Greetings thereductor, all,
thereductor wrote:Perhaps 'personal interpretation' is poor wording. Rather, in the sutta pitaka the terms are not as explicitly defined as they are in the commentary and abhidhamma. Also, note the word 'more' as a comparative. I'm comparing the suttanta 'method' to the commentary and abhidhamma. I am not saying that one can interpret the sutta pitaka in any way, shape or form that they choose. There's enough material within the sutta pitaka to clarify which interpretations are patently wrong, but not enough to remove every ambiguity (language itself cannot remove every ambiguity, IMO). Hence, there is some necessity for you, the meditator, to bring your experiences back to the sutta body in an attempt to clarify both the sutta and the experience itself.
Does that satisfy?
It satisfies me - it's well said. As is the discussion between yourself and Mike which followed it.
I disagree with Tilt that it's about "personal interpretation" because there's always
a level of "personal interpretation" in the very process of learning and acquiring knowledge. All that is streamlined in the Suttanta method is that one's "personal interpretation" no longer need be filtered through an additional layer of "personal interpretation" as conducted by the esteemed commentators or meditation masters of any particular school of Buddhist thought. The Sutta Pitaka becomes the basis for instruction and other sources (e.g. teachers, commentaries) have value to the extent that they illuminate rather than obfuscate what is contained in the Sutta Pitaka. The results may end up being similar to that of Mahavihara Theravada (as one would hope) but it's a different process of getting there. It's a process that I think shows great respect and deference to our teacher, the Buddha, aligns with his instructions in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta (about the Four Great References and his exhortation that his Dhamma will be our teacher when he's gone) and therefore shouldn't be degraded by others. If people degrade this method, they essentially degrade the Buddha and his Dhamma, IMHO.
That said, being anti-commentary or anti-tradition is going too far... it serves no benefit, because these things do have contributions to make where they can illuminate. I wouldn't endorse being anti-tradition, and I don't think it's inherent in the Suttanta method either. I don't see any need to take a definitive 'anti' or 'pro' stance with regards to any commentary... why not evaluate them with an open mind, based on their own merits, their consistency with the Buddha's teaching and our own experience?
Let us not forget that in the 2500+ years since the Buddha, the ignorance of human beings has managed to interpret, re-interpret and misunderstand the Buddha's message in countless different ways. Looking around at the various forms of Buddhism nowadays it's hard to reconcile that they all spawned from a single source. To me this is a product of taking the commentaries/masters as authoritative subjects rather than seeing them as a filter through which to view that which should be taken as authoritative. According to this text ( http://www.dharma.org/bcbs/Pages/docume ... gRoots.pdf
)... "The Theravādin commentators apparently intended their writings in the Aṭṭhakathā – literally ‘discussions on the meaning’ –more as explorations than absolute statements of truth"... and I think that is a healthy way in which to regard them.
Again, it's a case of method, and if the outcomes are in alignment then that is a good thing... it indicates that a particular tradition is based on more than simply its own claims to legitimacy.
I hope the above goes some way to answering Ytrog's query, and to clarifying why this new sub-forum exists.