Whose Buddhism is Truest? The quest for "Original Buddhism"

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Whose Buddhism is Truest? The quest for "Original Buddhism"

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:44 pm

Normally I would not post an entire article without comment but this one is so excellent I hope I will be allowed an exception. Everyone interested in translation and Buddhist history should give it a read:

http://www.tricycle.com/feature/whose-b ... page=0%2C0
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: Whose Buddhism is Truest? The quest for "Original Buddhi

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:50 pm

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.”
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: Whose Buddhism is Truest? The quest for "Original Buddhi

Postby Seishin » Mon Aug 12, 2013 4:09 pm

I loved this article when I first read it, and still do. :smile:

Gassho
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Re: Whose Buddhism is Truest? The quest for "Original Buddhi

Postby Greg » Mon Aug 12, 2013 6:34 pm

Tangentially related, I was recently reading Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World by Nicholas Ostler. Very interesting. However, he makes a couple of claims that I found curious.

1) He tends to present Pali as if it was at some point a kind of pan-Indian Buddhist scriptural language. I realize that info is hazy on this, but I had always thought that its use was limited to the proto-Theravada sect.

2) He also states that most Chinese scriptures are translations from Sanskrit and Pali. I was under the impression that not much if anything was translated from Pali to Chinese, but rather that their sravaka material would most likely have come from northwestern Prakrits such as Gandhari if not from Sanskrit/BHS.

He has a PhD in linguistics and Sanskrit and it is evident from the book that he has a solid understanding of the Indian milieu, so I don't think this is a case of an author being careless with his terms.

Any thoughts?
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Re: Whose Buddhism is Truest? The quest for "Original Buddhi

Postby Kim O'Hara » Mon Aug 12, 2013 10:47 pm

Seishin wrote:I loved this article when I first read it, and still do. :smile:

Gassho
Seishin

It was discussed over on Dhamma Wheel, maybe a year ago, but I haven't got time just now to look for the thread.

:namaste:
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Re: Whose Buddhism is Truest? The quest for "Original Buddhi

Postby Huifeng » Tue Aug 13, 2013 12:53 am

JKhedrup wrote:Normally I would not post an entire article without comment but this one is so excellent I hope I will be allowed an exception. Everyone interested in translation and Buddhist history should give it a read:

http://www.tricycle.com/feature/whose-b ... page=0%2C0


Said article takes good information and academic material, but then makes a bad argument and comes to incorrect conclusions. If you can find the Dhammawheel discussion, I made a few comments there.

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Re: Whose Buddhism is Truest? The quest for "Original Buddhi

Postby Kim O'Hara » Tue Aug 13, 2013 3:14 am

Huifeng wrote:
JKhedrup wrote:Normally I would not post an entire article without comment but this one is so excellent I hope I will be allowed an exception. Everyone interested in translation and Buddhist history should give it a read:

http://www.tricycle.com/feature/whose-b ... page=0%2C0


Said article takes good information and academic material, but then makes a bad argument and comes to incorrect conclusions. If you can find the Dhammawheel discussion, I made a few comments there.

~~ Huifeng

Hello, Ven. Huifeng,
Home again with a bit more time, I'm happy to oblige.
I have found five threads which reference the article. I haven't re-read them all, of course, but zoomed through to see who contributed.

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=8468
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=11113
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=10218&start=20(Huifeng writing as Pannasikhara)
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=10218&start=20
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=8405

Ven Gavesako's comment in the last of them echoes Ven Huifeng's here:
gavesako wrote:Just read the article and while it is quite well written, I think she over-emphasises her point (basically "cultural relativism") and fails to stress the internal coherence of the material we have in the Pali Canon which presents a very uni...fied view of man's existential situation and the way the solve it. Even if we don't have ancient manuscripts to prove it, we can identify this collection of texts as the early corpus of Sutta material that was passed down from Ananda and other disciples of the Buddha after his parinibbana. The particular arrangement of passages in each Sutta and how the Suttas were grouped into nikayas for recitation purposes by the bhanakas (reciters) may have varied with each geographically separate group, so that is why we find some differences among them. But this early Canon can be clearly distinguished from later Abhidhamma and Mahayana developments which are built upon this foundation and could not exist without it.


