"Early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

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

Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby Paññāsikhara » Mon Jan 04, 2010 3:15 am

Kare wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:
Darren_86 wrote:Sorry Pannasikhara,

I dont really get what u wanna express about here.

Any simplified version of it?

- Darren -


In one sentence: The choices and style of translations from Chinese sources are part of the reason behind the ongoing "hinayana" problem in a Western context.


In another sentence: The First Commandment for Translators: Thou shalt translate into thy native language.


Yes, sir! That is correct, sir!

Now, we just have to convince a whole heap of people who are translating into somebody else's native language, that this is, indeed, the case.
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby Darren_86 » Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:11 am

So if translation is the main problem here,

Are we saying that Buddhist texts, shall remain in sanskrit and pali, and not to be translated into English, Chinese and all other world languages?

Direct translation of Sanskrit or Pali to English is not 100% accurate as well. This is due to the many meanings of a sanskrit or Pali word can have.

So if all the texts translated so far is incorrect, it seems that what we have been practicing so far has been incorrect as well. Was this? :jawdrop:
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby Dan74 » Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:29 am

I think what they are saying is

In one sentence: The choices and style of translations from Chinese sources are part of the reason behind the ongoing "hinayana" problem in a Western context.


In another sentence: The First Commandment for Translators: Thou shalt translate into thy native language.


In a third sentence: its not the translations per se that are a problem, it's bad translations.

But keep in mind that both Pannasikkhara and Kare are translators...

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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:33 am

Hi Darren,

I think you may be misunderstanding. What is being suggested is that translations should be done by someone fluent in the target language, so translations to English are best done by a native English speaker...

Yesterday I was browsing a Dhamma book I have that was translated from Thai to English by someone with rather poor English. It is kind of interesting to try to figure out what some it means. In this case, since it's an introductory book, it's a useful exercise for me, but if it were something really technical it would be completely confusing...

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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby Darren_86 » Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:45 am

Oh.. thanks Dan 74 and Mikenz66

:oops:

My fault.. misunderstood =)

:tongue:
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jan 04, 2010 8:28 am

The above is split off from the Do you find Hinayana offensive? thread. Such splitting off is not always perfect, but this will allow the issue of early schools to be pursued without coming into conflict with the purpose of the Discovering Theravada forum.
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby Kare » Mon Jan 04, 2010 8:50 am

Dan74 wrote:I think what they are saying is

In one sentence: The choices and style of translations from Chinese sources are part of the reason behind the ongoing "hinayana" problem in a Western context.


In another sentence: The First Commandment for Translators: Thou shalt translate into thy native language.


In a third sentence: its not the translations per se that are a problem, it's bad translations.

But keep in mind that both Pannasikkhara and Kare are translators...

_/|\_


Any language is so rich on nuanced expressions that any translation can only be an approximation. Sometimes a close approximation, some times not so close. Just like some jokes are beyond translation, other and more deep and serious sentences can also be very hard to bring across without having to leave some nuances along the way.

In Italian there is a saying, 'Traduttore traditore', that is 'the translator is a traitor', or 'never trust a translator'. A true expression, trust me! :twisted:
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby Dan74 » Mon Jan 04, 2010 9:20 am

Kare wrote:
Dan74 wrote:I think what they are saying is

In one sentence: The choices and style of translations from Chinese sources are part of the reason behind the ongoing "hinayana" problem in a Western context.


In another sentence: The First Commandment for Translators: Thou shalt translate into thy native language.


In a third sentence: its not the translations per se that are a problem, it's bad translations.

But keep in mind that both Pannasikkhara and Kare are translators...

_/|\_


Any language is so rich on nuanced expressions that any translation can only be an approximation. Sometimes a close approximation, some times not so close. Just like some jokes are beyond translation, other and more deep and serious sentences can also be very hard to bring across without having to leave some nuances along the way.

In Italian there is a saying, 'Traduttore traditore', that is 'the translator is a traitor', or 'never trust a translator'. A true expression, trust me! :twisted:


My Italian is very rusty but I recall them teaching us about what they call "falso amico" (false friend) - a word that sounds similar in two languages but means something different. A dangerous pitfall for bad translators!

Anyway... :focus:

Sorry...

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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby suanck » Mon Jan 04, 2010 9:22 am

Kare wrote:In Italian there is a saying, 'Traduttore traditore', that is 'the translator is a traitor', or 'never trust a translator'. A true expression, trust me! :twisted:


In French (if I remember correctly): Traduire, c'est trahir!

