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Why can't LBTs be Authentic?

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#41

Of course not, and it is perfectly within the appropriate range of your freedom to express your disagreement with it - only, and just as the claim merely represents a belief, your opposition to it should not be made to appear as if it was more than just another belief. After all, who knows what is true, even in the present, let alone the ancient past. This very estrangement from all forms of abstract correctness and total knowledge, and coexistence with uncertainty, appears to me to be a hallmark of spiritual development, and vice versa. People who experience serious cognitive and emotional transformation in the course of their lives know that first hand, because they can compare their beliefs now with those of the past, and witness how pervasive is the power of not only certainty and conviction, but also the need and dependency on them for one’s egoist sense of control and self worth.

When people converse together knowing all that, with an undogmatic spirit and understanding which does not aim at destroying every possible validity in each others arguments out of existence, they become comrades rather than enemies, even in their disagreement. And it is perfectly okay when one occasionally drops self awareness and behaves in a certain way which exhibits compulsion over views. But to adopt such behaviour knowingly because you actually think that you know what is true while the other doesn’t - even over whether the earth is round or flat, i wouldn’t do it!

We have a long way to go, and there’s much much to learn from other traditions in this area, such as Sufism for example, whose vast sectarian literature exhibits precisely this spirit of comradeship even in the context of disagreement over basic and fundamental interpretations, and from whom I learned this wonderful utterance:

لله طرائق بعدد أنفس الخلائق

As many living souls there are, as many are the paths which deliver them to the ultimate.


#42

Hi,

I just want to raise some questions that you don’t have to give me an answer but rather, you may ask yourself :smiley:

  • Why do you wonder about the authenticity of LBTs?
  • Is it because of the arguments against LBTs?
  • If so, what do LBTs mean to you? What of LBTs do you care about?
  • Do those of LBTs that you care about bring you satisfaction here and now?
  • If you think you are satisfied, happy with those of LBTs you care about, then why do you raise the question about authenticity of such? (I assume it’s not to win the debate for the sake of the ego)
  • If you raised the question (about authenticity of those of LBTs that you care about) out of dissatisfaction (you may feel unpleasant to hear arguments against LBTs), then it can be because those of LBTs you care about haven’t given you what you really want. Then, what is it that you want when you follow those LBTs?
  • The answer to what you really want in those LBTs may lie at the beginning when you started to learn those LBTs. What (occasion) bring those LBTs to you?

Some people approach what supposed to be teachings of The Awakened One, through other people’s recommendation or actively seeking because they experience sufferings in life, like losing a family member. Some people see the sufferings of others: aging, sickness, death, and wonder about these: It’s suffering. Why is it so? What’s the cause? Is there a way out? How? In these cases, it is being aware of sufferings that drives those people to search for the solution and with sufficient conditions, they have come to the Awakened One’s teachings. In other words, those people seek the way out of the dissatisfaction (they experience themselves or of other people’s that they observe) they are aware of and dissatisfied by.

Some people have a philosophical inclination, they have scholarly approach to things in life, they study philosophies, and on an occasion, they encounter some phrases like “the path to release from sufferings”. They, the philosophers who wonder about the nature of life, existence, the universe and so on, hear/see the phrase that catches their attention. And from that, driven by philosophical and science curiosity, they study the Awakened One’s teachings. In this case, it is the philosophical inclination and curiosity that make those people dig into the Awakened One’s teachings. Being motivated by the tendency to ask and search the answer, the tendency of curiosity is because of dissatisfaction in what they have already known.

In both cases, it is the dissatisfaction (of a certain sort) people experience that drives them to seek an escape, a release from the dissatisfaction (stress, sufferings, discontentment), and with sufficient conditions, reach the Awakened One’s teachings.

If the teachings give you a satisfied answer or not yet completely but they have been helping you solve problems in life, bringing you happiness, the dissatisfaction that drove you into the teachings is decreasing, and you have been becoming better with morality and wisdom, then the teachings are working for you. That’s great and congratulation. But then, why questioning the teachings’ authenticity?

If the teachings haven’t been helping you with above things yet, then there is something wrong here. Either you grasp the teachings wrongly despite their potential to solve problems and bring happiness and satisfaction (which some people have achieved by following the teachings), or the teachings in their essence are flawed (of course in this case, no one has ever gained positive things out of the teachings as the they claimed to have). In both cases, there is still dissatisfaction in you, the one that drove you into the teachings.

