tiltbillings wrote:I don't reject the later texts; however, in asking what the suttas say about a particular subject, is not asking what the later commentarial literature has to say about that subject, unless I am doing a comparative study, or a study of Theravada doctrine, or a study of Theravada doctrinal development, which I'm not.
The suttas are not a comprehensive, systematic presentation of the dhamma, and there is no evidence that they were ever meant to be. Moreover, there is no evidence that the suttas were ever meant to be understood without recourse to further commentary (oral, then later, written commentary).
Whose commentary? We look at the Kathavatthu and we see all sort of interesting commentarial ideas from differing schools being discussed. My favorite is that the Buddha being a pure being, his poop smelled like sandalwood, or there is the docetic version of the Buddha, which found great favor with aspects of the Mahayana. Or there is the question of what happens after death and before rebirth. The Theravadin commentaries say one thing, but other schools say differently based upon pretty good evidence from the suttas. Interestingly, it seems that each school, vada, developed its own set of commentaries that see things differently from other schools. So, whose set of commentaries, whose “systematic presentation” do we favor, and why?
The only advantage of excluding the rest of the Tipiṭaka and trying to rely exclusively on the suttas is that this allows one to pursue and develop any novel pet-theory that they wish.
There can be some truth to that; however, that can be safe guarded against it by good, careful scholarship. I am not advocating anything that is not supported by the suttas directly, and you have not shown that I have done otherwise. Also, the suttas are not quite as bleak in content on some subjects as you seem to want to imply. The Buddha had said a fair amount about the question of bodhi, and while there are things in this disquisition viewtopic.php?f=16&t=9747&p=149864&#p149864
that I would, if rewriting it, reconsider, but the central thesis – The bodhi the Buddha attained is no different from that if the arahant – holds up.
Theories that appeal to the notion of a more pristine pre-Tipiṭaka "Early Buddhism" are speculative, and such speculations only exist in people's imaginations.
I am not advocating some sort of “pristine Buddhism.” I am, rather, asking what a careful exegesis of the suttas, as we have them, would show in terms of the question of bodhi. My conclusion is actually fairy common among scholars such as Ven Bodhi or A.K. Warder or others.
The Theravāda tradition is the only Buddhist tradition that has managed to retain and transmit it's entire Tipiṭaka, well edited and preserved in an Indic language.
Thanks to a fortunate happenstance of Theravada being ensconced in Sri Lanka shielded from the Brahmanical/Hindu persecutions and the Islamic incursions.
Without the significant efforts of Theravāda monastics we'd now be trying to piece together the dhammavinaya from fragmentary collections of different schools, much of which is only available in Chinese translation. Moreover, the Theravāda offers the best opportunity to continue to introduce and maintain monastic Buddhism in the West. Preservation, translation, and engagement with the entire Tipiṭaka is an important part of this transmission.
Can we meaningfully argue and show that without question that the Theravada has THE correct understanding of the Dhamma, of how the suttas should be, must be, interpreted? So, under no circumstance should we ever look to the suttas without the filter of later commentarial works?