John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

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

John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jun 02, 2012 5:17 am

Part one of a two-part interview with John Peackock:
Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?
http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2012/05/bg ... -stand-up/

John Peacock is a scholar and Associate Director of The Oxford Mindfulness Centre. His studies of the earliest Buddhist writings have revealed to him a very human Buddha and a very different Buddhism than we know today.

In a conversation with Hokai Sobol, Peacock describes the historical Buddha as a very practical teacher and a radical social reformer. He cites passages of the earliest writings that describe a very human and emotional Buddha that enjoyed satire. He calls the Buddha the “First Psychologist” and relates to him as a teacher who was more interested in practical psychology than philosophy.

This is Part 1 of a 2 part series.


This topic is both interesting and disconcerting. Peacock reports the current scholarly view on what the oldest texts are, which include not only texts from the Sutta Nipata:
But some from other Nikayas, such as:
He singles out the last chapter of of Sutta Nipata:
which we discussed in the Study Group. Here's the last one:
viewtopic.php?f=25&t=8302
As I said on that thread (summarising what I've read before from Peacock and other scholars, such as his series of talks here: http://www.audiodharma.org/teacher/207/):
mikenz66 wrote:Certainly the answers to the Questions are very to the point, but it is interesting that the Buddist Dogma such as Anatta (mentioned in the previous Question), Noble truths (implied in this current Question by the talk of craving), mindfulness, and so on are not organised in to the categories that we are familiar with from other Suttas. This, along with the fact that these Suttas are referred to in other Nikayas (see link above and previous posts in this Forum), supports the claim that they are very early.
viewtopic.php?f=25&t=8302#p130070

Peacock restates this in the interview. In the earliest strata there is no organisation into noble truths, dependent origination, three characteristics, and so on.

Given that we find noble truths, dependent origination, and three characteristics in the various known Canons, the process of organising the Nikayas must have largely happened before the various sects separated.

But it seems that scholars such as Peacock are arguing the Buddha didn't teach those categories in the organised way as we now find in the Nikayas, in suttas such as:
SN 56.11 Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html
SN 22.59 Anatta-lakkhana Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html
SN 12.2 Paticca-samuppada-vibhanga Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Hmm, scary stuff... what to take as the word of the Buddha? :reading:

:anjali:
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Re: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby hanzze_ » Sat Jun 02, 2012 5:25 am

Hmm, scary stuff... what to take as the word of the Buddha?


I guess the most secure way is to watch the livelihood of the teacher/suggester.
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Re: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Jun 02, 2012 6:59 am

Greetings,

I don't understand what's "scary" or "disconcerting" about a scholar offering their thoughts, which might enable one to form a clearer picture of what the Buddha taught.

Is there something I'm missing here? Is there supposed to be some attachment to what we believe or what we want to be the Buddha's teaching?

In the earliest strata there is no organisation into noble truths, dependent origination, three characteristics, and so on.
...
But it seems that scholars such as Peacock are arguing the Buddha didn't teach those categories in the organised way as we now find in the Nikayas

The designation of ti-lakkhana doesn't even exist in the suttas as such.

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


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Re: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jun 02, 2012 7:05 am

It's rather interesting, to read through the last chapter of the Sutta Nipata to see what the "original teachings" might be. A quick survey:
    Noble truths in terms of suffering being due to craving.
    Not-self is in there.
    Bit's of dependent origination, such as consciousness/name and form)
    Some mention of jhana and formless states, including that those states are still unsatisfactory.
    Mindfulness is good...
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Re: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby Nyana » Sat Jun 02, 2012 8:04 am

mikenz66 wrote:In the earliest strata there is no organisation into noble truths, dependent origination, three characteristics, and so on.

The thesis that parts of the Suttanipāta and other verse sections of the canon are the oldest strata of discourse has been around for quite some time. The reasoning is that the language used in verse sections of the canon is generally more archaic, and that the Suttanipāta lacks systematic doctrinal formulation. This theory has also been called into question because (1) in most languages verse texts preserve more archaic language (e.g. such as English prose and poetry from the middle ages, etc.), therefore, this linguistic feature doesn't establish that the verse portions of the canon are more ancient than the prose portions; and (2) lack of systematic doctrinal formulation in these passages could be due to any number of factors, not just the historical development of the dhamma. (This latter point would also pertain to prose passages which lack systematic doctrinal formulation.)
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Re: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby Mr Man » Sat Jun 02, 2012 9:02 am

Would the Gandhāran texts also support the thesis that parts of the Suttanipāta form the oldest strata of discourse?
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Re: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Jun 02, 2012 11:05 am

mikenz66 wrote:Part one of a two-part interview with John Peackock:
Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?
http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2012/05/bg ... -stand-up/

John Peacock is a scholar and Associate Director of The Oxford Mindfulness Centre. His studies of the earliest Buddhist writings have revealed to him a very human Buddha and a very different Buddhism than we know today.

