Original teachings of the Buddha

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Twilight
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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Twilight »

That you for all the links provided. I was curios for more such information too. I would also add B.Sujato (and others) - authenticity of eary buddhist text https://books.google.ro/books?id=fK9zBw ... &q&f=false

But it does not really address problems about individual suttas too much.
You'll have a better chance finding a moderate rebel in Ildib than finding a buddhist who ever changed his views. Views are there to be clung to. They are there to be defended with all one's might. Whatever clinging one will removed in regards to sense pleasures by practicing the path - that should be compensated with increased clinging to views. This is the fundamental balance of the noble 8thfold path. The yin and yang.
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Caodemarte
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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Caodemarte »

aflatun wrote:
Several of the Mahayana Agamas predate the Pali Nikayas. There is a very strong argument that the Mahayana movement, depending on how you define it, predates Theravada
I'm with Mkoll, if you could direct us to sources on both of these counts that would be great. To be transparent my motivation is genuine interest, not disputation, as I am greatly inspired by much in that tradition and find no conflict with Pali Buddhism (or much that's terribly distinct), so thanks in advance!
I don't have full access to my collection of papers at the moment, but any fairly recent academic work should tell you: Modern academic research seems to have reached a shaky consensus that Mahayana was not originally a distinct sect, but rather a vaguer movement who shared a certain orientation, propagated certain sutra or sutta, and eventually coalesced into a collection of actual distinguishable sects. What particular sutra/sutta, or broader orientation is a matter of debate, and dates are very uncertain. If you pick certain evidence, including the vocabulary in certain inscriptions, Mahayana would clearly predate Theravada (by Theravada I mean the distinct Theravada school, not all early Buddhists who are not clearly Mahayanist as some use the term), but we really have no certain start date.

However, after it jelled into something clearly distinct that indisputably called itself Mahayanist, we have pretty good dates for Mahayana diatribes against the 18 (more or less) non-Mahayana "Hinayana" rivals. Theravada is never mentioned by name. Barring the unlikely selective disappearance of every document mentioning it, this must be because it had little contact with the Mahayana, was not big enough to be a rival, or simply did not exist yet. I tend to go with the last alternative, because if Theravada was a reform movement, as Theravada legends sometimes claim, reacting against and seeking to sweep away what it sees as additions, corruptions, accretions, and elaborations, it would have had to have begun after those claimed distortions began. Not before. If Theravada looks back to the ways of the Elders (Theras), the Elders must predate them. However, in any case there is no sign that I am aware of that early Indian Mahayanists were aware of anything called Theravada.

Since as a distinct movement Theravada claims to have looked back to the 3rd Council (which may or may not have occurred) for inspiration they clearly could not have begun before that date. (Damien Keown's A Dictionary of Buddhism. 2003. pp. 279-280 states there is no historical evidence that the Theravāda school arose until around two centuries after the putative Third Council).

By its own accounts, Theravada seems to have come out of a Sthaviravadin sub-sect and seems to share certain doctrines. This is not the same as saying Theravada is Sthaviravada as some Theravadin legends dubiously claim, but that they were influenced or inspired by or Sthaviravada or were an off-shoot of a sub-sect seems likely. Sadly, there is zero actual evidence for this apart from one obviously forged Sri Lankan history.

Then we suddenly get hard dates when Theravada goes into or gets invited by the court to Sri Lanka, Thailand, and elsewhere it is to replace Tantric Buddhists. We have good dates for that, especially in Sri Lanka. This is obviously long past the establishment of Mahayana Buddhism. Theravada must have existed before it leaves evidence for its existence, but the only reliable dates we have for Theravada are indisputably after the Mahayana. "Suttas as History" by Walters Defining Buddhism(s): A Reader ed. Karen Derris, Natalie Gummer) points out that the Theravadin suttas and Pali itself as known today are the result of decisions made centuries after the Buddha's death in Sri Lanka, with an "extreme argument" that we can't know for sure the date of any sutta before Buddhaghoṣa, a thousand years after. So the Theravada we know today is clearly a post-Mahayana construction in many important aspects.

