On the authority of the suttas.

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On the authority of the suttas.

Postby polarbuddha101 » Thu Nov 29, 2012 9:27 am

A quote from Danielion:

Did the Buddha teach that the suttas are a valid source of authority?

Corollary: are the suttas a proper object for a Buddhist to have faith in?

Add the rapidly growing body of historical-critical scholarship into the mix, and we have a sobering effect on those who believe in the authoritative nature of the texts.


How do we decide what was most likely spoken by the historical buddha and what was not? Mind you, let us not make slippery slope arguments.
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"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby Mr Man » Thu Nov 29, 2012 9:37 am

The "authority" is somthing that we give. How we decide could be determined by our position as a scholar/historian or a "practitioner" or a a combination. Consensus is the acceptable face of delusion.
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Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Nov 29, 2012 9:43 am

Greetings,

Mr Man wrote:The "authority" is somthing that we give. How we decide could be determined by our position as a scholar/historian or a "practitioner" or a a combination. Consensus is the acceptable face of delusion.

Agreed.

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Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby polarbuddha101 » Thu Nov 29, 2012 9:53 am

It seems rather reasonable to assume that there was a historical buddha, and reasonable to assume that teachings repeated consistently throughout the suttas came from him. Basically, the 8 fold path, noble truths, dependent origination, are almost certainly in my mind the teachings of a guy named Gotama from roughly 2500 years ago. And I think the sutta pitaka and the vinaya pitaka are the foremost authorities on what counts as buddha dhamma, with the suttas being more important than the vinaya. Afterall, the vinaya wasn't formulated until the sangha got too big to be full of only good bhikkhus.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby Doshin » Thu Nov 29, 2012 11:45 am

polarbuddha101 wrote:...

How do we decide what was most likely spoken by the historical buddha and what was not? Mind you, let us not make slippery slope arguments.

When is it important to know ?

As a practitioner, I don't care, as I only take things as true, if I through insight find them to be true (to me).

If ones approach is academic/historical, its another discussion, but that is not my approach to Buddhism.

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Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Nov 29, 2012 12:20 pm

polarbuddha101 wrote:It seems rather reasonable to assume that there was a historical buddha, and reasonable to assume that teachings repeated consistently throughout the suttas came from him. Basically, the 8 fold path, noble truths, dependent origination, are almost certainly in my mind the teachings of a guy named Gotama from roughly 2500 years ago. And I think the sutta pitaka and the vinaya pitaka are the foremost authorities on what counts as buddha dhamma, with the suttas being more important than the vinaya. Afterall, the vinaya wasn't formulated until the sangha got too big to be full of only good bhikkhus.

I don't disagree (much) with much of that. :tongue: The trouble is that you could easily find twenty people who would each disagree with a different combination of those sentences. That being so, Mr Man's position seems pretty reasonable.

:juggling:
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Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby DAWN » Thu Nov 29, 2012 1:03 pm

For the moment, all what is said in suttas by The Blessed One, is true, and can by verified directly, without standing up from the sit. And without using UFO technologies :alien: :tongue:
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Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Nov 29, 2012 1:17 pm

polarbuddha101 wrote:A quote from Danielion:

Did the Buddha teach that the suttas are a valid source of authority?

Corollary: are the suttas a proper object for a Buddhist to have faith in?

Add the rapidly growing body of historical-critical scholarship into the mix, and we have a sobering effect on those who believe in the authoritative nature of the texts.


How do we decide what was most likely spoken by the historical buddha and what was not? Mind you, let us not make slippery slope arguments.


My working assumption is that the suttas are a reasonable approximation of what the Buddha taught, but if clear evidence to the contrary emerged I would reconsider. I've read people like Sue Hamilton and Richard Gombrich, some interesting ideas but IMO not very conclusive.
In the meantime I use the suttas partly to develop my understanding of Buddhist teachings, partly to assess the ideas of contemporary teachers, and partly to inform my own practice.
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Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby suttametta » Thu Nov 29, 2012 1:36 pm

Kalama Sutta: Test it out for yourself. If it comes out that way for you too, then you know the text is authoritative. It's not that important who said it, unless of course you believe only Buddha knew what he was talking about and then cannot accept anything unless it was said by him. A writer from the 19th Century, George Grimm, posited many speculations about what was said by Buddha and what was made up by monks. Many Western dharma scholars are caught on this hook. These are the sad cases of those who do not speak from experience. Much dharma information becomes self-evident on the path. It's not only the historical Gautama who will understand things. He taught the path, so of course he created the lineage of future Buddhas. You see in the past 2500 years how many people were enlightened? Millions.
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Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby alan » Fri Nov 30, 2012 2:20 am

The suttas are our guide, and you should read them.
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Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby Kusala » Fri Nov 30, 2012 2:32 am

polarbuddha101 wrote:A quote from Danielion:

Did the Buddha teach that the suttas are a valid source of authority?

Corollary: are the suttas a proper object for a Buddhist to have faith in?

Add the rapidly growing body of historical-critical scholarship into the mix, and we have a sobering effect on those who believe in the authoritative nature of the texts.


How do we decide what was most likely spoken by the historical buddha and what was not? Mind you, let us not make slippery slope arguments.


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Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby alan » Fri Nov 30, 2012 2:36 am

Completely incorrect!
Buddhism exists because of what he taught, and it is recorded in the suttas.
Why is this even a point of discussion?
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Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby pegembara » Fri Nov 30, 2012 5:09 am

How do we decide what was most likely spoken by the historical buddha and what was not? Mind you, let us not make slippery slope arguments.


