Ancient Commentaries are representative of Theravada?

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Ancient Commentaries are representative of Theravada?

Postby robertk » Mon Aug 13, 2012 12:26 pm

I have no qualms with people wanting to present and discuss the ideas contained in the commentaries, but I would suggest that it's inaccurate -- both historically and now -- to imply that there is (i) a monolithic "Theravāda doctrine" in the commentaries themselves, or that (ii) the commentaries represent "Theravāda doctrine." Insofar as there is such a category as "Theravāda doctrine," this category is far more heterogeneous than implied in Robert's use of the phrase in the OP.
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Re: Ancient Commentaries are representative of Theravada?

Postby robertk » Mon Aug 13, 2012 12:30 pm

Nana:It might be more accurate to state that this differentiation is according to Theravāda commentaries. Why? Because said doctrine isn't representative of all teachers and teachings included within the category "Theravāda." For example, at least one contemporary teacher, whose writings have been published by BPS and elsewhere, has devoted considerable time and effort over the past 40 years to questioning the usefulness of this very differentiation
.

Well it was the ancient theras of the Mahavihara and related temples that preserved the canon and Ancient Commentaries. The teacher you mention above, whoever he may be, can only be considered someone who is arguing against the ancients. Which is of course fine. But we cant say that anything any moderns say should rank with the ones of old.
There are reasons why the monks for millenia kept the old teachings:

IB Horner writes ""The prime object of every Commentary is to make the meanings of the words and
phrases in the canonical passages it is elucidating abundantly clear, definite, definitive even....This is to preserve the Teachings of the Buddha as nearly as possible in the sense intended, and as conveyed by the succession of teachers, acariyaparama. Always there were detractors, always there were and still are "improvers" ready with their own notions. Through friends and enemies alike deleterous change and deterioration in the word of the Buddha might intervene for an indefinite length of time. The Commentaries are the armour and protection against such an eventuality. AS they hold a unique position as preservers and interpreters of true Dhamma, it is essential not only to follow them carefully and adopt the meaning they ascribe to a word or phrase each time they commnet on it. They are as closed now as is the Pali canon. No aditions to their corpus or subtractions from it are to contemplated, and no commentary written in later days could be included in
it.""endquote Horner. pxiii Clarifier of the Sweet Meaning" PAli Text Society 1978.
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Re: Ancient Commentaries are representative of Theravada?

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Aug 13, 2012 12:40 pm

Greetings Robert,

Is there a specific criteria that differentiates between whose commentary is allowed to be regarded as official, and whose should be regarded otherwise?

I'm wondering what non-arbitrary criteria IB Horner uses to separate the official "commentators" from the mere "improvers".

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Retro. :)
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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Ancient Commentaries are representative of Theravada?

Postby robertk » Mon Aug 13, 2012 12:43 pm

Hi retro,
She means Buddhaghosa and Dhammapala.
I am not aware of any others that rank as Commentators , with a capital C.

Some of the very old tikas, the sub- commentaries also rate highly, but they of course never disagree with the Commentaries.
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Re: Ancient Commentaries are representative of Theravada?

Postby Nyana » Mon Aug 13, 2012 1:46 pm

robertk wrote:Some of the very old tikas, the sub- commentaries also rate highly, but they of course never disagree with the Commentaries.

Well, on a number of occasions Ācariya Buddhaghosa himself mentions differences of interpretation amongst the ancient Theras. Another example is Ācariya Ānanda's theory of momentariness, which differs from that given by Buddhaghosa, etc.

robertk wrote:But we cant say that anything any moderns say should rank with the ones of old.

Sure we can, and we can do so without dismissing or disrespecting the great contributions of the ancient Theras in terms of preserving and continuing the Buddha's dispensation.

To insist otherwise could have the consequence of reducing this vibrant, living tradition to a fixed set of ideological platitudes.
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Re: Ancient Commentaries are representative of Theravada?

Postby robertk » Mon Aug 13, 2012 10:44 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
robertk wrote:Some of the very old tikas, the sub- commentaries also rate highly, but they of course never disagree with the Commentaries.

Well, on a number of occasions Ācariya Buddhaghosa himself mentions differences of interpretation amongst the ancient Theras. Another example is Ācariya Ānanda's theory of momentariness, which differs from that given by Buddhaghosa, etc.

s.

There are examples ike where Buddhaghosa - as the translator/editor of the ancient Commentaries- observes that the reciters of the Majjhima Comentary had a slightly different version than , I think, the Dhammapada Commentary reciters. In the case I remember the majjhima reciters , when talking about the violent death of Moggalana, said it was due to him killing his parents in a past life. The other groups story had almost the same details except that he tried to kill them but they lived.
Or Buddhaghosa relates an ancient discussion between different Theras on a knotty point. Almost always he eventually gives the correct view.
Sometimes he lists the wrong view , of the vitandavadins ( others) which shows us some of the heretical views around at the time.
Anyway please bring up some examples if you wish.

Ācariya Ānanda can never rate equally with the Commentators, but his work is highly respected due to its perspicuity.
I am not aware of any disagreement between him and the Commentary, although he elucidates some points in further detail.
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Re: Ancient Commentaries are representative of Theravada?

Postby robertk » Tue Aug 14, 2012 2:22 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
robertk wrote:But we cant say that anything any moderns say should rank with the ones of old.

Sure we can, and we can do so without dismissing or disrespecting the great contributions of the ancient Theras in terms of preserving and continuing the Buddha's dispensation.

To insist otherwise could have the consequence of reducing this vibrant, living tradition to a fixed set of ideological platitudes.

I think you would agree that what The Buddha taught was pristine, and didn't and doesn't require adjustments.
The Commentaries only aim to elucidate what was taught by the Buddha, without altering it. And the details they give are full of insight and deep meaning, they are not platitudes.
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