Mar. 22, 2007

Historicity of the Suttas

I'm surprised that my posts about the sutta pitaka stirred up such a hornet's nest! I naively thought that the value of reading the scriptures wouldn't need defending.

I admit to not being fully conversant with all the modern scholarship; my comment about the consistency of the texts across various cultural lines is based on Warder's "Indian Buddhism" and a few other older books. As far as I can see, the point basically stands. And I am aware that the various recensions in Pali were not wholly independent of each other, but that doesn't negate the idea that they are all even more dependent on an ancient core textual tradition.

And I don't really care what Bronkhurst says, I don't find real inconsistencies in the suttas. Now, admittedly that might mean late careful editing, so doesn't in itself argue for their historicity.

Below I've posted some thoughts on history in general, but what I'd like to say here is to ask how we can be sure of anything in the past? Skepticism has it's uses but can be pushed to absurd lengths, follow the link in the post below to the New Chronologists for an example.

As I see the problem it is twofold; what value do we place on Buddhavacana (word of the Buddha) and how do we know if it is real Buddhavacana? I admit to being a bit of a fundamentalist on the first question. If there is any meaning to the concept of Buddhahood, then all is speech is "flawless in the meaning, flawless in the letter." If someone named Siddhattha Gotama really did destroy the asavas and saw absolute naked reality then it follows his words are inherently meaningful and true.

The latter question, alas, is more problematic. There are undoubtedly some late additions to the suttas. These might perhaps to some degree be discovered by linguistic analysis. What I am more uncomfortable with is any attempt to dismiss some passage based on the content. If someone decides a passage about ghosts must be an addition, isn't that based on the materialist-rationalist mind-set of the critic? To be short, how can someone who is not a Buddha judge what a Buddha might say?

As a point of practise, I think it is much more useful spiritually to err on the side of reverence for the text. This is absolute heresy to modern rationalism, but that's exactly why it's good medicine.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to have been one of the hornets in the nest, but:

It is fundamentally absurd for you to say "I don't care what Bronkhorst says" GIVEN THAT you appeal to exactly the same sources of authority.

You appeal both to scholarship in general, and to comparative reading of Pali and Chinese (if not Sk.?) recensions of suttas.

Well, guess what?

You haven't done that research, and Bronkhorst has!

If you want to dismiss what he says about it, you should read his work first. His list of publications is here:

http://www.unil.ch/orient/page5552_en.html

I think you would find his short work roughly titled "Two traditions of Meditation in Ancient India" quite illuminating.

It isn't combative, and it isn't an assault on Theravada orthodoxy; I think, on the contrary, that most of the conclusions of textual/historical scholars are actually reassuring to modern Theravada monks --e.g., that no, originally, Buddhism wasn't a religion about worshipping ghosts and statues (as it is now in most of the world!).

I am especially uneasy with monks (like Thanissaro) who make use of and completely take for granted the results of decades of historical and textual research while, at the same time, attacking and insulting that research, and dispensing with the actual conclusions of actual scholars --to instead appeal to "scholarship" in some vague, un-footnoted sense.

Why not just credit your own intutition, rather than this phony notion of what scholars say, if you (1) haven't actually read their research, (2) don't do your own research, and (3) take the attitude that you "don't care what Bronkhorst says" etc. etc., i.e., are pre-judging their work in a way that is convenient to you (and has nothing to do with the truth, in a mundane sense).

Guess what, Bhante? Even if you don't like to admit it, the fact that your religion (viz., Buddhism as you practice it) isn't based on the Jatakas and a handful of apocrypha from the KN is largely thanks to the work of modern scholars (both monastic and of the laity) who did more to reveal the philosophy of Buddhism where it lay (intact but un-noticed) in the suttas than (e.g.) the past 500 years of Thai pseudo-commentaries, rituals, statue-worship, ghost-baiting, and legends.

Men like Bronkhorst who have dedicated years of their lives to doing extremely difficult work deserve some degree of thanks from those who benefit from it --even if some of their truths are inconvenient for present orthodoxy.

The alternative is to close your eyes to which texts are real and which are apocryphal --which is exactly what the Mahayana did (and is still doing) --backsliding into a form of pseudo-Buddhism that has almost no point of contact with the original philosophy anymore.

Making the distinction between different historical layers of the text is of the utmost importance --and, as I say, we must admit to begin with that the text is in tatters.

Ben said...

fqkList of Publications - Prof Johannes Bronkhorst -
http://www.unil.ch/webdav/site/orient/shared/import/PUBLICATIONSJohannesBRONKHORST.pdf

hmmm, having worked for 2U's and knowing the more one publishes the more one earns, I wonder if JB can reduces his hart rate by say a third. Can he 'wispier' with his surroundings?

