I just recently moved, and a lot of my stuff is still in boxes at my parents house, so I don't have full access to my library.
I will increase this post (and possibly move it to "Early Buddhism") once I have access to superior materials from my library. All I have access to presently is Hirikawa's A History of Indian Buddhism: from Sakyamuni to Early Mahayana
The seminal work for arguing for incoherence between the Sarvāstivāda and Theravāda recensions is Thích Minh Châu's The Chinese Madhyama Ógama and the Påli Majjhima Nikåya
, I have this text at home and will pour through it once I have access and time. It is resource upon which most of what I asserted before was based.
Also I used the word "incoherence" but I do not mean "total incoherence". The two recensions agree on much.
A response to Thích Minh Châu's article
(with a slightly refutational tone) by Ven Anālayo is freely available online though. I haven't read it in full, but in his opening thesis Ven Anālayo does not refute
the incoherencies Thích Minh Châu finds between the recensions, but argues that these incoherencies stem from translation issues
rather than fundamental disagreement between the Theravāda and Sarvāstivāda Buddhavacana-recensions. I am not entirely convinced of Ven Anālayo's apologetics but I have only read a bit of the paper thus far.
Coëmgenu wrote:In my experience, and to be fair I am bit biased against "Early Buddhism" reconstructionism, so this might stem from that moreso than objectivity, the "Early Buddhism" crowd either tends to downplay, or is unaware of, the editing and late insertions of latter Buddhist discourse into the ágamas, in addition to not really acknowledging that a great deal of the ágamas are not "pre-sectarian Buddhism", they actually argue from a pseudo-realist Sarvástiváda recension of Buddhavacana. The ágama and nikáya literature are at odds with and opposed to each other about as often as they agree, when viewed as a whole. That complicates dominant narratives of Early Buddhism reconstructionism quite a bit.
From what I have read on the comparative scholarship, folks like Analayo and Thich Minh Chau are of the opposite opinion, while there are obvious differences they tend to be either minor, tangential (eg, a sutta takes place in savatthi instead of some other place) or organizational (eg satipatthana suttas) , meanwhile thematic content is pretty much the same, with the insertions of later theories (like the sarvam asti theory) being relatively rare.
So while you are right that there are differences, they are not differences in core doctrinal content, which is pretty much the same in the nikayas and Agamas.
With that being said, can you point to scholarship which emphasizes that there are serious doctrinal differences between the Agamas and the Nikayas?
The āgamas, or rather, many of them, represent the particular recension of Buddhavacana held authoritative by the Sarvāstivāda. As such, they reflect Sarvāstivāda doctrine in many places. In certain places the Sarvāstivāda and Pāli tradition did agreed, and in certain places they did not agree with certain things, and this is related to what they thought the Buddha said.
The āgamas & nikāyas generally agree, but they also generally disagree in many places, and this could
be purely an issue of translation (Chinese vs Pali) or
they could be simply differences in recension (such as SA296/SF163 which describes "predestination"/conditioned-genesis as an intrinsic quality of dharmāḥ themselves, as discussed in the metaphysics thread, and SN12.20 which has an orthodox Theravādin description of conditioned genesis that does not ascribe constancy of nature to dhammā and rather, ascribed inherency to conditioned genesis itself), particularly when these differences in Buddhavacana-recension are manifest in the latter developed Abhidharmāḥ of various schools. Abhidharmāḥ are based on the sūtrāṇi, and thus where the Theravāda and Sarvāstivāda Abhidharmāḥ disagree is generally also where the nikāyas and āgamas disagree
For instance, in the Sarvāstivāda āgama recensions the aggregates are described as "not-self" but dharmāḥ are explicitly not
described as not-self where they are
described as not-self in nikāya-parallels (Hirikawa, A History of Indian Buddhism: from Sakyamuni to Early Mahayana
The āgamas refer to "eternal dharmāḥ" in dichotomy with "dharmāḥ lacking constancy", a dichotomy absent from the nikāyas (Hirikawa 145), this difference in recension would later be more blatently manifest in the divergent Sarvāstivāda & Theravāda Abhidharmāḥ the two Buddhavacana-recensions would produce, specifically on the issue of catagorizing dharmāḥ (traditional Theravāda only has one "eternal" dhammā, if you will, whereas up to four dharmāḥ are considered "eternal/unconditioned" in the āgamas: cessation, mind, mental objects, and mental consciousness (Hirikawa 150).
In the āgamas, all dharmāḥ mutually possess 12 bases of consciousness, which includes unconditioned
dharmāḥ, unlike in the nikāyas, where unconditioned dhammā (dhamma in the plural) are not mentioned at all (Hirikawa 169).
Maitreya dwells in his own Pure Land in the āgamas whereas he is in the Tuṣita Heaven in the Pāli tradition (Hirikawa 290), this may seem like a minor detail but it has major ramifications for the development of later Mahāyāna.
I'll come back when I have access to the rest of my books. Moving is always inconvenient.