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The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts

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The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts Chuck Kasmire 4/1/14 11:45 AM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 4/1/14 11:11 AM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts Chuck Kasmire 4/1/14 11:48 AM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts sawfoot _ 4/1/14 12:23 PM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts Chuck Kasmire 4/1/14 7:28 PM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts sawfoot _ 4/2/14 3:10 AM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts Fitter Stoke 4/2/14 12:45 PM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts Chuck Kasmire 4/3/14 6:27 PM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts . Jake . 4/3/14 8:07 PM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts sawfoot _ 4/5/14 4:51 AM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts Fitter Stoke 4/5/14 12:03 PM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts mla7 4/5/14 1:16 PM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts Chuck Kasmire 4/6/14 4:44 PM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 4/6/14 6:21 PM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts mla7 4/7/14 10:39 PM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 4/8/14 8:19 AM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 4/8/14 8:41 PM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts sawfoot _ 4/6/14 4:21 AM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts sawfoot _ 4/6/14 4:23 AM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts Chuck Kasmire 4/8/14 6:19 PM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts Chuck Kasmire 4/8/14 4:12 PM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 4/8/14 2:34 PM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts Chuck Kasmire 4/1/14 6:55 PM
RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts Fitter Stoke 4/1/14 8:13 PM
Bhikkus Sujato and Bramali have released a book titled: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts - available for free download as pdf.

Video of Sujato discussing the book

From the Abstract:
"This work articulates and defends a single thesis: that the Early Buddhist
Texts originated in the lifetime of the Buddha or a little later, because
they were, in the main, spoken by the Buddha and his contemporary disciples.
This is the most simple, natural, and reasonable explanation for the
evidence.

Our argument covers two main areas:
1. The grounds for distinguishing the Early Buddhist Texts (EBTs) from
later Buddhist literature;
2. The evidence that the EBTs stem from close to the Buddha’s lifetime,
and that they were generally spoken by the historical Buddha.

Most academic scholars of Early Buddhism cautiously affirm that it
is possible that the EBTs contain some authentic sayings of the Buddha.
We contend that this drastically understates the evidence. A sympathetic
assessment of relevant evidence shows that it is very likely that the bulk
of the sayings in the EBTs that are attributed to the Buddha were actually
spoken by him. It is very unlikely that most of these sayings are inauthentic."

[ edited to show that this is not my abstract but rather from the book]

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
Answer
4/1/14 11:11 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Hi Chuck,
Chuck Kasmire:
Bhikkus Sujato and Bramali have released a book titled: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts - available for free download as pdf.

Video of Sujato discussing the book

Abstract:
This work articulates and defends a single thesis: that the Early Buddhist
Texts originated in the lifetime of the Buddha or a little later, because
they were, in the main, spoken by the Buddha and his contemporary disciples.
This is the most simple, natural, and reasonable explanation for the
evidence.

Our argument covers two main areas:
1. The grounds for distinguishing the Early Buddhist Texts (EBTs) from
later Buddhist literature;
2. The evidence that the EBTs stem from close to the Buddha’s lifetime,
and that they were generally spoken by the historical Buddha.

Most academic scholars of Early Buddhism cautiously affirm that it
is possible that the EBTs contain some authentic sayings of the Buddha.
We contend that this drastically understates the evidence. A sympathetic
assessment of relevant evidence shows that it is very likely that the bulk
of the sayings in the EBTs that are attributed to the Buddha were actually
spoken by him. It is very unlikely that most of these sayings are inauthentic.

I have been following a little bit of "Early Buddhist Teachings" via John Peacock and Analayo as well, their studies of writings that have more like-word correlations across say Pali, Chinese and Tibetan texts.

I like that people are studying this from a historical point of view. For example, in a slide presentation by Analayo, it seems to me, if I remember correctly, that it was considered that even there is a basis for just the hindrances and the seven factors suited to being "Early Buddhist Teachings".

There are two things in the study of early buddhist teaching to me that cause me concern, and you wrote them:
1 - CK: "This work articulates and defends a single thesis:" When there is something defended, there is contention, disputes, divineness (MN 60: "The taking up of rods & weapons, quarrels, contention, disputes, recrimination, divisiveness, & false speech are seen to arise from form, but not from total formlessness.' Reflecting thus, he practices for disenchantment toward forms, for dispassion toward forms, and for the cessation of forms.")

2 - CK: "This is the most simple, natural, and reasonable explanation for the evidence." Simplistic is not reasonable, per se.


In Early Buddhist Teachings it would be accurate (clearly seeing) to re-name these writings as what they actually are. In the case of like-word correlation, one could begin collecting writings known as "Early Buddhist Multiple-Language Overlap" (EBMLOs?).

To assert that these teachings are somehow "authentic"*** is speculation and one wonders who is motivated to speculate in this direction.

By only saying what the writings are-- for example, writings with multi-language overlap, one avoids:
A. Over-reaching beyond what one actually knows for certain; and

B. Personal arrogance and/or self-serving conceit by making conclusions from speculation. In philosophy this could be said, "Going too far and making absolute statements out of inference". In buddhist terms, one could say making papanca;

C. And one avoids becoming forgetful of lessons of the Alaguddupama guidance. In the words of Nyananda: "Even the concepts of a `this shore' and a `farther shore' are useful only for the purpose of crossing over. If, for instance, the arahant, having gone beyond, were to think `ah, this is my land,' that would be some sort of a grasping Then there will be an identification, tammayatā, not a non-identification, atammayatā. // As we had mentioned earlier, there is a strange quality called atammayatā, associated with an arahant.17 " (...) It is this conviction, which prompts the arahant not to grasp even the farther shore, though he may stand there. `This shore' and the `other shore' are concepts, which have a practical value to those who are still on this side. Page 468-477, talks on Nibbana, talk 18 Even concept nibbana and nibbana is to be released, let alone EBT defense.

Risks of speculating that early Buddhist teachings are authentic speech of the buddha include:
1) scholars role-modeling the lax position of taking what is actual and then using this for unsubstantiated speech (to avoid this, such person suggesting some words "were actually spoken by him", and must be able to attest to actually hearing Gotama the historical buddha having spoken, show the Prakrit for all to consider the veracity of this statement. Else there is a speculation clothed in "authenticity" and the word "authenticity" loses its meaning; and the user clothing their own meaning as a scholar in terms of being what is personal and bespoke..)

2) setting up a precedent position (based on speculation) that saying things like "our EBT is authentic" prepares "your soto/Jogye Seon/Gelugpa/Pure Lan/etc disciplines are not authentic." This position of righteous 'authenticity' doesn't seem to sew great outcomes in our actual world. *** Whereas just clearly seeing things as they are ~ not speculating, elaborating ~ can be said to be very useful, is said to be "wisdom" in several buddhist traditions.

3) Conceit and ignorance (willfully manipulating facts into the service of speculation).


A speculative speaker, or speakers, bear the consequences of making and leading themselves and others down a speculative road they acknowledge defending. Dependent origination. Ker-pow!



If someone counters, "But we must not be afraid to make actual distinctions", it is useful to remember that it is totally possible to state only the actual and distinctive facts and to refrain from speculative and/or inferring speech...
...and that is to state just facts and conditions as they are, thereby clearly seeing.



