Thoughts on DN as Propaganda

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Twilight
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Thoughts on DN as Propaganda

Post by Twilight »

Ven. Ñāṇavīra wrote Notes on Dhamma in the early 1960's. Ven. Thanissaro was around 11 years old when it was published. If you are insinuating something else that I am not understanding, my apologies for misunderstanding you.
I did not know this. In any case, the sutta is not necessarily contradicting the descriptions of nibbana found in SN. It is just worded in a very poetic way so it could be interpreted as eternal consciousness not to scare newcomers away. As I said:
PS: It should also be noted that this sutta comes from DN, a small 600 page book that was meant for propaganda. The book containing the fundamental doctrine where all is explained in better detail is SN. Things are very clear there. It is very probable that such poetic verses from DN were written not to scare more idealist newcomers away. In any case, it is not in the small and poetic propaganda book for newcomers that one should look for difficult answers. It is in SN where one should look to clarify such questions. Also, DN is known to have possibly been corrupted. But this is unimportant anyway since it was meant for propaganda and not for gaining real knowledge.
Nibbana is described very clear in SN, the book meant to discuss the difficult and subtle parts of the fundamental doctrine.
You'll have a better chance finding a moderate rebel in Ildib than finding a buddhist who ever changed his views. Views are there to be clung to. They are there to be defended with all one's might. Whatever clinging one will removed in regards to sense pleasures by practicing the path - that should be compensated with increased clinging to views. This is the fundamental balance of the noble 8thfold path. The yin and yang.
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SDC
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Re: Theravāda & Nāgārjuna

Post by SDC »

Twilight wrote:
PS: It should also be noted that this sutta comes from DN, a small 600 page book that was meant for propaganda. The book containing the fundamental doctrine where all is explained in better detail is SN. Things are very clear there. It is very probable that such poetic verses from DN were written not to scare more idealist newcomers away. In any case, it is not in the small and poetic propaganda book for newcomers that one should look for difficult answers. It is in SN where one should look to clarify such questions. Also, DN is known to have possibly been corrupted. But this is unimportant anyway since it was meant for propaganda and not for gaining real knowledge.
We are off topic, but if you do not mind, what is the source of this quote? I am sure I have heard it before. I never really got the whole "propaganda" accusation (which is well known), and Walshe's translation of Digha always hit home for me. Different strokes I suppose.

EDIT - Duh, it was you who said it. :embarassed:
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Twilight
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Re: Theravāda & Nāgārjuna

Post by Twilight »

We are off topic, but if you do not mind, what is the source of this quote? I am sure I have heard it before. I never really got the whole "propaganda" accusation, and Walshe's translation of Digha always hit home for me. Different strokes I suppose.
It is generally accepted by scholars and B.Bhodi agrees with it too.

Things are something like this: DN was for propaganda to attract newcomers. MN was for newcomers who already decided to became buddhist and it gives the reader a general idea of buddhism as a whole. All suttas start with long passages about how other people payed tons of respect to Buddha, passages trying to paint Buddha as more divine than human, etc. in order to build faith in the Buddha in the newcomers. Suttas here have like half a page - 1 page of this kind of "building up of the Buddha" before they begin. SN is the book containing the fundamental doctrine witch is supposed to make one arrive at right view and does not contain such sutta beginnings as MN. Suttas here just start with "in jetaka grove ...". And then there is AN witch is more about practice and also contains clarifications and further details that will help one after reading SN. Suttas here also do not contain such beginnings as MN.
You'll have a better chance finding a moderate rebel in Ildib than finding a buddhist who ever changed his views. Views are there to be clung to. They are there to be defended with all one's might. Whatever clinging one will removed in regards to sense pleasures by practicing the path - that should be compensated with increased clinging to views. This is the fundamental balance of the noble 8thfold path. The yin and yang.
----------
Consciousness and no-self explained in drawings: link
How stream entry is achieved. Mahasi / Zen understanding vs Sutta understanding: link
Bakmoon
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Re: Theravāda & Nāgārjuna

Post by Bakmoon »

Twilight wrote:
We are off topic, but if you do not mind, what is the source of this quote? I am sure I have heard it before. I never really got the whole "propaganda" accusation, and Walshe's translation of Digha always hit home for me. Different strokes I suppose.
It is generally accepted by scholars and B.Bhodi agrees with it too.

