On the authority of the suttas.

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby cooran » Fri Nov 30, 2012 9:17 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.


Hello all,

From a previous post:
Overview of Tipitaka Scriptures - Narada Maha Thera

"This doctrine is profound, hard to see, difficult to understand, calm, sublime, not within the sphere of logic, subtle, to be understood by the wise." Majjhima Nikaya
The Buddha has passed away, but the sublime Teaching, which He expounded during His long and successful ministry and which He unreservedly bequeathed to humanity, still exists in its pristine purity. Although the Master has left no written records of His Teachings, His disciples preserved them, by committing to memory and transmitting them orally from generation to generation.

Three months after the Death of the Buddha, in the eighth year of King Ajatasattu's reign, 500 pre-eminent Arahants concerned with preserving the purity of the Doctrine held a Convocation at Rajagaha to rehearse it. The Venerable Ananda Thera, the Buddha's beloved attendant who had the special privilege and honour of
hearing the discourses from the Buddha Himself, and the Venerable Upali Thera were chosen to answer questions about the Dhamma (Doctrine) and the Vinaya (Discipline) respectively.

This First Council compiled and arranged in its present form the Pali Tipitaka, which represents the entire body of the Buddha's Teaching.

Two other Councils of Arahants were held 100 and 236 years later respectively, again to rehearse the Word of the Buddha because attempts were being made to pollute the pure Teaching.

About 83 B.C., during the reign of the pious Simhala King Vatta Gamani Abhaya, a Council of Arahants was held, and the Tipitaka was, for the first time in the history of Buddhism, committed to writing at Aluvihara in Ceylon.

Thanks to the indefatigable efforts of those noble and foresighted Arahants, there is no room either now or in the future for higher critics or progressive scholars to adulterate the pure Teaching.

The voluminous Tipitaka, which contains the essence of the Buddha's Teaching, is estimated to be about eleven times the size of the Bible.

The word Tipitaka means three Baskets. They are the Basket of Discipline (Vinaya Pitaka), the Basket of Discourses (Sutta Pitaka) and the Basket of Ultimate Doctrine (Abhidhamma Pitaka).
{.continues at this link ..........................}
http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma/tipitaka.html

From a previous post of mine:
In the Buddha's day, writing was just for things like government and commerce. and there was widespread illiteracy. For really important things, where it was critical that no alteration occur ( as can happen so very easily, deliberately or accidentally when writing is used) - the Oral Tradition was used. The Buddha instituted in his lifetime the Chanting Together by large groups of specially designated Bhikkhus - the Bhanakas (Hearers). The Bhanakas had portions of the Teachings allocated to each group, and so there were The Digha Bhanakas, The Majjhima Bhanakas etc.

It was only hundreds of years later in Sri Lanka, in a time of famine and warfare, with many bhikkhus dying, and with Buddhism all but wiped out in India, that the MahaSangha decided the Buddhist Canon and its commentaries needed to be written down.
They were engraved on Ola Leaves. Many of us have been to Sri Lanka and have had the inestimable good fortune to have seen demonstrations of this being done at the ancient rock temple of Aluvihara Temple (where the Tipitaka was originally written down) in the Matale district 26 km from Kandy.

The Suttas are rather like the memory prompts - the dot points of the most important information to be transmitted - similar to those a public speaker carries on a little card in his hand. Anything that is repeated is to be seen as something important which was highlighted by the repetition.

As I understand it, the Pali Suttas are teaching vehicles whose meanings are densely packed layer on layer. They are not to be read as an ordinary page of print, but require 'unpacking' by someone learned in the Dhamma. This condensed form was necessary in order that the Teachings would not be lost in the years before they were finally put into writing. It allowed them to be memorised by the large groups of bhikkhus (bhanakas) assigned to each portion of the Tipitaka. They are not verbatim reports of chats and conversations. This memorisation is said to have commenced before the parinibbana of the Buddha.

