The Buddhist canon is not a closed canon.

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
zan
Posts: 1122
Joined: Sun Aug 28, 2016 1:57 pm

The Buddhist canon is not a closed canon.

Post by zan »

The Buddhist canon is not a closed canon.
Last edited by zan on Wed Jan 13, 2021 5:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I am just a learner. Keep that in mind when you read my words.

Just to be safe, assume all of my words could be incorrect. Look to an arahant for total accuracy and confirmation.
User avatar
confusedlayman
Posts: 3951
Joined: Fri Jun 21, 2019 12:16 am
Location: Human Realm (as of now)

Re: The Buddhist canon is not a closed canon.

Post by confusedlayman »

zan wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 5:00 pm The Buddhist canon is not a closed canon.

To me this would seem to mean that texts could still be added. To make such a broad statement it would also seem that this must apply to all the major schools meaning that the Mahayana tripitaka can be added to with new texts today, the same for the Vajrayana tripitaka and of course the Theravada tipitaka.

So someone could come up with a text that has zero evidence of having come from the time of the Buddha and all Scholars agree that it is highly improbable if not impossible that it came from the time of the Buddha and it could be added to the canon.

Or at the very least that there would be zero definition for any of the various Tripitakas and the Tipitaka of which texts are accepted and which are rejected. In which case no real lines between schools texts could be delineated and we would just have to call all the schools one big blob of "the Buddhist textual tradition."

Thoughts?
















Someone said this to me and I I was dumbfounded. I am a hundred percent sure that the Theravada Canon at least is closed, and I'm fairly certain the Mahayana Canon is as well. I think it's possible the Vajrayana canon might have some wiggle room there but I doubt that too.

Even if one of the major schools has a closed Canon the statement could not be made correctly that the Buddhist canon is not a closed Canon.

Can anyone confirm?
whatever 84000 teaching given by buddha or arhants is described as such.. later teaching are described as later teaching category which includes Thai monks pdf, visudhimagga and even vimutimagga etc...
I may be slow learner but im at least learning...
zan
Posts: 1122
Joined: Sun Aug 28, 2016 1:57 pm

Re: The Buddhist canon is not a closed canon.

Post by zan »

confusedlayman wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 5:17 pm
zan wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 5:00 pm The Buddhist canon is not a closed canon.

To me this would seem to mean that texts could still be added. To make such a broad statement it would also seem that this must apply to all the major schools meaning that the Mahayana tripitaka can be added to with new texts today, the same for the Vajrayana tripitaka and of course the Theravada tipitaka.

So someone could come up with a text that has zero evidence of having come from the time of the Buddha and all Scholars agree that it is highly improbable if not impossible that it came from the time of the Buddha and it could be added to the canon.

Or at the very least that there would be zero definition for any of the various Tripitakas and the Tipitaka of which texts are accepted and which are rejected. In which case no real lines between schools texts could be delineated and we would just have to call all the schools one big blob of "the Buddhist textual tradition."

Thoughts?
















Someone said this to me and I I was dumbfounded. I am a hundred percent sure that the Theravada Canon at least is closed, and I'm fairly certain the Mahayana Canon is as well. I think it's possible the Vajrayana canon might have some wiggle room there but I doubt that too.

Even if one of the major schools has a closed Canon the statement could not be made correctly that the Buddhist canon is not a closed Canon.

Can anyone confirm?
whatever 84000 teaching given by buddha or arhants is described as such.. later teaching are described as later teaching category which includes Thai monks pdf, visudhimagga and even vimutimagga etc...
Thank you. Could you please tell me where it is described as closed?
I am just a learner. Keep that in mind when you read my words.

Just to be safe, assume all of my words could be incorrect. Look to an arahant for total accuracy and confirmation.
zan
Posts: 1122
Joined: Sun Aug 28, 2016 1:57 pm

Re: The Buddhist canon is not a closed canon.

Post by zan »

To me this would seem to mean that texts could still be added. To make such a broad statement it would also seem that this must apply to all the major schools meaning that the Mahayana tripitaka can be added to with new texts today, the same for the Vajrayana tripitaka and of course the Theravada tipitaka.

So someone could come up with a text that has zero evidence of having come from the time of the Buddha and all Scholars agree that it is highly improbable if not impossible that it came from the time of the Buddha and it could be added to the canon.

