Different editions of the Pali Canon?

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sgns
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Different editions of the Pali Canon?

Post by sgns » Mon Oct 16, 2017 4:09 pm

I came across the digitized Sri Lanka Tripitaka Project version of the Pali Canon on Access to Insight the other day, and found this note intriguing:

"the translations that appear on Access to Insight are not derived from this SLTP edition, but from other Tipitaka editions — most notably the PTS, Thai, and Burmese editions. There are significant differences between the various editions. "

I am understanding right that this is not a matter of translated versions but there are actually multiple Pali versions of the Canon? And what are the "significant differences"?

Alternatively, if this is a matter of translations... are English suttas translated from Pali, Burmese, Thai, and Sinhalese? And what differences might we find as a result?

Digitized SLTP (and note) found at https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... index.html

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Kim OHara
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Re: Different editions of the Pali Canon?

Post by Kim OHara » Mon Oct 16, 2017 10:34 pm

The short answer is easy: the differences are only 'significant' to scholars and you can trust PTS, ATI and Sutta Central https://suttacentral.net.
The longer answer gets complicated fairly quickly: the Buddha's teachings spread north where they were preserved in Sanskrit, and South to Sri Lanka where they were preserved in Pali. The Sanskrit versions went to China and were translated into Chinese, and the Pali went to Burma, Thailand, etc where they were still preserved in Pali. At each step, individual suttas were lost or misplaced (e.g. combined with another), but comparisons between the different versions show that not much was lost or mangled.
Translations into English don't start until the late nineteenth century so we know a fair bit about them.
Poke around Sutta Central if you want to know more.

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mikenz66
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Re: Different editions of the Pali Canon?

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Oct 16, 2017 11:51 pm

As Kim says, the differences between the Pali editions are relatively small. Translators such as Bhikkhu Bodhi sometimes have comments in their footnotes where they have compared the editions to clarify obscure passages that appear to have been corrupted.

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sgns
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Re: Different editions of the Pali Canon?

Post by sgns » Wed Oct 18, 2017 7:26 pm

Got it. Thank you!

Shukke
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Re: Different editions of the Pali Canon?

Post by Shukke » Sun Dec 02, 2018 12:28 pm

he longer answer gets complicated fairly quickly: the Buddha's teachings spread north where they were preserved in Sanskrit, and South to Sri Lanka where they were preserved in Pali. The Sanskrit versions went to China and were translated into Chinese, and the Pali went to Burma, Thailand, etc where they were still preserved in Pali.
This is an old post but I wonder if Kim or anyone else can point to a book or online resource detailing that? This is a wonderfully succinct generalised description of a long and complicated process.
I'm looking here for a resource that would make for a solid reference for an academic paper.
Thank you.

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Kim OHara
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Re: Different editions of the Pali Canon?

Post by Kim OHara » Mon Dec 03, 2018 8:34 am

Shukke wrote:
Sun Dec 02, 2018 12:28 pm
he longer answer gets complicated fairly quickly: the Buddha's teachings spread north where they were preserved in Sanskrit, and South to Sri Lanka where they were preserved in Pali. The Sanskrit versions went to China and were translated into Chinese, and the Pali went to Burma, Thailand, etc where they were still preserved in Pali.
This is an old post but I wonder if Kim or anyone else can point to a book or online resource detailing that? This is a wonderfully succinct generalised description of a long and complicated process.
I'm looking here for a resource that would make for a solid reference for an academic paper.
Thank you.
Gee, thanks. :embarassed:

But I can't help with academic references, sorry, except to say that if I were looking for one myself, the first place I would look is Sutta Central.

:namaste:
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Volovsky
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Re: Different editions of the Pali Canon?

Post by Volovsky » Mon Dec 03, 2018 8:56 am

Shukke wrote:
Sun Dec 02, 2018 12:28 pm
This is an old post but I wonder if Kim or anyone else can point to a book or online resource detailing that? This is a wonderfully succinct generalised description of a long and complicated process.
I'm looking here for a resource that would make for a solid reference for an academic paper.
Thank you.
If you open PTS or Burmese 6th Council editions of tipitaka, there are a lot of notes with alternative readings. But the differences are usually so minor and insignificant that I doubt anyone would make a list of them and publish as a separate research. In somewhat more significant cases it's also usually quite clear, which edition is probably corrupted, and which is more plausible. But even these cases usually have no doctrinal importance.

