Buddhism before Theravada

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

Buddhism before Theravada

Postby Richard Paul Johnson » Tue Aug 07, 2012 4:27 pm

Hey guys,

I came accross this great series on audiodharma, just recommending it here for everyone and putting this post up as a possible discussion for everything and anything raised in the six part series. http://www.audiodharma.org/series/207/talk/2602/

Enjoy.
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Re: Buddhism before Theravada

Postby C J » Tue Nov 27, 2012 4:28 pm

I just listen to it, very interesting indeed.

But it has 2 more parts as Metta as a Path to Awakening Part 1 & 2.
http://www.audiodharma.org/series/207/talk/2603/

Do you know any forum/website where I can ask few questions from John Peacock.

I had posted following question on the Lounge section before coming here;

Does anyone know a forum/website where I can ask few questions from John Peacock. I searched the web but could not find any such place. So I thought about asking this community where I learned about him.

As he is neutral about reincarnation, I want to know his opinion on Dr. Ian Stevenson's research and about Edgar Cayce life readings.

If any of you have any opinion about above I like to see them all.
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Re: Buddhism before Theravada

Postby Javi » Wed Dec 05, 2012 3:54 am

As an intro to early Buddhism, I would say to look elsewhere (Gombrich or Gethin maybe). I listened to the first two lectures and it is not necessarily bad but he is very biased towards a particular interpretation of the suttas (a secular naturalist interpretation). Not like I have anything against with this view itself, I consider myself a naturalist as well, but I think that Peacock does not give a fair reading of the texts, just interprets them as he wants to fit his secularism. Something he said in the second lecture about the Kalama sutta:

Particularly in Western Buddhism many times the Kalama sutta is cited as being really good and then people say 'go and believe in rebirth' - The Kalama sutta for those of you who don't know is the one where the Buddha basically says "don't believe a word I say cause I said it"


This is of course a really bad reading of the Kalama sutta, completely out of context and just disingenuous. Peacock is supposed to be a scholar, he should know better than this... :thinking:

All in all I really don't recommend this.
Non qui parum habet sed qui plus cupit pauper est.
It's not he who has little, but he who craves more, that is poor. - Seneca
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Re: Buddhism before Theravada

Postby C J » Wed Dec 05, 2012 8:34 am

Javi wrote:.....

Particularly in Western Buddhism many times the Kalama sutta is cited as being really good and then people say 'go and believe in rebirth' - The Kalama sutta for those of you who don't know is the one where the Buddha basically says "don't believe a word I say cause I said it"


This is of course a really bad reading of the Kalama sutta, completely out of context and just disingenuous. Peacock is supposed to be a scholar, he should know better than this... :thinking:

All in all I really don't recommend this.


Hi Javi,

First of all I have to say that "I'm not a fan of Dr. John Peacock". I believe in karma & reincarnation even though Dr.Peacock does not. But I like his work as he help us to identify real Buddhism hidden within all this traditional text.

But I don't see any harm in above John Peacock statement. If someone ask you to describe Kalama sutta in one sentence, saying it is the one where the Buddha basically says "don't believe a word I say cause I said it" would be so appropriate.

What did Kalamas ask Buddha?
They mentioned that every monks or brahmans visited Kesaputta teaches his own teaching while despising others teachings. They asked Buddha, whom should we believe?

Now, Buddha knowing that his teaching is unique and knowing that he can not approving other teachings, could he say don't believe other teachings?

In this very difficult situation Buddha came-up with a nice way of explaining.
"It is proper for you, Kalamas, to doubt, to be uncertain; uncertainty has arisen in you about what is doubtful. Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another's seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, 'The monk is our teacher.' Kalamas, when you yourselves know: 'These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,' abandon them.
http://www.vipassanadhura.com/kalamasutta.html


Buddha teaches Kalamas that they don't have to believe anything or anyone until they them-self understand it. Now when Buddha said "nor upon the consideration, 'The monk is our teacher", doesn't he imply that they shouldn't believe it (only )because he said so?

I think Dr.Peacock is just using some familiar common everyday words.

Thanks.
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Re: Buddhism before Theravada

Postby cooran » Wed Dec 05, 2012 8:39 am

Perhaps Dr. Peacock should read Bhikkhu Bodhi's
A Look at the Kalama Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_09.html

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Buddhism before Theravada

Postby Nyana » Wed Dec 05, 2012 9:01 am

cooran wrote:Perhaps Dr. Peacock should read Bhikkhu Bodhi's
A Look at the Kalama Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_09.html

with metta
Chris

:goodpost:
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Re: Buddhism before Theravada

Postby danieLion » Wed Dec 05, 2012 9:57 am

There's at least one maybe two threads about this Peacock series all ready.
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Re: Buddhism before Theravada

Postby danieLion » Wed Dec 05, 2012 10:00 am

cooran wrote:Perhaps Dr. Peacock should read Bhikkhu Bodhi's
A Look at the Kalama Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_09.html

with metta
Chris

I more inclined to agree with Bhikku Bodhi, but in fairness to Peacock, this is not exactly his interpretation.

