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Whose Buddhism is Truest?


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#1    redhen

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 02:37 AM

I've had this article bookmarked for a while now but I've never shared it. Another thread here reminded me I had this tucked away. Just a reminder that all revealed religions are subject to historicity.

A few years ago the earliest Buddhist texts were discovered in what was once called Gandhara, in Central Asia.

"It is said that after the Buddha’s death, his disciples gathered at what we now call the First Council, and these memorizers recited what they had heard. Then all the monks repeated it, and the single and definitive record of the “words of the Buddha” [buddhavacana] was established. Thus was the Buddhist canon born.

Or was it?"


"The Buddhist canons as they exist today are the products of historical contingencies. They resound with the many voices that have shaped them through time. But orthodoxy requires the opposite, a wall you can’t put your fist through: singular, unchanging, findable truth. Buddhism’s textual root wasn’t singular, and it wasn’t unchanging. As it turns out, it wasn’t so findable, either."


#2    StarMountainKid

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 03:15 AM

Good article. I don't think we will ever know the original teachings of the Buddha, as we will never know the original teachings of Jesus. To my mind, Zen is closest to what we may consider original Buddhism. But then again, Zen is a Japanese version of Chinese Ch'an, which is mostly Taoism with a Buddhist nomenclature.

I think the Buddha taught a completely practical, down to earth method to clarify the mind of extraneous learned concepts. Life is not a concept, it is a slap in the face, what is nakedly happening now, without us adding anything extra to it. This is not stripping life of its magic, it is realizing and being alert to life's intrinsic wonder.

Just my thoughts.

Edited by StarMountainKid, 28 August 2013 - 03:17 AM.

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#3    Frank Merton

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 03:28 AM

It doesn't matter.  This sort of inquiry is only of interest historically, not religiously.  There is a set of common teachings the vast majority of Buddhists hold, but the movement is tolerant and accepts heterodoxy and question.  "Truth" is not an issue in Buddhism.  The Buddhist canons are scripture only in the sense that they are seen as the writings of good and wise men and receive respect but are not worshiped the way Muslims worship the Q'uran or Christians the Bible.


#4    redhen

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 05:39 AM

View PostStarMountainKid, on 28 August 2013 - 03:15 AM, said:

To my mind, Zen is closest to what we may consider original Buddhism. But then again, Zen is a Japanese version of Chinese Ch'an, which is mostly Taoism with a Buddhist nomenclature.

It sounds like you are reducing it to Taoist philosophy, but again you have to somehow ignore all the cultural rituals and beliefs whether Taoist or Buddhist. Then again, Taoism is not a revealed religion and we don't expect to find the original Taoist texts since it is shrouded in a shamanistic prehistory.


View PostFrank Merton, on 28 August 2013 - 03:28 AM, said:

It doesn't matter.  This sort of inquiry is only of interest historically, not religiously.

Right, but there is a solid and growing academic field of inquiry, a lot of it done by non-Buddhists, outsiders if you will.

Quote

There is a set of common teachings the vast majority of Buddhists hold, but the movement is tolerant and accepts heterodoxy and question.

Would they be tolerant of the discovery of an alleged fifth noble truth?

Quote

"Truth" is not an issue in Buddhism.

Soon after the Buddha's death his school was split in two over doctrinal differences. Later it further devolved into 22 distinct schools of thought. Nowadays we have hundreds of different interpretations.

Quote

  The Buddhist canons are scripture only in the sense that they are seen as the writings of good and wise men and receive respect but are not worshiped the way Muslims worship the Q'uran or Christians the Bible.

I'll grant you that.


#5    Frank Merton

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 02:29 PM

The multiplication of "sects" in Buddhism, which you rather irritatingly call "devolution" is only to be expected; all the sects get along with each other and no one tries to assert superiority (although no doubt, being less than enlightened, many probably think it).


#6    Frank Merton

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 02:30 PM

The development of an additional "Noble Truth" is speculation contrary to fact.  I dare say if such a thing came along it would generate smiles and nods.