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Re: Whose Buddhism is Truest? The quest for "Original Buddhi

Postby Qianxi » Tue Aug 13, 2013 8:16 am

I don't know who would expect a 1st century BCE Gandharan copy of a sutra to be the "original" version. Or a first century BCE copy in any language for that matter.
There wasn't anything in the article that overturns the basic "tree" model, with branches leading back to a fairly unified oral tradition that broke up around the time of Asoka. Of course, there will have been lots of exceptions and complexities (the pre Asokan tradition was not entirely unified; later "branches" may have copied from one another rather than preserving a pure line back to the "trunk"), but it still looks to me much more like a tree than a river.
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Re: Whose Buddhism is Truest? The quest for "Original Buddhi

Postby Astus » Tue Aug 13, 2013 11:03 am

Another thing is that the article over-emphasise the importance of the Gandharan findings. We knew that there were various traditions of transmission. Even a thousand years ago they knew it. What modern scholarship found by comparing the Agamas and Nikayas is that there are lot of things shared in them, proving how connected the different traditions are, and that talking about a group of fundamental teachings ("original Buddhism") is not unfounded. It is also unlikely that those who are lost blind in their chosen traditions' claims of superiority will care about what scholars not within their tradition say.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Whose Buddhism is Truest? The quest for "Original Buddhi

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Aug 13, 2013 1:24 pm

It is also unlikely that those who are lost blind in their chosen traditions' claims of superiority will care about what scholars not within their tradition say.


Concise, True and Unfortunate.

I look forward to reading the Dhamma Wheel critiques of the article when I get back later today.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
JKhedrup
 
Posts: 2324
Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 8:28 am
Location: the Netherlands and India

Re: Whose Buddhism is Truest? The quest for "Original Buddhi

Postby Qianxi » Thu Aug 15, 2013 12:19 am

The 2006 talk by Richard Saloman that seems to have inspired the article is avaliable on "iTunes U". It's called "In Search of the Words of the Buddha".

He uses two stories from the Vinaya to illustrate what he thinks is a fundamental characteristic of the early Buddhist attitude towards scriptures: what matters is not so much the precise wording as the sense; the spirit rather than the letter of the law.
What Saloman describes as "a relatively liberal attitude towards the preservation of the scriptures" is hard to square with the precision that must have been required to maintain the relative uniformity of the nikaya/agama traditions. Perhaps they got conservative just before the major sectarian splits, just in time to save the relative unity of the early canon.

The first key quotation comes from the story of Saruputra's Awakening. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Sariputra asks Asvajit about the Buddha's teaching. In Salomon's paraphrase:
Asvajit said he's only a newcomer to the Buddhist community and did not consider himself competent to accurately or completely explain the Buddhist teachings in all their volume and complexity.

Sariputra replies: Just tell me the essential meaning, in detail or in brief. I only care about the meaning, never mind the words themselves.


The second quotation also comes from a story found in the Pali Vinaya, (Cullavagga, V. 33. 1). Salomon's paraphrase:

One day, two of his Buddhist disciples who were Brahmins by birth asked the Buddha whether he would allow them to render his teachings into the literary language of the Brahmanical elite, namely, Sanskrit. But the Buddha, who habitually avoided Sanskrit and always taught in the local vernacular dialect, replied that these Sanskrit speaking Brahmins must not adapt a single hegemonic language for the transmission of his words. Rather, he commanded, the Dharma must always be preached to people 'in their own dialect'.


