Why Believe Commentaries? [From Transfer/Sharing merit limits]

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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salayatananirodha
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Why Believe Commentaries? [From Transfer/Sharing merit limits]

Post by salayatananirodha » Thu Aug 16, 2018 6:26 pm

why believe either a commentary or a late text? :shrug:
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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mikenz66
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Re: Why Believe Commentaries? [From Transfer/Sharing merit limits]

Post by mikenz66 » Thu Aug 16, 2018 6:52 pm

Split from Classical Theravada topic: viewtopic.php?f=19&t=32595

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Mike

santa100
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Re: Why Believe Commentaries? [From Transfer/Sharing merit limits]

Post by santa100 » Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:02 am

Similar topic from another thread

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pilgrim
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Re: Why Believe Commentaries? [From Transfer/Sharing merit limits]

Post by pilgrim » Fri Aug 17, 2018 1:06 am

Why not? Some texts are ambiguous and the Commentaries gives you a perspective of the early Buddhists. For eg what would one do with this verse without Buddhaghosa explaining what they mean.

Dhammapada Verse 295: Having killed mother, father, the two brahmin kings and having destroyed the hindrances of which the fifth is like a tiger-infested journey, the brahmana goes free from dukkha.

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mikenz66
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Re: Why Believe Commentaries? [From Transfer/Sharing merit limits]

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Aug 17, 2018 1:56 am

salayatananirodha wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 6:26 pm
why believe either a commentary or a late text? :shrug:
The context of this was about a discussion of the conclusions based on the Theravada Commentaries.

However, it might be just as relevant to ask which of the modern interpretations to pay attention to. There are various 20th/21st C commentators who appeal to various members here, such as Vens Nanavira, Nananada, Buddhadasa, Thanissaro, Waharaka Abhayaratanalankara, and others, who have their own (distinct) innovative interpretations of some aspects of the Dhamma.

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salayatananirodha
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Re: Why Believe Commentaries? [From Transfer/Sharing merit limits]

Post by salayatananirodha » Fri Aug 17, 2018 3:14 am

pilgrim wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 1:06 am
Why not?
Because some of them are wrong, and some of them are claimed to be buddha word or arahant disciple word and may not be. I would just like to understand this tendency to hold up the commentaries as authoritative, seemingly without scrutiny.
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

paul
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Re: Why Believe Commentaries? [From Transfer/Sharing merit limits]

Post by paul » Fri Aug 17, 2018 4:18 am

Trying to equate a commentary with the suttas is the wrong outlook.
In Theravada it’s not a matter of blind belief but of confirming dhamma through direct experience, so if the intermediate/advanced practitioner sees in the Visuddhimagga for example, information relevant to their practice as it is developing, they obviously use it for support. (Beginners who are busy absorbing the basics from the suttas will not see the relevance of the Vism.) From their own experience they recognize the next stage of their progress in the writings, which are the distilled experience of many meditators over a long period of finding out what happens when the suttas are actually put into practice. That doesn’t mean they accept the commentary indiscriminately, but use its suggestions to pursue lines of investigation to build on their practice; I think that is the spirit in which it was written. The Visuddhimagga is a meditation manual, not a body of principles as the suttas are, and is an addition to them. The Burmese, Thai Forest and Sri Lankan traditions that contribute to modern western Theravada incorporate material from the Vism. Even with the suttas, the ultimate authority is the practitioner's own experience.

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Dhammanando
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Re: Why Believe Commentaries? [From Transfer/Sharing merit limits]

Post by Dhammanando » Fri Aug 17, 2018 5:32 am

salayatananirodha wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 6:26 pm
why believe either a commentary or a late text? :shrug:
Whether one believes them or disbelieves them, loves them or hates them, consulting later texts is very often the only possible way of ascertaining what important terms in the earlier texts mean.

An hour ago, for example, I replied to a post enquiring about the meaning of palāsa. In my reply I cited the definition given in the Sammohavinodanī, Buddhaghosa's commentary to the Vibhaṅga. Had I attempted to answer the question relying solely on the Suttas, I could only have told the poster three things:

(1) Palāsa is a defilement.
(2) Palāsa is a cause for decline in sekha disciples.
(3) Palāsa is something that makes a bhikkhu not dear to his fellow bhikkhus.

That's all! The Suttas never define the term, nor do they ever present it in any context from which its meaning might be plausibly inferred. Presumably the Buddha was addressing audiences to whom the word palāsa was so well-known as to need no defining. We ourselves, sad to say, are not in that position.

Had I resorted to the Abhidhamma Piṭaka, then I could have told the poster a little bit more, but not very much. For example, I could have told him that palāsa is an anger-related state and is twinned with another defilement called makkha, whose precise meaning is also impossible to determine from the Suttas. I could have told him that its synonyms are paḷāsāyanā, paḷāsāhāra, vivādaṭṭhānaṃ, yugaggāha and appaṭinissagga ("being domineering", "state of being domineering", "causing dispute", "competing" and "not giving in") — none of which are defined in the Suttas and for which I can only give translations based on how the commentaries define them.

In short, had I been committed to relying on the Suttas alone I should scarcely have been able to shed any light on the word's meaning at all.

