SuttaCentral

Chinese Translations vs. EBTs


#21

So true.

I am using this as an opportunity, not so much to convince this man of anything, but, first, to review the evidence for the antiquity of the Pali texts/Pali tradition: for, much like him, I suspect, staying almost exclusively among those who think or believe as I do on this issue, I’ve never been forced to qualify these pre-conceptions I hold regarding EBTs; second, and this is just the truth, being a foreigner here, to many if not most, I am essentially “an idiot until proven intelligent,” and I have to justify my right to sit at the same table with my teachers and classmates if I want to be taken seriously by them.

In all probability, what will happen is that, at the beginning of class next week, I’ll take a few minutes of everyone’s time to re-visit an issue raised in the previous class as my classmates squirm in awkward silence while I challenge the teacher’s standpoint; and, when I’m done, the teacher will make some cursory remarks and seek to move on as quickly as possible, which I will allow him to do while making all the materials everyone here has so graciously shared with me available to all my classmates: some will take them and learn and, at the end of the day, I may even make a friend or two. In the meantime, I’ve learned more about my chosen tradition.

And isn’t that what school is all about?

And, yes, the Gandhari texts, which I just learned about from the wiki page @Javier and @suaimhneas posted, are the main points I plan to rest on–which, in all honesty, prove the authority of the Chinese Agama tradition as well. So that, actually, sort of brings us around to a “So, then, excuse me, sir, but what were we arguing about?” end to the whole thing.

Unless, of course, he were just dead set on maintaining that Pali texts are inferior which, in light of the evidence, would be a pig-headed stance to maintain: I hope he doesn’t do that. And I can’t imagine he would (not publicly, anyway). So maybe it’ll be an opportunity for him to reflect, as well. And that would be just great.

And one more thing, @Gabriel: thank you for your concern and the points you raised: they are helpful reminders. Believe me, I am doing my best to maintain peace and happiness amongst all.

sabbe satta sukhi hontu


#22

People should understand the difference between reviewing/investigating (vīmansā) and rejecting (paccakkhana).

If someone rejects to read some texts just because he heard those are false or doubtful, he is not in the correct way to study dhamma. For an example bodhisatta practiced ālāra’s and uddakarāma’s practices to the end before judging.

Some people reject abhidhamma, saying that is not an EBT. The fact is that why would someone keep an old (more close to the Buddha’s era) text away and accept modern interpretation.
Similarly, agamas and texts from other sects could be used to review EBTs and solve puzzles in dhamma and vinaya. Ex: Ven. Analayo’s work

There is one important thing to remember, identifying whether the text can be considered as a Buddha’s teaching: The Four Great References.

In addition, there are important facts and interpretations in commentaries and sub-commentaries. Almost all of the dictionaries are besed on those interpretations. Therefore no point of rejecting them. However, there are some illogical misinterpretations and false explainations in these texts.


#23

You are correct. In fact, I created and wrote most of this wikipedia article. If anyone sees any further issues with it or perhaps thinks some key information should be added to it, let me know.


#24

Good to receive your reply.

The following quotation may be useful to add into the webpage:

Yin Shun suggests that: “SA/SN (i.e. the synthesis of the first three aṅgas) came into existence first, and that subsequent expansion of it yielded the other Āgamas/Nikāyas in the sequence MA/MN, DA/DN, EA/AN; and he concludes that the gradual formation of the nine aṅgas happened in parallel with development of the four Āgamas/Nikāyas, of which SA/SN was the foundation” (Choong Mun-keat, The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism, p. 10).


#25

Even then, one still is not immune to being biased towards one’s own views on topics.

For example, prior to learning more deeply about early Buddhism, I fancied myself a non-religious, independent thinker - looking back, biases are quite deep-rooted and it doesn’t seem a matter of not being biased or being biased - but a gradual process to overcome any and all biases!

I still try not to identify with “Buddhism” at all because “non-identification” seems to be a “Buddhist position and value.”

Maybe try to ally oneself with others to the degree to which that the others are in accordance with the Dhamma-Vinaya…starting with the embodiment of it, the Buddha, first and foremost (in an objective, not blind way, of course) on a spectrum downwards to all other beings?


#26

Hehe. You are right I think. I only shared the earlier thought because the opportunity arose. If I try to impose it on other it would be more of the same. But if you ask me it’s all still a bit fake but the following quote by Ajahn Chah gives me hope.

