Schopen: Buddha as Businessman?

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Schopen: Buddha as Businessman?

Postby Bankei » Sat Jun 20, 2009 2:25 pm

There is an interesting lecture by Gregory Schopen of UCLA available on the net.

Lecture title is "Buddha as Businessman?"

http://blog.beliefnet.com/onecity/2009/ ... ssman.html
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Re: Schopen: Buddha as Businessman?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jun 23, 2009 8:26 am

Audio or video can be downloaded at http://www.uctv.tv/
http://www.uctv.tv/search-details.aspx?showID=16444

It is interesting, with the point that it is useful to ask how the Buddha is viewed in historical documents.

However, I don't recall any mention on the Buddha giving instructions on money-lending to monks in the Pali Canon (which is what Schopen was talking about).

There is a summary here if you don't want to listen to an hour of audio:
http://www.today.ucla.edu/portal/ut/two ... 85231.aspx
And here is some other discussion:
http://buddhism.about.com/b/2009/03/21/ ... cation.htm
http://chaplaindanny.blogspot.com/2009/ ... es-my.html

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Re: Schopen: Buddha as Businessman?

Postby BlackBird » Tue Jun 23, 2009 8:46 pm

Glancing over the summary, I think someone's got their facts wrong.
"And so, because this Teaching is so different from what Westerners are accustomed to, they will try to adapt the Teaching to their own framework. What they need to learn to do is not to adapt the Teaching to their own point of view but to adapt their own point of view to the Teaching. This is called saddhá, or faith, and it means giving oneself to the Teaching even if the Teaching is contrary to one’s own preconceived notions of the way things are."- Ven Bodhesako

Nanavira Thera's teachings - An existential approach to the Dhamma | Ven. Bodhesako's essay on anicca
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Re: Schopen: Buddha as Businessman?

Postby gavesako » Wed Jun 24, 2009 7:15 am

I think Schopen uses other early Buddhist canons in his writings too, such as the Mulasarvastivada Vinaya, which has more later additions in it (and discusses money issues in particular).
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Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Schopen: Buddha as Businessman?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:31 am

Yes, Venerable, I believe that is the Vinaya that he quoted from. All kinds of tricky legal stuff about how if someone died owing money to the Sangha it had to be collected.... :shock:

Now, I don't think there is anything about that in the Pali Canon. However, it is clear to even the casual observer that quite a lot of money must have gone into building various Wats all over Thailand, not to mention various newspaper articles about the finances of certain sects... So there is still this interesting tension between "homelessness" and "monuments" and it is useful to see how other Buddhist traditions dealt with this issue...

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Re: Schopen: Buddha as Businessman?

Postby gavesako » Wed Jun 24, 2009 11:20 am

Exactly. The question of patronage has never been very far from the minds of Theravada monks residing in large communities and temples. In fact, there are many references in the Vinaya commentraries as to ways of handling monastic property (such as land, animals, crops, etc.) that monks are not allowed to handle themselves but they can get a kappiya-karaka (steward, helper) to do it for them. Whether this still conforms to the Buddha's original intention is questionable of course... (as well as handling money)
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Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Schopen: Buddha as Businessman?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jun 24, 2009 11:34 am

Apart from the particular issue of money, one of the points about this kind of analysis is that it is interesting to see how the Buddha and the Sangha was understood by people in a time when we have reasonably good historical records. As Shopen says, there are many different Buddhas in these various times and places.

And whether or not any of these historical views conforms with our image of the Buddha and Sangha from the point of view of a practising Buddhist is not really the issue. Or, rather, it is a completely separate issue. I think that it is easy to get confused about this point, and miss that historical analysis is quite a different thing from practise.

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Re: Schopen: Buddha as Businessman?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Nov 03, 2013 2:39 am

gavesako wrote:Exactly. The question of patronage has never been very far from the minds of Theravada monks residing in large communities and temples.


