Oral Composition of the Suttas

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

Oral Composition of the Suttas

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jun 23, 2012 9:21 pm

Split from here:
viewtopic.php?f=29&t=3167&start=60#p194526

Thanks EB, that is a fascinating discussion of how the Suttas may have been constructed.

Although I have attempted to show that the early Buddhist sutta texts
were, in the words of R.Gombrich, "deliberate compositions which were
then committed to memory, I would certainly agree that accounts of
what the Buddha is supposed to have said and discourses on his teaching
would have been given by the monks and nuns after the Buddha's death in
an improvisatory manner, at times drawing heavily on memorised material,
or as R. Gethin (1992) has argued, by using lists as a foundation. Such
discourses may then have become the basis of later fixed texts. But these
accounts and discourses were fundamentally different from the essentially
fixed, memorised texts transmitted by the community, however imperfectly.
Finally, the Parry-Lord model does not exhaust the oral or literary/perfor-
mance dimension of oral cultures. In ancient, pre-literate India there was a
strong tradition of composing fixed, religious texts which were designed to
be memorised and transmitted verbatim.


:anjali:
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Re: Early Buddhism resources

Postby Sylvester » Mon Jun 25, 2012 7:06 am

I loved Allon's article!

Has anyone read Ven Analayo's comparative study of the MN? I've not encountered the Parry-Lord model of improvisation (applicable to epic story-telling), but Ven Analayo seems to have a variant to this. He contrasts the Vedic oral/aural tradition of verbatim memorisation, against the early Buddhist oral tradition. In the former, the magic is locked in the sounds, while the Buddhist texts were designed to encourage meaning and inference to be drawn instead. There was therefore some improvisation in the early texts, before the various canons "closed". The improvisations would have been the introduction of the inferences into the original text, ie Commentary creeping into the Pali/text. Based on just the study of the MN, it seems that the Indic originals of the Chinese Agamas contain more Commentary than the Pali suttas.

It's enough to make one wonder - are the Chinese Agama sutras more "Theravadin" than the Pali suttas? :tongue:
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Re: Oral Composition of the Suttas

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jun 25, 2012 7:46 am

Hi Sylvester,

I thought it was fascinating to consider how the suttas could be composed without writing them down. Very interesting.

:anjali:
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Re: Oral Composition of the Suttas

Postby ancientbuddhism » Wed Jun 27, 2012 2:02 pm

K.R. Norman also goes into this in Buddhism and Oral Tradition (A Philological Approach to Buddhism, lecture 3, pp. 41 – 57), with reference to how the bhāṇaka was likely formed, beginning as a mosaic of mnemonic devices which organised in to standard forms, just as the language homogenised into later Pāḷi.
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: Oral Composition of the Suttas

Postby Sylvester » Sat Jul 14, 2012 8:30 am

Something from Alexander Wynne on which of the 2 models of oral transmission he prefers -

http://www.ocbs.org/images/stories/awynne2004jiabs.pdf
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