Alternative biographies of the Buddha.

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Alternative biographies of the Buddha.

Postby Indrajala » Sat Jul 02, 2011 4:34 pm

Jayarava posted an insightful article on his blog detailing an alternative canonical account of the Buddha's life.

I'VE ALREADY WRITTEN quite a lot on the confusion surrounding the name of the Buddha, and concluded that we don't really know what his name was. More recently I was pondering the Buddha's biography and considering the two different accounts of his going forth: the familiar elaborate version in which a princely man aged 29 who leaves behind wealth, status, wife, child, and family; and the shorter, less detailed, and probably less familiar story found in the Ariyapariyesanā Sutta [MN 26], but corroborated in other places. Scholars seem to agree that the biography found in the Ariyapariyesanā represents a more primitive version of the story which is likely to predate the more elaborate version. It's a given that the life stories of famous people tend to become more elaborate with time, not less, especially post-mortem. I'm sure many Buddhists will be surprised to discover that there are two different stories, as the more elaborate version is usually presented as a more or less factual, historical account.

Whether or not the Ariyapariyesanā version is the original story we will probably never know. But it provides a valuable insight into how the legend of the Buddha grew after his death. The process is no different from other saintly figures in other cultures and times. It's a case of the medium is the message: the common outlines of hagiographies tell us more about human nature than the content of such stories tell us about the historical Buddha. I want to look at just one paragraph from this earlier, less elaborate biography and draw out the implications it has for our stories about the Buddha.

So kho ahaṃ, bhikkhave, aparena samayena daharova samāno susukāḷakeso, bhadrena yobbanena samannāgato paṭhamena vayasā akāmakānaṃ mātāpitūnaṃ assumukhānaṃ rudantānaṃ kesamassuṃ ohāretvā kāsāyāni vatthāni acchādetvā agārasmā anagāriyaṃ pabbajiṃ. [M i.163]

At a later time, though still only a boy, with much black hair, in the first stage of life, and endowed with youth and good fortune; with my mother and father unwilling, tearful and wailing, I cut off my hair and beard, donned brown robes, and went forth from home, into homelessness.



Read the whole article here:

http://jayarava.blogspot.com/2011/07/bu ... raphy.html


As he points out, this is quite different from the more common account of the Buddha's life. For example his mother is alive when he departs the home life. That's in stark contrast to the popular account where his mother is said to have died. He also is a boy when he departs into homelessness.

As scholarship progresses it seems to become more and more evident that, provided no startling new archaeological discoveries reveal otherwise, we will never be able to reconstruct or rediscover an "original Buddhism" and the "historical Buddha".

Still, for a lot of people it is important to study and know an "original Buddhism" and what the "historical Buddha" taught, as if the two and a half thousand years of development after his death is somehow undesirable and sufficiently legitimate.
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Re: Alternative biographies of the Buddha.

Postby Malcolm » Sat Jul 02, 2011 7:29 pm

Huseng wrote:
As he points out, this is quite different from the more common account of the Buddha's life. For example his mother is alive when he departs the home life. That's in stark contrast to the popular account where his mother is said to have died. He also is a boy when he departs into homelessness.



A boy with a beard?

By his "mother" he could have been referring to Mahaprajapati, his nanny.
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he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

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Re: Alternative biographies of the Buddha.

Postby adinatha » Sat Jul 02, 2011 7:39 pm

Namdrol wrote:
Huseng wrote:
As he points out, this is quite different from the more common account of the Buddha's life. For example his mother is alive when he departs the home life. That's in stark contrast to the popular account where his mother is said to have died. He also is a boy when he departs into homelessness.



A boy with a beard?

By his "mother" he could have been referring to Mahaprajapati, his nanny.


Is it just me, but isn't it obvious, at least these names are entirely allegorical? His mother was "Maya" his nanny "Mahaprajapati?" The "mother" of "buddhas" is realization that all is "maya." And a "buddha" appears in the universe aka the deity "Mahaprajapati" and by seeking shelter in her mountains and forests is "raised" by her?
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Re: Alternative biographies of the Buddha.

Postby Indrajala » Sat Jul 02, 2011 7:41 pm

Namdrol wrote:
Huseng wrote:
As he points out, this is quite different from the more common account of the Buddha's life. For example his mother is alive when he departs the home life. That's in stark contrast to the popular account where his mother is said to have died. He also is a boy when he departs into homelessness.



A boy with a beard?

By his "mother" he could have been referring to Mahaprajapati, his nanny.




