Wikipedia's info on "Pre-sectarian Buddhism"

I have a few questions relates to Wikipedia’s info on “Pre-sectarian Buddhism” (their term for Early Buddhism).

First I’d like to give a short summary of the Wiki text on that page. After its brief summary of the samaṇa movements, their main contributions to Indian philosophy, the various academic approaches to Early Buddhism, and the various scholarly positions with regards to the subject matter, the Wiki page goes on to summarise the teachings of “earliest Buddhism”. This is where things get wild.

It begins by stating that “some scholars” believe that the original version of Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta only pointed at “the middle way” (without an eightfold path) as the core of the Buddha’s teaching, which in turn pointed to development of jhanas as its core method. The Eightfold Noble Path and the Four Noble Truths are considered (by said scholars) later additions that were developed “under pressure from developments in Indian religiosity, which began to see “liberating insight” as the essence of moksha”.

So right off the bat this Wiki page suggests that the Eightfold Path and the Four Truths are “later additions”, thus not Early Buddhism.

Then it goes on to suggest that the Buddha had viewed death as an “error” which he sought to correct by finding the “door to the Deathless” - “our true immortal selves”.

It then suggests that kamma and rebirth were either “incidental to early Buddhist soteriology” or concepts that the Buddha only became acquainted with after his realization and chose to incorporate into his teaching because of reasons.

Then the text suggests that “original Buddhism did not deny the existence of the soul”.

It goes on and on like this. Reading this Wiki page, I get the impression that Early Buddhism is something completely different from what we can find in the Early Buddhist Texts. That “original Buddhism” didn’t contain almost any of the concepts that we consider essential to Buddhism today: the Eightfold Path, the Four Truths, kamma, rebirth, not-self, etc.

Dependent Origination is suggested to be a mix of shorter lists (of which one “may be a mockery of the Vedic-Brahmanic cosmogeny”).

When discussing nibbana, the text mentions several scholars’ positions. One such position is that the original concept of nibbana was “an eternal consciousness”, “an invisible infinite consciousness, which shines everywhere”, “consciousness as the nonimpermanent centre of the personality which constitutes an absolute element in this contingent world”.

Another scholar claimed that precanonic Buddhists considered nibbana “a place one can actually go to. It is called nirvanadhatu, has no border-signs (animitta), is localized somewhere beyond the other six dhatus (beginning with earth and ending with vijñana) but is closest to akasa and vijñana.”

You get the picture. The page is full of really wild claims about what Early Buddhism was like.

Okay, so moving on to my questions:

  1. Sutta Central seems to have a completely different definition of Early Buddhism than any of the scholars mentioned on the Wikipedia page. Can someone here explain the difference in the definition used by those scholars and the one used on Sutta Central?

  2. Considering how different these scholars of Early Buddhism claim that “original Buddhism” was from the teachings in the Pali Canon, how useful is the Pali Canon (or EBT) as a source for Early Buddhist studies?

  3. Most references in the Wiki text quote academic papers rather than original source material that the quoted scholars base their theories on. Does anyone here have any idea what sources (other than the EBT) those academic scholars have used in order to come to their radical conclusions about the contents of Early Buddhism?

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It can be difficult to reconcile a purely academic approach with that of the immersive experience of living a lifestyle in the context of Dhamma themes. First off, their respective goals are not necessarily aligned: one is attempting to establish an accurate historical account based on available evidence, while the other is trying to develop a view, making the truth directly verifiable. So, when venturing to make any comparison between these two approaches it can be surprising to see just how drastic the difference is when it comes to describing what is understood as the most accurate account of what happened all those years ago, and, infinitely more important: what needs to be done here and now to reveal that.

In the end, the approach that matters is the one that you are developing; generating and inducing based on your behavior, contemplation - living with the suttas and gathering together the themes is really the only way to get any clarification.

  1. What you are reading on the wikipedia page is a divergent set of opinions and interpretations by about a dozen different scholars. There is no singular definition of early buddhism presented there, nor will you find a singular definitive interpretation on these forums. This is the natural result of freedom of inquiry and is a healthy state of affairs for debate to be had and knowledge to be obtained.

  2. Some of the scholars’ views may take the hypothetical pre-sectarian Buddhism significantly astray from the semi-unified presentation found in the Pali Canon, some do not. The Pali Canon is a crucial resource regardless.

