What would one call the vada that prioritizes EBTs?

How about “Navakalavada” for ironic effect?

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I have the same difficulty with politics in this regard. It’s actually very difficult to get people to balance different points of view in a collaborative fashion. Instead, they want to debtate, which means picking certain slogans or facts and ignoring others. Personally, I don’t care which sides wins these debates, only that they end and people start solving or mitigating societal problems. But this is not what everyone else thinks politics is about.

Sectarian religion is very similar to this. It’s not about a spiritual journey; it’s about defeating some other groups with rhetoric. In fact, I’ve begun to think that religion has not atrophied in the West. It’s simply morphed into political ideologies.


You’re not the first to think so! Political (secular) religion, and especially American Civil Religion, have received critical attention for decades :slightly_smiling_face:

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Let me first apologize for trotting out my ignorance here, but I’m not sure I understand the root of the discussion. Is there a new trend toward prioritizing the suttas in modern terms; that is, deciding which are most important for us, second most important, and so on? If so, I would think it hardly needs a name, this prioritized sutta list.

Parenthetically, at our yesterday’s dhamma talk and discussion on the saṃyutta nikāya, 12, Sasīma (The Wanderer), several young people with strong Christian grounding dropped in. They asked questions regarding creation, the ultimate creator God, all from their point of view. A sutta centered in the five aggregates and dependent origination (such as we had before us) would not, I think, be best for such folk as an introduction to Buddhism. So, in this sense, an ordering of the suttas to meet the needs of persons grounded in the “desert” religions might be helpful. The Buddha was surrounded by people grounded in the forest religions where rebirth, a form of polytheism, and some concept of karma were givens.

Just thoughts. Sorry to ramble.

No, the question is about those who would prioritize the suttas over, say, traditional commentarial or Abhidhamma explanations.

Well I think that’s a bit of an ungenerous definition that the followers of the abhidhamma and commentaries would (rightly) bristle at: they don’t believe that the abhidhamma and commentaries contradict the EBTs at all.

EDIT: Perhaps, “commentary skeptics” might be a more universally acceptable name?

Is that not the point? The question was about how to describe those of us who do, in fact, believe that the teachings of the EBTs are central and differ in important ways from the doctrines of the schools.

The point of it is to make a distinction from, say, “Theravada”, which, in terms of scripture, might be described as the school that accepts that the Pali suttas, Abhidhamma, and commentaries express essentially the same doctrine. Pa Auk Sayadaw, as an exponent of this school, said that the commentaries must be understood as the pakiṇṇaka desanā, i.e “miscellaneous teachings”, genuine teachings of the Buddha that were not included in the Tipitaka.


This is where the real problem comes. Some of the explainations in the commentaries are wrong. Some of them has several meanings for one word where the particular sutta has no relation to.
In fact commentaries says moon and sun has almost similar diameter (sun - 51 yojanas & moon 50 yojanas) further says moon is made of gems and silver. If this is true, one can blame the Buddha a lier.
This is only one example, and there are plenty of them. Having said that, the commentaries are really important in some cases such as second defeat (rule). No one would know what a pada means without commentaries, however, still the value of a pada cannot be analyzed.


Absolutely, it is irrational to discard the rich and often essential information that the commentaries convey.


Or, Havanagila…oh, wait, sorry, that’s taken.


Wait… so your explicit intention is to create division among the Sangha?

It is not a must to have a vāda, for a principle or a belief.

For an example it is nnot exactly true, if someone says Buddhism is an anātmavāda(anattavāda).

Theory is a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something which uses hypotheses.
Buddhism is far beyond a theory, where it teaches a self-evident truth of Buddha. If someone says I am a anattavādin, a contradiction occurs with the anattavādin. The blessed one left all the theories off.

Having different opinions on hermeneutics and textual interpretations need not be divisive. The Buddhist Sangha was never focused on maintaining a single monolithic orthodox dogma like the Catholic Church. So you have different groups with different ways of reading the texts, something which will inevitably occur in any religion.

It’s best to think of it as a conversation between different partners than as a eristic debate.


That’s correct. Which is why I was surprised to see Bhante Sujato word his stance as:

This is a very subtle point, but wording his position this way is divisive, as it accuses those following the commentaries of deprioritizing the suttas.

Precisely. Which must start from a place of respect.

It’s fine to say “I don’t believe in the infallibility of the commentaries and Abhidhamma.” That’s a reasonable point on which people can have a debate. But it’s quite a different thing to say, “I prioritize the suttas. Unlike you, I’m a true follower of the suttas” That’s unnecessarily antagonistic.

But he didn’t say that last part did he…


:roll_eyes: Sometimes empathy is hard. Let’s substitute some things to flip this around.

Pretend there is a group of, let’s say, climate change deniers, who think that climate science has been infected by politics and is not trustworthy. They say, rightly, that science is based on carefully considering all the evidence, hearing opposing views. Where you see “consensus” they see “dogmatism,” etc etc

So, when asked to come up with a name for themselves, they say something like:

“No, the question is about those who would prioritize rationality over, say, institutional climate science.”

And, based on this, the climate change deniers wish to call themselves “rationalists.”

Now: does this or does this not imply that those who trust in “institutional climate science” are irrational?

So no: Bhante did not literally say those words. He strongly implied them.