"The streams, lakes, and rivers that flow down to the ocean, when they reach the ocean, all have the same blue color, the same salty taste.

The same with human beings: It doesn’t matter where they’re from — when they reach the stream of the Dhamma, it’s all the same Dhamma."


#28

The user withdrew their post, so I don’t want to quote them. But someone asked “and what is the taste of dharma?” in responce to the quote from Verenable Chah,

I couldn’t help but be reminded of:

If you search for a real nature of dharmas, you will find that they all enter into the ultimate meaning and become equal, with identical characteristics, which is to say no characteristics, just like streams of different colour and different tastes entering into a great ocean of one colour and one taste, which is to say no taste. At the time when one has not yet penetrated into the true character of dharmas, each one can be contemplated separately as unreal, existing merely by the combinations of conditions. There are three levels of living beings; superior, average, and inferior. The superior person sees that the characteristic of dharmas is that they are neither real nor unreal. The average person sees the characteristics of dharmas as either all real, or all unreal. The inferior man, since his powers of perception are limited, sees the characteristics of dharmas as a little real, and a little unreal, regarding nirvana, because it is an inactive dharma and does not perish as real, and regarding samsara, because it is an active dharma, empty and false, as unreal.

(Venerable Vimalākṣa, Mādhyamikopadeśa 中論 T1564.24a15, translation Brian Christopher Bocking)


#29

I think probably begin where you ended up: somewhere else!

There is, it’s true, and I’ve seen that live in action among European Indologists. In one discussion with a very well known Indologist, I referred to a passage in a Chinese text, and his response was simply, “I can’t read that”, therefore I can ignore it. :roll_eyes:

But the attitudes on display here are, I suspect, more likely to stem from the modern Buddhist denialism of Schopen et al.

No. It’s just the nihilistic, conspiratorial reasoning of Schopen: we can’t prove that it’s earlier than the commentaries … I’m not sure why we couldn’t have faked the entire commentaries at a later date as well, but apparently that was a bridge too far even for him. These kinds of arguments have never been taken seriously by Indologists, but are very influential among those in other fields: Tibetan and Chinese studies, late Buddhism studies, archaeology, postmodernism, etc.

The Mahavamsa says it was written down in 20 BCE. There’s no real corroboration of this, but also no reason to doubt it; it is around the same time as the earliest Indian manuscripts (Gandhara), and the Mahavamsa is generally reliable as to historical details.

Note that, while the commentaries were edited into their current form by Buddhaghosa in the 5th century, they are based on much older traditions, and most of the datable references in the commentaries peter out not much later than this. That is to say, the commentarial literature, in its main content, was largely established by about 100 CE or thereabouts. (See Nyanamoli’s introduction to The Path of Purification for details.)

No, there’s nothing like that, Indologists still largely rely on Chinese sources for dating.

A number of them, actually! Mostly “non-sectarianism” in practice means accepting all traditions, “pan-sectarianism” if you will. We who study EBTs would like to think of ourselves as “pre-sectarian” in the sense that we look for the Buddhism that existed before the sects. But of course we are a modern movement that is inspired by pre-sectarian Buddhism, not actual pre-sectarian Buddhism.

Within traditional Buddhism there are a number of “non-sectarian” movements as well; in Tibetan Buddhism there is at least one, there is the Buddhayana of Indonesia, the Mendicant Order of Vietnam, and so on.

Interesting! And to me that is exactly why all Buddhists and Buddhist scholars need to be familiar with the EBTs. What you think about it is going to vary, of course, but without it, you are just missing essential context for literally everything.


Not really relevant but I can’t resist. Here’s the first ever, highly draft, pre-pre-pre-proofing segment from the Dutiyaparakkamabahu Cullavagga (DPCV) of the 13th century. Above it, the modern Buddha Jayanthi text for the same line, based on manuscripts that are 600 years later. Pali geeks will know why it fits this thread!

BJTS: tena anuppannāni ceva bhaṇḍanāni uppajjanti. uppannāni ca bhaṇḍanāni bhiyyobhāvāya vepullāya saṃvattanti. |
DPCV: tena anuppannāni ceva bhaṃḍanāni uppajjanti uppannāni ca bhaṃḍanāni bhiyyobhāvāya vepullāya saṃvattanti |


#30

It does sound plausible given the early fragments and translations that exist from not long after that.