Hence there is a good argument that Mahayanism was around before Theravada. There is no evidence that the Theravada, as a distinct school, existed before the Mahayana.

Of course, there is no conclusive evidence of any of these historical argument. Again, this is of historical interest only. It does not tell you which sect or sub-sect is "right."
Last edited by Caodemarte on Wed Jan 25, 2017 3:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Mkoll
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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Mkoll »

Caodemarte wrote:
aflatun wrote:
Several of the Mahayana Agamas predate the Pali Nikayas. There is a very strong argument that the Mahayana movement, depending on how you define it, predates Theravada
I'm with Mkoll, if you could direct us to sources on both of these counts that would be great. To be transparent my motivation is genuine interest, not disputation, as I am greatly inspired by much in that tradition and find no conflict with Pali Buddhism (or much that's terribly distinct), so thanks in advance!
I don't have full access to my collection of papers at the moment, but any fairly recent academic work should tell you: Modern academic research seems to have reached a shaky consensus that Mahayana was not originally a distinct sect, but rather a vaguer movement who shared a certain orientation, propagated certain sutra or sutta, and eventually coalesced into a collection of actual distinguishable sects.
Yes, I have read this from other sources as well.
Caodemarte wrote:What particular sutra/sutta, or broader orientation is a matter of debate, and dates are very uncertain. If you pick certain evidence, including the vocabulary in certain inscriptions, Mahayana would clearly predate Theravada (by Theravada I mean the distinct Theravada school, not all early Buddhists who are not clearly Mahayanist as some use the term), but we really have no certain start date.
Can you provide a reference for a scholarly work that claims Mahayana clearly predates Theravada? I skimmed through the introduction of the book you suggested and did not find anything talking about the Agamas predating the Nikayas or Central Asian sources predating Pali versions. And using the search function, the only use of the word Theravada in it is this, where Nattier says that it's the "oldest extant canonical collection":
Clipboard01.jpg
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Caodemarte wrote:Of course, there is no conclusive evidence of any theory and this is all various kinds of speculation. Again, this is of historical interest only. It does not tell you which sect or sub-sect is "right."
I agree. I'm only asking for references because historical speculation should rest on scholarly research.

I understand you don't have access to your papers, so take as much time as you need.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by DNS »

There are 9 points unifying Theravada and Mahayana and I think most would agree that the clear distinct difference is the Bodhisattva path of the Mahayana. So then the question becomes when did the bodhisattvayana develop?

There are parallels in the Theravada Pali Canon (approx. 1st century BCE) and the Chinese Agamas (approx. 1st century BCE to 1st century CE), but as far as I know, the Agamas do not include the bodhisattva sutras? They are in later sutras, including the Ugraparipṛcchā Sūtra (approx. 2nd century CE) and even in this sutra, monasticism is recommended over that of a householder. Asceticism in a hermitage is praised, especially in the forest.

Also do not Mahayanists agree that the Buddha, Sariputta, Moggallana and other early arahants were all practicing for para-nibbana, not the bodhisattva ideal? This would suggest the way of the bodhisattvayana is a later development; which is not to say it is wrong, as even in Theravada we believe that one can make an aspiration; that is an aspiration to be a future samma-sam-buddha, an attendant to a buddha, the chief disciple to a future buddha, etc.
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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

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Mkoll wrote: Can you provide a reference for a scholarly work that claims Mahayana clearly predates Theravada?
No, that is why I said there is a strong argument to be made, which is different from claiming that it clearly does predate Theravada, especially as the dates of the Mahayana are unclear. Part of the argument would be that we only have evidence of Theravada, as a distinct school, existing well after we know that the Mahayana existed as such and no record that Indian Mahayana ever heard of it UNLESS you argue that Theravada really is identical with Sthaviravada (their name means the same thing). However, there is no credible historical evidence of that. There is an ahistorical tendency to refer to every early Buddhist sect as "Theravada" which we can dismiss.