Just for fun, here are a few Chinese parallels to these stories. Five parallels to the Asvajit/Sariputra exchange from here http://agama.buddhason.org/book/bb/bb03.htm . Only the first two have Sariputra giving an opinion on the value of the spirit over the letter.

《佛本行集經》隋 闍那崛多 譯「我唯取真理,不好名與句,智者愛實義, 依義我修行。」

《Abhiniskramana Sutra》tr. Jñānagupta (523-619): Sariputra: I'm only after the truth, I'm not interested in terms and phrases. The wise love the true meaning. I practice according to the meaning.

《四分律》姚秦 佛陀耶舍、竺佛念等譯「未堪廣演其義。今當略說其要。」優波提舍言:「我唯樂聞為要不在廣略。」

《Dharmaguptaka Vinaya》tr. Buddhayaśas and Zhu Fonian (completed 413): Aśvajit: I'm not yet up to discoursing at length on the meaning. Today I can only briefly explain the essential teaching.
Sariputra: It doesn't matter if it's in brief or at length - the essential teaching is what I love to hear.

《根本說一切有部毘奈耶出家事》唐 義淨 譯「不能廣說。然我今者不能記文。略說其義。」底沙告曰「願說其義。」

《Mulasarvastivada Vinaya》tr. Yijing (635-713): Aśvajit: I can't explain the meaning at length. What's more, I can't remember the words right now. I will briefly explain the meaning.
Sariputra: Please do.

《五分律》姚秦 佛陀耶舍、竺佛念等譯「豈能宣師廣大之義。今當為汝略說其要。」

《Mahīśāsaka Vinaya》tr. Buddhayaśas and Zhu Fonian: Aśvajit: how could I declare the vast meaning of my teacher? Today I can only briefly explain the essential teaching.

《大智度論》後秦 鳩摩羅什譯「豈能宣至真,廣說如來義!」舍利弗言:「略說其要!」

《Mahāprajñāpāramitā śāstra》 tr. Kumarajiva (tr. 402-405): Aśvajit: how could I declare the great truth or explain at length the teachings of the Tathagata?
Sariputra: briefly explain the essential teaching!


Versions of 'the language question', from an article by the great Chinese Buddhist scholar Ji Xianlin (English) http://www.tuninst.net/LANG-RELIG/Lang- ... m#fn13-01b
(Chinese) http://www.guoxue.com/xzcq/ddxz/jixianlin/ysfjdyywt.htm
Ji Xianlin suggests in a follow up article http://www.360doc.com/content/11/0113/1 ... 1662.shtml that the Mulasarvastivadin and Sarvastivadin versions emphasise that it's an issue of recitation pronunciation rather than of language generally because they actually used Sanskrit to write the sutras.

  《毗尼母经》卷四:

  有二婆罗门比丘,一字乌嗟呵,二字散摩陀,往到佛所,白世尊言:“佛弟子中,有种种姓,种种国土人,种种郡县人,言音不同,语既不正,皆坏佛正义。唯愿世尊听我等依阐陀至(指梵文)持论,撰集佛经,次比文句,使言音辩了,义亦得显。”佛告比丘:“吾佛法中不与美言为是。但使义理不失,是吾意也。随诸众生应与何音而得受悟,应为说之。”是故名为随国应作。

In the Vinaya-mātrkā-sūtra

There were two Brahman Bhikkhus, named Usaha and Samadha, who went to the Buddha and said to him, "The disciples of the Buddha come from different castes of different places in different countries. Their language is not the same and their pronunciation is incorrect, and thus they distorted the right teachings of the Buddha. May the Blessed One allow us to carry out debates and compile the scriptures according to the Chandas way (referring to Sanskrit), so that the sentences may be arranged in order and the pronunciations corrected, in order to unveil the teachings of the Buddha." The Buddha told the Bhikkhus, saying, "In my teachings emphasis is not laid on rhetoric. What I mean is that the doctrines should not be misunderstood. They should be taught in any language which is understood by the people, according to their suitability." Therefore, his teachings were taught according to the circumstances of the land.

