Are the Sutta's really ancient?

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

Re: Are the Sutta's really ancient?

Postby Bankei » Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:32 pm

Bill

Just because I am not convinced by your arguments does not mean I am ignoring them. You seem to have a thing about 'attacking' me too!

Have you heard of the theory of impermanence? Why do you think a scripture would remain word for word for over 2400 years?

In China classical texts were memorised and written down and passed on. This would have included the DDJ.

Why assume the language of Buddhism in the first century of Sri lanka was in Pali? Richard Salomon has mentioned there are, surprisingly, very few Pali inscriptions found in Sr Lanka from the early period.

I don't think Irish was used in ancient Sri Lanka, but there are a few reasons to think that the scriptures may not have been in Pali, including:
- Scarcity of Pali inscriptions from this era (see Salomon)
- evidence that at least some of the sutta were in a language other than Pali (see norman)
- Buddhagosha had to translate the commentaries into Pali

They may have been in Pali, or another closely related Prakrit.

You ask how I would know what the exact words of the Buddha were.
Well, I don't. But:
- it is likely that the Buddha did not speak Pali.
- It is also likely that, at least part of, the Pali texts were 'translated' into Pali from another dialect.
- The monk Purana, from the time of the Buddha, did not agree with the teachings as per the first council.
- There are discrepancies between the Suttas/agamas as preserved in Gandhari, sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese etc. (would your counterargument would be that these others were all modified and not the Pali?).



In 1977 Charles Prebish and Jan Nattier showed that the Theravada vinaya was probably added to, and the Mahasamghika vinaya is likely to be older. Prebish has just written a new article in Pacific World standing by his 1977 discovery too.
This is what I mean by editing.

re editing
I am not sure there was any large scale conscious editing, except maybe at the various councils where texts were standardised.

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Re: Are the Sutta's really ancient?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:43 pm

Hi Bankei,

The Tipitaka was written around 100 BCE on palm leaves. It has been re-written word-for-word since then as the leaves deteriorate up to this day (as a tradition, they still do it in Sri Lanka, as far as I know). And modern printing has been used since the time they were available. The Tipitaka we have today is the same as the one written at 100 BCE.

If there were any revisions or changes, they would have had to happen while the tradition was still oral. Is that what you are suggesting, that there were changes and revisions from the time of the First to Fourth Councils?
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Re: Are the Sutta's really ancient?

Postby Chula » Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:50 pm

Bankei wrote:- The monk Purana, from the time of the Buddha, did not agree with the teachings as per the first council.


This is a misrepresentation of what the Culavagga in the Vinayapitaka states. It only says that the monk came later to the council and decided he preferred to remember the teachings as it was taught to him - he just didn't want to take the trouble of remembering more. There was no disagreement - the Canon specifically says it was amicable.

It's worthwhile ascertaining your sources before making these kinds of statements. You can't always trust them not to have ulterior motives.
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Re: Are the Sutta's really ancient?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:58 pm

Bankei wrote:Bill

Just because I am not convinced by your arguments does not mean I am ignoring them. You seem to have a thing about 'attacking' me too!
That naughty Bill, shame on him.

Have you heard of the theory of impermanence? Why do you think a scripture would remain word for word for over 2400 years?
I never said that, did I? The texts, however, seem to be far better preserved than you seem to be giving them credit.

In China classical texts were memorised and written down and passed on. This would have included the DDJ.
Memorized and recited by groups of monks on a routine basis?

Why assume the language of Buddhism in the first century of Sri lanka was in Pali? Richard Salomon has mentioned there are, surprisingly, very few Pali inscriptions found in Sr Lanka from the early period.
And what would be the point of inscriptions in Pali when it is a liturgical language that the common folk do not know? K.R. Norman puts Pali within a couple generation of the Buddha. It certainly would have been a dialect easily understood by the Buddha, being not so different from Magadhi.

I don't think Irish was used in ancient Sri Lanka
It was a joke, son, a joke.

but there are a few reasons to think that the scriptures may not have been in Pali, including:
- Scarcity of Pali inscriptions from this era (see Salomon)
Not convincing, see above.
- evidence that at least some of the sutta were in a language other than Pali (see norman)
Norman certainly does not hold your doubts.
- Buddhagosha had to translate the commentaries into Pali
Because the commentaries were in Shinalese.

They [assuming you mean the commentaries] may have . . . closely related Prakrit.
Not according to the records.

