A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha

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A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha

Postby Leo Rivers » Sat May 10, 2014 8:50 pm

A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha. A dynamite comparison to the real situation of academics compared to Aristotle and much more enesues, and the blog(a converstion into which you can jump in) begins:

Trusting our sources: manuscripts, archaeology, and what we “cannot know”
Posted on 28 April 2014 by justin — 22 Comments ↓

I am fresh back from the “Buddhism and Social Justice” conference hosted by Leiden University, The Netherlands.

This will be the first in what I hope will be a number of posts in the coming weeks about individual papers and ideas flowing from the conference, posted both here and/or at my own blog, American Buddhist Perspective(s). This post has to do with methodology and how we approach our sources, so I think it is something everyone here can appreciate and, I hope, offer feedback on. At the conference Prof. Steven Collins made the very interesting plea:


http://indianphilosophyblog.org/2014/04/28/trusting-our-sources-manuscripts-archaeology-and-what-we-cannot-know/

:buddha1:
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha

Postby odysseus » Sat May 10, 2014 9:37 pm

The same crap, new wrapping. Sowing more doubt for modern Buddhists, hmm.
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha

Postby gad rgyangs » Sat May 10, 2014 10:31 pm

odysseus wrote:The same crap, new wrapping. Sowing more doubt for modern Buddhists, hmm.


ha ha, yes its much better to turn your brain off if you want to be a good little Buddhist.
Thoroughly tame your own mind.
This is (possibly) the teaching of Buddha.
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha

Postby Wayfarer » Sun May 11, 2014 12:28 am

It's a rather academic issue. I have read Stephen Collins' book Selfless Persons and thought it was pretty good. But this debate is all about what is or isn't able to be proven as regards historical Buddhism. So it's another 'whose is the real dharma' debate that is characteristic of the modern world. Everything becomes subject to re-definition and further analysis and viewing from different perspectives, until it is clear that what you thought was obvious and simple is in fact obscure and complicated.

I think we can get the drift of the Buddha's teaching accurately enough but the challenge is always to walk the walk. (I can hear it now: which walk? What direction? Where to?....and so on, and so on....)
Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha

Postby odysseus » Sun May 11, 2014 12:40 am

gad rgyangs wrote:
odysseus wrote:The same crap, new wrapping. Sowing more doubt for modern Buddhists, hmm.


ha ha, yes its much better to turn your brain off if you want to be a good little Buddhist.


You mock yourself? :crying:
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha

Postby gad rgyangs » Sun May 11, 2014 12:40 am

Wayfarer wrote:It's a rather academic issue. I have read Stephen Collins' book Selfless Persons and thought it was pretty good. But this debate is all about what is or isn't able to be proven as regards historical Buddhism. So it's another 'whose is the real dharma' debate that is characteristic of the modern world. Everything becomes subject to re-definition and further analysis and viewing from different perspectives, until it is clear that what you thought was obvious and simple is in fact obscure and complicated.

I think we can get the drift of the Buddha's teaching accurately enough but the challenge is always to walk the walk. (I can hear it now: which walk? What direction? Where to?....and so on, and so on....)


ha ha yes, wouldn't it be nice if it was that simple: you could just listen to someone tell you what's what without having to think for yourself.
Thoroughly tame your own mind.
This is (possibly) the teaching of Buddha.
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha

Postby Greg » Sun May 11, 2014 3:08 am

It seems to me that all of the issues around the question of "what the (historical) buddha really taught" boil down to this: what does Buddhism mean to you?

If you take a strictly emic perspective (or rather one strictly emic perspective), then "Buddhism" is the Buddhaśāsana which lasts a few thousand years at best, and if you are on the tail end of it you are out of luck. This is basically a śrāvaka perspective, to be precise. From this perspective you better do your best to figure out exactly what the one true historical Buddha of our age said with as much fidelity as possible. But if you then take an essentially etic approach to resolving that concern (e.g. a historicist, text critical, philological one) then you have mixed apples and oranges with your value system and you are bound to run into some vexing contradictions.

To some extent the Mahāyāna tradition has already sidestepped the need to curate the Buddhaśāsana so fastidiously by expanding the scope of it to include all sorts of other material, material conveyed by other (extraordinary) means by other (no less worthy) individuals. And if you are inclined to take a more emic approach in keeping with the spirit of the Mahāyāna, and your sense of what "Buddhism" is is a little more expansive (e.g. you see it as a system of awakening that is not just available to one person every few thousand years, but something that is somehow more widely accessible) then the historicist, text critical, philological approach to "early Buddhism" is less threatening.

Although you are still left with some thorny questions as to how to establish authority.
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha

Postby gad rgyangs » Sun May 11, 2014 3:46 am

luckily, nothing needs to be established, since nothing can be established.
Thoroughly tame your own mind.
This is (possibly) the teaching of Buddha.
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha

Postby Andrew108 » Sun May 11, 2014 8:31 am

Greg wrote:It seems to me that all of the issues around the question of "what the (historical) buddha really taught" boil down to this: what does Buddhism mean to you?
.........Although you are still left with some thorny questions as to how to establish authority.


Well this is the key problem. Some want to establish an orthodoxy that undermines what direct experience points out. Submission and preservation are two key themes in Buddhism that many Westerners choose to ignore.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha

Postby Greg » Sun May 11, 2014 4:56 pm

gad rgyangs wrote:luckily, nothing needs to be established, since nothing can be established.


What I meant was, everyone still has to establish for him or herself what is reliable and worthwhile and what is isn't
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha

Postby gad rgyangs » Sun May 11, 2014 6:54 pm

Greg wrote:
gad rgyangs wrote:luckily, nothing needs to be established, since nothing can be established.


What I meant was, everyone still has to establish for him or herself what is reliable and worthwhile and what is isn't


that's the spirit!
Thoroughly tame your own mind.
This is (possibly) the teaching of Buddha.
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun May 11, 2014 6:56 pm

Let me remind people that this thread is in the academic discussion section of the forum, this means that any opinions have to be referenced to academic sources. Refrain from the personal attacks, and reference opinions, or else I will be forced to delete posts.

Thank you.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha

Postby Zhen Li » Sun May 11, 2014 7:47 pm

Steven Collins' work is far from crap, he's the foremost scholar of Pali Buddhism today. If you find academic findings are conflicting with your religious practice, I think the first place to look should be your own mind, what are your expectations and what are your assumptions about what Buddhism is, which makes academia conflict with it? Are those expectations really necessary to the practice or understanding of Dharma from a religious perspective?
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