  3. They cite the Pali Canon, the Chinese Agamas, and also any number of other pertinent surviving Indic texts and artifacts like the Upaniṣads. Maybe try looking into the sources of one of the claims that bothers you and check out the basis for its argument and the sources that it itself cites. I think you will find none of these scholars make their claims idly.

My suggestion is to chill out on this. There’s no need to get worked up about some of the arguments these scholars are making. Some of them are relatively radical, but others square pretty well with the overall evidence in the Canon. It’s frankly exciting that, because of all the developments in scholarship, we’re living in a time where these kinds of discussions and debates can be had with a lot more nuance and depth than they could have in the past.


The suttas of nucleus of the Atthakavagga(Snp 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, and 4.5) are considered to be the earliest suttas written based on meter, mention in canonical commentaries, and apparent independence from Brahmanism. There are other suttas in other places that are consistent with their no metaphysical views on afterlife and the world approach. They do not speak of truths or the eightfold path.

The method of meditation advocated is almost certainly that of the four jhanas. The Middle way was essentially the first jhana (think Bahiya) ) where where the practitioner was neither absorbed in the existence of the world or the non-existence of the world, but is in the middle not attaching himself to the seen and the heard, etc…

With regard to what is in the EBT, I think that at Sutta Central it is generally assumed that if there are versions of a sutta in other sectarian collections, they are EBT. I would say that the move from without views to with views, probably is a a better line of demarcation. The move away from no views seems to have come latter once Brahmanism was encountered, which some scholars think happed latter. Bronkhorst is certainly one.

We generally agree at sutta central that some texts attributed to the Buddha came later and were falsely attributed to him, but there may be a lot more of those texts than previously thought. The canon was not closed for centuries and they were hand copied for two thousand plus years.

That said, I think there is a good deal of uncertainty here.


By whom? Anyone of note?

The following quote is fromTillman Vetter who actually believes it may have preceded Buddhism or alongside it since it was so radically different. I will assume that since it is in the canon, it was from the Buddha.

The Athaka contains, as I shall try to demonstrate, texts of a group that existed before or alongside the first Buddhist community. After some time this circle was integrated into the Buddhist sangha. It then produced more texts. In these it tried to combine the old teaching with the teaching of the Buddha, taking from the latter what seemed suitable and often, but not always, losing its original radicalness.
Tillman Vetter in
Kern Institute, Leiden: August 23-29, 1987
Earliest Buddhism and Madhyamaka

I think I got the PDF for this from, but I am not 100% sure.

I will look for more. This is the first one that came to mind, but I know it is not the only one. Stay tuned.

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This did not copy very well from the PDF because of the character set, but this is from Johannes bronkhorst “The Two Traditions of Meditation in Ancient India”. It appears to imply that the Atthakavagga was the oldest of the oldest sutta texts.

Works like the Sutta Nipåta, Dhammapada and Thera Gåthå derived
wholly or in part from these early wanderers. This is confirmed by the
fact that these works or parts of them are known to be among the oldest
portions of the Buddhist canon.238 The language of parts of the Sutta
Nipåta is archaic (Fausböll, 1881: xi-xii). The A††haka Vagga, Påråyana
and Khaggavisåˆa Sutta – all part of the Sutta Nipåta – are commented
upon in the Niddesa, itself considered a canonical work. The
Arthavarg¥yåˆi SËtråˆi (= A††haka Vagga) are referred to in all the
versions corresponding to the original Skandhaka (Frauwallner, 1956b:
149; Lévi, 1915: 40l-17; Bapat, 1951: Intr. p. 1-2). Other early
enumerations often include Påråyaˆa, Satyad®ßa (Satyad®∑†a), Munigåthå,
Íailagåthå, probably all of them corresponding to parts of the Sutta
Nipåta; and Dharmapada, Thera (Sthavira) Gåthå239 (Lamotte, 1956:
258-61; 1957: 346-47)

I have seen others, but they are not easy to search in PDFs because of the character sets and the fact that sometimes authors resort to graphics rather than fonts to get the characters right.

In any event, I do not think this is that controversial in the academic community.

Here are two series of talks by Bhante @Sujato that, in part, address issues of age and uniqueness.

The Way to the Beyond: A Study of the Pārāyanavagga


to which @Dhammanando replied: By whom? Anyone of note?