In a conversation with Hokai Sobol, Peacock describes the historical Buddha as a very practical teacher and a radical social reformer. He cites passages of the earliest writings that describe a very human and emotional Buddha that enjoyed satire. He calls the Buddha the “First Psychologist” and relates to him as a teacher who was more interested in practical psychology than philosophy.

This is Part 1 of a 2 part series.


I haven't (yet) heard or read Peacock but (FWIW) this is close to my own view of the Buddha.
And it presents a plausible (though probably unprovable) reason for the "lack of systematic doctrinal formulation" (to borrow Nana's phrase) in the earliest teachings. That is, any teacher worth listening to will gradually clarify and refine his/her teaching approach in light of further realisations and (just as importantly) difficulties his/her students have with the material and the most effective ways of making it clearer and more approachable.
Any teacher wants their students to grasp their teachings as quickly and accurately as possible. In time, s/he learns what gives the students trouble and improves the explanation. We know the Buddha was teaching constantly for forty years. That is a lot of time to develop and refine his presentation, and I can't imagine that he was unwilling or unable to improve on his first, reluctant, foray into teaching the dhamma.

:namaste:
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Re: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Sat Jun 02, 2012 11:31 am

With reference to the theory that the Suttanipāta represents the earliest framework of the Buddha’s teachings, the Dvayatānupassanāsuttaṃ (Sn. 3.12) would then contain the earliest schedule of the 4-NT and DO.
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby Nyana » Sat Jun 02, 2012 1:21 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:I haven't (yet) heard or read Peacock but (FWIW) this is close to my own view of the Buddha.
And it presents a plausible (though probably unprovable) reason for the "lack of systematic doctrinal formulation" (to borrow Nana's phrase) in the earliest teachings. That is, any teacher worth listening to will gradually clarify and refine his/her teaching approach in light of further realisations and (just as importantly) difficulties his/her students have with the material and the most effective ways of making it clearer and more approachable.

Indeed, entirely plausible but probably unprovable. Nevertheless, there are many other good reasons to cherish the Suttanipāta.
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Re: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby suttametta » Sat Jun 02, 2012 6:24 pm

I write the following at the risk of inflaming the Theravadins here. It is not my intention, this is the best place to discuss the Pali material. For some, that means contradicting Theravada. I apologize ahead of schedule.

As modern people who may not have a familial tradition of Buddhism, we are pulled in two directions. On the one hand, we don't want to seem like marauders of an ancient tradition that has preserved something precious for thousands of years. On the other hand, because we have no cultural attache, we are haunted by verses in texts like the Sutta Nipata that warn us not to "grasp like a monkey on a branch," one branch then another. There is a cognitive dissonance that takes place, at least I feel that way. I feel like the Buddha was saying something entirely different than the traditions made it seem, and I have trouble keeping a straight face when some teachers speak. The religious fervor and doctrinal system that arose, stayed put and got even stronger in Buddhism seems to have been somewhat in error. We sometimes, perhaps because we are projecting, but perhaps because we are seeing clearly, see a Buddha who was 2500 years ahead of his time, almost a man of today's way of thinking, a skeptic, a realist, a pragmatist and an egalitarian social reformist. My attitude is strongly reinforced by teachers like Bhante Punnaji, who, even if he is wrong about his claims that he is presenting a more accurate portrait of what the Buddha really taught, has created better flow charts, to put it bluntly, a better system that helps us be better Buddhists today based on today's world view. This is the foundation of a great reformation of what will become a modern Buddhism, one that has scientific validity and global utility. Honestly, there is an overwhelming force of modernization happening in Buddhism.