"Thus you should train yourselves: 'We will listen when discourses that are words of the Tathagata -- deep, deep in their meaning, transcendent, connected with emptiness -- are being recited. We will lend ear, will set our hearts on knowing them, will regard these teachings as worth grasping & mastering.' That's how you should train yourselves." (Ari sutta).
Venerable Mahá Kassapa, the elected head of the First Council. Cúlavagga Xl,1,1 (ii,284) reiterated:
"Come, friends: let us recite the Teaching and the Discipline before what is not the Teaching shines forth and the Teaching is put aside, before what is not the Discipline shines forth and the Discipline is put aside, before those who speak what is not the Teaching become strong and those who speak what is the Teaching become weak, before those who speak what is not the Discipline become strong and those who speak what is the Discipline become weak."
viewtopic.php?f=13&t=10099&p=154566

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
User avatar
cooran
 
Posts: 7508
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:32 pm
Location: Queensland, Australia

Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby Javi » Sat Dec 01, 2012 1:19 am

Academics will continue to argue this stuff for ages and never come to agreement. I think what matters is how we interpret the suttas and how we use them to aid in our practice every day. I'm currently reading In the Buddha's words and it has really helped. To be honest I don't really care if they Buddha taught hell and deva realms or if it was added on later, it's a non starter for me, it doesn't help me because I just don't think about stuff like that (never believed in them, and I'm not going to start now). What matters is the lessons I can learn from these texts, and how I can apply them to my life. The amazing thing is that these two thousand year old texts can still be relevant every day, compare that to any other ancient texts from this time, full of myths about monsters and tribal gods.
So the suttas are great, they are like maps, and maps must be read by trained eyes (unpacked so to speak), but we must not confuse the map with the territory. Maps are only symbolic representations of the lay of the land, you actually have to travel there to see it.

On Exactitude in Science - In that Empire, the art of cartography attained such perfection that the map of a single province occupied the entirety of a city, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a province. In time, those unconscionable maps no longer satisfied, and the cartographers guilds struck a map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following generations, who were not so fond of the study of cartography as their forebears had been, saw that that vast map was useless, and not without some pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are tattered ruins of that map, inhabited by animals and beggars; in all the Land there is no other relic of the disciplines of Geography. - Jorge Luis Borges
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
User avatar
Javi
 
Posts: 38
Joined: Thu Nov 22, 2012 5:40 pm
Location: Miami, Florida

Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby alan » Sat Dec 01, 2012 2:27 am

Not necessary to revere the suttas. But it is imperative to read them.
And if you haven't read them, you're not in a position to interpret them, are you?
alan
 
Posts: 2542
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:14 am
Location: Miramar beach, Fl.

Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby ground » Sat Dec 01, 2012 4:34 am

Either there is immediacy of insight upon eye or ear contact or there is not. If the latter then either the words are abondoned or there arises religious thought (comprising belief and doubt) supported by hope and fear. :sage:
User avatar
ground
 
Posts: 2592
Joined: Wed Nov 25, 2009 6:01 am

Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Dec 01, 2012 4:46 am

ground wrote:Either there is immediacy of insight upon eye or ear contact or there is not. If the latter then either the words are abondoned or there arises religious thought (comprising belief and doubt) supported by hope and fear.
No.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19363
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat Dec 01, 2012 10:21 am

Alex123 wrote:
    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.


Sure, these uncertainties exist, but I don't see how they will ever be resolved. Pragmatically the suttas are what we have, and they seem to be the best means we have available of trying to understand what the Buddha taught.
User avatar
Spiny Norman
 
Posts: 2448
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Location: With the cockney chimney-sweeps in Mary Poppins

Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby DAWN » Sat Dec 01, 2012 10:51 am

Buddha Dhamma can be seen directly, there is no reasons to doubt.

Anicca, dukkha and anatta are here, in every fenomena. We can have some doubt about what can not be seen directly, but Buddha Dhamma can be seen directly, experianced here and now.

If peoples have doubt about possibility of liberation, so they have to abandon this doubt, because even logicaly, in this dualistic world, we can understand that if there is dukkha, it's because at there is actualy abcence of dukkha, and only because there is absence of dukkha we can experiance dukkha.

It's because there is day, that thee is night.