This is where the Pali tradition has an advantage that the Chinese lacks. Aside from a few glossaries written to help Chinese readers with Buddhist terminology, we don’t much in the way of interpretative sources to help decipher the difficult passages. There was plenty of exegesis on Mahayana texts, but not the Agamas.

Good points. Chinese Chan would be another historical non-sectarian movement in that way, too.


#31

I think you identified the term here correctly: pan-sectarianism.

I think I was banned from Reddit because the moderators thought that their “pan-sectarian” view was “non-sectarian” - and when I tried to convey to them multiple times that this was not the case, I was treated pretty condescendingly as if I was too stupid to see how I was being “sectarian” while they were “non-sectarian.”

Thanks for the phrase, I hadn’t thought of it. I just kept phrasing it as “bias in favor of the three major sects of Buddhism” - it wasn’t completely pan-sectarian because it was up to their judgment and view to deem certain fringe sects as “illegitimate” - while we are forced to obey that all three sects are 100% equally legitimate/representative without any similar such ability to question their default pan-sectarian equality view.

Thus, I think the fundamental disagreement in this Reddit ban issue was:
pan-sectarianism vs. non-sectarianism
Caveat: pan-sectarianism disguised itself as non-sectarianism.

I fear being contrary to the Dhamma-Vinaya rules more than I do the Reddit rules so I was unwilling to agree to their view that “all three sects of Buddhism are equal” as a pre-requisite to remain in the subreddit simply because they (I think wrongly) think it to be the most effective way to “maintain harmony.”


Update:

I asked for a clear, detailed explanation of the reason for why I was banned. This is what I was told by one of the moderators:

Basically the rule against sectarianism. Two of us explained in detail what sectarianism means, why it is a problem, and why it applies in your case. Your replies (in messages and comments) say that you don’t agree with this rule. So the ban.

They correctly state that I didn’t agree with their sectarianism rule, which I think is pan-sectarianism disguised as non-sectarianism. I still don’t agree with it. lol :sweat_smile:

At least I was provided with a clear (but not too detailed) explanation like I asked. I definitely appreciate that at least.


#32

I wouldn’t be too harsh on the moderators: it is a difficult and thankless task.

“Non-sectarianism” isn’t necessarily an inaccurate label; it depends how you interpret it. If it is understand to mean “not to do with sects” then I agree, it’s inaccurate. But the more normal meaning as actually understood is “not pledging exclusive allegiance to a single sect”, which is fine so long as you understand what it means.

Given that the Buddha’s teachings are foundational to all sects, I would hope that the study of the EBTs would enrich all Buddhist communities and traditions. The reality is, of course, that the Buddha’s words are challenging, and often perceived as threatening, to all kinds of entrenched interests.


#33

Hence, the need, I think, to help people learn about the Buddha’s actual teachings, and help open eyes to Sutta Central. Sometimes simply being a gentle advocate for the Buddha’s actual teachings can rub others the wrong way, but it seems to me it needs to be done (at least in the right way). The Dhamma really is good medicine, and it’s a shame that so much in the west ignores or obfuscates what the Buddha was trying to help us to learn. “Buddhism” is a big umbrella, and a big family of different schools, but it’s still so important that the EBT educational system isn’t lost these days. I know I’m preaching to the choir, but it’s good to see this mission reinforced here…


#34

Which manuscript is it which dates from the 17th century?


#35

:rofl:

I can empathize and relate to your comment though!

You seem to be making a good point of not being unnecessarily “gentle” if a person is receptive to more than just bits and pieces of Dhamma.

Of course, if someone isn’t receptive or barely receptive, it seems best to teach them little to no Dhamma.

But why treat someone to bits and pieces of Dhamma that has been watered down for the masses in pop culture if they want more than just bits and pieces?


#36

I’m sure you speak from personal experience on this matter, so I shall try to see from the perspective of the moderators.
Even so, to guard my own welfare, I shouldn’t be too harsh on anyone for that matter, not even myself lol.
That being said, the Dhamma doesn’t bend for anyone.
I reap what I sow, the moderators reap what they sow.
So it’s not my concern what the moderators don’t do and do, only what I don’t do and do. No need for me to think on that matter any further to except to learn from it.
Who needs Subreddit Buddhism when you have SuttaCentral anyway? lol

Touche! I hadn’t thought of that distinction. Very good point.

