Whose Buddhism is the "truest"?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
Santi253
Posts: 982
Joined: Thu May 11, 2017 4:37 am
Contact:

Whose Buddhism is the "truest"?

Post by Santi253 »

This article in Tricycle on the Gandharan manuscripts called into the question the idea that any school of Buddhism surviving today can exclusively claim to have the historical Buddha's teachings:
https://www.spiritrock.org/document.doc?id=5336
Here is where I clicked Rewind: these newly found manuscripts, he declared, strike the coup de grâce to a traditional conception of Buddhism’s past that has been disintegrating for decades. It is now clear that none of the existing Buddhist collections of early Indian scriptures—not the Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese, nor
even the Gandhari—“can be privileged as the most authentic or original words of the Buddha.”. . .

Cox suggests that “rather than asking the question what single language did the Buddha use and what
represents the earliest version of his teachings, we might have to accept that from the very beginning
there were various accounts of his teachings, different sutras, and different versions of sutras transmitted
in different areas. At the very beginning we might have a number of different sources, all of whom
represent or claim to represent the teaching of the Buddha.”

Cox emphasizes that the Gandharan Buddhism is clearly not a “rebel offshoot” of the Pali canon but its own entirely localized strand— unique, but not unrelated. Early Buddhists in different regions shared many texts in common. Clearly, Buddhist monks of different language traditions in early India were in contact, and they traded ideas and influenced each other in complex ways.
https://www.spiritrock.org/document.doc?id=5336
Also, the oldest manuscripts of the Lotus Sutra are among the oldest manuscripts in the world:
The Gilgit manuscripts[34] were nominated[35] in 2006 to be included on the UNESCO Memory of the World register, but without success. The Gilgit manuscripts are among the oldest manuscripts in the world, and the oldest manuscript collection surviving in Pakistan,[34] having major significance in the areas of Buddhist studies and the evolution of Asian and Sanskrit literature. The manuscripts are believed to have been written in the 5th to 6th centuries AD, though some more manuscripts were discovered in the succeeding centuries, which were also classified as Gilgit manuscripts.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilgit#Gilgit_manuscripts
We can contrast this with the Pali scriptures:
The climate of Theravāda countries is not conducive to the survival of manuscripts. Apart from brief quotations in inscriptions and a two-page fragment from the eighth or ninth century found in Nepal, the oldest manuscripts known are from late in the fifteenth century,[53] and there is not very much from before the eighteenth.[54]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C4%81li ... anuscripts
Recent scholarship has suggested that the oldest Mahayana sutras were not much different doctrinally from the scriptures which came previously, except for their emphasis on the Bodhisattva path:
http://enlight.lib.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/ ... 386266.pdf

As explained by Rev. Walpola Rahula below, the essential difference between Mahayana and Theravada is that Mahayana developed a separate body of literature dedicated to the Bodhisattva path, while Theravada did not. The Bodhisattva path is not unique to Mahayana Buddhism:
http://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebdha126.htm

Sadly, there are some who don't recognize Mahayana as a legitimate Buddhist path. The more one learns about the history and doctrines of Mahayana Buddhism, the harder it is to reject its legitimacy as an equal expression of the Buddha's teachings:
https://dhammawiki.com/index.php?title= ... d_Mahayana

May you be happy and well. :anjali:
Last edited by Santi253 on Tue May 30, 2017 4:54 am, edited 9 times in total.
Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. - Mahatma Gandhi

http://www.matthewsatori.tumblr.com
Alexander____
Posts: 96
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2015 2:21 pm
Location: London, UK

Re: Whose Buddhism is the "truest"?

Post by Alexander____ »

Thanks for that post. Very interesting.
Santi253
Posts: 982
Joined: Thu May 11, 2017 4:37 am
Contact:

Re: Whose Buddhism is the "truest"?