There be some difficulties arising during practice but the original dissatisfaction that drove you into the teachings has to decrease through the practice. MN 36 stated difficulties the recluse Gotama faced during practicing and reaching culmination of extreme austerities, yet those practices didn’t give him a satisfied answer to his original question (dissatisfaction) about how to end sufferings in life. The recluse Gotama then reflected the practice and result, realized that austerities in their essence were not capable of bring the one practicing them awakening and release. Then he doubted there could be another way and abandoned austerities.

Likewise, the teachings may not be compatible with you, they may not be capable of bringing you satisfaction, happiness, release from dissatisfaction and suffering. From dissatisfaction comes doubt and uncertainty. If so, is it time to abandon them and go back to the original dissatisfaction that drove you into the teachings, ask the question again and seek the solution from the beginning?

AN 3.65 (AN 3.66 - Thanissaro) may help you. Personally I care about release. So if either what claims to be the Awakened One’s teachings or his actual teachings is irrelevant to the path to awakening and release from dissatisfaction (stress, sufferings, discontentment), then I won’t care about them. Just a bonus, MN 22 (Thanissaro) stated that: “Both formerly and now, monks, I (the Awakened One) declare only stress and the cessation of stress”. So I doubt, there is a high chance what that is irrelevant to release from dissatisfaction (stress, sufferings, discontentment) is not taught by the Awakened One.

For more information: https://goo.gl/rBf3i6


#43

Thank you for sharing this with us.
I also had some visions and dreams which changed my life and my practice. I would like to share it with somebody but still I am not sure if it is skilful. On one hand I would like to help people to stay open and not just cling to written text because it is not the Holy Book. Everything is teaching us. So, as well as every sutta, if there is a proposition from LBT we should investigate/practice it and find out on our own the truthfulness of the teaching.
On the other hand this is the EBT forum and personal experiences are not encouraged. I find it a little dry, librarian/cataloguer/translator style butI accept it. It is a great source of EBT.

Thank you for that Mat.
I think western buddhism is just obsessed/conditioned with science and logic that there is no neutral ground between strict science and mambo-jumbo. We are so afraid of unexplained events…

Spiritual biography of Ajahn Mun by Ajahn Maha Boowa:
Living in Sarika Cave, Acariya Mun was occasionally visited by savaka Arahants, who appeared to him by means of samadhi nimitta. Each savaka Arahant delivered for his benefit a discourse on Dhamma, elucidating the traditional practices of Noble Ones…
…As more and more savaka Arahants came to teach him this way, he gained many new insights into the practice just by listening to their expositions…
Acariya Mun revealed that he attained the stage of Anagami in Sarika Cave exclusively to his close disciples, but, I have decided declare it publicly here for the reader’s consideration. Should this disclosure be considered in any way inappropriate, I deserve the blame for not being more circumspect…

I can’t prove that LBT is authentic. You can’t prove that LBT is not authentic.
Peace.
Much metta


#44

Thank you for sharing your views, Bhante :anjal:. Defining authenticity in this way seems perfectly valid to me. It’s fine to use another definition, but doing so does not invalidate the present one. To quote the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on authenticity (Varga & Guignon, 2014/2017):

To say that something is authentic is to say that it is what it professes to be, or what it is reputed to be, in origin or authorship.

But surely this is where we can use the tools of text-critical analysis, and scientific and rational inquiry.

Regardless of my own views, I respect yours, Bhante, and I will refrain from arguing with them.

I will only note that some people, including myself—and maybe yourself too!—care an awful lot about mundane facts. It is a fact that the HPV vaccine protects people against terminal cervical cancer. It is also a fact that not all parents vaccinate their children with HPV. Why not? Because they do not understand or trust facts. I feel that we, in this period which some call “post-factual,” we should hold on to facts more than ever.


#45

Hello friend Robbie. And there you go … the very sentences that you have omitted from the quote above, and which preceed yours, Dhammarakkhita brings them back to life from the same encyclopedia:

The term ‘authentic’ is used either in the strong sense of being “of undisputed origin or authorship”, or in a weaker sense of being “faithful to an original” or a “reliable, accurate representation”.