Gotami Sutta

I have heard that at one time the Blessed One was staying at Vesali, in the Peaked Roof Hall in the Great Forest.

Then Mahapajapati Gotami went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, stood to one side. As she was standing there she said to him: "It would be good, lord, if the Blessed One would teach me the Dhamma in brief such that, having heard the Dhamma from the Blessed One, I might dwell alone, secluded, heedful, ardent, & resolute."

"Gotami, the qualities of which you may know, 'These qualities lead to passion, not to dispassion; to being fettered, not to being unfettered; to accumulating, not to shedding; to self-aggrandizement, not to modesty; to discontent, not to contentment; to entanglement, not to seclusion; to laziness, not to aroused persistence; to being burdensome, not to being unburdensome': You may categorically hold, 'This is not the Dhamma, this is not the Vinaya, this is not the Teacher's instruction.'

"As for the qualities of which you may know, 'These qualities lead to dispassion, not to passion; to being unfettered, not to being fettered; to shedding, not to accumulating; to modesty, not to self-aggrandizement; to contentment, not to discontent; to seclusion, not to entanglement; to aroused persistence, not to laziness; to being unburdensome, not to being burdensome': You may categorically hold, 'This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya, this is the Teacher's instruction.'"

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, Mahapajapati Gotami delighted at his words.
Last edited by pegembara on Sat Dec 01, 2012 10:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Nov 30, 2012 10:39 am

suttametta wrote:Kalama Sutta: Test it out for yourself. If it comes out that way for you too, then you know the text is authoritative.


I'm not sure that's a reliable guide because according to the suttas we're all deluded anyway. ;)
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Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby danieLion » Fri Nov 30, 2012 12:28 pm

alan wrote:The suttas are our guide, and you should read them.

So, we should revere them like Jews do the Torah, or like Christians do the Bible, or like Muslims do the Koran, or like Mormons do The Book of Mormon, Doctrine of Covenants and Pearl of Great Price?

You can't prove they're inerrant or deserve to be called a Canon. And if you can't prove that, you have no basis for your "thou shalt" ("should').

I read and study them because I want to. The moment I believe I should read them is the moment I turn my religion into a prison.
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Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby danieLion » Fri Nov 30, 2012 12:31 pm

alan wrote:Completely incorrect!
Buddhism exists because of what he taught, and it is recorded in the suttas.
Why is this even a point of discussion?

How is this any different from when Christians say, "God said it. I believe it (pointing to their Bibles). That settles it!!"
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Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby daverupa » Fri Nov 30, 2012 1:10 pm

danieLion wrote:
alan wrote:Completely incorrect!
Buddhism exists because of what he taught, and it is recorded in the suttas.
Why is this even a point of discussion?

How is this any different from when Christians say, "God said it. I believe it (pointing to their Bibles). That settles it!!"


Citing any textual authority resembles other text-based religions, so that's to be expected.

To my mind, it's not possible to make reference to the see-for-yourself nature of the Dhamma when held to Nikaya-strata deva-realms, rebirth, psychic powers, Marks, and so forth. These claims are roughly equivalent to God(s), angels, and miracles of any kind, and the broad spectrum of human mystical experience in this respect is broad enough to nullify itself as independent evidence.

It doesn't affect the Dhamma, but it seems to me that it becomes a problem when one does not see their religious texts as products of a historical process; as being comprised of ancient literatures, not modern reports or biographies.
    "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: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Nov 30, 2012 2:52 pm

daverupa wrote:To my mind, it's not possible to make reference to the see-for-yourself nature of the Dhamma when held to Nikaya-strata deva-realms, rebirth, psychic powers, Marks, and so forth. These claims are roughly equivalent to God(s), angels, and miracles of any kind, and the broad spectrum of human mystical experience in this respect is broad enough to nullify itself as independent evidence.


Sure, but I don't think not being able to verify teachings is a good reason for dismissing them.
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Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby Alex123 » Fri Nov 30, 2012 2:55 pm

polarbuddha101 wrote: How do we decide what was most likely spoken by the historical buddha and what was not? Mind you, let us not make slippery slope arguments.


    1) We can't prove beyond any doubt that Buddha as historical person even existed.
    2) We can't prove beyond any doubt that even if Buddha did exist that He was fully Awakened.
    3) We can't prove beyond any doubt that even if Buddha did exist and that He was fully Awakened, that He didn't use skillful means.
    4) We can't prove beyond any doubt that such and such tradition accurately carried his message.

1) Are there any material remains? How do we know if they are His and not from some other person living in that time?
2) We have no ability to verify this, even if we could time travel. Only stories remain by devoted adherents, and we know their reliability.
3) We have no ability to verify this, even if we were present as His audience.
4) Same. Theravada today is not the same as Theravada centuries ago, and who knows what was even earlier.

This is obvious but sad to anyone who really studies history, and history of religions.

It is too easy to copy the book with politically correct things added, then burn the original... Eventually nobody will know...


We can't even talk about pragmatical results. As one Bhikkhu has said, Buddhism is faith. A Christian can say that "who cares about Nibbana here and now for 70 years if you are going to spend eternity in hell."



IMHO, practical results is what counts.
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Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby ground » Fri Nov 30, 2012 5:02 pm

polarbuddha101 wrote: How do we decide what was most likely spoken by the historical buddha and what was not?

Is this relevant?

Somebody wants to get rid of stress and comes across utterances that entail cessation of stress. What purpose does further questioning have? :sage:
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