Post by Santi253 »

Alexander____ wrote:Thanks for that post. Very interesting.
Thank you. I don't mean to give the impression that one school or sect of Buddhism is "superior" to another. Instead, they are all rooted in the Buddha's original teachings:
John W. Pettit, while stating, "Mahayana has not got a strong historical claim for representing the explicit teachings of the historical Buddha", also argues that the basic concepts of Mahayana do occur in the Pāli Canon and that this suggests that Mahayana is "not simply an accretion of fabricated doctrines" but "has a strong connection with the teachings of Buddha himself".[16]

Mahayana has not got a strong historical claim for representing the explicit teachings of the historical Buddha; its scriptures evince a gradual development of doctrines over several hundred years. However, the basic concepts of Mahayana, such as the bodhisattva ethic, emptiness (sunyata), and the recognition of a distinction between buddhahood and arhatship as spiritual ideals, are known from the earliest sources available in the Pali canon. This suggests that Mahayana was not simply an accretion of fabricated doctrines, as it is sometimes accused of being, but has a strong connection with the teachings of Buddha himself.[16]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahayana_sutras
While the Mahayana sutras may not be word-for-word the historical discourses of the Buddha, the basic concepts go back to the historical Buddha. The Pali suttas are not the word-for-word discourses of the historical Buddha either, especially since the Buddha didn't speak Pali.
Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. - Mahatma Gandhi

http://www.matthewsatori.tumblr.com
User avatar
cappuccino
Posts: 5859
Joined: Thu Feb 11, 2016 1:45 am

Re: Whose Buddhism is the "truest"?

Post by cappuccino »

Close enough.
Last edited by cappuccino on Tue May 30, 2017 2:20 am, edited 5 times in total.
"All men's souls are immortal, but the souls of the righteous are immortal and divine." -Socrates
Good for Your Soul
R1111 = rightviewftw
Posts: 1019
Joined: Thu Nov 12, 2015 4:17 am

Re: Whose Buddhism is the "truest"?

Post by R1111 = rightviewftw »

Santi253 wrote: While the Mahayana sutras may not be word-for-word the historical discourses of the Buddha, the basic concepts go back to the historical Buddha. The Pali suttas are not the word-for-word discourses of the historical Buddha either, especially since the Buddha didn't speak Pali.
Why do you keep trying to legitimize the Mahayana?
Santi253
Posts: 982
Joined: Thu May 11, 2017 4:37 am
Contact:

Re: Whose Buddhism is the "truest"?

Post by Santi253 »

R1111 wrote:
Santi253 wrote: While the Mahayana sutras may not be word-for-word the historical discourses of the Buddha, the basic concepts go back to the historical Buddha. The Pali suttas are not the word-for-word discourses of the historical Buddha either, especially since the Buddha didn't speak Pali.
Why do you keep trying to legitimize the Mahayana?
Santi253 wrote: As far as I know, this sub-forum is intended for "Connections to Other Paths," not just flipping crap at other paths. :anjali:
Santi253 wrote:I don't mean to give the impression that one school or sect of Buddhism is "superior" to another. Instead, they are all rooted in the Buddha's original teachings...
Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. - Mahatma Gandhi

http://www.matthewsatori.tumblr.com
Santi253
Posts: 982
Joined: Thu May 11, 2017 4:37 am
Contact:

Re: Whose Buddhism is the "truest"?

Post by Santi253 »

cappuccino wrote:Why worry about this...
The only thing we have to worry about is the negative effects of dogmatic sectarianism:
https://dhammawiki.com/index.php?title= ... d_Mahayana

From a textual perspective, Theravada exclusivism is spurious:
Santi253 wrote:
The climate of Theravāda countries is not conducive to the survival of manuscripts. Apart from brief quotations in inscriptions and a two-page fragment from the eighth or ninth century found in Nepal, the oldest manuscripts known are from late in the fifteenth century,[53] and there is not very much from before the eighteenth.[54]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C4%81li ... anuscripts
A component of right view is non-attachment to views, which includes non-attachment to blindly sectarian attitudes.
Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. - Mahatma Gandhi

http://www.matthewsatori.tumblr.com
Santi253
Posts: 982
Joined: Thu May 11, 2017 4:37 am
Contact:

Re: Whose Buddhism is the "truest"?

