John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
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Re: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby Alex123 » Sat Jun 02, 2012 11:54 pm

Hello Christine, all,

cooran wrote:[i]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).


Here is the problem. We believe that they didn't misunderstand the message, and said it like it was.

Unfortunately it is not always so simple. There is evidence that Mahāsāṃghika school had the earliest Vinaya and one of the major differences was that it portrayed Devadatta... as a saint... In Theravada suttas and especially the Jatakas, Devadatta is portrayed as super evil monk.

Why am I sad about this? If due to politics suttas could be altered... Who knows what other alterations took place...


One reason for the interest in the origins of the Mahāsāṃghika school is that their Vinaya recension appears in several ways to represent an older redaction overall.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahasamghika#cite_note-0

The Mahāsāṃghikas therefore saw the Sthaviras as being a breakaway group which was attempting to modify the original Vinaya
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mah%C4%81s ... erated64-7

The Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya is also significant for its differing accounts from those of other schools. One such example of this is in the figure of Devadatta. The Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya mentions the figure of Devadatta, but the description and attributes of this figure are entirely different from those in the vinayas of sects from the Sthavira branch.[35] In fact, there is no overlap in the characterizations of Devadatta between the Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya and the other five extant vinayas which all come from the Sthavira branch. This has led some scholars to conclude that the story of Devadatta was a legend produced by the Sthaviras after they split from the Mahāsāṃghikas in the 4th century BCE.[35] André Bareau has discovered that the earliest vinaya material common to all sects simply depicts Devadatta as a Buddhist saint who wishes for the monks to live a rigorous lifestyle.[36]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mah%C4%81s ... ite_ref-35
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Re: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jun 03, 2012 12:08 am

Alex123 wrote:There is evidence that Mahāsāṃghika school had the earliest Vinaya
Maybe, but then maybe not, and it is not a matter of Vinaya, but also a matter of Patimokka, and the Pali version is likely the oldest.
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: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby Alex123 » Sun Jun 03, 2012 12:31 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Alex123 wrote:There is evidence that Mahāsāṃghika school had the earliest Vinaya
Maybe, but then maybe not, and it is not a matter of Vinaya, but also a matter of Patimokka, and the Pali version is likely the oldest.


I hope you are right.
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Re: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby Nyana » Sun Jun 03, 2012 4:07 am

Alex123 wrote:Here is the problem. We believe that they didn't misunderstand the message, and said it like it was.

Unfortunately it is not always so simple. There is evidence that Mahāsāṃghika school had the earliest Vinaya and one of the major differences was that it portrayed Devadatta... as a saint... In Theravada suttas and especially the Jatakas, Devadatta is portrayed as super evil monk.

Why am I sad about this? If due to politics suttas could be altered... Who knows what other alterations took place...

These differences in narrative are rather insignificant and don't affect the soteriological teachings. I've read a fair bit of discourses from other schools which are still extant. And overall, they share a high degree of doctrinal consistency. The inconsistencies generally occur in the narrative story-lines that accompany sutta & vinaya, and this could be due to a number of factors, but this doesn't adversely affect the doctrinal content.

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

Postby manas » Sun Jun 03, 2012 8:09 am

Alex123 wrote:Why am I sad about this? If due to politics suttas could be altered... Who knows what other alterations took place...


Alex, I think you already know the following, so this is just a gentle reminder: don't let questions of authenticity get you down. Gosh, how I used to let this worry me, and I must admit I still get nervous about it. But the very best solution is to put what we read in the suttas to the test. If you are worried about 'observer bias' then don't even go in with the assumption that the suttas are necessarily going to be proven correct. Just investigate deeply and fearlessly. We will get to the heart of things one day.

:anjali:

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

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jun 03, 2012 8:31 am

Ñāṇa wrote:These differences in narrative are rather insignificant and don't affect the soteriological teachings. I've read a fair bit of discourses from other schools which are still extant. And overall, they share a high degree of doctrinal consistency. The inconsistencies generally occur in the narrative story-lines that accompany sutta & vinaya, and this could be due to a number of factors, but this doesn't adversely affect the doctrinal content.

There are two questions here:

1. Differences between schools. Most are, as Geoff says, narrative, so not particularly important. A few are doctrinal, such as the permanence of awakening:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=11630

2. Whether the lists we have in the Nikayas are how the Buddha actually taught, or the result of pre-sectarian rationalization.

If those Sutta Nipata texts are how the Buddha actually taught (or how he taught early in his ministry) then the style of the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.011.nymo.html, and the other "early discourses", are highly likely to be a retro-fits.

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

Postby hanzze_ » Sun Jun 03, 2012 9:51 am

manas wrote:
Alex123 wrote:Why am I sad about this? If due to politics suttas could be altered... Who knows what other alterations took place...


Alex, I think you already know the following, so this is just a gentle reminder: don't let questions of authenticity get you down. Gosh, how I used to let this worry me, and I must admit I still get nervous about it. But the very best solution is to put what we read in the suttas to the test. If you are worried about 'observer bias' then don't even go in with the assumption that the suttas are necessarily going to be proven correct. Just investigate deeply and fearlessly. We will get to the heart of things one day.

