Late origin?

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

Late origin?

Postby Sekha » Tue Nov 22, 2011 6:23 am

There are many suttas starting abruptly without any reference to the time and place of their original utterance. It seems to me that these suttas ar likely to be late compositions made out of earlier material which was corrupted or incomplete, in order to preserve them anyway. And some "fake" suttas (of pure composition, not genuinely created from earlier material) are likely to have slipped in at that time, slowly opening the way to full-fledged false narrative suttas.

Any interesting voews on the subject?
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Re: Late origin?

Postby ground » Tue Nov 22, 2011 7:52 am

No. Just an uninteresting view (sorry that I cannot resist) in that I am inclined to differentiate the suttas on the basis of their conduciveness (from my perspective).

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Re: Late origin?

Postby gavesako » Tue Nov 22, 2011 12:06 pm

This was already noticed and discussed in this book:

Beginnings: The Pali Suttas

by Sāmanera Bodhesako

https://pathpress.wordpress.com/bodhesa ... additions/

:reading:
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Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Late origin?

Postby Sekha » Tue Nov 22, 2011 1:10 pm

TMingyur wrote:No. Just an uninteresting view (sorry that I cannot resist) in that I am inclined to differentiate the suttas on the basis of their conduciveness (from my perspective).
I guess every one having faith in this teaching would agree. But does it mean that we have to ignore these questions?

I see two advantages in pondering over the uncertainty of the accuracy or even authenticity of the suttas:one does not get entangled in dogmatism regarding the contents of the suttas and seeing the unreliability of intellectual knowledge, one is pushed towards the practice, which is the only way to reach freedom from doubt.

Also, it seems that a "vertical" lecture of the suttas would provide an interesting overview of what the Buddha considered as the most important to be heard by his disciples, in referencing and counting the occurences of the stock formulae he uses repeatedly in the various Nikayas. A first step in this direction has been by the way made here:
http://www.suttapitaka.net/formulae.html

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Re: Late origin?

Postby Sekha » Tue Nov 22, 2011 1:27 pm

gavesako wrote:This was already noticed and discussed in this book:
Beginnings: The Pali Suttas
by Sāmanera Bodhesako
https://pathpress.wordpress.com/bodhesa ... additions/

Thanks for this interesting link.

But I feel some reticence at accepting so quickly the following conclusion:

In order for any Sutta or part of a Sutta to have been lost, we should have to suppose either a collective amnesia among all the monks of all the companies who were reciters of that Sutta — hundreds, or more probably thousands of ambulatory amnesiacs! — or else the breaking up and disappearance of every single company responsible for a certain portion of the Suttas — and this in a time when all the evidence indicates that the Order was thriving and growing — together with the refusal or inability of any single monk (or ex-monk) from any of those lost companies to come forward to teach the texts to the surviving groups. A most improbable combination of events!

It does not take note of the fact that the Sangha very soon broke into various sects, each holding a different version of the Canon, and it seems reasonable that in such a context, since the number of monks reciting one particular version would be much lesser than the whole, that errors would have slipped in, and that wrongly intentioned monks would have started creating their own suttas in order to attract more followers, specially as in concurrency with brahmins.

Moreover, as (as far as I know) we don't know by which way exactly the Canon went to Sri Lanka, it is not impossible that it would have been transmitted at a time of confusion when in some cases it was not easy to differentiate genuine from fake, and that in such a context the proper choice would have been to include the dubious material, thinking there would be more time later to think about its authenticity.
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Re: Late origin?

Postby gavesako » Tue Nov 22, 2011 2:19 pm

Yes, since this book was written a lot of new research and comparison of different versions of the early Suttas was made, particularly by Ven. Analayo, which shows that indeed there have been some additions/omissions.
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Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Late origin?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Tue Nov 22, 2011 2:53 pm

In K.R. Norman’s A Philological Approach to Buddhism, Ch. 3. Buddhism and Oral Tradition p.50, he says this on the bhāṇaka system:

Rhys Davids a century ago [n.14 T.W. Rhys Davids, 1881, xxiii (quoted by Tambiah, 1968, 100-101).] drew attention to some of the features which, he suggested, aided the power of memory for Buddhist Sutta and Vinaya texts. He pointed out "firstly, the use of stock phrases, of which the commencement once given, the remainder followed as a matter of course and secondly, the habit of repeating whole sentences or even paragraphs, which in our modem books would be understood or inferred, instead of being expressed.