Post by Santi253 »

In the true spirit of building connections between paths:
Santi253 wrote:May all forum members be happy.
May they be joyous and live in safety.
All forum members, whether weak or strong,
In high or middle or low realms of existence,
Small or great, visible or invisible,
Near or far, born or to be born,
May all forum members be happy.
Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. - Mahatma Gandhi

http://www.matthewsatori.tumblr.com
Santi253
Posts: 982
Joined: Thu May 11, 2017 4:37 am
Contact:

Re: Whose Buddhism is the "truest"?

Post by Santi253 »

Recent scholarship has suggested that the oldest Mahayana sutras were not much different doctrinally from the scriptures which came previously, except for their emphasis on the Bodhisattva path:
Further conceptual overlap between the Rāṣṭrapāla and the
Buddhist mainstream is indicated by its complete lack of doctrinal
innovation (a feature shared by other early Mahāyāna sutras such as the
Ratnarāśi [73]). As Boucher points out, the bodhisattva composers of such
texts “would have been entirely sympathetic with, if not intimately
cognizant of, any number of passages preserved in, say, the Sutta-nipāta”
(73). If almost “nothing about the Rāṣṭrapāla can be called revolutionary,”
if the “practices it advocates are all quite standard fare,” and if the word
Hīnayāna does not occur and the word Mahāyāna only appears in the
later Sanskrit edition, in what sense can the Rāṣṭrapāla be classified as
‘Mahāyāna’? (74) The text’s only major difference is that rather than
merely praising the myth of Śākyamuni’s Bodhisattva career, the
composers of the text modelled their own spiritual path on it: “[F]or the
authors of the Rāṣṭrapāla, contemporary bodhisattvas were called to
emulate the extraordinary sacrifices of Vessantara by way of the ascetic
life of a wilderness dweller
…” (29).
http://enlight.lib.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/ ... 386266.pdf
The Bodhisattva path, however, is not unique to Mahayana Buddhism:
But even this emulation of the bodhisattva path by a few was
probably not very controversial. As Boucher points out, Buddhist monks
in modern Theravāda countries have been known to imagine themselves
as bodhisattvas following the path to complete awakening; it is hardly
surprising that this happened at a much earlier date (75).
What is
surprising is that when it did happen in ancient India, the bodhisattva
ideal was expressed by composing new discourses (sūtra) of the Buddha.
Even if most of the Rāṣṭrapāla’s content is very close to the Buddhavaṃsa,
the form of the two texts is entirely different: whereas the latter is a
verse text that does not resemble any Pāli sutta, the former is a prose
discourse presented as buddhavacana.
http://enlight.lib.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/ ... 386266.pdf
Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. - Mahatma Gandhi

http://www.matthewsatori.tumblr.com
User avatar
khlawng
Posts: 225
Joined: Thu Dec 09, 2010 2:28 pm

Re: Whose Buddhism is the "truest"?

Post by khlawng »

threads like these is like arguing whose gift wrapping skills are the best.
just give the gift.
who cares how it is gift wrapped.
as long as the recipient receives it.
Santi253
Posts: 982
Joined: Thu May 11, 2017 4:37 am
Contact:

Re: Whose Buddhism is the "truest"?

Post by Santi253 »

khlawng wrote:threads like these is like arguing whose gift wrapping skills are the best.
Santi253 wrote: I don't mean to give the impression that one school or sect of Buddhism is "superior" to another. Instead, they are all rooted in the Buddha's original teachings...
khlawng wrote: as long as the recipient receives it.
I agree. Sadly, there are certain posters on this sub-forum who don't recognize Mahayana as a legitimate Buddhist path. May you be happy and well. :namaste:
Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. - Mahatma Gandhi

http://www.matthewsatori.tumblr.com
User avatar
SDC
Posts: 6811
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: Whose Buddhism is the "truest"?

