Original teachings of the Buddha

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Javi
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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Javi » Wed Feb 01, 2017 7:41 pm

Caodemarte wrote:
Javi wrote:I don't disagree with you.

Later Buddhist developments and texts are based on early Buddhism.

However they are not the same and in some cases are entirely new developments, like the bhumis, momentariness theory, buddha nature.

My point is that Buddha nature, for example, is not considered a new development by its advocates, but an expression and explication of the historical Buddha's teaching. It cannot be taught without first teaching the ideas in the Agamas. So if you teach this doctrine you also have to make sure that their content is understood first. This is usually assumed if you are teaching monk (specialists in Buddhism) or educated lay.

Again, I don't think we disagree on much here.

My point is that to understand the Agama teachings as subservient to, prior to, framed by or seen through these later teachings changes the meaning of the early doctrines.

And clearly, since the texts being used are not the Agamas themselves, but later texts, then they are not getting the material directly.

So again, it is not exactly the same.
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

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Assaji
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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Assaji » Wed Feb 01, 2017 7:41 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:There are āgamas in the Tibetan Canon, it just depends on which Tibetan Canon one you use.
Tibetans didn't work seriously on the Tibetan translations of Agamas, since they saw them as inferior to Mahayana Sutras.
There are no Agamas in the Tibetan Canon of whatever edition, just a handful of texts:
https://suttacentral.net/dq

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Assaji
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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Assaji » Wed Feb 01, 2017 7:52 pm

Caodemarte wrote:None of this is historical evidence that Theravada is Sthāvira. AFAIK, Theravada seems to be a descendant (in some sense) of one faction of a faction that came from Sthāvira, a grandchild if you will.
Thank you, I know this popular buddhological opinion. For me, the fact that Indian scholars from 8th to 12th centuries described Arya-Sthavira Nikaya as three Sri Lankan schools, namely Jetavaniya, Abhayagirivasin and Mahaviharavasin, is solid evidence. I would rather trust Indian scholars of that period than modern scholars who sometimes compete with each other in rejecting traditional authorities.

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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Mkoll » Wed Feb 01, 2017 8:01 pm

Javi wrote:My point is that to understand the Agama teachings as subservient to, prior to, framed by or seen through these later teachings changes the meaning of the early doctrines.
Indeed. And in the case of seeing the early doctrines as inferior, to say the least.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Javi
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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Javi » Wed Feb 01, 2017 8:46 pm

Mkoll wrote:
Javi wrote:My point is that to understand the Agama teachings as subservient to, prior to, framed by or seen through these later teachings changes the meaning of the early doctrines.
Indeed. And in the case of seeing the early doctrines as inferior, to say the least.
And as is well known, this is a common presentation in Mahayana, if not the normative Mahayana framework, as seen in the Tibetan classification of tenet systems and yanas, and the Chinese sutra hierarchies which generally place the Agamas at the bottom.
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Caodemarte » Wed Feb 01, 2017 9:06 pm

Javi wrote:
My point is that to understand the Agama teachings as subservient to, prior to, framed by or seen through these later teachings changes the meaning of the early doctrines...
The Agamas are not seen as subservient to, but are certainly prior, to later teachings. The various Chinese ordering systems do usually not put them at the bottom as an inferior teaching. It is better to see most ordering systems as a mandala or interconnected web, not a hierarchy. There are many exceptions to this in the sense that the Buddha is seen to be pitching to specific audiences, giving more sophisticated explanations to more sophisticated audiences. The authors of any later teachings or interpretations would certainly disagree that any changed any meanings, and cite the texts to show why they would be correct. Anyone is free to be unconvinced.

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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Coëmgenu » Wed Feb 01, 2017 9:15 pm

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.

But!

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.
Javi wrote:
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 45).