Perhaps we should all listen to Reverend Anālayo's comparison/contrast in his Purification, Ethics and Karma in Early Buddhist Discourse of the Pāli version of the Kalama Sutta to the Madhyama Āgama version, which includes his comments on how it relates to Majjhima Nikāya 47, Vimamsā Sutta, and Anguttara Nikāya 4.50, Upakkilesa Sutta.

Comments can be found in Lecture 9 at 1:15:55-1:27:23 and in Lecture 10 at 18:10-42:15

He shows how the Buddha encouraged doubt in terms of investigation but discouraged it terms of the hindrances, and how doubt relates to concentration and insight by manasikāra. "In early Buddhist mediation theory, faith," he says, "is not what's required to overcome doubt, but rather investigation" (41:07-41:23).

Accompanying PDF Handouts
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Re: Buddhism before Theravada

Postby Javi » Wed Dec 05, 2012 8:57 pm

Perhaps something I read recently in Gethin's "Foundations of Buddhism" might help:
The world of the earliest Buddhist texts is a world, like the contemporary Indian villager's, alive with various kinds of being. The Buddha and his followers are represented as being visited by these various beings, as having discussions with them, as teaching them, as being questioned by them, and as being honoured by them. Yet in their reading of the texts many nineteenth and early twentieth-century scholars felt inclined to treat such accounts of 'supernatural' beings as later mythical additions to an earlier more sober and purely philosophical stratum of Buddhist literature that was originally uncluttered by such material. Indeed this outlook continues to influence the approach of some scholars. Yet the fact remains that these so-called mythical elements are so embedded in, so entangled with the conceptual, ethical, and philosophical dimensions of early Buddhist literature that the task of extricating them is extremely problematic. The arguments for excising the mythic material often become circular: we know that the mythic passages are later because early Buddhist teaching was a purely ethical and philosophical system uninterested in myth, and we know that early Buddhist teaching was devoid of myth because the mythic passages are later. What can be said with certainty is that we have no evidence, either in the ancient texts or in the different contemporary traditions, for a 'pure' Buddhism that does not recognize, accommodate, and interact with various classes of 'supernatural' being. Such a pure Buddhism is something of a theoretical and scholarly abstraction. This point needs particular stress in relation to Theravada Buddhism since the notion that the Theravada tradition represents or ought to represent a pure, unadulterated tradition of precisely this kind is widespread and yet is a largely theoretically constructed model of what Theravada Buddhism is.


IMO Peacock is one of those people who still hold to this project to secularize the suttas. I don't find any problem with secularizing your practice or looking at Buddhism from a naturalistic POV - I do this too. But to say that the Buddha was a secular, atheist skeptic is just flat out wrong.
Non qui parum habet sed qui plus cupit pauper est.
It's not he who has little, but he who craves more, that is poor. - Seneca
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Re: Buddhism before Theravada

Postby C J » Thu Dec 06, 2012 11:01 am

Following is full part where Dr. Peacock talks about kalama sutta, I think earlier one posted by 'Javi' is not giving the full picture.
"Particularly in Western Buddhism so many times the Kalama sutta is cited as being really good and then people say 'go and believe in rebirth' - The Kalama sutta by the way for those of you who don't know, is the one where the Buddha saying basically don't believe a word I say, because I say it or somebody else says it or it's tradition or authority says it, yeah, or it here says or what ever way is that we get knowledge transmitted. Now he's saying examine it in your experience. But on the other hand the traditions are saying something else. That I think the difference between what I call the start of the nikayas and religion."
(Starting at 12:25 minutes on 'Buddhism Before the Theravada Part 2' http://www.audiodharma.org/series/207/talk/2602/)


Now what's wrong with it, it's the same meaning of the kalama sutta in a more formal way of expressing it.

I think we had got it wrong somewhere, I mean teachings of Buddha.

Is there any Arahat today? I haven't came across anyone.
If there are not, then can it be because we have messed up real Buddhist teachings somewhere, somehow?
Can it be that because people are practicing on inaccurate teachings they are not attaining Arahat(-ship)?

What if, a long time ago, someone had misunderstood dhamma and misinterpreted it ? (may be Buddagosha)
What if we all are following that misunderstandings ?

As Buddhists we should learn to 'let it go'. Even the dhamma we believed for so many years, if we understand that something is not right, we should let it go, forget the wrong view. I know it's hard to let go what you already believe, but that's a practice we must have as Buddhists.

