The Satipatthana Sutta a forgery?

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.

Books are only books!

Postby martinfrank » Fri Feb 05, 2010 8:41 am

Hi!

I find the words "forgery" and "fake" inappropriate, because

1. the Buddhist texts are exactly this, "texts". They are not contracts, nor legal papers, nor do they come with an attached warranty.
2. The words "forgery" and "fake" imply that somebody is disappointed or feels deceived, but by whom? Did he/she pay the good monks/nuns and laymen/laywomen who were so sweet to carry those precious texts through 2500 years to us? Did these monks/nuns and laymen/laywomen promise "you" that they would make no mistake?
3. These texts have gone through wars, earthquakes, genocides, pests, fires and floods. It weren't always the wisest or the most learned monks/nuns, laymen/laywomen who survived. Please be gentle with our good friends who passed away. Maybe they made mistakes. They might have stuck together the wrong palm leaves; they might have added passages they thought somebody had forgotten; maybe they even changed some words they thought somebody else had copied wrongly. Is that faking or forgery? Did you ever try to learn by heart or copy the Abhidhamma Nikaya at > 40° Celsius in a badly lit non-A/C room? Please try!

4. The texts went through a phase of oral transmission. Oral transmission carries the danger that the person memorizing the texts will without willing it, make all similar passages equal, and will also without willing it, replace shorter versions of the same passage with longer versions.
5. The texts went through a phase of palm leaf transmission with all the problems of broken strings and loose leaves. The texts were real leaves in real baskets. Many accidents happened and the persons who tried to repair the accidents often didn't have "another basket" (or a CD) to check whether they were getting the broken sequence or the missing leaves right. Not to speak of insects eating whole words...
6. The texts went through centuries of copying, see 3. above.

I think the historical view is important and can add to our understanding. Unhappily, it will also lead to a lot of unhappiness, because it is a very Western way of thinking, and not acceptable to many traditional Buddhists in Asia. Please be gentle and soft-spoken!

Regarding meditation, I believe it is true that there are some teachers or schools who/which are teaching Vipassana as the only true Buddhist meditation. But the main Theravada Buddhist instruction manual, the "Visuddhimaggo" doesn't limit meditation instructions to this, nor do the meditation teachers at Wat Maha That and many other traditional meditation centers all over Asia.

Finally, we need Sila, Samadhi and Pañña. Sila is more than Vinayo, Samadhi more than Vipassana, and Pañña is much more than Pali. For me, it includes the cool-hearted knowledge that books are only books.

Have a wonderful day!

Martin
The Noble Eightfold Path: Proposed to all, imposed on none.
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Re: Books are only books!

Postby Paññāsikhara » Fri Feb 05, 2010 11:44 am

martinfrank wrote:Hi!

...

Have a wonderful day!

Martin


Wow, that's a great first post Martin! :twothumbsup:
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: Huifeng's Prajnacara Blog.
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Re: The Satipatthana Sutta a forgery?

Postby Brizzy » Mon Feb 27, 2012 9:08 am

Reflecting on the vast array of suttas within the pali canon, I have come to a personal conclusion about the satipatthana sutta's. Bearing in mind the extensive material found within the Samyutta Nikaya concerning satipatthana and explaining things wonderfully, I personally feel the Buddha's teachings are more cohesive and applicable if the two satipatthana suttas were either dropped altogether or reduced to Bhante Sujato's version. As a personal sentiment, it strikes me as poignant that the sutta I feel needs to be set aside was at one time believed by me to be the most important sutta and contained all the Buddha's teachings. Now it strikes me as illogical in its framework and geared to promote doctrines that were formed much later.

Metta

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Re: The Satipatthana Sutta a forgery?

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Feb 27, 2012 11:24 am

Hi Brizzy,
can you say more?

one thing I said recently regarding satipatthana is
the satipatthana sutta can actually be seen as the application of the Dhamma Tetrad found in the Anapanasati sutta to the areas of the other tetrads, as one interpretation.

so the satipatthana sutta can be seen as individual teachings (which I believe I suggested in this thread before, or a similar one), what do you think of this being an explanation of the sutta?

