lotwell wrote:I think it is true to say that the oral tradition aspect of Buddhism is largely not dealt with due (especially by scholars) due to its speculative nature. There really is not anything tangible there to work with that does not involve large amounts of guess work. Its like filling in a large empty area of a puzzle without using any reference pieces.
But you raise an importnat point because this is true of all other religion's/culture's oral traditions. For example Islam places huge emphasis on oral tradition in the Sunnah and determining which stories of the Prophet are genuine or fabricated.
Perhaps Hui Feng could share a little more about his expereinces with oral tradition in Buddhism.
Again, I would say that there are a few scholars that deal with. Any sort of scholarship has a least a modicum of speculation, so that's nothing specific to this area. And, because the oral tradition is not confined to Buddhist materials, there is a fair amount of work that is not really "guess work" at all.
For Buddhist materials, you can check out this from Bhante Prof Analayo:http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg. ... nsions.pdf
In the bibliography, there are a couple of important studies, eg.:
Allon, Mark 1997b: "The Oral Composition and Transmission of Early
Buddhist Texts", in Indian insights: Buddhism, Brahmanism and
Bhakti, P. Connoly et al. (ed.), London: Luzac Oriental, pp. 39-
Collins, Steven 1992: "Notes on some Oral Aspects of Pali Literature",
in Indo-Iranian Journal, vol. 35 pp. 121-135
Cousins, L.S. 1983: "Pali Oral Literature", in Buddhist Studies: Ancient
and Modern, P. Denwood (ed.), London: Curzon, pp. 1-11.
Coward, H. 1986: "Oral and Written Texts in Buddhism" in The Adyar
Library Bulletin, vol. 50 pp. 299-313.
Wynne, Alexander 2004: "The Oral Transmission of Early Buddhist Literature",
in Journal of the International Association of Buddhist
Studies, vol. 27 no.1 pp. 97-127.
It also mentions Lord, who developing Parry's theories, is a pioneer in this area:
Lord, Albert B. 1987: "Characteristics of Orality", in Oral Tradition, vol.
2 part 1 pp. 54-72.
But really, check out Lord's book the Singer of Tales, and of course, Walter Ong.
All classic studies in the fields of orality and oral tradition.
This is just a sample. There is stuff on this - just depends on what you read.
Though, caveat: If one doesn't have a good grounding in the ancient Indian
traditions, they will be prone to misinterpretation of what is presented here.
That's a caveat for people reading this thread, not for the cited scholars.
My own experiences are mainly from an old Sri Lankan bhikkhu, who has
huge amounts of the Sutta-pitaka and Vinaya-pitaka memorized.
I've seen this time and time again in his classes, over the course of several years.
He is a living "bhanaka", and thus has personal experience of how the
memorization process works, and so forth.
My own PhD was dealing with a type of literary structure that is often
closely associated with oral traditions. I applied it to the Prajnaparamita.