Does the Pali Canon convey the authentic teachings of the Buddha?

pre-sectarian Early Buddhism… I think… lol


“For all schools” <— yes and no

For instance, I’ve brought up the LS here before when I thought it had philological import, or to compare levels of development in Buddhist philosophy, but the question you ask in the OP is a bit moot, because it is Mahayana polemics.

I don’t think anyone here shares Sensei Ikeda’s faith-based argumentation that the ascetic Gautama preached a Lotus Sermon before the Parinirvana Sermon.


Early or pre sectarian , or original Buddhism instead ? Let’s get to the bottom .
But , abhidhamma isn’t so early though .

Some layers of Abhidhamma are.

yes philologically it’s hard to argue that. Yet Daisaku Ikeda is a great mind and is hugely respected by many intellectuals worldwide; so I am trying to see how his teachings fit in with the historical evidence.

Irene, I studied Rinzai Zen for many decades and the Heart Sutra was my “go-to” sutta. I am also an engineer who values things that work. This year I was introduced to the Pali Canon.

Much to my amazement, I found the suttas from the Pali Canon immediately clear, useful and actionable. The Pali Canon just works. And that very effectiveness is for me the hallmark of authenticity. Additionally, thanks to Bhante Sujato and many others , we have the remarkable opportunity to read the Pali Canon in contemporary English with insights pertinent to the here and now. :pray:


If by ‘work’ you mean that you have to judge it by its fruits, i.e. by seeing what makes your life happier, I would say that my experience of visiting a place like Taplow Court and hanging out with lay people there is much happier than visiting a Theravada place like Amaravati. Perhaps to be fair I should add that Amaravati is not really completely based on early buddhism either, in so far as they teach about an unconditional awareness or, from a more down to earth and practical view point, they seem to adhere to traditions like having their feet washed by lay people, (at least A Sumedho does in a video I saw) which don’t seem to exist in the EBT where the Buddha washed his own feet. I guess the reason I am saying this is that power and prestige appear to be at least as important as philological truth in Buddhism… So like you say it’s important to be practical and see which teachings and teachers create more value and happiness.


Delight is the root of suffering was remarkably helpful. Simply adopting this perspective as a hypothesis allowed me to relinquish long-term suffering. I found that resultant “fruit” quite remarkable. Now I am wary of both happiness and suffering. :upside_down_face:


The historical evidence points to the Lotus Sutra being a literary creation of a devoutly Buddhist monastic and lay culture. It seems that there is no evidence of the ascetic Gautama ever teaching it during his lifetime.


An extremely fanciful and eisegetical reading of the accounts of the first two councils. See attached file.

Ikeda, Chapters 1-2.pdf (3.6 MB)


How can we even be so sure that the Mahayana scriptures came later? Ancient India was an oral culture, and important religious texts like the Rigveda were faithfully passed down for hundreds of years before taking a written form. The oldest available Buddhist manuscripts are of Mahayana scriptures, if I’m not mistaken.

What one suggests, when one suggests that the historical Buddha spoke a Lotus Sermon, is that towards the end of his life, the Buddha taught a strange and conflicting series of sermons that caused most of his followers to leave upset.

Why would these people who left the Buddha as he taught the LS continue to practise shravaka Buddhism afterwards? It just really doesn’t make sense.

When 500 disciples in the Lotus Sutra got up and left, was that a literal 500? Even the Pali scriptures exaggerate numbers for literary emphasis. Also, I don’t remember where, but there’s a similar event in the Pali scriptures in which a large number of his disciples get up and leave.

In reading a scripture like the Lotus Sutra, the point isn’t word-for-word historicity. The point is whether or not the essential concepts of the sutra were taught by the historical Buddha or, in the very least, are conducive to enlightenment regardless of their origin:

Another criteria the Buddha taught to differentiate Dhamma from what was not his teaching, was that of analyzing how a particular teaching affects one’s thinking. The Gotami sutta states that anything that leads to dispassion, liberation, relinquishment, having few wishes, contentment, seclusion, arousing of energy and being easy to support are said to be the teacher’s instruction, while anything that leads to the opposite of these qualities cannot be the true teaching of the Buddha.[5]
Buddhist hermeneutics - Wikipedia

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Well, that is one perspective, but Sensei Ikeda has another, it seems.

Many people still treat the Mahāyāna sūtras as testimonies to historical fact.

This is where alien speculations about Prabhūtaratnabuddha and his stūpa come from, for instance. A literal reading of the stūpasaṁdarśanaparivartaḥ, which can be found at Ch 11. They read this and determine that it is most plausible if Prabhūtaratnabuddha (whom SGI I think translates as “Buddha Many Treasures”) is an alien.

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Not all of the Lotus Sūtra is the same age, though. The stūpasaṁdarśanaparivartaḥ is Gāndhāran in origin, as it depicts a Gāndhāran stūpa. I’ll find the citation in a second.

Point is, substantial portions of the texts are not oral.

Edit: A Gandhāran stūpa as depicted in the Lotus Sutra | Seishi Karashima -

I can’t remember who the original person who linked me the paper was, but they visit the forum occasionally.

In relation to the OP, the LS says “all the words of the Buddhas are true and not false”. Words used for both good and ill.

A very warm welcome to the forum, Irene! Thanks for putting forward an ever-interesting set of questions - I’d very much echo Gabriel’s comments in post #8 on that point (and, in fact, on pretty much all the other points he made in there).

I was particularly intrigued by one aspect of your original post:

Do you mean to suggest that other work should rightly be included in the Pali Canon? Or else included in what, exactly? All these various works already are included in whatever body they have been included; they exist and are available to pursue by anyone who cares to do so and are already taken as highly important by those that resonate with them.

It seems to me fairly natural that those who are into the Pali Canon revere the Pali Conon, and that those into Mahayana texts elevate these texts above those found in the Pali Canon, and so on with the Vajrayana folks, the Secular Buddhist folks etc and I cannot readily see how it is possible or desirable to encourage people to find important what they do not find important.

I, personally, really value and am fascinated by the work around the historicity of the Early Buddhist Texts, but much as I find it very credible, it’s actually a pretty secondary reason as to why in my own context I find the EBT so important. The primary reasons is that they portray a world and circumstances I directly relate to and feel pertains to my own, I find them extraordinarily grounded and that they have exquisite explanatory power with respect to my life. I often find non-EBT texts quite fanciful (meant in a completely neutral, non-derogatory way) and abstract and just don’t speak to me about the given problems of my life. That said, I assuredly know that there are people for whom they do just that and for whom they offer much inspiration and for whom the EBT appear dry and insufficient. The world has room enough to house differing approaches and attitudes so maybe everything is already given the right level of importance by the right people.

As an aside,

Probably, but if they did, they’d be welcome here if they wanted to discuss the EBT in a polite and constructive way. In fact, as I see it, not only is the forum open to anyone of any school, it also welcomes those of no school, somewhere in between schools or whatever - the point of interest is the EBT not people’s backgrounds. :slight_smile:


How can we know the same isn’t true for the Pali scriptures?

Do I believe it’s historical fact that the Buddha taught the Bodhisattva ideal, as well as the concept of upaya or skillful means? Yes, I do, and these are some of the main themes of the Lotus Sutra, regardless of whether its narratives are word-for-word historical.

These concepts are found in the Pali scriptures as well, in a less pronounced form. Even the concept of the Dharmakaya, which the Lotus Sutra elaborates on, is hinted at in the Pali scriptures.

I don’t think any modern would argue that the Pāli Canon is a 100% accurate verbatim transcript for anything aside from religious reasons.