__________
***On the other hand, when one looks at etymology for "authenticity", it is just funny that a scholar of buddhism would wish to describe themselves and their work as "authentic":"one acting on one's own authority," from autos "self" (see auto-) + hentes "doer, being," from PIE *sene- "to accomplish, achieve." Sense of "entitled to acceptance as factual" is first recorded mid-14c"

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
Answer
4/1/14 11:48 AM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
hi Katy,
Upon reading your response I realized that it was not clear that the abstract was from the book - not mine. I have edited that post to make that clear. I will follow up later with a response to your points. They included a chapter for denialists - might be helpful to read that section.

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
Answer
4/1/14 12:23 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
For me, the interesting question is, who cares and why? I mean, it might be interesting from a historical point of view, but practice wise, why should you care if Early Buddhist Teachings are reflections of the authentic words of the buddha or not? If there is a desire for it to be the case, what does tell you about yourself and your practice?

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
Answer
4/1/14 6:55 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Hi Katy,

My posting was to let people know that this work is available as I believe there are a number of people on this site that are interested in this area. I have not come here to defend the work of these scholars - they need no assistance. I suspect that an open-minded person will simply read the book and come to there own conclusion.

There are two things in the study of early buddhist teaching to me that cause me concern, and you wrote them:


To clarify, what I wrote in my post was simply the Abstract that is found in the book. But happy to respond never the less.

1 - CK: "This work articulates and defends a single thesis:" When there is something defended, there is contention, disputes, divineness
(MN 60: "The taking up of rods & weapons, quarrels, contention, disputes, recrimination, divisiveness, & false speech are seen to arise from form, but not from total formlessness.' Reflecting thus, he practices for disenchantment toward forms, for dispassion toward forms, and for the cessation of forms.")


To defend a thesis is simply to present evidence in favor of such. There need be no contention, disputes, or devisivness. The quote you provide is for the purpose of withdrawing consciousness from its entanglement with the other four aggregates - a worthy practice certainly - but the Buddha and any run of the mill Arahat is perfectly capable of defending a thesis without getting caught in it.

2 - CK: "This is the most simple, natural, and reasonable explanation for the evidence." Simplistic is not reasonable, per se.


First, simple and simplistic do not have the same meaning: “The adjective simple means plain, ordinary, uncomplicated. The adjective simplistic is a pejorative word meaning overly simplified--characterized by extreme and often misleading simplicity.”. Secondly, the author says ‘simple...and reasonable’ - and is not equating the two.

In Early Buddhist Teachings it would be accurate (clearly seeing) to re-name these writings as what they actually are. In the case of like-word correlation, one could begin collecting writings known as "Early Buddhist Multiple-Language Overlap" (EBMLOs?).

Certainly this is one of the means used to analyze these texts - one of many.

To assert that these teachings are somehow "authentic"*** is speculation and one wonders who is motivated to speculate in this direction.


I guess at least Sujato and Bramali are. We speculate that there were authentic dinosaurs based on fossil evidence and doing so does have its value. When you walk across a busy street you speculate that you are not dreaming - and look both ways - though you have no actual proof that you are awake. If something is written that describes a specific form of practice - a recipe - that will lead to the greatest ease if followed - some may speculate that this is an authentic teaching and worth pursuing. Everyone makes their own decision.

By only saying what the writings are-- for example, writings with multi-language overlap, one avoids:
A. Over-reaching beyond what one actually knows for certain; and


Are you suggesting that historical, linguistic and archaeological evidence are not relevant?

B. Personal arrogance and/or self-serving conceit by making conclusions from speculation. In philosophy this could be said, "Going too far and making absolute statements out of inference". In buddhist terms, one could say making papanca;


Speculation may be reasonable or unreasonable (as in ‘wild speculation’). Papanca is more a distortion of our experience that is kind of projected onto phenomena by the mind. Speculation in and of itself does not involve arrogance or conceit. These would arise only if said speculation was an object of clinging - more specifically one being fettered to such as in creating a sense of identity around it. As for “"Going too far and making absolute statements out of inference" - perhaps read the book and come to your own conclusions.

C. And one avoids becoming forgetful of lessons of the Alaguddupama guidance. In the words of Nyananda:
"Even the concepts of a `this shore' and a `farther shore' are useful only for the purpose of crossing over. If, for instance, the arahant, having gone beyond, were to think `ah, this is my land,' that would be some sort of a grasping Then there will be an identification, tammayatā, not a non-identification, atammayatā. // As we had mentioned earlier, there is a strange quality called atammayatā, associated with an arahant.17 " (...) It is this conviction, which prompts the arahant not to grasp even the farther shore, though he may stand there. `This shore' and the `other shore' are concepts, which have a practical value to those who are still on this side. Page 468-477, talks on Nibbana, talk 18
Even concept nibbana and nibbana is to be released, let alone EBT defense.


Yes, I have some familiarity with these terms. You seem to link the ability to think about something with clinging to views. There are views - thoughts - and then there is clinging. They are not the same thing. Clinging requires a mind and some phenomena (a thought for example) in order to arise. Thoughts simply arise based on conditions and are in and of themselves not-self.

Risks of speculating that early Buddhist teachings are authentic speech of the buddha include:
1) scholars role-modeling the lax position of taking what is actual and then using this for unsubstantiated speech (to avoid this, such person suggesting some words "were actually spoken by him", and must be able to attest to actually hearing Gotama the historical buddha having spoken, show the Prakrit for all to consider the veracity of this statement. Else there is a speculation clothed in "authenticity" and the word "authenticity" loses its meaning; and the user clothing their own meaning as a scholar in terms of being what is personal and bespoke..)

To quote from the book: We are not denying the obvious fact that the texts bear all the marks
of redaction and editing, and that they have been optimised for the oral tradition. .... But to assume from this that the literature as a whole has not conserved the central ideas propounded
by its founder, or even that it was invented ad hoc by redactors, is to lose sight of the distinction between editing and composing. So when we say that the texts were “spoken by the Buddha”, we mean it in this non-literal sense. Clarifying the exact nature and degree of the editorial influences on the EBTs is one of the primary tasks of the student of Early Buddhism.


2) setting up a precedent position (based on speculation) that saying things like "our EBT is authentic" prepares "your soto/Jogye Seon/Gelugpa/Pure Lan/etc disciplines are not authentic." This position of righteous 'authenticity' doesn't seem to sew great outcomes in our actual world. *** Whereas just clearly seeing things as they are ~ not speculating, elaborating ~ can be said to be very useful, is said to be "wisdom" in several buddhist traditions.


First, I cannot think of a single tradition that does not accept the early suttas as the authentic teaching of the Buddha - so it is a collective ‘our’. Rather each tradition views its own take as something taught in secret, further developed, enhanced, etc. - often viewing other traditions as in the dark ages - in the slow lane.
If we refrain from discussing things that some might take offense to then we leave what is possible up to those that have no such qualms - fascists, dictators, and the like. If you have read the notion of ‘righteous’ into this post then I think you have an example of papanca.

3) Conceit and ignorance (willfully manipulating facts into the service of speculation).

A speculative speaker, or speakers, bear the consequences of making and leading themselves and others down a speculative road they acknowledge defending. Dependent origination. Ker-pow!


I suppose the Thai Forest monks that first speculated that perhaps the door to awakening was not closed as others had come to believe and could be discovered through applying what was in the early texts found themselves down that road. Much to my advantage. There are two forms of dependent origination - when skillfully applied, it leads to awakening while unskillful application leads to more wandering.

If someone counters, "But we must not be afraid to make actual distinctions", it is useful to remember that it is totally possible to state only the actual and distinctive facts and to refrain from speculative and/or inferring speech...
...and that is to state just facts and conditions as they are, thereby clearly seeing.