And as I have pointed out, the question is not what is authenticity philosophicially, but rather historically; that is, from a scientific point of view, how do we know whether a text is authentic. It is in this context that the definition I offered, stands, and it is precisely such definition which pertains most to the discussion at hand; an abstract “philosophical” inquiry into the meaning of authenticity, though may hardly be in itself interesting, does not seem to be of the highest relevance to what we are actually talking about here. And there are statements which exist in abundance, that I could quote as well, and from the highest authorities in the field, past and present, which will at the very least demonstrate clearly that I have not just invented a new definition of authenticity, as you imagine the case to be.

There is no “we”; when it comes to facts, there has never been any such thing as “we”; that’s the whole point of what I was, unseccessfully it seems, trying to convey. “you” hold on to your facts, “I” hold on to mine; there are no facts independently from what “you” and “I” regard as facts. heh! Thank you for thanking me for sharing my views anyway!


#46

Thanks, Bhante, for your reply :anjal:. You are correct that there are multiple valid definitions of authenticity, as your quote from the same source shows.

I’m certainly not imagining this to be the case. I merely defended Bhante Sujato’s definition of authenticity, without disputing other definitions, including yours.

That’s your view. I was merely stating my own :slightly_smiling_face:


#47

@Javier, I’m not trying to paint any group with a brush. I’m just trying to make a point of distinction, between what the Buddha taught (as best we can investigate), and what has been fabricated since his time. And, there has been a lot of fabrication and distortion. It’s my own feeling that if we are to call ourselves as students of the Buddha’s ethics based educational system, we might make some effort to really understand what he actually taught.

I’m offering an opinion. I have a lot of respect and affinity for the “later stuff,” and have spent my own time in, for example, Zen groups in my locale. I practice Japanese archery, and really enjoy it, and see the value of its training and meditative value. But, at the end of the day, the task for me is to investigate the Dhamma and practice it, and having done so even just at a very superficial level in my life, I have found benefit not found in “later” traditions. That’s just my bias in this, and I mean no offense to other practices, and have expressed many times that most folks that see themselves as Buddhists (of all stripes) share a common bond of compassion, ethics, empathy and engagement, so lacking and so desperately needed in this world.


#48

Although this might be a positive step in the spiritual development of a world-renouncing monk, it would be an absolute disaster for human civilization as a whole to abandon critical standards in deciding what is true and what is false. Historical inquiry is hard, but not impossible.


#49

Well, but this is just the point in question, it assumes that all later texts are distorted fabrications, while reserving a special place for EBTs as undistorted scripture.

But this isn’t true, as the work of many such as Sujato has shown, even the EBTs have distortions and problematic ideas or editions. Likewise, the Mahayana texts also have numerous additions, but are they all to be seen as “distorted”? I don’t think so. Sure perhaps there are some problematic ideas I disagree with, but all scriptures and religious texts do.

So while I agree that its important to have a historical and critically informed perspective on the Buddhist texts, that does not mean that this understanding must lead to the making of normative and axiological claims about these texts (that is, of their inherent worth or usefulness). Do you see what I mean? To put it another way, I can have a historical critical perspective which tells me “the EBTs are the historically earlier material and probably contain more of the historical Buddha’s teachings than later stuff” and yet it doesn’t have to follow that everything else other than the EBTs needs to be seen as distorted or not useful or worthwhile.

To understand why I feel this way, lets go back to the Einstein example, because its actually one way I have thought about this for some time. Einstein was a genius, we can all agree on that. But he was a single human being, and even he made mistakes and missed some facts about physics that later thinkers worked on (and continue to do so). So if we look at the Buddha like this, as a man who was a spiritual genius, but still, a human being like us, we can see why its a mistake to have a fundamentalist attitude towards the EBTs (or any group of texts). The problem is that if you do this, you limit yourself and lock yourself into a specific time and place (ancient India), you freeze the world of possibilities so to speak. Instead, if we see the EBTs and the LBTs as “fingers pointing to the moon” so to speak, instead of as the perfect ultimate say on things, then we can have a lighter, more relaxed framework for spiritual practice, instead of a closed constricted framework.

Anyways, this is just my own opinion on the matter.