Theravada traditionally claims direct descent from Sthaviravada and sometimes claims to be a pure continuation of Sthaviravada, with no credible evidence of either. However, this is impossible as the Sthaviravada had split up into several sub-schools by the time of Asoka. Hence there was no Sthaviravada as such by the putative 3rd Council, to which Thervada looked back to for inspiration. These sub-schools then further divided with Theravada eventually being formed out of these further divisions. Theravada also went with Pali as its canonical language, while it is unclear that the Sthaviravada had used Pali in its canon.(Skilton, Andrew. A Concise History of Buddhism. 2004. p. 67).

Many scholars look to the Mahāsāṃghika for the initial development of Mahayana. The initial composition and acceptance of Mahāyāna sūtras is linked to the Mahāsāṃghika. (Walser, Joseph. Nāgārjuna in Context: Mahāyāna Buddhism and Early Indian Culture. 2005) Sthavira nikāya and the Mahāsāṃghika nikāya broke apart at the Second Buddhist council with the Mahāsāṃghika apparently retaining the older vinaya (Skilton, p. 48). They eventually formally accepted the early Mahayana sutras into their Tripiṭaka, splitting into three groups based upon the relative manner and degree to which they accepted the authority of Mahāyāna texts. One group did not accept the texts as the "words of the Buddha." (Sree Padma. Barber, Anthony W., Buddhism in the Krishna River Valley of Andhra. 2008. p. 68).

So if we accept the Mahāsāṃghika as part of the Mahayana movement there is a strong argument to be made that Mahayana pre-dates Theravada. It does not mean that it clearly did or did not.

I have added a few quick scholarly references to the earlier note, including the interesting "Suttas as History" by Walters Defining Buddhism(s): A Reader ed. Karen Derris, Natalie Gummer) points out that what we know today as the Theravada suttas and Pali itself are the result of decisions made centuries after the Buddha's death in Sri Lanka, with an "extreme argument" that we can't know for sure the date of any sutta (or the source texts) before Buddhaghoṣa, a thousand years after. This would imply that the texual Theravada we know today is a post-Mahayana construction or re-construction in many important aspects. I am sure you are aware of the modern re-invention of Theravadin meditation (drawing on these suttas) in SE Asia so we have a practice that can not be called pre-Mahayanist as well. (This does not mean that the reconstruction got it wrong, of course, or has any reference to the truth or falsity of doctrines or practice).
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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Mkoll »

Caodemarte wrote:
Mkoll wrote: Can you provide a reference for a scholarly work that claims Mahayana clearly predates Theravada?
No, that is why I said there is a strong argument to be made, which is different from claiming that it clearly does predate Theravada, especially as the dates of the Mahayana are unclear.
Since the dates of the Mahayana are unclear, it seems like one could make an equally strong argument that Theravada predates Mahayana. A quick trip to Wikipedia shows Skilton saying that the earliest solid evidence of Mahayana sutras is in the 2nd century CE. It could be argued that the Theravada school existed before that time.
Caodemarte wrote:Part of the argument would be that we only have evidence of Theravada, as a distinct school, existing well after we know that the Mahayana existed as such and no record that Indian Mahayana ever heard of it UNLESS you argue that Theravada really is identical with Sthaviravada (their name means the same thing). However, there is no credible historical evidence of that. There is an ahistorical tendency to refer to every early Buddhist sect as "Theravada" which we can dismiss.

Theravada traditionally claims direct descent from Sthaviravada and sometimes claims to be a pure continuation of Sthaviravada, with no credible evidence of either. However, this is impossible as the Sthaviravada had split up into several sub-schools by the time of Asoka. Hence there was no Sthaviravada as such by the putative 3rd Council, to which Thervada looked back to for inspiration. These sub-schools then further divided with Theravada eventually being formed out of these further divisions. Theravada also went with Pali as its canonical language, while it is unclear that the Sthaviravada had used Pali in its canon.(Skilton, Andrew. A Concise History of Buddhism. 2004. p. 67).