#7    Frank Merton

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 02:33 PM

Buddhism and Taoism have many things in common, not in detail but in approach, so that they tend to merge to a certain extent is not surprising.

Your approach seems entirely too Christian-influenced with attitudes about "truth" and doctrinal differences and so on, and I doubt you will ever understand where Buddhism is coming from.  Of course it doesn't really matter if you do or don't.  The world will continue to orbit the sun.


#8    redhen

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 03:50 PM

View PostFrank Merton, on 28 August 2013 - 02:33 PM, said:

Your approach seems entirely too Christian-influenced with attitudes about "truth" and doctrinal differences and so on, and I doubt you will ever understand where Buddhism is coming from.

My approach is not influenced by any religion, my approach is academic, applying the rules of historicity as I would to any revealed religion. I offer this thread as a comparison to the many threads on Christian textual criticism. Textual criticism is a valid field of study, but it seems that many people only associate it with Christianity. That's a shame.


#9    shephardess

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 04:00 PM

It seems to me that true "Buddhism" exists only in the mind of Buddha. From my interpretation of what Buddha was trying to convey, there is no greater truth for me than that which comes from within myself therefore if I believe what Buddha taught I would not call myself a Buddhist.
I have only studied Buddhism briefly and only by reading what was supposed to be the Buddha's sayings so I certainly don't consider myself adept but I just wanted to share my impression.


#10    StarMountainKid

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 05:09 PM

shephardess said:

t seems to me that true "Buddhism" exists only in the mind of Buddha. From my interpretation of what Buddha was trying to convey, there is no greater truth for me than that which comes from within myself therefore if I believe what Buddha taught I would not call myself a Buddhist.

I think your statement is well said. Buddhism is a state of mind, and to be a Buddhist means to discover a similar state of mind from within. Just believing in something called Buddhism is not the same.

Actually, the term "Buddhism" is a term invented by European scholars in the 19th century. The Dharma is the a more correct term, or the Dharma of the Buddha, the teachings of the Buddha.

Quote

. Dharma Posted Image listen (help·info) (Sanskrit: धर्म dharma, Pali: धम्म dhamma) is the Law that "upholds, supports or maintains the regulatory order of the universe". Dharma has the Sanskrit root -dhri, which means "that without which nothing can stand"[1] or "that which maintains the stability and harmony of the universe."[1] The word "dharma" was already in use in the Vedic times, where it was conceived as an aspect of Rta

Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism all have the concept of dharma at their core. In Buddhism and Hinduism it points to the purification and moral transformation of human beings. Though differing in some particulars, they concur that the goal of human life is liberation whether this salvation be in the form moksha or nirvana
http://en.wikipedia....a.27s_teachings

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#11    Frank Merton

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 06:13 PM

View Postredhen, on 28 August 2013 - 03:50 PM, said:

My approach is not influenced by any religion, my approach is academic, applying the rules of historicity as I would to any revealed religion. I offer this thread as a comparison to the many threads on Christian textual criticism. Textual criticism is a valid field of study, but it seems that many people only associate it with Christianity. That's a shame.
That is fine.  I don't know  that finding out what the "original" Buddha taught or  did not teach tells us much -- it kinda feels to me like inquiring as to the nature of the wood on the poison arrow we all have stuck in our necks.

Everything always changes and there are many Buddhas, and many other enlightened teachers teaching various things that can be interpreted as contradictory if one is so inclined but which Buddhists generally see as just different perspectives.


#12    redhen

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 06:15 PM

View Postshephardess, on 28 August 2013 - 04:00 PM, said:

I have only studied Buddhism briefly and only by reading what was supposed to be the Buddha's sayings so I certainly don't consider myself adept but I just wanted to share my impression.

Your impressions are appreciated. The problem is though like Jesus, we don't have the original teachings of the Buddha, all we have are copies of copies that were written down after several centuries of oral tradition.

