Pali Canon - can it be attributed back to the Buddha?

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Re: Pali Canon - can it be attributed back to the Buddha?

Postby clw_uk » Sun Mar 08, 2009 11:31 pm

Why do you privilege writing over a carefully structure process of memorization?



I dont, i was just stating that once it was written down its very unlikely to change at all and before that the memorization by the monks at least stretches back to 250 years after the Buddhas death
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Re: Pali Canon - can it be attributed back to the Buddha?

Postby cooran » Sun Mar 08, 2009 11:40 pm

No no no. It is much easier to alter written words than if there are lots of groups of bhikkhus memorising and chanting the same thing across the country. They gathered together regularly, in the same way they chant the Patimokha nowadays. This was the purpose of the Bhanakas, the recitation groups formed while the Buddha was alive, to safeguard and chant the Teachings. Thus you had the Majjhima Bhanakas and the Digha Banakas etc.

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Re: Pali Canon - can it be attributed back to the Buddha?

Postby saltspring » Mon Mar 09, 2009 12:48 am

No no no. It is easier to doctor the spoken word. Writing parchment can be carbon dated so at least you have an exact date of the text as well as the ink, also technology can easily show if a document has been altered over time or erased. I also find the last words of the Buddha to be highly suspect, they read like a group of monks pushing an agenda. Did he really spend his last few moments discussing sangha minutiae? Having said this I have faith in the Pali canon, I feel the Buddha's intentions and insights rise above later deviations, made by competing factions.
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Re: Pali Canon - can it be attributed back to the Buddha?

Postby Dhammanando » Mon Mar 09, 2009 1:23 am

saltspring wrote:No no no. It is easier to doctor the spoken word. Writing parchment can be carbon dated so at least you have an exact date of the text as well as the ink, also technology can easily show if a document has been altered over time or erased.


Carbon-dating doesn't really have any application here. The life-span of ola leaves in a tropical climate is very short indeed and so manuscripts had to be regularly recopied.

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Re: Pali Canon - can it be attributed back to the Buddha?

Postby mudra » Mon Mar 09, 2009 1:45 am

I think we all agree that faith based on conviction is a powerful thing, and gives a significant boost to our practice. The Buddha obviously didn't urge us investigate his words because he had doubts, but because a certain type of doubt prevents us from truly practicing dhamma as much as any other kilesa. So our investigation's purpose is to give strength to our practice.

For sure faith that the Pali Canon goes back to the Buddha is important to Theravadin practitioners (in fact for Buddhists other than just Theravadins too), but if that faith is not based on strong conviction arising from successful investigation it is sort like a false bravado that could crumble easily if seriously challenged.

In the end the issue is the methodology of the investigation. One needs to develop proper tools - sound concepts and inferences, based on 'perfect' reasons, applicable to the predicate ('goes back to the Buddha') and the subject ('the Pali Canon') of our conclusions. One such touchstone would be consistency - for example using the Four Arya Truths as yardstick - and developing from there. Historical record could be another.

I think just stating "it's a historical fact" by itself is not necessarily satisfactory to give rise to the power of conviction.
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Re: Pali Canon - can it be attributed back to the Buddha?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Mar 09, 2009 2:13 am

saltspring wrote:No no no. It is easier to doctor the spoken word.


Probaly not, given that you would have to convince any number of others to go along with the doctoring. It is far easier for a scribe to doctor or miss copy a text.
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Re: Pali Canon - can it be attributed back to the Buddha?

Postby mudra » Mon Mar 09, 2009 2:27 am

tiltbillings wrote:
saltspring wrote:No no no. It is easier to doctor the spoken word.


Probaly not, given that you would have to convince a any number of others to go along with the doctoring. It is far easier for a scribe to doctor or miss copy a text.


tilt,

it's possible to doctor either actually. Plus there is that old "chinese whispers effect" that would definitely would not be pronounced (not pun intended) amongst quality practitioners but could occur elsewhere. As stated above, I think debating only on mere historical accuracy is not enough.

I rather think we need to supplement that with the methodology suggested by your 'signature' (which I have always liked!!!)
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Re: Pali Canon - can it be attributed back to the Buddha?

Postby cooran » Mon Mar 09, 2009 2:36 am

Regular recitations by extremely large groups of bhikkhus is not the one-on-one game of Chinese Whispers. I realise that many posting in this thread are not Theravadins, but it is offensive to categorise the regular meetings of the Ariya Sangha of those times, and the Bhikkhu Sangha of today in this way. All traditions accept the Pali Canon - and all Traditions have regular recitations of the Bhikkhu Rules which they accept as coming from the Buddha.

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Re: Pali Canon - can it be attributed back to the Buddha?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Mar 09, 2009 2:59 am

mudra wrote:
it's possible to doctor either actually. Plus there is that old "chinese whispers effect" that would definitely would not be pronounced (not pun intended) amongst quality practitioners but could occur elsewhere. As stated above, I think debating only on mere historical accuracy is not enough.

I rather think we need to supplement that with the methodology suggested by your 'signature' (which I have always liked!!!)


I am not going to argue that the Pali Canon is an absolute ipisissima verba of the Buddha. It can be argued that the oral preservation started during the Buddha's lifetime and that it was pretty accurate. I would not argue that was not any manipulation of what we find in the suttas, but the process of oral presentation was done in a way that would make manipulation very difficult. This is not the "chinese whispers effect"; it was groups of monks collectively reciting the same texts. And these were sacred texts, which by that virtue alone would there would be resistance to altering them.
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: Pali Canon - can it be attributed back to the Buddha?

Postby mudra » Mon Mar 09, 2009 4:32 am

tiltbillings wrote:
mudra wrote:
This is not the "chinese whispers effect"; it was groups of monks collectively reciting the same texts. And these were sacred texts, which by that virtue alone would there would be resistance to altering them.



