Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby Huifeng » Mon Mar 15, 2010 10:33 am

Huseng wrote:
Huifeng wrote:Of course they call them 'sutra', but the canon is not, and probably has never been, closed.



Hi Venerable Huifeng! :smile:

In Chinese they are called jing 經, but that designation doesn't necessarily always correspond to sutra as it is understood in English or in Sanskrit. In English if you call something a sutra in the Buddhist context most people would probably agree it refers to a sermon by the Buddha or a Buddha.

My point is that if somebody in our present day announces they have a new Mahayana sutra and that it is just as authentic as the Heart Sutra or the Brahma Net Sutra (both of which are generally thought to have been penned in China), I doubt few would take that person seriously. It wouldn't be categorized within the same sutra division 經部 and would most likely be called apocryphal and dismissed as the writings of a modern author.

The first questions would be, "How did you get a sermon from the Buddha? Or did you see this in a vision? A dream? What makes you so special as to have access to this sermon from a Buddha?"


Sure. This is why I said that the content of the Chattha Sangayana, Jiaxing Zang, etc. are called by other names, not as "sutta" / "sutra". Still, they do appear within the "canon" (not "tripitaka" in the narrow sense), and are accepted as such.
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby Huifeng » Mon Mar 15, 2010 10:39 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings venerable,

Huifeng wrote:The notion that "in the early days, the Mahayana tradition would have been more homogenous (sic)" is interesting, but I don't know how many specialists would agree that that was the case. What makes you think that early Mahayana was "homogeneous"?


Thank you for the insights.

The logic was only that this is what tends to happen to everything over time. The more time that elapses, the more opportunities for diversification... and diversification seems more common (particularly in the sense of Buddhist schools) than unification.

Metta,
Retro. :)


As Huseng says, it is still not even certain that the Mahayana was a "unity" in the first place.

The "unity" to "diversity" reason sounds okay. However, there is also a tendency in Buddhism to come up with over-arching systems to incorporate a wide range of (superficially at least) disparate material. This is the process of delineating what is nitartha and what is neyartha.

A classic Chinese example would be Tiantai doxography. It unifies all teachings under the position of the Saddharma Pundarika and Mahayana Parinirvana Sutras. Other schools had similar systems to "unify" things. A kind of "grand unified theory of everything" as it were. Take a three yana system, for instance. Or multiple yanas of tantra.

Commentaries then use these theories to read the earlier material. As time goes on, this becomes the standard, now "unified" explanation. What becomes standard "Mahayana" in the Pala dynasty, for instance, is a combination (and thus type of unification) of a number of earlier disparate teachings. Choices are made here and there for each doctrine, and combined into a whole.

So, though unity to diversity sounds reasonable and okay, it is not necessarily the case. Things are more complex than that.
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Mon Mar 15, 2010 5:42 pm

catmoon wrote:Tibetan monks are still producing, uh termas or tormas or something they call them. Hidden scriptures that amount to new revelations. Some are quite radical, representing substantial changes in practice. And of course, written commentary is endless.


Terma

*usual wiki disclaimers
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby catmoon » Mon Mar 15, 2010 11:49 pm

Ngawang Drolma wrote:
catmoon wrote:Tibetan monks are still producing, uh termas or tormas or something they call them. Hidden scriptures that amount to new revelations. Some are quite radical, representing substantial changes in practice. And of course, written commentary is endless.


Terma

*usual wiki disclaimers


Good, and the people who find them are termites, right?
:jumping:
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Tue Mar 16, 2010 12:31 am

catmoon wrote:Good, and the people who find them are termites, right?
:jumping:


Tertons ;)
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby Aemilius » Thu Jun 10, 2010 4:36 pm

plwk wrote:
It wouldn't be conducive to the greater good nowadays to call something a sutra because unless it is dug up out of the ground and dated to an ancient period, the canons have been fixed and any new scripture appearing would be subject to too much doubt.

Reminds me of today's questionable compositions like the 'True Buddha Sutra' or also known as 'The Sutra of Authentic Dharma that Removes Hindrances and Bestows Good Fortune' and the yesteryear's Tang/Zhou Dynasty's Empress (Emperor) Wu Ze Tian's infamous 'Great Cloud Sutra' [ see here and here (although we are indebted to her for the famed 'Sutra Preface/Opening Verse' recited by the Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese Mahayana Traditions and elevation of the Buddha Dharma then)]... :reading:


There is a difference between the True Buddha Sutra and let's say Medicine Buddha Sutra in that the True Buddha Sutra begins with a description of how it happened, which is a vision or experience of Lian Shen, and the Medicine Buddha Sutra begins with a description of how, when and where Buddha Shakyamuni delivered it.
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby charles » Thu Jun 06, 2013 11:55 am

Indrajala wrote: There is a history in Mahayana Buddhism of receiving teachings through visions, dreams and transmission.

