Whose Buddhism is Truest?

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Whose Buddhism is Truest?

Postby Seishin » Wed May 18, 2011 2:18 pm

Gandharan Buddhist Texts may re-write early Buddhist history and our understanding of sectarianism in Buddhism.

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Click here: http://www.tricycle.com/feature/whose-buddhism-truest?page=0,0

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Re: Whose Buddhism is Truest?

Postby Indrajala » Wed May 18, 2011 3:35 pm

Interesting article. Thanks for sharing.

But what really made it hard was that also I had to identify and change a fundamental background picture I had about the nature of Buddhist history within which I construed those beliefs and assimilated those facts. I had to cut down the genealogical tree. And that was not easy, because I was sitting in it.


One thing we must realize is that Buddhist traditions are largely oral with canonical backing. The vinaya, sūtra and śāstra are all studied, but in actual practice contemporary conventions take precedence. The customs one learns from seniors in the tradition are generally followed even if they are contrary to scripture. In that sense the canon is secondary to the living tradition one is a part of. Now, of course, in discourse some Buddhists will assert their canon is the most legitimate or their teachings are the true word of the Buddha, but in reality it comes down to the contemporary oral tradition with the canon only deferred to when necessary.

That means finding the "truest" Buddhism is somewhat of an intellectual's game.

Pali tradition reports that Buddhist monks in the Theravada tradition started writing down texts in about the first century B.C.E. The manuscript record in Pali, however, doesn’t begin until about 800 C.E. But the Gandhari manuscripts date from as early as the first century B.C.E. If monks were writing in one part of India, they could likely have been writing in other parts of India as well—so this would seem to add credence to the Pali claims.


We have Buddhist texts in Chinese dating from the 1st century CE, which would only be a few decades from this period. In all likelihood the texts were transmitted from Central Asia or perhaps the areas in what is now Xinjiang in the far western corner of the PRC. That certainly speaks about the proliferation of Buddhist scripture in that period. The Tocharian language might have also been in use for Buddhist scriptures.

Interesting, though, that we have Chinese Buddhist texts on record centuries prior to the beginning of the Pali manuscript record. Unfortunately the Chinese Āgamas tend to be viewed as insufficiently authentic.

But even more significant is what we have found: that is, difference. These scrolls are incontrovertible proof that as early as the first century B.C.E., there was another significant living Buddhist tradition in a separate region of India and in an entirely different language from the tradition preserved in Pali.


Again, what about Central Asia? If the Chinese could have Buddhist scriptures in the 1st century CE, then they were probably getting them from somewhere in Central Asia and not India proper. A lot of scholars look to India as the sole possessor of authentic early Buddhist scriptures, meanwhile you had large Buddhist communities in Central Asia.
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Re: Whose Buddhism is Truest?

Postby ronnewmexico » Wed May 18, 2011 7:07 pm

As a aside but relative.....I personally find it excellent to find on this board individuals/resources that may provide quite quite informed views on this and other subjects beyond what may be found in national media publications at times. WE forget what we are seeing in publications are usually one predominance of opinion and not necessary the most educated of opinion(the most educated may not be palatible for the national auidence it intends to reach).

So as a aside and my appologies to the initial poster for deviating from topic..but kudos to this poster above and many many others that are actual authorities in their respective fields of Buddhism, lamas, monks scholors of medicine and others. Though I occasionally disagree with them on finer points and though I myself have no such education there is not a shread of doubt theirs is a quite quite educated viewpoint.

Thanks for providing that.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Whose Buddhism is Truest?

Postby Caz » Thu May 19, 2011 11:56 am

This just got me thinking. :applause:
Who's Buddhism is the truest ? Why the person who perfectly implements the teachings to change the mind and following conduct of course. We could study all we want but if we dont put whatever our choosen methods are into practise we can still end up an asshole, even if you do have a degree. :jumping:
Abandoning Dharma is, in the final analysis, disparaging the Hinayana because of the Mahayana; favoring the Hinayana on account of the Mahayana; playing off sutra against tantra; playing off the four classes of the tantras against each other; favoring one of the Tibetan schools—the Sakya, Gelug, Kagyu, or Nyingma—and disparaging the rest; and so on. In other words, we abandon Dharma any time we favor our own tenets and disparage the rest.

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Re: Whose Buddhism is Truest?

Postby ronnewmexico » Thu May 19, 2011 6:32 pm

This question is myriad with answers depending upon context, and my personal opinion is the ultlmate answer is unfindable.

On a personal level as prehaps refered to above, it is a personal issue.

One thing perhaps to concern oneself in the actuality of this thing, the measurement of such by performance.....as a aside perhaps as it has not been introduced into discussion....

Just a example one may perhaps live in a safe environment, perhaps a gated community, giving much of ones income to charity, helping others as much as possible personally, being always cheerful and helpful, having much income due to a successful educational experience and no lack of intelligence. Devote much time to dharma, study and practice of spiritual nature. ONe may in this environment never have occasion to use violence or force in any manner being totally passive in all interactions verbal and physical.