You ask how I would know what the exact words of the Buddha were.
Well, I don't. But:
- it is likely that the Buddha did not speak Pali.
So? He likely spoke in a dialect hardly removed from Pali.
- It is also likely that, at least part of, the Pali texts were 'translated' into Pali from another dialect.
That is what Norman said, which is reasonable, but hardly indicates wholesale editing.
- The monk Purana, from the time of the Buddha, did not agree with the teachings as per the first council.
And that was very neatly addressed on Buddha-L. Let the rest of the reads know what was said there about that. http://www.preterhuman.net/texts/religi ... tbudcn.htm
- There are discrepancies between the Suttas/agamas as preserved in Gandhari, sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese etc. (would your counterargument would be that these others were all modified and not the Pali?).
And are we talking about finding Buddha-nature doctrines in this other texts? Or are we talking about no real significant doctrinal difference?

In 1977 Charles Prebish and Jan Nattier showed that the Theravada vinaya was probably added to, and the Mahasamghika vinaya is likely to be older. Prebish has just written a new article in Pacific World standing by his 1977 discovery too.
This is what I mean by editing.
What part of the Vinaya? Also, there are significant differences of opinion on that matter. Nakamura, in his INDIAN BUDDHISM, points out that Vinaya study is big among Japanese scholars and that they hold the the Pali Vinaya is the oldest overall.

I am not sure there was any large scale conscious editing, except maybe at the various councils where texts were standardised.
I have not seen any modern scholar hold that there was any large scale editing. Standardization is not uncommon, but I'd like to see where it has made any major change in doctrinal teachings.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Are the Sutta's really ancient?

Postby Bankei » Tue Mar 09, 2010 12:35 am

Sorry to call you Bill, I meant Tiltbillings

So now you are agreeing with me that the Theravada Pali Tipitaka is not the exact word of the Buddha. Maybe you are saying it is closer to the exact word than I am? Is that your position?

Can you read Japanese? I can, and have read a few works or modern day vinaya scholars such as Yamagiwa and Sasaki. Nakamura's scholarship is dated now. The Pali vinaya is certainly ancient, but that doesn't mean it is the exact word of the Buddha.

The Pali tradition is remarkably well preserved. But errors have crept in and additions have been made.

I suggest you read some of the works or Richard Gombrich, especially his book How Buddhism began: the conditioned genesis of the early teachings.

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Re: Are the Sutta's really ancient?

Postby Bankei » Tue Mar 09, 2010 12:41 am

Incidently

Alexander Wynne has a new article out which argues the teachings can be traced back to the Buddha himself. (I haven't found access to read it yet)
"The Buddha's ‘skill in means’ and the genesis of the five aggregate teaching."
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (2010), Third Series, 20:191-216 Cambridge University Press

Abstract

The problem tackled in this article is ambitious. Through examination of how certain fundamental teachings of the Buddha originated – the author argues that those teachings must indeed go back to the Buddha himself. Thus the author builds a chain of argument which creates hypothetical links rather than declaring ‘a priori’ that links and connection cannot be established.

This article argues that the Alagaddūpama Sutta, an important early Buddhist text, portrays the Buddha in the process of formulating his thoughts. If so it contradicts the myth that the Buddha awakened to the entire Buddhist Dharma on one occasion, and should be dated to the fourth century bce. Such an antiquity, and peculiar didactic structure suggests that the text contains authentic teachings of the Buddha.
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Re: Are the Sutta's really ancient?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Mar 09, 2010 12:48 am

Bankei wrote:So now you are agreeing with me that the Theravada Pali Tipitaka is not the exact word of the Buddha.
I never said it was

Maybe you are saying it is closer to the exact word than I am? Is that your position?
Probably.

Can you read Japanese? I can, and have read a few works or modern day vinaya scholars such as Yamagiwa and Sasaki. Nakamura's scholarship is dated now. The Pali vinaya is certainly ancient, but that doesn't mean it is the exact word of the Buddha.
You seem stuck on "exact word."

The Pali tradition is remarkably well preserved. But errors have crept in and additions have been made.
And I said otherrwise? Go back and reread what you have written, suggesting something like a wholescale rewrite of what has come down to us.

