First mahayana sutras, when?

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Re: First mahayana sutras, when?

Postby Greg » Tue Jul 24, 2012 5:45 pm

Aemilius wrote:I am replying your statement/opinion that they are literary compositions. The situation is that we have institutions like universities, book publishing companies, schools, etc.. We have unquestioning faith in them, this faith is so selfevident that we don't see it at all. In the same way in ancient India, and ancient world in general, there were equal institutions that had equal authority, power and prestige. If you say "groups of monks and nuns", they are equal to nothing, because they are like nothing in our present day society. Instead you have to realize that monasteries, ascetics, yogis etc had equal power and authority as the universities, publishing companies, etc have in our modern society. These institutions that had real natural authority had percieved what universe was really like. This means that the beings of the three realms, buddhas and bodhisattvas of infinite eons etc were facts. They were reality, like the facts that the modern authorities produce today, they were not tales at all. Almost all of our knowledge exists by faith, habitul faith in the authorities, socially enforced faith. We can not even trust our own experience when the society decides otherwise, we have to deny our own experience, or suffer the consequences of it.


All of that really has no bearing on the arguments to which I refer. The scholars in question are all quite familiar with the milieu they study - far more than you or I. I can see this discussion is going nowhere, so I don't see much point in continuing it.
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Re: First mahayana sutras, when?

Postby Leo Rivers » Tue Jul 24, 2012 11:22 pm

I just want to add that Tradition is one explanation system and that Academia is another explanation system.

They aren't using either the same assumptions or the same information. They are like chess and checkers. The board is the same but the moves and pieces are different. A chess player can "sit in" on a game of checkers if they are willing to play checkers for awhile.

My point is they don't speak the same language so you have to be willing to "play by the rules" of the system you are in to get any good out of it.

Early on in the Buddhist conversation with non-Buddhists an understanding arose about "rules of debate" where Buddhists decided they could usefully engage non-Buddhists when a shared assumption made a point of divergence and discussion possible.

I apologize for not recalling the name of the Buddhist teacher who in the early centuries of the Common Era set up the rules for these kinds of debates.
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Re: First mahayana sutras, when?

Postby pueraeternus » Wed Jul 25, 2012 5:07 am

Aemilius wrote:I am replying your statement/opinion that they are literary compositions.


I think the point is that: the written records of the Agamas/Nikayas have all the hallmarks of an oral tradition, whereas the written records of the Mahayana sutras have all the hallmarks of a literary composition (and very little of that of an oral tradition). Hence we can safely say that, as Greg puts it, "it can be established with reasonable certainty that many Mahayana sutras are literary compositions and not strictly the fruit of oral tradition."

Its quite a logical and reasonable conclusion.
If you believe certain words, you believe their hidden arguments. When you believe something is right or wrong, true of false, you believe the assumptions in the words which express the arguments. Such assumptions are often full of holes, but remain most precious to the convinced.

- The Open-Ended Proof from The Panoplia Prophetica
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Re: First mahayana sutras, when?

Postby Michael_Dorfman » Wed Jul 25, 2012 5:02 pm

Leo Rivers wrote:
I apologize for not recalling the name of the Buddhist teacher who in the early centuries of the Common Era set up the rules for these kinds of debates.


I'm pretty sure that was Dignāga (although it's possible he got it from Vasubandhu; I haven't read the latter's logical works.)
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Re: First mahayana sutras, when?

Postby Aemilius » Wed Aug 29, 2012 10:58 am

You must be referring to Vasubandhu's Vadavidhi, A method of Argumentation. It is a difficult text to grasp. There must have been earlier works on the subject. There were in India public discussion forums, or houses built for that specific purpose, these existed already during the Tathagata's lifetime.
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Re: First mahayana sutras, when?

Postby Aemilius » Wed Aug 29, 2012 12:59 pm

pueraeternus wrote:
Aemilius wrote:I am replying your statement/opinion that they are literary compositions.


I think the point is that: the written records of the Agamas/Nikayas have all the hallmarks of an oral tradition, whereas the written records of the Mahayana sutras have all the hallmarks of a literary composition (and very little of that of an oral tradition). Hence we can safely say that, as Greg puts it, "it can be established with reasonable certainty that many Mahayana sutras are literary compositions and not strictly the fruit of oral tradition."

Its quite a logical and reasonable conclusion.


The question is much larger, as I have tried to express. You can also put it this way: Does it mean that there was no Mahayana movement at all, preceding the sutras? Or that the Mahayana sutras are not products from the Mahayana that existed as an oral tradition, as an oral teaching, an oral lineage?

Mahayana has all the hall marks of being a genuine teaching of Buddha Shakyamuni. It has been evidenced by the thousands, tens of thousands, of enlightened masters that the Mahayana has produced. Its proof is strictly spiritual, strictly practical.

It is easy to see from elsewhere in the world, from the oral traditions that have existed on all continents, that the written stories that have been produced from these oral traditions do not differ in any way at all from the style and composition of the Mahayana sutras.
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