Ben

Anonymous said...

The Bronx Blues
A play in one act
Cast of characters:
Moi(M) a troubled angry man with problems, everyman you could say.
Buddy(B) A scholar's tout & suspected mass marketer.
Scene opens in cyberspace,
M is reclining on the keyboard,whistling 'buddy can you spare a dime?'
B is scribbling furiously in a small black notebook.
M-Buddy, just read your latest, Bhante said he didn't care what the Bronk said, so why should he read his books.
B-BECAUSE I SAY SO.
M-Well he still doesn't care what the Bronk says,(pleading) please dont shout.
B-HE BETTER, he is prejudging the Bronk's work in a way that is convenient for him.
M-Seems Bhante finds it convenient not to care
B-(conspiratorialy) well he better, you know why? because the work is reassuring for Theravadin monks like him!
M-I dont know if Bhante will buy that, he seems pretty reassured as he is,... hey wait, is there money in this?
B-$#@!&&*^":! He doesn't want to know the truth, THATS WHY!
M-Eh?
B- THE TRUTH (sotto voce) 'in a mundane sense',
THE TRUTH that the Bronk & others (weepily) dedicated THEIR LIVES to, doing extremely
difficult work DESERVE thanks from those who benefit from it.
M-C'mon Buddy,if Bhante has not read their work,doesn't have the slightest interest in reading their work, then he doesn't know what truth (sotto voce)'in amundane sense' they proclaim.
B-Their work you !@#$%^%$&*+={[]! revealed the philosophy of Buddhismus which had lain (intact but unnoticed) in the Suttas for hundreds of years.
M-Wow,But wait,That's what Bhante does, he keenly notices the Suttas, in fact he revolves around them,......aaaah I understand, -Buddy you are a deep one,- it doesn't matter if he pays attention to those Suttas or not, he wouldn't understand what he thinks he understands in them & even that is tentative, he should refer to the Bronk to explain it to him,
Imagine all those deluded forest monks with no books,how sad.
B-(sweetly) Riiiiight!
M-(rises from the keyboard,lights his pipe & prepares to leave)By the way, what is Truth (sotto voce) in a mundane sense?
B-GO !@#$%^&*()_+=-*&^%$#@!
Curtain

Rod said...

First of all regarding Buddhavacana, having no actual recordings or original notebooks we have no exact proof of this. Instead, we have a collection of Suttas in which most people generally agree are the actual teachings of The Buddha, albeit with some errors here and there.

As for Buddhahood or the fruit(s) of these teachings, then no amount of words can prove or express this because it has nothing to do with words. Buddhism did not begin with words, and whether or not there were any actual Suttas coming later does not make that much of a difference (see later note); Buddhism would have survived without the Suttas.

Except for a few rare cases, e.g. Ajarn Buddhadasa, who did benefit from written teachings to some extent, though mainly from his own efforts, most Buddhism was passed down from teacher (Ajarn) to teacher. The fact of having Suttas simply developed the scholastic side of Buddhism, which is something that the Buddha did not teach, and thus should really be understood as not true Buddhism.

While it might be popular in society to be impressed by the books we have, and the fact that if we have a book fight with other religions we are surely going to win easily due to the number and weight of them, this is simply an example of the sheer mediocrity in which society has enshrouded Buddhism.

Buddhism is something very special indeed for the human beings in this realm, and unlike many other religious traditions it is not just a collection of words, it is a set of teachings involving technique, meditative technique. This wordless technique, leading to the realization of a pure mind, is the real Buddhavacana.

As for the reality of having a collection of Suttas, it has been a two edged sword: while on the one hand it has encouraged interest and support for The Sangha, on the other it has passed on a false view of Buddhism, namely the intellectual approach to what The Buddha actually taught. This view is false because there never was an intellectual approach to Buddhism. (Here, I must admit to not being the smartest, as I regularly seek the counsel of learned friends (Ajarns), who point out that almost all people who come to Buddhism have false views and are generally clueless, and while the intellectual approach to Buddhism is false it does have some redeeming qualities in that it creates interest, and that a few people who begin this way do eventually find the correct path.)

For members of The Sangha, and interestingly a Sangha that has generally been led by members who followed the false path of Buddhism rather than the true path, expressing their opinions on such things as the value and authenticity of the Suttas has never really been an option. Instead, the minority members of The Sangha who followed the true path have generally ignored the Suttas, concentrating solely on meditative technique, and inspiring and encouraging people to develop this technique. They do in fact have opinions, but, as I am told, prefer to pass all of their protests on to the void rather than provoke controversy.