One of my Tibetan teachers asked me the other day over pizza, "don't get mad at me, but I have to ask you, is tradition maybe a little wrong?" I have been pondering how to answer this question for weeks. It seems to me that what really happened was that the traditions that arose in the name of the Buddha actually broke the tradition the Buddha was trying to create and we modern newcomers to Buddhism are trying to figure out what tradition that might have been. In a sense, the modern Buddhist is trying to get at the more ancient and more traditional buddhism, and what we are finding is a Buddha who looks a lot more like a modern scientist.

To be fair, it also seems almost as if the Buddha created two buddhisms. Mr. Peacock mentioned the Rhinoceros Horn and the thing about monks should wander alone, and the Buddha changing his mind, i.e., making a vinaya and sangha who live together. It almost seems as if he initially wanted monks not to organize. I imagine the Buddha picturing a world where he emptied the villages of inhabitants and turned mankind into a peaceful solitary forest dwelling species, but then later had to relent to organization from the sheer force of the numbers of followers. What this shows is that he miscalculated. Which is normal for a problem solver: what seems like will work based on a small number does not translate when the orders of magnitude scale up. Any internet entrepreneur has to confront this and there is a science of business planning that has grown up around this phenomenon. Also in the vinaya it's obvious the Buddha was making rules on an ad hoc basis, which is why he allowed the sangha to change rules. Another buddhism would be the one where there's no formal sangha and you can be a "monk" just by wandering alone, letting go and taking nothing up.

At times he contradicts himself; there is the passage about the monk who attained Arahatship while slitting his own throat, and then he makes a vinaya rule about not throwing yourself off a cliff. There are other passages where the twelve links are describes in various ways. All of this makes it clear we were not dealing with an omniscient god-man, but a human problem solver, otherwise, he could have said, "Monks these are going to be the rules that will work for all time, these and no others." So if we are going to be "buddhas" we need to emulate the behavior that stays true to tradition and be problem solvers. At this time, as much as we owe a debt to the various buddhist traditions, they are all entrenched deeply in the same problem the Buddha was confronted with, how to make the teachings work in society. If anything is sacred in buddhism it's the problem of suffering and how to solve it. Aside from that, everything else is subject to change without further notice (I'm simplifying, but I hope you get my point). Thanks for taking time to see this.
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Re: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby manas » Sat Jun 02, 2012 6:55 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
Kim O'Hara wrote:I haven't (yet) heard or read Peacock but (FWIW) this is close to my own view of the Buddha.
And it presents a plausible (though probably unprovable) reason for the "lack of systematic doctrinal formulation" (to borrow Nana's phrase) in the earliest teachings. That is, any teacher worth listening to will gradually clarify and refine his/her teaching approach in light of further realisations and (just as importantly) difficulties his/her students have with the material and the most effective ways of making it clearer and more approachable.

Indeed, entirely plausible but probably unprovable. Nevertheless, there are many other good reasons to cherish the Suttanipāta.


Hi all,

I note that the Buddha has a few initial difficulties in convincing people he meets, but that being very 'swift of discernment' he also very quickly figures out better ways to reach people. Here is his first encounter:

"Then, having stayed at Uruvela as long as I liked, I set out to wander by stages to Varanasi. Upaka the Ajivaka saw me on the road between Gaya and the (place of) Awakening, and on seeing me said to me, 'Clear, my friend, are your faculties. Pure your complexion, and bright. On whose account have you gone forth? Who is your teacher? In whose Dhamma do you delight?'

"When this was said, I replied to Upaka the Ajivaka in verses:
'All-vanquishing, all-knowing am I, with regard to all things, unadhering. All-abandoning, released in the ending of craving: having fully known on my own, to whom should I point as my teacher? [4] I have no teacher, and one like me can't be found. In the world with its devas, I have no counterpart. For I am an arahant in the world; I, the unexcelled teacher. I, alone, am rightly self-awakened. Cooled am I, unbound. To set rolling the wheel of Dhamma I go to the city of Kasi. In a world become blind, I beat the drum of the Deathless.'

"'From your claims, my friend, you must be an infinite conqueror.'
'Conquerors are those like me who have reached fermentations' end. I've conquered evil qualities, and so, Upaka, I'm a conqueror.'

"When this was said, Upaka said, 'May it be so, my friend,' and — shaking his head, taking a side-road — he left.

There was nothing untrue in what the Buddha said, but it did not reach Upaka the Ajivaka.