It would seem the overwhelming concern of most Vinaya literature has been keeping up an image of purity and discipline in the face of benefactors who demand their field of merit is free of weeds, rather than strictly discussing core ethics and sangha management. The material basically isn't soteriological in function, but rather driven by worldly concerns. In other words, much of the Vinaya canon is arguably less about liberation and more about keeping up appearances to keep the offerings coming in. Bear in mind Buddhists were competing with other śramaṇa groups, most notably the Jains who sold a better image of purity than any Buddhist bhikṣu could.

Most of the Vinaya literature I've read (most of it Chinese translations of Indian material) has led me to conclude that the Vinaya(s) as we have them are a product of landed monastics with very worldly concerns and aims. As we know, sometime around the 1st century BCE or a bit later, there was a large movement towards landed monasticism in India, probably for sociopolitical reasons (the mendicant tradition was increasing difficult to maintain in the face of increasing taboos towards such folk). Buddhist institutions became favored by the merchant class and started functioning as financial institutions, providing storage facilities and banking services, much to the displeasure of Brahman communities which would later lament the growth of merchants as a symptom of the kaliyuga. Enormous levels of trade with Rome and China until around the early 3rd century made Buddhist communities quite wealthy, though such fortunes reversed as Rome and the Han Dynasty collapsed, which is clear from the archaeological record. In any case, this was the formative period for Vinaya literature.

I believe if one wants to discern the original house rules of the Buddha's sangha, we can look to what the śramaṇa communities in general practiced in Magadha: celibacy, non-violence, mendicancy, etc.


In fact, there are many references in the Vinaya commentraries as to ways of handling monastic property (such as land, animals, crops, etc.) that monks are not allowed to handle themselves but they can get a kappiya-karaka (steward, helper) to do it for them. Whether this still conforms to the Buddha's original intention is questionable of course... (as well as handling money)


If someone wants to give you money, you can apparently blindfold a trustworthy layman and lead him to a secret place where he can deposit the money before leading him out.

I imagine the benefactor would be pleased with how the monk is so non-attached to money and pure in his vows. :roll:
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Re: Schopen: Buddha as Businessman?

Postby santa100 » Sun Nov 03, 2013 3:44 am

Bankei wrote: There is an interesting lecture by Gregory Schopen of UCLA available on the net.

Lecture title is "Buddha as Businessman?"


Ven. Sujato also wrote an interesting analysis called The Ironic Assumptions of Gregory Schopen on his blog at http://sujato.wordpress.com/2011/01/22/ ... y-schopen/
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Re: Schopen: Buddha as Businessman?

Postby daverupa » Sun Nov 03, 2013 3:53 am

mikenz66 wrote:historical analysis is quite a different thing from practise.


Not really; the stories we tell ourselves about the Triple Gem and their contexts are examples of the histories we repeatedly engage with in our practices. This is even what the Nikayas are - certain sorts of histories, and the stories we tell about them and, perhaps more importantly, about their meanings, are quite central to our practical concerns.

A choice to engage with historical scholarship is therefore a component of practice, as is a choice to not engage.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Schopen: Buddha as Businessman?

Postby Dhammanando » Sun Nov 03, 2013 4:40 am

Indrajala wrote:If someone wants to give you money, you can apparently blindfold a trustworthy layman and lead him to a secret place where he can deposit the money before leading him out.


Where is it stated that this can be done? Are you referring to some deviant folk practice or to something authorised in the Pali Vinaya texts?

The only thing remotely like this that I've come across is not related to accepting money, but to the procedure for getting rid of money that a bhikkhu has accepted and then forfeited.