:anjali:

:goodpost:
Once I read something similar like: "Even if we find out one day, that the Buddha (person) did not really exist (did not really exist...) the value of Dhamma would be the same and its practice would go on." We have quite enough skeptic to be able to put it into test.

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

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Jun 03, 2012 9:53 am

mikenz66 wrote:If those Sutta Nipata texts are how the Buddha actually taught (or how he taught early in his ministry) then the style of the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.011.nymo.html, and the other "early discourses", are highly likely to be a retro-fits.

:anjali:
Mike

Apart from the rather trivial point that you need to be careful about your choice of words, Mike, to avoid retro having fits :tongue: , I will agree - and add that this passage ...
Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta wrote:On hearing the earth-gods' cry, all the gods in turn in the six paradises of the sensual sphere took up the cry till it reached beyond the Retinue of High Divinity in the sphere of pure form. And so indeed in that hour, at that moment, the cry soared up to the World of High Divinity, and this ten-thousandfold world-element shook and rocked and quaked, and a great measureless radiance surpassing the very nature of the gods was displayed in the world.

... is in what I think of as a 'later' style. My rule of thumb is that the more divinities and heavens are mentioned, the closer we are to the Mahayana teachings. :thinking:

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

Postby hanzze_ » Sun Jun 03, 2012 10:03 am

Or next to right view...?

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

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jun 03, 2012 10:06 am

Greetings,

Kim O'Hara wrote:Apart from the rather trivial point that you need to be careful about your choice of words, Mike, to avoid retro having fits :tongue:

:lol:

Thankfully, as has been pointed out, it doesn't impact the doctrinal basis of the teaching... though the process of systematization that continued after the Buddha's death was probably also undertaken by the Buddha during his lifetime too.

The suttas show that his first foray into explaining the Dhamma to a passer-by wasn't particularly successful, so I assume he too had to grow as a teacher in order to improve his efficacy in that regard, and a more systematized curriculum may have facilitated 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


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

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Jun 03, 2012 10:14 am

retrofuturist wrote:The suttas show that his first foray into explaining the Dhamma to a passer-by wasn't particularly successful, so I assume he too had to grow as a teacher in order to improve his efficacy in that regard, and a more systematized curriculum may have facilitated that.

Metta,
Retro. :)

I'm glad we agree: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=12663#p191490. ;)

:namaste:
Kim

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

Postby Nyana » Sun Jun 03, 2012 10:58 am

mikenz66 wrote:1. Differences between schools. Most are, as Geoff says, narrative, so not particularly important. A few are doctrinal, such as the permanence of awakening:
viewtopic.php?f=29&t=11630

Yes, this sort of thing did occur. But it's not very common in the Nikāyas & Āgamas. The main doctrines and meditation practices found repeated in the vast majority of suttas are common to the discourse collections of all early schools. It's also rather easy to spot these sectarian additions by comparing different redactions of the same sutta.

mikenz66 wrote:2. Whether the lists we have in the Nikayas are how the Buddha actually taught, or the result of pre-sectarian rationalization.

If those Sutta Nipata texts are how the Buddha actually taught (or how he taught early in his ministry) then the style of the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.011.nymo.html, and the other "early discourses", are highly likely to be a retro-fits.

And this is entirely plausible, but always speculative. Having read a number of different modern theories proposing criteria for establishing the earliest discourses, as well as the criticisms of these theories, I'm quite happy to set this line of investigation aside as unnecessary and inconsequential. The methodology of textual criticism is not able and will never be able to demonstrate what the historical Buddha actually taught with any degree of certainty. This is why a useful distinction can be made between Original Buddhism and Early Buddhism. Original Buddhism refers to the actual oral teachings of the historical Gotama and his immediate disciples. Early Buddhism refers to the early formative pre-sectarian period of Indian Buddhism and the extant textual documents which claim to be records of the Buddha's teachings as remembered by his immediate disciples after his death.

And while we can infer some significant information about the early pre-sectarian period of Indian Buddhism with the help of text-critical analysis of the extant discourses, we will never be able to prove with any degree of certainty which of these doctrines and training rules actually originated with the Buddha himself and which are the product of the first few generations of his disciples.

What is clearly evident, however, is that the vast majority of discourses which survive share common doctrines and practices which are original and unique in the history of ancient Indian thought, and are therefore likely rooted in the ideas and practices developed and taught by one remarkable historical person, namely the samaṇa Gotama.

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

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jun 03, 2012 11:09 am

Thanks Geoff, for clarifying that distinction between Original Buddhism and Early Buddhism.

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

Postby Alex123 » Sun Jun 03, 2012 2:03 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
Alex123 wrote:Here is the problem. We believe that they didn't misunderstand the message, and said it like it was.

