Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby zerwe » Sat Jun 08, 2013 2:34 pm

charles wrote:
Indrajala wrote:
charles wrote:If someone had a vision, dream, or transmission, how would they be absolutely certain they were not being deceived? Is it possible some being might deceive a human into believing it was a Buddha?


I've never had such visions, but if someone did and wrote it all down we could check it against existing canon and see how it matches up.

Even if it matches up, how can we be absolutely certain the texts it matches up with are truthful? How can we authenticate the validity of the texts beyond just scholarly analysis? Can we reach a type of "knowing" that, without a doubt, knows something to be absolutely true, and one which knows, without a doubt, that it knows absolutely true information? A type of epistemological certainty?


The "absolutely true information" you are referring to is a anything that has a positive impact upon your mind (anything that has
the power to reduce negative states of mind) and is known as Dharma. Certainly, we should investigate the teachings and trace their
mundane origin through lineage. However, the only way to test the teachings to see if it is "authentic" is to integrate them into our lives
thus making them experiential. In this case origin is meaningless.
Shaun :namaste:
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby Michael_Dorfman » Sat Jun 08, 2013 3:37 pm

jeeprs wrote:
Son of Buddha wrote:The oldest carbon dated Buddhist scripture is the Lotus Sutra(the one found predates the oldest pali canon scrpture found)


I would be interested to see the source for that.


I'm not a manuscript scholar, but I am pretty sure that this claim is false.

The earliest Lotus Sūṭra manuscript that I am aware of is from Gilgit, and is dated to the Fifth Century CE; the various manuscripts from Gandhāra are about 400 years older than that.

Of course, I'd be happy to be corrected by someone with more knowledge of the field.
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby PorkChop » Sat Jun 08, 2013 4:16 pm

charles wrote:
PorkChop wrote:
charles wrote:Even if it matches up, how can we be absolutely certain the texts it matches up with are truthful? How can we authenticate the validity of the texts beyond just scholarly analysis? Can we reach a type of "knowing" that, without a doubt, knows something to be absolutely true, and one which knows, without a doubt, that it knows absolutely true information? A type of epistemological certainty?


Yes, such "knowing" has happened in the past and continues to happen.
How can one reach this type of "knowing"? Is there any texts that discuss this?


The story of Hakuin & the Lotus Sutra is the best example I can think of off the top of my head.
There are also stories of realized people verifying the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment, which has been thought to be of Chinese origin for hundreds of years (ie not a recent accusation).
These things shouldn't be taken at face value on blind faith.
When you get to that level, you understand the metaphors and what's really being said.
Nan Huai Chin used the Chinese Tripitaka to verify his attainment.

Michael_Dorfman wrote:
jeeprs wrote:
Son of Buddha wrote:The oldest carbon dated Buddhist scripture is the Lotus Sutra(the one found predates the oldest pali canon scrpture found)


I would be interested to see the source for that.


I'm not a manuscript scholar, but I am pretty sure that this claim is false.

The earliest Lotus Sūṭra manuscript that I am aware of is from Gilgit, and is dated to the Fifth Century CE; the various manuscripts from Gandhāra are about 400 years older than that.

Of course, I'd be happy to be corrected by someone with more knowledge of the field.


I think he's talking about the oldest document found in India proper.
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby smcj » Sat Jun 08, 2013 8:04 pm

An iPhone post:

The Pali Suttas were not composed exclusively by Sakyamuni. Often his disciples would answer a question for him and he would give his approval. If you take the idea of others speaking true Dharma, yet still relying on Buddha for validation, and extrapolate out beyond His parinirvana, you can rationalize later texts as being valid.

I mean, does anybody here actually believe Sakyamuni gave some nagas the Madyamaka to hold until Nagarjuna's was born? I consider those teachings valid because Nagarjuna had his own realization, thus he was "validated by enlightenment/Buddha" directly and not by some purported historical account.
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby smcj » Sat Jun 08, 2013 9:48 pm

The Pali Suttas were not composed exclusively by Sakyamuni. Often his disciples would answer a question for him and he would give his approval. If you take the idea of others speaking true Dharma, yet still relying on Buddha for validation, and extrapolate out beyond His parinirvana, you can rationalize later texts as being valid.