    If [the trustworthy layman] does not get rid of it, they are to choose one of the bhikkhus present as the "money-disposer," by means of the transaction statement — one motion and one announcement (ñatti-dutiya-kamma) — given in Appendix VI. The money-disposer must be free of the four forms of bias — based on desire, aversion, delusion, or fear — and must know when money is properly disposed of and when it is not. His duty is to throw the money away without taking note of where it falls. If he does take note, he incurs a dukkaṭa. The Commentary recommends that, "Closing his eyes, he should throw it into a river, over a cliff, or into a jungle thicket without paying attention to where it falls, disinterested as if it were a bodily secretion (gūthaka)."
    Ven. Thanissaro, Buddhist Monastic Code ch. 7.2
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
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Re: Schopen: Buddha as Businessman?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Nov 03, 2013 7:11 am

daverupa wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:historical analysis is quite a different thing from practise.


Not really; the stories we tell ourselves about the Triple Gem and their contexts are examples of the histories we repeatedly engage with in our practices. This is even what the Nikayas are - certain sorts of histories, and the stories we tell about them and, perhaps more importantly, about their meanings, are quite central to our practical concerns.

A choice to engage with historical scholarship is therefore a component of practice, as is a choice to not engage.

Historical scholarship is just one particular method of analysis, as are science or philosophy. When carried out as an intellectual exercise by not-practising scholars, such analyses are not necessarily particularly useful for elucidating Dhamma practice. I think the discussion of Scopen on this thread illustrates that. It may, of course, be helpful in the hands of some practitioners. I find it interesting, but honestly cannot think of a case where it informed my practice. Obviously, there are different opinions about the usefulness of such analysis compared to other approaches to Dhamma, such as using mostly Theravada sources, having personal instruction, and so on... I suspect most of us use some mixture, and it's a matter of emphasis rather than exclusivity.

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Re: Schopen: Buddha as Businessman?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Nov 03, 2013 10:43 am

Dhammanando wrote:Where is it stated that this can be done? Are you referring to some deviant folk practice or to something authorised in the Pali Vinaya texts?


This isn't from the Pali Vinaya.

Admittedly I'm not well-read in the Pali Vinaya texts. All my readings are from other Indian schools as preserved in Classical Chinese; in particular, the Sarvāstivāda school, of which there is an enormous amount of commentaries.

Not Theravāda, but then arguably Theravāda is not really the foremost representative of classical Indian Buddhism.
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Re: Schopen: Buddha as Businessman?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Nov 03, 2013 10:49 am

mikenz66 wrote:When carried out as an intellectual exercise by not-practising scholars, such analyses are not necessarily particularly useful for elucidating Dhamma practice. I think the discussion of Scopen on this thread illustrates that. It may, of course, be helpful in the hands of some practitioners.


It helps me sort out cultural developments from Buddhadharma and make an educated decision with respect to what is worth pursuing and what is not.

On top of that, you can witness the afflictions at work in the historical development of Buddhism, which is rather enlightening and puts all the propaganda into perspective. Power struggles, greed, intolerance and so on are far more revealing about the realities of Buddhadharma on the ground than the prescriptive descriptions given in scripture. With that in mind, you can see how fallible most Buddhists are and realize you're largely on your own when it comes to your path.
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Re: Schopen: Buddha as Businessman?

Postby chownah » Sun Nov 03, 2013 11:49 am

Indrajala wrote:Power struggles, greed, intolerance and so on are far more revealing about the realities of Buddhadharma on the ground than the prescriptive descriptions given in scripture.

Isn't this like saying that the squabbling which occurs among astronomers is more revealing of the cosmos than is the papers they produce? Doesn't ring true somehow.
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Re: Schopen: Buddha as Businessman?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Nov 03, 2013 12:06 pm

chownah wrote:
Indrajala wrote:Power struggles, greed, intolerance and so on are far more revealing about the realities of Buddhadharma on the ground than the prescriptive descriptions given in scripture.

Isn't this like saying that the squabbling which occurs among astronomers is more revealing of the cosmos than is the papers they produce? Doesn't ring true somehow.
chownah


The Buddha's teachings say one thing and inevitably Buddhists often do otherwise or tacitly consent to acts they would personally find immoral.