To be honest I do have an interest in this area that is why I am responding, but not interested in proving either way.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Re: The Satipatthana Sutta a forgery?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Mon Feb 27, 2012 3:01 pm

In addition to what has been mentioned I recall Ven. Ajahn Sujato’s theses claimed to rule out the DN and MN versions of Satipaṭṭhāna as later because of the presence of the so-called 'insight refrain' (claimed to be added later), when compared to its absence in the Satipaṭṭhāna Saṃyutta and Aṅguttara Nikāya discourses.

The .pdf version of A History of Mindfulness is not searchable in my system, so it is rather tedious to hunt through and find sources. But he mentions this in his blog here.

    Another late addition to the Pali Satipatthana Sutta is a ‘refrain’ following each meditation, which says one practices contemplating ‘rise and fall’. This is a vipassana practice, which originally belonged to only the final of the four satipatthanas, contemplation of dhammas.

    The contemplation of dhammas has also undergone large scale expansion. The original text included just the five hindrances and the seven awakening factors. The five aggregates, six sense media, and four noble truths were added later.

    Each version of the Satipatthana Sutta is based on a shared ancestor, which has been expanded in different ways by the schools. This process continued for several centuries following the Buddha’s death. Of the texts we have today, the closest to the ancestral version is that contained in the Pali Abhidhamma Vibhanga, if we leave aside the Abhidhammic elaborations.
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: The Satipatthana Sutta a forgery?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Mon Feb 27, 2012 3:15 pm

Brizzy wrote:As a personal sentiment, it strikes me as poignant that the sutta I feel needs to be set aside was at one time believed by me to be the most important sutta and contained all the Buddha's teachings. Now it strikes me as illogical in its framework and geared to promote doctrines that were formed much later.


Or Ven. S. has geared his theses to promote a pro-jhāna standpoint. This was not the sole viewpoint of Ajahn Brahm as his mentor, but of the TFT Ajahn Chah group in general.
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: The Satipatthana Sutta a forgery?

Postby Brizzy » Wed Feb 29, 2012 7:02 am

ancientbuddhism wrote:
Brizzy wrote:As a personal sentiment, it strikes me as poignant that the sutta I feel needs to be set aside was at one time believed by me to be the most important sutta and contained all the Buddha's teachings. Now it strikes me as illogical in its framework and geared to promote doctrines that were formed much later.


Or Ven. S. has geared his theses to promote a pro-jhāna standpoint. This was not the sole viewpoint of Ajahn Brahm as his mentor, but of the TFT Ajahn Chah group in general.


Actually, it was more a personal conclusion. Regardless of whether Ven Sujato has got his deductions right or wrong. Ven Sujato is an interesting character, there is much I agree with him about and at the same time there is a lot that I disagree with.
As regards the Satipatthana sutta, I have never seen any clear reasoning of why the sutta is set out like it is. It seems disorganised and several repeated sections make no sense and seem agenda driven.

Metta

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Re: The Satipatthana Sutta a forgery?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Feb 29, 2012 7:46 am

I went back and looked at Ven Sujato's analysis, and it is interesting to see how such (most?) suttas were clearly created over time.

However, my overall feeling after all that analysis is: "So what?"

For the approaches I'm most familiar with that are based to a large extent on the Satipatthana Sutta, such as the Mahasi approach and the approach of many the Ajahn Chah students (Vens Brahm and Sujato have a rather different approach to the other Ajahn Chah students I'm familiar with), a few variations here and there are of no particular significance. Anything that may have been added seems to be well-represented in dozens of other suttas and, in any case, those approaches already make use of material from other suttas (such as dependent origination suttas).

I guess if one comes to the suttas with the idea that they contain detailed specific instructions and/or that it is possible to reconstruct a "direct from the Buddha's lips" canon, one might be concerned about the variations. If one sees them as guidelines to be fleshed out by experience in a living tradition there is much less cause for concern.

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Re: The Satipatthana Sutta a forgery?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Wed Feb 29, 2012 2:20 pm

Brizzy wrote:
ancientbuddhism wrote:
Brizzy wrote:As a personal sentiment, it strikes me as poignant that the sutta I feel needs to be set aside was at one time believed by me to be the most important sutta and contained all the Buddha's teachings. Now it strikes me as illogical in its framework and geared to promote doctrines that were formed much later.


Or Ven. S. has geared his theses to promote a pro-jhāna standpoint. This was not the sole viewpoint of Ajahn Brahm as his mentor, but of the TFT Ajahn Chah group in general.


