Arguments against the Pali Canon being authentic?

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zan
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Arguments against the Pali Canon being authentic?

Post by zan » Sun Jul 08, 2018 4:06 am

I believe that the Pali Canon absolutely proves itself and no arguments could ever invalidate it in totality, anymore than one could invalidate a manual on how to fly a plane that actually works: once you are flying, the instructions that got you there have been proven beyond a doubt. Likewise for the Pali Canon: no matter what arguments pop up, it is the path to end suffering and so it can not be invalidated because it is comprised of functional texts that actually allow people to accomplish what it teaches! The Buddha seems to have gotten his message to us through the Pali Canon.

That said, out of curiosity:

What are the arguments that suppose that the Pali Canon is not the literal word of The Buddha? Or that there is nothing at all in the Pali Canon that goes back to the Buddha?


I posted another thread that perhaps was too specific and hopefully this one will not be too similar as to be deemed a duplicate! I hope it is not considered a duplicate because in the other I was asking flatly if anyone could explain specific authors views. In this one I am asking a question that is so much more broad that it is a different question entirely. In the previous question only those who had read the works by these specific authors could answer the question. In this question literally anyone who has any information about it can answer.
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DooDoot
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Re: Arguments against the Pali Canon being authentic?

Post by DooDoot » Sun Jul 08, 2018 4:31 am

zan wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 4:06 am
Likewise for the Pali Canon: no matter what arguments pop up, it is the path to end suffering and so it can not be invalidated because it is comprised of functional texts that actually allow people to accomplish what it teaches...
Maybe. But it appears not every sutta & teaching in the Pali Canon is about ending suffering or about something that can be verified. Its seems certain genre of teachings can be verified and other genre of teachings cannot be verified.

zan
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Re: Arguments against the Pali Canon being authentic?

Post by zan » Sun Jul 08, 2018 4:36 am

DooDoot wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 4:31 am
zan wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 4:06 am
Likewise for the Pali Canon: no matter what arguments pop up, it is the path to end suffering and so it can not be invalidated because it is comprised of functional texts that actually allow people to accomplish what it teaches...
Maybe. But it appears not every sutta & teaching in the Pali Canon is about ending suffering or about something that can be verified. Its seems certain genre of teachings can be verified and other genre of teachings cannot be verified.
Interesting, thank you. Please elaborate?
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Kim OHara
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Re: Arguments against the Pali Canon being authentic?

Post by Kim OHara » Sun Jul 08, 2018 4:38 am

Most of the arguments centre on the time-lapse between the Buddha's life and the earliest written version of the suttas.
Opinions vary, of course, but most scholars acknowledge that the canon as we have it was compiled over a period of several centuries, in a language that wasn't quite the same as the Buddha's, and that the earlier parts were closer to the Buddha's spoken words that the later parts.
You will find more detail in the Early Buddhism sub-forum. Wander over and :reading: for a while. :smile:

As for myself, I'm willing to go along with the consensus on the history of the texts but I don't think the details matter too much because I think the core messages are close enough to the original teaching to serve as the basis of practice.

:namaste:
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Re: Arguments against the Pali Canon being authentic?

Post by DNS » Sun Jul 08, 2018 4:43 am

I agree with you about the usefulness of the teachings as the way out of suffering and that the Pali Canon is authentic, especially the first 4 Nikayas and most of the KN. Some of the arguments I've heard from non-Buddhists for challenging the authenticity include:

1. Mount Meru, also called Mahāmeru, Sineru, Neru and Kelāsa, is a mountain considered to be the center of the universe; but we know from astronomy that it is a temporary land formation on one planet (earth) of a vast universe with many other planets.
2. Stories of previous buddhas being several km in height, living to thousands of years.
3. Previous buddhas always being from India and being higher castes (as if all previous time periods had the same culture and caste systems of India).

I argue that those are not are not essential teachings and of little to no importance to the basic teachings (suffering and the way to end suffering); to which they respond I'm being a Buddhist-apologist.

zan
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Re: Arguments against the Pali Canon being authentic?

Post by zan » Sun Jul 08, 2018 4:47 am

DNS wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 4:43 am
I agree with you about the usefulness of the teachings as the way out of suffering and that the Pali Canon is authentic, especially the first 4 Nikayas and most of the KN. Some of the arguments I've heard from non-Buddhists for challenging the authenticity include:

1. Mount Meru, also called Mahāmeru, Sineru, Neru and Kelāsa, is a mountain considered to be the center of the universe; but we know from astronomy that it is a temporary land formation on one planet (earth) of a vast universe with many other planets.
2. Stories of previous buddhas being several km in height, living to thousands of years.
3. Previous buddhas always being from India and being higher castes (as if all previous time periods had the same culture and caste systems of India).