This is concerning differences in Pali editions. For Pali vs Chinese, there are a lot of publications, e.g. Analayo, Comparative study of Majjhima Nikaya, etc.

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AgarikaJ
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Re: Different editions of the Pali Canon?

Post by AgarikaJ » Tue Dec 04, 2018 2:42 pm

The Tipitaka that we use nowadays, to my understanding, is based on the scripture preserved in Sri Lanka, having been given to the Burmese and Thai and later coming back to Sri Lanka.

But this does not mean that it is unchanged, or better said, we cannot be sure that this version is the less changed one to other traditions which might have existed and simply did not survive.

In this regard, I found an interesting passage here, about the history of the Theravda Buddhist tradition in Maynmar:
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/aut ... 9.html#ch1
The Pyu culture of this period is well documented because of archaeological finds at Muanggan, a small village close to the ancient ruins of Hmawza. There two perfectly preserved inscribed gold plates were found. These inscriptions reveal three texts: the verses spoken by Assaji to Sariputta (ye dhamma hetuppabhava...), a list of categories of the Abhidhamma (cattaro iddhipada, cattaro samappadhana...), and the formula of worship of Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha (iti pi so bhagava...). At the same site, a book with twenty leaves of gold protected with golden covers, was discovered. It contained texts such as the paticca-samuppada (dependent origination), the vipassana-nanas (stages of insight knowledge), and various other excerpts from the Abhidhamma and the other two baskets of the Buddhist scriptures. The scripts in all these documents are identical to scripts used in parts of southern India, and can be dated from the third to the sixth century AD. In addition to these golden plates, a number of sculptures and reliefs were found in Hmawza.
...
The script used by the Pyu is indicative of major links with Buddhist kingdoms in South India rather than with Sri Lanka.
...
The inscriptions show how highly developed scholarship of the Pali Buddhist texts must have been in Lower Myanmar even in these early days. Learning had gone well beyond the basics into the world of Abhidhamma studies. Pali was obviously well known as a language of learning, but unfortunately no original texts composed in Sri Ksetra or Thaton have come down to us.
Interestingly, some of the texts inscribed on these gold plates are not identical to the same canonical texts as they are known today.
Therefore, the Tipitaka known to the Pyu must have been replaced by a version preserved in a country that had no close contact with the Pyu. This could well have been Sri Lanka, as this country came to play an important role in the history of Buddhism in Myanmar through the friendship between the conqueror of Lower Myanmar, Anawratha, and the king who drove the Hindus from Sri Lanka, Vijayabahu.
So in that sense, different editions of the Pali canon might have existed and we have little guarantee, that "our" version is the most unchanged one. Reading up on research in the extant Chinese- and Tibetan-translated parallels, there are instances of changes, that might have happened at very early times or it is unclear which of the several comparable texts is the amended one (with cases where possibly all differ from a supposed 'original').

The same research in parallels also shows, to take my point back slightly, that the largest amount of the Canon seems identical in meaning.
The teaching is a lake with shores of ethics, unclouded, praised by the fine to the good.
There the knowledgeable go to bathe, and cross to the far shore without getting wet.
[SN 7.21]

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Volovsky
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Re: Different editions of the Pali Canon?

Post by Volovsky » Tue Dec 04, 2018 3:07 pm

Interestingly, some of the texts inscribed on these gold plates are not identical to the same canonical texts as they are known today.
This doesn't mean anything. Burmese, Thai and Lankan editions are also "not identical", but the differences are minor. We need to know what are the differences between the texts they found in Myanmar and current editions before drawing any conclusion.
Reading up on research in the extant Chinese- and Tibetan-translated parallels, there are instances of changes, that might have happened at very early times or it is unclear which of the several comparable texts is the amended one (with cases where possibly all differ from a supposed 'original').
The Pali is still the most reliable edition. Chinese and Tibetan texts are translations, and therefore are already corrupted. I treat them more like commentaries of the corresponding school. Although they might be useful occasionally, they are not on the same level of authenticity as Pali. Sanskrit is more reliable, but there are not many early suttas preserved in it.

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pilgrim
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Re: Different editions of the Pali Canon?

Post by pilgrim » Thu Dec 06, 2018 1:41 am

A significant difference among the editions of the Tipitaka is that the Burmese edition has canonised 3 additional books in the Khuddaka Nikaya - the Milindapanha, Nettippakarana and Petakopadesa.

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AgarikaJ
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Re: Different editions of the Pali Canon?

