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Early Buddhism and the oral tradition

Posted: Mon May 03, 2021 7:46 pm
by Bundokji
The early Buddhist discourses begin with the standard introduction "Thus have i heard". Even though i do not know pali at all, when i look at "Evaṃ me suttaṃ", the meaning of the suttas seem inseparable from the oral tradition. I do not know when the act of writing the suttas began, but i am interested in reflections on the effects of writing the suttas on the authenticity of the early teachings.

Thank you :anjali:

Re: Early Buddhism and the oral tradition

Posted: Mon May 03, 2021 9:23 pm
by Bundokji
Interesting reflections by Plato on the invention of writing:
And so it is that you by reason of your tender regard for the writing that is your offspring have declared the very opposite of its true effect. If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls. They will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks.

What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder. And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only the semblance of wisdom, for by telling them of many things without teaching them you will make them seem to know much while for the most part they know nothing. And as men filled not with wisdom but with the conceit of wisdom they will be a burden to their fellows.
Socrates goes on to compare a written text to a painting:
You know, Phaedrus, that is the strange thing about writing, which makes it truly correspond to painting. The painter’s products stand before us as though they were alive. But if you question them, they maintain a most majestic silence. It is the same with written words. They seem to talk to you as though they were intelligent, but if you ask them anything about what they say from a desire to be instructed they go on telling just the same thing forever. ... t-writing/