The Last Days of the Buddha ressurected?

R.C. van Oosterwijk, in their essay " the Last Days of the Buddha", 2014, presented a very interesting analysis of the Mahāparinirbbāna Sutra,
(PDF) THE LAST DAYS OF THE BUDDHA | René van Oosterwijk -
in which about a half dozen various criteria were applied. The ones that interested me the most were the grouping of 7 versions of that Sutra that agreed together on a passage in the Sutra and the grouping of three versions of the Sutra that agreed on a passage, so in other words you had identified two core shared versions of the Sutra,one built of the reports of seven versions of the Sutra and one which was built of passages that had at least three sutras that attested to it.

In viewing early Buddhist texts have there been reconstructions that spoke for these two kinds of criteria, seven attestations in three attestations?

These would be considered properly synthetic versions of the Sutra, but they would at least have the virtue of the respective presence in the source materials. But enlightening for certain!

The method recommended by the Buddha is to compare suttas within the Pali Canon itself. Arahants like Ajahns Mun and Chah and those before achieved awakening solely from practice verifying the internal unity of the Canon.

“Hearing the Dhamma, he remembers it. Remembering it, he penetrates the meaning of those dhammas. Penetrating the meaning, he comes to an agreement through pondering those dhammas. There being an agreement through pondering those dhammas, desire arises. With the arising of desire, he becomes willing. Willing, he contemplates (lit: “weighs,” “compares”). Contemplating, he makes an exertion. Exerting himself, he both realizes the ultimate meaning of the truth with his body and sees by penetrating it with discernment.”

agreement= building on the suttas already understood

----Majjhima Nikaya 95

Thanks for letting us know. :pray:

The link doesn’t work, I’m afraid.

Okay, interesting.

Hard to say without seeing the work. But generally speaking, it is possible in some cases to hypothesize groups of rescensions of a work, and the reasons why they come to be like that. For an analysis to be sound, it needs to rely on multiple independent criteria, such as date, geography, narrative flow, language, and so on. Where several indications, each in themselves merely suggestive, point in the same direction, and no other indications point the other way, then we can infer with a reasonable degree of probability.

I did something along these lines for the Satipatthana Sutta and created a version that only uses the common elements. Whether this ever historically existed is, of course, speculative.

This is absolutely not the case. The “Pali canon” didn’t exist. All the early Agama texts are just as worthy inheritors of the tradition, which is the very foundation upon which SuttaCentral is built. This is a place for reasoned historical inquiry such as posed by the OP.

Unless you’re an arahant—in which case, congratulations!—you have no way of knowing whether this is true. Personal faith is no basis for a reasoned argument.

For what it’s worth, the Thai ajahns such as Ajahn Maha Bua said that if their teachings differed from the canon, they were just giving advice based on experience. None of them talked about “verifying the internal unity of Canon”.

Having ordained in the the Thai forest tradition, in these monasteries, with students of these monks, and practicing their teachings for many years, it is weird to hear people make of them something that is so very unlike what they were. :man_shrugging:


Not meaning to enter into any “debate”, but I am curious: are there any living arahants today, or
claiming to be such? I am a relative beginner in Buddhism, so I am not familiar with who are the
leading practitioners today (apart from yourself, of course, Bhante, and maybe a few others!)

If someone were to claim to be an arahant, what is the typical (or “appropriate”) response? Do people say “congratulations” or “I don’t believe you, but you can say whatever you like”?

Are there any protocols? Do you have to demonstrate by having beams of light emanating from your aura, or something similar?

I like to believe both my parents achieved nibbana days before they died. Expecially in the last few years, they have become so much more peaceful and in both their last days, they seem to know that their time has come and fully accepting what lies ahead with complete bliss and equanimity. My father even dressed in his best clothes and shaved himself with just one hand (he was paralysed on one side after
suffering from a massive stroke days ago), then waited patiently in the front porch of the family home for the ambulance to come. He refused all treatment at the hospital and said “Please, just let me die in peace. I have been waiting for this.” My mum also said when she died “Please don’t grieve for me, just let me go.”

