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Discussion of Bhante S Dhammika's Life of the Buddha - week 1

The Dhammanet Learn four-week course on The Life of the Buddha with Bhante S Dhammika starts this weekend.

Each week there is a prerecorded video and a Zoom discussion. Not all of us will be able to make this live discussion. If you do it would be an act of generosity to share any interesting points you pick up in this thread. And please use this thread to discuss the video as well. :pray:

You can enrol in the whole four-week course and get the link to Zoom here, or watch this week’s video here on YouTube.

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I enjoyed Bhante’s discussion on the background that the Buddha was teaching in. One of the things that he emphasised was the difficulty in working out dates of teachings that the Buddha may or may not have known about. Since some of these “texts” evolved over time, it’s not a trivial matter to say what came before what.

I had a question, though. Bhante mentioned a recent article of his, but I’m not sure what he was referring to. Can anyone help with that?

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I love lessons like this, it takes you back in time and make you appreciate even more how unique and special was the Buddha and the spiritual community he enabled to grow around him. :anjal:

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I loved this lesson too, and was sorry that I couldn’t make the discussion.
Bhante Shrivasti Dammika did a wonder job of summarising and synthesising a lot of information.

I now have a better understanding of the religious context into which the Buddha was born, and why Hinduism as we know it hadn’t yet developed. And I found the propositions that the Iron Age was just reaching this part of India and kick started a lot of social change (similar to the Industrial and Digital Revolutions I guess) was fascinating. Putting iron tips onto wooden ploughs allowed agriculture to expand, and replacing stone axes with iron ones meant that forest could be cleared faster. These advances allowed towns to become larger and cities develop. There was more time for leisure (music, jugglers, acrobats) and also to ponder the meaning of life.

He said he’d be making something available; I don’t think he has yet.

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The talk was good, certainly better than ‘regular’ introductions, monastic or lay. Just listeners should be mindful that there are many inaccuracies, or simplifications. So much of what he talks about is the product of research, conclusions, probabilities. In a written publication footnotes are used to contextualize the findings, and that’s just not possible in a talk.

So rather than taking it as the best knowledge available to us the information presented should be seen as a good starting point with generalizations, simplifications and some inevitable gaps of knowledge, especially when it comes to the complex field of Vedic studies.

Could you mention one or two of them? (for the sake of discussing them on this thread, it could be interesting)

I wasn’t expecting a Dhamma talk to have the bells and whistles of an academic paper. :wink: As a talk it was quite riveting; if I’d been asked to review it as a paper for publication in an academic journal my response would have been somewhat modulated.

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Yes, for example the Vedic texts were often interested in higher truth and reality, already in the Rgveda. E.g. RV 10.129:

The nonexistent did not exist, nor did the existent exist at that time. There existed neither the airy space nor heaven beyond. What moved back and forth? From where and in whose protection? Did water exist, a deep depth? Death did not exist nor deathlessness then. There existed no sign of night nor of day. That One breathed without wind by its independent will. There existed nothing else beyond that.

These questions and speculations are not related to the simple logic of ‘I burn some food and will get more sons in return’. Then of course the pre-Buddhist Brahmanas and Upanisads are full of abstract cosmogonies, philosophy and liberation-oriented teachings, including Yajnavlkya’s ‘neti neti’ etc.

Just from the top of my head… Again, it’s a good talk, but you know how it is, some people listen to it and think “The Bhikkhu must have studied it, so apparently that’s the best knowledge right now”.