It is not precisely clear what he meant by stock phrases, and I suspect that he was referring to the way in which suttas tend to start in the same way - "Thus have I heard" - this is said by the cties to be a reference to the way in which Ananda at the first recitation repeated what he could remember of the Buddha's
Sermons [n.15 See Norman, 1983C, 8.] - "At that time the Buddha was staying at such and such a place with a group of bhikkhus, and one day the bhikkhus decided to do something, or ask a question, etc." Many of the introductory paragraphs to these sermons carry on with stereotyped phrases - someone approached the Buddha, and having approached him sat down at one side; to him seated at one side the Buddha said
something or other.

In a paper read at the conference of the International Association of Sanskritic Studies in Australia in 1994,[ 16 Allon, 1994.] it was shown that the consistency in the way in which these introductory paragraphs are structured is, in fact, more meticulous than might at first appear. It can be seen that the wording changes subtly in conformity with a fixed pattern to specify who is approaching whom. In each case the wording is slightly different and a further result of this is that, once a story teller has remembered that the particular sermon he is about to recite is, say, about one or more bhikkhus approaching the Buddha, to ask a particular type of question, the form of wording to be used is prescribed. And therefore he does not, so to speak, have to remember the form of words to use because the circumstances fix the form for him.

Interestingly enough, it has been pointed out that if we examine such stereotyped phrases in one nikāya and compare them with the phrases in another, we find that the forms which are employed do not necessarily agree - something which leads us to the conclusion, I think, that, as we would expect, once the texts had been distributed among groups to preserve and hand them on to their successors, the precise methods of stereotyping which were employed, in an attempt to make remembering easier, were not necessarily the same for each set of bhāṇakas.
Katamo ca bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo: samatho ca vipassanā ca. Ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the path leading to the unconditioned? Calm and insight. This, bhikkhus, is called the path leading to
the unconditioned.” SN. 43.2 – Samathavipassanāsuttaṃ

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Re: Late origin?

Postby daverupa » Tue Nov 22, 2011 2:59 pm

One additional thought, via Gombrich, is of the greater likelihood that a Sutta which conveys its points via simile and metaphor is probably original to the Buddha. MN 19 is a good example. There are two metaphors employed here, as well as a rather large pericope which could have been dropped in to smooth over, for memorization purposes, an otherwise unique reference to a standard teaching on that aspect of the topic being taught. It's an interesting case.
    "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: Late origin?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Tue Nov 22, 2011 6:31 pm

gavesako wrote:Yes, since this book was written a lot of new research and comparison of different versions of the early Suttas was made, particularly by Ven. Analayo, which shows that indeed there have been some additions/omissions.


The possibility of additions and omissions to the early texts is also discussed here in Norman’s work cited above, § Ch. 5. Buddhism and Writing, pp. 92-94:

In the third lecture I spoke of the bhikkhu Ariṭṭha, who, you will remember, totally misunderstood the purport of the Buddha's teachings about stumbling blocks. [n. 49 Alagaddūpamasutta, M I 130-42.] As long as the bhāṇakas recited the sutta which made the position clear, then any attempt which Ariṭṭha (or others who thought like him) might have made to pretend that his view was authorised by the Buddha, by inventing a sutta which authenticated it, would be unsuccessful, because the bhāṇakas would not have admitted a new sutta which included a view condemned by the Buddha and which was, therefore, not consistent with the rest of the canon.