Actually, it was more a personal conclusion. Regardless of whether Ven Sujato has got his deductions right or wrong. Ven Sujato is an interesting character, there is much I agree with him about and at the same time there is a lot that I disagree with.
As regards the Satipatthana sutta, I have never seen any clear reasoning of why the sutta is set out like it is. It seems disorganised and several repeated sections make no sense and seem agenda driven.


If Ven. Sujato was interested in this study solely on his own, it is remarkable how much is resonates with the TFT pro-jhāna point of view. No matter to me really.

On the GIST (all pun intended) of the matter, it is quite possible that some of the suttas in the Dīgha and Majjhima Nikāyas represent more of a mosaic of ideas, possibly not all of which were the Buddha’s or his direct followers. And that some ideas developed over time, such as Satipaṭṭhāna as an accretion from Kāyagatāsati. This needn’t take anything away from their value for us, even if parts were put into the mouth of the Buddha by others.

All in all Sujato has made some interesting points and I still re-read sections of it. Of particular interest to me is his Satipaṭṭhāna Mūla reconstruction, which is making an honest academic attempt to resolve problems that some of us may bulk at as cherry-picking.
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: The Satipatthana Sutta a forgery?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Mar 02, 2012 6:25 am

There is an interesting Insight Journal article here:
http://www.dharma.org/bcbs/Pages/insight_journal.html

Specifically:
Did the Buddha Teach Satipatthāna? by Chip Hartranft
http://www.dharma.org/bcbs/Pages/docume ... tranft.pdf

As well as the usual arguments of synthesis in the Satipatthana Sutta he argues that the Satipatthana section of the Anapanasati Sutta is also a later addition:
When the Buddha or his
followers listed the five faculties and strengths,
samādhi always preceded paññā—wisdom—and
was preceded by sati—mindfulness. And in fact,
there was a conscious effort either by the Buddha
or more probably by later followers to equate the
four satipatthānas—body, feeling tone, qualities of
consciousness, and causal mental states—with
the four tetrads of ānāpānasati (mindfulness of
breathing), which in practical terms is kind of a
stretch.

They don’t match up?

It is not at all clear that the Buddha himself claimed
a perfect one-to-one correspondence between the
four tetrads and the four satipatthānas. It seems more
likely to me that later scholastic monastics—perhaps
without much personal grounding in practice—
might have tried to correlate them because they
rightly supposed that samādhi and satipatthāna
were related, and the fourfold structures invited
comparison.

One of the most intriguing oddities that is called
into question as one drills down into the earliest
strata of teachings is this effort to not just match up
but synonymize the tetrads with satipatthāna, most
famously in the Ānāpānasati Sutta. Apart from that
instance in the Majjhima Nikāya, though, I find
only a single similar passage, repeated four times, in
the entire Samyutta Nikāya, and it appears to be the
source rather than any sort of confirmation for this
attempt to align the two. Nonetheless, even if the
attempt is not very convincing, it reflects the fact
that in teachings both early and late, the Buddha’s
mindfulness generally involves the breath.

:anjali:
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Re: The Satipatthana Sutta a forgery?

Postby daverupa » Fri Mar 02, 2012 12:27 pm

One will also notice that certain passages are not found elsewhere in the Pāli—for example, the simile where a yogi sensing each breathflow’s length is compared to a turner who knows the duration of each pass on the lathe. Singularity or even oddity can suggest authenticity, of course, but when one looks for the same simile in a different canon’s recension—for example, the Sarvāstivādan Smrti-upasthāna Sūtra—it is absent, suggesting that the image was a Theravādan inspiration.


:thumbsup:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: The Satipatthana Sutta a forgery?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Mar 02, 2012 8:27 pm

Yes, the people who constructed the various suttas, such as the Satipatthana and Anapanasati Suttas, over a period of time were inspired, weren't they?

Lucky for us...

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Re: The Satipatthana Sutta a forgery?

Postby daverupa » Fri Mar 02, 2012 9:32 pm

Well, other thoughts arise for me in this case:

If the Buddha taught via this simile, why did other schools drop it?
If the Buddha did not teach via this simile, why not?
Was there another simile? Was it replaced by this one?
etc.

Perhaps the most bothersome issue:

Why is this simile nowhere in the Anapanasati Samyutta?

