Setting the Record Straight on Certain Modern Theravada Traditions

It is interesting to see you describing Sagatha Vagga (“Verse Section”) as “an appetizer” in the SN collection.

I consider the vagga may be just for protecting and promoting Buddhism in the Indian religious communities. The content of the section presents mainly early Buddhist adaptation of general Indian religious beliefs and societies.

Cf.: Pages 894-6 from SA/SN Three Angas Choong MK.pdf (319.8 KB)

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According to Indologist Johannes Bronkhorst Buddhism emerged with Jainism, the Ajivikas, and other bands of wandering ascetics in the network of city-states that made up Greater Magadha in northeast india. Then with the Mauryan Civilization Buddhism spread West along with the city-state culture of Greater Magadha out of which the Mauryan Civilization emerged. The Samyutta Nikaya has discourses depicting city-state life in and around cities such as Magadha, Savatti, and Vesali. It also depicts a Westward expansion from the homeland of the Ganges River. So there is discussion of Bhikkhus needing to mix with Brahmins, aristocrats, and members of other bands of wandering ascetics. The main message is for the Bhikkhus to understand and maintain the core teachings. I have not seen debate about core doctrine between Buddhism and the Brahmins in the Samyutta Nikaya the way such debate is found in other Nikayas.

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I’ve read that the historical Buddha’s teaching could possibly have been as simple as the mere term “the middle way” with the 4 jhanas added. What do you think?

I think that makes no sense, quite frankly. While I don’t cling to the idea of a precisely 40 year teaching career, I see no reason to doubt that as an accurate but imprecise conveyance of his life course. Over ~40 years, you’re going to say more than 2/5 things.

I think many people have an instinct to be skeptical of tradition without then really looking at what they are proposing as an alternative and applying skepticism to that.

The Samyutta Niaya has 56 samyuttas built around the Sagathavaggasamyutta, Nidanavaggasamyutta, Salayatanavaggasamyutta, and Mahavaggasamyutta. So there is plenty of material that the Buddha could have laid down over 40 years. What I am saying is that it is built off a core structure.

I would have to see more information about where that idea came from. On the face of it it seems incomplete.

The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta [note 16] is regarded by the Buddhist tradition as the first discourse of the Buddha.[99] Scholars have noted some persistent problems with this view.[100] Originally the text may only have pointed at “the middle way” as being the core of the Buddha’s teaching,[99] which pointed to the practice of dhyana .[52] This basic term may have been extended with descriptions of the eightfold path,[52] itself a condensation of a longer sequence.[101]

According to Tilmann Vetter, the description of the Buddhist path may initially have been as simple as the term “the middle way”.[52] In time, this short description was elaborated, resulting in the description of the eightfold path.[52] Vetter and Bucknell both note that longer descriptions of “the path” can be found, which can be condensed into the Noble Eightfold Path.[52][101]

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Yes, apologies for being unclear (and also, probably, unnecessarily negative). I don’t fine the SN first hypothesis “makes no sense”. I was talking about the idea you called

FWIW, I think sometimes the various camps of SN-1st, DN-1st, etc. are unfortunately forced to present an overly simplistic position for the sake of brevity, but it’s clearly an idea that has been seriously considered.

Greater Magadha in North-East India is an unproven hypothesis. There is no reference to any concept of greater-Māgadha attested in the historical record. Magadha was not a city and was not a civilization either, but was the name of a late-Vedic janapada i.e. “habitation” or “polity” (Definition of a janapada: janāḥ padyante gacchanti yatra saḥ janapadaḥ), whose earlier capital city is said to be Girivraja and later one is said to be Pāṭaliputra. The only mention of Pāṭaliputra in any historical record dateable to circa 250 BCE is in the 5th Major Rock Edict of Aśoka (the third Mauryan Emperor) - and that edict is located in the westernmost part of India possible, the mountains of Girnār (Gujarat) - anyone familiar with Indian geography will know how far it is from Eastern India or the Ganges valley. From the same location, other inscriptions identify it as a seat of Mauryan power and influence. So Pāṭaliputra mentioned there alone, could not have been far from that very location. In all other copies of the same edict at various other locations across India, the word Pāṭaliputra has been replaced with “idha” (so we know they are later copies, and Girnar was the original) - therefore in my understanding Girnar was the Girivraja (pāli: Giribbaja) or Rājagṛha (pāli: Rājagaha) - and Pāṭaliputra was close by.