Perhaps you have never been unemployed? Simply stating I am broke and soon to starve must be followed by some speculation and investigation as to how to make some bucks. Or if you were out in the desert and needed water - to simply observe that you were thirsty and had no water doesn’t quite cut it - you need to observe your surroundings and speculate a bit as to what your options are. Reasoned speculation is essential for all the sciences and human life in general.

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
Answer
4/1/14 7:28 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:
For me, the interesting question is, who cares and why? I mean, it might be interesting from a historical point of view, but practice wise, why should you care if Early Buddhist Teachings are reflections of the authentic words of the buddha or not? If there is a desire for it to be the case, what does tell you about yourself and your practice?


I care and here is why: If it seems that the suttas had undergone significant alteration or that they were the result of many individuals input over hundreds or thousands of years then the sense that they represented a cohesive, integrative practice with clear results would be seriously in question.

Then for example if I come upon a site that says the result of such practice had undergone hagiography and what they really meant by Arahat is just seeing phenomena as process (as Kenneth Folk suggests) then I might run with that.

But if I see that many researchers from different fields of study come to a conclusion that the evidence strongly supports a document that has undergone only minor editing changes and appears to be a record of one individuals teachings - well, I will likely look for a teacher that has realized those results. To each his own.

What does it tell me about myself? That in a world of many teachings, views, opinions - often contradicting each other - I am interested in investing my time and effort as wisely as I can. Life is ridiculously short.

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
Answer
4/1/14 8:13 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Chuck, this is an admirable response. You've stated yourself clearly, thoroughly, and patiently.

With regard to what you said below, why you're interested in this: I am in full agreement with what you said. I've reached similar conclusions and have allowed those conclusions to influence how I spend my time and my energy.

If you'd like to keep in touch, email me at apperception983 at the public email service nearly everyone uses. (No, not hotmail...)

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
Answer
4/2/14 3:10 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Hi Chuck,

Thanks the response. My initial response to the last point of why (thinking aloud - this isn't asking a question to you specifically) - the answer is a good one, but this is a rational answer and we are very irrational beings who like to think we do things for rational reasons - I imagine there is more to it than just that, such as if you have already invested a lot of time in something, you want to feel that those efforts have been well placed and the teachings are "true". The original point really is about confirmation bias - we look for evidence to confirm our existing beliefs, and our existing beliefs are normally very biased to what we want to believe (for whatever deep psychological reasons, e.g. the end of suffering is possible, or there is a God and heaven exists etc...).

In the first part of your answer, I suppose I am reaching similar conclusions. What I am coming to realise (in its practical consequences) is that much of what we know as modern Buddhism (and that would obviously apply to MCTB and Folk's work) is a mess - a mish-mash of many ideas and cultures, and often contradictory and incoherent as a whole. David Chapman's posts on consensus Buddhism has some nice discussion of this (indebted to the work of David McMahan), highlighting that much of what the west thinks as "real" Buddhism, like Japanese Zen or Burmese Theravada, have been hugely influenced by the modern west.

Personally, I think that Gautama Buddha's package (if there is such a thing) is a product of very different culture 2000+ years ago is not so appropriate for the modern world and life I live as a lay person. But having a unified and coherent package with clear objectives and results to work from (which normally only comes from the workings of one human mind) is appealing

(is this wise enough/close enough to your opinions to get an email invite fitter? cheeky smily face!)

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
Answer
4/2/14 12:45 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sure

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
Answer
4/3/14 6:27 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
Hi Sawfoot,

The original point really is about confirmation bias - we look for evidence to confirm our existing beliefs, and our existing beliefs are normally very biased to what we want to believe (for whatever deep psychological reasons, e.g. the end of suffering is possible, or there is a God and heaven exists etc...).

or 'the ending of suffering is not possible’, etc. Yes, this plays a big role. One has to be careful, question, and test ones experience and assumptions/interpretations.

Another somewhat related issue is what I call ‘concept vs subjective experience problem’ for lack of a better term (maybe you know the correct term). For example: a belief in God - your concept of God is not the same as say a Baptist Fundamentalist which is again different from the subjective experience that a Catholic mystic like Meister Eckhart is referencing when they speak about God. Yet all three might make the statement ‘I believe in God’ and the tendency for someone hearing such a statement is to plug-in their own concept such that right from the beginning we are not on the same page. And cannot be.

In the first part of your answer, I suppose I am reaching similar conclusions. What I am coming to realize (in its practical consequences) is that much of what we know as modern Buddhism (and that would obviously apply to MCTB and Folk's work) is a mess - a mish-mash of many ideas and cultures, and often contradictory and incoherent as a whole.


Yes, we are way out on the tail of the dog. And now we have the tail trying to wag the dog - some schools reinterpreting the suttas to fit their conclusions instead of openly questioning the validity of those conclusions - which gets back to your confirmation bias statement. The pragmatic dharma scene is very good at questioning and dismissing others views but very poor at questioning its own - tending to raise them to the level of ultimate truths instead.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with mish-mash per se. I think some real innovation and creativity can come out of such cross fertilization. I think Buddha in a sense benefited from the mish-mash of his time.

Nor do I believe that the suttas are the only and last authority or that they are perfect, untouched, or above reproach - particularly when we consider the difficulties of translating these documents. I think overtime we will continue to get better translations - some in a more contemporary style that makes them more accessible.

But let’s not dismiss them - we can simply observe our experience and note where it seems to match and where it doesn’t.

Sujato makes a somewhat similar observation as yours: that there is not a single Buddhist tradition existing today that is true to the early teachings - and although they all hold the early texts as being the teachings of the Buddha and thus the foundation of their own tradition - often very little of the core tenets of that tradition are supported by the early texts.

David Chapman's posts on consensus Buddhism has some nice discussion of this (indebted to the work of David McMahan), highlighting that much of what the west thinks as "real" Buddhism, like Japanese Zen or Burmese Theravada, have been hugely influenced by the modern west.


Yes, I think this is true. Thanks for the suggestion. I went over and looked at some of his writing. He makes some good points - I’m left with this image of consensus buddhism as something like trying to take the branches of a tree and mashing them together thinking that you can come up with a better trunk though in fairness I am not familiar with Goldsteins book. I wish him luck - my own experience with consensus - when it involves more than one person - is that things usually drop to the lowest common denominator with not such good results.

Personally, I think that Gautama Buddha's package (if there is such a thing) is a product of very different culture 2000+ years ago is not so appropriate for the modern world and life I live as a lay person.


Certainly the product of a different culture but I am curious as to why you feel that it is not appropriate for you now. I mean, it starts with simply trying to live a life without creating unnecessary stress for yourself and others - not exactly rocket science.

But having a unified and coherent package with clear objectives and results to work from (which normally only comes from the workings of one human mind) is appealing.


I agree.

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
Answer
4/3/14 8:07 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Chuck Kasmire:


Sawfoot:
But having a unified and coherent package with clear objectives and results to work from (which normally only comes from the workings of one human mind) is appealing.


I agree.


Me too. I like the Rime (ree-may) tradition in Tibetan Buddhism. This was a movement which drew from multiple (often mutually antagonistic) sects of Vajayana in Tibet, but rather than creating a mish-mash per se, it emphasized taking in each tradition as a 'whole package' complete with view, practices, and social rules, roles and lifestyles. An interesting twist in a socio-cultural matrix that had become increasingly fragmentized into sects, even to the point of violence and intrigue!!

