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Thread: Debating origins of Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism

  1. #31

    From the Buddha rather than an imaginary bodhisattva deity:





    Phena Sutta: Foam - SN 22.95


    On one occasion the Blessed One was staying among the Ayojjhans on the banks of the Ganges River. There he addressed the monks: "Monks, suppose that a large glob of foam were floating down this Ganges River, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it.

    To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in a glob of foam? In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any form that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in form?

    "Now suppose that in the autumn — when it's raining in fat, heavy drops — a water bubble were to appear & disappear on the water, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in a water bubble?

    In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any feeling that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in feeling?

    "Now suppose that in the last month of the hot season a mirage were shimmering, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in a mirage?

    In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any perception that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in perception?

    "Now suppose that a man desiring heartwood, in quest of heartwood, seeking heartwood, were to go into a forest carrying a sharp ax. There he would see a large banana tree: straight, young, of enormous height. He would cut it at the root and, having cut it at the root, would chop off the top. Having chopped off the top, he would peel away the outer skin. Peeling away the outer skin, he wouldn't even find sapwood, to say nothing of heartwood. Then a man with good eyesight would see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in a banana tree?

    In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any fabrications that are past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near. To him — seeing them, observing them, & appropriately examining them — they would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in fabrications?

    "Now suppose that a magician or magician's apprentice were to display a magic trick at a major intersection, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in a magic trick?

    In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any consciousness that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in consciousness?

    "Seeing thus, the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones grows disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with fabrications, disenchanted with consciousness. Disenchanted, he grows dispassionate. Through dispassion, he's released. With release there's the knowledge, 'Released.' He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'"

    That is what the Blessed One said. Having said that, the One Well-Gone, the Teacher, said further:

    Form is like a glob of foam;
    feeling, a bubble;
    perception, a mirage;
    fabrications, a banana tree;
    consciousness, a magic trick —
    this has been taught
    by the Kinsman of the Sun.
    However you observe them,
    appropriately examine them,
    they're empty, void
    to whoever sees them
    appropriately.

    Beginning with the body
    as taught by the One
    with profound discernment:
    when abandoned by three things
    — life, warmth, & consciousness —
    form is rejected, cast aside.
    When bereft of these
    it lies thrown away,
    senseless,
    a meal for others.
    That's the way it goes:
    it's a magic trick,
    an idiot's babbling.
    It's said to be
    a murderer.
    No substance here
    is found.

    Thus a monk, persistence aroused,
    should view the aggregates
    by day & by night,
    mindful,
    alert;
    should discard all fetters;
    should make himself
    his own refuge;
    should live as if
    his head were on fire —
    in hopes of the state
    with no falling away.

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipit....095.than.html


  2. #32
    Forums Member stuka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jan
    Quote Originally Posted by Aloka-D
    Quote Originally Posted by jan
    I like this site that breaks it down into:

    If there is actually further discussion of the sutra itself, then I feel perhaps Element should decide on a text, since he commenced the observations about it.
    In Zen, actually, we say the [translated] text is not that important. The meaning is in reciting it. Perfectly logical, isn't it?

    Do you really think you speak for *all* of Zen in saying this? And no, it is not logical in the least.


    Would you really consider, say, "Dark Zen's", ah, "translation" of the Dhammapada to be just as good as anyone else's?




    http://www.amazon.com/Authentic-Dham.../dp/0971254109

  3. #33
    Forums Member FBM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frank
    Sure, before they were written down they were faithfully passed on by monks.

    The Theravadans in Burma (and l think Sri Lanka) recite the whole of the Abhidhamma from memory,this is done in relays,when the monk in front of you wants to rest you take over,(the point here is that they don't have set pieces that they have memorised) so each monk needs to know the whole Abhidhamma.
    I don't know how often this feat is carried out.
    I can't speak for all sects, but in the Thai forest tradition, each sizeable wat (temple/monastery) must have at least one monk who can recite the entire Patimokkha. I don't know of any tradition that recites the Abhidhamma, though they may exist. The Abhidhamma is huge and largely incomprehensible to all but the most dedicated scholars.

    As to changes that may have taken place in the suttas over the years: A great deal of scholarship has been done on this question. I'm currently reading What the Buddha Thought, by Richard Gombrich. The author details quite a few convincing reasons to believe that many suttas have undergone relatively minor revisions.

    I recommend this book not only for the author's insight into that area of study, but because the book also references quite a few other Buddhist scholars and their works on the same question. Furthermore, it looks at the development of the Canon, the suttas, language, concepts and imagery in their temporal and ideological contexts. The suttas are full of oblique references to concepts in the Upanishads, for example, and the ideas would have been easily recognizable to the Buddha's contemporaries, but are mostly lost on the majority of modern readers. When we read a sutta today, we get a much different message from the one the Buddha's contemporaries would have got.

    That said, the internal consistency of the Canon is such that the core messages seem to have survived intact. That some key concepts in the Mahayana-only literature blatantly contradict some of the key concepts in the Pali is a matter of record. It's up to the individual to decide whether or not those latter adaptations to the message are justifiable, i.e, whether or not they actually represent an improvement on the ideas contained in the original suttas. One thing that's clear to western Buddhist scholars, however, is that the claim that the Mahayana suttas are the actual words of the Buddha is so weak as to be justifiably disregarded.

  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Former Buddhist Monk
    I'm currently reading What the Buddha Thought, by Richard Gombrich. The author details quite a few convincing reasons to believe that many suttas have undergone relatively minor revisions.
    Reminds me of the book with the catchy title:
    "Buddhism is Not What You Think: Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs" by Steve Hagen. Don't miss the puns (!). Just ordered it. Perhaps we can compare notes further down the line.

  5. #35


    There are parts of Richard Gombrich books available to read at Google books. I think you might find there's quite a difference in style and content to Steve Hagan, Jan.

    Steve Hagan is a Zen priest. Richard Gombrich is a Pali scholar and historian of early Buddhism. (He was a professor at Oxford University for years, I think he's retired now)

    Anyway, lets not get too side tracked from the topic!

  6. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by Former Buddhist Monk
    One thing that's clear to western Buddhist scholars, however, is that the claim that the Mahayana suttas are the actual words of the Buddha is so weak as to be justifiably disregarded.

    Well said FBM !

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