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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby 5heaps » Mon Jan 04, 2010 2:25 pm

Paññāsikhara wrote:Then they really seem to not know what they are talking about! It is my turn to be amazed! :P

What’s there to get amazed about? I have not told you their reasons, and perhaps you don't know them. From Maps of the Profound:

1. Etymology of Vaibhashika
Because of mainly propounding the Great Exposition of Particulars and because of propounding particulars of substantialities, they are called Proponents of the Great Exposition or Proponents of Particulars.

Word Commentary on Root Text: Because they propound tenets mainly following Vasumitra’s Great Exposition of Particulars, they are called Vaibhashikas [Proponents of the Great Exposition], or because they propound that the three time [that is, past, present, and future objects] are particulars of substantialities (dravya) or propound many substantially established phenomena like the Forder Vaisheshikas.

Nga-wang-bel-den’s Annotations: The three times are asserted to be particulars [or instances] of the substantially established things with respect to which they are posited. For example, when divided, a shoot has the three times which are itself. According to explanations in some Indian texts, [Proponents of the Great Exposition hold that] any phenomenon must have a separately apprehendable entity of its own, and since they do not know how to posit objects that are merely imputed to factors of other phenomena, their way of positing the existence of phenomena accords greatly with the Vaisheshika’s components-possessing substance, due to which they are called Vaibhashikas. This also appears to be a suitable [etymology].



Nga-wang-bel-den later says,

It is not suitable to treat all that are synonyms as equivalents because, for example, although Sarvastivada and Vibhajyavada are described as synonyms, it can be known from their etymologies that they are not equivalent:
1. Because Bhavaviveka explains that:
- Sarvastivadins are so called because of asserting that all three times substantially exist.
- Vibhajyavadins are so called because of propounding [tenets] within differentiating that past [objects] that have not issued forth effects and present [objects] are substantially existent, whereas past [objects] that have issued forth effects and future [objects] are imputedly existent.




Paññāsikhara wrote: "puts forth as its own the thesis according to which all dharmas are of purely nominal existence (prajnapti)."

And, as we know, in the lingo of the time, what is a prajnapti is not a paramartha dharma, ie. what is a designation is not an ultimate (phenomena).

This is subtle material and it is very easy to misunderstand true meanings and become confused. For example, just because something is a designation does not necessarily imply that it is not substantial. Vaibhashika asserts that some things are imputed whilst simultaneously asserting that they are substantial. This is because NOTHING has a nature of being merely imputed, the way Sautrantikas assert.
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Re: "Early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby Paññāsikhara » Tue Jan 05, 2010 3:03 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
Then they really seem to not know what they are talking about! It is my turn to be amazed!


What’s there to get amazed about? I have not told you their reasons, and perhaps you don't know them. From Maps of the Profound:


I am amazed that they could ever conflate the Sarvastivada Vaibhasikas with the Prajnaptivadins and Ekavyavaharikas!
But, considering that the Tibetans actually didn't have any root texts of any of these schools, it is kind of understandable.

I eagerly await the "reasons"!

1. Etymology of Vaibhashika
Because of mainly propounding the Great Exposition of Particulars and because of propounding particulars of substantialities, they are called Proponents of the Great Exposition or Proponents of Particulars.

Word Commentary on Root Text: Because they propound tenets mainly following Vasumitra’s Great Exposition of Particulars, they are called Vaibhashikas [Proponents of the Great Exposition], or because they propound that the three time [that is, past, present, and future objects] are particulars of substantialities (dravya) or propound many substantially established phenomena like the Forder Vaisheshikas.

Nga-wang-bel-den’s Annotations: The three times are asserted to be particulars [or instances] of the substantially established things with respect to which they are posited. For example, when divided, a shoot has the three times which are itself. According to explanations in some Indian texts, [Proponents of the Great Exposition hold that] any phenomenon must have a separately apprehendable entity of its own, and since they do not know how to posit objects that are merely imputed to factors of other phenomena, their way of positing the existence of phenomena accords greatly with the Vaisheshika’s components-possessing substance, due to which they are called Vaibhashikas. This also appears to be a suitable [etymology].



Etymologically, they are called Vaibhasikas because they take the (Maha)Vibhasa as pramana. Add an adjectival "-ika" suffix, and strengthen the first vowel from "vi-" to "vai-". Simple as that.

I don't need to read Jamyang or Ngawang, because I can just read the Mahavibhasa myself, I have a copy right at hand. Neither of them did!
And if that isn't enough, I can always read Samghabhadra, too.