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The problem here is, if we are so willing to look for bad intent behind other’s words, one could find issue with all positions and no discussion would ever take place.

For example, if one were so inclined, one could interpret those who see the Abhidhamma as the true Buddhavacana as saying that those who do not accept this view are not really following the Buddha, they don’t truly understand the full extent of his teachings.

Or one could interpret those who teach “original mind” as thinking that those who do not accept this view are just not advanced enough in the practice or meditative insight, like the Ajahns who do teach it.

And so on, it would go on forever.

So in this case, instead of assuming that kind of negative intention, everyone needs to come to the table and discuss things with metta and respect. Yes we need to choose our words carefully, but also, we cannot use calls to right speech as a way to shut down all discussion of important doctrinal issues.


I think this is very HUGE topic. And I would be extremely careful about this discussion, because creating a new school might have very big effects and reactions later. It can get very “emotional” and schizmatic.

I think people who are into the subject of theravada Buddha Dhamma are generally aware of different “branches”, lets say: Ajahn Chah tradition, Mahasi tradition, Goenka Sayagyi U Be Khin tradition etc. etc. I personally even use in my mind term “Ajahn Brahm tradition” or “Bodhinyana tradition” with him, Ajahn Sujato and Ajahn Brahmali as their representatives.

I was wondering about this a lot, and personally I think there are as many buddhisms as there as meditation teachers/dhamma scholars. Seriously, with few exceptions of great meditation teachers that agree on most stuff (like Ajahn Brahmali and Ajahn Sujato), most disagree about some nuances of the path and meditation techniques.
Even very close associates differs with time on some nuances.

Ajahn Brahmali and Ajahn Sujato is a rare exception when it seems that two influential Venerables shares similar opinion on almost everything. It is most likely because they are both students of Ajahn Brahm, and because they know each other for years and cooperate together, as we all know they are both on this forum as well.

But for example, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, who is also from “Thai Forest Tradition” differs on much more things, for example his standards for jhanas (more simple and less intense) and having more eternalist than anihilationist flavour in translations of Nibbana.

So ever meditation masters from “Thai Forest Tradition” have different opinions on some aspects of the path. It is normal, because everyone has his own experience and it gives flavours to different interpretations and methods. But the core is the same.

There is a huge difference between being recognized as another tradition (for example Bodhinyana tradition or Sutta Central related tradition) and creating a new vada. I think creating a name consisting “vada” in it could seriously backfire and could be interpreted as going too far.

I think we should accept that each meditation master has good intentions, has his own experiences and due to them has his own understanding of Dhamma. Everything is unique in its impermanence, such is life.

But as Ajahn Brahm would say, lets look at what connects us, and not what divides us.

And truth is that theravada buddhism is the only branch of buddhism that actually says that practice is about getting to arahanthood and reaching Nibbana and on the way be helpful to other. (No hard-core Boddhisattva ideal and other inventions of mahayana) And it is what connects all these masters: Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Brahm, Ajahn Sujato, Mahasi Sayadaw, Thanissaro Bhikkhu etc. etc.
You’re all theravadin, wearing same color or robes etc. I think it has great meaning, at least for me. Even thou I know many downsides of actual practice of theravada in many countries, the “core” is the same and its great.

I think differences upon relating to abhidhamma and commentaries are perhaps not that big in relation to how much connects theravada.

And it is the same will all religions, that most of it is “not true to the teachings”, and only few follow them through and through. It has always been and is still so. And believe me, people will recognize those, who are doing good job and have “another place for them in their minds and hearts”. And realization of the Path itself is the greatest reward in itself, and I believe that creating site like Sutta Central is enormous kusala kamma for you and for the world, and that is what is most importaint.

I think being recognized as just another tradition that is “EBTs” will happen and is happening anyway.

Not new vada is needed.
I would leave classification to scholars and just keep doing the great merit for the world that you’re doing, without calling it anyhow, except for the “EBTs” and “Sutta Central” that are already there.

But thats just my opinion, and I am absolutely in no position to decide or evaluate this :slight_smile: But wanted to share my thoughts and feelings.

PS: You’re already done great things, like making nun orditations. With time it will spread and spread and become more present in theravada.
Could be the same with EBTs importance. People need time.
But the question is whether to “improve theravada” or create a new vada. I’m for the first option due to reasons I’ve posted above.

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I understand why this can cause people to worry, but ultimately, this topic is just about giving a name to something that already exists, a particular tendency and way of reading the ancient texts, a theory. That’s what vada means, its a theory. It doesn’t have to mean a calcified sectarian doctrine. It’s just a name for an idea.

What people do with that idea, that’s a whole other can of worms of course.


I think this is importaint thing to consider. People are very sensitive to such subjects, and using word vada which associates with early buddhist sects could be and probably will be bringing such associations and reactions.

It is nothing new in philosophy, that using certain terms is avoided not due to logical reasons, but due to cultural reasons.

This topic is just about giving a name to something that already exists

In a way the names already exists aswell. Sutta Central, early buddhism. EBT.

Even on philosophical/scientific conferences about buddhism (I was attending some), people are using terms “early buddhism” that reffers to tipitaka.

These are all very neutral terms, that does not bring worrysome associations.

That’s my opinion on this issue. :slight_smile: