What are the scholarly views on agnosticism about the Pali Canon?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
Post Reply
zan
Posts: 540
Joined: Sun Aug 28, 2016 1:57 pm

What are the scholarly views on agnosticism about the Pali Canon?

Post by zan » Fri Jul 06, 2018 6:23 am

I have always been under the assumption that the teachings in the Pali Canon go back to the historical Buddha and since we are on a Theravada site I think it is only fair to say that, even if these are well researched arguments, the proof is in the pudding: The teachings in the Pali Canon have the effects that they are supposed to and so there is really no reason to doubt them; they lead to the cessation of suffering! So whatever arguments some scholars may come up with, the Pali Canon stands and always will stand as what it is supposed to be: the path to end suffering.

Regardless, though, it irks me to see seriously critical views with zero explanation and so here I am.

I see stuff like this on Wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C4%81li ... Authorship: "Some scholars see the Pali Canon as expanding and changing from an unknown nucleus.[34] Arguments given for an agnostic attitude include that the evidence for the Buddha's teachings dates from (long) after his death.

Some scholars of later Indian Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism say that little or nothing goes back to the Buddha. Ronald Davidson[35] has little confidence that much, if any, of surviving Buddhist scripture is actually the word of the historical Buddha.[33] Geoffrey Samuel[36] says the Pali Canon largely derives from the work of Buddhaghosa and his colleagues in the 5th century AD.[37] Gregory Schopen argues[38] that it is not until the 5th to 6th centuries CE that we can know anything definite about the contents of the Canon. This position was criticized by A. Wynne"


However, as these are written, they have almost no meaning since there is almost nothing at all to explain them. How is that helpful? Was it just their opinion based on gut feeling? Was it well thought out with solid research? Do you really have to buy all of these books and read each one just to get the answer?

What are the arguments to support these views?

If someone wanted to write a critical wiki page section, why not fill it out? Are the arguments non-existent and what is in the wiki is literally all there is to them? Just some authors in books on Buddhism said these things without offering any reasons, research, references, or evidence as to why they said them?

I am fine with these being totally hollow opinions with nothing to support them whatsoever but it just seems like really sloppy literary form and I was curious as to whether or not anyone knew one way or the other?
Never read anything I write as an accurate statement about anything whatsoever. Look to wiser ones than I. Look to wise texts. Look elsewhere. See my writings like word games, nothing more.

User avatar
JamesTheGiant
Posts: 557
Joined: Fri Jan 02, 2015 8:41 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: What are the scholarly views on agnosticism about the Pali Canon?

Post by JamesTheGiant » Fri Jul 06, 2018 8:08 am

Wiki means "quick". . Wiki is Hawaiian for “fast; quick.”. It is not sloppy literary form, a wiki is a summary, not depth. It is meant to be fairly shallow.

Those researchers and academics have deep arguments and have spent years, decades, investigating this stuff. A wiki can't even begin to explain.
And yeah, if you really want to know you really have to buy some of these books and read them. Or rely and trust someone else to summarize it in an article or something.

But don't worry, the core teachings of the Buddha are agreed upon... it's just much of the other surrounding stuff that was added later,, etc.

zan
Posts: 540
Joined: Sun Aug 28, 2016 1:57 pm

Re: What are the scholarly views on agnosticism about the Pali Canon?

Post by zan » Sun Jul 08, 2018 3:28 am

Huh! I never knew that! Thanks.
Never read anything I write as an accurate statement about anything whatsoever. Look to wiser ones than I. Look to wise texts. Look elsewhere. See my writings like word games, nothing more.

chownah
Posts: 7596
Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:19 pm

Re: What are the scholarly views on agnosticism about the Pali Canon?

Post by chownah » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:04 am

JamesTheGiant wrote:
Fri Jul 06, 2018 8:08 am
Wiki means "quick". . Wiki is Hawaiian for “fast; quick.”. It is not sloppy literary form, a wiki is a summary, not depth. It is meant to be fairly shallow.
I think you are mistaken. Wiki might mean quick in hawaiian but in the english language wiki has come to mean (a definition from the internet): a website that allows collaborative editing of its content and structure by its users.