#50

I think we all agree on a few points, most importantly:

  • It is meaningful to distinguish between EBTs and LBTs
  • Both the EBTs and LBTs have their value

:anjal:


#51

Hi Bhante, I’m sure that this is one particular Buddhist perspective (Madhyamaka it seems to me) on epistemology. However, in this case, we are discussing not ultimate truth, but conventional truth. The very question of “authenticity” seems to be related to historicity, text critical method and so on, all of which fall within the camp of the conventional truth as per Madhyamaka, not ultimate truth. Nobody here it seems to me is making the claim that there is some kind of ultimately established ontological “facts” about these texts, so I’m not sure if a Madhyamaka critique of ultimately existing facts is really applicable (unless its a kind of propaedeutic aimed at people clinging to their views on texts).


#52

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “authentic” in the sense used in this discussion as follows:

“Esp. of a statement, text, etc.: in accordance with fact or stating the truth, and thus worthy of acceptance or belief; of established credit; able to be relied on; truthful, accurate. In recent use chiefly (overlapping with sense A. 7c): having the quality of verisimilitude, true to life.”

By the way, this is the second definition for “authentic” in the OED. The first definition pertains to legal matters which would seemingly not be relevant for this discussion.


#53

Thanks, @Javier. I think we see the issue differently, but that’s OK. Part of what makes D&D great are these discussions; if we all agreed with each other, it’d be terribly boring. :slight_smile:

So, here’s my really crude thought after your post. The Buddha taught his monks and nuns. After the Buddha’s passing, his monks gathered as a council and agreed on the body of his teachings. These were kept and recited, with the reciters being monks that memorized the teachings verbatim. Then some monks were sent off to Sri Lanka, and others (their paths never crossing) went off to China. These teachings were then written down once writing was formalized in these regions. We now compare the Sri Lankan canon and the Agamas, and they line up amazingly accurately and consistently. We now can say that these texts that mirror each other, despite being “game-of-telephoned” over time and distance, reasonably accurately capture the Dhamma and the teachings of the early Sangha that succeeded the Buddha.

My above summary would get me a solid D- in any competent Buddhist History course. But, this evidence really does give us the ability to have a lot of confidence in the core, consistent early teachings. And, we have scholars like Vens. Sujato, Brahmali, Analayo, and Prof. Gombrich to help us now sort all of this out. We can have this confidence that a decent proportion of the EBTs reflect the actual Dhamma, of the Buddha, whereas later texts may not or do not.

Thankfully, what the Buddha established was a path of practice. Thankfully, we don’t have a creed that we need to recite and cling to in order to be a Buddhist. This allows for a wide umbrella, and the ability for all of us as kalyana mitta to practice this Path as we deem fit, and to support each other, even if we don’t always agree on what authenticity or weight to give to various teachings.

I wish you a good weekend, with Metta, Javier. I learned a lot today…


#54

Hello friend Javier,

You know, it was only with difficulty that anyone could beat me in a game of chess! And I have played with grandmasters! Such was the natural power of my mind in deductive syllogism that, it seemed as if Coeus had bestowed it upon me at birth; a gift to wield readily and freely without toil or effort! In other words, it is possible to ponder whether I have turned the matter at hand into a question of epistemology, or whether you have not been wary of the impact of dualism on your very evaluation of my contribution to the discussion, and whether your and my reference to and use of not only the word “fact”, but even the word “the”, might mean different things in conventional and ultimate terms, and go about wondering what do we really intend to mean by its utilisation in each others speech. Further we would ponder whether the distinction between what’s conventional and what’s ultimate is perhaps itself conventional, or perhaps ultimate, and whether this very thought:

The distinction between what’s conventional and what’s ultimate is itself conventional.

… involves a recurssive self-reference paradox that couldn’t possibly be solved through verbal logic alone, which is itself recurresive, and whether this eventually justifies the shoe that the Chinese master will throw in your face in the middle of conversation, so that you may thereby become suddenly enlightened!

We can do all that; but I will have to apologise to you, friend Javier, because I can’t do it; not any more! For I have firmly renounced that very element of mind, to the extent that I can hardly even remember it, and I no longer seek to grasp reality and the meaning of things, in the same way a carpenter grasps hold of a piece of wood! I no longer depend on such type of thinking to connect the dots together. For Coeus turns out to be far more devilish than benevolent, and I have taken refuge in the Buddha, to whom I now bow; I bow to the Buddha for showing me the alternative; the experiential, intuitive awareness of reality; and for showing me how to rid of this heavy load of logic and thought and thinking, and of the doubt on whether something is Madhyamaka or not, and for teaching me how to practise and train so as to reach this self-justifying freedom and intuitive wisdom of the heart.