I mean, does anybody here actually believe Sakyamuni gave some nagas the Madyamaka to hold until Nagarjuna's was born? I consider those teachings valid because Nagarjuna had his own realization, thus he was "validated by enlightenment/Buddha" directly and not by some purported historical account.

To add to my own post, I'd like to mention that Dorje Chang (Skt. Vajradhara), the Dharmakaya Buddha, is said to be understood as 'the nlightenment of Sakyamuni as seen from the Vajrayana perspective', and also as 'the trans-historical Buddha'. With that understanding you can see how Dorje Chang could "validate" a scripture that was written by another at a later date.
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby cdpatton » Sun Jun 09, 2013 6:09 pm

I hope everyone is here is aware (yes?) that all of the commentarial traditions except perhaps the Mulasarvastivadins (the Vaibasa says, the Dharma is what is taught by Buddhas and their disciples only), define the Dharma as consisting of what was taught by the Buddha, by his disciples, by the ancient rsi-s (sages), and by the devas. The test is not *who* taught a teaching, but what the teaching consists of: What is true and what is well (skillfully) said. The Buddha is special only insofar as he was considered a fount of 100% Dharma. That didn't mean no one else said anything that was true and well-said. This was a move against the ideas of a closed scriptural canon, or of enshrining any particular *person*'s teaching as absolute truth.
"I practiced without a teacher,
My aim but one, with no equal.
I amassed one practice to become a Buddha
And naturally penetrated the noble Path."
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby Kim O'Hara » Mon Jun 10, 2013 2:54 am

cdpatton wrote:They (literalists like the Nichiren sect, or monotheists like Christians, etc) are afraid that if ordinary people understand that scriptures (all scriptures) are works written by people, and not absolute sources of truth (prophets, gods, buddhas, etc), that they will not have absolute faith in them. The fallacy (in terms of Dharma, at least) is the insistence that one must have a literal, child-like faith in order for the teachings to have their effect on the follower ...

:thumbsup:
Well said!

:namaste:
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby charles » Mon Jun 10, 2013 6:34 am

cdpatton wrote:I hope everyone is here is aware (yes?) that all of the commentarial traditions except perhaps the Mulasarvastivadins (the Vaibasa says, the Dharma is what is taught by Buddhas and their disciples only), define the Dharma as consisting of what was taught by the Buddha, by his disciples, by the ancient rsi-s (sages), and by the devas. The test is not *who* taught a teaching, but what the teaching consists of: What is true and what is well (skillfully) said. The Buddha is special only insofar as he was considered a fount of 100% Dharma. That didn't mean no one else said anything that was true and well-said. This was a move against the ideas of a closed scriptural canon, or of enshrining any particular *person*'s teaching as absolute truth.

Which texts define the Dharma as "what was taught by the Buddha, by his disciples, by the ancient rsi-s (sages), and by the devas"?
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby Aemilius » Mon Jun 10, 2013 12:17 pm

Namu Butsu wrote:Alright so here goes the question. We all know mahayana sutras were written well over the passing into Nirvana of the Buddha. A priest i was speaking to told me that the mahayana sutras were not written by the Buddha. So why is there attribution to Buddha? For me I enjoy Jodo Shinshu buddhism and we ascribe to the Buddha, the pure land sutras, even if the Buddha did not author it there is Deep wisdom in many mahayana sutras, but I am wondering why we make it as if it was said by the Buddha himself? Like Nichiren buddhist claiming that the Lotus sutra was definately the words of Buddha etc.


Why we make it so, is because the Mahayana sutras begin with the words: "Thus have I heard at one time..." The person who has heard them is Ananda (usually), therefore they are the true, authentic words of the Bhagavan Shakyamuni. And because we regard Ananda and the other patriarchs as enlightened individuals, as possessing the five eyes, as possessing transcendental vision. Why would they have lied to us?
If Your priest was not there personally, when the Mahayana was taught, how could he know?
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby Zhen Li » Mon Jun 10, 2013 1:30 pm

Buddhavacana (word of the Buddha) is not something physically uttered by the wet lips of a historical human.