We might also think of the bhikkhu Sāti, who, as we read in the Majjhima-nikāya [50 M 1256-71.] so misunderstood the Buddha's teaching that he thought it was "consciousness" (viññāṇa) which continued in saṃsāra.[n. 51 tad ev’ idaṃ viññāṇaṃ sandhāvati saṃsāratai, anaññaṃ, M I 256,19-20.] This would appear to be a recollection by Sāti of a teaching similar to that found in the Bṛhad-Āraṇyaka Upaniṣad that vijñāna continues:[n. 52 idam mahad bhūtam anantam apāraṃ vijñāna-ghana eva, BUp II.4.12.] "This great being, endless, unlimited, consisting of nothing but intelligence". This view was refuted by the Buddha, who pointed out that he had frequently taught that "Without a cause there is no origination of consciousness".[n. 53 aññatra paccayā n' atthi viññāṇassa sambhavo, M I 258,20.] Once again, Sāti had no chance of
inserting his view into a nikāya. Nor would it be possible for such views to be inserted into the nikāyas, even after the introduction of the use of writing, as long as the bhāṇaka tradition continued alongside writing, as I have suggested it did, for some time, in the Theravādin tradition.

On the other hand, once the various schools of Buddhism had started to make use of writing, it was not difficult to produce a text and say that it was Buddhavacana, as long as there was no bhāṇaka tradition to refute the claim. You will know that the Buddha stated, as reported in Theravādin texts, that there was no "teacher's fist",[n. 54 na tatth' Ānanda Tathāgatassa dhammesu ācariya-muṭṭhi, D I1 100,4 = S V 153,19.] as far as he was concerned, i.e. he was not keeping anything back for an élite, but was making his teaching known to all of his followers who wished to listen. There developed, however, a view in some Buddhist schools that what the Buddha had said openly was intended only for the masses. There was really another, hidden, meaning which the Buddha imparted only to a chosen few. For such schools, the adoption of writing enabled them to claim that their views were indeed Buddhavacana.

Richard Gombrich has dealt with this in the context of the rise of the Mahāyāna,[n. 55 Gombrich, 1988, 29-46.] but it is possible that not just Mahāyāna, but also dissident Hīnāyāna sects benefitted from the use of writing. Since no one ever accuses the Abhayagirivāsins, the opponents of the Mahāvihāravāsins, of transmitting their scriptures in some language other than Pāli, it is probable that their canon was in Pāli. Nevertheless, their version of the Buddhavamsa, as far as can be judged from the small portion which is preserved in Tibetan, does not agree with the Theravādin Buddhavamsa, and must therefore have been added to their body of scriptures at a time when the bhāṇaka system had been bi-passed. It is quite possible that they were able to add to their scriptures in this way, by making use of writing. The way in which the so-called quasi-canonical texts came into existence in the Middle Ages in Sri Lanka and South-east Asia is another indication of the way in which the fact that texts were written down enabled them to be accepted by some Buddhists, at least, in a way which would have been impossible if the bhāṇakas were still transmitting all texts orally.

Paradoxically, then, if the writing down of the Theravādin canon may be presumed to have stopped the further Sanskritisation of Pāli and prevented the insertion of new suttas into the nikāyas, it was writing which made possible the production and acceptance of Mahāyāna and other texts. We may suppose that, to a very large extent, the advent of writing meant that an already existent canon was fixed when it was written down, but writing allowed new canons to come into effect because the authors did not have to point to a long bhāṇaka tradition of the texts, which alone, before the use of writing, could prove that they were Buddhavacana.

In view of this connection which has been seen between writing and the Mahāyāna, it is not unreasonable to believe that the writing down of the Theravādin canon was not due simply to a threatened breakdown in the bhāṇaka system of transmission in Sri Lanka, and the social, political and economic conditions of the time, as the Pāli commentarial tradition suggests, and as I proposed earlier, but also to a need to give an authenticity and prestige to the Theravādin canon vis-à-vis the written texts of other schools. If the beginnings of the Mahāyāna, and therefore religious writing, can be dated to the second century B.C.E., then it is likely that Hīnayāna texts were also being committed to writing, in North India if not in Sri Lanka, at that time.