Now “the earliest suttas” might be a bit strong but:

"Hajime Nakamura stated the generally accepted view when he said: "The Atthakavagga and the Parayanavagga are very old; it is likely that they existed even in the lifetime of Gotama Buddha. In these two we notice various Vedic, Brahmanistic and Jain features and wording (grammatical forms and vocabulary) Which cannot be traced in later Buddhist literature’

(According to K R Norman in “The Atthakavagga and and Early Buddhism” 2003 here)

Norman also says in the same source;

is therefore possible, and I accept it as a fact, that the Aghakavagga and
the Parayanavagga are both very old texts in origin, although not, of course,
necessarily in the exact form in which we have them now, and are among the
oldest Pall texts we possess.

Eviatar Shulman says;

As is customary, this study on the Aṭṭhakavagga (‘The chapter of eights,’1AV) of the Suttanipāta (SNip) opens by recalling that the AV is possibly the most ancient Buddhist scripture extant today. Almost certainly, together with the Pārāyaṇavagga (‘The chapter on the passage beyond,’ PV) and the Khaggavisāṇasutta (‘The dis-course on the rhinoceros horn,’ KVS), which are also housed in the Suttanipāta, this is the oldest layer of Buddhist texts in existence;


Rhys Davids has

"Rhys Davids in his Buddhist India (p. 188) has given a chronological table of Buddhist literature from the time of the Buddha to the time of Asoka which is as follows:–

  1. The simple statements of Buddhist doctrine now found, in identical words, in paragraphs or verses recurring in all the books.

  2. Episodes found, in identical words, in two or more of the existing books.

  3. The Silas, the Parayana, the Octades, the Patimokkha.

  4. The Digha, Majjhima, Anguttara, and Samyutta Nikayas.

  5. The Sutta-Nipata, the Thera-and Theri-Gathas, the Udanas, and the Khuddaka Patha.

  6. The Sutta Vibhanga, and Khandhkas.

  7. The Jatakas and the Dhammapadas.

  8. The Niddesa, the Itivuttakas and the Patisambbhida.

  9. The Peta and Vimana-Vatthus, the Apadana, the Cariya-Pitaka, and the Buddha-Vamsa.

  10. The Abhidhamma books; the last of which is the Katha-Vatthu, and the earliest probably the Puggala-Pannatti."

Giving the Atthakavagga (the Octades) as older than the 4 Nikayas.

Vetter says the same in Earliest Buddhism and Madyamika:

"Without excluding the possibility of other parts of the Suttanipiita
being also very old I shall focus on three texts (all written in verse):

  1. The KhaggavisiiT}.asutta (the third sutta of part I)
  2. The Piiriiyana(-vagga) (= part V)
  3. The Atthaka(-vagga) (= part IV).
    Their relative antiquity. is guaranteed by the fact that they are comment-
    ed on by the Cullaniddesa and the Mahiiniddesa, texts which themselves
    are included in the Pali canon"

Von Hinuber says:

“two Vaggas, Sn IV Atthakavagga and parayanvagga, seem to be very old texts…: Both are quoted in other parts of the canon 165, and both include rather early concepts of theteachig 166 .”

A K Warder (In Pali Metre) says of Oldenberg, and then affirms of himself that:

but thetwo important conclusions arrived at by Oldenberg should be
stated here :-(i) The Pali vatta is close in structure to that of the
Brtihma?Jas and early Upani$ads, and apparently a little later
in date, whilst it appears to represent a stage a little earlier than
that of the Brhaddevata ; the chronological sequence is then
continued by the Mahabharata and afterwards by the
Ramaya?Ja. (ii) The vatta of the Ajthaka and Pcirayana, the last two
vaggas of the Suttanipata, appears older in structure than that of
the ]ataka, Theratherigatha and Dhammapada.
§ 2 1 . These conclusions are in harmony with our conclusions

Bimala Churn Law, updating Rhys Davids has;

(1) The simple statements of Buddhist doctrines now found, in identical words, in paragraphs or verses recurring in all the books.

(2) Episodes found, in identical works, in two or more of the existing books.

(3) The Silas, the Parayana group of sixteen poems without the prologue, the atthaka group of four or sixteen poems, the sikkhapadas.

(4) The Digha, Vol. l, the Majjhima, the Samyutta, the Anguttara, and earlier Patimokkha code of 152 rules.