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.
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Wed Feb 01, 2017 9:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
如無為,如是難見、不動、不屈、不死、無漏、覆蔭、洲渚、濟渡、依止、擁護、不流轉、離熾焰、離燒然、流通、清涼、微妙、安隱、無病、無所有、涅槃。
Like this is the uncreated, like this is that which is difficult to realize, with no moving, no bending, no dying. Utterly lacking secretions and smothered in the dark, it is the island shore. Where there is ferrying, it is the crossing. It is dependency's ceasing, it is the end of circulating transmissions. It is the exhaustion of the flame, it is the ending of the burning. Flowing openly, pure and cool, with secret subtlety, and calm occultation, lacking ailment, lacking owning, nirvāṇa.
Asaṁskṛtadharmasūtra, Sermon on the Uncreated Phenomenon, T99.224b7, Saṁyuktāgama 890

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Javi
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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Javi » Wed Feb 01, 2017 9:21 pm

Caodemarte wrote:
Javi wrote:
My point is that to understand the Agama teachings as subservient to, prior to, framed by or seen through these later teachings changes the meaning of the early doctrines...
The Agamas are not seen as subservient to, but are certainly prior, to later teachings. The various Chinese ordering systems do usually not put them at the bottom as an inferior teaching. It is better to see most ordering systems as a mandala or interconnected web, not a hierarchy. There are many exceptions to this in the sense that the Buddha is seen to be pitching to specific audiences, giving more sophisticated explanations to more sophisticated audiences. The authors of any later teachings or interpretations would certainly disagree that any changed any meanings, and cite the texts to show why they would be correct. Anyone is free to be unconvinced.
I'm glad that is how you view it, however Chinese Buddhists certainly saw their classification systems as hierarchical, with Mahayana sutras as being more advanced and definitive. Here's what Peter Gregory says on this:
The order in which the teachings were ranked was a matter of interpretation that called for value judgments in regard to which scripture or scriptural corpus was to be taken as authoritative. Thus, in addition to providing a hermeneutical method by which the diverse teachings put forward in different scriptures could be harmonized, p'an-chiao also furnished the structure according to which the different traditions of Chinese Buddhism advanced their own sectarian claims for being recognized as the true, ultimate, or most relevant teaching of Buddhism.
http://acc6.its.brooklyn.cuny.edu/~phal ... trina.html
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Mkoll » Wed Feb 01, 2017 10:22 pm

The very word "Hinayana" means "inferior vehicle." The fact is that many Mahayanists see their particular teachings as an improvement on so-called Hinayana teachings. The following is from Dutt's Aspects of Mahayana Buddhism and its Relation to Hinayana. He draws an interesting parallel between early Buddhists seeing Brahmanical teachings as inferior and later Buddhists seeing early Buddhist teachings as inferior. And from what I've read of Vajrayana, these later-later Buddhists see the the Mahayana later-Buddhists as inferior. It seems to be a case of (spiritual) one-upmanship, a very basic human tendency.
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Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Javi
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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Javi » Thu Feb 02, 2017 2:38 am

Coëmgenu wrote: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'll come back when I have access to the rest of my books. Moving is always inconvenient.
fascinating, thanks, though to be honest those differences are not very worrying and when they happen, they are detectable through comparative study. This is why comparative study of the Agamas and the Nikayas is such an important thing for understanding early teachings.

There is also this: Choong Mun-keat (Wei-keat) - The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism. A comparative study based on the Sutranga portion of the Pali Samyutta-Nikaya and the Chinese Samyuktagama
https://ahandfulofleaves.files.wordpres ... n-keat.pdf

Choong draws on Yin Shun's work here, who apparently was the first to point out the Sarvastivada influence on passages such as: SA 79 (no SN counterpart) contains the following
wording:
... because material form (also feeling, perception, consciousness) exists in the past material form exists in the future material form exists in the present
As well as In SA 320, which has no SN counterpart :
Januksini comes to ask a question of the Buddha: 120 Gautama! It is said "All exists". But in what regard is it said
that all exists?
The Buddha then says that what exists is the sense spheres - however this does not mention all 'three times'.

According to Choong, here are the possible sectarian influences on SA:
The following indications of sectarian influence have been identified:
1. An emphasis on emptiness in SA.
2. Implied acceptance of the Bodhisattva ideal (down-grading of the arhant) in SA.
3. Evidence of the "Mind-only" doctrine in SA.
4. Reference to "the purifying view of the noble dharma-mark" found only in SA.
5. Evidence of the theory of the existence of past, future, and present time (Sarvastivada) in SA, as against the PaIi tradition's acceptance of only the existence of present time in SN.
However, as has been pointed out by Analayo, some of these seem to be a stretch and may be related to translation choices.