Things are something like this: DN was for propaganda to attract newcomers. MN was for newcomers who already decided to became buddhist and it gives the reader a general idea of buddhism as a whole. All suttas start with long passages about how other people payed tons of respect to Buddha, passages trying to paint Buddha as more divine than human, etc. in order to build faith in the Buddha in the newcomers. Suttas here have like half a page - 1 page of this kind of "building up of the Buddha" before they begin. SN is the book containing the fundamental doctrine witch is supposed to make one arrive at right view and does not contain such sutta beginnings as MN. Suttas here just start with "in jetaka grove ...". And then there is AN witch is more about practice and also contains clarifications and further details that will help one after reading SN. Suttas here also do not contain such beginnings as MN.
All of these features of the DN are perfectly legitimate purposes to pursue though. And these are all generalities, not absolutes. There are suttas in the SN that deal with faith and praise of the Buddha, and there are important doctrinal suttas in the DN as well, so it is a mistake to put material in the DN on a lower tier in terms of doctrine.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.
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Twilight
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Re: Theravāda & Nāgārjuna

Post by Twilight »

All of these features of the DN are perfectly legitimate purposes to pursue though.
I agree. Only idealist will have a problem with this.
And these are all generalities, not absolutes.
I agree, B.Bhodi also believes the same. And material in MN, SN, AN are on the same level of accuracy in terms of doctrine. Only that the difficult doctrine is contained in SN. But for example there are many additional information that one can find in MN because of suttas there been longer. Nobody ever complained about things been remotely fishy in MN. Only that they have some building up of the Buddha before suttas begin. But DN has had allegations of been corrupted and is known for been created for propaganda. I don't know if there are wrong things said in it cause I was never interested in reading DN but, as can be seen from the sutta in question, things are very ambiguous and it's simply not the book to look at for clarifying subtle matters.
There are suttas in the SN that deal with faith and praise of the Buddha, and there are important doctrinal suttas in the DN as well, so it is a mistake to put material in the DN on a lower tier in terms of doctrine.
If one really intends to understand subtle problems, it is not in the poetic verses of a book written with the intent of propaganda that one should look. (even this sutta we are talking about has 2 unnecessary pages about devas not finding an answer to this problem until Buddha comes there to the rescue before the poetic verses in question) I mean you can't take that obscure poetic verse from DN that can be twisted to make a case for eternal consciousness and say that is above the hundreds of non-poetic suttas about nibbana from SN that all say the same thing. And the verse itself does not make a case for eternal consciousness, only that it is ambiguous and can be twisted like that.
Last edited by Twilight on Wed Jan 11, 2017 6:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
You'll have a better chance finding a moderate rebel in Ildib than finding a buddhist who ever changed his views. Views are there to be clung to. They are there to be defended with all one's might. Whatever clinging one will removed in regards to sense pleasures by practicing the path - that should be compensated with increased clinging to views. This is the fundamental balance of the noble 8thfold path. The yin and yang.
----------
Consciousness and no-self explained in drawings: link
How stream entry is achieved. Mahasi / Zen understanding vs Sutta understanding: link
Bakmoon
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Re: Theravāda & Nāgārjuna

Post by Bakmoon »

Twilight wrote:If one really intends to understand subtle problems, it is not in the poetic verses of a book written with the intent of propaganda that one should look. (even this sutta we are talking about has 2 unnecessary pages about devas not finding an answer to this problem until Buddha comes there to the rescue before the poetic verses in question) I mean you can't take that obscure poetic verse from DN that can be twisted to make a case for eternal consciousness and say that is above the hundreds of non-poetic suttas about nibbana from SN that all say the same thing. And the verse itself does not make a case for eternal consciousness, only that it is ambiguous and can be twisted like that.
I haven't argued one way or the other about Ajahn Thanissaro's interpretation of consciousness without feature. My point is that it is a serious exegetical mistake to put a question mark over material on the Digha Nikaya on the claim that it is a propaganda text.