(5) The Digha, Vols. II & III, the Thera-Theri-Gatha, the collection of 500 Jatakas, the Suttavibhanga, the Partisambhidamagga, the Puggala-pannatti and the Vibhanga.

(6) The Mahavagga and the Cullavagga, the Patimokkha code completing 227 rules, the Vimanavatthu and Petavatthu, the Dhammapada and the Kathavatthu.

(7) The Cullaniddesa, the Mahaniddesa, the Udana, the Itivuttaka, the Suttanipata, the Dhatukatha, the Yamaka and the Patthana.

(8) The Buddhavamsa, the Cariyapitaka and the Apadana.

(9) The Parivarapatha.

(10) The Khuddakapatha.

So I guess so far we have Oldenberg, Rhys Davids, Warder, Von Hinuber, Norman, Nakamura, Vetter, Bimala Churn Law…

I note that the major proponents that I am aware of who seek to make the argument that the atthakavagga and the parayanavagga are contemporaneous with the prose suttas in the nikayas are @sujato thanissaro bhikkhu, and bikkhu bodhi.

So there seems a pretty clear line between secular and monastic scholarship on this issue.

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And just on the monastic side thanissaro bhikkhu says:

The argument for taking the paradoxes at face value is based on a major assumption: that the Atthaka is historically prior to the rest of the Pali canon. From this assumption, the argument goes on to conclude that these poems contain the earliest recorded teachings of the Buddha, and that if they conflict with other passages in the Canon, that is simply because those other passages are less true to the Buddha’s original message. This argument, however, contains several weaknesses. To begin with, only two pieces of evidence are offered for the relative age of these poems: (1) the Atthaka Vagga, as a set, is mentioned at three other points in the Canon, at Ud V.6, Mv. V, and SN 22.3;[3] and (2) the language of the poems is more archaic than that of the other discourses. However, neither piece of evidence can carry the weight of what it’s supposed to prove. The first piece shows simply that an Atthaka Vagga predates the three passages in question, not necessarily that the Atthaka Vagga as we have it predates the entire remainder of the Canon. As for the archaic nature of the language, that is common to a great deal of the poetry throughout the Pali canon. Just as Tennyson’s poetry contains more archaisms than Dryden’s prose, the fact that a Pali poem uses archaic language is no proof of its actual age.

Just as Tennyson’s poetry contains more archaisms than Dryden’s prose!?!

I don’t know if anyone here has read much Dryden or much Tennyson, but this is absolutely and unambiguously false.

Tennysons verse is famously clear and modern sounding for a victorian, he has perhaps one or two poems in his entire ouevre that mimic somehting other than clear english “northern farmer” for example, and at no point does he ever sound like Dryden:

Tennyson’s poetry:

"ON that last night before we went
From out of doors where i was bred
I dream’d a vision of the dead
Which left my after-morn content.

Dryden’s prose:

“For this reason, My Lord, though you have courage in a heroical degree, yet I ascribe it to you but as your second attribute: mercy, benificence, and compassion claim precedence, as they are first in the divine nature. An intrepid courage, which is inherent in your Grace, is at best but a holiday kind of virtue, to be seldom excersised, and never but in cases of neccesity…”

Basically anyone with more than a passing familiarity with English Literature who read any of Drydens prose would have no trouble at guessing him to be exactly what he is, a 17th century poet, and anyone who read almost any of Tennyson (with the possible exception of northern farmer) would have no doubt that they where reading a Victorian or later.

It is RIDICULOUS a ridiculous comparison that Thanissaro gets away with because his audience is mostly unfamiliar with either one.

NO ONE EVER mistakes Tennyson for earlier than Dryden, or Shakespeare for earlier than Chaucer, or Elliot for earlier than Milton, or anything like that.

What poetry are people reading that makes them think this argument is a believable one?

Seriously, after wading through hundreds of pages of Warders Pali Metre and then hearing Just as Tennyson’s poetry contains more archaisms than Dryden’s prose makes one want to throw up. How such a glib and factually incorrect statement passes for an argument against the painstaking and monumental efforts of scholarship undertaken by Warder really beggars belief.