Dr. John Peacock has practiced and researched Buddhism for 40 years. He has taught meditation for 30 years.
He went to India at the age of 17 to study Buddhism. Initially trained in the Tibetan Gelugpa tradition in monasteries in South India, he subsequently spent time in Sri Lanka studying Theravada Buddhism and had taught at Peradiniya University. He had also taught at University of Bristol in the UK, Sharpham Centre for Contemporary Buddhist Inquiry in England, The Oxford Mindfulness Centre recognized by Oxford University.

All-though I don't blindly believe everything he says, I do respect his knowledge and consider his opinion thoroughly. When a time I had lost my faith in Buddhism due to all these unbelievable mythical stories in Buddhism, he had lit a light on my beliefs. Buddhism looks like just another religion with all those mythical stories. But if they are all later additions, I can still have my belief on karma and reincarnation etc.

Thank you.
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Re: Buddhism before Theravada

Postby danieLion » Fri Dec 07, 2012 6:55 am

C J wrote:What if, a long time ago, someone had misunderstood dhamma and misinterpreted it ? (may be Buddagosha)
What if we all are following that misunderstandings ?

Like Tilt said to me once when I was following similar sentiments, Buddhaghosa is an easy target. IOW, Peacock's shallow on this.

Did you, or anyone listen to Analayo's lectures? They're terribley relevant.
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Re: Buddhism before Theravada

Postby C J » Fri Dec 07, 2012 8:50 am

danieLion wrote:
C J wrote:What if, a long time ago, someone had misunderstood dhamma and misinterpreted it ? (may be Buddagosha)
What if we all are following that misunderstandings ?

Like Tilt said to me once when I was following similar sentiments, Buddhaghosa is an easy target. IOW, Peacock's shallow on this.

Did you, or anyone listen to Analayo's lectures? They're terribley relevant.


Can you please provide a link to Analayo's relevant lectures, googled but couldn't locate any relevant lecture to this topic.

Thank you.
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Re: Buddhism before Theravada

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Dec 07, 2012 9:14 am

Hi CJ, the links are a few posts up.

:anjali:
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Re: Buddhism before Theravada

Postby Javi » Fri Dec 07, 2012 3:10 pm

those are actually amazing thank you daniel :anjali:
Non qui parum habet sed qui plus cupit pauper est.
It's not he who has little, but he who craves more, that is poor. - Seneca
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Re: Buddhism before Theravada

Postby Sylvester » Sun Dec 09, 2012 4:08 am

danieLion wrote:
cooran wrote:Perhaps Dr. Peacock should read Bhikkhu Bodhi's
A Look at the Kalama Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_09.html

with metta
Chris

I more inclined to agree with Bhikku Bodhi, but in fairness to Peacock, this is not exactly his interpretation.

Perhaps we should all listen to Reverend Anālayo's comparison/contrast in his Purification, Ethics and Karma in Early Buddhist Discourse of the Pāli version of the Kalama Sutta to the Madhyama Āgama version, which includes his comments on how it relates to Majjhima Nikāya 47, Vimamsā Sutta, and Anguttara Nikāya 4.50, Upakkilesa Sutta.

Comments can be found in Lecture 9 at 1:15:55-1:27:23 and in Lecture 10 at 18:10-42:15

He shows how the Buddha encouraged doubt in terms of investigation but discouraged it terms of the hindrances, and how doubt relates to concentration and insight by manasikāra. "In early Buddhist mediation theory, faith," he says, "is not what's required to overcome doubt, but rather investigation" (41:07-41:23).

Accompanying PDF Handouts


A short write-up by BB on the slight differences between the Pali and Chinese parallel to the Kalama Sutta -

An interesting divergence between the 2 traditions occurs in a discourse widely known as the Kalama Sutta, which records the Buddha's advice to the people of Kesaputta. In contemporary Buddhist circles it has become almost de riguer to regard the Kalama Sutta as the essential Buddhist text, almost equal in importance to the discourse on the 4 noble truths. The sutta is held up as proof that the Buddha anticipated Western empiricism, free inquiry, and the scientific method, that he endorsed the personal determination of truth. Though until the late 19th C this sutta was just one small hill in the mountain range of the Nikayas, since the start of the 20th C it has become one of the most commonly quoted Buddhist texts, offered as the key to convince those with modernist leanings that the Buddha was their forerunner. However, the Chinese parallel to the Kalama Sutta, MA 16 (at T I 438b13-439c22), is quite different. Here the Buddha does not ask the Kalamas to resolve their doubts by judging matters for themselves. Instead, he advises them not to give rise to doubt and perplexity and he tells them point-blank" "You yourselves do not have pure wisdom with which to know whether there is an afterlife or not. You yourselves do not have pure wisdom to know which deeds are trangressions and which are not transgressions." He then explains to them the 3 unwholesome roots of kamma, how they lead to moral transgressions, and the 10 courses of wholesome kamma.