Obviously I too wish to achieve nibbana before I die, and if I did maybe I should just keep it to myself and go the way they did.

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Skepticism. On this forum, such claims are not permitted, as almost always they are simply narcissism. If you see someone claiming to be enlightened, they’re not.

That sounds so beautiful!

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Did the Buddha teach the 37 Factors of Awakening?

R.C. van Oosterwijk, in their essay " the Last Days of the Buddha", 2014, presented a very interesting analysis of the Mahāparinirbbāna Sutra:

I have a special interest in the 37 Factors of Awakening as a topic. In section 2.10 of RC van Oosterwijk’s 100 page research paper on the Mahā-parinibānna sutra called “The Last Days of the Buddha” - subtitled “early doctrines attributed to the last phase of the Buddhist life”, (2014), we find that four of the seven resensions of the MPNS indeed discuss the 37 Factors of Awakening.

What this presence means is softened by the fact but they seem to stem from a single Sarvastivadan tradition likely to be slightly post-Ashoka the Great,…

…and basing oneself only on the relationship of the 37 factors of enlightenment as expressed in this one sutra, #16, in the Digha Nikaya, called “the Last days of the Buddha”, it seems that this form of presentation of Buddhist practices was not in the original layer of Buddhist culture immediately subsequent to the Mahā-parinibānna.

On the other hand a significant presence of the presentation of the 37 Factors in other suttas belonging to the older strata of the Buddhist Canon might suggest it indeed was ubiquitous in antiquity.

There’s actually a sutta about exactly this (but I’m not finding it now :sob:). The recommendation is to question them: “When you claim you’ve attained this state, what exactly do you mean by that? What did you do to attain that state?” etc and then see if their answers accord with the Dhamma or not. (Anyone else know the sutta??)

Thanks to @Snowbird for helping me out: MN 112 says:

You should neither approve nor dismiss that mendicant’s statement. Rather, you should question them

first reminding them of the importance of right speech, then continuing to ask them such questions as:

‘Sir, how does the venerable know and see so that he has eradicated ego, possessiveness, and underlying tendency to conceit for this conscious body and all external stimuli?’

And if their answers are in line with the Dhamma, one should rejoice:

Saying ‘Good!’ you should applaud and cheer that mendicant’s statement, and then say to them: ‘We are fortunate, reverend, so very fortunate to see a venerable such as yourself as one of our spiritual companions!’

And if they’re not what they claim to be:

Grilled in this way they get stuck or lose their way. They fall to ruin and disaster.
~ AN 10.84

Most of the time that people are claiming to be “enlightened” they are just confused about what that term means. Such questioning as the above is thus a great opportunity to get on the same page and teach them what it means to us Theravāda/ Early Buddhists (or, if they are in fact enlightened, it’s a good opportunity to learn from them!)


Well it depends on context. They may well be perfectly clear what they mean and don’t really care that it is not what other people mean.

The sutta is talking about people living a shared lifestyle, with a common commitment to a teacher, and a community in which to live. If there is enough trust and context to have a shared conversation, then great.

But these things are usually not true on the internet, and when someone makes public claims of this kind, it is often an expression of unbridled and indeed pathological narcissism.


Bhante, is it possible for a Buddhist Master/Teacher/Sayadaw/Achaan/Monk,etc… to make the same mistakes as Uddaka Rāmaputta and Āḷāra Kālāma, that is, they mistook the formless attainments (Arupa Jhana) for Nibbana? Especially the sphere of infinite consciousness (viññāṇañcāyatana), and infinite nothingness (ākiñcaññāyatana). I’ve read the experience of the Thai Ajaans and the Zen Masters, and it sounded a lot like they mistook the sphere of infinite consciousness and infinite nothingness for Nibbana. So is it possible for an adherent of Buddha Gotama to make such a mistake?

Sure, it happens all the time. In fact it’s a normal part of spiritual progress: most people will fall into overestimation at some point. Which is why it’s so important to keep on practicing, keep on questioning, and most of all, never hang your identity on to a spiritual realization.