Let's not get into a huff - I never said it was Chinese whispers. I even stated clearly that amongst quality practitioners as these monks and arhants obviously were
that that would be unlikely, "but could occur elsewhere". It was to illustrate that these arguments over whether it was verbatim or not are not sufficient. As far as the written word goes, it is always possible to misspell words etc.

I am trying to make the point that "historical records" are not enough for the serious practitioner. There has to be consistency, integrity, and also it has to be borne out by testing it.

In fact your conviction in the fact that these monks and arhants would have had such reverence that any deviation would be resisted, is an illustration of such reasoning regarding the consistency of these scriptures.

Not all inferences need to be based on direct perception, they just need good reasons.
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Re: Pali Canon - can it be attributed back to the Buddha?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Mar 09, 2009 4:42 am

Let's not get into a huff


No huff here. Just reading it as it is written.

I am trying to make the point that "historical records" are not enough for the serious practitioner. There has to be consistency, integrity, and also it has to be borne out by testing it. . . .


And your point is?
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: Pali Canon - can it be attributed back to the Buddha?

Postby Yeshe » Wed Mar 11, 2009 11:45 am

Views vary so widely - from those who, like fundamentalist Christians or Moslems, believe every word to be derived from Buddha (or even his actual words) to those who point to the absence of hard evidence in the form of contemporary textual records, and the near certainty of errors of memory, transcription and translation.

If we test the Pali (or even Sanskrit) scriptures for ourselves as 'Dhamma' and find that there is truth and effectiveness in them, then as I believe Buddha intended, the Dhamma is all we need, whatever its source.

In the end the issue misses the point spectacularly. It's the old 'who fired the arrow' story - never mind, just take it out.

By the way - you get 16,742 angels on a pinhead. :)
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Re: Pali Canon - can it be attributed back to the Buddha?

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Mar 11, 2009 1:28 pm

Upasaka wrote:Views vary so widely - from those who, like fundamentalist Christians or Moslems, believe every word to be derived from Buddha (or even his actual words) to those who point to the absence of hard evidence in the form of contemporary textual records, and the near certainty of errors of memory, transcription and translation.

If we test the Pali (or even Sanskrit) scriptures for ourselves as 'Dhamma' and find that there is truth and effectiveness in them, then as I believe Buddha intended, the Dhamma is all we need, whatever its source.

In the end the issue misses the point spectacularly. It's the old 'who fired the arrow' story - never mind, just take it out.

By the way - you get 16,742 angels on a pinhead. :)

:anjali:
but I thought there were 16,741 angles :stirthepot: LOL
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Re: Pali Canon - can it be attributed back to the Buddha?

Postby gavesako » Wed Mar 11, 2009 5:44 pm

Check out this article about the historicity of the Pali texts:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... historical
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Re: Pali Canon - can it be attributed back to the Buddha?

Postby Yeshe » Wed Mar 11, 2009 6:37 pm

gavesako wrote:Check out this article about the historicity of the Pali texts:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... historical


It must be incredibly difficult to render anything in verse form into something carrying both the meaning and wording of the original (especially if there are several 'original' versions).

I would prefer to read a translation of the Dhammapada which conveys the meaning precisely and the wording less so, than the other way around.

We should, in any case, be incredibly grateful for those who performed the task of providing us with scriptures in modern languages. :)
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Re: Pali Canon - can it be attributed back to the Buddha?

Postby Avery » Sat Mar 14, 2009 2:28 am

Upasaka wrote:It must be incredibly difficult to render anything in verse form into something carrying both the meaning and wording of the original (especially if there are several 'original' versions).

I would prefer to read a translation of the Dhammapada which conveys the meaning precisely and the wording less so, than the other way around.

We should, in any case, be incredibly grateful for those who performed the task of providing us with scriptures in modern languages. :)

I think this is one of the things that makes the Pali canon so fantastic-- all the "repetition" you see within the story, where the same thing is said with many words or constituent parts, practically guarantees that the meaning will be successfully conveyed in translation. Other sacred texts, even if they claim to be the direct word of God, tend to be far more ambiguous.
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Re: Pali Canon - can it be attributed back to the Buddha?

Postby green » Sat Mar 14, 2009 7:03 pm

I actually like the repetition of the actual Tipitika. It really helps reinforce an idea or concept and helps memorize the passage.

Reading translations and Pali tipitika without these repetitions becomes a hassle for someone practicing and appreciating the repetitions.
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Re: Pali Canon - can it be attributed back to the Buddha?

Postby Yeshe » Sat Mar 14, 2009 7:33 pm

Avery wrote:
Upasaka wrote:It must be incredibly difficult to render anything in verse form into something carrying both the meaning and wording of the original (especially if there are several 'original' versions).

I would prefer to read a translation of the Dhammapada which conveys the meaning precisely and the wording less so, than the other way around.

We should, in any case, be incredibly grateful for those who performed the task of providing us with scriptures in modern languages. :)

I think this is one of the things that makes the Pali canon so fantastic-- all the "repetition" you see within the story, where the same thing is said with many words or constituent parts, practically guarantees that the meaning will be successfully conveyed in translation. Other sacred texts, even if they claim to be the direct word of God, tend to be far more ambiguous.


Repetition in Buddhism is probably a good candidate for a Doctorate thesis. ;)
3,7,21,27,54,108 - plus variants within both Theravada and Mahayana which extend to malas etc.
A pragmatic view would be that it aids memory, but these numbers also have a sacred history in India.

As with all things, we may ascribe whatever we wish to the numerical, the astrological, the tantric and the mundane. In the case of the Tripitaka, the repetition which aids memory may also harken back to teaching techniques from much earlier times and is certainly more typical of oratory than scripture. ;)
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