Or at the very least that there would be zero definition for any of the various Tripitakas and the Tipitaka of which texts are accepted and which are rejected. In which case no real lines between schools texts could be delineated and we would just have to call all the schools one big blob of "the Buddhist textual tradition."

Someone said this to me and I I was dumbfounded. I am a hundred percent sure that the Theravada Canon at least is closed, and I'm fairly certain the Mahayana Canon is as well. I think it's possible the Vajrayana canon might have some wiggle room there but I doubt that too.

Even if one of the major schools has a closed Canon the statement could not be made correctly that the Buddhist canon is not a closed Canon.

Can anyone confirm?
I am just a learner. Keep that in mind when you read my words.

Just to be safe, assume all of my words could be incorrect. Look to an arahant for total accuracy and confirmation.
User avatar
confusedlayman
Posts: 3951
Joined: Fri Jun 21, 2019 12:16 am
Location: Human Realm (as of now)

Re: The Buddhist canon is not a closed canon.

Post by confusedlayman »

zan wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 5:22 pm
confusedlayman wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 5:17 pm
zan wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 5:00 pm The Buddhist canon is not a closed canon.

To me this would seem to mean that texts could still be added. To make such a broad statement it would also seem that this must apply to all the major schools meaning that the Mahayana tripitaka can be added to with new texts today, the same for the Vajrayana tripitaka and of course the Theravada tipitaka.

So someone could come up with a text that has zero evidence of having come from the time of the Buddha and all Scholars agree that it is highly improbable if not impossible that it came from the time of the Buddha and it could be added to the canon.

Or at the very least that there would be zero definition for any of the various Tripitakas and the Tipitaka of which texts are accepted and which are rejected. In which case no real lines between schools texts could be delineated and we would just have to call all the schools one big blob of "the Buddhist textual tradition."

Thoughts?
















Someone said this to me and I I was dumbfounded. I am a hundred percent sure that the Theravada Canon at least is closed, and I'm fairly certain the Mahayana Canon is as well. I think it's possible the Vajrayana canon might have some wiggle room there but I doubt that too.

Even if one of the major schools has a closed Canon the statement could not be made correctly that the Buddhist canon is not a closed Canon.

Can anyone confirm?
whatever 84000 teaching given by buddha or arhants is described as such.. later teaching are described as later teaching category which includes Thai monks pdf, visudhimagga and even vimutimagga etc...
Thank you. Could you please tell me where it is described as closed?
in whatever discourse it starts with buddha and other members, it happens in buddhas time
I may be slow learner but im at least learning...
User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 3420
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm
Location: Whitby, Canada

Re: The Buddhist canon is not a closed canon.

Post by Coëmgenu »

The Vajrayana canon is not closed, because there is room for "discovered texts" (termas) which are "discovered" by professional "text-discoverers" (tertons).

The history of this practice lies in the geography of Tibet. Why do we have almost no Buddhist manuscripts compared to the amount of "Buddhist history" that has happened on this earth? The climate of India, particularly southern India, is not conducive to paper surviving time. It is too wet and rainy. The paper rots and disintegrates. This is why the oldest Buddhist manuscripts are from China.

Compare this with the Middle East, where we have very old documents from first century Palestine and Egypt. The dryness literally allows papers to survive where they would not otherwise. The Qumram library was a barn for a while. Sheep were living in it, yet many so-called "Dead Sea Scrolls" survive from that library. We have very few documents from the same time period in India.

The mountains of the Himalayas are a lot like the desert. Similarly, the mountains of the Himalayas are where outcaste religions often go to die after they have been cast out of India and China. We have found Manichaean manuscripts in Himalayan mountains, also manuscripts from completely unknown religions. Some of them are in unknown scripts/languages as well.

Eventually, a practice formed of finding these monastic mountain-cave libraries and "revealing" texts from them. Maybe the texts are Buddhist. Maybe they are Manichaean or something, but they are "texts." The Chokling Tersar is a collection of such texts "found" in the 1800s. Now, whether they were "found" or not is an open question, but the geography of Tibet and the climate explains how the practice of "finding texts" can grow out of the actual practice of really finding texts in the mountains.

UNPOPULAR OPINION: If we start to crack open the stūpas and caityas of Southeast Asia, I'm thinking of Myanmar-Burma in particular, they likely have all sorts of historical manuscripts in them preserved from damage over time. Putting sūtras in stūpas is a practice that well-predates Mahāyāna Buddhism. Problem is, you damage a historically priceless and important building...
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Wed Jan 13, 2021 7:03 pm, edited 5 times 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)
User avatar
SDC
Posts: 6584
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: The Buddhist canon is not a closed canon.