That just goes to show you the severity of the situation that we're in as individuals when historically many of our predecessors failed to live up to their own standards. It also might highlight to some degree wisdom cloaked in otherwise questionable circumstances. In other words, sometimes following the book just doesn't work in reality. What the scriptures say and what is really optimal in real life may be two different things.
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Re: Schopen: Buddha as Businessman?

Postby Anagarika » Sun Nov 03, 2013 2:08 pm

In other words, much of the Vinaya canon is arguably less about liberation and more about keeping up appearances to keep the offerings coming in. Bear in mind Buddhists were competing with other śramaṇa groups, most notably the Jains who sold a better image of purity than any Buddhist bhikṣu could.


The Chinese Canon differs from the Pali Canon, and it includes vinayas from other schools. I'm not a scholar by far of the Vinaya pitaka of the Pali Canon, but as it passed through the filter of Sri Lankan monastics, it likely changed very little from the Buddha's Vinaya. The same can't be said of the Chinese vinayas, which included the Dharmaguptaka vinaya and others. To suggest that the Vinaya Pitaka of the Pali Canon is more related to the maintenance of appearances to encourage wealth building seems quite incorrect. My read of the Vinaya pitaka suggests none of this sensibility. Whether the sometimes curious Jain practices suggest a higher level of purity than a Vinaya Bhikkhu is open to friendly debate...any of us familiar with early and contemporary Theravada Vinaya monks understand that the level of renunciation ("purity") of someone like Ajahn Chah is not likely surpassed by many other renunciates. I do not believe that the Chinese Tripitaka is the best source for commentary as to how what became the Theravada school measured up to in terms of renunciate life.
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Re: Schopen: Buddha as Businessman?

Postby Anagarika » Sun Nov 03, 2013 2:44 pm

Bankei wrote:There is an interesting lecture by Gregory Schopen of UCLA available on the net.

Lecture title is "Buddha as Businessman?"

http://blog.beliefnet.com/onecity/2009/ ... ssman.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


Schopen seems to rely on post-Canonical art and literature to suggest that the Buddha was involved in commerce, or more closely, that monks were involved in wealth building and commerce. The fact that post-Canon there arose certain practices in monastic cultures does not equate with the idea that Gautama Buddha was involved in or focused on commerce or wealth building. Quite the contrary. For example, he cites to the Mūlasarvāstivāda vinaya, confusing the audience with the idea that this ancient text is Buddhavacana, or part of the Pali Canon Vinaya.

I have a sense that he may be positioning himself to be a part of this trend of Dharma Capitalism, using Buddhist concepts and abuses of the same to suggest that part of Dharma practice is wealth building, commerce and capitalism. Maybe he's looking for a paid invite to Wisdom 2.0, where speakers talk about how mindfulness is cultivated by iPhone apps and Google interactivity technologies.

Buddha as businessman? No. Buddha as renunciate, yes. Rag robes, a bowl, a razor and piss for medicine. No room in the bowl for an iPad.
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Re: Schopen: Buddha as Businessman?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Nov 03, 2013 3:30 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:The Chinese Canon differs from the Pali Canon, and it includes vinayas from other schools.


Right, and these other schools are just as legitimate as Theravāda when it comes to being heirs to the Buddha's teachings. Also bear in mind the Mahāsāṃghika literature is preserved primarily in Classical Chinese translation. The Mahāsāṃghikas were the other big branch of early Buddhism with views notably different from their Sthaviravāda counterparts. The Mahāsāṃghika also had their own Vinaya, noted even in ancient times as being the oldest Vinaya (Faxian notes this in his 5th century account of India). This is supported by the fact the Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya has only 218 precepts, among other things.


I'm not a scholar by far of the Vinaya pitaka of the Pali Canon, but as it passed through the filter of Sri Lankan monastics, it likely changed very little from the Buddha's Vinaya.


It would be unrealistic to assume things were not changed and/or evolved over time, even in Sri Lanka. Vinaya literature is a late development as far as Early Buddhism goes.

