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What would one call the vada that prioritizes EBTs?

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#1

The tendency to prioritize the EBTs seems to be taking off, especially online. One could even say that we are seeing the formation of a new kind of modern Buddhist vada or view.

What would be the best name for it?

What seems to be the most popular way of calling this rather loose tendency or collection of tendencies is terms which start with “sutta”, such as suttanta and suttavada (Ven. Vimalaramsi famous “declared” his Sangha “suttavada” awhile back).It’s on their webpage too.

However, this name has some problems. As the Wikipedia page on the EBTs notes, a lot of EBT material is not strictly sutta/sutra, but also can be found in the various Vinayas, early Abhidharma and even Mahayana texts (like the Prajñaparamita sutra which contains an early satipatthana formula). Also, as Sujato and others have shown, some suttas are late constructs. So “sutta-vada” is sort of missing the point, EBTs are scattered throughout the collections, though suttas are generally earlier.

So, let me humbly suggest a different term for this up and coming vada:

Mula-sasana-vada

The root/original teaching view.

Thoughts? :grinning:


#2

Naming is one thing; I kind of like Buddhayana myself. But I think it’s also interesting to think about to what extent “we”, i.e. those who prioritize the early teachings, actually consist of a community, or whether we even should do.

In different cultural contexts, the very idea of an “early sutta movement” is seen differently, and it can be very hard to even convey the fact of the idea, In a Sri Lankan context, for example, it’s difficult to get across the idea that there is such a thing as the Buddha’s teachings distinct from Theravada. In Tibetan contexts, the very starting point of understanding anything about the actual historical situation of the texts is absent, so anything on the “early teachings” is conflated with the Sarvastivada that is taught as “early Buddhism” in their system, or, again, with modern Theravada.

So name is an important part of identity, to be sure. But if we are to have an identity, then what kind of thing is that to be?

I’ve been thinking about this a little bit, as there has been a proposal to create an event, perhaps a conference or something, that would act as a voice for presenting and discussing the EBT perspective. I’m wondering whether this is something that is useful or even possible.

For the most part, what I focus on these days with SC is getting underneath things. I believe that the basic groundwork for having a culture that understands the Buddha’s teaching is simply not there, and one crucial component of that is having people actually reading the Buddha’s words. Not everything, to be sure, perhaps not even the most important thing, but something.


#3

This might sound a bit crazy and I don’t know much at all about Buddhism as organized religion…
But the idea of creating another separate ‘school’ doesn’t feel right. Couldn’t the words of the Buddha be used as something to unify instead. To highlight the bedrock upon which everything else is built.
So I suppose I’m saying that The Buddhas Words / EBTs are the bedrock, not another building.

This leads me to another issue, and that is of ensuring that TBWs remain, without the development of a new ‘doctrine’ or interpretation - that would just be another building.

At any rate salutations at getting the Buddhas Words out into the digital world :pray::pray::pray:


#4

I think this is what Sautrantika basically meant.

Wikipedia:

Their name means literally “those who rely upon the sutras”, which indicated, as stated by the commentator Yasomitra, that they hold the sutras, but not the Abhidharma commentaries (sastras), as authoritative.[1][3] The views of this group first appear in the Abhidharmakośabhāṣya of Vasubandhu .[2]

I think such names are only useful if you want to stake a position in a larger debate or milieu. It lets people who think similarly or differently to use a shorthand to know whether they agree or disagree. At the end of the day, it’s only useful conventionally like a banner on a battlefield. Names like these lose their original meaning quickly since they are created for a given context that changes. Sautrantika’s wanted to repudiate the elevation of Abhidharma theories and return to sutras. Today, we can barely get anyone to read (either).


#5

I think that’s over-determining the suggestion a little. It’s not about creating a school as such, but about having a word to refer to the thing that already exists, whatever that is.

Another way of thinking about it: people will inevitably end up classifying you, whether you like it or not. (I am thinking of the awful sutta jhana vs Visuddhimagga jhana idea.) So maybe it’s best to get out in front and have some say about where you see yourself?

I think we shouldn’t see difference and distinction as toxic; it is essential for clear conversation. But it does become problematic when someone has no word for themselves, and just gets elided. This happens to me all the time! People assume I’m “Theravadin” and have no idea of the many, many ways I don’t fit into that idea.


#6

Thanks Bhante, :smiley:

How about Bedrock of Buddhism :smile::wink:


#7

This is definitely a more pertinent question than “what name to give it” sure. I guess to answer it we need to look at what the possibilities are. The way I see it, there’s a spectrum of ways this “movement” (if you even want to call it that) could go.

On one end of the spectrum you have no organization at all, no structure, anarchism (no gods, no masters!). This would mean that it would basically be a descriptive term for a cluster of tendencies, for a loose group of people that have similar ideas about the Buddhist tradition (mainly, they prioritize the EBTs).

On the other end of the spectrum, you have something like what is called a “Nikaya” in Asia, a religious organization devoted to this, with monasteries and so on and some kind of leadership (all hail Sangharaja Sujato!).

Probably what people are looking for is something in between?

So Bhante, besides what SuttaCentral is right now, what do you think is missing? More translations? More content?


#8

I have a lot of reservations towards what is being discussed in this thread.

I am completely in favour of every one l having as much access as possible to the closest accounts available of the actual teachings of the Buddha. I hope that this trend continues and I extend many sadhus to all those involved in making the texts widely accessible.

However: the moment a trend starts to morph into a movement concern starts to arise.

Searching for a title is part of this morph. Identifying a ‘movement’ around a set of texts feels ‘unBuddhist’ and makes me think of major religions in the West and sects that offshoot from them identified with Books. Surely this isn’t needed?

I have heard it said by monastics that Buddhists of different traditions are more united by their practices than by their beliefs/texts. This is a strength.

Also, what about the Agamas? They are also EBTS, but exist outside the Theravada.


#9

I apologize if this seems a bit daft from my end, but, how exactly you see having a movement and organization as un-Buddhist is completely beyond me.

The Buddha spent a lot of time and effort founding a monastic order.

Can you unpack your thought process here?


#10

One thrust is to do with cultural approaches to giving status to actual texts. It can only be expanded by possibly speaking ill of the tradition in which I grew up, and of the traditions most closely associated with it. … I refer to things such as the divisiveness that exists around the ‘Religions of the Book’, the issues through the ages within Christianity of which texts are “God’s words” and which not.

The other is a much more general concern with how social/cultural movements that coalesce strongly around almost anything tend to become overzealous and insensitive to those outside it.

Names have power. Power is easily misused.

I am completely in favour of every one l having as much access as possible to the closest accounts available of the actual teachings of the Buddha. I hope that this trend continues and I extend many sadhus to all those involved in making the texts as widely accessible as possible.

Edit: I should have stated that I don’t doubt your sincerity and good intentions in raising this issue. It is good to discuss matters that are important to us. :pray:


#11

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?


#12

This is what is important, in a general and across-the-board manner. :slight_smile:


#14

Ummm… how about “Dhammavada”?

Because if you look at the whole point of the EBT approach, it is after all to understand the Dhamma as clearly as possible… and in this, knowledge of how the Dhamma was elucidated by the Buddha is the most, or I daresay, the only perfect description in this Buddhasasana.