Nga-wang-bel-den later says,

It is not suitable to treat all that are synonyms as equivalents because, for example, although Sarvastivada and Vibhajyavada are described as synonyms, it can be known from their etymologies that they are not equivalent:
1. Because Bhavaviveka explains that:
- Sarvastivadins are so called because of asserting that all three times substantially exist.
- Vibhajyavadins are so called because of propounding [tenets] within differentiating that past [objects] that have not issued forth effects and present [objects] are substantially existent, whereas past [objects] that have issued forth effects and future [objects] are imputedly existent.



How anybody could say that "Sarvastivada and Vibhajyavada are described as synonyms" is completely beyond me!
This shows the confusion where they just conflate a bunch of early schools.

In effect, the two terms are doctrinally complete opposites.
A quick read of the Kathavatthu or the Vijnanakaya sastra will quickly show who is who.

Oh, wait, Jamyang didn't have either of these, did he?

Paññāsikhara wrote:
"puts forth as its own the thesis according to which all dharmas are of purely nominal existence (prajnapti)."

And, as we know, in the lingo of the time, what is a prajnapti is not a paramartha dharma, ie. what is a designation is not an ultimate (phenomena).


This is subtle material and it is very easy to misunderstand true meanings and become confused. For example, just because something is a designation does not necessarily imply that it is not substantial. Vaibhashika asserts that some things are imputed whilst simultaneously asserting that they are substantial. This is because NOTHING has a nature of being merely imputed, the way Sautrantikas assert.


So, don't tell me: You don't have have the source yourself, but you are going to reveal the "true meaning" to me, right?

In Abhidharma speak, a prajnapti is definitely not a paramartha / dravyasat dharma. Completely mutually exclusive.
This is known as early as the Vijnanakaya sastra, a text which the Vaibhasikas used as support of their Vibhasa.

The quote is a critique of the Prajnaptivada and Ekavyavaharikas. They are not Sautrantikas, either.

Are you going to continue to quote third and fourth hand 17th cty material on 3rd cty BCE - 7th cty CE period schools? And also ignore all the other primary and secondary sources on the matter, while giving us the "true meaning"?
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Re: "Early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jan 05, 2010 6:43 am

Ven Paññāsikhara,

Thanks for the above.
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jan 05, 2010 8:20 am

5heaps wrote:Who doesn't [{assert} mental ultimates (ie. indivisible physical particles and moments of awareness)]? I would be amazed if you could list just one school with a differing idea.
You think the Theravada does? Based upon what?
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby Anders » Tue Jan 05, 2010 12:44 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Seems some/many scholars such as Dr Berzin agree with you:

It would seems. The Mahayana is not the arbiter of what is what for other schools. It variously in its wildly disparate texts and schools defines the Buddha, bodhi, arahant, tathagata among other things differently than does the Theravada. And, while Nagarjuna is an interesting historical character, he and the schools that popped after him, are unnecessary to the Theravada.


Of course he is not necessary, but that does not equate to not worthwhile.

Forgive me for charicaturing, Tilt, but I can't help but think that in what you say above you express the classical (which I suppose is apt) Theravadin attitudes that reflect a viewpoint which effectively says: '[since we're mostly stuck on this island with little necessary interaction with other schools] who cares what other schools think! They have fallen away from the original teaching anyway'.

Whereas the early Buddhist schools on the mainland where engaged in rich dialogue and critique, with tones ranging from the sarcastically demeaning (I dare say, a classic trait of Buddhist critique from the earliest days) to the mutually admiring.

I think there's some merit, for any Buddhist, in such a process and which is also why I think there is some merit to a thread like this - in the sense of distinguishing the issues of 'hinayana, lower or really piss poor?' from the many doctrinal critiques they also cover. Mostly because many of them are representative of the doctrinal questions the early Buddhist schools were also engaged in before the mahayana. Schools that, at an immediate historical glance, have as much claim to represent 'the original teachings of the Buddha', as the Theravada and thus, in my inquisitive opinion of course, merit looking at for someone who professes to the importance of that.

That is to say, I think with a little investigation, I think there is room for common ground to actually debate such intersectarian topics (while recognising that the authenticity of the mahayana sutras is not one such ground). Personally, I see the environment in early Buddhist India as a very fascinating one and, if not always so, then a model that global Buddhism could have much to learn from in terms of intersectarian dialogue and relations.
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Re: "Early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jan 05, 2010 3:36 pm

Anders Honore wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:It would seem. The Mahayana is not the arbiter of what is what for other schools. It variously in its wildly disparate texts and schools defines the Buddha, bodhi, arahant, tathagata among other things differently than does the Theravada. And, while Nagarjuna is an interesting historical character, he and the schools that popped after him, are unnecessary to the Theravada.