Thus, Bhante’s opinion on Buddhavacana is perhaps not so surprising. As for the opinions of certain scholars, who are undoubtedly qualified in their field and worthy of merit, then they should not be criticized for pointing out obvious examples of cultural superstition where they occur. The idea of a linguist spending their life studying the contents of ancient literature is what you might expect, but the idea of a Buddhist, Sangha member or otherwise, spending their life considering the tenses of Pali words, reference numbers and what have you is complete madness, a sorry joke. Buddhism is not bound by words, and is way beyond all of this.

Anonymous said...

what is a pure mind?

Rod said...

A mind free from attachment.
A mind free from impurities.
A mind free from ignorance.
A mind free from greed, anger and delusion. All different descriptions meaning the same thing; a pure mind.

Anonymous said...

This looks like an attachement to me

"... thus should really be understood as not true Buddhism."

since there are no way to demonstrate it ...

yet,

"Attention! The rule of a country in Eastern India invited the Twenty-Seventh Ancestor, Hannyatara, for a midmorning meal. The ruler asked him, "Why don't ou read the sutras?" The ancestor replied, "This poor follower of the Way, when breating in does not dwell in the realm of skandhas, and when breathing out is not caught up in the many externals. Always do I thus turn a hundred thousand million billion rolls of sutras. "

Case 3 Book of serenity

Anonymous said...

What are attachments?

Rod said...

Attachments are the reactions of an ignorant mind; the clinging to the mind process that begins with contact.

Aslo, (quote)

We should not utilize our time solely in the pursuit of academic knowledge. Scholars work only for the benefit of other scholars, not for the common people. Professor Laksman Jayatileka made the same point when he addressed the convocation ceremony of the Buddhist and Pali University (on 14th December 1995). He said, "What we expect above all from you, Venerable Sirs, is not so much deep knowledge of books and academic literary source materials, but a way of life that can shed light on our hearts and minds."

From "The decline and development of Buddhism" Sayadaw U. Sumana.

Most people suffer from a lack of sammaditthi (right understanding). Thus, they read books giving descriptions of what The Buddha taught rather than practicing what he taught.

Today, the emphasis for quite a few members of The Sangha (and here Bhante is regarded as an exception)is modern marketing, becoming famous, and collecting millions of dollars to build a beautiful and expansive temple (which has no power whatsoever to pass on The Dhamma) including luxury dwellings for themselves.

Anonymous said...

What are impurities?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else here notice the over-arching irony?

This began as a discussion to encourage people to read the suttas, and it has instead become a series of excuses for notreading the suttas.

The position taken up by "Rod" (and, to a lesser extent, Bhante Nyanatustia himself) is the same one commonly found even in American Zen --and has nothing to do with the Theravada tradition, or the essentially textual question that opened the debate.

Bhante began by stating that the texts were highly consistent and should be uncritically regarded as uniformly authoritative --and he was painfully vague in citing modern scholarship as the proof of the argument's worth.

That means that raising questions about the actual contents of the text, and the actual findings of scholars, is entirely salient to the discussion.

In reply, everyone (including the Bhadanta) strikes a mystic pose.

"Oh, so it turns out that we don't know what we're talking about after all? Well then, all of that evidence I said was so important before, I now say is irrelevant and spurious, and I contemptuously dismiss the names of any and all scholars, and say their research is in no way salient to the point I'm making..."

If you don't see the irony here, you're just not looking.

Sort of like Bhante reporting that he finds "no inconsistencies" in the suttas; he's just not looking.

And, as such, maybe he shouldn't be encouraging people to read the suttas at all.

The final justifications given for his faith have nothing to do with textual sources or scholarship; and everyone in the discussion seems to be eager to divest themselves of these supports, and to wax mystic about more abstract and metaphysical sources of their "faith".

You're throwing away the writ of the dhamma, claiming that you don't need it because you've already mastered it in spirit. But the lot of you are complete ignoramouses, who are simply avoiding looking at the primary source texts because they might challenge your overly inflated opinions of yourselves --and of how much you presuppose yourselves to understand the dhamma.

My honest advice is to drop your ego and start picking up real books: primary source texts and hard textual studies. Yes, linguistic minutiae and the hard facts of history matter. Yes, grammatical errors and inconsistencies between different versions of a text matter.