Here’s some more Tennyson for you:

The dim red Morn had died, her journey done,
And with dead lips smiled at the twilight plain,
Half-fallen across the treshold of the sun,
Never to rise again.

compare with Dryden’s verse this time:

POETS, your subjects, have thier parts assigned,
To unbend and to divert thier soveriegns mind
When, tired with following nature, you think fit
To seek repose in the cool shades of wit

Now I know that this will fly over the heads first of all those who have english as a second language and secondly to all those for whom poetry might as well be a second language but beleive me Tennyson DOES NOT seem “more archaic” than Dryden.

Even Northern Farmer is highly unlikely to be mistaken for actual archaic northern english poetry, it’s clearly experimental, and besides it’s not like Oldenberg and Warder and Nakamura are just seeing “old timey” Pali words and getting “confused”, they are highly skilled scholars making assessments based on a detailed knowledge of metre and grammar and vocabulary.



I think most people nowadays are not reading poetry of any sort at all, except where compelled to by their schoolteachers.

Anyhow, let’s come up with a better comparison than Thanissaro’s.

I propose the Chaucer imitator John Lydgate of Bury (1370-1451), and then some contemporary of his who wasn’t trying to imitate Chaucer. You can choose the latter.

So here’s Lydgate, trying to be archaic:

Most noble prynce : With support of your grace,
Ther beon entred : in to youre royal place
And late coomen in to youre castell,
Youre poure lieges, wheche lyke no thing weel.
Nowe in the vigyle of this nuwe yeere
Certayne sweynes, ful [froward of ther chere],
Of entent comen, [fallen on ther kne],
For to compleyne vn to yuoure magestee
Vpon the mescheef of gret aduersytee,
Vpon the trouble and the cruweltee
Which that they haue endured in theyre lyves
By the felnesse of theyre fierce wyves,
Which is a tourment verray importable,
A bonde of sorowe, a knott vnremuwable.
For whoo is bounde or locked in maryage,
Yif he beo olde, he falleth in dotage,
And yong folkes, of theyre lymes sklendre,
Grene and lusty, and of brawne but tendre,
Phylosophres callen in suche aage
A Chylde to wyve, a woodnesse or a raage.

(from The Disguising at Hertford)


yes but Lydgate is a near contemporary of Chaucer, perhaps 50 year later, so this works against the argument Thanissaro is trying to make, they sound similar because they are both from around 1400, Chaucer a bit before, Lydgate a bit after,

What Warder and others are saying is that there is a pretty clear flavor of substantial evolution of metre in the poetry of the canon, for example between the Atthakavagga and the Therigatha, and its not clear that anyone other than an extremely sophisticated and highly literate writer in the Pali would have any hope of modifying metre, orthography, sandhi and scansion is a way that could “trick” readers like Oldenberg and Warder, and for that matter the redactors of the Nidedesa, into thinking they where very early relative to the the other material.

Basically the arguments are

Secular Scholars: Atthakavagga and Parayanavagga look early because of metre, vocabulary, orthography, sandhi and scansion.

Monastic Scolars: Maybe thats all a trick!

I mean thats fine, but then maybe just about everyting is a trick, you could use the same argument for example to claim that it just looks like there was a historical Buddha “because that’s what they want you to think”.


Perhaps a better example could have been the continuing tradition of classical Sanskrit poetry in India. Malalasekera (The Pāli Literature of Ceylon) mentions new Pali verse books as late as in the 1920s.


Yes but would Oldenburg or Warder read one of the 1920’s Pali poems and think “this could be from as early as 400bc!” I don’t think so, any more than I would think Ezra Pound might be from the same time period as Edmund Spencer.

(I might confuse Pali literature like that, my Palinis terrible, in fact non-existant, but the same cannot be said of Warder, Oldenburg, Rhys David, Nakamura, etc etc)

Look, I may be being a bit harsh, perhaps the argument is made somewhere with more cogency and force than Inhave seen it made, but the Thannisaro quote really does seem like a weak argument made with a terribly bad example and I don’t think it shows sufficient respect to people who spent their lives devoted to the scholarship of this topic.

I would say just finally that while I think the “poetry sounds old fashioned” argument is weak, there is a fair bit of repetition of “it is generally agreed” and “as is well known” on the other side too - Warder comes closest to giving substantive arguments regarding metre and so on, but you are kind of left having to take a fair bit on trust.

It would be nice to see a clear description of the actual arguments that have convinced all the scholars I site, most of the sources I can find however do not give those arguments in detail.