This actually still happens. I don't know if it would be appropriate to go into details here, but I know one person who has had these kinds of transmissions and put it down on paper as a kind of exquisitely composed poetic verse (and it rhymed). It wasn't "inspired by" a Buddha or Bodhisattva, they said it came from them. The words were definitely dharma in my estimation of them.

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?
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jun 06, 2013 12:17 pm

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.
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby Monsoon » Thu Jun 06, 2013 9:39 pm

I am reminded of "classical music".

Who writes "classical music" in the 21th century?*

Just a thought on the appearance of new sutras**.






*I know there are one or two such as Gorecki, but the point still holds.
** in my understanding of Mandarin "jing" means something akin to "classic text" - i jing, dao de jing, i jin jing, and so on.
Let peace reign!

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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby Son of Buddha » Thu Jun 06, 2013 10:41 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.


There are no true claims to autheticity.

Historically speaking it is claimed that both the Theravadan and Mahayana suttas/sutras were all written down at around the same time.

Both Thervadan and Mahayana claim that before their texts were written down they were passed down orally.

archylogically(spelled that wrong)
The oldest carbon dated Buddhist scripture is the Lotus Sutra(the one found predates the oldest pali canon scrpture found)

Now that doesnt mean we are older,that just means the oldest Buddhist text preserved happened to be this sutra.

So honestly the whole squabble is generally based on secritarian issues,there is no real evidence either way to say which is actually "authentic"
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby Monsoon » Thu Jun 06, 2013 10:51 pm

Static information degrades as a function of time.
Let peace reign!

Metta,

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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby Will » Fri Jun 07, 2013 12:57 am

The Platform Sutra, the Srimala Sutra, the Uttaratantra etc. Say our refuge is in our Bodhi or buddhatva, not Buddha, the personage of long ago.

So if anyone is settled well into that inner buddha-like Bodhi and puts pen to paper or speaks thusly, then that buddha is the author of a Mahayana sutra.
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby Wayfarer » Fri Jun 07, 2013 1:41 am

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.
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby Will » Fri Jun 07, 2013 2:18 am

But if one must have a reason to believe that Gautama the Buddha was the author and not some other Bodhi filled person, then recall that Buddha is the Guru of Devas & Men. He taught many sutras is higher realms, those places beyond the reach of the five senses. These teachings were discovered or were passed down by bodhisattvas who were aware of & could visit those higher realms.
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby cdpatton » Fri Jun 07, 2013 4:57 am

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.


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 ...

The Buddha is the teacher in Mahayana texts in order to make it clear to the reader that it is a Buddhist text, but one which attempts to present the teaching on the same level as Gautama. In order to do that, the authors felt that it needed to come from a Buddha's mouth, even if it was a literary device. It then kept the same religious power to the reader as other sutras that were in the older oral tradition. They used absurdly cosmic spectacles to make it clear to the readers that all of this was a metaphor for what the Mahayana writers believed was a universal source of Buddhas that was always present regardless of how long ago it was that Gautama passed into Parinirvana. They eventually called things like dharmakaya, dharmadhatu, tathagata-garbha - the Lotus Sutra is a text in which we see the basic idea expressed before the dogmas (formal doctrines) arose around it.

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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby charles » Sat Jun 08, 2013 2:33 am

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?
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby PorkChop » Sat Jun 08, 2013 3:32 am

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?


Yes, such "knowing" has happened in the past and continues to happen.
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby charles » Sat Jun 08, 2013 7:12 am

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?
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby Wayfarer » Sat Jun 08, 2013 9:59 am

I don't know what the pundits will say, but my answer would be that 'knowing' in this special sense is the meaning of prajñā which is found throughout the Mahāyāna literature. As to how one's attainment of that is validated, that is part of the role of the teacher, and indeed why you have a teacher in the first place (although who 'the teacher' is may not always be obvious).

In any case, in the Zen literature, one text which discusses at length the nature of prajñā is the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Zen Patriach. There are also many discussions of the nature of prajñā in texts on the history of Zen Buddhism by Suzuki, Domoulin, and others. The question of the nature and relationship of of prajñā and Śūnyatā, wisdom and emptiness, is central to Mahāyāna, but they are very elusive ideas.
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Re: Buddha the author of Mahayana sutras?

Postby charles » Sat Jun 08, 2013 11:02 am

jeeprs wrote:I don't know what the pundits will say, but my answer would be that 'knowing' in this special sense is the meaning of prajñā which is found throughout the Mahāyāna literature. As to how one's attainment of that is validated, that is part of the role of the teacher, and indeed why you have a teacher in the first place (although who 'the teacher' is may not always be obvious).
I meant a knowing that I know with absolute certainty to be valid, not an experience in which its validity is taken merely on faith in a teacher's confirmation.
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