And who are you to say what is necessary or unnecessary in the Suttas? The Suttas taken as a whole are a quite varied class of literature, and not everything of importance in these texts are purely doctrinal in nature. The story of the Devas questioning serves an important role in the text of establishing that Devas, although they possess great merit as a result of their good deeds, are still worldly beings who don't generally speaking have access to the higher truths. This is an important point to remember, regardless of if it is conveyed in a narrative manner or in a purely expository manner, and conveying it in a narrative manner can have certain advantages even.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.
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Re: Theravāda & Nāgārjuna

Post by Coëmgenu »

Bakmoon wrote:
Twilight wrote:If one really intends to understand subtle problems, it is not in the poetic verses of a book written with the intent of propaganda that one should look. (even this sutta we are talking about has 2 unnecessary pages about devas not finding an answer to this problem until Buddha comes there to the rescue before the poetic verses in question) I mean you can't take that obscure poetic verse from DN that can be twisted to make a case for eternal consciousness and say that is above the hundreds of non-poetic suttas about nibbana from SN that all say the same thing. And the verse itself does not make a case for eternal consciousness, only that it is ambiguous and can be twisted like that.
I haven't argued one way or the other about Ajahn Thanissaro's interpretation of consciousness without feature. My point is that it is a serious exegetical mistake to put a question mark over material on the Digha Nikaya on the claim that it is a propaganda text.

And who are you to say what is necessary or unnecessary in the Suttas? The Suttas taken as a whole are a quite varied class of literature, and not everything of importance in these texts are purely doctrinal in nature. The story of the Devas questioning serves an important role in the text of establishing that Devas, although they possess great merit as a result of their good deeds, are still worldly beings who don't generally speaking have access to the higher truths. This is an important point to remember, regardless of if it is conveyed in a narrative manner or in a purely expository manner, and conveying it in a narrative manner can have certain advantages even.
Maybe there should be a seperate topic for the alleged authenticity or inauthenticity of the DN, as well as investigation to see if there is indeed really "scholarly/academic consensus" as to its propagandistic nature or lack thereof. It certainly doesn't sound like a very academically sound thing to say, but then again, academics say what they need to to get published sometimes :thinking:, regardless of legitimate merit.

Perhaps the term "propaganda" is being misused though, and something else entirely is being said about the DN.
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Twilight
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Re: Theravāda & Nāgārjuna

Post by Twilight »

And who are you to say what is necessary or unnecessary in the Suttas? The Suttas taken as a whole are a quite varied class of literature, and not everything of importance in these texts are purely doctrinal in nature. The story of the Devas questioning serves an important role in the text of establishing that Devas, although they possess great merit as a result of their good deeds, are still worldly beings who don't generally speaking have access to the higher truths. This is an important point to remember, regardless of if it is conveyed in a narrative manner or in a purely expository manner, and conveying it in a narrative manner can have certain advantages even.
I meant unnecessary in regards to the problem discussed in that sutta, a problem about nibbana. The types of devas would have been discussed in another sutta if the text was from MN, SN or AN. Text in SN and AN generally start with "in Jetaka grove" and go straight to the problem, explaining it in great detail not in some 2 sentences poetic verses.
You'll have a better chance finding a moderate rebel in Ildib than finding a buddhist who ever changed his views. Views are there to be clung to. They are there to be defended with all one's might. Whatever clinging one will removed in regards to sense pleasures by practicing the path - that should be compensated with increased clinging to views. This is the fundamental balance of the noble 8thfold path. The yin and yang.
----------
Consciousness and no-self explained in drawings: link
How stream entry is achieved. Mahasi / Zen understanding vs Sutta understanding: link
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Re: Theravāda & Nāgārjuna

Post by Mkoll »

Coëmgenu wrote:Perhaps the term "propaganda" is being misused though, and something else entirely is being said about the DN.
Actually, that's exactly the word used by a certain scholar:
ATI wrote:Recent scholarship suggests that a distinguishing trait of the Digha Nikaya may be that it was "intended for the purpose of propaganda, to attract converts to the new religion." [1]

[1] Bhikkhu Bodhi, Connected Discourses of the Buddha (Somerville, Mass.: Wisdom Publications, 2000), p.31, referring to Joy Manné's "Categories of Sutta in the Pali Nikayas and Their Implications for Our Appreciation of the Buddhist Teaching and Literature," Journal of the Pali Text Society 15 (1990): 29-87.
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Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
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CecilN
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Re: Thoughts on DN as Propaganda

Post by CecilN »

Twilight wrote:It is just worded in a very poetic way so it could be interpreted as eternal consciousness not to scare newcomers away.
Was the Buddha really interested in changing his Dhamma to recruit newcomers? Or was it the clergy of King Ashoka?