Bhante's first post on this topic said as much, too, alluding to the importance of comparative study of Chinese and Pali sources --but he abandoned that position when he discovered that it actually required that he read the sources in question before passing judgement on them.

Well, if you're going to encourage others to read the suttas, start with yourself.

And for the rest of you: if you're going to discourage others to read the texts, on the basis of your supposedly gnostic insight into the true meaning of Buddhism (without recourse to textual study) --then please, do not banish or burn any books that you have not yet taken the trouble to read yourselves.

When "Rod" dismisses Pali suttas it means as little as when Bhante dismisses Bronkhorst. You're all speaking from pure ignorance about things you simply have not even seen or considered --much less understood.

Not everyone can dedicate decades of their lives to learning to read Pali (or Sanskrit, or classical Chinese, etc.) --even fewer can learn multiple languages and carry out comparative studies of them.

But guys like Bhante who don't even try to read the original Pali are indeed dependent on those of us who do the hard work (yes, for decades) --and we don't deserve to be sneered at by self-appointed experts such as "Rod" who seems to have concluded (on the basis of no detailed historical study, I must suppose) that those who ignore the suttas are, in fact, "on the right path".

Those who ignore the suttas aren't even on the path --and aren't even looking for it.

Have a nice "vacation".

Anonymous said...

Well blow me down & thundering typhoons, the Bronk himself
Nyet there is nothing mystical about the Suttas.Ergo those who abide there are not looking for it.
Nein, not all the entries vouch for not reading the Suttas, in fact, some demand that the Suttas ALONE should be studied & tested in oneself, as in Episteme.
Non, No commentary, translation etc. by objective scholars required as it is not a matter of scholarship.No mediums required here.
Take a peek at bodhi's translation of Majjhima 117, his translation of the taintless mind (para 8) in those with Sammaditthi, is not only outright wrong but misleading & disturbing , him not only being the scholar extraordinaire of present day theravada but an orientalist (Emeritus) in situ, no less. A quick glance at the pali text puts the whole thing in order again,
so wherein the need, buddy?
Zen reading Suttas??? they would not recognise a Sutta if they sat on it.
You are not related to the guy with "spider sense" are you boss?
R.K

Rod said...

Impurities are the various forms of attachment and ignorance. In contrast, a pure mind is like clear water, it's pure because there is nothing and no one there.

Actually, I think the topic began with Buddhavacana, but there are obviously different views as to what this is, which is what you might expect.

As for the primary source texts, they are probably with the original recordings and very hard to locate, although you can probably buy them in Buddha Gaya along with all the other Buddha relics.

If you do choose to spend your life learning Sanskrit, Pali, ancient Chinese, and Tibetan, then my guess would be that you would end up a linguist. Buddhist scholars thinking that they have found the right path after devoting all of their life to study is quite common. I have met loads of them, and the first thing you notice about them is their anger. No doubt about it, too much reading turns you into a killer. I think that many eye-sockey players were probably Buddhist scholars in a previous life. They skate up to you and at the moment of impact shout Majjhima 29,verse 5, which I suppose is a change from Mark 14, and psalm 21.

I once stayed in my Ajarn's forest Wat where there was actually a full set of the Pali canon. However,the termites ate the whole lot, or most of them anyway, prompting my Ajarn to remark that if I ever wanted some expert advice on the Suttas, ask them.

Anonymous said...

what is ignorance?

Anonymous said...

Again, these are excuses for not reading the canon.

Bodhi's translations are "problematic" at best; no, I'm not a fan of his work, and that's yet another important reason to read the original Pali.

You seem to be conflating two very different questions: the adequacy of the source text itself, and the adequacy or efficacy of laypeople reading (the currently available) English translations.

Bodhi's method was basically to correct the pre-existing PTS translations, and to consult the Burmese version of the source text. Taking a bad translation and "correcting" it produces a corrected (but bad) translation.

I find his translation of MN1 especially deplorable, and I've read each version of that translation that he produced over a period of about 20 years (they were published separately at about four different stages of his career).

Relying on textual scholarship and relying on B. Bodhi are two very different things.

You can meet the guy if you want to: he lives in a monastery that was named after him in rural New York state. It 'aint hard to find, and it 'aint exactly in situ.

The authority of the text and the authority of any given translation are indeed two very different things.

I seem to be the only person who respects Brokhorst enough to even spell his name correctly; you have all falsely supposed that he is some kind of demolition expert, bent on destroying tradition --nothing could be further from the truth.

Bronkhort points out inconsistencies between texts, and draws conclusions about the order in which they were put together, and demonstrates the grounds for his conclusions.