Schopen believes that the Vinaya literature and vihāra monastic system are in fact post-Aśoka (304-232 BCE):

    If the compilers of the various Vinayas considered it ‘highly important’ to regulate the lives of their monks so as to give no cause for complaint to the laity, and if considerations of this sort could only have assumed high importance after buddhist groups had permanently settled down, then, since the latter almost certainly did not occur until well after Aśoka, it would be obvious that all the Vinayas that we have are late, precisely as both Wassilieff and Lévi have suggested a hundred years ago.

    ...

    Even in the later inscriptions from Bharhut and Sanchi there are no references to vihāras, and they begin to appear—though still rarely—only in Kharosṭḥī records of a little before and a little after the Common Era, about the same time that the first indications of permanent monastic residential quarters begin to appear in the archaeological record for the Northwest, and this is not likely to be mere coincidence.


Quoted in Johannes Bronkhorst, Buddhism in the Shadow of Brahmanism Handbook of Oriental Studies (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 18-19.

In any case, in ancient times as is now, the Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya is thought to be the earliest extant rendition of Vinaya literature available to us, not the Theravāda Vinaya.

To suggest that the Vinaya Pitaka of the Pali Canon is more related to the maintenance of appearances to encourage wealth building seems quite incorrect.


Academic scholarship might disagree. See citation above. The overarching concern of Vinaya literature is about maintaining image at a time when the sangha has become a landed institution and arguably an already quite capital intensive operation. This happened well after Aśoka.

The truth of the matter is that the Buddhism(s) of the Theravādins and Mahāsāṃghikas were well-developed and self-conscious institutions based on the original teachings of Śākyamuni, but not the original teachings and practices themselves.

Nobody gets to claim themselves as the original Buddhism.

Anyway, the point is that the Vinaya(s) as we have them now are a later development from a time when Buddhism became a capital intensive religion.
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Re: Schopen: Buddha as Businessman?

Postby rohana » Sun Nov 03, 2013 3:48 pm

Ven. Sujāto's blog post linked above makes a lot of interesting points. It's a long read, but here are some relevant quotes:

The monastic order during the middle period of Indian Buddhism:
    Many of Schopen’s conclusions, I think, are obviously true. He is primarily interested in the ‘Middle Period’ of Indian Buddhism, that is, the five hundred years or so from the beginning of the Common Era. He uses the remnants of monasteries, stupas, graves, etc., together with Vinaya material, primarily from the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya in Tibetan (he makes little use of the Chinese sources), which he says stems from the same period and depicts much the same activity. These sources speak to us of monks and nuns who accumulate wealth, make substantial donations from their own wealth for building projects, promote devotional activity such as worship of stupas, images, and relics, are engaged in business transactions, contracts, and lending on interest, and are frequently at the beck and call of the lay followers for performance of rituals such as weddings, house blessing, and so on. All of this picture is quite convincing and needs little discussion here.

    But while it is obviously true, I would also contend that it is truly obvious. All the activities that Schopen depicts may be plainly seen in the activities of the majority of the ordained Sangha in all traditions in the present day. Schopen merely points out that these conditions also obtained in the Middle Period of Indian Buddhism as well. While this may come as a surprise to academics with little contact with Buddhism in the real world, and constitutes an important critique of the fallacy of equating Buddhism with the idealized portrait in the sacred texts, it will come as no surprise for those of us who encounter Buddhism in the world every day.