I bow to the Buddha.


#55

Hi Gabriel,

Would you mind quoting some of these differences in doctrine? My impression from a few years ago when I read the entirety of SN and AN (speedreading the obviously repetitive suttas) was that nothing struck me as specific to one or the other. Of the 4 main Nikayas, only DN stands apart IMO and even then contains overall kosher teachings.


#56

Interesting discussion.

Defining “authentic” was a good idea. Smart to agree on the terms of a debate/discussion to avoid the obvious, but there is something more…

Should mention that I have read Bhante Sujato & Brahmali’s book on the authenticity of the EBTs, twice. It’s a great read and should provide a leg up to those whom read it. Highly recommend it!

But.

The entire mass of Buddhist scripture, all of it, has the acute issue of being a hypothesis that can’t be disproven(broadly). Intellectual dissection is wonderful, easpically using recent Western academic standards, but this isn’t mathematics, which has proofs, nor physics, which has laboratory and field based experimentation/observation. Literary and historic analytics are highly problematic, even if well done and convincing.

Confirmation-bias is an interesting phenomenon.

Without direct personal experience as the basis for knowledge and insight into the true nature of the teaching and the reality it alludes too, at best the majority of the scriptures(Pali or not) are mostly conjecture(a handful of leaves compared to the whole forest; the bare-constituents can never be comprehensive or authoritative except to the individual) which forms a basis for a purely individual understanding of a hypothesis to be proven/disproven by oneself alone.

Westerners are often turned off by talk of devas, heaven realms, hell realms, spiritual powers, rebirth, etc. Makes sense given the context of the culture at large, however, if someone has direct experience with any one of these details the doubters/naysayers would seemingly appear naïve. Silly. So too, a 15th century Chan monk whose attained the highest knowledges isn’t likely to go around the country side proclaiming the issues in the scriptures and current practices. Maybe he’d do so quietly with individuals. Maybe. And that goes for any Noble disciple of any school, in any region in the world. It would be unsavory and foolhardy. The awakened disciple is quiet and modest, not a trouble maker or rabble rouser. Anyone whom declares/alludes-to higher knowledges/attainments whether quietly inside the monastic order or outside publicly should be immediately suspect by default.

The Pali EBTs are likely the best starting point for a serious practitioner, but just that, a good place to establish a solid foundation from which one can move forward on their way along the metaphorical path.
:anjal:


#57

Well i can vouch for Sheldon’s mother, she definitely isn’t madhyamaka, nor arguing here on the basis of ultimate truth!!


#58

To me personally the differences became clearer when I did detailed research. It probably doesn’t pop up just by reading the SN and AN, the material is just too vast.

Again, a relatively simple method would be to take DN 33 and to trace the concepts back in SN & AN with a few categories “exclusively AN/SN”, “mostly AN/SN” “similarly in both”.

Since the SN is more structured it would also be worthwhile to note in which Vagga the concept appears, for many important concepts can be found mostly in the Mahavagga. So it might turn out that certain Vaggas (e.g. Mahavagga) had more cross-influences with the AN than others. This might reveal some transmission aspects.

But for a few examples:
DN 33.4.19 is only AN - same with DN 33.4.21, etc.
If you take the formula “esa bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho, āhuneyyo pāhuneyyo dakkhiṇeyyo añjalikaraṇīyo anuttaraṃ puññakkhettaṃ lokassā’ti” you’ll find it 5xSN and 29xAN, so it’d be more pronounced in the AN etc.

It probably doesn’t sound convincing, but if you investigate in detail you’ll see transmission tendencies.


#59

What I meant in by “nothing struck me as specific to one or the other” is that the general thrust of the teachings is the same between SN and AN, i.e. I noticed no gross contradictions. As you pointed out, there will be passages found more in one in the other or uniquely in just one and this reflects transmission tendencies. However, the gist remains the same AFAICT.


#60

I’m up for it: Define the gist and let’s forget all the rest. And I’m only half joking.

Wittgenstein remarked that raisins might be the best thing about a cake, but that to eat only raisins is not as tasty as to eat cake… We might have a similar case with the EBT.