This type of careful philology is essential to preserving Theravada orthodoxy --and is not part of destroying it.

The masses of monks who've never read the suttas, and who can't tell the difference between an apocryphal Jataka and a real sutta, and who are carrrying out animal sacrifices, selling magic talismans at a profit, and other abominations, definitely are destroying Theravada orthodoxy.

I believe that anyone who reads any of the standard histories of Buddhism in Burma/Myanmar would indeed conclude that those who have had the most respect for textual scholarship have been "on the path" --at least inasmuch as by "path" we mean _Patimokkha_. If you don't know the Vinaya, you don't know what you're doing.

Sorry, you can't wax gnostic when you're talking to real scholar, who directly knows what you've picked up through second-hard "dharma gossip" at a bunch of YMCA talk-shops. It just won't impress one of us.

As Ponchaud wrote of Cambodia, "You can't play dress-up revolutionary in the middle of a real revolution." And yes, the conclusions of some textual scholarship are indeed "revolutionary" to those who are pre-occupied with talismans, etc. --the only reason why those conclusions are generally reassuring (rather than revolutionary) to people like Bhante Nyanatusita is that (in reality) their praxis is derivative of the last 200 years of western scholarship on Buddhism.

He may not be willing to credit his sources, or thank those who have laboured to define his religion (by separating the Pali texts into layers, etc.) --but he is reaping the rewards.

As are all of you.

If you would prefer to encounter Buddhism _in situ_, you can easily disregard the last 200 years of scholarship, walk into an isolated village in Thailand, stroll past the crowds drinking beer, past the talisman vendors, and sit down next to an (un-indexed) casket full of palm leaf manuscripts, churn through the mess of jataka fables and meditation texts --and start reading.

Good luck even finding a sutta. Good luck teaching yourself Pali. And good luck with that holier-than-thou attitude you've all seemed to have picked up in "talking down" to scholars, from the pose of your supposedly superior attainments, meditating at the YMCA / JCC. Hilarious.

Rod said...

Ignorance is not knowing the mind process, not being aware of one's own greed, anger and delusion, and being unaware that all existence and all experience inherently suck, that everything is only a temporary phenomenon, and that we are all truly anonymous nobodies who only fantasize about being a somebody and being a self and will eventually become a grocery item for a bunch of slimies and other assorted critters, or at least a few handfuls of fertilizer.

The trick is not to take anything too seriously, and let it go.

Rod said...

Further, ignorance is ‘not knowing’ in general (before proceeding please lock your door, switch on all the lights, and check under your bed).

One interesting point that Bhante mentioned was modern rationalism. As everyone is aware, there are many references to hungry ghosts and devas in Buddhist literature, and the fact that many Asians present the local equivalent of prawn cocktails and bouillabaisse to the spirit houses of these entities is an obvious example of the superstition associated with them. Even if one does accept their existence, I am sure that they would not be interested in living in a wooden box with a volume of a few cubic inches; and not having food bodies, they would hardly be able to tell the difference between the fresh foods that are offered to them and something you can pick up in the garbage.

This is gross ignorance, gross superstition. However, while it is technically correct not to believe in anything you have not experienced, being scientifically rational and denying any possibility of the existence of such beings is simply the other extreme. Usually, if a Buddhist begins to start talking about his experiences with other entities, even if genuine, particularly to someone wearing a $10,000 suit (believe me, I know such people), then the usual outcome is that the Buddhist will be regarded as a superstitious nutcase.

This is interesting, in that while accepting the possibility of the existence of such beings is correct, and perfectly rational, the minute you begin to talk about it you have lost it; it is no longer considered rational. So there are two extremes, being superstitious or appearing as such, and being completely scientifically rational and materialistic.

The middle ground of course is knowing about such things with certainty from direct experience, whether or not they really do exist, and saying nothing. This middle ground was probably understood by The Buddha, and is probably understood by Arahants of the present age. It is one aspect of knowing, or knowledge, that you cannot really talk about, other than in a generally conventional way, and there are probably many other aspects of knowledge, not necessarily concerned with other entities, that are similarly unexplainable in words. While it might be considered mystical, it is after all only mystical to us, not the ones who have this knowledge. Thus, mysticism is simply a term used by the ignorant when they really don’t have a clue.

Therefore, we should be able to recognize the limitations of words and books. As Bhante previously pointed out, knowing Pali words is no substitute when it comes to actual knowing or knowledge.

Anonymous said...

What is greed?

Anonymous said...