To see these ideas coming from Mahayana Buddhists of all things is surprising. I would have thought we have a more profound understanding of what Buddha is up to now.

There are two main things I would like to contribute to this discussion: 1. A Mahayana perspective on the Buddha, and 2. What makes a teaching the word of the Buddha.

1. The Buddha is not ultimately historical,
Honourable Maitreya explains this quite beautifully in the Uttaratantrasastra (Holmes translation) 6-7:
Buddhahood is endowed with two-fold value. It is uncreated and spontaneous – not to be realized through external causes. It is possessed of knowledge, compassionate love and ability.

It is uncreated because its nature is without beginning, middle or end. It is said to be spontaneity since it is peace, holder of dharmakaya.

It is an emanation, a representation, just like the golden Buddha statue - so too was the human body we call "Siddhartha" or "Lord Gautama", 152-153,
The perfect expression is like the chakravartin, being endowed with the greater Dharma’s majesty. Like the golden image are the emanations having the very nature of a representation.

This ultimate truth of the spontaneously-born is to be understood through faith alone – The orb of the sun may shine but it cannot be seen by the blind!

He is just a play (Lalitavistara just means exposition of the "play" or "sports"), a show, 156, 220-223
He had taught in various places that every knowable thing is ever void, like a cloud, a dream or an illusion. Then why did the Buddha declare the essence of Buddhahood to be there in every sentient being?

Through greatest compassion knowing all worlds, having seen all worlds, whilst never leaving the dharmakaya, through various forms, apparitional by nature, the one excellently born into the highest birth

Descends from that “Realm of Great Joy”, enters the royal womb and is nobly born on Earth. Perfectly skilled in every science and craft,

Delighting in his royal consorts’ company, renouncing, practising the path of difficulty, going to the place called “Enlightenment’s Very Heart”, he vanquishes the hosts of Mara.

Then, perfect enlightenment, he turns the wheel of Dharma and passes into nirvana – in all those places, so impure, the nirmanakaya shows these deeds as long as worlds endure.

And what does the play show? What does it teach to the audience? 224
Knowing the means (through such terms as “impermanence”, “suffering”, “non self” and “peace”), the nirmanakaya instils weariness with the world in beings of the three dimensions, thereby causing them to apply themselves to suffering’s transcendence.


2. What makes a teaching word of the Buddha, are words that which is marked by the Dharma seals:
1. Impermanence,
2. Suffering,
3. No Self, (non self above)
4. Nirvana. (peace above)

This is why Sutras which don't contradict these, can still be spoken by the Buddha, even though historical investigation finds that they were not written 2500 years ago. It is why you can bow down to your own guru as the Buddha, and see the Buddha within you. It is also why Huineng, or anyone, could write a sutra. :thumbsup:

Is Ananda also not empty? Is Ananda also not endowed with Buddha Nature? :rolling:
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby PorkChop » Mon Jun 10, 2013 4:16 pm

charles wrote:Which texts define the Dharma as "what was taught by the Buddha, by his disciples, by the ancient rsi-s (sages), and by the devas"?


Ben Yuan's post is right on the money, just wanted to address this question.
That exact statement can be found in:
Lopez, Donald. Elaborations on Emptiness: Uses of the Heart Sutra. 1998. p. 28
Hsuan Hua. The Buddha speaks of Amitabha Sutra: A General Explanation. 2003. p. 2

Want to say it's one of the Prajnaparamita Sutras that really explodes out what is considered "Buddhavacana", but I'm having a hard time finding exact quotes.

So far, I've found some good ones from the Diamond Sutra...
Diamond Sutra wrote:“Subhuti, what do you think, can the Tathàgata be seen
by his physical marks?
“No, World Honored One, the Tathàgata cannot be
seen by his physical marks and why? It is because the
physical marks are spoken of by the Tathàgata as no
physical marks.
The Buddha said to Subhuti, “all with marks is
empty and false. If you can see all marks as no marks
then you see the Tathàgata."