Post by SDC »

Of course it's not.
"As fruits fall from the tree, so people too,
Both young and old, fall when this body breaks." - Raṭṭhapāla (MN 82)
Pārāpariya | Phussa | Subhā of Jīvaka’s Mango Grove | Kappa
coffeendonuts
Posts: 116
Joined: Thu Dec 17, 2020 6:26 pm

Re: The Buddhist canon is not a closed canon.

Post by coffeendonuts »

Coëmgenu wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 5:59 pm...the mountains of the Himalayas are where outcaste religions often go to die after they have been cast out of India and China
Politics...

Packed into those "outcast religions" were probably the most interesting thoughts in human history.
User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 3420
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm
Location: Whitby, Canada

Re: The Buddhist canon is not a closed canon.

Post by Coëmgenu »

The Gnostic religions of Western late antiquity, Manichaeism, the Sethite religion, Mandaeism, Valentinian Christianity, etc., are all very fascinating and were very persecuted by Christian Rome and later by the Caliphates. I am an avid reader of anything to do with authentic Gnosticism from Greco-Egyptian antiquity.

Termas however...

I've read a few. I wasn't impressed. The "most interesting thoughts in human history" they were not. They read like Nostradamus more than anything. I won't judge all of them based on that but that's my experience.
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)
sphairos
Posts: 208
Joined: Mon Jun 21, 2010 4:37 am

Re: The Buddhist canon is not a closed canon.

Post by sphairos »

Coëmgenu wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 5:59 pm This is why the oldest Buddhist manuscripts are from China.
You are very wrong about that : the oldest Buddhist manuscripts are from modern Afghanistan and Western Pakistan, from the area known as Gandhāra.

They are 2000 years old, dated by the radiocarbon method, and are in the middle Indian language Gāndhārī.

Here is a good overview.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gandh%C4% ... hist_texts
How good and wonderful are your days,
How true are your ways?
User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 3420
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm
Location: Whitby, Canada

Re: The Buddhist canon is not a closed canon.

Post by Coëmgenu »

sphairos wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 7:09 pm
Coëmgenu wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 5:59 pm This is why the oldest Buddhist manuscripts are from China.
You are very wrong about that : the oldest Buddhist manuscripts are from modern Afghanistan and Western Pakistan, from the area known as Gandhāra.
You are quite right. I should have and meant to say manuscript editions of complete Buddhist canons rather than manuscripts en toto. I was also thinking about the Koreana Tripitaka and Dunhuang manuscripts and forgetting about the Gilgit find entirely. And this is someone with a linguistic interest in Gāndhārī. Very embarrassing! I'll live though.

You will notice though that Gandhāra is quite drier than most of India, especially the south.
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)
coconut
Posts: 832
Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2020 8:10 am

Re: The Buddhist canon is not a closed canon.

Post by coconut »

It closed when the Buddha reached parinibbana. If you can prove that a text came from that time, then yes, it is acceptable.
User avatar
DNS
Site Admin
Posts: 13647
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 4:15 am
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, Estados Unidos de América
Contact:

Re: The Buddhist canon is not a closed canon.

Post by DNS »

IIRC, it's only in an official Buddhist Council where new texts can be added, for Theravada. There have been 4 official Councils and two more in the last couple of hundred years which are unofficial.

In one of the two recent ones, the Milinda Panha was added to the Burmese Tipitaka. However, that is not accepted as Canon among all Theravada traditions or nations.

I think I heard that a Council must contain all arahants, which is why there haven't been any new (official) councils since the 4th council in the First Century BCE.

Today most believe there are only a few arahants in present time, at the most, not enough for a Council.

https://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?ti ... t_councils
zan
Posts: 1122
Joined: Sun Aug 28, 2016 1:57 pm

Re: The Buddhist canon is not a closed canon.

Post by zan »

SDC wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 6:00 pm Of course it's not.
Could you please elaborate and provide sources?
I am just a learner. Keep that in mind when you read my words.

Just to be safe, assume all of my words could be incorrect. Look to an arahant for total accuracy and confirmation.
zan
Posts: 1122
Joined: Sun Aug 28, 2016 1:57 pm

Re: The Buddhist canon is not a closed canon.