Since the social and religious conditions which had existed at the time of the Buddha had by then changed greatly, and since Pāli and the literary forms of other Middle Indo-Aryan dialects were now almost as much out of touch with the languages of the common people as Sanskrit had seemed 400 years before, it is probable that many such texts were being written in Sanskrit - the language of culture - as opposed to being translated into it.
Katamo ca bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo: samatho ca vipassanā ca. Ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the path leading to the unconditioned? Calm and insight. This, bhikkhus, is called the path leading to
the unconditioned.” SN. 43.2 – Samathavipassanāsuttaṃ

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Re: Late origin?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Tue Nov 22, 2011 6:35 pm

daverupa wrote:One additional thought, via Gombrich, is of the greater likelihood that a Sutta which conveys its points via simile and metaphor is probably original to the Buddha. MN 19 is a good example. There are two metaphors employed here, as well as a rather large pericope which could have been dropped in to smooth over, for memorization purposes, an otherwise unique reference to a standard teaching on that aspect of the topic being taught. It's an interesting case.


Was that in How Buddhism Began?

In Recovering the Buddha’s Message (1988), Gombrich discusses opinions on apparent inconsistencies in the early texts may indicate the chronological development of the teachings of the Buddha. This discussion, in addition to mention of the possible origin of a bhāṇaka system in DN.33, mentions a form of ‘stock formulae’ as aids to memory “Segments of texts (sometimes called pericopes) are preserved in different contexts, but it ay not be possible to deduce from this that one passage is earlier than another…”, and contrasting prose and verse texts as may indicate date or authorship. It is helpful that scholars like Gombrich and Norman mention that the cultural context is important, and that one cannot entirely assume the perspective of the audience of the Buddha.
Katamo ca bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo: samatho ca vipassanā ca. Ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the path leading to the unconditioned? Calm and insight. This, bhikkhus, is called the path leading to
the unconditioned.” SN. 43.2 – Samathavipassanāsuttaṃ

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Re: Late origin?

Postby daverupa » Tue Nov 22, 2011 7:56 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:Was that in How Buddhism Began?


It may have been, although my recollection was from the more recent What the Buddha Thought.
    "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: Late origin?

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Nov 22, 2011 10:10 pm

gavesako wrote:Yes, since this book was written a lot of new research and comparison of different versions of the early Suttas was made, particularly by Ven. Analayo, which shows that indeed there have been some additions/omissions.

This other discussion, and particularly the article referenced in this post - http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=10218&start=20#p160403 - is also relevant, IMO.

:namaste:
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Re: Late origin?

Postby Mr Man » Wed Nov 23, 2011 11:27 am

As practitioners I don't think that we need to worry too much about late and early origin as the teachings are not meant as an historical record. At this stage in the game I think ideas of real and fake are irrelevant.
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Re: Late origin?

Postby Sekha » Wed Nov 23, 2011 12:20 pm

Mr Man wrote:As practitioners I don't think that we need to worry too much about late and early origin as the teachings are not meant as an historical record. At this stage in the game I think ideas of real and fake are irrelevant.


Dukkhanirodha wrote:I see two advantages in pondering over the uncertainty of the accuracy or even authenticity of the suttas:one does not get entangled in dogmatism regarding the contents of the suttas and seeing the unreliability of intellectual knowledge, one is pushed towards the practice, which is the only way to reach freedom from doubt.
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Re: Late origin?

Postby Nyana » Wed Nov 23, 2011 1:38 pm

Dukkhanirodha wrote:I see two advantages in pondering over the uncertainty of the accuracy or even authenticity of the suttas:one does not get entangled in dogmatism regarding the contents of the suttas and seeing the unreliability of intellectual knowledge, one is pushed towards the practice, which is the only way to reach freedom from doubt.

Right view will eliminate dogmatism (sooner or later). But practice without understanding is generally not very helpful.
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Re: Late origin?

Postby Mr Man » Wed Nov 23, 2011 3:03 pm

Dukkhanirodha wrote:I see two advantages in pondering over the uncertainty of the accuracy or even authenticity of the suttas:one does not get entangled in dogmatism regarding the contents of the suttas and seeing the unreliability of intellectual knowledge, one is pushed towards the practice, which is the only way to reach freedom from doubt.

If on a personal level it stops one getting caught up in dogmatism that is good but in my experience often those who are most dogmatic are those who wish to attribute this sutta as "genuine" and that sutta as an addition. I guess how we relate to the suttas is often just an extension of our personality.
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