The cool thing about this is that it ideally avoids the possible problems with DIY mishmashing (such as cherry-picking pieces of teachings to fit one's egoic predispositions) yet clearly leads to a fundamental creativity or playfulness with regard to Systems of Truth and Practice which innoculates one against dogmatism. Paradoxically leading to a better ability to innovate, perhaps..? Certainly, the Rime teachers I am familiar with are known to be 'Tertons' or discoverers of hidden treasures (that is, they presented the teachings in novel ways, aimed directly at their contemporaries).

I find it a challenging but rewarding way to relate to traditions!

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
Answer
4/5/14 4:51 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Chuck Kasmire:
Hi Sawfoot,
The original point really is about confirmation bias - we look for evidence to confirm our existing beliefs, and our existing beliefs are normally very biased to what we want to believe (for whatever deep psychological reasons, e.g. the end of suffering is possible, or there is a God and heaven exists etc...).

or  'the ending of suffering is not possible’, etc. Yes, this plays a big role. One has to be careful, question, and test ones experience and assumptions/interpretations.

Touche! I mean, of course, we all feel that our own beliefs (like mine) are immune to these biases and just a reflection of how it really is...and so deep down I might want to believe "the end of suffering is not possible" is true. 
Chuck Kasmire:

Another somewhat related issue is what I call ‘concept vs subjective experience problem’ for lack of a better term (maybe you know the correct term). For example: a belief in God - your concept of God is not the same as say a Baptist Fundamentalist which is again different from the subjective experience that a Catholic mystic like Meister Eckhart is referencing when they speak about God. Yet all three might make the statement ‘I believe in God’ and the tendency for someone hearing such a statement is to plug-in their own concept such that right from the beginning we are not on the same page. And cannot be. 

Not sure of a better term, but I would say its just how language and concepts work! Which is why often arguments always seem to end up coming down to wrangling about definitions of terms
In the first part of your answer, I suppose I am reaching similar conclusions. What I am coming to realize (in its practical consequences) is that much of what we know as modern Buddhism (and that would obviously apply to MCTB and Folk's work) is a mess - a mish-mash of many ideas and cultures, and often contradictory and incoherent as a whole.

Chuck Kasmire:

Yes, we are way out on the tail of the dog. And now we have the tail trying to wag the dog - some schools reinterpreting the suttas to fit their conclusions instead of openly questioning the validity of those conclusions - which gets back to your confirmation bias statement. The pragmatic dharma scene is very good at questioning and dismissing others views but very poor at questioning its own - tending to raise them to the level of ultimate truths instead.

I think that is fair, though of course pragmatic dharma is much like "consensus buddhism" in some ways, but then it is probably true of nearly everyone. In order to write books, and be a teacher, you normally need quite a large degree of confidence and commitment to your beliefs, which normally translates to weaknesses in questioning of them. 
Chuck Kasmire:

I don’t think there is anything wrong with mish-mash per se. I think some real innovation and creativity can come out of such cross fertilization. I think Buddha in a sense benefited from the mish-mash of his time.
Nor do I believe that the suttas are the only and last authority or that they are perfect, untouched, or above reproach - particularly when we consider the difficulties of translating these documents. I think overtime we will continue to get better translations - some in a more contemporary style that makes them more accessible. 
But let’s not dismiss them - we can simply observe our experience and note where it seems to match and where it doesn’t. 
Sujato makes a somewhat similar observation as yours: that there is not a single Buddhist tradition existing today that is true to the early teachings - and although they all hold the early texts as being the teachings of the Buddha and thus the foundation of their own tradition - often very little of the core tenets of that tradition are supported by the early texts. 

Yep everything is a mish-mash, and that is absolutely true for the Buddha (assuming he is real!), a product of time and culture, like anyone else. 
I think we probably differ in how we view dismissal of belief systems and their relationship to subjective experience. A point I often make on this forum is that our subjective experiences are very prone to error, and hence are not always a reliable guide on what to believe and what not to believe. 
Chuck Kasmire:

Personally, I think that Gautama Buddha's package (if there is such a thing) is a product of very different culture 2000+ years ago is not so appropriate for the modern world and life I live as a lay person.

Certainly the product of a different culture but I am curious as to why you feel that it is not appropriate for you now. I mean, it starts with simply trying to live a life without creating unnecessary stress for yourself and others - not exactly rocket science.


Ah, if only life were so simple…I can imagine a born again Christian saying to me "its pretty simple, all you have to do is let God into your heart and accept Jesus Christ as your saviour!"

I think a key point is that to a large extent it doesn't really matter which path you choose, all are appropriate to some degree, and there is nothing intrinsically better than one path or religion that another. As you long as you commit to it, you (and potentially the world through your interaction with it) will reap benefits. That said, I find it hard to commit to something which has basic tenants I disagree with or goals which I don't share, or whose conceptual framework I can't sufficiently plug into my own.

In regard specifically to old school Buddhism, then it turns me off. So one way to look at the role model is this: (warning blasphemous hyperbole about the buddha follows, please do not read ahead if you are likely to be easily offended!)

A privileged member of the elite, he couldn't hack life so abandoned his wife and children to go hang out in forests on his own, spending most of his time sitting on the ground with his eyes closed, and doing a lot of self-flagellation because of the guilt and unresolved issues surrounding the death of his mother in childbirth. Being really good at meditation, he managed to do some really weird shit to his mind, which included these transient losses of consciousness, which he then built a religion around. Then he encouraged a bunch of other people to also leave their families and jobs to join him sitting around doing nothing all day, while the rest of the plebs had to trudge through the horrors of everyday life in order to support him and his mates.

And so, I don't see a renunciate monastic tradition as a good template for position in the modern world (with family and a job and everything that entails - see here for Chapman's take on this problem for modern Buddhism). I appreciate if might suit some people though. And I have some issues with "the unconditioned", though I could probably manage to plug that into my own framework.

That all said, I do have some attraction to the practical elements of more Sutra based approaches (such as "Mindfulness with breathing" as a guide to the Anapanasati Sutra, and some of Than Geoff's stuff), and I think they would reap rewards would I be able to commit to them wholeheartedly.

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
Answer
4/5/14 12:03 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
That said, I find it hard to commit to something which has basic tenants I disagree with or goals which I don't share, or whose conceptual framework I can't sufficiently plug into my own.


And I have some issues with "the unconditioned", though I could probably manage to plug that into my own framework.


Do you see what the problem might be here, though?

People don't like to be told they need to change. (I'm no exception.) And so when they encounter some spiritual or even intellectual discipline - be it some form of Buddhism, western esotericism, or maybe some form of Marxism - and they encounter ideas in it which contradict things which they just take to be common sense (usually non-elitism, egalitarianism, rationalism, naturalism, the idea that they're perfect the way they are, libertinism, social permissiveness, and more), they go about finding ways to "revise" or "improve" upon the original doctrine, to make it more nicely accord with these "common sense" notions.

This is presumably why people now say you shouldn't try to decrease lust, just be "mindful" of it - even though the Buddha thought lust leads to evil, no matter what the amount is in you, no matter how mindful you are of it. Or why people who get into something like Thelema try to "supplement" it with something like Buddhism, even though Crowley tried Buddhism and didn't think it worked - or the people who say silly things like that Crowley was a product of his time when confronted with his venomous anti-semitism. Or why people get involved in some form of Leninism or Maoism and then come up with excuses against democratic centralism.

