation of several dialects into a single standard form, and could well “represent the remnants of recensions in other dialects, which has not been completely translated.” (Norman – 1983 §I). Even so, this proves nothing of a written translation into a Pāḷi standard.
We know that Pāḷi is a homogenisation of MIA dialects for ecclesiastical Theravāda purposes. That Pāḷi as a language of the Theravāda canon represents a homogamy of MIA languages written during the reign of Aśoka e.g. the epigraphy of that period, does not tell us that Theravāda bhikkhus (or others on their behalf) used a written form of it for the preservation of the canon.
bharad~ wrote:The second evidence is the presence of BCE era manuscripts containing both suttas as well as non-sutta texts.
Some citation is needed here. Are these with reference to non-Pāli Buddhist translations from MIA to Sanskrit during the reign of Aśoka? Please give some examples and how they are evidence of a written Pāḷi transmission.
bharad~ wrote: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.
Yet the saṅgha was not just preserving a language, they were constructing a language derived from several dialects. They undoubtedly possessed the ability. Earlier you dismissed the comment I made with reference to catechetical instruction used in the Nikāyas. Additionally, there is the practice of recitation found throughout the Nikāyas (Anālayo – Oral Transmission of Pāli Discourses, 2.2 Functional Aspects – The Reciters pp.17-19). This is evidence within the Nikāyas of at least the ability to an oral transmission.
bharad~ wrote:AB wrote: Can you show that a writing system was introduced by the saṅgha (or 'Buddhists' on their behalf) for any purpose?bharad~ wrote: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)
In addition to the above request for references, can you cite any Buddhist manuscripts from this period, with reference to Pāḷi textual transmission?
bharad~ wrote:AB wrote:When did the saṅgha begin using it?bharad~ wrote: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.
There is a pācittiya prohibiting the reciting of Dhamma from memory to the laity, which would preclude reciting to lay-scribes. So the saṅgha would have had to store and use writing materials themselves, of which we find no mention of rules for the acquisition or use of such requisites in the Vinaya. Even if this were possible, by your reasoning this endeavor of recording the suttas would have been well underway during the Tathāgata’s career of which we also find no mention of in any manuscript or written on any rock. So for you to say “proof” is QED at this point.
bharad~ wrote:AB wrote: Did the saṅgha never use a mnemonic system with preference to a written one?bharad~ wrote:For the prose suttas - no.
For verse suttas - perhaps but not evident.
Again, is there any evidence you can cite or reference other than your opinion?
bharad~ wrote:AB wrote: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.bharad~ wrote: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.'
Reference to the Milinda-pañha and Nāgasena is rather late, but even if this exchange was current at the First Council it does not transport writing into the hands of the saṅgha simply because of Nāgasena's simile. Hypothetically, even if writing was done for them and the texts provided for their use, there is the matter of the above mentioned pācittiya on reciting to the laity. Granted, the laity could write down what they themselves heard – the Itivuttaka was remembered by a servant who memorised and taught it to the Queen – but the laity were not present at every discourse.
bharad~ wrote:AB wrote: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.bharad~ wrote: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).
These are all interesting opinions, but as you say, ‘archaeology might yet yield…’ something to back up your claim.