  《四分律》卷五十二:

  时有比丘字勇猛,婆罗门出家,往世尊所,头面礼足,却坐一面,白世尊言:“大德,此诸比丘众姓出家,名字亦异,破佛经义。愿世尊听我等以世间好言论(saskta,梵文)修理佛经。”佛言:“汝等痴人,此乃是毁损,以外道言论而欲杂糅佛经。”佛言:“听随国俗言音所解,诵习佛经。

In the Dharmagupta-vinaya, Vol. LII:

There was a Bhikkhu named Bravery, who was the descendant of a Brahman family. He came to the presence of the Buddha, and after having worshipped him, he sat aside and said to the Blessed One, "Venerable Sir, the Bhikkhus come from different castes and have different names. They misinterpreted the teachings of the Buddha. May the Blessed One permit us to rearrange the Buddhist scriptures in Sanskrit." The Buddha said, "You are fools! That would be a defacement to mix the Buddhist scriptures with a heretical language." He further said, "Recite the scriptures in the language of the country according to the custom of the people."

  《五分律》卷二十六:

  有婆罗门兄弟二人,诵阐陀鞞陀(Chandas-veda)书,后于正法出家。闻诸比丘诵经不正,讥呵言:“诸大德久出家,而不知男女语、一语多语、现在过去未来语、长短音、轻重音,乃作如此诵读佛经。”比丘闻羞耻。二比丘往至佛所,具以白佛。佛言:“听随国音诵读,但不得违失佛意,不听以佛语作外书语,犯者偷兰遮。”

In the Mahisasaka-vinaya, Vol. XXVI:

There were two Brahman brothers who were versed in the Chandas-veda and later became monks in the Buddhist Order. They heard that the Bhikkhus were reciting the scriptures in an improper way, and said to them scornfully, "You venerable sirs have become monks for a long time, and yet you don't know the masculine and feminine genders, the singular and plural numbers, the present, past and futrue tenses, the long and short vowels, and the heavy and light acents. In such a way you are reciting the scriptures!" The Bhikkhus were ashamed to hear this remark, and the brothers went to the Buddha and reported the case to him. The Buddha said, "They are allowed to recite the scriptures in their own native tongue, only that they should not misunderstand the Buddha's meaning. No one is allowed to mix the Buddha's word with a heretical language. One who acted contrarily would be considered as having committed the offence sthulatyaya."

  《十诵律》卷三十八:

  佛在舍卫国。有二婆罗门,一名瞿婆,二名夜婆,于佛法中笃信出家。本诵外道四围陀(Veda)书。出家已,以是音声诵佛经。时一人死,一人独在,所诵佛经,忘不通利。更求伴不得,心愁不乐,是事白佛。佛言:“从今以外书音声诵佛经者,突吉罗。

In the Sarvāstivāda-vinaya, Vol. XXXVIII:

Once the Buddha was in Sravasti. There were two Brahmans, one being names Gopa and the other one, Yapa, who had a devout faith in Buddhism and become Buddhist monks. They had formerly leaned the heretical four Vedas, and after having become monks they recited the Buddhist scriptures with Vedic intonations. Then one of them died, and the one who was alive forgot some passages of the scriptures and could not recite them fluently. He could not find a companion and was unhappy of it. Thus he told it to the Buddha, who said to the monks, "From now onwards anyone who recites the Buddhist scriptures with a heretical intonation will be considered as having committed the offence of Dukkata."