(ETA: Weightlifting coaches see the same thing all the time, too: the person who shows up needing help getting stronger, and yet they resist whatever program the coach throws at them, or they "supplement" the program with other lifts or they want to do things on rest days. So they make almost no progress in transforming themselves. It makes very little sense until you understand that most people go to an expert, not to change, but be told they're doing everything right already. It's a very limiting attitude.)

The point people miss in doing this is that these things advertise themselves as definite paths toward transcendence, whereas these "common sense" notions people want to use to improve the original doctrines are just the ideology of the way things are exactly now at this moment (so the opposite of transcendence - repetition of the way things are, what the Buddha might call "rebirth"). It's a contradiction.

"I'm drawn toward these paths of transcendence, because I see there's something wrong with the way I'm doing things, but I don't want to follow the prescriptions given by these teachers/philosophies, because they don't plug into what I already believe - even though the things I already believe are probably what's causing me pain in the first place."

So if you're waiting around for something to "plug in", you're in all likelihood just going to continue doing exactly what it is you've always done, which you probably already agree is not interesting enough (or worse).

ETA: So my practical recommendation is that you find someone who can do what it is you want to do, or who has realized to some degree what you want to realize, and to study with that person for some period of time, usually at least six months, and see what the results are. Waiting to figure everything out in your head beforehand is not the way to go if you want things to change.

That all said, I do have some attraction to the practical elements of more Sutra based approaches (such as "Mindfulness with breathing" as a guide to the Anapanasati Sutra, and some of Than Geoff's stuff), and I think they would reap rewards would I be able to commit to them wholeheartedly.


Then what are you waiting for? Don't you have a sense of adventure? You might die tonight and never even know what first jhana is. How lame is that? Hustle up! ;-)

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
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4/5/14 1:16 PM as a reply to Fitter Stoke.
Hi,

This is a really interesting discussion but I am a little lost and wondering if someone could clarify a few things.

The basic idea I seem to be reading here is that the Pragmatic Dharma community has adopted a sort of watered down, more accessible version of enlightenment than that mentioned in the original texts.


If this is indeed what is being said, I'm curious as to in what ways enlightenment as defined by Pragmatic Dharma people is watered down. Something to do with not eliminating certain negative emotional states?

Also, is there anyone currently living who can be said to be enlightened in a more classical sense and if so who?

Noob questions I know, but this thread piqued my interest! Lol!

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
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4/6/14 4:21 AM as a reply to Fitter Stoke.
The "plugging into" framework that you are highlighting was inherited from Chuck's post. I wouldn't have framed it that way myself, exactly. Still, its a good enough fit to what you say still to apply..

I am not unaware of the"issue". And yet, I don't see the problem as one of beliefs so much, as one of behaviour, habits, conditioning. And I see solutions coming from practices rather than changing beliefs (not to say that I would rule out belief changing as being important).

So, authenticity is one attribute that helps commitment to a path, and through authenticity you tend to get some other benefits as well (e.g., lineage, community), but authenticity isn't itself greatly appealing. And what would be? As you say, finding someone and thinking - I want some of what they've got. Know anyone like that?!

But, if "to continue doing exactly what I have always done" is not to commit, and if a/the problem (that causes me pain in various ways) is not committing, then I am left with a quandary, as if I could just commit, then, well I wouldn't have a problem that that I thought I needed fixing. And one way out of that dissonance is to see (and find lots of reasons) why person X/ideology X/religious sect X is the problem, not me. But I have been addressing it ways similar to what you suggest, perhaps making some progress, and have plans to continue with that orientation.

Anyway, thanks for your post. I will send you an email at some point.

p.s

ETA?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ETA_(disambiguation)
a highly luminous hypergiant double star?
an armed Basque separatist group proscribed as a terrorist organization by the Spanish government?
defunct manufacturer of ETA10 supercomputers?
my default, estimated time of arrival, doesn't seem to fit...

p.p.s
In response to michael, I would say that modern versions of enlightenment are more "psychologically realistic" than "classic texts" (by that I think you mean Theravadan Sutrayana, which is one of many versions of "enlightenment"). And being more psychologically realistic, they would imply not involve not being unable to eliminate "bad" emotions, like in the classical models, since, well, that would be psychologically unrealistic.

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
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4/6/14 4:23 AM as a reply to Fitter Stoke.
I was running out of p.s's, so thanks again, for a thought provoking post. I am back to take some time out of my busy schedule to say how I disagree with you/you are wrong (smiley face).

I don't think the analogy with weight lifting works all that well. A weightlifting coach might be an expert in weightlifting, but I don’t see a spiritual / religious person (who let's assume is "happy") is an expert on life or truth, though they might be an expert in how to adopt a belief system that makes them happy.

Of course, I believe the things I believe, and can't help otherwise. And my beliefs cause me problems. Not believing that there is an afterlife can give me existential anxiety, for example. But seeing my beliefs as "correct", means I see the consequences of having those beliefs as the problem, not the beliefs themselves. And practically speaking, I see my difficulties in adopting a practice for change, is not due to wrong beliefs that cause me pain, but lack of belief - the ability to believe with sufficient force for commitment. That, for example, believing the end of suffering is a worthwhile goal.

I don't think anyone is missing anything, really. We, as humans, like to optimize, like to tinker and improve. And while there might be some truth in a statement like "if you change the recipe, the warranty is void", you assume that we/I are looking for transcendence, and that is an assumption I wrestle with.

As how lame is it to spend countless hours sitting with my eyes closed in order to learn how to artificially alter my state of consciousness to reach bliss out states, when I could be out having fun in the world, engaging in social interactions, or doing "good works" in society? And how lame is to to spend even more hours to think I have transcended the reality of life and the self, only to have fallen into the trap of just substituting it for another self, which I might call my "real self", the higher self, Self, SELF, union with the divine, buddha nature, the deathless and unconditioned, primordial awareness, or "utter centerlessness, utter agencylessness", to name but a few...

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
Answer
4/6/14 4:44 PM as a reply to mla7.
Hi Michael

This is a really interesting discussion but I am a little lost and wondering if someone could clarify a few things.

The basic idea I seem to be reading here is that the Pragmatic Dharma community has adopted a sort of watered down, more accessible version of enlightenment than that mentioned in the original texts.


Western Buddhism in general avoids discussion of important elements found in the early texts and at times even redefines the ebt’s to fit ones experience. As an example, take Kenneths article in response to suggestions that he is watering down the dharma. Kenneth posits that his version of arahat is correct and that the suttas suffer from later changes - relying on one article in support of his view. However if you read that article - it does not support his view. He misrepresents the author, then distorts what the suttas describe - creating what he describes the saint model which is so littered with inaccuracies and misunderstanding that I would need a small book to get into it. It’s a straw-man argument. Kenneth seems to get away with this here in this community yet when Sujato presents a pile of documentation from various experts and scholars in a number of fields to support the authenticity of the ebts - this is speculation? Can’t we do better than this? Kenneth or anyone else can make what ever claims they want. I am just saying that we can do much better - set a higher standard.

If this is indeed what is being said, I'm curious as to in what ways enlightenment as defined by Pragmatic Dharma people is watered down. Something to do with not eliminating certain negative emotional states?


Your question is good but as long as we are attached to our particular view of what Buddha taught or experienced - such questions end up creating conflict. This is the bane of authenticity claims and all traditions engage in this. And all such claims are unsupportable if you think about it a bit for to know that my experience is the true authentic one, I would have to know the subjective experience of a guy that lived 2,500 years ago. So the only way we can compare our experience against what Buddha described is with what we find in the ebt’s. And so the authenticity issue is important.