Then:

"Then, wandering by stages, I arrived at Varanasi, at the Deer Park in Isipatana, to where the group of five monks were staying. From afar they saw me coming and, on seeing me, made a pact with one another, (saying,) 'Friends, here comes Gotama the contemplative: living luxuriously, straying from his exertion, backsliding into abundance. He doesn't deserve to be bowed down to, to be greeted by standing up, or to have his robe & bowl received. Still, a seat should be set out; if he wants to, he can sit down.' But as I approached, they were unable to keep to their pact. One, standing up to greet me, received my robe & bowl. Another spread out a seat. Another set out water for washing my feet. However, they addressed me by name and as 'friend.'

"So I said to them, 'Don't address the Tathagata by name and as "friend." The Tathagata, friends, is a worthy one, rightly self-awakened. Lend ear, friends: the Deathless has been attained. I will instruct you. I will teach you the Dhamma. Practicing as instructed, you will in no long time reach & remain in the supreme goal of the holy life for which clansmen rightly go forth from home into homelessness, knowing & realizing it for yourselves in the here & now.'

"When this was said, the group of five monks replied to me, 'By that practice, that conduct, that performance of austerities you did not attain any superior human states, any distinction in knowledge & vision worthy of a noble one. So how can you now — living luxuriously, straying from your exertion, backsliding into abundance — have attained any superior human states, any distinction in knowledge & vision worthy of a noble one?'

"When this was said, I replied to them, 'The Tathagata, monks, is not living luxuriously, has not strayed from his exertion, has not backslid into abundance. The Tathagata, friends, is a worthy one, rightly self-awakened. Lend ear, friends: the Deathless has been attained. I will instruct you. I will teach you the Dhamma. Practicing as instructed, you will in no long time reach & remain in the supreme goal of the holy life for which clansmen rightly go forth from home into homelessness, knowing & realizing it for yourselves in the here & now.'

A second time... A third time, the group of five monks said to me, 'By that practice, that conduct, that performance of austerities you did not attain any superior human states, any distinction in knowledge & vision worthy of a noble one. So how can you now — living luxuriously, straying from your exertion, backsliding into abundance — have attained any superior human states, any distinction in knowledge & vision worthy of a noble one?'

"When this was said, I replied to the group of five monks, 'Do you recall my ever having spoken in this way before?'

"'No, lord.'

"'The Tathagata, monks, is not living luxuriously, has not strayed from his exertion, has not backslid into abundance. The Tathagata, friends, is a worthy one, rightly self-awakened. Lend ear, friends: the Deathless has been attained. I will instruct you. I will teach you the Dhamma. Practicing as instructed, you will in no long time reach & remain in the supreme goal of the holy life for which clansmen rightly go forth from home into homelessness, knowing & realizing it for yourselves in the here & now.'

"And so I was able to convince them..."




To my mind that Buddha appears to be 'learning on the job' so to speak (with regards to, how to reach people), and when one approach to reaching people doesn't work, he tries another, and being the Buddha he is a very fast learner with regards to how to reach and instruct humans (and devas) in the Dhamma. (Just my own musing and humble opinion here of course!)

However as I understand things, he needed no 'further realizations' regarding the Path of practice, as this work had been completely achieved on the night of his full awakening; but only greater skill in reaching people - and remembering that he himself had initial doubts about this, maybe it is plausible that as his teaching career unfolded, he gradually found ways to organize the substance of his realizations into concepts, words and suttas that people could more easily understand, remember and practice?

:anjali:
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Re: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby Alex123 » Sat Jun 02, 2012 7:03 pm

mikenz66 wrote:But it seems that scholars such as Peacock are arguing the Buddha didn't teach those categories in the organised way as we now find in the Nikayas, in suttas
Hmm, scary stuff... what to take as the word of the Buddha? :reading:


I have heard this before, and I suspect it may be true. I wouldn't be surprised if 99% of the suttas were not spoken by the Buddha, at least not in their modern form. They were obviously formatted for easy memorization and contain implausible things. It is not impossible that later sutta teachings found their way into earlier suttas. Also it is not impossible that Buddha spoke multiple dialects and even some Pali suttas could already be a translation from earlier Dialect into Pali.

As for suttas being modified:
For example: There are often stock paragraphs used that repeat the same thing (ex: 4 Jhanas) word for word, punctuation to punctuation. Do you think that in real life person would repeat things like that?