Diamond Sutra wrote:If one sees me in form,
If one seeks me in sound,
He practices a deviant way,
And cannot see the Tathàgata.


Diamond Sutra wrote:“Subhuti, what do you think? Is there any Dharma
spoken by the Tathàgata?"
Subhuti said to the Buddha. “World Honored One,
nothing has been spoken by the Tathàgata."


Personally, it used to be a real big deal to me, what was historical and what wasn't.
I think this view was born out of fear.
I wanted the "real teachings" and not to be hoodwinked into following something that was false.
Then I ran into 2 interesting bits of info that kind of woke me up...
First, I read this article that said this quest for the "Historical Buddha" was carried on by people who originally were involved in the quest for the "Historical Jesus" and were approaching it in much the same way. In other words, the people were going forth with the assumption that only one guy "got it right" (was divinely inspired) and therefor only his writings were valid.
Second, I came across Joseph Campbell's talk on how this stuff is not meant to be read like a newspaper (largely metaphor) and that to Buddhists (well, at least Mahayana/Vajrayana) it would not matter in the least if the Buddha was a true historical person or not.
That woke me up to the fact that this stuff doesn't rely on blind faith.
I also remembered that Buddhists don't just take refuge in the "Historical Buddha", but also the Dharma, and the Sangha - not to mention the fact that even the "Historical Buddha" said he wasn't the only one. If we take refuge in the Sangha, then we have to have some confidence that they passed down the correct teachings in some form (even if there were schisms & some ahistoricity).

The same people that quote the Kalama Sutta about not accepting anything on blind faith in sacred scriptures, oral traditions, or the charisma of a single teacher are often the same people who are dismissing any Buddhist literature that's not from the "Historical Buddha".
There's more than a little bit of irony in that standpoint.
It's Dharma if it bears the marks (the 4 noble truths, the 8 fold path, and the marks Ben Yuan described) and if it works (if it produces results praised by the wise), not if a particular person said it.

I think it helps when there are modern day people who embody the behaviors (praised by the wise) that I would like to emulate.
It lets me know that at least some are making the teachings work for them, regardless of the historical origin of their teachings.
Most of these people that I enjoy learning from happen to be from the Northern & East Asian side of things.
I also happen to find the use of metaphor and imagery in the Mahayana sutras to be absolutely beautiful as well as deeply profound.
So I have no desire to dismiss any of them.
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby vinodh » Mon Jun 10, 2013 7:38 pm

Quoting from my own signature :meditate:

na pudgalo na ca skandhā buddho jñānamanāsravam
sadāśāntiṁ vibhāvitvā gacchāmi śaraṇaṁ hyaham


Neither a person nor the aggregates, the Buddha, is knowledge free from [evil] outflows
Clearly perceiving [him] to be eternally serene, I go for refuge [in him]

Saddharma-laṅkāvatāra-sūtra

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yo dharmaṁ paśyati, sa buddhaṁ paśyati

One who sees the Dharma, sees the Buddha
śālistamba sūtra

na pudgalo na ca skandhā buddho jñānamanāsravam
sadāśāntiṁ vibhāvitvā gacchāmi śaraṇaṁ hyaham

Neither a person nor the aggregates, the Buddha, is knowledge free from [evil] outflows
Clearly perceiving [him] to be eternally serene, I go for refuge [in him]
saddharma-laṅkāvatāra-sūtra
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby Zhen Li » Tue Jun 11, 2013 2:19 am

PorkChop wrote:Second, I came across Joseph Campbell's talk on how this stuff is not meant to be read like a newspaper (largely metaphor) and that to Buddhists (well, at least Mahayana/Vajrayana) it would not matter in the least if the Buddha was a true historical person or not.

Thank you.
Jung, Psychological Types, 1943, p.33 wrote:An expression that stands for a known thing always remains merely a sign and is never a symbol. . . . Every psychic product, in so far as it is the best possible expression at the moment for a fact as yet unknown or only relatively known, may be regarded as a symbol, provided also that we are prepared to accept the expression as designating something that is only divined and not yet clearly conscious.

