A major discover about "ancient buddhism"

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
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Adrien
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A major discover about "ancient buddhism"

Postby Adrien » Mon May 23, 2011 11:37 am

A new canon has recently been discovered, and it's the oldest one we know (so far). The conclusions about this discover might not be what we would have expected.

http://www.tricycle.com/feature/whose-buddhism-truest

Whose Buddhism is Truest?
No one’s—and everyone’s, it turns out.
Long-lost scrolls shed some surprising light.Linda Heuman



Two thousand years ago, Buddhist monks rolled up sutras written on birch bark, stuffed them into earthen pots, and buried them in a desert. We don’t know why. They might have been disposing of sacred trash. Maybe they were consecrating a stupa. If they meant to leave a gift for future members of the Buddhist community—a wisdom time capsule, so to speak—they succeeded; and they could never have imagined how great that gift would turn out to be.

For the rest, visit: http://www.tricycle.com/feature/whose-buddhism-truest
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Re: A major discover about "ancient buddhism"

Postby Jhana4 » Mon May 23, 2011 12:04 pm

I found the article to be disappointing. According to it, the discovered texts didn't depart in doctrine from the Pali Canon. All the discovery means is that other early groups were keeping their own written copies of the teachings, possibly in a parallel time slot with the Pali Canon. An interesting thing to learn, but it didn't require the length or hype Tricycle devoted to it.
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In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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Re: A major discover about "ancient buddhism"

Postby daverupa » Mon May 23, 2011 12:17 pm

wiki:

The following scholars have published fragements of the Gandharan manuscripts: Mark Allon, Richard Salomon, Timothy Lenz and Jens Braarvig. Some of the published material is listed below:

1999 - Ancient Buddhist Scrolls from Gandhara: The British Library Kharosthi Fragments, by Richard Salomon, F. Raymond Allchin, and Mark Barnard
2000 - Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection I, Buddhist Manuscripts, Vol. 1., by Braarvig, Jens. Oslo: Hermes Publishing.
2000 - A Gandhari Version of the Rhinoceros Sutra: British Library Kharosthi Fragment 5B (Gandharan Buddhist Texts, 1), by Andrew Glass and Richard Salomon
2001 - Three Gandhari Ekottarikagama-Type Sutras: British Library Kharosthi Fragments 12 and 14 (GBT Vol 2) by Mark Allon (Author, Editor), Andrew Glass (Editor). Seattle: University of Washington Press.
2003 - A New Version of the Gandhari Dharmapada and a Collection of Previous-Birth Stories: British Library Karosthi Fragments 16 + 25 (GBT vol. 3), by Timothy Lenz (Author), Andrew Glass (Author), Bhikshu Dharmamitra (Author). Seattle: University of Washington Press.
2008 - Four Gandhari Samyuktagama Sutras: Senior Kharosthi Fragment 5 (GBT, Vol. 4) by Andrew Glass (Author), Mark Allon (Contributor) Seattle: University of Washington Press.
2009 - Two Gandhari Manuscripts of the Songs of Lake Anavtapta (Anavatapta-gatha): British Library Kharosthi Fragment 1 and Senior Scroll 14 (GBT vol 5) by Richard Salomon (Author), Andrew Glass (Contributor). Seattle: University of Washington Press.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: A major discover about "ancient buddhism"