Post by zan »

DNS wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 9:45 pm IIRC, it's only in an official Buddhist Council where new texts can be added, for Theravada. There have been 4 official Councils and two more in the last couple of hundred years which are unofficial.

In one of the two recent ones, the Milinda Panha was added to the Burmese Tipitaka. However, that is not accepted as Canon among all Theravada traditions or nations.

I think I heard that a Council must contain all arahants, which is why there haven't been any new (official) councils since the 4th council in the First Century BCE.

Today most believe there are only a few arahants in present time, at the most, not enough for a Council.

https://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?ti ... t_councils
Thank you. So the Pali Canon, then, is not closed?

So this would mean, with respect to only the Theravada, that, hypothetically, the Pali Canon could double in size at any given time, so long as a council is held?

The description of the most recent council and the one right before it sound like they were making sure no new info was added and clearing up any errors. Preservation (which to me leans toward keeping old and rejecting new texts), as opposed to addition. The Milinda Panha notwithstanding, since it was part of a Theravada canon already, and so combining canons is different than, for example, the Tibetan practice of discovering brand new material and including that too.
Theravada Buddhist council in 1871 (Fifth Buddhist Council)
Main article: Fifth Buddhist council
Another Buddhist Council, this time presided by Theravada monks took place in Mandalay, Burma, in 1871 in the reign of King Mindon. The chief objective of this meeting was to recite all the teachings of the Buddha and examine them in minute detail to see if any of them had been altered, distorted or dropped. It was presided over by three Elders, the Venerable Mahathera Jagarabhivamsa, the Venerable Narindabhidhaja, and the Venerable Mahathera Sumangalasami in the company of some two thousand four hundred monks (2,400). Their joint Dhamma recitation lasted for five months. It was also the work of this council to approve the entire Tripitaka inscribed for posterity on seven hundred and twenty-nine marble slabs in the Burmese script before its recitation.[23] This monumental task was done by the monks and many skilled craftsmen who upon completion of each slab had them housed in beautiful miniature 'pitaka' pagodas on a special site in the grounds of King Mindon's Kuthodaw Pagoda at the foot of Mandalay Hill where it and the so-called 'largest book in the world', stands to this day. This Council is not generally recognized outside Burma.[24]

Theravada Buddhist council in 1954 (Sixth Buddhist Council)
Main article: Sixth Buddhist council

The Sixth Buddhist Council
The Sixth Council was called at Kaba Aye in Yangon (formerly Rangoon) in 1954, 83 years after the fifth one was held in Mandalay. It was sponsored by the Burmese Government led by the then Prime Minister, the Honourable U Nu. He authorized the construction of the Maha Passana Guha, the "great cave", an artificial cave very much like India's Sattapanni Cave where the first Buddhist Council had been held. Upon its completion The Council met on 17 May 1954.

As in the case of the preceding councils, its first objective was to affirm and preserve the genuine Dhamma and Vinaya. However it was unique insofar as the monks who took part in it came from eight countries. These two thousand five hundred learned Theravada monks came from Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, India, and Nepal. Germany can only be counted as the nationality of the only two western monks in attendance: Venerable Nyanatiloka Mahathera and Venerable Nyanaponika Thera. They both were invited from Sri Lanka. The late Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw was appointed the noble task of asking the required questions about the Dhamma of the Venerable Bhadanta Vicittasarabhivamsa who answered all of them learnedly and satisfactorily. By the time this council met all the participating countries had had the Pali Tripiṭaka rendered into their native scripts, with the exception of India.[25]

The traditional recitation of the Buddhist Scriptures took two years and the Tripiṭaka and its allied literature in all the scripts were painstakingly examined and their differences noted down and the necessary corrections made and all the versions were then collated. It was found that there was not much difference in the content of any of the texts. Finally, after the Council had officially approved them, all of the books of the Tipitaka and their commentaries were prepared for printing on modern presses and published in the Burmese script. This notable achievement was made possible through the dedicated efforts of the two thousand five hundred monks and numerous lay people. Their work came to an end on the evening of Vesak, 24 May 1956, exactly two and a half millennia after Buddha's Parinibbana, according to the traditional Theravada dating.

-Wikipedia
I am just a learner. Keep that in mind when you read my words.

Just to be safe, assume all of my words could be incorrect. Look to an arahant for total accuracy and confirmation.
Post Reply