How can a person memorize thousands of sermon after hearing it once and then 20 years later accurately say it in the First Council word-for-word?
There have been few cases of scholar monks who could memorize Tipitaka. But they had a written text to study, and they could read a sutta 100 times. Ananda didn't have this. There is no certainty that story of Ananda memorizing Buddha's teaching word-for-word isn't a later invention to justify the suttas.

The most important thing is to use this for your own studies, make Dhamma your own, don't cling to anything! Examine things in terms of dukkha and cessation of Dukkha.
”Even the water melting from the snow-capped peaks finds its way to the ocean."
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Re: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jun 02, 2012 7:30 pm

Alex123 wrote:.

As for suttas being modified:
For example: There are often stock paragraphs used that repeat the same thing (ex: 4 Jhanas) word for word, punctuation to punctuation. Do you think that in real life person would repeat things like that?
No; however, two things are at play here. When the Sangha got too large and spread out for there to be a direct interaction with the Buddha, there needed to be a way to present these teachings to new monastics, and secondly there needed to be a way off preserving the Buddha's teachings. There was already in place in India of that time examples of large bodyies of texts being carefully preserved by oral traditions. And there example in the suttas of the Jains being thrown into turmoil after the Jain leader died because the teachings were not carefully preserved; whereas, the Buddha pointed out his teachings were carefully preserved. The reptetative structures of the suttas certainly is a way of facilitating memorization as are the lists, and it is not unreasonable to think that the Buddha had a hand in how his teaching were preserved and there enough hints and statements in the suttas that point to that.
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SN I, 38.

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Re: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby Alex123 » Sat Jun 02, 2012 8:08 pm

tiltbillings wrote: it is not unreasonable to think that the Buddha had a hand in how his teaching were preserved and there enough hints and statements in the suttas that point to that.


I believe and hope so! But the Buddha did not write anything down, and left no audio-recording. We trust what happened in the First Council. But we do not know and cannot know for sure what the Historical Buddha has actually said, and Ananda's miraculous memory (which is said in the suttas) could have been a story to justify the suttas composed at First Council. There is no certain proof that anything the Historical Buddha Gotama has taught was put into suttas, though I believe them.
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Re: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jun 02, 2012 8:47 pm

Hi Manas,
manas wrote:To sum up - let's not let the speculations of yet another well-meaning but (as is usually the case) unordained Western intellectual shake our conviction in the Teaching as it is so wonderfully laid out in the Sutta-pitaka as a whole. It seems to have worked well for centuries, and still today, at alleviating human suffering; and isn't that the best evidence of it's authenticity?

This area of the Forum is about studies of Early Buddhism, history of the various sects, and so on. Those topics are, generally, "intellectual", so, strictly, these questions of conviction, whether or not the teachings are effective, or whether the modern tradition has lost its way are somewhat off topic.

Of course, these issues cannot be completely divorced. Studies by scholars such as Peacock give us some idea of the likely historical timescales for the assembly and editing of the Canon. This information may be helpful in informing our decisions on how we make use of the received texts, to what extent we consider the final compilations "Buddha-Vaccana", and whether we agree with the interpretations of the them by ancient and modern teachers and commentators.

:anjali:
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Re: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby cooran » Sat Jun 02, 2012 9:03 pm

Alex123 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote: it is not unreasonable to think that the Buddha had a hand in how his teaching were preserved and there enough hints and statements in the suttas that point to that.


I believe and hope so! But the Buddha did not write anything down, and left no audio-recording. We trust what happened in the First Council. But we do not know and cannot know for sure what the Historical Buddha has actually said, and Ananda's miraculous memory (which is said in the suttas) could have been a story to justify the suttas composed at First Council. There is no certain proof that anything the Historical Buddha Gotama has taught was put into suttas, though I believe them.


Hello all,

How old is the Sutta Pitaka
http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/ebsut056.htm

Repeating an old post:
The Suttas are not 'sound bites' recorded as the Buddha spoke. They are compacted summaries of what was said, rehearsed and agreed upon by the Arahants at the Great Councils and memorised and chanted together by large groups of monks called Bhanakas (Reciters).

