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Thread: What the Buddha Really Taught

  1. #1
    I thought this essay by Bhikkhu Sujato of Santi Forest Monastery might be of interest to other members:


    What the Buddha Really Taught


    The Pali Nikāyas and Chinese Āgamas

    "When I go into a Buddhist bookshop or library, I'm often struck by how many books there are. Shelves crammed full of people's opinions about 'what the Buddha taught'. But try to find something that actually contains the Buddha's teaching and you're in for a much harder time. It seems to be okay to be a Buddhist, attend talks, read books, meditate, chant, and go on retreat, without ever bothering to ask oneself the question: what did the Buddha really teach?

    For the rare and brave seeker who dares to inquire beyond what their teachers tell them, it will not take long before they hear of the Pali Nikāyas. Here, we are told, is the original unadulterated Teaching. The Buddha's words in their pristine purity. We are in the enviable position of having many excellent translations of these texts available in English, both in books and on the web.

    Anyone with sufficient time and interest can, with a little perseverance, gain a reasonable understanding of these teachings. The Pali Nikāyas have been one of my formative influences, right from my first days as a Buddhist. The Dhamma they embody is clear, rational, balanced, gentle, and profound – everything one could hope for.

    But it is easy to fall into a kind of 'Pali fundamentalism'. The texts and language are so pure and precise that many of us who fall in love with the Nikāyas end up believing that they constitute the be-all and end-all of Buddhism.

    We religiously adhere to the finest distinction, the most subtle interpretation, based on a single word or phrase. We take for granted that here we have the original teaching, without considering the process by which these teachings have passed down to us. In our fervour, we neglect to wonder whether there might be another perspective on these Dhammas."

    Continued here :URL

  2. #2
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    Good read, specially regarding the Theravada vs Mahayana issue I'm having right now. Thanks.

  3. #3
    Global Moderator Esho's Avatar
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    A very interesting article, thanks Aloka.

    I want to quote this:

    The Theravāda says that one who sees any one of the four noble truths also sees the others (SN 56.30). This sutta, which has no counterpart in the Sarvāstivāda, implies that the four truths are realized all at once. In contrast, a number of Sarvāstivāda suttas, which have no Theravāda counterparts, say that one will come to know each of the four noble truths in sequence, one after the other (SA 435-437). This relates to the disputed question of sudden (ekabhisamaya) versus gradual (anupubbabhisamaya) attainment.


    Maybe this is why I feel so familiar or so near to Theravadin tradition being a Zen practitioner any time that Zen understands the "ekabhisamaya" attainment.

    Also this is not just an intelectual obesrvation by myself... I can tell that my personal practice is much more near the sudden attainment than the gradual one.

    If I practice the first noble truth I feel I can practice the others...

    Still reading...


  4. #4
    Forums Member Slartibartfast's Avatar
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    Just shows that Buddhism is as open to interpretation and misinterpretation as any other religion.

    Do all Buddhist schools agree on

    "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense."

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slartibartfast #4:
    Do all Buddhist schools agree on

    "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense."
    Well, they all agree on the canonicity of the Kalama Sutta, but the paraphrase you offer fails to really capture the full import; have a look at the entire thing.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slartibartfast #4:
    "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense."
    I certainly do not set myself up as representing the Theravadan tradition,but on a personal level l would support this point.

  7. #7
    Global Moderator Esho's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slartibartfast #4:
    "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense."
    Frank #6: I certainly do not set myself up as representing the Theravadan tradition,but on a personal level l would support this point.

    Me too dear Frank,

    Also I feel that the quote given by Slartibartfast needs a great amount of courage... it's easy to be attached to the path folowed by others and relieve yourself from the responsablilty of your own lonely process of liberation.


  8. #8
    Global Moderator Esho's Avatar
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    I also want to quote this other secction:

    Although there are occasional instructive variations, the main fruit of this study is not in the content of the teaching, but in the method.

    I have ever felt that the disagreements between traditions, which particularly I do not take on them to seriously, are just about method and it is important that differences are about methods and not about the content. In this way, a Zen methaphor I like tells us that all rivers at the begining seem different and while aproaching to the Great Ocean, they are all similar.


  9. #9
    Global Moderator Esho's Avatar
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    Also I like this quote too,

    At the very end it is told:

    "I started out this essay by criticizing 'Pali fundamentalism'; but we must also beware of becoming 'pre-sectarian' fundamentalists! The teachings of the various schools are not just a sheer mass of error and meaningless corruption, any more than they are iron-clad formulations of 'ultimate truth'.

    They are the answers given by teachers of old to the question: 'What does Buddhism mean for us?' Each succeeding generation must undertake the delicate task of hermeneutics, the re-acculturation of the Dhamma in time and place. And in our times, so different from those of any Buddhist era or culture of the past, we must find our own answers."


    Dhamma is about human existence with all its implications; Ignorance, suffering, practice and the inicial erratic development of mindfulness through our life... in this way it is unavoidable to have diverse processes of re-aculturation; although the core teachings can never change in its aim, the context in wich they are pacticed those change and in this way I want to stress that: "we mus find our own answers".

    This last statement has a Zen flavour... anD I like it.


  10. #10
    Global Moderator Esho's Avatar
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    I realy liked what has been told generaly in the article about the similarities between Agamas and Pali suttas. The Agamas should have had influenced Cha'an tradition wich is at the core of Zen.


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