Of course he is not necessary, but that does not equate to not worthwhile.
Worthwhile? I would never say not to read Nagarjuna, and I never have. How really worthwhile is he? The MMK certainly could be looked at outside a Mahayana context and is interesting for that reason. David Kalupahana’s imperfect effort could be of interest to Theravadins, particularly since he was drawing from a early commentary found only in the Chinese and not giving it the later Tibetan slant and thereby seems more amenable to Theravadins. Nagarjuna’s relating emptiness to paticcasamuppada is novel, but certainly not to the extent that the Nagarjunians like to think is the case. His discussion of relative and “ultimate” truths is interesting and useful. His critique of svabhava does not at all fall upon the Theravada Abhidhamma, but with all of that and more, do we really need Nagarjuna’s insight to become truly awake? Not really. Nagarjuna is one those optional, if interested, things.

Forgive me for charicaturing, Tilt, but I can't help but think that in what you say above you express the classical (which I suppose is apt) Theravadin attitudes that reflect a viewpoint which effectively says: '[since we're mostly stuck on this island with little necessary interaction with other schools] who cares what other schools think! They have fallen away from the original teaching anyway'.
On the other hand, I do not have to caricature the “classical” Mahayanist approach to the Theravada. Since this is a common experience we both have, I can clearly state that we have both seen the Mahayana supersessionism and triumphalism directed at the Theravada, driven by Nagarjunianism, played out repeatedly on the now defunct E-Sangha, both unintelligently and by those well schooled in Nagarjunian Mahayana polemics.

Whereas the early Buddhist schools on the mainland where engaged in rich dialogue and critique, with tones ranging from the sarcastically demeaning (I dare say, a classic trait of Buddhist critique from the earliest days) to the mutually admiring.
Mainstream Indian Buddhists pretty much ignored the Mahayana. No sustained Mainstream Buddhist critique of the Mahayana survives, if there ever was one

I think there's some merit, for any Buddhist, in such a process and which is also why I think there is some merit to a thread like this - in the sense of distinguishing the issues of 'hinayana, lower or really piss poor?' from the many doctrinal critiques they also cover.
We are stuck with what is an ugly term coined by Mahayanists that gets applied to the Theravada, and it is a term that carries a fair amount of negative baggage.

Mostly because many of them are representative of the doctrinal questions the early Buddhist schools were also engaged in before the mahayana. Schools that, at an immediate historical glance, have as much claim to represent 'the original teachings of the Buddha', as the Theravada and thus, in my inquisitive opinion of course, merit looking at for someone who professes to the importance of that.
I have no problem with that. I’d love to see more of the pre-Mahayana, non-Pali texts translated. It is a shame that another complete canon in an Indic language does not survive. It is also shame that the Tibetans, having regarded the Agamas as hinayana, did not translate a complete canon into Tibetan.

That is to say, I think with a little investigation, I think there is room for common ground to actually debate such intersectarian topics (while recognising that the authenticity of the mahayana sutras is not one such ground). Personally, I see the environment in early Buddhist India as a very fascinating one and, if not always so, then a model that global Buddhism could have much to learn from in terms of intersectarian dialogue and relations.
Sure.
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Re: "Early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby 5heaps » Sat Jan 09, 2010 5:24 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:I am amazed that they could ever conflate the Sarvastivada Vaibhasikas with the Prajnaptivadins and Ekavyavaharikas!
But, considering that the Tibetans actually didn't have any root texts of any of these schools, it is kind of understandable.

I eagerly await the "reasons"!

It's obvious then that the we're using the same word (Vaibhashika) to refer to different things. You use the word to refer to a specific division in Sarvastivada, whereas in the presentation of tenets Vaibhashika refers to [at least] the 18 early schools.

So when i say Vaibhashika, the 3 reasons I gave (starting with "1. Etymology of Vaibhashika") should be understood in that context.

I don't need to read Jamyang or Ngawang, because I can just read the Mahavibhasa myself, I have a copy right at hand. Neither of them did!

It's not like the commentators conjur their opinions from thin air. The monastic system relies on a long study of Vasubhandu, Dharmakirti, etc, so there are various methods available.

How anybody could say that "Sarvastivada and Vibhajyavada are described as synonyms" is completely beyond me!

As explained in the reasons, they follow the same general presentation of asserting existing things to be substantial things / very many substantial entities (with of course considerable differences, ie. subtle variations of how persons exist, and even more significant ones). So as i previously said, although ultimate truths and deceptive truths are [as you say] "completely mutually exclusive", this does not necessarily imply that they are not both substantial entities (substantial meaning to be an entity such that it can perform a function). To me, it seems that the line between Vaibhashika and real Sautrantika is that Sautrantika asserts deceptive truth to be mutually inclusive with nonsubstantial things and ultimate truth to be mutually inclusive with substantial things, whereas in Vaibhashika this is never the case, regardless of the sometimes significantly varying assertions about what exists substantially and what does not amongst all of the schools.

