Epiphanot: An epiphany which, in retrospect, is neither particularly insightful, novel, nor groundbreaking, in retrospect, an epiphany which was simply an obvious fact.
I used to be very skeptical and suspicious about EBT studies (and, by extension, anything labelled “early” in Buddhism) because of my suspicions surrounding the perceived hubris of the term “Early Buddhism”.
Who are we, us moderns, that we are so wise that we can finally untangle the mess that these uncivilized (and probably not European) past societies got their Buddhavacana tangled in? Lucky we moderns are here to teach these uneducated “the unsuperstitious Dhamma”.
These may be hard words, and I would never be so hasty as to apply them to the whole EBT community as a whole, but they do reflect a way that I once felt about EBT studies, and by extension, those sentiments reflect a way that EBT studies can come off to anyone I suspect, who is primarily only exposed to what I call “Buddhist Textual Fundamentalism”, or what might more readily be called “sectarians who hijack EBT studies to engage in polemics rather than to practice mettā”.
I am sure we have all met one of these, so there is no need to go into great detail compiling a composite picture of the “standard” EBT fundamentalist.
I had something of an epiphanot recently concerning the goal and purpose of inquiry into posited EBTs: EBT studies, including within it the studies of parallels in EBTs, is a methodology designed to show us “what the Buddha taught for sure (within a “reasonable” window of doubt)”, not “what the Buddha taught exhaustively”.
This might seem to be a small and insignificant detail in how one frames participation in EBT studies, but it is endlessly useful in guarding against forming a new sectarianism altogether: EBT sectarianism.
Many of the “outlying” teachings, the parallel-less teachings, are completely reasonably Buddhavacana (can anyone argue that Thag 14.1 is “unBuddhist” despite it not being “provable” to be an EBT?), and as such, the process of identifying EBTs is not to create an “exhaustive and exclusive account of Buddhavacana”, instead, it is to create an account of Buddhavacana that, itself, is “provable to be authentic”, but not claimed to be exclusive necessarily.