Well, yes, translations and content are important. It’s a basic, we should have good translations of our sacred texts. And that’s an area where I think SC is poised to make a real difference over the next decade or so.
But apart from that, what I would look for is something more like a community of culture. I feel that there are many people operating in similar areas across different countries, but it is all very thin. A few eccentrics and oddballs working away in Hat Yai or Jakarta or Harris Park or Saarbrucken.
However, with a few luminaries as exception, much of what people read and write and practice based on Suttas stems from a very limited perspective on how to read with attention, nuance, and sympathy. I see common fallacies all the time:
- absolutist and fundamentalist readings (despite the suttas condemning this, like, all the time!)
- the opposite, take everything as a metaphor if it is inconvenient. (“I don’t believe in rebirth, therefore the Buddha was just using it as a metaphor.”)
- lack of understanding of Indic context. (“The Buddha taught kamma because he was a Hindu/couldn’t say anything to contradict Hinduism.” I’m not sure exactly what the argument is here. But it’s something like, “Because Hinduism, we can throw out what we don’t like”.)
- lack of understanding of parallels (again, Pali fundamentalism.)
- take one passage out of context and overturn the whole of the Dhamma. (“So and so got enlightened listening to a Dhamma talk, so you don’t need jhanas!”)
- more generally, “self-excusing” readings; looking at the texts to see what you can get out of, rather than what you can aspire to. (“You don’t need to stop thinking to get into jhana!”)
- over-determining text critical findings (“Atthakavagga is early, therefore everything else is fake!”)
- lack of awareness of basic findings of the field (insisting Abhidhamma was taught by the Buddha, for example.)
So the basic flaw here is a lack of education. In particular, a lack of intelligent and humanistic reading ability. For many years I have given sutta classes to try to overcome this, but it is much bigger than me.
I can’t help but see this in a context of a wider historical context. I visited a University library in Chieng Mai nearly 20 years ago with my father. We were just spending some time together, and happened past the bookshop, and he said, 'Maybe you want a book?" Great, so let’s check it out. But it was really kind of shocking to me. The whole place was fall of books on engineering and medicine, and mostly, finance and business. We couldn’t find anything that was actually in the humanities. I mean, I know this is not a meaningful survey, but I just feel like people are not really taught how to read deeply and reflectively. If the skills don’t exist in the culture, how are we to find teachers? How can we teach accountants and engineers to read with creativity and compassion?
Now, the manner of reading texts is just that much. It’s not enlightenment, and it’s not even wisdom. But it does involve a range of emotive and cognitive skills, and I have to wonder, if someone is really so unskilled in the art of reading, how much deeper can their wisdom go?