He addresses the beard issue here:

Let's begin with his age. The text reinforces his young age with several terms: dahara, yobbana and paṭhama vaya. The word dahara means 'little, a young boy, a youth'. Buddhaghosa glosses it with taruṇa 'a tender young age, esp. a young calf'. The second word, yobbana, also means 'a youth'. The phrase paṭhama vaya means in 'the first stage of life', as opposed to middle age and old age. However the text also says he shaves off hair and beard (kesa-massuṃ ohāretvā) and this is common to all of the various narratives of the Buddha's going forth. Unless this is simply a stock phrase the youth must have passed puberty, and had a year or two to grow a beard. But not much more: if we were to describe a grown man as 'a boy' or 'a youth' it would seem awkward at best. I think we could say that this is describing a youth of 15 or 16. The tradition later made him 29, which is into middle-age by the standards of the day. Why 29? I don't think anyone knows, but it is interesting that the Jain leader, Mahāvīra, an elder contemporary of the Buddha, is described as a prince of Magadha who left home aged 30.
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Re: Alternative biographies of the Buddha.

Postby Malcolm » Sat Jul 02, 2011 10:35 pm

adinatha wrote:
Namdrol wrote:
Huseng wrote:
As he points out, this is quite different from the more common account of the Buddha's life. For example his mother is alive when he departs the home life. That's in stark contrast to the popular account where his mother is said to have died. He also is a boy when he departs into homelessness.



A boy with a beard?

By his "mother" he could have been referring to Mahaprajapati, his nanny.


Is it just me, but isn't it obvious, at least these names are entirely allegorical? His mother was "Maya" his nanny "Mahaprajapati?" The "mother" of "buddhas" is realization that all is "maya." And a "buddha" appears in the universe aka the deity "Mahaprajapati" and by seeking shelter in her mountains and forests is "raised" by her?


I don't think a mountain goddess went to Ananda to be admitted to the Sangha as a nun.

N
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
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Re: Alternative biographies of the Buddha.

Postby adinatha » Sat Jul 02, 2011 10:48 pm

Namdrol wrote:
adinatha wrote:
Namdrol wrote:A boy with a beard?

By his "mother" he could have been referring to Mahaprajapati, his nanny.


Is it just me, but isn't it obvious, at least these names are entirely allegorical? His mother was "Maya" his nanny "Mahaprajapati?" The "mother" of "buddhas" is realization that all is "maya." And a "buddha" appears in the universe aka the deity "Mahaprajapati" and by seeking shelter in her mountains and forests is "raised" by her?


I don't think a mountain goddess went to Ananda to be admitted to the Sangha as a nun.

N


Mahaprajapati was also considered the mother goddess of the universe.
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Re: Alternative biographies of the Buddha.

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jul 03, 2011 12:04 am

adinatha wrote:
Mahaprajapati was also considered the mother goddess of the universe.


I know a guy whose dog is named Buddha...
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
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Re: Alternative biographies of the Buddha.

Postby adinatha » Sun Jul 03, 2011 4:56 am

Namdrol wrote:
adinatha wrote:
Mahaprajapati was also considered the mother goddess of the universe.


I know a guy whose dog is named Buddha...


I have two cousins, twins. One is Siddhartha and the other is Gautama.
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Re: Alternative biographies of the Buddha.

Postby adinatha » Sun Jul 03, 2011 5:16 am

Incidentally Shuddodana means "pure one."
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Re: Alternative biographies of the Buddha.

Postby ronnewmexico » Sun Jul 03, 2011 5:30 am

I don't know.
I'd guess if I called myself a buddhist it would have importance. I will only as means for specific purpose. But finding tools of singular importance within forms of buddhism do not equate to being a buddhist. Though I am formally a buddhist, really I am not.

For Buddhists......I'd guess it may have significance. I don't find thing really being much changed in Buddhist identified nations as opposed to others.
Historical Tibet for instance officially outlawed governmental murder or death penalty in the early 1900's somewhere about in the middle as regards that thing. Progressive nations such as Venezuela were the first.
Just one instance but things seem not much different when Buddhists run them.
So to me....I don't worry to much about Buddhists as opposed to others. For Buddhists that may be important.
I could find relevence and value in both stories mentioned.

True this or that. Most say things were written down quite a while after the fact of their telling. I have done a common thing in a class to show something.
Tell a thing to one person in a class of 30 or so. Tell them to only tell the person next to them and that person then the same thing to those next to them...and on and on.
It is not possible that in any class that that is done that the first statement resembles the last.
Never does that happen.

So.....it matters not to me...not a whit. I like stories of all sort and form, fiction and factual based ones, matters not much to qualify what I like or not....that it be well written that is the important thing(as they say).
Buddhism contains some tools not found elsewhere. That's it for me.
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