I suggest you read some of the works or Richard Gombrich, especially his book How Buddhism began: the conditioned genesis of the early teachings.
Have read most of what heas writtewn, I tend to agree with him, and I agree his statement: "I have the greatest difficulty in accepting that the main edifice [of the Pali Texts] is not the
work of one genius."
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Are the Sutta's really ancient?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Mar 09, 2010 12:52 am

Bankei wrote:Incidently

Alexander Wynne has a new article out which argues the teachings can be traced back to the Buddha himself. (I haven't found access to read it yet)
"The Buddha's ‘skill in means’ and the genesis of the five aggregate teaching."
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (2010), Third Series, 20:191-216 Cambridge University Press
Of course buying a copy of that would cost an arm and most of one leg or the other. Anyway thanks for the reference I'll try to track it down at my local university library.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Are the Sutta's really ancient?

Postby Sylvester » Fri Mar 12, 2010 3:09 am

David N. Snyder wrote:Hi Bankei,

The Tipitaka was written around 100 BCE on palm leaves. It has been re-written word-for-word since then as the leaves deteriorate up to this day (as a tradition, they still do it in Sri Lanka, as far as I know). And modern printing has been used since the time they were available. The Tipitaka we have today is the same as the one written at 100 BCE.

If there were any revisions or changes, they would have had to happen while the tradition was still oral. Is that what you are suggesting, that there were changes and revisions from the time of the First to Fourth Councils?



Hello David

Even if the Aloka cave project managed to reduced the Sutta Pitaka into a complete bundle of ola leaves, that is no guarantee that the subsequent preservation of the Texts was perfect. Piya Tan was working off a PTS version of a sutta and noticed a discontinuity in that passage which could be neatly accounted for by a putative leaf gone missing. I'm not sure if Piya managed to compare that PTS version with the other Pitakas preserved in MSS elsewhere, but he was able to reconstruct the missing passage by comparing that sutta against the parallel Agama version. (sorry if I can't furnish a citation, but Piya's web-page is just too gigantic) If the Canon is to be really held to be 100% complete, we may have to acknowledge that the MSS used by the PTS could be missing a leaf or two and to see if other MSS contain the same void or could be used to fill the gap.

Leaving aside the question of deliberate revisions of the Canon, there is some evidence from the Commentaries themselves that the Sutta Pitaka may have suffered some attrition. Try goggling "untraced+sutta+commentary" and similar combinations, and you would find the Commentaries citing long-lost passages from the Canon.
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Re: Are the Sutta's really ancient?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Fri Mar 12, 2010 3:16 am

Bankei wrote:Incidently

Alexander Wynne has a new article out which argues the teachings can be traced back to the Buddha himself. (I haven't found access to read it yet)
"The Buddha's ‘skill in means’ and the genesis of the five aggregate teaching."
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (2010), Third Series, 20:191-216 Cambridge University Press



I'd say just look for the notion of the "five fire sacrifice" in Brahmanism. This is then "internalized" from the external fire to the inner fire, in some traditions, like the samnyasa. Internalized, it becomes the offering of five types of breath. However, the whole notion of the "five fires" and the "five fuel heap" (panca-upadana-kkhandha) seems pretty clear in this light. Seems a deliberate poke in the eye of the aggihotta fire sacrifice - "You think that the five fires are good, they are just burning samsara!" cf. the third teaching on "all is burning". A number of people, inc. Gombrich, Jurewicz, Bronkhorst, have written about this in general.
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Re: Are the Sutta's really ancient?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Fri Mar 12, 2010 4:24 am

Bankei wrote:
In 1977 Charles Prebish and Jan Nattier showed that the Theravada vinaya was probably added to, and the Mahasamghika vinaya is likely to be older. Prebish has just written a new article in Pacific World standing by his 1977 discovery too.
This is what I mean by editing.



I'm not sure that that is what Prebish and Nattier are actually saying in that article.

I have another thought on the matter: The two parties that later come to be called "mahasamghika" and "sthavira" represent the east and west, res. The Buddha whilst alive is early on more in the east, then later in the west. Could one explain the differences in that although the "sthavira" vinaya has more rules, these may still have been made by the Buddha whilst alive. Whereas the "mahasamghika" shorter list of vinaya rules is because they used the set from earlier in the Buddha's career.

Different lists of rules. Different vinayas. But not really open to the (emotionally loaded) charge of "they added stuff!", or "they removed stuff!", which sometimes seems to get in the way.

That's just a thought, by the way, that I have been toying with. I've tried it on a Prof or two, and they haven't shot it down yet! :tongue:
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Re: Are the Sutta's really ancient?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Fri Mar 12, 2010 4:28 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Bankei wrote:
There are discrepancies between the Suttas/agamas as preserved in Gandhari, sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese etc. (would your counterargument would be that these others were all modified and not the Pali?).