Many scholars look to the Mahāsāṃghika for the initial development of Mahayana. The initial composition and acceptance of Mahāyāna sūtras is linked to the Mahāsāṃghika. (Walser, Joseph. Nāgārjuna in Context: Mahāyāna Buddhism and Early Indian Culture. 2005) Sthavira nikāya and the Mahāsāṃghika nikāya broke apart at the Second Buddhist council with the Mahāsāṃghika apparently retaining the older vinaya (Skilton, p. 48). They eventually formally accepted the early Mahayana sutras into their Tripiṭaka, splitting into three groups based upon the relative manner and degree to which they accepted the authority of Mahāyāna texts. One group did not accept the texts as the "words of the Buddha." (Sree Padma. Barber, Anthony W., Buddhism in the Krishna River Valley of Andhra. 2008. p. 68).

So if we accept the Mahāsāṃghika as part of the Mahayana movement there is a strong argument to be made that Mahayana pre-dates Theravada. It does not mean that it clearly did or did not.

I have added a few quick scholarly references to the earlier note, including the interesting "Suttas as History" by Walters Defining Buddhism(s): A Reader ed. Karen Derris, Natalie Gummer) points out that what we know today as the Theravada suttas and Pali itself are the result of decisions made centuries after the Buddha's death in Sri Lanka, with an "extreme argument" that we can't know for sure the date of any sutta (or the source texts) before Buddhaghoṣa, a thousand years after. This would imply that the texual Theravada we know today is a post-Mahayana construction or re-construction in many important aspects. I am sure you are aware of the modern re-invention of Theravadin meditation (drawing on these suttas) in SE Asia so we have a practice that can not be called pre-Mahayanist as well. (This does not mean that the reconstruction got it wrong, of course, or has any reference to the truth or falsity of doctrines or practice).
Thanks for the references. I'll see if I can get to them and get back to you.

A question though, if you will:

Do you think the Mahayana movement pre-dates the parallel material found in the Pali Nikayas and Chinese Agamas? Or vice-versa: parallel material pre-dating Mahayana movement? Or something else?
Caodemarte wrote:I am sure you are aware of the modern re-invention of Theravadin meditation (drawing on these suttas) in SE Asia so we have a practice that can not be called pre-Mahayanist as well. (This does not mean that the reconstruction got it wrong, of course, or has any reference to the truth or falsity of doctrines or practice).
You'll have to be more specific.
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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by pyluyten »

rachmiel wrote: I'm researching the differences/similarities between the Buddha's and Krishnamurti's teachings
Thanks!
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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by cjmacie »

rachmiel wrote:...What sources are considered by Buddhist scholars to be among "the truest" to the Buddha's actual teachings?
1) Here's an on-line (no cost) PDF of the citation given above (Postby Twilight » Tue Jan 24, 2017 5:35 pm)

The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts by Bhikkhu Sujato & Bhikkhu Brahmali
http://dhammaloka.org.au/files/pdf/authenticity.pdf

It's a well-reasoned and documented apologetic for a contemporary Theravadan view. Here's authors' summary of the book (on page 4):

“Abstract

This work articulates and defends a single thesis: that the Early Buddhist
Texts originated in the lifetime of the Buddha or a little later, because
they were, in the main, spoken by the Buddha and his contemporary disciples.
This is the most simple, natural, and reasonable explanation for the
evidence.

Our argument covers two main areas:
1. The grounds for distinguishing the Early Buddhist Texts (ETBs) from
later Buddhist literature;
2. The evidence that the ETBs stem from close to the Buddha’s lifetime,
and that they were generally spoken by the historical Buddha.

Most academic scholars of Early Buddhism cautiously affirm that it
is possible that the ETBs contain some authentic sayings of the Buddha.
We contend that this drastically understates the evidence. A sympathetic
assessment of relevant evidence shows that it is very likely that the bulk
of the sayings in the ETBs that are attributed to the Buddha were actually
spoken by him. It is very unlikely that most of these sayings are inauthentic.”

