Way back on page 226, Sylvester said (quoting an earlier post):
Sylvester wrote:Since your thesis is an interpretation of how the Buddha intended to communicate DA to his brahmin auditors and "influence" them, we would also need a fair amount of citation of the Buddha's exposition of DA that we can see actually corresponding to the Vedic received wisdom or Vedic method or whatever it is you believe was the problem. I would be satisfied with a number of sutta citations that address specifically the nidanas traditionally interpreted to mean "birth" and "rebirth"; if you can give even more DA expositions on the other nidanas that are probative of your supposed correspondence, so much the better. Note that I ask for "a number of sutta citations"; I need quantity to see a trend and pattern, rather than to let one singular pronouncement colour the rest of the expositions.
Sylvester wrote:I don't think it's unreasonable, especially since we are asking nothing more than what would be expected of a text-critical approach...
After careful consideration of your requests, it occurs to me that I have perhaps overcomplicated what I am saying.
I don't see that it's necessary, really, to prove that there was any exceptional understanding of the Buddha's audience that enabled them to get what he was saying in DA, because what I am suggesting is that he was working with themes that were familiar to pretty much everyone who paid any attention at all to the world around them. I'm not actually suggesting that DA was aimed at "his brahmin auditors".
So, for example, when you ask me to provide "examples of the Vedic worldview" that I believe are relevant, the word "the" tells me I've not done well in making clear that I'm not suggesting that DA is depicting "a" view, but that it's a structure built on very general views, of which there were probably dozens of varieties. One general view -- the first portion of DA -- is that people come into being because of desire, that consciousness arrives first, then the individuality of name-and-form comes into existence, and through that the senses are gained. It seems to me that, since those who take DA as being a description of rebirth understand that the Buddha is talking about consciousness descending into the womb, and name-and-form being birth, and with birth the senses being acquired -- that that was the order as most folks understood it -- I shouldn't have to provide any outside sources that show that this was more-or-less the way most folks understood things to happen. It's right there in the suttas, showing that that is the order people perceived. Even if that order of events wasn't X's actual belief, X will have been familiar with it as the predominant worldview, and that we should understand this just through reading the suttas. That the Prajapati myths use that very construction is a bonus piece of evidence that this was, indeed, a known worldview. But seeing that order reflected in the Prajapati myth isn't actually necessary -- because it's quite visibly what's perceived as the natural order in the suttas themselves.
We do not find other views of the process of beings coming into existence represented in the suttas, so I see no reason for me to provide evidence that this was a way of looking at the process that was well-known. Now if there were other views of the order of events around birth discussed, and they dominated, then maybe I'd need to go looking for outside evidence.
The same sort of thing goes with with Part Two of DA, which I am suggesting has to do with the way the rituals done are supposed to have an effect on one's life after death. We know from reading the suttas that folks were concerned with the proper performance of rituals, and what effect those rituals would have on them in the future, because they asked questions about these things. So I don't need to be providing outside support to show that this is what people believed -- it's right there in the suttas.
And, finally, it shouldn't require any outside confirmation to prove that folks believed that their understanding of the world -- and hence the rituals they chose and the way they performed them -- would have an effect on where they went after death, with the aim being to go somewhere nice and blissful rather than somewhere nasty and uncomfortable. That, too, we should be able to gather from reading the suttas.
On the most basic of levels, that is what I am saying is the structure of DA: the first portion being "the givens" about how we come into the world, the middle portion being detail about our rituals and how they lead to the last part, which is what happens to us after we die.
The only parts of that I can think might be in the least controversial are (1) the first and last steps, in which I find the Buddha twisting the usual beginning and ending of a life story. The first step might not be so "usual" because that beginning is "all about knowledge" which might be associated with the atman-brahman worldview more than any other ---- whereas the Buddha twists it to say "it's all about ignorance". But "the usual ending" is that "this all leads to happiness" whereas he says "this all leads to dukkha" (aka: the same-old-same-old of aging, sickness, and death). But even if those twists might be zingers and stingers for those who held views about knowledge leading to bliss, to get the point, it wasn't necessary to understand the barbs, rather, the listener could just work with what he was saying on his subtlest level: that we come into the world ignorant of all that he's about to describe, and that the ignorance and all that follows leads us into trouble. You didn't need to get the joke to get the point.
And (2) that the rituals were thought to bring into being a perfected "self". In "Reflections on Resemblance, Ritual, and Religion" (1989, p. 46) Brian K Smith argues that the equivalencies found throughout Vedism are part of a logical worldview, and that ritual and sacrifice were "displayed as a constructive activity, creating the human being (ontology), the afterlife (soteriology), and the cosmos as a whole (cosmology)." This view of the world wasn't limited to the Brahmin priests who performed the ceremonies, but was engaged in on behalf of those in other classes -- warrior caste, and merchants, for example -- all of whom were likely to have known why they were performing the rituals -- to purify or perfect that self, to get a better outcome/future.
So my thesis is not that DA was designed "to communicate DA to his brahmin auditors" but to talk to everyone in the society familiar with the general theories that dominated the times about how we come into the world, and why folks did what they did with their daily and special rituals, which were aimed at improving their lot after death.
As for your request for "a number of sutta citations that address specifically the nidanas traditionally interpreted to mean 'birth' and 'rebirth'", since all the brief summaries of the 12-steps do this, I assume you're actually asking for something that explicitly points out that these are *not* about rebirth, but since I have (repeatedly) said the Buddha designed a system that allowed him to subtly address his deeper points while overtly talking about rebirth, this request would be asking me to do something contrary to my thesis -- not a reasonable request to make.
In the end, you and the folks following this conversation can either recognize the shape of DA as being about the ways people saw the creation of a life, and the process of living that life, and its outcome after death -- and the ways in which the Buddha is denying that "what everyone knows" about all these things is actually accurate -- and then one can begin to see how all the other pieces fit to support that view, or not. And this, I say, will be just as the Buddha intended: that you can continue to believe the Cosmos is all about rebirth until conditions are right for you to see, through your own direct experience, how little actual evidence you have of rebirth, and just why it is far more effective to focus on what you *can* see when aiming to reduce or do away with dukkha.