Hi, having been taught in different traditions, I have some reflexions and questions on the Pali Canon and on the question whether other sutras like the Lotus Sutra are important. Philological arguments suggest that the teaching of the Buddha are faithfully presented in the Pali Canon. Yet some questions arise.
- How do we know that the people who attended the Council which decided which sutras to include, had understood the Buddha correctly? Daisaku Ikeda in his book Buddhism: the First Millennium, (1977) suggests that the more gifted, life-affirming monks did not attend that Council so that the teachings were agreed upon by the more limited participants, who understood only Shakyamuni’s provisional teachings
- If the aim of Buddhism is to extinguish oneself, why didn’t the Buddha die after his Enlightenment? Of course there are explanations in terms of carrying on living and having only altruistic desires that produce no kamma, but a number of intellectuals from Hesse to Toynbee pointed out the inconsistency in this
- Even if one conceded that the teachings of Siddharta Gotama are those in the Pali canon, should Buddhism just be based on his teachings, or should the work of later thinkers and philosophers be included, and be given the same importance?. I have seen the argument that the Buddha Shakyamuni should have preemnince so that his teachings are superior to those of subsequent Buddhist teachers, and that he understood everything there’s is to understand. However, the claim of reaching total understanding is something that is often found in Indian thought, for example in Indian medecine (Ayurveda). So how do we know that that claim was not simply part of Indian conditioning? If this is true, the teachings of the Pali Canon (even if they were the complete word of the Buddha) could be enriched, even completed and ‘improved upon’ by later Mahayana teachings, just like Ayurveda is certainly not the definitive or most advanced cure for everything.