2) V. Sujato's more extensive analysis also may pertain, tho it's quite a bit to read:
http://santifm.org/santipada/wp-content ... Sujato.pdf
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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by cjmacie »

David N. Snyder wrote:...This would suggest the way of the bodhisattvayana is a later development...
V. Analayo an analysis of the origins and evolution of "The Genesis of the Bodhisattva Ideal":
http://www.ahandfulofleaves.org/documen ... nalayo.pdf

There's also an in-depth review / critique of this work:
https://www.academia.edu/9631906/Review ... o=download

(The PDF of the book itself is also available at http://www.academia.edu:
https://www.academia.edu/14932433/The_G ... ttva_Ideal)
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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by aflatun »

Great and informative post Caodemarte, a lot to dig into here, thank you!

Caodemarte wrote:
aflatun wrote:
Several of the Mahayana Agamas predate the Pali Nikayas. There is a very strong argument that the Mahayana movement, depending on how you define it, predates Theravada
I'm with Mkoll, if you could direct us to sources on both of these counts that would be great. To be transparent my motivation is genuine interest, not disputation, as I am greatly inspired by much in that tradition and find no conflict with Pali Buddhism (or much that's terribly distinct), so thanks in advance!
I don't have full access to my collection of papers at the moment, but any fairly recent academic work should tell you: Modern academic research seems to have reached a shaky consensus that Mahayana was not originally a distinct sect, but rather a vaguer movement who shared a certain orientation, propagated certain sutra or sutta, and eventually coalesced into a collection of actual distinguishable sects. What particular sutra/sutta, or broader orientation is a matter of debate, and dates are very uncertain. If you pick certain evidence, including the vocabulary in certain inscriptions, Mahayana would clearly predate Theravada (by Theravada I mean the distinct Theravada school, not all early Buddhists who are not clearly Mahayanist as some use the term), but we really have no certain start date.

However, after it jelled into something clearly distinct that indisputably called itself Mahayanist, we have pretty good dates for Mahayana diatribes against the 18 (more or less) non-Mahayana "Hinayana" rivals. Theravada is never mentioned by name. Barring the unlikely selective disappearance of every document mentioning it, this must be because it had little contact with the Mahayana, was not big enough to be a rival, or simply did not exist yet. I tend to go with the last alternative, because if Theravada was a reform movement, as Theravada legends sometimes claim, reacting against and seeking to sweep away what it sees as additions, corruptions, accretions, and elaborations, it would have had to have begun after those claimed distortions began. Not before. If Theravada looks back to the ways of the Elders (Theras), the Elders must predate them. However, in any case there is no sign that I am aware of that early Indian Mahayanists were aware of anything called Theravada.

Since as a distinct movement Theravada claims to have looked back to the 3rd Council (which may or may not have occurred) for inspiration they clearly could not have begun before that date. (Damien Keown's A Dictionary of Buddhism. 2003. pp. 279-280 states there is no historical evidence that the Theravāda school arose until around two centuries after the putative Third Council).

By its own accounts, Theravada seems to have come out of a Sthaviravadin sub-sect and seems to share certain doctrines. This is not the same as saying Theravada is Sthaviravada as some Theravadin legends dubiously claim, but that they were influenced or inspired by or Sthaviravada or were an off-shoot of a sub-sect seems likely. Sadly, there is zero actual evidence for this apart from one obviously forged Sri Lankan history.

Then we suddenly get hard dates when Theravada goes into or gets invited by the court to Sri Lanka, Thailand, and elsewhere it is to replace Tantric Buddhists. We have good dates for that, especially in Sri Lanka. This is obviously long past the establishment of Mahayana Buddhism. Theravada must have existed before it leaves evidence for its existence, but the only reliable dates we have for Theravada are indisputably after the Mahayana. "Suttas as History" by Walters Defining Buddhism(s): A Reader ed. Karen Derris, Natalie Gummer) points out that the Theravadin suttas and Pali itself as known today are the result of decisions made centuries after the Buddha's death in Sri Lanka, with an "extreme argument" that we can't know for sure the date of any sutta before Buddhaghoṣa, a thousand years after. So the Theravada we know today is clearly a post-Mahayana construction in many important aspects.

Hence there is a good argument that Mahayanism was around before Theravada. There is no evidence that the Theravada, as a distinct school, existed before the Mahayana.