Nothing in it means quick or shallow.
chownah

zan
Posts: 540
Joined: Sun Aug 28, 2016 1:57 pm

Re: What are the scholarly views on agnosticism about the Pali Canon?

Post by zan » Sun Jul 08, 2018 5:20 pm

chownah wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:04 am
JamesTheGiant wrote:
Fri Jul 06, 2018 8:08 am
Wiki means "quick". . Wiki is Hawaiian for “fast; quick.”. It is not sloppy literary form, a wiki is a summary, not depth. It is meant to be fairly shallow.
I think you are mistaken. Wiki might mean quick in hawaiian but in the english language wiki has come to mean (a definition from the internet): a website that allows collaborative editing of its content and structure by its users.

Nothing in it means quick or shallow.
chownah
This has always been my understanding. Many wikis have very detailed information. Some even have detailed info and then the sources even have their own detail and quotes or links to the detail and quotes.

How can we decide which of you is correct? There must be a standard definition?
Never read anything I write as an accurate statement about anything whatsoever. Look to wiser ones than I. Look to wise texts. Look elsewhere. See my writings like word games, nothing more.

User avatar
cappuccino
Posts: 1655
Joined: Thu Feb 11, 2016 1:45 am

Re: What are the scholarly views on agnosticism about the Pali Canon?

Post by cappuccino » Sun Jul 08, 2018 5:50 pm

lack of faith is from lack of study


progress depends on faith

TRobinson465
Posts: 525
Joined: Thu May 12, 2016 5:29 pm
Location: United States

Re: What are the scholarly views on agnosticism about the Pali Canon?

Post by TRobinson465 » Mon Jul 16, 2018 2:54 am

zan wrote:
Fri Jul 06, 2018 6:23 am


If someone wanted to write a critical wiki page section, why not fill it out? Are the arguments non-existent and what is in the wiki is literally all there is to them? Just some authors in books on Buddhism said these things without offering any reasons, research, references, or evidence as to why they said them?

I am fine with these being totally hollow opinions with nothing to support them whatsoever but it just seems like really sloppy literary form and I was curious as to whether or not anyone knew one way or the other?
if you want more info you can try tracking down the references used in that wiki section and reading the original sources.
"Do not have blind faith, but also no blind criticism" - the 14th Dalai Lama

"At Varanasi, in the Deer Park at Isipatana, the Blessed One has set in motion the unexcelled Wheel of Dhamma that cannot be stopped by brahmins, devas, Maras, Brahmas or anyone in the cosmos." -Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

"Go forth, monks, for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the welfare, the good and the happiness of gods and men. Let no two of you go in the same direction." - First Khandhaka, Chapter 11, Vinaya.

Laurens
Posts: 494
Joined: Sun Nov 22, 2009 5:56 pm
Location: Norfolk, England

Re: What are the scholarly views on agnosticism about the Pali Canon?

Post by Laurens » Thu Jul 19, 2018 5:26 am

Saying scholars can only trace something back to a certain point doesn't mean it ends there, it means we run out of evidence for it's prior existence. One day they might find a cave with a sutta quote inside that dates to the time just after the Buddha. It doesn't prove anything, it just allows for people to dismiss the idea that the canon goes back to the Buddha if they want to, due to paucity of evidence beyond a certain point in history.

It doesn't make it implausible that the teachings go back beyond that date, to the Buddha himself. You can believe that and not be accepting something contradicting the evidence. Most New Testament scholars believe the gospels contain reliable information about Christ despite most of them agreeing that they weren't written down until several decades (at least) after his death.

For me, I don't think it matters. Firstly I focus on practise a lot more than study, and secondly if the teachings in the suttas were actually attributed to someone other than the Buddha, they still work towards their prescribed aim.
"If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: easydoesit, mikenz66 and 84 guests