Postby gavesako » Mon May 23, 2011 1:29 pm

Just read the article and while it is quite well written, I think she over-emphasises her point (basically "cultural relativism") and fails to stress the internal coherence of the material we have in the Pali Canon which presents a very unified view of man's existential situation and the way the solve it. Even if we don't have ancient manuscripts to prove it, we can identify this collection of texts as the early corpus of Sutta material that was passed down from Ananda and other disciples of the Buddha after his parinibbana. The particular arrangement of passages in each Sutta and how the Suttas were grouped into nikayas for recitation purposes by the bhanakas (reciters) may have varied with each geographically separate group, so that is why we find some differences among them. But this early Canon can be clearly distinguished from later Abhidhamma and Mahayana developments which are built upon this foundation and could not exist without it.
I am afraid that it's going to be used by some people in order to put down serious study of the early Buddhist teachings in favour of their own brand of modern designer-Buddhism. Some good scholars whose lives are dedicated to Buddhism know... well how much correspondence and virtual agreement there is among the various early Buddhist canons, so all they are trying to establish is how exactly the divergences came about through the oral transmission of the canon. It means being less adamant that "This is the true word of the Buddha straight from his mouth" as regards every single Pali Sutta reported to be so, but realizing that this has been the accepted Theravada transmission of the Buddhavacana for a long time and that its internal consistency has a lot to say for its spiritual value.

------

It is probable that Buddhism had already reached Gandhāra (an area in present- day northern Pakistan) during the time of king Asoka in the 3rd century BCE. In the wake of Alexander's campaign to northwest India this region had absorbed a su...rge of Greek culture, which remained present for a surprisingly long time. Even centuries later, this culture still served as a matrix for creating visible representations of the Buddha and his followers. These representations proved extremely successful, spreading to India proper and, more importantly, traveling along the Silk Road, initiated the Buddhist art of local cultures and finally reached China and the Far East. So far, Gandhāra has mostly been understood as the name for this specific style of Buddhist art, but recent manuscript finds reveal that the region contributed much more to shaping Buddhism during a formative period than previously thought. It now appears that Gandhāra, earlier considered to be situated at the margin of the Indian Buddhist world, played a decisive role in the spread of Buddhism along the Silk Road towards the east.

Gandhara Civilization -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIQbMk4P0jA

Greek Buddhism -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAURSqQ8-Yc

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greco-Buddhist_monasticism
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

ajahnchah.org - Teachings of Ajahn Chah in many languages
Dhammatube - Videos on Buddhist practice
Ancient Buddhist Texts - Translations and history of Pali texts

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Adrien
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Re: A major discover about "ancient buddhism"

Postby Adrien » Mon May 23, 2011 2:29 pm

gavesako wrote:But this early Canon can be clearly distinguished from later Abhidhamma and Mahayana developments which are built upon this foundation and could not exist without it.
I am afraid that it's going to be used by some people in order to put down serious study of the early Buddhist teachings in favour of their own brand of modern designer-Buddhism.

If by modern designer-Buddhism you mean some mahayana schools, it will be difficult for them as she say in this very article :
(Not roots all the way back to the Buddha, though—Harrison agrees with the general scholarly consensus that the Mahayana developed after the Buddha.)


But if you mean really recent schools, that may have not even arisen yet, you might be right...
Please don't hesitate to correct my english if you feel to

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Re: A major discover about "ancient buddhism"

Postby Jhana4 » Mon May 23, 2011 4:41 pm

gavesako wrote:Just read the article and while it is quite well written, I think she over-emphasises her point (basically "cultural relativism") and fails to stress the internal coherence of the material we have in the Pali Canon which presents a very unified view of man's existential situation and the way the solve it.


I get the feeling that Tricyle is part of a crowd that really doesn't want to accept that there are differences between different belief systems. I can understand the motivation, having grown up in a pluralistic setting myself. Over a life time you really get tired of rivalries and thinking of people you come across as "the others". I think it is possible to accept that there are significant differences in belief systems, that those differences matter and have feel like that is fine.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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Re: A major discover about "ancient buddhism"

Postby Kenshou » Mon May 23, 2011 7:20 pm

Too much blab about the author's opinions, not enough information about the actual content of the material. Neat, though.

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Re: A major discover about "ancient buddhism"

Postby Adrien » Mon May 23, 2011 7:31 pm

I agree on this point : it's a lot of text for not so much actual informations.
Please don't hesitate to correct my english if you feel to

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Re: A major discover about "ancient buddhism"

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon May 23, 2011 8:00 pm

These scrolls are nothing new. Scholars and others have known about these for years, it is just Tricycle making a lot of hype about it.