I would go even further than this to say “even a slight undue bias against or for any sect without legitimate grounds for it” would be considered sectarianism - I think overcoming sectarianism is a gradual process and a lot harder than one would think. I don’t disagree with the moderators that I am sectarian to some degree - without some kind of accurate assessment of any and all sects (which I am no where close to having done yet) I think it would be quite difficult to become truly non-sectarian.

According to this definition of sectarianism, positing that all sects are equal when they are really not, positing all sects are 50% correct when they are really not, or basically any kind of judgment at all that misses the mark of a true and objective assessment of each sect as it is - would be sectarian to that degree.

Thus, my argument against the Buddhism Subreddit moderators wasn’t that I am not sectarian - I definitely am to some degree due to my sheer ignorance - but that their definition of what they consider sectarian is both false and contrary to the Dhamma-Vinaya.

This is what I was told by one moderator is the default position of the entire Buddhism Subreddit:

Positing the equality of the three traditions in this sub is the default position, because this is a mixed group. By definition it cannot be sectarian. Your inability to understand this is very troubling.

What I found troubling was that this position was made default for the entire Buddhism Subreddit, and any challenge to it, illegitimate or legitimate, is considered to be sectarian - and a legitimate ground for banning other users who don’t agree with this position.

My argument was and is that “positing the equality of the three traditions” itself is sectarian according to the Dhamma-Vinaya - it is unfairly biased against those traditions that are actually superior to some degree and unfairly biased for those traditions that are actually inferior to some degree.

Furthermore, those like myself, that try not to identify at all with any of the three traditions are not afforded any such protection for “their beliefs” since it doesn’t fall into any of those three “protected” sects.

For this reason, my counter-accusation towards the moderators was that they were unfairly biased in favor of “the three major sects of Buddhism” - none of which I adhere to - and discriminate against views that do not fall within those three sects - hence, their policy is sectarian because it is biased in favor of those three sects and well as the belief in their equality, without necessarily having legitimate grounds for establishing that as a rule that the entire Buddhism Subreddit must obey in order to remain in the Subreddit.
It is biased against views that rightly disagree with this “lazy” assessment (saying everything and everyone is “equal” requires little to no mental effort to carefully assess and evaluate the true value of something or someone - furthermore, I find this view more common in Mahayana sect - suggesting the moderator may have been biased in favor of Mahayana).

Remaining in the Buddhism Subreddit (or any forum for that matter) is not as important to me as trying to remain in accordance with the Dhamma-Vinaya as best as I can.

So I did not lie and make it seem like I agreed with something that I don’t. My point is that I shouldn’t have to - especially because the topic of the Buddhism Subreddit - is Buddhism! lol

Why do the rules of the Buddhism Subreddit go against the rules of the Dhamma-Vinaya?

The same way I simply do not think all three sects are equal, I don’t think all Buddhism moderators are equal either :rofl: I think Reddit and Facebook group moderators would do well to learn from the SuttaCentral moderation team!

But I mean this seriously though - because while you are definitely right that it is difficult and thankless job - it is also an extremely important one in this day and age where most people get their information from online and online forums, its up to moderators to keep false misinformation from proliferating and make true information more accessible - not just in Buddhism but on all topics.

I think this goal is being met to a large degree here in the SuttaCentral community thanks to the SuttaCentral moderation team - and I think it would be unfair to treat such a team as equal to other moderation teams that simply do not fulfill their moderation responsibilities as well. (To be honest, I haven’t come across a better online community than SuttaCentral so far in my search - can’t yet conclude that it is definitively the best, but part of me suspects that there might not be a better online community. The “Noble Sangha” of online communities, if you will :rofl: fittingly created by a member of the Sangha of course!)

Anyway, my intention was not be harsh, but just trying to be as fair and objective as I can be, and warn about a potential problem of the Buddhism Subreddit that could be adversely affecting a lot of online users who turn to reddit for advice about Buddhism.


#37

As the OP seems to have come to terms with their experience on Reddit, and has duly shared the pertinent info, I’m temporarily closing the thread pending agreement from the mods to make it permanent.


closed #38

#39

This thread has been permanently closed. Further to the reasons expressed above, this thread is drifting into wrong speech, gossip and personal views, without adding to the OP.
Metta


opened #40

closed #41