Who teaches according to the EBTs in the US?

Hello everyone! I’m new here and just finished reading the forum guidelines. I’ve highlighted one example of “extremist views” listed in these guidelines:

“Anyone advocating extremist or conspiracy theory views will be warned, and if they persist, banned. Examples of such views include ‘The Buddha was born in Sri Lanka’, ‘Anicca doesn’t mean impermanence’, ‘The original Pali manuscripts at Aluvihara exist’, ‘Chinese texts are all Mahayana’, ‘Mahayana texts are fake’ etc.”

This example surprised me, considering that it’s pretty common knowledge that Mahayana sutras don’t represent the teachings of the historical Buddha and in that respect can justifiably be considered “fake”.

Then I stumbled across this topic and noticed that bhante @sujato himself describe the Mahayana sutras as basically fake, although without using that exact word:

I completely agree with these statements, but as a new member here I’m a bit confused about why saying that Mahayana sutras are fake is considered an “extremist view” or a “conspiracy theory” on this forum, while saying that Mahayana sutras are inauthentic isn’t.

Grateful for clarification.


imo, “fake” can point to:

  • Plagiarism – but no one believes that the Mahayana texts attempt to do this. For example, they are not forgeries that claim to be newly discovered Pāli Canon texts, and they do not replicate/duplicate the Pāli texts and then profess to be the original texts.

  • Utterly devoid of Buddhist doctrine, but claiming to be so.
    Not true. While there are significant differences in some doctrinal areas and interpretations that differ from many Theravadin practitioners, they are still imbued with Dhamma teachings. In other words, they are not texts of religion A that deceptively claim to be the texts of religion B, (though, admittedly, some practitioners of the EBTs claim this is so, given the significant doctrinal differences that are present).
    Also, I know of no serious scholars who claim the Mahayana texts were written by people who did not consider themselves Buddhist. So not fake in this way, either.

  • Inauthentic, yes. As Ven. Sujato has explained.


1 Like

The following previous postings may be relevant to your interests on Master YinShun (and his follower Ven. Choong Mun-keat’s works on Samyutta/Samyukta comparative studies):

EBTs (such as the principal source, the four Nikayas/Agamas) are just texts, some compiled/edited early, some later. EBTs were gradually developed and expanded. EBTs were not entirely established at once at the first council in complete form (structure) and content. The extant EBTs are sectarian texts. One can seek an understanding of early Buddhist teachings by studying them comparatively.

It’s a good point, but the guidelines don’t say this? Can you give me a link to where you’re looking?


Examples of non-hateful extremist views include:

  • The Buddha was born in Sri Lanka.
  • Anicca doesn’t mean impermanence.
  • The original Pali manuscripts at Aluvihara exist.
  • Pali fundamentalism (Chinese texts are all Mahayana, etc.).

Like I said above, the Mahayana texts are clearly “inauthentic” in the sense that they (at least nominally) claim to be spoken by the Buddha when they are obviously not. At the same time, I also believe that they are genuine, and often wise and insightful, scriptures that are the outcome of a serious spiritual and philosophical inquiry. The historical problematic is: how is it that both of these things can be true? It’s an interesting question!

I believe that in at least some cases, the Mahayana sutras were the product of a meditative insight: the Buddha spoke to monks in samadhi. Other texts appear to be the product of philosophical systematics like the Abhidhamma, or else they address practical problems that arose in the tradition. There’s probably not a simple answer.

1 Like

In Vinaya, Cullavagga, the Buddha advises bhikkhus not to use Vedic language (Chanda; i.e. Vedic Sanskrit) (Vin. II, PTS, p. 139 “Chandaso”) for the Buddha’s language/teachings (buddhavacana), but use your own language (sakāya niruttiyā) for the Buddha’s teachings. If making the Vedic language for the Buddha’s teachings, it will be corrupt.

The essential teaching here is “sakāya niruttiyā” (based on your own language) for the Buddha’s teachings “Buddhavacana”. No any languages, including Pali, should be regarded as an absolute Buddhavacana.

This understanding is very essential for the studies in EBTs or Early Buddhism.

It’s here:


Sorry Bhante, that sentence appears in the FAQ, under question 15. Not in the guidelines. My bad.

I’m sure there is plenty of wisdom in all sorts of texts. I usually consider the Mahayana sutras as “fake texts” exactly because they’re inauthentic. I guess it depends on how you define “fake”.