Well, blistering barnacles, buddy.
You have confirmed a rumour, Noo York,eh? well no surprise there, the orientalist, is no longer in situ. Time for the chickens to return to the roost to lay their eggs..."My dear you should have seen the people, the glitter,the glamour, the lights" is that what the Bronk wants too? I wonder.
Now I am going to surprise you, in all seriousnes. Chapeau! This writer is with you a hundred percent when you said,"Those who ignore the suttas aren't even on the path-and aren't even looking for it" well said.
Hey, we have a point of departure recognisable to both of us.
Next- to the utter disdain you show for the charlatans & the ignorant,
Whatever logic led you to assume that some of us condone this.
Furthermore your assumption (the repeating of which incessantly does not render it true} that only the Bronk & by extension, you can reads the pali text in the original.
Assumptions are dangerous things because by definition they refer to what they do not know,& can come back to haunt you.
Lets go to the texts, you say (above) that Bhante finds the Suttas consistent but fails to cite one modern scholar to back this claim, well Buddy this writer has been in the "Milieu" since 1959,has found the pali texts UTTERLY consistent & has no need to have someone, in particular, a philologist regurgirate his 'understanding' of them into his reverent hands.It is not otside the bounds of reason that Bhante might share a similar opinion.
By Suttas I mean the Nikayas AND the Vinaya & again Chapeau! your reference to the patimokha is in its place, again well said.
As you have gathered This writer is a very old man, pls accept this bit of advice; We are all very impressed with your scholarship, your heart is in the right place, but times will come when people will disagree with you, let it go, here you are beating a dead horse, some of us have our own ways & understandings, small minds,wayward,& obdurate. Stop working yourself into a frenzy.
Noo York, eh?
Love ya man.
R.K

Anonymous said...

From the guy who wrote the first message in the thread ("Sorry to have been one of the hornets in the nest," etc.)

Beating the dead horse has yielded some results, actually.

Given enough time, both R.K and Rod managed to make some intelligent comments that illustrate their own position without needlessly slandering the research of "the Bronk" or anyone else, for that matter.

There is an invidious dichotomy between self-styled scholars and self-styled practitioners: this "debate" is one illustration thereof.

I think, however, that in reply to the points I've raised, most of what has been said has been spurious --even if it is of some interest in its own right.

I did not take up any position on the issue of the supernatural, nor did I make any claim that original Pali texts lack the supernatural. It is a specific claim that the original Pali texts don't condone the worship of statues (and they're quite adamantly set against animal sacrifice, etc.) --but there are numerous supernatural phenomena that belong to the earliest stratum of the texts.

In comparing the cosmologies of different periods of texts, and even comparing the understanding of medicine/physiology stated in Pali texts of different periods, there are indeed obvious inconsistencies --and these help to mark the different origins and authors of different periods.

The careful work of noticing such indications is not an attack on orthodoxy, but it reveals important ways in which central notions (like "consciousness") changed over periods of centuries --both for the authors of Pali texts, and for their readers.

To those who are defiantly stating that such inquiries can reveal nothing profound or significant, all I can say is: "don't knock it until you've tried it". Real textual scholarship reveals quite a lot --certainly more than the average weekend at the YMCA/JCC, hearing the same old re-hasing of third-rate translations of material on Vipassana-Dittha.

Nobody would pretend that reading books alone is "the path" --and I think it is absurd when practitioners attack scholars by pretending that the latter tacitly assume the adequacy of textual study alone.

Obversely, textual study requires the insight provided by the historical method, by the disciplines of philology, linguistics, etc. --and even those practitioners who attack experts in these fields do, in fact, rely on the work and conclusions of such experts.

So, back to my dead horse.

Anonymous said...

Correction: Sussex County is in New Jersey, where Bhikkhu Bodhi is at:

http://www.bodhimonastery.net/main.html

Rod said...

Greed is the smiling face of attachment, usually seen as more gratifying, more wholesome than attachment’s snarling face, anger and ill-will. This attachment comes from the programming that runs our minds, the karma that we accumulate in darkness. This two-faced ignorance, this loop of dependent origination, is the supreme child molester, and we are its children.

Rod said...

Greed is the smiling face of attachment, usually seen as more gratifying, more wholesome than attachment’s snarling face, anger and ill-will. This attachment comes from the programming that runs our minds, the karma that we accumulate in darkness. This two-faced ignorance, this loop of dependent origination, is the supreme child molester, and we are its children.

Anonymous said...

What is delusion?

Rod said...

Delusion is termed as one of the three roots of ignorance, the special one, because it is also present when greed and anger are present. It is the darkness in the mind that makes things look attractive and amazing, or ugly and despicable, and prevents a clear view. It is the foundation for attachment, it is ignorance itself.

