Split from: Bodhisattas and the EBTs.
First of all, @Nadine, I did not quote you above to single you out as a “moderator” in any negative way when making this post, although I am aware that no matter what I say from here on out, I am publicly “identifying you” by continuing this thread, which is to-do with Terms of Service and SuttaCentral online propriety and a questioning thereto, something that I can imagine, if I were a moderator myself, I would encroach with caution upon.
I think that this is a conversation that would do D&D good to have. What precisely, for the purposes of this forum, constitutes the limits of acceptable comparative religious inquiry?
This is a conversation which, in truth, can have no end, because all cases (i.e. threads) IMO ought to be taken on a contextual and individual basis. In my opinion, it simply doesn’t make sense to outrightly ban the discussion, even in passing, of any other religion outright, indeed, I think no one here thinks this, if I might be so bold as to suggest. I would like to defend this stance, with the blessing of you all, below, and open it up to public inquiry.
This site is founded two sorts of comparative religion.
What is EBT studies, if not “comparing” the Sarvāstivāda and Sautrāntika, the Mahāsāṃghika and the Vibhajjavāda, the Pudgalavāda and the Mahīśāsaka?
Now, one can take a prescriptivist stance and say: “these are not different religions, these are different sects,” but I would recommend such a view to @crizna’s wonderful essay here and his follow-up here in that same thread, to open up another subconversation. Look at these divergent nirvāṇaprapañcāḥ! IMO it is more fascinating than troubling.
The line of inquiry that this forum is founded upon, the feat of identifying the most antique sayings of the Victor, involves necessarily comparing them to what is not likely a saying of the Lord. And how do we know that, at a material level? Certainly we have archaeology to help us, but the material history of the lines of transmission for the only extant authentic Indic recension of the elder dispensation of the Buddha to the śrāvakāḥ, the Pāli Canon, is, alas, in a tragic state, for the simple reason of unfortunate geographic climate. If only the Well Gone’s instruction had been born in the desert, where paper can survive to great antiquity. Hence why we need rely on Chinese translations and parallels to establish the antiquity of much buddhavacana.
While looking at these two recension-collections, Chinese & Pāli (the Sanskrit manuscript testimony, to my knowledge, is almost completely fragmentary, much like the Pāli after a certain date), how to we identify the dharma? Some things are shared between these sects, some things are not, and this is unrelated, sometimes, to if they are truly dharma, whether they are shared or not. Sometimes the preserved Pāli dispensation, or the Sarvāstivāda dispensation for that matter, can independently remember of a sermon of the Thus Gone that was not remembered by others in theory. All we have, ultimately, are ancient remembrances to go on, and a precious few remaining.
We identify the dharma by identifying what is not the dharma, dare I say, which, IMO, is comparative religion. What do you all think?