"Writing was unknown then, and so the Buddha’s sayings, as collected by his disciples, were committed to memory by a group of monks and were handed down to their disciples orally. There were probably two such groups, who, in order to distinguish themselves from each other, became known as Digha-Bhanakas and Majjhima-bhanakas. The other two Nikayas were later developments, their object being only to rearrange the topics dealt with in the Digha and the Majjhima".
http://www.quangduc.com/English/history ... ars07.html

The Suttas are teaching vehicles whose meanings are densely packed layer on layer. They are not to be read as an ordinary page of print, but require 'unpacking' by someone learned in the Dhamma. This condensed form was necessary in order that the Teachings would not be lost in the years before they were finally put into writing ~ engraved on leaves in Sri Lanka. It allowed them to be memorised by the large groups of bhikkhus (bhanakas) assigned to each portion of the Tipitaka. They are not verbatim reports of chats and conversations. This memorisation is said to have commenced before the parinibbana of the Buddha. Anything that is repeated is to be seen as something important which was highlighted by the repetition.

The Suttas are rather like the memory prompts - the dot points of the most important information to be transmitted - similar to those a public speaker carries for reference.
"Thus you should train yourselves: 'We will listen when discourses that are words of the Tathagata -- deep, deep in their meaning, transcendent, connected with emptiness -- are being recited. We will lend ear, will set our hearts on knowing them, will regard these teachings as worth grasping & mastering.' That's how you should train yourselves." (Ari sutta).

.... with regard to the accuracy of oral traditions ... Anthropologists agree that oral teachings are generally more accurate and less prone to "improving" than are written teachings

The Pali Suttas are summaries of what the Buddha meant to be passed on - and great care was taken, while he was alive and afterwards, to memorise them in a form that could not be distorted, and by a method that did not allow of deliberate alterations to meaning and content. The recitations were going on for the forty five years of the Buddha's teaching life. The repetitions in the suttas are pointer to the most important parts.

Venerable Mahá Kassapa, the Head of the First Council. Cúlavagga Xl,1,1 (ii,284) reiterated:
"Come, friends: let us recite the Teaching and the Discipline before what is not the Teaching shines forth and the Teaching is put aside, before what is not the Discipline shines forth and the Discipline is put aside, before those who speak what is not the Teaching become strong and those who speak what is the Teaching become weak, before those who speak what is not the Discipline become strong and those who speak what is the Discipline become weak."

So the system was in place before the Buddha passed away. The Pali suttas are extremely condensed summaries of the Buddha's teachings, packed with meaning, which need to be unpacked by those learned in the Dhamma. They were preserved in that form to aid memorising and chanting by the large groups of Bhikkhus called Bhanakas (Reciters) i.e. Majjhima-bhanakas, Digha-bhanakas etc. Each group was allocated a small portion of the Tipitaka to keep pristine and pass on. This began even while the Buddha was alive.

It was only hundreds of years later in Sri Lanka, in a time of famine and warfare, with many bhikkhus dying, and with Buddhism all but wiped out in India, that the MahaSangha decided the Teachings needed to be written down. They were engraved on Ola Leaves. Many of us have been to Sri Lanka and have had the inestimable good fortune to have seen demonstrations of this being done at the ancient rock temple of Aluvihara Temple (where the Tipitaka was originally written down) in the Matale district 26 km from Kandy
.

metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jun 02, 2012 9:24 pm

Alex123 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote: it is not unreasonable to think that the Buddha had a hand in how his teaching were preserved and there enough hints and statements in the suttas that point to that.


I believe and hope so! But the Buddha did not write anything down, and left no audio-recording. We trust what happened in the First Council. But we do not know and cannot know for sure what the Historical Buddha has actually said, and Ananda's miraculous memory (which is said in the suttas) could have been a story to justify the suttas composed at First Council. There is no certain proof that anything the Historical Buddha Gotama has taught was put into suttas, though I believe them.
And if we had absolute "historical proof," would it make any difference? The point is in the practice.

The Ananda story is a story, a bit of myth making, which is something all reigions do in various ways, and in that there are things in the suttas that are no different, but then there are things that give us a glimpse of the Buddha as an actual living man dealing with what life throws his way.

"Writing was unknown then, and so the Buddha’s sayings, as collected by his disciples, were committed to memory by a group of monks and were handed down to their disciples orally. There were probably two such groups, who, in order to distinguish themselves from each other, became known as Digha-Bhanakas and Majjhima-bhanakas. The other two Nikayas were later developments, their object being only to rearrange the topics dealt with in the Digha and the Majjhima."
This is probably quite wrong, but the history of these things obscured by time.