There is definitely more scholarship to be done here, and bringing in the Tibetan, Gandhari and Sanskrit material would only add to the evidence as to what is a core early Buddhist teaching, though I think we can safely say that theories about the philosophy of time (like 'all exist') is a later view. Also, there are phrases in the Pali which could be interpreted as 'mind only' too (the opening verse of the Dhammapada for example) so I am not sure Choongs example in this book is any different - one would need an actual negation of the external world as in the work of Vasubandhu for that. The emphasis on emptiness doesn't really bring in anything new, since emptiness is an early Buddhist teaching in the Pali material too.

So really, while there are some differences, it is not really a big problem as we have seen. They are either obviously detectable, or minor and do not change the core message or agreement between the two textual collections.

Perhaps the biggest issue would be the downgrading of the arahant, as we know this was a big issue of dispute among early Buddhist schools, but to be honest, discussions about how advanced a certain stage is and so on don't really interest me as long as the core teachings are the same - as they tend to be always related to sectarian infighting and supercessionism and so on.
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Twilight » Thu Feb 02, 2017 3:44 am

5. Evidence of the theory of the existence of past, future, and present time (Sarvastivada) in SA, as against the PaIi tradition's acceptance of only the existence of present time in SN.
I've never saw such a thing in SN. There are numerous suttas about suffering in the past, in the present, in the future. And there is simply nothing implying or suggesting the existence only of the present time or such things at all. Has the guy writing this actually read SN ?
1. An emphasis on emptiness in SA.
Again wrong.

I tend to agree with Analayo that there are no such differences between SN and other parralels. From what I know, everything is pretty much in line especially when it comes to the doctrine. Every school of buddhism put their new ideas in their own abbhidhammas and they all preserved the sutta pitakka with minor differences. The doctrine was especially well preserved and even the agamas preserved the doctrine very well.

Giving what the guy said about SN existence only of the present time the guy has 0% credibility in for me.
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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Coëmgenu
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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Coëmgenu » Thu Feb 02, 2017 5:47 am

Twilight wrote:I tend to agree with Analayo that there are no such differences between SN and other parralels. From what I know, everything is pretty much in line especially when it comes to the doctrine.
But that is a demonstrably false claim. There are doctrinal differences between the āgama and nikāya literature, particularly as pertaining to the Dhamma-theory allegedly espoused by the Buddha. From a historical-materialist perspective, either recension has equal chance of being the "original". Similarly, both recensions have an equal possibility of being doctored to suit the tastes of the time. Both are also equally likely to be "correct" in that they are simply the remembrances of different groups as to what Buddha said.

Furthermore this is not limited to the Sarvāstivāda and Theravāda sects. The Sautrāntika could have been the only "right" sect as well, along with any other similarly dated retentions of Buddhavacana.
Twilight wrote:I've never saw such a thing in SN. There are numerous suttas about suffering in the past, in the present, in the future. And there is simply nothing implying or suggesting the existence only of the present time or such things at all. Has the guy writing this actually read SN ?
But does the past "exist"? We experience the past, we experience dhammā of remembrance of the past, but is remembrance of the past the same thing as the past? Does the past "exist" in any tangible way? It happened, it existed, but does it exist? Arguably not. Just like the username Coëmgenu will cease to exist if the internet stops.