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salayatananirodha
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Re: Why Believe Commentaries? [From Transfer/Sharing merit limits]

Post by salayatananirodha » Fri Aug 17, 2018 5:41 am

Why do we need a meditation manual? The visuddhimagga is the prime example I had in mind of commentary contradicting suttas.
The respectable robertk on this forum has called this text ancient but it's still after the five-hundred year period of uncorrupted dhamma.
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
New people ought to be learning the suttas and not having commentary defining and interpreting for them; commentary should be for more advanced learners.
The milindapañha that venerable dhammanando shared from, which has questionable authenticity, for me doesn't match the janussonin sutta
Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 00.09.21.png
Tho, it's not as big of a deal as the excessive reliance on and skewed prioritization of commentary and this thread would be good for deliberating on that instead.
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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Dhammanando
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Re: Why Believe Commentaries? [From Transfer/Sharing merit limits]

Post by Dhammanando » Fri Aug 17, 2018 7:20 am

salayatananirodha wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 5:41 am
New people ought to be learning the suttas and not having commentary defining and interpreting for them;
Simply by virtue of the fact that they will be reading translations of suttas, new people will ineluctably have some sort of commentator defining and interpreting for them,

How do the translators know what Pali words mean? They look them up in dictionaries.
How do the compilers of Pali dictionaries know what they mean? See my last post.

And when it happens that some translator decides that the commentators were in error on such and such point and proceeds to translate according to his personal understanding, it doesn't mean that his readers will thereby have evaded having a commentator define and interpret for them. It's just means that it will now be the modern translator rather than the ancient commentator who is doing the defining and interpreting.

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Re: Why Believe Commentaries? [From Transfer/Sharing merit limits]

Post by Bundokji » Fri Aug 17, 2018 10:15 am

I am not sure if the following is relevant. Just my worthless general observations.

Later additions to the original teachings is common to all religions, not only Buddhism. In Islam for instance, the original book is the Quran, and the later additions is the Hadith which is regarded highly by Sunni Muslims. Another common feature is that those who dedicate their lives to studying the religion or philosophy (serious practitioners) are more likely to become conservatives and less opinionated. When you ask them a question, they simply refer to relevant texts. They become a living embodiment of the notion "thus have i heard".

This scholarly and religious mindset is eloquently expressed by a famous Muslim scholar (Al-Shafi‘i) in the following short poem:

كلُّ العُلُومِ سِوى القُرْآنِ مَشْغَلَة ٌ إلاَّ الحَديث وَعِلْمِ الفِقْهِ في الدِّينِ
العلمُ ما قد كانَ فيه: حدثنا وَمَا سِوى ذَاكَ وَسْوَاسُ الشَّيَاطِينِ

Translation (with a Buddhist twist)

There is not real knowledge without "Thus have i heard". Anything besides that is the delusions of Mara.

Yesterday i came across an interesting thread on dhammawheel. The thread began as exploring the teachings of a monk from Sri lanka, and developed into a discussion about the meaning of pali terms. The thread is more than 20 pages in length and still ongoing. When i went through it, i had mixed reactions. On the one hand, i could not help but being impressed by the knowledge of different discussants, and on the other hand, i wondered if the Buddha's teachings are really that complicated or if we understand the meaning of certain words our suffering will magically come to an end.

So, to me, the issue is not why to believe in the commentaries, or whether they are authentic or not. It is the lengths that some would go to in their search for the truth.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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Crazy cloud
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Re: Why Believe Commentaries? [From Transfer/Sharing merit limits]

Post by Crazy cloud » Fri Aug 17, 2018 1:27 pm

Meditate more, and find the answer to this question too ..

Ehipassiko!
If you didn't care
What happened to me
And I didn't care for you

We would zig-zag our way
Through the boredom and pain
Occasionally glancing up through the rain

Wondering which of the
Buggers to blame
And watching for pigs on the wing
- Roger Waters

cookiemonster
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Re: Why Believe Commentaries? [From Transfer/Sharing merit limits]

Post by cookiemonster » Fri Aug 17, 2018 2:06 pm

salayatananirodha wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 6:26 pm
why believe either a commentary or a late text? :shrug:
Everything is commentary - in a way.

The teachings, books, or articles we hear or read today - from monks or otherwise - are commentaries. The suttas we read in English are commentaries (the translator(s) opinion on what the Pali, Chinese, Tibetan, etc. suttas mean). The Pali suttas we might read are also commentaries (the opinion of the compilers on what is and isn't Buddhavacana). Even the Buddha's words - the words the Buddha truly said, whatever they might be - are also commentary: they would be his commentary on the laws governing Samsara and Nibbana.

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salayatananirodha
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Re: Why Believe Commentaries? [From Transfer/Sharing merit limits]

Post by salayatananirodha » Fri Aug 17, 2018 5:47 pm

I would agree some translators interfere with a text by dramatically changing the meaning due to their opinion of what it should say rather than what it says. I hope I'm not condemning commentary as a whole for anyone. I'm only calling for a more critical look at them.
And definitely test the suttas or any text for its authenticity based on its resulting dispassion, lack of clinging and so on. Maybe I can take time later to contribute more than an off hand comment
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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mikenz66
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Re: Why Believe Commentaries? [From Transfer/Sharing merit limits]

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Aug 17, 2018 9:34 pm

salayatananirodha wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 5:47 pm
I would agree some translators interfere with a text by dramatically changing the meaning due to their opinion of what it should say rather than what it says. I hope I'm not condemning commentary as a whole for anyone. I'm only calling for a more critical look at them.
And, hopefully, at least as critical a look at modern commentaries and translations... Especially those who claim that the Dhamma got hopelessly confused soon after the passing of the Buddha, and they have the only true interpretation of the suttas...

Otherwise, we continue to see people quoting misinformation as fact: https://discourse.suttacentral.net/t/su ... msi/9949/3 or statements to the effect that: "I've never read the Abhidhamma or the commentaries, but I know that it's wrong".

Thankfully, there are a many modern commentators and teachers who don't have such a closed-minded attitude, such as Ven Sujato (see his comments in the above link), Ven Analayo, and so on...

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Mike

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