Dating the vinaya texts:
    While I am not competent to date the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya, I must say that the passages quoted by Schopen himself frequently give me the impression of lateness. The elaborateness of the text may be partly explained, as Schopen argues, by cultural or other factors rather than by date, but the examples he gives fall well short of establishing this. As for specifics, we notice that the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya frequently mentions books and writing, while the Theravāda Vinaya mentions them rarely. This was one of the classic reasons the early European Buddhist scholars concluded (not ‘assumed’) the Theravāda was earlier, and as far as I can see the argument still holds good. Similar considerations apply when we see that the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya refers to worship of Shiva and Vishnu, while, as is well known, these deities are virtually unknown in the Theravāda canon. Schopen also argues that the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya evidences the influence of the Hindu Dharmaśāstras (legal codes), while the Theravāda does not. He says that this may be explained by the lack of influence of the Dharmasastras in Sri Lanka, and is therefore evidence that the Theravāda Vinaya was composed in Sri Lanka. While I agree, for other reasons, that the Theravāda Vinaya shows some minor Sri Lankan influence, I don’t think this particular argument is very convincing. The Dharmaśāstras themselves evidently date from well after the Buddha’s time, and the situation might as well or better be explained by the simple hypothesis that most of the material in the Pali was composed in India before the Dharmaśāstras became influential, and, because of the unimportance of the Dharmaśāstras in Sri Lankan culture, the Theravāda Vinaya did not have to be extensively revised.

Types of monasteries:
    An important part of Schopen’s argument is that there is little or no early – pre-Common Era – evidence for Buddhist monasteries of the developed sort that are depicted in the Vinayas. This is, for him, a sign that the Vinayas were compiled in the ‘Middle Period’. He notes that the words vihāra and āvāsa, which are commonly used of monasteries, really mean little more than ‘dwelling’, and give us little information about what kind of institution is being discussed.

    However he neglects to notice that the main terms used of a monastery in the Pali Suttas are vana (woodland grove) and ārāma (park); the fact that they are used together in the name of the most famous monastery of all (‘Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park’) suggests that they may be synonyms. These, of course, have a much more specific meaning – evidently the main form of Buddhist monasticism in the Suttas was the forest monastery.

    Even today, the typical forest monastery consists of small huts or caves scattered through the forest, with a larger wooden sala for communal activities, and some buildings for stores, kitchen, etc. Such an institution would leave little or no evidence for an archaeologist to uncover.
More on dating:
    He assumes that the emergence of sophisticated architecture or fine arts requires a substantial prior period of development – a most reasonable assumption. But is not the same the case in literature? Schopen wants to put very sophisticated literary tracts like the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya in the early Middle Period. But surely such works must have required a lengthy evolution. Similarly, we know for certain (from the dates recorded for the Chinese translations) that the earliest Mahāyāna Sūtras date from no later than the beginning of the Common Era. These too are sophisticated literary and philosophical products, which are, to a large degree, a critical response to some aspects of the early schools, especially the (Sarvāstivāda) Abhidhamma philosophy, and also to such monastic practices as are detailed in the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya, as Schopen himself argues. The Abhidhamma texts themselves are sophisticated literary works that are in turn based on the material found in the early Suttas. So the early Sutta material – not necessarily the exact collections in the form we have them today, but the main doctrinal material – must be several philosophical generations before the Mahāyāna Sūtras. Again, this conclusion, not ‘assumption’, was one of the classical reasons for assigning a relatively early date to the Nikāyas/Ᾱgamas, and nothing Schopen says really affects this.

    Schopen tries to show that the forest monastic life was little different from settled monastic life in general. He does this by quoting a passage from the Vinaya that describes the lovely, luxurious forest dwelling of a certain Venerable Udāyin, where many people would go to visit him. Schopen says that this is apparently how the compilers of the Pali Vinaya saw the forest life. Incredibly, he makes no mention of the fact, known to every Grade 1 Vinaya student, that Udāyin is the archetypal ‘bad monk’, whose appalling behaviour prompted the formulation of many Vinaya rules. On this occasion, Udāyin gropes and sexually harasses a woman who comes to visit him, prompting the laying down of yet another rule on his behalf. This part of the story, however, is discreetly omitted by Schopen as he tries to depict Udāyin as a regular forest monk.
"Delighting in existence, O monks, are gods and men; they are attached to existence, they revel in existence. When the Dhamma for the cessation of existence is being preached to them, their minds do not leap towards it, do not get pleased with it, do not get settled in it, do not find confidence in it. That is how, monks, some lag behind."
- It. p 43
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