There is nothing earth-shattering or "all-is-one" in these scrolls. Many of the fragments are from the Pali Canon.

“Nobody holds the view of an original canon anymore,” Oskar von Hinüber, one of the world’s leading scholars of Pali, told me.


Why not? Nothing in these scrolls suggests otherwise.

Consider why scholars might think this. First of all, there are certain practical difficulties of oral transmission in a time before digital recording. How could 500 monks have agreed on 45 years of the Buddha’s words?


Unless, they were all Arahants. I know most scholars don't want to think that or consider that, staying 'impartial' and all that, but for me, as a Buddhist, I accept that they were Arahants.

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Re: A major discover about "ancient buddhism"

Postby Jhana4 » Mon May 23, 2011 8:04 pm

Kenshou wrote:Too much blab about the author's opinions, not enough information about the actual content of the material. Neat, though.



Exactly!
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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Re: A major discover about "ancient buddhism"

Postby retrofuturist » Thu May 26, 2011 1:05 am

Greetings,

An interesting commentary of the article is here... http://americanbuddhist.blogspot.com/20 ... dhism.html

It also contains the following, which I found interesting...

As Anne Hanson wrote in 2003:

As Steven Collins has persuasively argued, the equation made by earlier scholars between the notion of a preexistent Pali canon and "original" or early Buddhism can hardly be historically supported. Rather, present-day versions of the Pali canon, he suggests, are the product of the Sinhalese Mahaviharin sect's efforts at self-preservation and legitimation during periodic downturns of royal patronage for the sect in Sri Lanka. These efforts resulted in the introduction of the concept of the Tipitaka as a closed and authoritative body of Theravadin scriptures (1990, 75-102). - In "The Image of an Orphan: Cambodian Narrative Sites for Buddhist Ethical Reflection," The Journal of Asian Studies.

Does anyone know anything about Steven Collins, and/or the supporting evidence for his assertion?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

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Re: A major discover about "ancient buddhism"

Postby Kenshou » Thu May 26, 2011 1:25 am

present-day versions of the Pali canon, he suggests, are the product of the Sinhalese Mahaviharin sect's efforts at self-preservation and legitimation
Well yeah, the Pali Canon Proper is a Theravadin-made corpus of texts. But as for the sutta pitaka? That's the more interesting question.

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Re: A major discover about "ancient buddhism"

Postby daverupa » Thu May 26, 2011 1:54 am

retrofuturist wrote:Does anyone know anything about Steven Collins, and/or the supporting evidence for his assertion?


Steven Collins

Someone with access to JSTOR or another way to lay hands on the edition will have to chase down Anne Hansen's citation of this quote.

I'm currently reading through three of the published works on these texts:

2000 - A Gandhari Version of the Rhinoceros Sutra: British Library Kharosthi Fragment 5B (Gandharan Buddhist Texts, 1), by Andrew Glass and Richard Salomon
2001 - Three Gandhari Ekottarikagama-Type Sutras: British Library Kharosthi Fragments 12 and 14 (GBT Vol 2) by Mark Allon (Author, Editor), Andrew Glass (Editor). Seattle: University of Washington Press.
2003 - A New Version of the Gandhari Dharmapada and a Collection of Previous-Birth Stories: British Library Karosthi Fragments 16 + 25 (GBT vol. 3), by Timothy Lenz (Author), Andrew Glass (Author), Bhikshu Dharmamitra (Author). Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Fascinating reading, maybe I'll write a book review for the forum.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: A major discover about "ancient buddhism"

Postby alan » Thu May 26, 2011 3:38 am

Fox News Alert!
New suttas have been found. There just like the others, but we're going to ask a bunch of people who don't know anything about the subject to debate it. They will cast doubts, and then we will conclude that there is more to debate. Tune in at 10pm for more!