It's like a water drop fallen in ocean, this drop can't feel it-self existance, can't feel separation of it self from the rest of ocean. So if we would not experianced dukkha, it would be mean that there is no escape from dukkha, but we alrady not experiance it, so there is needs to be "liberated from freedom".
But, if it would be drop of another substance then water, the self apear, and perception - "it's me, it's water" - apear. And why it's apear in our mind? Because there is dirth in the drop, this drop is dirty, so it feel difference between 'it self' and 'water'. Difference, consciosness, is the heart of dukkha, nature of dukkha.
So, because there is consciosness, because there is dukkha, there is actually freedom. When consciosness will disapear, it would be mean that there is no more difference between the drop and water. Like a body wich is put in water with the temperture of this body, this body have no perception of it self, because there is no difference between temperture of body and temperture of water.

Thats why we feel dukkha, and because we feel dukkha, we can be sure that there is abcence of dukkha, wich can be reached by the one who feel dukkha.


Ud 8.3
There is, monks, an unborn[1] — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that escape from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, escape from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned.[2]
Last edited by DAWN on Sat Dec 01, 2012 11:07 am, edited 2 times in total.
Sabbe dhamma anatta
We are not concurents...
I'am sorry for my english
User avatar
DAWN
 
Posts: 801
Joined: Thu Aug 16, 2012 5:22 pm

Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby danieLion » Sat Dec 01, 2012 10:55 am

daverupa wrote: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.

Excellent post.

(Setting aside the problem of the validity of the occident/orient dichotomy for the moment):

Westerners influenced by positivism seem to me condtioned to crave verification (Wittgenstein's--who we must remember did not generally approve of the positivistic intepretation of his philosophies--last "book" was called On Certainty) and see the Buddhist texts through this lense. Hence, the desire for authoritative texts.

I suspect easterners are more likely to have a better sense of religious texts as literature (rather than historical documentation) and rely on faith as a basis for the authority of religious texts.
danieLion
 
Posts: 1947
Joined: Wed May 25, 2011 4:49 am

Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat Dec 01, 2012 11:03 am

danieLion wrote:Westerners influenced by positivism..


What about westerners influenced by skepticism? ;)
User avatar
Spiny Norman
 
Posts: 2448
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Location: With the cockney chimney-sweeps in Mary Poppins

Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby danieLion » Sat Dec 01, 2012 11:19 am

cooran wrote:The Suttas are rather like the memory prompts - the dot points of the most important information to be transmitted - similar to those a public speaker carries on a little card in his hand. Anything that is repeated is to be seen as something important which was highlighted by the repetition....

They are not verbatim reports of chats and conversations.

Excellent post.
I don't think this diminishes authority. It properly contextualizes it and provides some definitional heurtistics--helps give us a better idea of how much authority the texts have--which grants at least some authority--and what kind of authorities they have.
danieLion
 
Posts: 1947
Joined: Wed May 25, 2011 4:49 am

Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby danieLion » Sat Dec 01, 2012 11:47 am

alan wrote:Not necessary to revere the suttas. But it is imperative to read them.
And if you haven't read them, you're not in a position to interpret them, are you?


I revere the suttas.

You really like to musterbate (Dr. Albert Ellis' term for the cognitively disorting use of should statements) about the suttas, don't you?

And you seem to be stuck in some kind of All-Or-Nothing-Thinking (Dr. David D. Burns' term for cognitively distorting absolutism) about them, don't you?

So, to be clear, you're saying that as a Buddhist, before I can do any interpreting, I have to read every single sutta? When do I know we've read all of them? It seems wise to me to have at least some hermeneutic judgment about this before I read them. Why not wait for the scholars to pinpoint tamperings so I don't have to read those parts? Why not wait until the comparisons with the Agamas are fleshed out more and eliminated Theravadin impositions? Or why not just read the Abhidhamma or some other totality system? And should we read the Vinaya, too? And what about illiterate Buddhists? As Kant pointed out, ought implies can. Is it imperative for them to read them, or can they get away with listening to someone else read them?

Furthermore, reading implies interpretation. So, I infer you mean by "read them", rote memorize all of them, and then and only then start interpreting? Who does that?
danieLion
 
Posts: 1947
Joined: Wed May 25, 2011 4:49 am

Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby danieLion » Sat Dec 01, 2012 11:50 am

ground wrote:Either there is immediacy of insight upon eye or ear contact or there is not. If the latter then either the words are abondoned or there arises religious thought (comprising belief and doubt) supported by hope and fear. :sage:

What the heck does that mean, and how does it relate to the topic?
danieLion
 
Posts: 1947
Joined: Wed May 25, 2011 4:49 am

Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby danieLion » Sat Dec 01, 2012 11:53 am

Alex123 wrote:IMHO, practical results is what counts.