Of course, there is no conclusive evidence of any of these historical argument. Again, this is of historical interest only. It does not tell you which sect or sub-sect is "right."
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Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

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Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
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There is no nature of the world."

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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Caodemarte »

Mkoll wrote:...
Since the dates of the Mahayana are unclear, it seems like one could make an equally strong argument that Theravada predates Mahayana. A quick trip to Wikipedia shows Skilton saying that the earliest solid evidence of Mahayana sutras is in the 2nd century CE. It could be argued that the Theravada school existed before that time....
Caodemarte wrote:I am sure you are aware of the modern re-invention of Theravadin meditation (drawing on these suttas) in SE Asia so we have a practice that can not be called pre-Mahayanist as well. (This does not mean that the reconstruction got it wrong, of course, or has any reference to the truth or falsity of doctrines or practice).
You'll have to be more specific.
Sure, you can make a strong argument either way, partially because this period is pretty hazy. More importantly, we have to remember that everything changes (not a surprise for Buddhists!) in an organic process. To understand this process we are imposing often artificial and abstract divisions, but history cannot be frozen.

Vipassana meditation and other forms of Buddhist meditation had been almost completely lost in the Theravada world (there does appear to be a survival of a Hindu Tantric form of meditation). From the early 1800s, partially as a nationalist reaction to Western penetration, self conscious reform movement reconstructed specifically Buddhist meditation, mostly if not exclusively, from rather vague descriptions in Pali scripture and commentary, refined by experimentation. They also wanted to open up meditation for the lay. There were also social reforms that changed the role of the monk in village and national life, but that is a different story.

There have several books published on this, but a quick overall view of the rejuvenation or reinvention of meditation can be found at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vipassana_movement. I believe this has also been discussed on this forum in various places.

This does not mean that anything here is inauthentic or "not real," just that we can't say that modern Theravada is some kind of "pure" Buddhism that was frozen in time in the early days. That would mean it would be a stuffed dead thing on our mantels as a decoration and no use to anyone. How awful that would be!
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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Caodemarte »

If you have not already seen this and are interested https://ahandfulofleaves.files.wordpres ... n-keat.pdf is an interesting comparative (not historical) study of the Sutranga portion of the Pali Sarpyutta-Nikaya and the Chinese Sarpyuktagama in the hope of clarifying early Buddhist thought. But you might want to also read Analayo's critique or addition to that at https://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg ... ali-mn.pdf
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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Mkoll »

Thank you. I appreciate all the links!
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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Coëmgenu »

Mkoll wrote:
Caodemarte wrote:Several of the Mahayana Agamas predate the Pali Nikayas.
Would you mind providing some references for this? Thanks.
I hope I am not unwelcome barging in here to contribute my two cents in this subdiscussion concerning āgama-nikāya parallels, and "Early Buddhism", if indirectly.

If this is too off-topic, I will perhaps move this to a different thread, or a moderator can, either way.

The Āgamas are older scripture (see A History of Indian Buddhism: From Śākyamuni to Early Mahāyāna, by Akira Hirakawa, p 38), but that doesn't mean they are any "righter" than the nikāyas. These two collections of literature are also from diverse geographies. Just because a sect in so-and-so province of India dedicated their remembered Buddhavacana to text sooner than a sect in this-or-that province did, doesn't have any bearing on which retention of the Buddhavacana is truer than the other.

Certain āgamas are also believed by the "Early Buddhism" crowd to contain late Mahāyāna elaborations, particularly in the case of the Sarvāstivāda or Mahāsāṃghika Ekottarāgama.

Consider this passage:
聞如是: 一時,佛在舍衛國祇樹給孤獨 園。
[Heard thus truly: one time, Buddha dwelt [at] Śrāvāstī [in] Jetavana.

爾時,世尊告諸比丘:「阿練比丘當修行 二法。
at that-time, [the] Blessed One told [the] manifold monks: “O [the] practicing monk inherits cultivation execution [of] two dharmāḥ.

云何二法?所謂止與觀也。
to-speak-of-which two dharmāḥ? So called śamatha and vipaśyanā definitely.