I would say not say that reading is a complete waste of time, although if anyone does devote their life to it then it is a wasted opportunity.

To avoid the use of often hackneyed terms, our predicament is one of being in the dark, and I would say that the benefits of reading would be the equivalent of creating a few sparks, or at best a few minor flashes.

The problem in understanding Buddhism (just posting an opinion), is the fact that we rely upon words too much. Take for example the method of development: sine, samadhi, pannya, which we come to understand as discipline, concentration, and wisdom. The word wisdom covers a wide range, and in society, at least, it is usually understood as coming from scholarly pursuits and experience. The Hindu understanding of pannya, or prajna, prana, is not like this and is thought of as vital energy, but this description too can lead us in other directions, particularly with the many New Age ideas of our modern world. So pannya is not really wisdom and not really energy, but awareness (which, as a word, can no doubt lead us down many other avenues). However, whatever this awareness is, it is a result of meditative development, not reading, and it is that which lights up our mind and dispels this darkness, this delusion.

Anonymous said...

What are the 3 roots of ignorance?

Rod said...

Greed , anger and delusion, as personified by Bush, Cheney, and renta-black Rice.

Anonymous said...

What is mind?
What is a mind process?

Rod said...

Mind is the thing that knows, is aware. The mind itself is much bigger than the body, so it can come into contact with another mind even though the bodies may be apart (mass hysteria, the crowd at a sports game, or just being aware of someone standing next to you as examples). Thinking about someone also initiates contact. One of the reasons for dreaming is contact from another being.

The mind process is the process that begins with contact, i.e. contact through bodily senses and the mind itself. This then gives rise to feeling, perception (memory), mental formations (thoughts), and consciousness.

Anonymous said...

Finally
What is body?

Rod said...

Finally is one of my favourite words.

Body, (rupa) is that which arises from karma, mind, seasonal phenomena like heat, and food. In other words, what you got is what you ordered, so don’t blame the waitress (your mother); same for your dog too if you have one,

Finally, Bhante mentioned reverence to the texts, which I can understand from a traditional viewpoint and also because they do contain The Buddha’s teachings.
Buddhavacana, I would say, is all about reverence, except that it is not reverence for books, Buddha images, or even The Buddha himself; it is reverence to one’s own mind, ones own being.

Anonymous said...

'Rod' has answered a number of questions I have posed; in the hope of clarifying the view he holds on the Dhamma.
There is sufficient information for me now to question a few of his assertions,
I can guarantee that Rod will not be impressed by any of the circumscribed arguments; but that does not matter, as they are not really addressed to him.

-The pure mind has been given us as mind-its quiddity- and the mind has mind processes, "...mind process begins with bodily senses & the mind itself giving rise to feelings,...mental formations (thoughts)...". The mind is also "the thing that knows,is aware"
It follows that the pure mind has such things as feelings and thoughts,being a pure mind 'he' does not cling to them and is aware of his greed, anger & delusion.
Furthermore as, greed anger & delusion are the 3 roots of ignorance, this ignorance is doubly ignorant as one of its roots; delusion, "...is ignorance itself.."
By substitution we can now rephrase the above statement as follows: being a pure mind 'he' does not cling to them and is aware his ignorance.
This knowledge is guaranteed with every new mind process, ignorance is part & parcel of the pure mind, ad infinitum.
Aware of it, he doesnt seem to know what to do with it.

There is a sammaditthi (the only
sammaditthi) that shows precisely that & how it comes about, and how to get rid of it.

-Greed, a 'smiley' face of attachment; which in turn (attachment) is "...clinging to the mind process..." and is nevertheless "...more wholesome than anger...".
Greed is 'less bad' than anger & to maintain its being it will have to compensate for that lacking 'badness' with that which 'badness' is not, namely 'goodness' thereby maintaining itself as a thing, a melange of good & bad, a third root of ignorance.
Now, It does not seem outside this
strange universe of discourse that one can, with "...phenomenal samadhi.." develop & increase this greed so as to increase its quotient of good, but even if that cannot be done, we have already compromised ignorance, which turns out not so ignorant after all.

Remember gentle reader that if A is A, it is not B,C,...Z. Moreover A as A is not 'partly' A or 'shyly' A and so on. If it is partly A it is something else.

I have raised these two points, the rest is mostly trivial & can be dismissed without much ado, by the interested reader. the fun being the use of 'Rod's' words themselves

The Dhamma is dead, the last spark has been extinguished, the teachers are gone.
What is on offer is the stuff of dreams, nightmares and dementia.
R.K

Anonymous said...

srilanka now harvesting wat they seed against tamils in 1983.