Pretty good post, Alex.
So in this case we don't want any theory and practice mingling, and if so, doesn't this downplay the importance of right view?
danieLion
 
Posts: 1947
Joined: Wed May 25, 2011 4:49 am

Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby danieLion » Sat Dec 01, 2012 11:55 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.

Thanks to Polar Buddha for starting this topic and to Tilt for recommending it. :thumbsup:
danieLion
 
Posts: 1947
Joined: Wed May 25, 2011 4:49 am

Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby Alex123 » Sat Dec 01, 2012 10:22 pm

danieLion wrote:
Alex123 wrote:IMHO, practical results is what counts.

Pretty good post, Alex.
So in this case we don't want any theory and practice mingling, and if so, doesn't this downplay the importance of right view?


Right View should be as "a practice" or "way of life", IMHO. And of course one should keep checking the results as practice is developing and don't cling to written words.

Ultimately one has to use one's own understanding and develop the path. Suttas can offer guidelines and food for though, they are not definitive. Buddha didn't say "Alex you do this", "Daniel you do that".

We are stuck on our own and have to pick what works. Don't cling to traditions or the texts. Find out for yourself.
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
User avatar
Alex123
 
Posts: 2844
Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 11:32 pm

Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby Kusala » Sun Dec 02, 2012 2:45 am

danieLion wrote:
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.


Comparing Buddhism to Christianity or Isam is like comparing apples to oranges. What makes the suttas invaluable is the fact that we can test it out for ourselves. The Buddha compared his teachings to a raft. The moment we disregard the suttas is the moment we abandon the raft.
Image

Homage to the Buddha
Thus indeed, is that Blessed One: He is the Holy One, fully enlightened, endowed with clear vision and virtuous conduct, sublime, the Knower of the worlds, the incomparable leader of men to be tamed, the teacher of gods and men, enlightened and blessed.

Homage to the Teachings
The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded; to be seen here and now; not delayed in
time; inviting one to come and see; onward leading (to Nibbana); to be known by the wise, each for himself.
User avatar
Kusala
 
Posts: 442
Joined: Sun Jan 23, 2011 11:02 am

Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby alan » Sun Dec 02, 2012 3:14 am

Why do you revere the suttas, DanieLion?
alan
 
Posts: 2542
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:14 am
Location: Miramar beach, Fl.

Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby alan » Sun Dec 02, 2012 3:28 am

I've been on and off this page. It's nice to communicate ideas, and share thoughts with like minded people. But one thing that turns me off is the basic lack of reason I sometimes find.
Please, people, use reason when you respond, and speak from your understanding. Don't try to impress me with odd words. And let it be known that I see through self-indulgent nonsense. Our job is to learn. We do it by reading the suttas, practicing, and hearing from others who are honestly on the path.
alan
 
Posts: 2542
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:14 am
Location: Miramar beach, Fl.

Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby danieLion » Sun Dec 02, 2012 4:51 am

porpoise wrote:
danieLion wrote:Westerners influenced by positivism..


What about westerners influenced by skepticism? ;)

Good point. They often go hand in hand.
danieLion
 
Posts: 1947
Joined: Wed May 25, 2011 4:49 am

Re: On the authority of the suttas.

Postby danieLion » Sun Dec 02, 2012 4:57 am

Kusala wrote:
danieLion wrote:
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.


Comparing Buddhism to Christianity or Isam is like comparing apples to oranges. What makes the suttas invaluable is the fact that we can test it out for ourselves. The Buddha compared his teachings to a raft. The moment we disregard the suttas is the moment we abandon the raft.

Whoa!!! Back up, now. I ain't abandoning them. I love them. The Buddha may have compared his teachings to raft, but he didn't compare the suttas as we have them now to a raft.

Also, I'm not comparing Buddhism to other religions in general, but in terms of their attitudes to their sacred texts. In that sense, there are remarkable similarities. Besides, apples and oranges do have some things in common.
danieLion
 
Posts: 1947
Joined: Wed May 25, 2011 4:49 am

PreviousNext

Return to General Theravāda discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 11 guests