The Suttas are teaching vehicles whose meanings are densely packed layer on layer.
Some are, but it seems most do not fit this description.
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: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Jun 02, 2012 10:32 pm

Greetings,

In relation to the Sutta Nipata discussion above, Ven. Ñāṇasuci has just brought Paññobhāsa Bhikkhu's new translation of the Aṭṭhakavagga (i.e. the fourth chapter of the Sutta Nipata) to our attention here...

The Aṭṭhakavagga – Pali, with English Translation
viewtopic.php?f=13&t=12666

From the appendix of that text....

Some evidence suggesting the great antiquity of the Aṭṭhakavagga

1. The language of the Aṭṭhakavagga contains several rare and archaic
grammatical forms reminiscent of Vedic Sanskrit which are absent in
the more streamlined grammar of most of the rest of the Canon.

2. The Aṭṭhakavagga is referred to by name elsewhere in the Tipiṭaka
at, for example, Udāna 5:6 in the Suttanta Piṭaka and Mahāvagga 5:13
in the Vinaya Piṭaka. Both of these passages tell the story of a young
bhikkhu named Soṇa Kuṭikaṇṇa who, when requested by the Buddha
to speak sore Dhamma, recites the Aṭṭhakavagga. The passage in the
Udāna also (correctly) specifies that the Aṭṭhakavagga has sixteen
parts. Thus it was already compiled and named before the completion
of the works in which the story is found.

3. The Aṭṭhakavagga is one of the very few portions of the Pali Canon
with a line-by-line commentary that is also canonical—namely, the
Mahāniddesa. (Interestingly, the purpose of the Mahāniddesa is apparently
not to expound upon the great profundity of the Aṭṭhakavagga, as
it does more to trivialize than glorify it. Furthermore, the Mahāniddesa
was probably not composed merely to comment upon a notably ancient
text, as at the time of its composition many suttas were believed
to predate the Aṭṭhakavagga—yet they are without a canonical commentary.
Its most likely purpose seems to be to reinterpret—to explain
away—a large body of proto-Theravadin or even pre-Theravadin
philosophy that was clearly at odds with later doctrinal development
but was nevertheless too well known to be deleted from the Canon.)

4. According to the literary evidence the Aṭṭhakavagga (but not the Suttanipāta
as a whole) was common to many, probably most, and possibly
all of the ancient schools of Buddhism, including the Mahasanghikas,
who are historically the first to branch off from the proto-Theravada/
Sarvastivada line (being equivalent to the Vajjiputtas in the Pali account
of the second council). The story of ven. Soṇa Kuṭikaṇṇa’s recitation
of the Aṭṭhakavagga is also recorded in the Mahasanghika Vinaya,
as well as in the vinayas of other ancient schools preserved in
the immense Mahayana Tripiṭaka.

5. The text of the Aṭṭhakavagga contains none of the usual stock passages,
little if any technical systematization of doctrine, and, with the
possible exceptions of the introductory verses to the Māgandiya Sutta
and Sāriputta Sutta, no fairy-tail narratives—all of which are characteristic
of later material.

6. The teachings of the Aṭṭhakavagga are addressed to a Sangha of homeless,
wandering ascetics, and are very simple (often to the point of
being enigmatic) yet also exceedingly profound. They appear to come
from a time when the Sāsana was still in a primitive state, most of its
converts being veterans to the holy life, and being far more inclined to
practically realize than to theoretically philosophize. The existence of
sedentary bhikkhus living in prosperous monasteries and dedicating
their efforts to intellectual investigation of Dhamma, which became
the norm very early in the history of Buddhism, is clearly at variance
with the spirit of these teachings.

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: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jun 02, 2012 10:48 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

In relation to the Sutta Nipata discussion above, Ven. Ñāṇasuci has just brought Paññobhāsa Bhikkhu's new translation of the Aṭṭhakavagga (i.e. the fourth chapter of the Sutta Nipata) to our attention here...

The Aṭṭhakavagga – Pali, with English Translation
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=12666

From the appendix of that text.....
. . .

Metta,
Retro. :)
Those notions have been batted around for decades -- 60's at least.
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: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Jun 02, 2012 11:28 pm

suttametta wrote:It seems to me that what really happened was that the traditions that arose in the name of the Buddha actually broke the tradition the Buddha was trying to create ...

You could say exactly the same about Christ and Christianity (and about Jefferson and US democracy, and Marx and Communism, for that matter) and we occasionally hear murmurings along the same lines from Islamists.
It seems to be a rule of human nature or history.
:thinking:

Kim
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