[skipping quite a bit for brevity…]

「過去諸多薩阿竭、阿羅訶、三耶 三佛,皆由此二法而得成就。
“in-the past [a] manifold variety [of] beings put-forth-great-effort, arhat, samyaksaṃbuddha, all-of-these follow these two dharmāḥ and accomplish [the] undertaking.

所以然者,猶 如菩薩坐樹王下時,先思惟此法止與觀 也。
Therefore thus [are] these, / still for-example bodhisattvāḥ dwelling [by the] tree king under-him at-this-time, [who] first cognize these [two] dharmāḥ[,] śamatha and vipaśyanā[,] definitely.

若菩薩摩訶薩得止已,便能降伏魔怨;
Thus bodhisattvāḥ mahāsattvāḥ attain śamatha completely, [and are] immediately able [to] decrease downwards [i.e. conquer] Māra [the] enemy;

若復菩薩得觀已,尋成三達智,成無上至 真、等正覺。
Thus furthermore bodhisattvāḥ attain vipaśyanā definitely, [they] seek [to] accomplish three achievements [of] wisdom, [to] complete nothing higher[,] [to] arrive [at] truth, [the] rank [of] complete awakening.

是故,諸比丘!阿練比丘當求方 便,行此二法。
[For] this reason/cause, [O] many monks! O [the] practicing monk inherits [the] searching methodology immediately, competent [of] these two dharmāḥ.

如是,諸比丘!當作是學。」
Like this, manifold monks! Regard this [as your] study.”

爾時, 諸比丘聞佛所說,歡喜奉行。
At that-time, [the] manifold monks heard [from] Buddha what-was taught, [and] blissfully rejoiced[,] respectfully practicing [it].
(EA 20.7, SuttaCentral translation here)

This āgama features relatively unambiguous reference to 菩薩摩訶薩 / pú sà mó hē sà / bodhisattva mahāsattva, which is a term which is (I think) much more common in Mahāyāna literature than Pāli, though I am aware of a usage of the term Bodhisattva used in the Pāli Canon to denote past lives of the Buddha.

Thích Huyên-Vi & Bhikkhu Pāsādika, the translators at SuttaCentral, seemed to have wanted to interpret the passage in question as the Buddha referring to himself before or immediately before awakening, under the "King of Trees" (Bodhi Tree?):
and thus also the Bodhisattva when sitting under the King of Trees,
but IMO the passage is sufficiently ambiguous as that it could refer easily also to the Buddha as the "King" of the tree and the present sāvakasaṅgha as bodhisattvāḥ mahāsattvāḥ gathered under the king of the tree hearing the Buddha/King expound śamathavipaśyanā/samathavipassanā.

The SuttaCentral translation offers a window into an interpretation that is in line with present orthodoxies surrounding postulated "Early Buddhisms", but EA 20.7 contains enough unusual features as to mark it as a late insertion by the metric of some scholars, and not necessarily an "Early Buddhist Text" at all, or at least an altered one. There is nothing overtly different about the text. If you view manuscripts collections of the Ekottarāgama, nothing seems blatantly inserted, yet the content of the āgama is at odds with contemporary dating of when Bodhisattvayāna first developed in latent proto-Mahāyāna. Either the Bodhisattvayāna is older than thought, this passage does not refer to Bodhisattvayāna but merely seems to, or, this passage is a later insertion into older material. Many scholars are persuaded by the last possibility as being most likely, some are not.

I hope I am not overindulging myself on this forum by making such involved posts, but there is another example that is pertinent to this discussion concerning āgamas and whether or not they are a "more authentic" source on account of the belief that they contain mostly older Buddhavanaca-derived materials from an earlier Buddhism, it is EA 27.5:
聞如是: 一時,佛在舍衛國祇樹給孤獨 園。
wén rú shì: yī shí, fó zài shè wèi guó zhǐ shù gū dú yuān.
Heard thus truly: one time, Buddha dwelt [at] Śrāvastī [in] Jetavana.