from BB's translation of the AN, pp 73 - 74


It appears as if AN 3.65 may have suffered a textual loss, somewhere in between each section beginning with "But when, Kalamas, you know for yourselves..." and ending with "...it was because of this that this was said." This might account for the bits in the Chinese parallel that are not found in the Pali.
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Re: Buddhism before Theravada

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Dec 09, 2012 5:44 am

Thanks Sylvester,

Even worse (depending on your POV), from BB's footnotes to AN 3.65:
MA 16 [The Chinese equivalent] does not have this passage on the ten inadequate sources of knowledge ["Do not go by oral tradition...]. Instead, the Buddha immediately explains to the Kalamas the three unwholesome roots of action and how they lead to moral transgressions. And then he explains the ten courses of wholesome kamma, the explanations being very similar to AN 10.176 (threefold purity) [Cunda sutta here: http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/4Anguttara-Nikaya/Anguttara6/10-dasakanipata/017-janussonivaggo-e.html and 10:211 (on rebirth in heaven) [http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/4Anguttara-Nikaya/Anguttara6/10-dasakanipata/021-karajakayavaggo-e.html. In MA 16, the Buddha does not ask the Kalamas to judge the themselves but categorically tells them what he himself has known by direct experience. It is possible that MA 16 is a normalization of an original Indic text corresponding to the Pali version, made at a time when the Buddha was regarded as an unquestionable authority.

:anjali:
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Re: Buddhism before Theravada

Postby danieLion » Sun Dec 09, 2012 10:47 am

mikenz66 wrote:Thanks Sylvester,

Even worse (depending on your POV), from BB's footnotes to AN 3.65:
MA 16 [The Chinese equivalent] does not have this passage on the ten inadequate sources of knowledge ["Do not go by oral tradition...]. Instead, the Buddha immediately explains to the Kalamas the three unwholesome roots of action and how they lead to moral transgressions. And then he explains the ten courses of wholesome kamma, the explanations being very similar to AN 10.176 (threefold purity) [Cunda sutta here: http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/4Anguttara-Nikaya/Anguttara6/10-dasakanipata/017-janussonivaggo-e.html and 10:211 (on rebirth in heaven) [http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/4Anguttara-Nikaya/Anguttara6/10-dasakanipata/021-karajakayavaggo-e.html. In MA 16, the Buddha does not ask the Kalamas to judge the themselves but categorically tells them what he himself has known by direct experience. It is possible that MA 16 is a normalization of an original Indic text corresponding to the Pali version, made at a time when the Buddha was regarded as an unquestionable authority.

:anjali: invited
Mike

Yes. But it gets even "worse". If you listen to the Analayo sections I painstakingly delineated, and the suttas he references (see my post above), you'll see he interprets these to mean that the Buddha invited criticism of himself and his teachings and that this is investigation, not doubt. One of Analayo's students even postulated that the Chinese version is different because of their respect for religious and ethical teachers, to which Analayo does not necessarily object. Analayo (and Bhikkhu Bodhi by my reading) come down on the Charter of Free Inquiry interpretation side of the Kalama sutta.

I don't see how Buddhism could've developed without the assistance of this and other free inquiry interpretatations. Perhaps the Kalama sutta and similar teachings were the thorn in the flesh for those who wished to seal off an authoritative canon lickity split after the Buddha's death. Perhaps the Chinese version reflects one such attempt.
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Re: Buddhism before Theravada

Postby Sylvester » Sun Dec 09, 2012 11:15 am

Thanks Mike!

BB is probably more likely to be correct in his "normalisation" conjecture, since textual loss is typically rarer and much more difficult to detect.

Still, my personal preference is to lean towards the Chinese reading. It's my "gamble" that the "voice of another" is an absolutely essential condition for Dhamma to be known.

:anjali:
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Re: Buddhism before Theravada

Postby daverupa » Sun Dec 09, 2012 7:12 pm

Sylvester wrote:Still, my personal preference is to lean towards the Chinese reading. It's my "gamble" that the "voice of another" is an absolutely essential condition for Dhamma to be known.


The other would be appropriate attention; not really a gamble when it's attested, is it?
    "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: Buddhism before Theravada

Postby Sylvester » Mon Dec 10, 2012 6:43 am

Hi Dave

I should explain my resort to AN 2.126 against a liberal reading of AN 3.65.

It would be a "gamble", if we discounted the voice of another as a necessary condition. I take the more conservative reading of the meaning of "condition" (paccaya) in AN 2.126 to mean a necessary condition, rather than a sufficient condition, for Stream Entry. As a necessary condition, the presence of the Buddha's voice is no guarantee that the auditor would make the breakthrough to the Dhamma.
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