  《根本说一切有部毗奈耶杂事》卷六:

  缘处同前。时尊者舍利子与二婆罗门子而为出家,一名牛授,二号牛生。二人悉教读诵经教。后时此二人共游人间,至一聚落,多获利养,便住此村。时彼二人先学婆罗门歌咏声法。由串习故,今时诵读作本音辞。时彼一人遇病,忽然身死。其现存者既溺忧心,经多废忘。即便还诣室罗伐城,入逝多林。既停息已,便诣尊者憍陈如所。礼敬事毕,白言:“尊者,可共温经。”答言:“善哉!我为汝诵。”既诵少多,报言:“尊者所诵经典,文皆谬误,声韵不长,致有所阙。”答言:“子我从先来如是习诵。”即便辞礼,更别往诣马胜、跋陀罗、大名、婆涩波、名称、晡律拿、牛主、毗摩罗、善臂、罗怙罗。既至彼已,白言:“尊者,共我温经。”答曰:“善哉!我为汝诵。”既诵少多,广如前说,乃至辞礼,遂诣尊者舍利子所。既礼敬已,白言:“邬波驮耶,可共温经。”答曰:“善哉!我为汝诵。”同诵之时,长引声韵。其舍利子声更倍长。白言:“大师,自余尊老,诵习皆谬。唯独亲教,音句无差。”报言:“汝愚痴人,自为谬误,谤余智者,不善诵经。彼诸大德,咸非谬误。”既被挫折,默尔无言。时诸苾刍以缘白佛。佛作是念:“苾刍诵经,长牵音韵,作歌咏声。有如是过。由是苾刍不应歌咏引声而诵经法。若苾刍作阐陀(Chandas,梵文)声诵经典者,得越法罪。若方国言音,须引声者,作时无犯。”

In the Mūlasarvāstivāda-nikāya-vinaya-samyuktavastu, Vol VI:

Once the Buddha was in Sravasti. At that time the Ven. Sāriputra ordained two Brahmans into the Order. One of them was called Ox-given and the other one, Ox-born. Both of them studied the recitation of Buddhist scriptures. Afterwards they travelled about and came to a village, where they obtained many offerings and took up their lodgings there. Now these two persons had formerly learned the grammatical method of Brahmanic hymns. So when they recited the Buddhist scriptures, they habitually followed their old method. Then one of them suddenly died of illness. The one who was living was grieved by the death of his friend, and forgot most of the scriptures through negligence. Thus he returned to Srāvasti and came to the Jetavana Grove. After having taken rest, he went to see the Ven. Kaundinya, to whom he paid his respect and said, "Venerable Sir, let us review the scriptures together." "Very well, I shall recite them for you," was the reply. After the elder had recited some passages of the scriptures, the monk said to him, "Venerable Sir, your recitation of the scriptures is mistaken. The vowels are not pronounced as long ones, and so there is something missing." The elder said in reply, "I have always recited the scriptures in this way." Thus the monk took his leave and went to see Asvajit, Bhadra, Mahānāma, Vasas, Yaśas, Pārna, Gavāmpati, Vimala, Subāhu and Rāhula, to each of whom he said, "Venerable Sir, let us review the scriptures together." "Very well, I shall recite the scriptures for you," was the reply. After the elder had recited some passages, etc. etc., the monk took his leave and went to see the Ven. Sāriputra, to whom he paid his respect and said, "Upādhyāya, let us review the scriptures together." While they were reciting the scriptures together the monk elongated the vowels, and Sāriputra pronounced them with double length. The monk said, "Venerable teacher, all the other elders are mistaken in their recitation. Only you, Venerable teacher, are correct in pronunciation and grammar." Sāriputra said to him, "You are a fool. You are mistaken yourself, and yet you slander those wise men, saying that they do not know how to recite the scriptures. None of the elders is mistaken in the recitation." Having been rebuked, the monk remained silent. Then the monks reported this to the Buddha, who thought in his mind, "All this trouble is caused by the elongation of vowels in the way of singing hymns when the monks recite the scriptures. Therefore the monks should not elongate the vowels in the way of singing hymns when they recite the scriptures. Any monk who recites the scriptures in the Chandas (Sanskrit) way shall be considered as committing a transgression. But one is not considered so, if the vowels are elongated according to his own dialect."
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