Coomaraswamy, Hinduism and Buddhism, 2011, p.11 wrote:It is one of the prime errors of historical and rational analysis to suppose that the "truth" and "original form" of a legend can be separated from its miraculous elements. It is in the marvels themselves that the truth inheres: "Wonder for this is no other than the very beginning of philosophy," Plato, Tbeatetus 1550, and in the same way Aristotle, who adds, "So that the lover of myths, which are a compact of wonders, is by the same token a lover of wisdom" (Metaphysics 982 B). Myth embodies the nearest approach to absolute truth that can be stated in words.

Watts, Myth and Ritual in Christianity, 1960, p.20, 24-25, 81, 186-187 wrote:the Church's official doctrine confuses its own position by trying to include within the myth, the dogma, statements which define the myth as that the events described therein are historical or metaphysical facts, or that this myth is the only true myth. Now a statement which attempts to state something about Itself is always a meaningless vicious circle like trying to think about thought A while you are thinking thought A It is thus that, on the authority of the Church or the Bible, one believes that this is the only true authority.

Anyone who has visited the great mediaeval cathedrals of Europe or studied the pages of the illuminated manuscripts will have noticed an entire absence of historical realism in the mediaeval mind. The patriarchs and prophets as well as the figures of the New Testament wear the clothes and live in the dwellings characteristic of Western Europe between 900 and 1400. Incidents from the Old and New Testaments are juxtaposed according to the theory of "types", wherein the Tree of Knowledge stands opposite the Tree of the Cross, the Exodus opposite the Resurrection, the assumptions of Enoch and Elijah opposite the Ascension, and so forth. All this goes to show that the primary interest of the mediaeval mind was not so much the history as the symbolism of the Christian story. The Feasts of the Church in which the faithful relived the events of this story were not mere historical commemorations, but rather ways of participating in the rhythm, the very actuality, of the divine life. Of this life the historical events were the earthly manifestations, the doing of the will of God on earth as it is per omnia saecula saeculorum through all the ages of ages in heaven.

Yet, with rare exceptions, the theologians insist that the Godhead is incarnate in one man only: the historical Jesus. This confinement of the Incarnation to a unique event in the historical past thus renders the myth "dead" and ineffective for the present. For when myth is confused with history, it ceases to apply to man's inner life. Myth is only "revelation" so long as it is a message from heaven that is, from the timeless and non-historical world expressing not what was true once, but what is true always. Thus the Incarnation is without effect or significance for human beings living today if it is mere history; it is a "salvific truth" only if it is perennial, a revelation of a timeless event going on within man always.

The Ascension of Christ and the carrying of manhood into heaven with his own Body involves, of course, an extension of the truth already signified in the Resurrection that what has hitherto been known as the material* bodily universe of "things", is, in the light of the Eternal Now, divinity itself. But this transfiguration of the world is not realized while it remains "in symbol" only that is to say, so long as the myth is not realized, so long as the Resurrection and Ascension seem to have happened only to Jesus of Nazareth. It is for this reason that the Spirit, the real understanding, cannot come until Jesus departs. The mission of Christ is not, therefore, fulfilled until the historical Jesus has vanished into eternity, until man finds God supremely revealed in the Now, and no more in the mere record of the Gospels.

So long as the Buddha remains a historical figure, the Dharma remains the vocalisations of his voice box, and the Sangha remains a bunch of people wrapped in colourful rags, you will not find any refuge.

But when you see them as the eternal and ultimate essence of all mind, speech, and body, then you will find a refuge.

And at the same time, of course, you will find there is no refuge to be had,
Uttaratantrasastra, 23 wrote:That those three, excellent, rare and supreme arise from the suchness, polluted and unpolluted, the qualities of immaculate Buddhahood and the victor’s deeds – such is the knowledge’s domain for those who the ultimate perceive.