The Sarvāstivāda were the "everything exists school", that is what their name means. As a self-described 'realist' and 'positivist' you may possibly find their discourses quite convincing, given that realism is much more friendly to the Sarvāstivāda philosophical orientation than the Theravāda.
如無為,如是難見、不動、不屈、不死、無漏、覆蔭、洲渚、濟渡、依止、擁護、不流轉、離熾焰、離燒然、流通、清涼、微妙、安隱、無病、無所有、涅槃。
Like this is the uncreated, like this is that which is difficult to realize, with no moving, no bending, no dying. Utterly lacking secretions and smothered in the dark, it is the island shore. Where there is ferrying, it is the crossing. It is dependency's ceasing, it is the end of circulating transmissions. It is the exhaustion of the flame, it is the ending of the burning. Flowing openly, pure and cool, with secret subtlety, and calm occultation, lacking ailment, lacking owning, nirvāṇa.
Asaṁskṛtadharmasūtra, Sermon on the Uncreated Phenomenon, T99.224b7, Saṁyuktāgama 890

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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Dhammanando » Thu Feb 02, 2017 6:36 am

Twilight wrote:
5. Evidence of the theory of the existence of past, future, and present time (Sarvastivada) in SA, as against the PaIi tradition's acceptance of only the existence of present time in SN.
I've never saw such a thing in SN. There are numerous suttas about suffering in the past, in the present, in the future. And there is simply nothing implying or suggesting the existence only of the present time or such things at all. Has the guy writing this actually read SN ?
Ko pana vādo paccuppannassa!

This is a phrase used in many suttas in the SN’s Khandhavagga and Saḷāyatanavagga. The “Ko pana vādo...” part is an idiom used for expressing rhetorical questions regarding something that the speaker deems to be obvious. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation of it is unfortunately a bit flat and doesn’t really express the rhetorical force. For example:
  • Cakkhuṃ, bhikkhave, aniccaṃ atītānāgataṃ; ko pana vādo paccuppannassa!

    “Bhikkhus, the eye is impermanent, both of the past and the future, not to speak of the present.” (Bodhi)
The sense might be better conveyed by:
  • “Bhikkhus, both the eye of the past and the eye of the future are impermanent. Why even bother to speak of the eye of the present?”
When translated so, the implication is that the impermanence of the eye in the present is of a kind more evident than that of the eye of the past and the eye of the future. Why should that be so? The Theravada answer to this question (based on the verses in the MN’s Bhaddekaratta Sutta) is that the eye of the past has ceased to be, or more literally, it’s been “left behind” (yad’atītaṃ taṃ pahīnaṃ), while the eye of the future “is as yet unreached” (appattaṃ anāgataṃ). And so the impermanence of the one is knowable only via memory and that of the other via inference. The eye of the present, by contrast, is neither left behind nor unreached.

Unsurprisingly then, the impermanence of the eye in the three times is to elicit different responses in the disciple:
  • “Seeing thus, bhikkhus, the instructed noble disciple is indifferent towards the eye of the past; he does not seek delight in the eye of the future; and he is practising for revulsion towards the eye of the present, for its fading away and cessation.”
Notice that it is non-action that is advocated regarding the eye of the past and future. It is the eye of the present alone that can be acted upon, for it is this eye alone that exists. Likewise with the other āyatanas and (in the Khandhavagga) the khandhas.
“Keep to your own pastures, bhikkhus, walk in the haunts where your fathers roamed.
If ye thus walk in them, Māra will find no lodgement, Māra will find no foothold.”
— Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta

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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Mkoll » Thu Feb 02, 2017 7:04 am

Thanks for that good exposition Bhante.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Twilight
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Re: Original teachings of the Buddha

Post by Twilight » Thu Feb 02, 2017 3:36 pm

Thank you Banthe. I never knew about that. But this is something extremely minor and very far away from claiming that "SN focus is only on the present time". There are also those repetitive suttas with "the past as impermanent 3 times" or "the past as no self 3 times etc. And many many other. The way that scholar expressed himself regarding SN made it sound like it's something big and with the capacity to alter the doctrine, not something very small such as what happened in reality.

But I do think what you have presented is indeed a minor modification done by theravada. When I've read that sutta, I too did no understand why exactly it says "not to speak of the eye of the present" but did not give any importance to it since it's just a choice of words not modifying the idea with anything. I taught maybe it was said like that because the eye of the present is more difficult to notice that it's changing than the eye of the past and adding that "not to speak of" made it clear that the eye of the present is changing too by logical deduction about the eye of the past and eye of the future. I really don't consider it something important at all.
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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Consciousness and no-self explained in drawings: link
How stream entry is achieved. Mahasi / Zen understanding vs Sutta understanding: link

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