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Thanks for all the replies! There’s been many interesting point made, and I appreciate the sidetrack discussions as well.

I think @Raftafarian is the only one who actually attempted to answer my questions. (I guess @keller might have tried to but completely misunderstood my OP. I’m neither “worked up” or un-“chill” about the topic. Nor does the Wiki page content “bother” me. I’m just looking for clarification.)

Regarding my first question I had imagined that someone would reply something like:

“Early Buddhism is divided into several time periods, and the Wiki page focuses on the earliest period while Sutta Central on the latest”.

Or perhaps:

“Early Buddhism is divided into precanonical, which is more speculative, and postcanonical, which is more research based”.

I simply wanted to know how Early Buddhism is defined by the various schools of thought, and what source material they base their ideas on, considering that the quoted scholars on the Wiki page seem to talk about a completely different topic than what Sutta Central seems to mean by Early Buddhism.

If someone has a clear and informed answer I’d be very grateful for the info. :pray:

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Regarding the question about the definition of Early Buddhism/pre-sectarian Buddhism, I prefer Ven. YinShun’s classification, i.e. the first five centuries of Buddhism (p. 2, note 3):
Pages 2-7 from The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism Choong Mun-keat 2000.pdf (440.2 KB)

The classification is very clear for studies in Early Buddhism in connection with EBTs.

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lol sorry @anon249928 - I will try to answer your question:

The Wikipedia page I guess takes “early”
To mean “as early as we can speculate or theorise” while suttacentral takes the early texts to simply be those texts that appear in both the Therevada Pali canon and in the Chinese Agamas, so the “common core” of both Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism, and that is earlier than a lot of the Mahayana material.

Further It’s generally acknowledged that the Vinaya is older than the Abhidhamma and the Suttas are older than the Vinaya, so what is meant by EBT on here is usually the suttas and thier parallels in Chinese, Gandahari, Tibetan Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit etc.


Oh and one more;

disposed to preach the Law, and Sona replied that he was. Sona then preached to the assembled monks the entire sixteen stanzas of
the Atthakavagga (Meaningful Chapter) and was praised warmly
by Shakyamuni.
This story, found in two different sources, makes it clear that the
two-hundred-and-ten-verse Atthakavagga-compiled from Shakya- muni’s sermons-was already known during Shakyamuni’s lifetime and was being learned by his disciples. Another sutra as old as the Atthakavagga is the Parayanavagga (Chapter on the Way to the
Other Shore), which is also recorded in the Suttanipata. Because both of these sutras are often quoted or mentioned in other sutras- especially in such ancient sutras as the Samyukta-agama (Kindred Sayings) and the Ekottara-agama (Gradual Sayings)-we know
that they are both genuine and the oldest among extant Buddhist

Kogen Mizuno


I think @josephzizys has filled in all the blanks and more.

In a nutshell, that the atthakavagga is very old seems to be controversial only in its implications. It’s no views approach arguably either forces us to exclude it from the canon or that which is contrary to it.

Saying it is no older than most of the rest of the canon leaves us with the headache of trying to explain how it got into the canon when it is clearly is at odds with so much of it. The only viable alternative is that it was so old and well respected that it could not be left behind.

The Atthakavagga and the Pariyanavagga remind me of the Gospels according to Mark and Matthew. The burning issue in Christianity at the time was whether Jesus taught Torah observance or not. Both ended up in the canon and we are left scratching our heads. In the Pali canon, the issue is with or without views. In the end, non-Torah observance and Buddhism with views won the war for the most adherents.

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Thank you all, @thomaslaw , @josephzizys and @Raftafarian ! I guess it’s Original Buddhism (which is “as early as we can speculate or theorise”), in Ven. YinShun’s classification, that brings up all the wildest speculations among scholars.

I have the Suttanipāta. It’s one of my favourite sutta collections. I still can’t understand how any scholar can come to the conclusions quoted on the Wiki page by reading even those old suttas, though.

If even one of those scholars is right, and the Buddha never taught concepts like the eightfold path, the four truths, kamma or rebirth - then of what use are the oldest texts to us anyway? Because that would mean that even the earliest EBTs completely misrepresent what the Buddha actually taught. In that case we’re all in the same position as Siddhattha Gotama himself before his awakening: without a teacher who can show us the way.