The three jewels are merely a manifestation of Buddha Nature when wrapped in defilement, when free from defilement; a manifestation of the Buddha's qualities, and activities.
Uttaratantrasastra 24-25 wrote:The potential for these three rare and supreme gems is the domain of knowledge of the omniscient. In respective order there are four reasons for these four aspects being inconceivable. They are:

1. Pure yet accompanied by defilement, 2. completely undefiled yet to be purified, 3. truly inseparable qualities, 4. total non-thought and spontaneity.

This is beyond ordinary thought, and it is difficult to expect it to be carried around mindfully constantly, but when we really look within us, when our mind is calm, we will know. In our intuition, we always know, and we playfully avoid it. :juggling:
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby Aemilius » Tue Jun 11, 2013 1:53 pm

Ben Yuan wrote:Buddhavacana (word of the Buddha) is not something physically uttered by the wet lips of a historical human.

To see these ideas coming from Mahayana Buddhists of all things is surprising. I would have thought we have a more profound understanding of what Buddha is up to now.

There are two main things I would like to contribute to this discussion: 1. A Mahayana perspective on the Buddha, and 2. What makes a teaching the word of the Buddha.

1. The Buddha is not ultimately historical,
Honourable Maitreya explains this quite beautifully in the Uttaratantrasastra (Holmes translation) 6-7:
Buddhahood is endowed with two-fold value. It is uncreated and spontaneous – not to be realized through external causes. It is possessed of knowledge, compassionate love and ability.

It is uncreated because its nature is without beginning, middle or end. It is said to be spontaneity since it is peace, holder of dharmakaya.

It is an emanation, a representation, just like the golden Buddha statue - so too was the human body we call "Siddhartha" or "Lord Gautama", 152-153,
The perfect expression is like the chakravartin, being endowed with the greater Dharma’s majesty. Like the golden image are the emanations having the very nature of a representation.

This ultimate truth of the spontaneously-born is to be understood through faith alone – The orb of the sun may shine but it cannot be seen by the blind!

He is just a play (Lalitavistara just means exposition of the "play" or "sports"), a show, 156, 220-223
He had taught in various places that every knowable thing is ever void, like a cloud, a dream or an illusion. Then why did the Buddha declare the essence of Buddhahood to be there in every sentient being?

Through greatest compassion knowing all worlds, having seen all worlds, whilst never leaving the dharmakaya, through various forms, apparitional by nature, the one excellently born into the highest birth

Descends from that “Realm of Great Joy”, enters the royal womb and is nobly born on Earth. Perfectly skilled in every science and craft,

Delighting in his royal consorts’ company, renouncing, practising the path of difficulty, going to the place called “Enlightenment’s Very Heart”, he vanquishes the hosts of Mara.

Then, perfect enlightenment, he turns the wheel of Dharma and passes into nirvana – in all those places, so impure, the nirmanakaya shows these deeds as long as worlds endure.

And what does the play show? What does it teach to the audience? 224
Knowing the means (through such terms as “impermanence”, “suffering”, “non self” and “peace”), the nirmanakaya instils weariness with the world in beings of the three dimensions, thereby causing them to apply themselves to suffering’s transcendence.


2. What makes a teaching word of the Buddha, are words that which is marked by the Dharma seals:
1. Impermanence,
2. Suffering,
3. No Self, (non self above)
4. Nirvana. (peace above)

This is why Sutras which don't contradict these, can still be spoken by the Buddha, even though historical investigation finds that they were not written 2500 years ago. It is why you can bow down to your own guru as the Buddha, and see the Buddha within you. It is also why Huineng, or anyone, could write a sutra. :thumbsup:

Is Ananda also not empty? Is Ananda also not endowed with Buddha Nature? :rolling:


The error is to see the historical reality as ultimately real. It is a product of modern human consciousness.
Also, in the ordinary mundane world miraculous things happen, miraculous things manifest. Teaching of the Dharma has miraculous, transcendental or supramundane aspects to it, some say it is essentially transcendent. The four seals do not really capture the whole of it.
Huineng certainly didn't write a sutra. Huineng's Sutra was born later because his teaching and his life had had a profound and lasting effect on many people, on thousands of people.
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