Post by SDC »

Santi253 wrote:
khlawng wrote:threads like these is like arguing whose gift wrapping skills are the best.
Santi253 wrote: I don't mean to give the impression that one school or sect of Buddhism is "superior" to another. Instead, they are all rooted in the Buddha's original teachings...
khlawng wrote: as long as the recipient receives it.
I agree. Sadly, there are certain posters on this sub-forum who don't recognize Mahayana as a legitimate Buddhist path. May you be happy and well. :namaste:
Hi Santi,

Please report posts you feel violate the ToS, but as you well know, no one is under the obligation to recognize any path as legitimate in order to post here. All we ask is that any such disagreements are done in line with those terms.

Everyone should bear in mind that transparency regarding our intentions can be significant in such discussions ---- keeps things from hovering aimlessly around superficiality. Not an obligation, but indeed can help a discussion be productive.

If anyone has any questions and/or suggestions, about this post or the purpose of connections, please PM the staff as not to derail this thread.
"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
Santi253
Posts: 982
Joined: Thu May 11, 2017 4:37 am
Contact:

Re: Whose Buddhism is the "truest"?

Post by Santi253 »

SDC wrote:Everyone should bear in mind that transparency regarding our intentions can be significant in such discussions.
Thank you for your response. My only intent in this thread is to present historical information in favor of Mahayana Buddhism being an equally legitimate Buddhist path to Theravada Buddhism, which so far has been accomplished. May you be happy and well. :anjali:
Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. - Mahatma Gandhi

http://www.matthewsatori.tumblr.com
User avatar
Goofaholix
Posts: 3015
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Whose Buddhism is the "truest"?

Post by Goofaholix »

Instead of relying on Tricycle and Wikipedia you might want check out what other scholars are saying. Here are some examples;

http://ocbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2015 ... ticity.pdf
What the Buddha Thought, by Richard Gombrich
http://www.ahandfulofleaves.org/Library.html
http://ocbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2015 ... 05wzks.pdf

Also look at previous discussions at Dhammaweel on this article https://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?t=8468
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah
Santi253
Posts: 982
Joined: Thu May 11, 2017 4:37 am
Contact:

Re: Whose Buddhism is the "truest"?

Post by Santi253 »

Thank you for your response.
Goofaholix wrote: Also look at previous discussions at Dhammaweel on this article https://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?t=8468
Even if we were to sweep the Ghandaran manuscripts aside, the manuscript evidence of Mahayana Buddhism is arguably stronger than it is for Theravada Buddhism:
Santi253 wrote: Also, the oldest manuscripts of the Lotus Sutra are among the oldest manuscripts in the world:
The Gilgit manuscripts[34] were nominated[35] in 2006 to be included on the UNESCO Memory of the World register, but without success. The Gilgit manuscripts are among the oldest manuscripts in the world, and the oldest manuscript collection surviving in Pakistan,[34] having major significance in the areas of Buddhist studies and the evolution of Asian and Sanskrit literature. The manuscripts are believed to have been written in the 5th to 6th centuries AD, though some more manuscripts were discovered in the succeeding centuries, which were also classified as Gilgit manuscripts.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilgit#Gilgit_manuscripts
We can contrast this with the Pali scriptures:
The climate of Theravāda countries is not conducive to the survival of manuscripts. Apart from brief quotations in inscriptions and a two-page fragment from the eighth or ninth century found in Nepal, the oldest manuscripts known are from late in the fifteenth century,[53] and there is not very much from before the eighteenth.[54]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C4%81li ... anuscripts
This is not to say that Mahayana Buddhism is a more legitimate or superior form of Buddhism. It's simply a polite invitation to relax our sectarian assumptions.
Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. - Mahatma Gandhi

http://www.matthewsatori.tumblr.com
Locked