I would like to post an example of a small quote, with some contextualization, for the purposes of analysis for its relevancy to EBT studies.
A while ago, I criticized an academic for what I believed to be poor scholarly practices in their popular literature, and I would like to post a more salient example of what I was talking about then, this time more directly related to EBTs and EBT studies.
In the interest of not starting an argument alternatively attacking and defending the merits of this text I am about to cite, I think it is best to avoid publishing the author’s name. The work I am about to quote is rather prolific and is easily searchable online, though, so no one should have any trouble finding it.
The subject matter is what constituted “Buddhavacana” historically in Buddhism (not necessarily in projected “Early Buddhism(s)”). It is the part about the Pāli Canon rather than the part about the 8th century text that I would like to direct your focuses upon, if possible:[quote][quote]Through four factors is an inspired utterance [pratibhāna; see MacQueen] the word of Buddhas. What four? (i)… the inspired utterance is connected with truth, not untruth; (ii) it is connected with the Dharma, not that which is not the Dharma; (iii) it brings about the renunciation of moral taints [kleśa] not their increase; and (iv) it shows the laudable qualities of nirvāṇa, not those of the cycle of rebirth [saṃsāra].
[Śāntideva, Śikṣāsamuccaya, 8th century][/quote]The sūtra explains that if an utterance has these four features then the believing men and women of a good family (an expression used for the hearers of Mahāyāna sūtras) will form the conception of ‘Buddha’ and hear it as the Dharma. Why?
‘Whatever is well spoken [subhāṣita], all that is the word of the Buddha [buddhabhāṣita].’
This apparent openness as to what count as the word of the Buddha can be traced in the Pāli Canon, for the assertion that what is well spoken is the word of the Buddha is also found in the Pāli Uttaravipatti Sutta (cf. Aśoka’s "Whatever is spoken by the Lord Buddha, all that is well said’). There may be here, however, a certain ambiguity:
[It] can mean that all of the good things in the tradition come from the Buddha, but is can equally well imply that buddhavacana [the Buddha’s discourse] is being redefined to mean ‘whatsoever be well spoken’, rather than meaning the actual words of Gautama.
(MacQueen 2005a: 323; 1981: 314)
Nevertheless elsewhere too in the Pāli Canon the Dhamma is characterized effectively as whichever doctrines lead to enlightenment [the author’s citation here is verbatim: “This occurs in both the Cullavagga of the Vinaya and also in the Aṅguttara Nikāya. It is quoted in, e.g., Nattier (1992:218-19)”].[/quote]Thoughts? Am I being hypervigilant in considering this a light sort of “spin”? A bit of what was presented here is taken back later in the text with caveats, but does that change that it was still presented?
For the sake of completeness, I followed up on the citation, which was from Nattier (1992:218-19), The Heart Sūtra: A Chinese Apocryphal Text?, at 218 we have:
The passage from which this oft-cited line is taken occurs both in the Vinaya (Cullavagga, X, 4) and in the Aṅguttara-nikāya (IV, pp. 280-281), in the context of a discussion between the Buddha and his foster-mother, Mahāpajāpatī. In responce to a request by the latter for the “Dharma in a nutshell,” the Buddha offers a number of criteria for determining what should and should not be considered his teaching. Each item is first stated negatively (i.e., in terms of what is not the Dharma), and then positively as follows:
[Of] whatever teachings (dhamme), O Gomati, you can assume yourself "these teachings lead to dispassion (virāga) [… quote abbreviated]
The Buddha’s reply thus offers a set of general guidelines for evaluating anything that purports to be the Dharma, while simultaneously undercutting the all-too-human tendency to grasp at any particular formation of the Dharma to the exclusion of others (a move which, we might note, serve to counter the notion of a “closed canon” of Buddhist teachings).
A lot of this is to do with Mahāyāna Buddhism, but as we can see, there is heavy intersection with what is essentially scholarship concerning itself with the same area of study as EBT studies. We have the Nattier source quote. Does it justify the phrasing of the first passage cited?