I am not trying to denigrate Buddhism, far from from it, I think there are many important teachings found in the sutras and shastras. I am just not certain about their authenticity. I'm not alone either, there has long been debates about the origins of Buddhist scripture. My point of this thread to make others aware that the same textual difficulties/variances that exist in Christianity, also exist in Buddhism, perhaps more so because of the centuries of oral transmission.


#13    redhen

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 06:30 PM

View PostFrank Merton, on 28 August 2013 - 06:13 PM, said:

That is fine.  I don't know  that finding out what the "original" Buddha taught or  did not teach tells us much -- it kinda feels to me like inquiring as to the nature of the wood on the poison arrow we all have stuck in our necks.

Thanks for referencing that analogy, I am quite fond of that one. But from what I remember it was in the context of someone asking the Buddha about non-doctrinal teachings; is the universe infinite? how did the cosmos begin? etc. But I think it's valid to question the authenticity of scripture that purports to describe the most profound teachings.

Quote

Everything always changes and there are many Buddhas, and many other enlightened teachers teaching various things that can be interpreted as contradictory if one is so inclined but which Buddhists generally see as just different perspectives.

Indeed, in the Heart Sutra we read that even the dharmas are subject to emptiness. Shariputra, who is addressed in this sutra, was a member of the early Sthaviravāda sect who held that dharmas were not subject to change.

I confess I have the Heart Sutra and commentary by my bedside. It's only two pages long and has been called Buddhism in a nutshell for its conciseness. The ending of it calls us to go beyond intellectualization,  which sometimes is refreshing.   gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā

From the commentary I have (Bill Porter/aka Red Pine)

"The question of authorship (of the Heart sutra) was an important one for early Buddhists concerned with authenticity. But over the centuries it has become less so. Nowadays Buddhists resolve this issue by considering the teaching contained in the texts on its own merit. Accordingly, the principle of the Four Reliances (catuh-pratisarana) has developed to deal with this issue: We are urged to rely on the teaching and not the author, the meaning and not the letter, the truth and not the convention, the knowledge and not the information. Thus, if a teaching accords with the Dharma, then the teacher must have been a Buddha or someone empowered by a Buddha to speak on his or her behalf. For our part, all we can safely claim is that the author of this sutra was someone with an understanding of the major Buddhist traditions of two thousand years ago, the ability to summarize there salient points in the briefest fashion possible, and the knowledge of where buddhas come from."

Sounds good to me. I guess I just have a nagging problem with certitude.

Edited by redhen, 28 August 2013 - 06:43 PM.


#14    Frank Merton

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 06:39 PM

My view of early Buddhism is that it was a monastic movement that attached itself at some point to a "Buddha"  group of myths.  The wisdom of the tradition and the usefulness to me is where I come from.  (As I have said several times, I am not what most might think of as a "good Buddhist).


#15    sutemi

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Posted 30 August 2013 - 07:11 PM

Who’s Buddhism is the truest?  Those who properly practice Meditation and reach Buddhahood, because only through knowing the true self are we ‘Enlightened’ to our true nature. Meditation is the key.  The texts are only ‘fingers pointing at the moon’ but people still believe they will get a great reward from reading texts.  Perhaps in the initial stages of searching texts are good but sooner or later they must/will be left behind. One can see from the story of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha  that he tried many different ways to find an answer and being Indian would also have been familiar with the Vedas and the Upanishads but in the end he had to Meditate and Meditate until he became Enlightened. There is no need for further reading although texts can inspire one to meditate more.  All that is required is a thirst to know, to practice every day because meditation is not a hobby it is a way of living.
“The true Way is sublime. It can't be expressed in language. Of what use are scriptures?  But someone who sees his own nature finds the Way, even if he can't read a word
“If you see your nature, you don't need to read sutras or invoke Buddha’s. Erudition and knowledge are not only useless but also cloud your awareness. Doctrines are only for pointing to the mind. Once you see your mind, why pay attention to doctrines?”
"But people of the deepest understanding look within, distracted by nothing. Since a clear mind is the Buddha, they attain the understanding of a Buddha without using the mind."  Bodhidharma





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