I argue that those are not are not essential teachings and of little to no importance to the basic teachings (suffering and the way to end suffering); to which they respond I'm being a Buddhist-apologist.
Thank you. These are the types of things I was curious about.

I agree that these are superficial points. Like claiming a flying manual invalid because it has geographical errors despite the fact that it's instructions on how to actually fly the plane (it's purpose) were correct. Just because a flying manual lists the size of a region incorrectly or contains maps that have non existent topography does not mean that it cannot teach one to get the plane off the ground, fly it, and land it (the only things required to literally fly a plane).

Regardless, I am interested to learn more about these arguments. I have heard snippets over the years but never really paid attention and now I am curious as to what has been proposed.
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.

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Re: Arguments against the Pali Canon being authentic?

Post by SarathW » Sun Jul 08, 2018 5:43 am

What are the arguments that suppose that the Pali Canon is not the literal word of The Buddha?
It was compiled by monks for memorization.
There are a lot of stock phrases and it is impossible that Buddha repeats himself those so many times in exactly the same way.
Some suttas are compiled in a way each sutta is a complete work in itself.
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Re: Arguments against the Pali Canon being authentic?

Post by salayatananirodha » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:25 am

DNS wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 4:43 am
Some of the arguments I've heard from non-Buddhists for challenging the authenticity include:

1. Mount Meru, also called Mahāmeru, Sineru, Neru and Kelāsa, is a mountain considered to be the center of the universe; but we know from astronomy that it is a temporary land formation on one planet (earth) of a vast universe with many other planets.
2. Stories of previous buddhas being several km in height, living to thousands of years.
3. Previous buddhas always being from India and being higher castes (as if all previous time periods had the same culture and caste systems of India).

I argue that those are not are not essential teachings and of little to no importance to the basic teachings (suffering and the way to end suffering); to which they respond I'm being a Buddhist-apologist.
Sir, these aren't really arguments. Person A (a scientist) says such and such is in such and such a way, based on contact. This isn't 'knowing' the universe to exist or to have such contents. I'm not sure the heights are canonical, but the lifespans are. They get this way from living virtuously. We see reports of increasing and decreasing lifespans in a period of a few thousand years. This indicates a flux, it is our pride if we proclaim an understanding of human evolution, based on such little evidence, over the course of many millions of years, a scientist is as good as blind guessing.
If we accept kamma and rebirth as the buddha taught, we know good kamma yields good rebirths. To be among the highest and most influential classes is to be expected for a bodhisatta descended from tavatimsa. What would be the skeptics' or your objection to all buddhas [in this world system] arising in india(s)?

I don't think it is buddhist apologism to dismiss sutta teachings. I'm not saying you threw them out outright, but say the buddha did teach cosmology, evolution and so on, as an aspect of his teachings on dukkha and cessation of dukkha. Would it be then correct to insist the buddha shared extraneous information? We have the lord buddha quoted as knowing much more than he revealed because those facts did not lead to the end of dukkha. He spoke only beneficial speech, not non-beneficial speech. He also instructed mindfulness of death to be best practiced by the hope that one may live as long as it takes either to swallow a morsel of food or to exhale, hearing dhamma. This shows us that, at least as far as what is taught in the suttas, the buddha purported his own word to be flawless, important, not trivial, factual, and pertaining to, again, dukkha and cessation of dukkha. I think you must assess your approach to the ranking of teachings, but you're not wrong for trying to bridge divides.
16. 'In what has the world originated?' — so said the Yakkha Hemavata, — 'with what is the world intimate? by what is the world afflicted, after having grasped at what?' (167)

17. 'In six the world has originated, O Hemavata,' — so said Bhagavat, — 'with six it is intimate, by six the world is afflicted, after having grasped at six.' (168)

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LuisR
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Re: Arguments against the Pali Canon being authentic?

Post by LuisR » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:28 am

Weren't there some early Mahayan texts found in Afghanistan that are older than the Pali Cannon?

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salayatananirodha
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Re: Arguments against the Pali Canon being authentic?