爾時,彌勒菩薩至如來所,頭面禮足,在 一面坐。
ěr shí, mí lè pú sà zhì rú lái suǒ, tóu miàn lǐ zù, zài yī miàn zuò.
At that-time, Maitreya Bodhisattva came [to the] Tathāgata's location, head facing [downward] bowing [from the] foot [i.e. prostrating or hiding his feet], [then] beside [the Buddha] [to] one side sat.

爾時,彌勒菩薩白世尊言:
At that-time, Maitreya Bodhisattva addressed [the] Bhagavān saying:

「菩薩摩訶薩成就幾法,而行檀波羅蜜,
"[Do] Bodhisattvāḥ Mahāsattvāḥ accomplish myriad dharmāḥ, and perform dānapāramitā,

具足六 波羅蜜,疾成無上正真之道?」
possess [the] path [of] six pāramitāḥ, swiftly accomplish nothing higher correctly [and] truly[,] [the] path? [i.e. swiftly accomplish the path correctly and truly as to that "nothing higher" is left to attain. Later Mahāyānasūtrāṇi, like the Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra, use this terminology, "nothing higher" or anuttarā, in numerous places, such as in the word anuttarāsamyaksaṃbodhi.]
The passage in question then goes on to explore the other five pāramitāḥ and have the Buddha agree with Maitreya Bodhisattva's questioning of if the Buddha approves of practice of the six pāramitāḥ (dāna, śīla, kṣānti, vīrya, dhyāna, & prajñāpāramitā) as a path to awakening.

There are also references to pāramitāḥ that are very unique in the āgama literature:
是名比丘根波羅蜜因緣知果波羅蜜,
This [is] called monks [the] origination pāramitā[,] causes [and] conditions[,] knowledge [of this is the] origination pāramitā,

果波羅蜜因緣知人波羅蜜。
[The] origination pāramitā[,] causes [and] conditions[,] knowledge [of this] is self/personhood pāramitā.
(SA 653, 成 / chéng, "Accomplishment")

The phrase "人波羅蜜 / rénbōluómì / person(hood)-pāramitā" that occus in this last āgama might be related to the late Mahāyāna post-Madhyamaka positivist framing of Buddhahood/Nibbāna by Tathāgatagarbha-influenced trends in thinking, such as the trends that influenced the genesis of the contemporary Mahāyānamahāparinirvāṇasūtra, which declares the buddhadhātu to be "eternity, selfhood, purity, and bliss" (with many caveats), and as such some scholars are wont to consider this conceptual similarity to constitute sufficient evidence of an insertion of Tathāgatagarbha doctrinal material into an original āgama, if not the entire āgama in question, SA 653, being a late addition to the literature altogether.

So in relation to the post being responded to, many scholars believe that the āgamas, in general, are from an older source than the nikāyas, but many scholars also believe that they have, like the nikāyas, undergone reform over time as collections of suttas, some being newer than others, some having insertions or deletions, etc, just like the nikāyas.
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Sat Jan 28, 2017 4:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
Then, the monks sang this gāthā:

These bodies are like foam.
Them being frail, who can rejoice in them?
The Buddha attained the vajra-body.
Still, it becomes inconstant and rots.
The many Buddhas are vajra-entities.
All are also subject to inconstancy.
Quickly ended, like melting snow --
how could things be different?

The Buddha passed into parinirvāṇa afterward.

(T1.27b10 Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra DĀ 2)
Caodemarte
Posts: 1092
Joined: Fri May 01, 2015 3:21 pm

Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Caodemarte »

The Chinese Agamas are often (usually?) from different particular sectarian sources (as well as different languages) than the particular sectarian sources of the Theravada. Sometimes they are very close, if not identical,sometimes they are different. It is very difficult to argue if so-called elaborations are additions farther from the original, or an unpurged text, closer to the original.

As noted, this has nothing to do with the "rightness" of any text or imply that somehow Buddhists did not know or distorted Buddhism or the historical Buddha's teachings. The last implication is often accompanied by the assertion that moderns can "correct" or "understand" Buddhism, strangely in a way that exactly fits current beliefs.
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