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Re: A major discover about "ancient buddhism"

Postby tiltbillings » Thu May 26, 2011 4:04 am

alan wrote:Fox News Alert!
New suttas have been found. There just like the others, but we're going to ask a bunch of people who don't know anything about the subject to debate it. They will cast doubts, and then we will conclude that there is more to debate. Tune in at 10pm for more!


Let us not forget the Hard Sutra:

An apocrypha seen on a curled piece of paper tacked to the kitchen door at the Insight Meditation Society in 1977:


The Hard Sutra

Thus have I heard. At one time the Blessed One was staying at Savatthi,
in Jetavana, Anathapindika's Park. "Monks," the Blessed One addressed
the community of monks. "Yes, Blessed One," the monks replied. The
Blessed one stated: "Monks, there is but one way to learn and that is the
hard way. Do not be deceived." The monks rejoiced at the Blessed One's
words.

A Zen Cohen
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: A major discover about "ancient buddhism"

Postby retrofuturist » Thu May 26, 2011 4:08 am

Greetings Dave,
daverupa wrote:Fascinating reading, maybe I'll write a book review for the forum.

Well... if you do, I would appreciate that.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

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Re: A major discover about "ancient buddhism"

Postby Sylvester » Thu May 26, 2011 4:56 am

retrofuturist wrote:Does anyone know anything about Steven Collins, and/or the supporting evidence for his assertion?



Not intended to be an ad hominem, but it does pay to bear in mind that Collins is influenced by Gregory Schopen's skepticism about the "datability" and provenance of the texts that are generally accepted by "Early Buddhism" scholars.

One of the main objections of Schopen to the claimed antiquity of the Pali Canon is that no certainty can be given to this claimed provenance beyond an acknowledgement that the only evidence of the Canon's "closure" comes from the time when the Commentaries were reduced to writing, ie Ven Buddhagosa's era. I think the "Early Buddhism" scholars would point out that Schopen's lack of expertise in the Chinese Agama parallels is not justification for his disbelief in the Pali Canon and Agamas closing earlier than Ven Buddhagosa, or in the utility of Textual Criticism.

I think one of the rejoinder to that was that sometime before Ven Buddhagosa, the different sects of Indian Buddhism "levelised" the texts to a more-or-less similar core. That really stands way out there, on par with some Tibetan apologists (in S'pore) who argue that Theravada must be Hinayana because a psychic council was held between the Lankan monks, the North-East Indian monks and the North-West Indian monks to standardise all the early texts...

Schopen's influence on contemporary Buddhist studies is so pervasive that you can detect Gombrich's exasperation with Schopen's insistence on epigraphy as the sole evidence that is reliable.

To get a flavour of some of Schopen's influence, check out this entry on Ajahn Sujato's blog -

http://sujato.wordpress.com/2011/01/22/ ... y-schopen/

There's a more fulsome dissection of Schopen's methods by Alexander Wynne here -

http://www.scribd.com/doc/29421072/Wynn ... uttapitaka

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Re: A major discover about "ancient buddhism"

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu May 26, 2011 4:35 pm

Okay, I admit I have a Theravada bias, but I still don't see what Tricycle sees as such a break-through in changing the whole transmission tree.

The fragments date from the first century BCE to the third century CE. The fragments contain suttas and sutras, including many from the Pali Canon and a few from Mahayana sutras.

The written Pali Canon on Ola leaves dates from the first century BCE.

The First Buddhist Council dates to 483 BCE

The Second Buddhist Council dates to 383 BCE

The Third Buddhist Council dates to 250 BCE and was called by King Ashoka. We have edicts from Ashoka and all indications appear to be that Ashoka was a Vibhajjavadin-Theravadin.

While not undervaluing the skillful means of koans and other Mahayana practices, do any serious scholars think that the Buddha directly taught them? Or is it more likely that the Dhamma-Vinaya practiced during the time of the Buddha looked more like monastic monks, practicing a long set of rules, living in monasteries, and going on alms-rounds?


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