Racism...the world could learn the meaing from rajabakshe...

no country in the world ever did a aerial srike on their own ppl but srilank...
Could anyone justify the sencholai attack of srilanka and the innocent childrens murder...which country ever did this kind???

Barry said...

"The Dhamma is dead, the last spark has been extinguished, the teachers are gone.
What is on offer is the stuff of dreams, nightmares and dementia.
R.K

31.3.07 "

Why is the author posting on a fairly obscure Buddhist monk's Blog if he/she thinks this way?
That aside I am interested to know why he/she thinks the Dhamma is dead - and I mean that in a very straight forward way because I'd like to know what he/she means, I'd actually like to know because I've never heard anyone say that before. How can the dhamma be dead because teachers are gone? The author's line appeals to my sceptical questioning nature and I'd genuinely like to hear more.

Anonymous said...

I post here because I am very bashful.

If you are really interested, then go to the 'ipsissima verba', the Dhamma (teaching) itself, as it has come down (pristine) in the Pali Suttas & the Vinaya, not the scholars, not the commentaries, not milinda, not abbidhamma, not visuddhi and no where in anything mahayana.
Study it carefully in yourself, by sitting quietly everynight, alone.
Practise anapanasati.
Disregard Vipassa meditation, kasinas, mantras, tantras and ledi sayadaw.
Come back when you feel like it & tell me what you understand of Paticassamuphada
Kind regards
R.K

Rod said...

I think that the reality of The Sangha itself sheds some light on this, namely, that probably around 80% of those who ordain eventually leave because they do not practice and simply get bored with spending their life reading books.

As for Western members of The Sangha, this runs to about 90% or more, and you can probably count on your fingers those who have spent more than 30 years as a member of The Sangha.

I once knew of a monk who was kicked out of The Sangha because he would not practice (and here it depends upon the particular Ajarn).
This monk ordained with an Ajarn to develop vipassana and then after about six months moved to another Wat to study Pali. The abbot of the other Wat rang his Ajarn, and the Ajarn just told the abbot to kick him out. When the monk got back to his Ajarn we was given the ultimatum of practice or disrobe. The monk stated that he wanted to learn Pali and study the Suttas, and the Ajarn said, "Fine, go and do it with another Ajarn, but disrobe first."

This may seem a little strict, but that is how The Sangha operates; a member of The Sangha has to follow the Ajarn for the first five years, no ifs or buts. So anyone spending less than five years in robes is not considered to be a serious member of The Sangha, and in the case of a bhikkhu, not yet a bhikkhu.

When there are no longer any people practicing what The Buddha taught, then you can say that Buddhism is dead, even if the world is full of books and Wats. However, even if there are no books and no Wats, Buddhism still exists as long as people practice (which I think is what The Buddha is reported to have said himself).

Barry said...

RK said "If you are really interested, then go to the 'ipsissima verba', the Dhamma (teaching) itself, as it has come down (pristine) in the Pali Suttas & the Vinaya"

Thank you for the answer. Which translations do you then recommend? What is your opinion of the Bhikkhu Bodhi translations which are the most popular translations? Where would I get the Vinaya to read in translation?

This thread has been the most interesting one I have read on this Blog precisely because it raises questions that strike at the heart of institutions surrounding this thing we call 'Buddhism'. Even I have read things in translation and seen quite serious differences in interpretation. I have read things by - for example - Thanissaro Bhikkhu then the same item translated by another monk and seen quite another take. I read The Dhammapada translated by Ajahn Munindo of Aruna Ratanagiri monastery in the UK and he did this work based not on scholarly approaches but from the point of view of practice itself and with the intention of it being used for discussion rather than as some dead letter. Suddenly it was alive. You can find it here - http://www.ratanagiri.org.uk/Book/book5/index.htm

Anonymous said...

Barry
If your need is pressing, that is you see a problem, and have a suspicion that the Buddha might help resolve it, then you might consider studying Pali on your own, there is a book:
Introduction to Pali
By A.K Warder
Published by the Pali text society.
It is widely available & teaches the original Pali of the Suttas.
There are other excellent books out of Sri Lanka , but their domain is mideaval Pali.

The language ,considered by many to be fairly straightforward & not too difficult to learn, once familiar will allow you to go to the teacher himself.

The Pali Text Society publishes most if not all what you are looking for, in Roman Text.

I keep forgetting to mention the Thera/therigata. Which has no parallel

Again kind regards & best wishes.
R.K