One may be born and live in a barrio, ghetto, or slum. Have never the opportunity for perceived safety, always living in fear of death destruction, and mayham. Abused sexually violently or otherwise. Having no education making no money. Have no occasion to give anything to charity. Appearing actually quite greedy, every single penny one makes goes only to oneself. Have no occasion actually to provide even for family and children. Have every occasion actually daily to provide if not the necessity for force or violence always the appearence of the potential for actualization of those things.

Both are subject to considerational result of past life karmic effect presenting as life behavior experience.
But both may have equal(to my view) actualization of dharma though witnessed results may be quite differing.
Both may have equal current understandings and like as not, the second may be equal or excell the first in spiritual understandings, on occasion.

Point being we simply cannot look at observational states to make determinations of such things.
Not to say any or the previous poster is stateing that, but to state that, may be a consideration in our conventional asertations on these things.
REinforceing my contention....truest is really not findable. In a conventional sense as how we may find things. Appearences may lie in this thing.

Secondarily on a personal note.... trying to approximate a situation of conditions that express as great ability to be spiritual in every single manner in action performed when one has not the actuality of situations of conditions that enable one to act as such....leads one to suffer great harm and confusion.
WE cannot behave as HHDL does when living in a innercity ghetto per example perhaps as a schoolchild...it would quickly certainly lead to physical harm, and have negative spiritual effect as ones life as human would be greatly shortened and thusly less overall spiritual progression would be possible. ACting such though one understands fully the necessity for passive action and compassion in that situtation would be a negative and such acting would be actually a spiritual misunderstanding not accounting for a understanding of ones personal lifesituation circumstance,

Where we find ourselves in this lifetime is always as result of karmic effect. But we cannot state the exact notions of why this is presenting as life situation where we find ourselves right now. ONe born in ghetto may not necessarily imply one is inherantly spiritually inferior to one who is born to a clan of great standing with every opportunity. We simply do not know the actual effects of karma in that regard.
One may for instance have been very rich, with compassion. Developed the idea in mindstream from continual reinforcement one would have greater spiritual effect if born as one of them,(the poor) and hence be born poor in a next or furthur lifetime. So one finds oneself poor but with no opportunity for displayal of compassionate effect.
Just one example(there could be any number of potentialities in that thing) but we cannot assume those of less fortunate current life that allows for no spiritual progression obvious, nor actuality of compassionate effect present, are lesser spiritually than those that do have such.
Karma is so complex we really cannot say.

We may extend that train of thought...
Some may by such faulted reasoning, say on basis of cultural exposure, ethenticity, race, or religion.... those people are almost always that or this way...their birth in such a faulted place speaks to their spiritual status and thusly their potential. And extended in another fashion....If we find one of those amonst us they must be given only the most basic of teachings applicable to where they were born.
Theist type teaching for those then born in a theist place for example(examples could be multiple and inverse).
Caste...such thinkings extend into establishement of caste as does present in certain areas of the world.

EAch person we heve to remember is a experiement of one. WE being obstructed can never really fully read karmas and effect of such as producing life births. We simply do not know.
Norms are norms but enough exceptions exist to make only the statement... maybe, maybe not.

So whose Buddhism is truest...unfindable, by most means..... certainly not by observational behaviors.
On a scholorly basis...it appears as the second posters reply attests...a very very complex issue.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Whose Buddhism is Truest?

Postby fragrant herbs » Thu May 19, 2011 9:15 pm

Thank you for the great article. I was struggling in my mind over this.
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Re: Whose Buddhism is Truest?

Postby Seishin » Fri May 20, 2011 8:32 am

Glad I could be of some assistance :smile:
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Re: Whose Buddhism is Truest?

Postby Mr. G » Wed May 25, 2011 11:41 am

Blogger Justin Whitaker shares his thoughts:

Here are some of the key points and my thoughts:

It is now clear that none of the existing Buddhist collections of early Indian scriptures—not the Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese, nor even the Gandhari—“can be privileged as the most authentic or original words of the Buddha.”

Even at the time of my work on my MA thesis (2005), it was drilled into my head that the Pali canon couldn't be claimed to be the earliest scriptures, but could still be seen as the most complete original-language (even this is contested) body of the Buddha's teachings. As Anne Hanson wrote in 2003:

As Steven Collins has persuasively argued, the equation made by earlier scholars between the notion of a preexistent Pali canon and "original" or early Buddhism can hardly be historically supported. Rather, present-day versions of the Pali canon, he suggests, are the product of the Sinhalese Mahaviharin sect's efforts at self-preservation and legitimation during periodic downturns of royal patronage for the sect in Sri Lanka. These efforts resulted in the introduction of the concept of the Tipitaka as a closed and authoritative body of Theravadin scriptures (1990, 75-102). - In "The Image of an Orphan: Cambodian Narrative Sites for Buddhist Ethical Reflection," The Journal of Asian Studies

Read More Here...
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
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Re: Whose Buddhism is Truest?

Postby Seishin » Wed May 25, 2011 12:23 pm

Great article that. Thank you!
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