Regarding the need to read Jamyang (etc) or to study the tenets in general, Dr Hopkins writes:

“..the very format of the four schools and their sub-divisions does not represent an historical account of self-asserted identities but is the result of centuries of classification of systems in India and Tibet in order to get a handle on the vast scope of positions found in Indian Buddhism. Given this situation, the format of the four schools should be used as a horizon that opens a way to appreciate the plethora of opinions, not as one closes and rigidifies investigation. In Tibet, students are taught this four-fold classification first, without mention of the diversity of opinion that it does not include, but then over decades of study the structure of such presentations of schools of thought is gradually recognized by many students as a technique for gaining access to a vast store of opinion, a way to focus on topics crucial to authors within Indian Buddhism.”

Are you going to continue to quote third and fourth hand 17th cty material on 3rd cty BCE - 7th cty CE period schools? And also ignore all the other primary and secondary sources on the matter, while giving us the "true meaning"?

There is great merit in understanding all the very subtle distinctions between the 18 schools and it would take an extremely sharp mind to try to do it. But another question is do these schools ever encroach upon Sautrantika territory.

As it says in Cutting Through Appearances, "The Proponents of the Great Exposition differ from other Buddhist schools in asserting that the factors of production, abiding, aging, and disintegration are external to the entity that undergoes these. All other systems hold that production itself is a cause or sufficient condition for disintegration; disintegration begins with, and not after, the very first moment of production.

... that which is produced is that which abides and that which disintegrates. This is because production is understood to be the arising of a new entity due to certain causes; abiding is the continued existence of that type of entity; disintegration is its quality of not lasting for a second moment; and aging is the factor of its being a different entity from the entity of the previous moment. In this way, the four can occur simultaneously. The Great Exposition School, however, asserts that the factors of production, duration, aging, and disintegreation act on the object and occur in series, one after the other."
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Re: "Early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jan 09, 2010 5:54 am

5heaps wrote:
How anybody could say that "Sarvastivada and Vibhajyavada are described as synonyms" is completely beyond me!

As explained in the reasons . . . .
Except you really did not address Ven Paññāsikhara point.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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Re: "Early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sat Jan 09, 2010 6:23 am

5heaps wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:I am amazed that they could ever conflate the Sarvastivada Vaibhasikas with the Prajnaptivadins and Ekavyavaharikas!
But, considering that the Tibetans actually didn't have any root texts of any of these schools, it is kind of understandable.

I eagerly await the "reasons"!


It's obvious then that the we're using the same word (Vaibhashika) to refer to different things. You use the word to refer to a specific division in Sarvastivada, whereas in the presentation of tenets Vaibhashika refers to [at least] the 18 early schools.

So when i say Vaibhashika, the 3 reasons I gave (starting with "1. Etymology of Vaibhashika") should be understood in that context.



I use the word Vaibhasika to refer to those who rely on the Vibhasa as nitartha pramana.

I use the word Vibhasa to refer to the text itself, the Mahavibhasasastra, in one of the three versions that I have right at hand, and can directly read for myself.

No other school had a text called a "Vibhasa" as far as I know. Therefore, no other school should really be referred to as "Vaibhasika".

To lump them altogether under one name, a name which refers to one specific group, seems to be a major methodological mistake.

I don't need to read Jamyang or Ngawang, because I can just read the Mahavibhasa myself, I have a copy right at hand. Neither of them did!


It's not like the commentators conjur their opinions from thin air. The monastic system relies on a long study of Vasubhandu, Dharmakirti, etc, so there are various methods available.


Well, those commentators themselves did not have a copy of the Vibhasa, and they were not Vaibhasikas, either. Why should I rely on somebody else's second (or third, fourth) hand information, when I can just go and directly read the Vibhasa myself?

Samghabhadra, probably the greatest Vaibhasika master of the fifth century, often points out in his Nyananusara that Vasubandhu misrepresents the Vibhasa. Dharmakirti was not a Vaibhasika either.

Why should we believe what Vasubandhu and Dharmakirti had to say about a school that they themselves did not adhere to, when we can read the core text of that school ourselves, and also a commentary by a great proponent of that school?

Do you go and ask the Theravadins about what the Gelug-pas teach? Of course you don't.
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Re: "Early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby Darren_86 » Mon Jan 11, 2010 3:15 pm

I smell fire bombs here. :guns:
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