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: The Satipatthana Sutta a forgery?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 02, 2012 9:43 pm

daverupa wrote:Well, other thoughts arise for me in this case:

If the Buddha taught via this simile, why did other schools drop it?
If the Buddha did not teach via this simile, why not?
Was there another simile? Was it replaced by this one?
etc.

Perhaps the most bothersome issue:

Why is this simile nowhere in the Anapanasati Samyutta?

:heart:
And your point is?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: The Satipatthana Sutta a forgery?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Mar 02, 2012 9:59 pm

Hi Dave,

And the importance of this is what?

As I said, it seems clear that every moderately long sutta, including the Anapanasati, Satipatthana, and so on, has been added to.

I guess one's reaction to this uncertainty depends on whether one thinks that the ancients who assembled the teachings, or the modern commentators/teachers who still teach and discuss them, knew/know what they were/are talking about. Should I think that a simile added by an ancient teacher is less useful to me than commentary by modern scholars? Does it make any difference to how I should practice?

Is it possible to figure out exactly what is original? Is any of it original?

:anjali:
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Re: The Satipatthana Sutta a forgery?

Postby daverupa » Fri Mar 02, 2012 10:22 pm

tiltbillings wrote:And your point is?


mikenz66 wrote:And the importance of this is what?


:|

Q: What drives your interest in the authenticity of the canonical meditation instructions?

A: The main intention is to understand as clearly as possible what the Buddha thought and taught, because what he offered had only one purpose: to come to the end of dukkha, liberating heart and mind. He appears to have taught that this potential—presumably the ultimate goal of personhood—will only be realized by one who fully develops body and mind to see things as they are. The central axis of this cultivation is, of course, meditation, so even a little more clarity about how to practice might be of enormous value.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: The Satipatthana Sutta a forgery?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Mar 02, 2012 10:37 pm

OK, that' sounds reasonable but since it's likely that every sutta is a "forgery" (in the sense of the OP), I'm not confident that it's actually possible to figure out the exact details of the Buddha taught.

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Re: The Satipatthana Sutta a forgery?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 02, 2012 11:38 pm

mikenz66 wrote:OK, that' sounds reasonable but since it's likely that every sutta is a "forgery" (in the sense of the OP), I'm not confident that it's actually possible to figure out the exact details of the Buddha taught.

:anjali:
Mike
I wonder if, as our author suggests, the Buddha actually taught prāna practice:

    For many yogis, this can be done by “yoking” to the prāna
    or “aliveness” of the body, which the Buddha and
    his contemporaries seem to have related both to
    respiration and to sensation in general.

    ...

    Second, staying connected to the life force,
    p(r)āna,

    ...

    First of all, meditation might begin for most as a
    simpler, more organic, energy-based kind of yoga.
While the article is interesting, it is not convincing as a basis for dismissing the Satipatthana Sutta, but if we take it seriously, then where and how do we start drawing the line as to what to accept and what to reject among the suttas in terms of actual practice?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Satipatthana Sutta a forgery?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 02, 2012 11:43 pm

daverupa wrote:
Q: What drives your interest in the authenticity of the canonical meditation instructions?

A: The main intention is to understand as clearly as possible what the Buddha thought and taught, because what he offered had only one purpose: to come to the end of dukkha, liberating heart and mind. He appears to have taught that this potential—presumably the ultimate goal of personhood—will only be realized by one who fully develops body and mind to see things as they are. The central axis of this cultivation is, of course, meditation, so even a little more clarity about how to practice might be of enormous value.
Interestingly, the Satipatthana Sutta fits that bill.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Satipatthana Sutta a forgery?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Mar 03, 2012 12:08 am

tiltbillings wrote:... if we take it seriously, then where and how do we start drawing the line as to what to accept and what to reject among the suttas in terms of actual practice?

It depends on whether you have a "Nikayas half empty" or "Nikayas half full" attitude.

If the aim of such analysis is to merely discredit anything that can not be definitively shown to have came out of the Buddha's mouth, I'm not sure that is particularly practical, beneficial, or in line with suttas extorting us to "see for ourselves" (if those are not fakes...).

To me, a better response would be to acknowledge that our knowledge of the historical Dhamma will always be imperfect, and that the various ideas that may or may not have been injected by ancient and modern compilers and commentators should be carefully examined for their usefulness.

:anjali:
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