And are we talking about finding Buddha-nature doctrines in this other texts? Or are we talking about no real significant doctrinal difference?


Personally, I've seldom found many great differences. Sure, there are enough different things for a desperate scholar to throw in his / her PhD thesis, but, you know, some people will look for anything! :tongue: Not much, or any, "real significant doctrinal difference" to my eyes.

tiltbillings wrote:
Bankei wrote:I am not sure there was any large scale conscious editing, except maybe at the various councils where texts were standardised.

I have not seen any modern scholar hold that there was any large scale editing. Standardization is not uncommon, but I'd like to see where it has made any major change in doctrinal teachings.


I concur.
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Re: Are the Sutta's really ancient?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Mar 12, 2010 4:32 am

Greetings venerable Paññāsikhara,

Your theory may be correct.

Do you have any references or thoughts on how homogenous the Buddhasasana was at the time of the First Council? The homogenity (or lack thereof) at that point in time would seem to be a key factor in determining whether these variations were attributable to movements during the Buddha's lifetime, or later deviations.

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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Are the Sutta's really ancient?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 12, 2010 4:37 am

Sylvester wrote: Piya Tan was working off a PTS version of a sutta .

Piya Tan is a good scholar.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Are the Sutta's really ancient?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 12, 2010 4:42 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Bankei wrote:
There are discrepancies between the Suttas/agamas as preserved in Gandhari, sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese etc. (would your counterargument would be that these others were all modified and not the Pali?).

And are we talking about finding Buddha-nature doctrines in this other texts? Or are we talking about no real significant doctrinal difference?


Personally, I've seldom found many great differences. Sure, there are enough different things for a desperate scholar to throw in his / her PhD thesis, but, you know, some people will look for anything! :tongue: Not much, or any, "real significant doctrinal difference" to my eyes.
Even looking at a work as detailed as Ven Minh Chau's THE CHINESE MADHYAMA AGAMA AND THE PALI MAJJHIMA NIKAYA, I would agree with that.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Are the Sutta's really ancient?

Postby BlackBird » Fri Mar 12, 2010 5:26 am

I think this essay may be of interest here, specifically the chapter I have linked to, but indeed the whole thing:

Beginnings: The first council - Ven. Bodhisako

(again, would love to know your thoughts on Ven. Bodhisako's essays)

metta
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Re: Are the Sutta's really ancient?

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Mar 12, 2010 6:33 pm

BlackBird wrote:I think this essay may be of interest here, specifically the chapter I have linked to, but indeed the whole thing:

Beginnings: The first council - Ven. Bodhisako

(again, would love to know your thoughts on Ven. Bodhisako's essays)


Interesting that Venerable Purāna did not agree with the organization of the Suttas at the First Council. But it should be noted that he was a "wandering monk" and not one of the 500 arahants. Also, perhaps more importantly, the fact that this disagreement is even in the Canon, along with some other disputes and controversies, imo, at least shows indication that the Suttas are ancient and authentic.

For example, in other places less than commendable things are mentioned and not 'sugar-coated' such as the monks who committed suicide after hearing the Buddha talk on the foulness nature of the body.
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Re: Are the Sutta's really ancient?

Postby Chula » Sat Mar 13, 2010 10:19 am

David N. Snyder wrote:Interesting that Venerable Purāna did not agree with the organization of the Suttas at the First Council. But it should be noted that he was a "wandering monk" and not one of the 500 arahants. Also, perhaps more importantly, the fact that this disagreement is even in the Canon, along with some other disputes and controversies, imo, at least shows indication that the Suttas are ancient and authentic.


Ven. Purāna's quote does not show the disagreement implied in this article. In fact, it's more like his own personal preference. It would be a little foolhardy to say that he "didn't agree" from the quote given.

Interestingly, this is the third time I'm pointing this out in the Early Buddhism forum itself - this article has been quoted multiple times..
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Re: Are the Sutta's really ancient?

Postby Bankei » Sun Mar 14, 2010 4:05 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
Bankei wrote:
I'm not sure that that is what Prebish and Nattier are actually saying in that article.

I


Hi Bhante

You might be interested in this more recent article by Prebish
"The Role of Prātimokṣa Expansion in the Rise of Indian Buddhist Sectarianism", Pacific World, Vol 3/9
Charles S. Prebish
http://www.shin-ibs.edu/documents/pwj3- ... bish39.pdf
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