As to eliminating certain negative emotions - my understanding is that it is a practice of abandoning qualities of mind that lead to affliction and confuse us. Eliminating something implies that it has an inherent existence - abandoning is simply to stop feeding or entertaining such qualities when they arise. Further along in the path, the underlying phenomena that support these states no longer have the ability to throw us/get us caught up in them. This would be a good question to explore - looking into what the ebts teach about these negative emotions - honestly - not picking and choosing to support one or another’s preexisting view.

What I would like to see is a dual approach that on the one hand documents practices and results (without making authenticity claims) and on the other seeks to describe/understand and clarify in more contemporary language what the ebts describe. Then we can compare our own experience against the texts - what fits fits and what doesn't doesn't - and each may do with that what they wish.

Also, is there anyone currently living who can be said to be enlightened in a more classical sense and if so who?


There are people who claim this and where these people seem to be knowledgeable about the early texts and are able to speak about their experience with reference to these - this can make a good point for comparison.

First let me explain something: I can’t give you many living examples of monastics that claim to be Arahats. The rules that they live by forbid them to speak about their level of awakening with lay people as well as with other monks (there are some exceptions). After they are dead they can let the world know (ok - others can). This is why you find more dead monk arahats and not so many living ones. That being said, a Thai monk named Ajahn Jumnien does apparently speak openly about being an Arahat and comes to the U.S. every year or so. There are a number of monks that speak about what being an arahat is like or on the nature of nibana in their own words - so how do they know? (they are not breaking the rules by doing this - get it?).

Take a listen to Ajahn Amaro, Sumedho (both English monks), Thanissaro Bhikkhu (American). Ajahn Maha Bua (Thai) spoke extensively of his experience as an Arahat (died a few years ago). Ven. Nanananda (Sri Lankan) gave a large number of talks collectively to be found as ‘The Mind Stilled’ where he discusses these topics with relation to the suttas using his own language. I believe he is still alive. These are just some examples. My suggestion is take all claims and prefix them with “I think I am” and then listen or read about what they say about there experience and how it relates to the ebt’s.

Noob questions I know, but this thread piqued my interest! Lol!


Great questions..

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
Answer
4/6/14 6:21 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Hi Michael,

Welcome the DhO.

I think you already know, but this is a place of individual voices. Below, I speak for myself, if it needs to be said.

Chuck
Ven. Nanananda (Sri Lankan) gave a large number of talks collectively to be found as ‘The Mind Stilled’ where he discusses these topics with relation to the suttas using his own language. I believe he is still alive.
He was in hospital as of a few weeks ago. Here are links to his audio and written talks.


The historical figure, Siddhartha Gotama, who is sometimes called the one thus gone (tathatagatha) or the awakened one (buddha) by his followers, is not known to have left any written word.


The first written words attributed to his historical person are said to come a couple hundred years later. There is no one buddhist tradition that can say accurately, "Because a text is found with similar overlap by some translators in two other lanagues, this text is the authentic word of the man, Gotama," unless the person admits to blinding conceit or super-natural power.

I note these translators signed their lives on to a tradition that practices and advocates genital-bias, as if awakening happens in the crotch. So if they are battling their own tradition and the larger study, it is not surprising confusion and the need to create some external reliable realm on which to mount and "defend" is the perch of these translators who claim to defend their findings. So be it, defend away.




Dear Anthony Betts (Sujato),

You are well fed and housed and not bound by slavery, unlike many sentient beings on the planet who are hungry and/or enslaved.

What a waste of your fortune to study well and to study safely those texts that train one to locate for themselves reliable ease based on that which is
1. Svākkhāto (i.e., not speculative, based in see-for-yourself causation)
2. Sandiṭṭhiko (i.e., it's able to be examined, scrutinized, not a faith; it's literally "visible in this world")
3. Akāliko (i.e., not early Buddhist teachings, not late buddhist teachings, literally timeless, immediate teachings)
4. Ehipassiko (i.e., testable by oneself, without a teacher, without leading)
5. Opanayiko (i.e., to be brought inside oneself--- Anthony Betts, please do so more)
6. Paccattaṃ veditabbo viññūhi (i.e., "To be personally known by the wise", no one make someone swim, only the person who practices swimming may swim.)

You signed onto a vinaya (sangha discipline rules) and your young life into a tradition that had many cultural human flaws, one of which is genital-basis. Now you are rebelling (the Wat genital crisis, for example) perhaps trying to assure yourself some kind of scholarly air and able to establish a new separate sangha; I don't know. But if you train sincerely, redouble your effort sincerely in in seclusion, to understand and then teach cause and effect (i.e., dependent origination, cotingent identity, inter being), robe or not, you will not fuss (let alone "defend" as you say) in this useless way over what you speculate are "authentic" words of buddha.

Instead you will easily admit that you have found overlap between languages, that that is interesting and worthy of study.

What you have done is like putting a flag in the moon: ignorant, showy and unreliable, death-ful, certainly not "the deathless"~ epithet for the nibbana of your tribe.


A well trained mind could apply itself to actual, hard problems in the world (GMO-sly-corruption, environmental and societal poverty, water-selling... to name a few) NOT CREATING THEM with speculation, and simultaneously deepen your UNDERSTANDING OF (and teaching of) DEPENDENT ORIGINATION and mind.


Anthony Betts (Sujato), well fed and safe with the chance to practice sincerely, in seclusion this whining:
sujato / Jan 16 2013 11:18 am

Perhaps the surliness, if you have read it right, comes from the plethora of ignorant voices that opine on the topic. It is somewhat annoying to spend years studying something very seriously, and then be subject to the bloggerati for whom their own opinion matters just as much as any expert.

Leaving that aside, there is a substantial amount of early evidence, but little of it is direct.


It would be useful for you to be quiet and focus on realizing at least some wink of the deathless via mediation and just clearly seeing in daily life.

May you have safe conditions for practice, the study of mind and where/how it alights, and conditions.


Sincerely, your peer in sentience, mattering indeed as much as you,
Katy

Post script: here is the turf of a dharma teacher unless you cherry pick it out:
AN 5.159
"It's not easy to teach the Dhamma to others, Ananda. The Dhamma should be taught to others only when five qualities are established within the person teaching. Which five?

"[1] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, 'I will speak step-by-step.'

"[2] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, 'I will speak explaining the sequence [of cause & effect].'

"[3] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, 'I will speak out of compassion.'

"[4] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, 'I will speak not for the purpose of material reward.'

"[5] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, 'I will speak without hurting myself or others.'[1]

"It's not easy to teach the Dhamma to others, Ananda. The Dhamma should be taught to others only when these five qualities are established within the person teaching."

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
Answer
4/7/14 10:39 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Hi,


Thanks for he above posts which responded to my questions. Some good stuff to think about there.




Mike

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
Answer
4/8/14 8:19 AM as a reply to mla7.
Hi Michael,

Well, not that you need to hear this from me, but I do enjoy Anthony Betts (sujato's) dharma talks and writings. I know I've added some of his work to this forum or supported other threads regarding his practice. He's modern, uses some funny modern speech.

My letter to him here is about calling out the sullying of what is really useful (translation work and sussing out overlap between multi-language and multi-era disciplines) by pushing this actual evidence into the realm of speculation and asserting that same speculation into a hierarchy of "authenticity". Truly, that action is "falsenticity".

