Accidentally while following up (googling) after being introduced to V. Sujato’s “A History of Mindfulness” (AHOM) via some lead in some other forum; and then the blog on “Vitakka & Vicara”.
Initially to add some comments re “Vitakka & Vicara”, about 1 ½ years ago; then later asking specific technical questions about using SuttaCentral for searching / research, and later in general discussion, as it seemed here more informed and less contentious than other forums. But then SC discussion became much more popular…
Textual criticism is simply a necessity in scholarly research (and it’s not a modern invention). The historical analysis of the evolution of a literature is likewise sine qua non. V. Sujato’s “GIST”, and the rest of AHOM was an eye-opener, as well as more familiarity with the work of V. Analayo, Alexander Wynne, et al.
(What ever became of GIST? The work sketched in AHOM, of Analayo, Wynne, etc. seems piecemeal, as yet to be integrated systematically in the direction of working hypotheses of the ‘big picture’ of historical layering and evolution.)
EBT is a vital pursuit in clarifying that evolution. I believe it is a crucial piece in triangulating on the “original” teachings, which, however, can never be completely unambiguously determined, as the evidence is inherently “indirect”. (Wynne’s explicit treatment of this problem stands out; I’ve not yet seen it approached elsewhere – perhaps others here can enlighten me as to other authors who are seriously considering this issue?)
I do not, however, adopt “EBT” to the extreme of literalist religious fundamentalism as some do. (EBT has also been adopted big-time and often dogmatically in “Secular Buddhist” circles.) I find valuable insight also in the non-EBT portions of the Pali Canon, as well as in more modern commentaries – given similar textual- and context-critical perspective in evaluating the also later contributions to the (Theravada) tradition. As one accomplished monastic scholar (and practitioner) said: Just because some interpretation is “later” doesn’t mean it’s necessarily incorrect or cannot contribute to liberating insight. And I highly value what can be learned, experienced in first-person interaction with those who embody monastic lineage, who have demonstrated, from simple “presence” as well as words, what can be gained through a life of renunciation and total dedication to study and practice. Such interactions, more than the sum total of all the internet goings-on, are more motivators for my practice.