1 Like

I mean there are lot of Mahayana texts that are literally identical to EBT’s but with the words “this too is empty” or something like that appended to the end of every sentence. Then there are major Mahayana works that do not in any way claim to be the words of the Buddha, like Nagarjuna’s Mulamadhyamakakarika for example.

And this site still hosts the Abhidhamma despite widespread acknowledgment that they aren’t quite as “E” as the other EBT.

Finally plenty of people who are interested in getting to the earliest strata of Buddhist texts (myself included) still don’t think we have any conclusive evidence that we actually get back to the lifetime of the Buddha or his actual words and phrases, so the idea that the crucial difference between Mahayana and “EBT’s” is that Mahayana texts where not spoken by the Buddha kind of implies that we have definitively arrived at the conclusion that the EBTs where and this is far from the case.

Mahayana texts and EBTs are simply just texts.

I agree with this. Nowhere have I claimed that the Pali canon contains the actual words of the Buddha. Nor have I claimed that all Mahayana texts claim to be the words of the Buddha, or that Mahayana schools don’t have their own versions of suttas found in the Pali canon.

All I wrote was that I consider Mahayana sutras to be fake, i.e. in their claims to contain a “higher teaching” of Lord Buddha. I never thought of that as a controversial opinion, which is why I was surprised to find it described as a “conspiracy theory” in the FAQ.

1 Like

thomaslaw wrote:

In Vinaya, Cullavagga, the Buddha advises bhikkhus not to use Vedic language (Chanda; i.e. Vedic Sanskrit) (Vin. II, PTS, p. 139 “Chandaso”) for the Buddha’s language/teachings (buddhavacana), but use your own language (sakāya niruttiyā) for the Buddha’s teachings. If making the Vedic language for the Buddha’s teachings, it will be corrupt.

To answer you let me quote Bhikkhu Sujato and Bhikkhu Brahmali (2014, 11-12), they enumerate the texts that qualify as Early Buddhist Texts:

They are the bulk of the Suttas in the main four Pali Nikayas and parallel Agama literature in Chinese, Tibetan, Sanskrit, and other Indian dialects; the patimokkhas and some Vinaya material from the khandhakas; a small portion of the Khuddaka Nikaya, consisting of the significant parts of the Sutta Nipata, Udana, Itivuttaka, Dhammapada, and Thera- and Theri Gatha. [emphasis added]

That prohibition is, to my knowledge, only in the Pali canon and therefore not a part of the EBTs. The Chinese Agamas are believed to be translations from a form of Sanskrit. Such a prohibition if taken literally would eliminate a lot that is considered EBTs.

The Chinese Agamas are not translated from a form of Chanda/Vedic Sanskrit.
Cf.: Sanskrit prosody, Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit.


I am not here to teach or correct anyone. We disagree and that is fine. Be happy and at peace my friend.

[quote=“sujato, post:50, topic:5957”]
What principles, exactly? AN 2.23 says that one who says what was not spoken by the Buddha was spoken by him misrepresents the Buddha. Forgetting the Buddha’s words and attending to later teachings is said to be a decisive factor in the ending of Buddhism (SN 20.7, AN 5.79). This is not merely a matter of historical correctness, for correct understanding of what the Buddha taught and didn’t teach directly affects ones’ spiritual welfare (AN 1.132-139, SN 55.53). [/quote]

Sādhu! Sādhu! Sādhu!

The Karuna Buddhist Vihara bhikkunis teach sutta study (EDIT: focus on nikayas MN, AN, SN, and DN, not so much commentaries or abhidhamma). Right now it’s Thursday nights (US Pacific time 7pm) over zoom, live. Chanting, meditation, read a sutta together, discuss the sutta’s meaning, ask questions, implications for life and practice.


Actually, the Tipitaka includes Abhidhamma, it’s one of the 3 parts.


Oh yeah you’re right… They don’t teach vinaya to lay people either. Would it be right to say just the nikayas?

1 Like

Sure, although lay people study the story of the Buddha’s life as presented in the Vinaya mahavagga.

For example, see here:

I would also say that anytime people get together to discuss a sutta’s meaning it is a form of ‘commentary’, even if not the classic commentary.


I beleive Vimalarmasi’s meditation practice stems more for the commentaries than from the suttas.

Valid points. I study to understand the mind, more than the literature.