I do also think, based on my own practices in life, that is a very natural that conceit arises in a practitioner as people get their sea-legs with the practice, any practice. A hubris arises and then one may learn through some events that there's vastly more unknown than known (hubris-bubble bursts). As he notes in his own blog, he has spent years studying and he gave himself to and is working in/with/on a tradition that openly practices genital-based theories of "enlightenment". Like, that didn't just happen; he took that important data and set it aside at the time of his ordination. So now, with some years of training and study, he has to deal with the full body of his milieu and figure out how to put bread on the table. He'll be fine, but he currently still lacks good scrutiny to see and acknowledge things as they are (the gap in his "authentic" reasoning is like his once-suspension of seeing the reality of silly genital-bias in his tradition), I speculate he is blinded a bit by his own place in the world, survival, food, shelter, status. Totally understandable.

If people preach authenticity hierarchies without evidence, then there is just more and baseless discrimination afoot. Here this seed of speculation and bias can grow into something physically embodied, like all discriminations. Plus, the comparison is something of madness. I know the abidhamma is said not to be early buddhist teaching (I'd question that as an absolute and I do; it has origins somewhere, why not the original teachers?) but when it describes conceit as madness, to be treated as such, I smile. Yes.

So I appreciate and respect this fellow and, as such, it's worth it to me to call out points that cannot be substantiated, that are inference-extensions (speculation), and yet are represented as factual. He's certainly not the only monastic and layperson publishing this way. So a person has their own mind and own practice and reaches out to different support at different times.

Best wishes.

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
Answer
4/8/14 8:41 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
I mean let's think about that early sangha. I'll speculate:

A teacher with thousands of followers dies. Some of those students (GROUP A) are said to have achieved something their teacher called "Full extinction", fully going out. These followers are pretty automous folk and can stay or wander. They are literally said to be "free", bound by nothing, no craving, not food, not desire to exist nor non-exist. So some of them roam. Some of these may roam far and wide after the death of their teacher. Their teacher also is said to have advised, "Be a recluse." So they go off on their way, where they die or some community may have made them a teacher, as still happens today when a thorough practitioner arises: people just start to come to them. See last paragraph...

Others in this early group are less realized (GROUP B ) at the time of their death but somewhere on the four-path system, which 4-path system may have existed (be authentic or not) at the time of their teacher. They have conceit (if the fetter model we see today is an actual and true understanding by their teacher) and they actively want to teach and they are fed up with living with people in a big group and they also know their teacher said, "Be a recluse". Anyway, Group B spreads like hot butter and seeks to be teachers (or they hang out and teach the remainder or they just sit and keep practicing on their own right there or in the woods, with their parents (Jotikara), who knows, etc)

GROUP C is a big bunch of people that would have been totally unrealized at the time of their teacher's death so they are the subjects from for any hanger's on from Group A and B (those students who realized something or everything their teacher had to offer and who stayed). That Group C, like any social group, needs rules for co-habitation and structure for practice. So this last group "A-B-&-lots-of-C" increase their likelihood of being sustainers of the teacher's words because they are a group and they are vested in teaching and writing and lots and lots of dharma talks... but also they pass on lots of stuff that works for groups of people living together... and the unrealized folk who would rise to the top of the social order not necessary realized.. and this stuff gets passed on well, too. Not unlike right here with all the pluses and minuses of training and community.

GROUP A, those that wander away, as individuals and totally dispassionate, would be less likely to have left their own word (or their words would be more easily eroded by natural decay (if written) and forgetting (if orally transmitted)) just by sheer volume (one person in the context of time and civilizations is easier to forget than a giant bunch o' people clustered together for a few hundred or thousands of years), but bit ~ authentic bits of the original teacher's words could easily have been passed on this way. The original fully realized student could have set up house in, say, the Himalayas or elsewhere and thus carried their teacher's exact words, which then come down in some bit through the Lam Rim Chen Mo in the 1400s, say. Another "arhat" or "anagami" may have interacted with ancient Han and therefore Pure Land has "authentic" teachings, Zen/Chan would then have "authentic" teachings, too.

Now who can honestly say which is authentic?

None of these schools know unless they claim (and could prove) something from supernatural insight. So there are teachings, timeless and if they are useful to effect wisdom and compassion, then I'd say "nicely done". I'd take that teacher any day.


To assert knowledge of what is authentic is silly. Just assert what is actual: linguistic overlap. That is useful!

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
Answer
4/8/14 2:34 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:
For me, the interesting question is, who cares and why? I mean, it might be interesting from a historical point of view, but practice wise, why should you care if Early Buddhist Teachings are reflections of the authentic words of the buddha or not? If there is a desire for it to be the case, what does tell you about yourself and your practice?
Yeah, definitely. It says I am not yet willing to let go for the sake of my own practice. This is not noble, but that in fact there's a gratification in it for me, too, of course, and there's that conceit that I want this counter-point to be made. I don't have to be the one to make the points, but it's gratifying to me to see that the point is made.

So in terms of practice, the very basic cessation event that happened in my brain in 2012 (the one that everyone is said to have access to if buddhist texts are "authentic" =) resulted on a morning where i totally had let go. I had worked for more than a year on the practice, was fed-up, had made a claim, retracted a claim, had been through a cool aloofness, realized that I had not personally understood/foudn anything reliably insightful in my own practice (jhana is good, but it is conditioned and it ends.) So I sat one full moon winter morning watching moon light on the water, just sitting; in two sits the mind realized on its own 1) an insight and 2) cessation and re-ignition, which in itself was totally placid, but the after effect to me was quite a life shift. So when I post like this, taking up a point I would like to see made both personally between two persons and communally, I realize I also have to be letting go, not get stuck to it. I'm dying/ceasing and all this goes on. So if I get stuck on this thread beyond the post, I would impede the practice of clearly seeing, letting go and the benefits of doing so.

"This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Nibbana."

— AN 3.32

So there's plenty of conceit that I would even reply, but it's not per se unskill to point out the economics and silliness that happens in buddhist studies. In fact, I think it's useful. My tone can be fierce when someone is being arrogant and baseless, but I also let it go, relinquish it. Sujato (Anthony Betts) is also doing a lot of useful things, imo. And I am glad we have studious translators. And my favorite translator is so humble and funny.

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
Answer
4/8/14 4:12 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
Hi Sawfoot,
Touche! I mean, of course, we all feel that our own beliefs (like mine) are immune to these biases and just a reflection of how it really is...and so deep down I might want to believe "the end of suffering is not possible" is true.


I thought you might like that one.


Chuck Kasmire: Yes, we are way out on the tail of the dog. And now we have the tail trying to wag the dog - some schools reinterpreting the suttas to fit their conclusions instead of openly questioning the validity of those conclusions ...

Sawfoot: I think that is fair, though of course pragmatic dharma is much like "consensus buddhism" in some ways, but then it is probably true of nearly everyone. In order to write books, and be a teacher, you normally need quite a large degree of confidence and commitment to your beliefs, which normally translates to weaknesses in questioning of them.


Yes, agreed. But something to keep in mind: Dharma teachers that I have encountered are speaking from their own subjective experience. That is, they are speaking with reference to their experience which they consider to be the awakened state. I can certainly understand people doubting these things - that people have simply imagined these things or worked themselves into some weird mental state - and of course that is a possibility - but it is not just based on a set of beliefs.

Speaking for myself - over the past twenty years I have gone through 4 experiences - all of which had the subtlety of being hit by a bus - none of which were anticipated or in any way even possible to imagine before hand (and no, no blips - and to those who might find themselves thinking ’he just didn’t notice them’ my answer is: and you didn’t notice the bus?). With each of these, a big chunk of what I thought was reality simply disappeared and with regard to the last two events - never returned. If someone was to experience suddenly what I experience now they would go completely insane. Doesn’t that make you want to practice? The reason for this is that being a thing among other things provides a structure - like a shell - it’s very safe yet also very vulnerable and confining. And if that were to disappear all of a sudden, “your head would explode” (Huang Po).

But what is it? Why did it happen? I have no idea. I just look around for other people that describe something similar and say ‘yea, its like that’ - and for me the ebt’s fall into that group.

Yep everything is a mish-mash, and that is absolutely true for the Buddha (assuming he is real!), a product of time and culture, like anyone else.


Can’t say what we ultimately are but certainly the experiences we go through shape our thinking and actions which then shape new experiences....

I think we probably differ in how we view dismissal of belief systems and their relationship to subjective experience. A point I often make on this forum is that our subjective experiences are very prone to error, and hence are not always a reliable guide on what to believe and what not to believe.


Unless I am totally out to lunch on what you mean by ‘subjective experience’ and ‘belief systems’ - yes, I completely agree. I dismiss all belief systems - still, some are provisionally more useful then others for trying to explain my experience.

[ Gautama Buddha's package] ... starts with simply trying to live a life without creating unnecessary stress for yourself and others - not exactly rocket science.

“Ah, if only life were so simple…I can imagine a born again Christian saying to me "its pretty simple, all you have to do is let God into your heart and accept Jesus Christ as your saviour!"


That’s a tall order indeed! ‘Bet your life on this belief of mine and sorry I can’t actually give you any proof you’ll just have to believe me.’

In regard specifically to old school Buddhism, then it turns me off. So one way to look at the role model is this: (warning blasphemous hyperbole about the buddha follows, please do not read ahead if you are likely to be easily offended!)

“A privileged member of the elite, he couldn't hack life so abandoned his wife and children to go hang out in forests on his own, spending most of his time sitting on the ground with his eyes closed, and doing a lot of self-flagellation because of the guilt and unresolved issues surrounding the death of his mother in childbirth. Being really good at meditation, he managed to do some really weird shit to his mind, which included these transient losses of consciousness, which he then built a religion around. Then he encouraged a bunch of other people to also leave their families and jobs to join him sitting around doing nothing all day, while the rest of the plebs had to trudge through the horrors of everyday life in order to support him and his mates. “


No offense taken. Guy sounds like a real dead beat. There are just a few mental projections going on here....

And so, I don't see a renunciate monastic tradition as a good template for position in the modern world (with family and a job and everything that entails - see here for Chapman's take on this problem for modern Buddhism). I appreciate if might suit some people though. And I have some issues with "the unconditioned", though I could probably manage to plug that into my own framework.


OK. Gives me an idea of why you reject this concept you have [smiley face] as a viable approach. Chapman makes a good point about renunciation being shoved under the table but I think does a bad job at explaining it (at least with regard to the ebt’s). Chapman is comparing his take on Theravada (not the ebt’s - he includes quotes from the commentaries that are not part of the ebt’s) with Vajrayana (which he is clearly partial to). His table comparing tantra with suttrayana compares tantra with Theravada (including commentaries) and those guys don’t show up until a few hundred years later. I’m speaking here of the early buddhist texts only.

Why do you need to be a renunciate monk to awaken? And what do you mean by renunciation? I think many people think one needs to renounce all sensual pleasures and become celibate. The ebt’s indicate that many lay followers awakened in the Buddhas time - some say more than monastics. And the bar for them as far as renunciation (looking at the precepts in particular) wasn’t set all that high: don’t kill, don’t lie, don’t have sex with kids or married people, don’t indulge in intoxicant’s. Don’t steal. And the reason given is simply that it leads to a calm mind that can then enter meditation more readily.

With regard to celibacy - it is a rule for the monks but when you look at why these rules were set in place link - they don’t have to do with sex preventing awakening and everything with trying to keep a bucket of horny young men from screwing everything up (pun intended). This idea that you have to be a monk and celibate to awaken comes after the Buddhas time.

I think Chapman is a bit confused regarding Vajrayana and Tantra (which he clearly thinks highly of). Chapman: “Tantra makes no sense unless you see it as a systematically anti-renunciative alternative [to sutrayana]”.

My understanding is that Vajrayana consists of three stages (yanas) the first of which is pretty much Theravada - including the vinaya. You don’t get to skip it as Chapman seems to think.

That all said, I do have some attraction to the practical elements of more Sutra based approaches (such as "Mindfulness with breathing" as a guide to the Anapanasati Sutra, and some of Than Geoff's stuff), and I think they would reap rewards would I be able to commit to them wholeheartedly.

Getting back to the ‘accept Jesus Christ as your saviour’. What I find is different with the ebt’s is that Budha is saying something like “try being a nice person and see if that calms your mind. If it does then try following these directions and see if you can allow your awareness to rest in the body with a sense of pleasure and ease. If that works just run with it - it will deepen on its own - everything else is going to take care of itself.” Of course there is more to it but this is the basic recipe.

RE: The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
Answer
4/8/14 6:19 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:
how lame is it to spend countless hours sitting with my eyes closed in order to learn how to artificially alter my state of consciousness to reach bliss out states, when I could be out having fun in the world, engaging in social interactions, or doing "good works" in society? And how lame is to to spend even more hours to think I have transcended the reality of life and the self, only to have fallen into the trap of just substituting it for another self, which I might call my "real self", the higher self, Self, SELF, union with the divine, buddha nature, the deathless and unconditioned, primordial awareness, or "utter centerlessness, utter agencylessness", to name but a few...


That sounds really lame. My un-requested advice: go have fun in the world, engage in social interactions, and do "good works" in society. I don’t think these are an obstacle and they sound pretty interesting.

Drugs, alcohol, sex and all that stuff are not an obstacle either if you don’t indulge to the point that they mess up your regular life - though I guess that kind of depends on your notion of regular life.

Finding a way to tune into the pleasurable sensations of the body is important. Personally, I don’t think that sitting meditation as it is currently taught is the best way to do this. Too much tension is created by trying to sit still and tension creates pain which is most definitely not pleasurable. This is why I often suggest chi gong or other types of energy practices that help you connect with the body and include some relaxation and movement. I have been to a number of introductory classes and pretty much everyone senses it within a month or two. As an aside, I have yet to see a sutta where Buddha tells monks not to move the body in sitting meditation - maybe it’s there - if you see one please let me know. I bring this up because pretty much all meditation teachers tell you not to move and I am curious where this instruction comes from.

Once you've got the juice flowing than sit with that and just tune into the pleasure of it like you would sink into a good book or movie - you don’t have to work at that right? Think about it - you do have to pick up the book and you do have to start reading - maybe even a chapter or two before you get interested but at some point it just happens because that is where the mind wants to go. And so it is with this practice. And when that happens, disturbing thoughts will start to fall away on their own - simply because you aren’t interested in picking them up anymore. When this happens if you don’t think it’s the coolest thing since sliced bread than I can’t help you. Tinkering and curiosity are essential along with a sense of play - if those are missing, god help you.

The biggest obstacle that people encounter in this approach is that they try to make these things happen when what they need to do is simply allow them to happen. It is just agitation and restlessness and it gets in the way. If you are on a long walk and you come to a comfortable bench, you don’t need to force yourself into taking a sit and relaxing - it just happens - it’s like that.

And there is no need to think anything about it unless you are foolish enough to start talking about your experiences.

when I am traveling along a road and see no one in front or behind me, at that time I have my ease, even when pissing & shitting
source - just trying to give the big guy a little personality.