Post by salayatananirodha » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:28 am

SarathW wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 5:43 am
What are the arguments that suppose that the Pali Canon is not the literal word of The Buddha?
It was compiled by monks for memorization.
There are a lot of stock phrases and it is impossible that Buddha repeats himself those so many times in exactly the same way.
Some suttas are compiled in a way each sutta is a complete work in itself.
It may not be so pleasant to read the same phrases again and again, but in person this would have been incredibly effective. Repetition is a great way to memorize; the buddha taught us to memorize his words, because they were so important.
16. 'In what has the world originated?' — so said the Yakkha Hemavata, — 'with what is the world intimate? by what is the world afflicted, after having grasped at what?' (167)

17. 'In six the world has originated, O Hemavata,' — so said Bhagavat, — 'with six it is intimate, by six the world is afflicted, after having grasped at six.' (168)

- Hemavatasutta


links:
https://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/index.htm
http://thaiforestwisdom.org/canonical-texts/
http://seeingthroughthenet.net/
https://www.dhammatalks.org/index.html

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Sam Vara
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Re: Arguments against the Pali Canon being authentic?

Post by Sam Vara » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:34 am

salayatananirodha wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:28 am
SarathW wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 5:43 am
What are the arguments that suppose that the Pali Canon is not the literal word of The Buddha?
It was compiled by monks for memorization.
There are a lot of stock phrases and it is impossible that Buddha repeats himself those so many times in exactly the same way.
Some suttas are compiled in a way each sutta is a complete work in itself.
It may not be so pleasant to read the same phrases again and again, but in person this would have been incredibly effective. Repetition is a great way to memorize; the buddha taught us to memorize his words, because they were so important.
True enough, but I think that the force of SarathW's point is that so much repetition, although helpful, is unlikely to be the result of one person (the Buddha) saying it in that repetitive way. It is more likely to assume that those who recorded the Pali canon were influenced by what they had earlier heard, and altered and redacted it in line with what they already knew. The suttas are literary compositions, rather than verbatim transcripts.

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JamesTheGiant
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Re: Arguments against the Pali Canon being authentic?

Post by JamesTheGiant » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:35 am

One example is this: The beginnings and endings of each sutta have been changed and edited over time. You know the endings of a lot of suttas, where it says :
Indeed, it is because Master Gotama is an Accomplished One, a Fully Enlightened One, that he has compassion for future generations. Magnificent, Master Gotama! Magnificent, Master Gotama! Master Gotama has made the Dhamma clear in many ways, as though he were turning upright what had been overthrown, revealing what was hidden, showing the way to one who was lost, or holding up a lamp in the dark for those with eyesight to see forms. I go to Master Gotama for refuge and to the Dhamma and to the Sangha of bhikkhus. From today let Master Gotama remember me as a lay follower who has gone to him for refuge for life.”
That's all a later edited standardisation. The later councils went through all the suttas and changed all of the them to be the same ending, with minor differences for context.
A few years ago Bhante Sujato put all the suttas into a computer, and found that hundreds of the endings were identical, word-for-word, so when he was translating them he was able to write a computer program to automatically put in the correct translation so he didn't have to do it. it saved him a lot of time.
There are more examples, I'll see if I can remember them.

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Re: Arguments against the Pali Canon being authentic?

Post by Sam Vara » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:44 am

JamesTheGiant wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:35 am

That's all a later edited standardisation. The later councils went through all the suttas and changed all of the them to be the same ending, with minor differences for context.
A few years ago Bhante Sujato put all the suttas into a computer, and found that hundreds of the endings were identical, word-for-word, so when he was translating them he was able to write a computer program to automatically put in the correct translation so he didn't have to do it. it saved him a lot of time.
There are more examples, I'll see if I can remember them.
Yes, we are making the same point, I think. The canon is full of standardised pericopes and "boilerplate Pali". Other good examples are the lists of qualities of Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha; the descriptions of Jhanas; and Metta-bhavana. They are word-for-word identical. This could be of course due to the Buddha being robotically insistent in his actual speech. But it's much more likely to be a reflection of the process by which the canon was put together. It is a human artifact, and in many ways is all the more endearing for being so.

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Re: Arguments against the Pali Canon being authentic?

Post by SarathW » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:57 am

It is important to remember the cannon was memorized not by one person.
I think many monks or lineages were specialised in memorizing certain Nikayas.
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Re: Arguments against the Pali Canon being authentic?

Post by TRobinson465 » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:58 am

DNS wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 4:43 am

1. Mount Meru, also called Mahāmeru, Sineru, Neru and Kelāsa, is a mountain considered to be the center of the universe; but we know from astronomy that it is a temporary land formation on one planet (earth) of a vast universe with many other planets.
There's a land formation on earth called Mount Meru?
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