Namarupa is a core Brahmanistic term:
Nāmarūpa-vyākaraṇa (Sanskrit: नामरुपव्याकरण ), in Hindu philosophy, refers to the process of evolution of differentiation into names and forms i.e. to the unfolding of the primal state into the manifest world prior to which unfolding there was nothing that existed; it refers to the conditioned reality https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Namarupa-vyakarana
If the Buddha really did speak these often strange DN suttas, it would seem logical if the Buddha was answering questions made by Brahmans, he would be using the term 'nama-rupa' as understood by them (eg. DN 11, MN 49, SN 7.6).

DN 15 contains a nama-rupa similar to Brahmanism:
qualities, traits, signs, and indicators through which there is a description of the mental body were all absent, would designation-contact be discerned in the material body? DN 15
The Buddhist nama-rupa is:
And what is mentality-materiality... Feeling, perception, volition, contact and attention — these are called mentality. The four great elements and the material form derived from the four great elements — these are called materiality. MN 9; SN 12.2
This supports the theory the DN is propaganda for converting Brahmans.

The obscure passage in DN 11 is also in MN 49, another sutta with adventures with Brahma-gods. For me, the consciousness without feature (immaterial jhana) is unlikely to be Nibbana because Buddha did not generally teach Nibbana to non-Buddhists. It seems an instruction to Brahmans according to their own terminology to abandon/give-up the 'naming of forms'. Therefore, it is said in featureless consciousness (samadhi/jhana), 'naming-forms' comes to an end. This is contrary to Buddhism, which states consciousness depends on nama-rupa (materiality-mentality) & for nama-rupa to nirodha, consciousness must also nirodha.
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Twilight
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Re: Thoughts on DN as Propaganda

Post by Twilight »

I agree, especially since buddhist of that time came almost exclusively from the bhramin and nobleman castes. The DN is therefore directed at such people and using their language.
Actually, that's exactly the word used by a certain scholar:
He even wrote that in the preface of the canon.
You'll have a better chance finding a moderate rebel in Ildib than finding a buddhist who ever changed his views. Views are there to be clung to. They are there to be defended with all one's might. Whatever clinging one will removed in regards to sense pleasures by practicing the path - that should be compensated with increased clinging to views. This is the fundamental balance of the noble 8thfold path. The yin and yang.
----------
Consciousness and no-self explained in drawings: link
How stream entry is achieved. Mahasi / Zen understanding vs Sutta understanding: link
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Javi
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Re: Thoughts on DN as Propaganda

Post by Javi »

We have to remember that the actual texts themselves (suttas) and the compilations of texts (Nikayas) are not the same thing.

Even if this one scholarly opinion, that the DN was compiled to attract new converts, is true (which has not actually been proven and so is just speculation, and which goes against the more obvious and reasonable explanation, that it was simply organized due to the size of the suttas in it) - this would not mean that all texts in this collection were created for this reason.

The compilation of already existing texts for a specific purpose is different than the composition of a text with a specific agenda.

To show the latter would take much more text critical work, which I doubt has been done to prove this rather dubious claim, as it stands, it seems more like a red herring to support certain views.
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Twilight
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Re: Thoughts on DN as Propaganda

Post by Twilight »

I have been informed that DN 30 is possible to have been a latter addition. I have not read DN myself and am not aware of the scholaristic opinions. I have checked the notes and saw there are some debates about some words in some suttas. In any case, it appears corruptions are minor, not as big as I have suspected. Looks like I should follow my own advice of not speaking about books one has not read. But the fact that it was intended for propaganda and not for understanding subtle teachings still remains.
You'll have a better chance finding a moderate rebel in Ildib than finding a buddhist who ever changed his views. Views are there to be clung to. They are there to be defended with all one's might. Whatever clinging one will removed in regards to sense pleasures by practicing the path - that should be compensated with increased clinging to views. This is the fundamental balance of the noble 8thfold path. The yin and yang.
----------
Consciousness and no-self explained in drawings: link
How stream entry is achieved. Mahasi / Zen understanding vs Sutta understanding: link
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