Unfortunately it is not always so simple. There is evidence that Mahāsāṃghika school had the earliest Vinaya and one of the major differences was that it portrayed Devadatta... as a saint... In Theravada suttas and especially the Jatakas, Devadatta is portrayed as super evil monk.

Why am I sad about this? If due to politics suttas could be altered... Who knows what other alterations took place...

These differences in narrative are rather insignificant and don't affect the soteriological teachings. I've read a fair bit of discourses from other schools which are still extant. And overall, they share a high degree of doctrinal consistency. The inconsistencies generally occur in the narrative story-lines that accompany sutta & vinaya, and this could be due to a number of factors, but this doesn't adversely affect the doctrinal content.


Hello Geoff, my concern and sadness is not due to specific difference (Was Devadatta a saint or a villain) but the fact that politics could alter the message in the suttas. Who knows what other, agreed upon, alterations could have taken place. Also unintentional literalism, mistakes, etc, could have been made at the first Council and then the later schools would un-intentionally copy those misunderstandings.
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Re: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby Alex123 » Sun Jun 03, 2012 2:11 pm

manas wrote:
Alex123 wrote:Why am I sad about this? If due to politics suttas could be altered... Who knows what other alterations took place...


Alex, I think you already know the following, so this is just a gentle reminder: don't let questions of authenticity get you down. Gosh, how I used to let this worry me, and I must admit I still get nervous about it. But the very best solution is to put what we read in the suttas to the test. If you are worried about 'observer bias' then don't even go in with the assumption that the suttas are necessarily going to be proven correct. Just investigate deeply and fearlessly. We will get to the heart of things one day.

:anjali:



Yes, this is what I am left is + interpretation of various teachers and me. I guess we cannot be totally sure about hair-splitting analysis of some vague pali terms from advanced philosophical teachings that Buddha may not have even said in Pali.
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Re: John Peacock: Will the Real Buddha Please Stand Up?

Postby suttametta » Sun Jun 03, 2012 4:35 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:
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


That's an excellent point. The impetus is on the individual to find the true heart of a master's message. Relying on traditions or socially approved versions will always lead a person into hell.

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

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jun 03, 2012 8:24 pm

Hi Kim,
Kim O'Hara wrote:I will agree - and add that this passage ...
Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta wrote:On hearing the earth-gods' cry, all the gods in turn in the six paradises of the sensual sphere took up the cry till it reached beyond the Retinue of High Divinity in the sphere of pure form. And so indeed in that hour, at that moment, the cry soared up to the World of High Divinity, and this ten-thousandfold world-element shook and rocked and quaked, and a great measureless radiance surpassing the very nature of the gods was displayed in the world.

... is in what I think of as a 'later' style. My rule of thumb is that the more divinities and heavens are mentioned, the closer we are to the Mahayana teachings. :thinking:

I don't necessarily disagree, but my main point about comparing the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta vs those old Sutta Nipata verses I was that the lists (4 noble truths, 8-fold path) don't appear in the Snp. Of course the 4NT and the N8P is implied in the Snp verses, as I discussed above.

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

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jun 03, 2012 8:32 pm

Hi Alex,
Alex123 wrote:Yes, this is what I am left is + interpretation of various teachers and me. I guess we cannot be totally sure about hair-splitting analysis of some vague pali terms from advanced philosophical teachings that Buddha may not have even said in Pali.

Yes we can be thankful that we have a living tradition...

As for hair-splitting analysis, one doesn't need historical concerns to form an opinion about that. :tongue:

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

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Mon Jun 04, 2012 5:16 pm

suttametta wrote: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 is no doctrinal contradiction here. Both rules refer to specific situations. As you said, the Buddha was great at adapting his teaching to different circumstances, and one law on suicide doesn't necessarily negate a statement praising total unattachment to the body.


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.

No one thinks the Buddha was a God-man, and even his omniscience is either heavily restricted (in that all knowledge is only potentially available) or rejected outright. Your desire for modernism and skeptical inquiry is important and valuable but be careful you don't make strawmen out of those who are deeply committed to the truth of the suttas.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.

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

Postby suttametta » Mon Jun 04, 2012 10:36 pm

LonesomeYogurt wrote:There is no doctrinal contradiction here. Both rules refer to specific situations. As you said, the Buddha was great at adapting his teaching to different circumstances, and one law on suicide doesn't necessarily negate a statement praising total unattachment to the body.


This is the sort of legalistic reasoning that comes from trial and error; the trial and error part is what I'm trying to emphasize.

No one thinks the Buddha was a God-man, and even his omniscience is either heavily restricted (in that all knowledge is only potentially available) or rejected outright. Your desire for modernism and skeptical inquiry is important and valuable but be careful you don't make strawmen out of those who are deeply committed to the truth of the suttas.


Noted. Many do think he was a god-man, beyond human, beyond the scope of human intellectual understanding, even beyond the scope of a god's intellectual understanding. In any event, I don't mean to say the suttas are not true, but that the doctrinal schools have made untrue assumptions about the suttas.


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