TheDhamma wrote:At first glance it looks like the case for the recitation from the First Council is only from the later commentaries. Some of the commentaries were written as early as 250 BC, but most were written several hundred years after the Buddha's parinibbana. From what I understand some commentaries go to as far as the 9th century AD or even later?
Hi, I think the origin of commentaries and their alleged dates of creation are probably the main controversial point here because both camps use it in their arguments, but to completely opposite ends (to be clear - when saying "commentaries", the reference is to atthakathas, not to tikas and other later derivative works).
From what i gather so far, the theravada position is that:
1. atthakathas originated at the time of the Buddha
2. were sung at the first council
3. Mahinda took them to Sri Lanka in 3rd century BCE
4. at some point they were translated (in parts or whole) into Sinhala
5. in 5th century CE, Buddhagosha edited and translated them back into Pali, and in that form they came down to us.
Regarding point 5, it should be noted that Buddhagosha was the editor and translator, not composer/creator. I kind of think of him as the ancient Bhikkhu Bodhi
Anyway, editing and translation of the major atthakathas (to the 4 nikayas and 7 abhidhamma books) is ascribed to Buddhagosha, while Dhammapala, Buddhadatta and others helped with atthakathas to various Khuddaka nikaya books in the 5th and 6th century CE.
Obviously, the most controversial points are 1 and 2. While there is no doubt that some commentary came from the time of the Buddha (and some even ended up as suttas later), the question for the modern skeptic remains how much - the whole thing, only parts of it, which parts? Other than believing the accounts of the Theras (i.e. pretty much the whole thing), I have no idea how to ascertain that scholarly at the moment, if that's what you're looking for.
TheDhamma wrote:the further removed we are from the Buddha's time, the further we tend to get from the true Dhamma.
This line of argument is a bit confusing. I mean, when you say things like "later commentaries", "Some of the commentaries were written as early as 250 BC, but most were written several hundred years after the Buddha's parinibbana." - to me that kind of says that your view is that atthakathas are a later invention than the suttas. Apologies if I'm wrong there, but if I'm right, then that view seems to go against "classical theravada" position, what basically says that your view is based on some sources that you consider more reliable than the ancient accounts of the Theras in the atthakathas. I'm guessing these more reliable sources could only be the works of the XX century scholars, but by your above line of argument, they shouldn't probably even be considered in this discussion because they are by 15 centuries further removed from the Buddha than Buddhagosha was for example.
So, it's a bit confusing because any research we or others do into this subject would still be a work of scholars far removed from the Buddha's time, so basically inadmissible by the above line of argument. I mean, if the accounts of Theras who lived close to the Buddha's time are no good in this discussion, nor are the accounts of the modern scholars, then whose accounts are we looking for here? Apologies if my deductive powers of what you're thinking/saying here completely failed me