Post by AgarikaJ » Thu Dec 06, 2018 4:12 pm

Volovsky wrote:
Tue Dec 04, 2018 3:07 pm
Interestingly, some of the texts inscribed on these gold plates are not identical to the same canonical texts as they are known today.
This doesn't mean anything. Burmese, Thai and Lankan editions are also "not identical", but the differences are minor. We need to know what are the differences between the texts they found in Myanmar and current editions before drawing any conclusion.
With regard to different Pali canons, it might be of note, that Schilling in this article in JIABS also suggests a non-surviving Theravadin school in Burma and Thailand with connections to Southern India, which was well-developed and mature in its traditions at the time it finally was replaced by the Sri Lankan Mahavihara tradition (after they usurped another independent Sri Lankan Theravadin school with a likely differing Pali canon, the Abhayagirians).
- https://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/i ... /8854/2761

In this sense, there would have been at least three Pali canons which likely would have differed substantially, especially in the Vinaya. Only the one from the Mahavihara school from Sri Lanka has survived; actually it would be right to say that we are not Theravadins, but Mahaviharins.

But I get the feeling, that we are talking about completely different things, the OP seems to maybe ask instead, if there are different translation editions of the one Pali canon that has survived. As those translations are into different languages, where specific terms can carry a differing cultural baggage, of course they will not be identical.

But this is obvious from the outset, so maybe the OP could come back and specify what he really meant?
The teaching is a lake with shores of ethics, unclouded, praised by the fine to the good.
There the knowledgeable go to bathe, and cross to the far shore without getting wet.
[SN 7.21]

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Volovsky
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Re: Different editions of the Pali Canon?

Post by Volovsky » Thu Dec 06, 2018 11:10 pm

AgarikaJ wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 4:12 pm
With regard to different Pali canons, it might be of note, that Schilling in this article in JIABS also suggests a non-surviving Theravadin school in Burma and Thailand with connections to Southern India, which was well-developed and mature in its traditions at the time it finally was replaced by the Sri Lankan Mahavihara tradition (after they usurped another independent Sri Lankan Theravadin school with a likely differing Pali canon, the Abhayagirians).
- https://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/i ... /8854/2761
Although he tries to speculate on very scarce number of facts, even he doesn't draw any strong conclusion. There might have been more or less developed form of Theravada Buddhism in S-EA, coming probably from Sona and Uttara, but there are no reasons to conclude it was significantly different from Mahavihara version. He also ascribes Vimuttimagga to Abhayagiri monastery - a theory he is (was?) a strong supporter of and which is now shown to be nothing but a bunch of speculations.

And everyone who thinks of some kind of special Mahavihara Buddhism, shouldn't forget that Buddhaghosa was actually Indian and not Sri Lankan monk, who received education in India. But Sri Lankan monks were completely satisfied with his explanation of the teaching in his Vism.
In this sense, there would have been at least three Pali canons which likely would have differed substantially, especially in the Vinaya. Only the one from the Mahavihara school from Sri Lanka has survived; actually it would be right to say that we are not Theravadins, but Mahaviharins.
On what base do you draw this conclusion? How do you know they "differed substantially"? And "especially in the Vinaya" (whence is such precision)? If even Chinese parallels of the Pali suttas are not very different from Theravada's, then why versions of the same school should "differ substantially".

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AgarikaJ
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Re: Different editions of the Pali Canon?

Post by AgarikaJ » Fri Dec 07, 2018 7:32 am

Volovsky wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 11:10 pm
In this sense, there would have been at least three Pali canons which likely would have differed substantially, especially in the Vinaya. Only the one from the Mahavihara school from Sri Lanka has survived; actually it would be right to say that we are not Theravadins, but Mahaviharins.
On what base do you draw this conclusion? How do you know they "differed substantially"? And "especially in the Vinaya" (whence is such precision)? If even Chinese parallels of the Pali suttas are not very different from Theravada's, then why versions of the same school should "differ substantially".
Both the Abhayagiri school as the (presumed) different strains of Pyu-Burmese and Dvaravati-Mon Theravada Buddhism created enough resistance that they had to be 'overcome' by strong reformist movements.

If they would have been similar or identical in thought, surely such a thing would not have been necessary.

As we do not have any writings besides a few tiny fragments (which do differ from our known canon), at least in case of the Abhayagiri school I would think this points to an intentional removal of scripture. But, of course, as we cannot compare what is not there any more, this is mere speculation.

At least with regard to the Mahaviharan Vinaya, there are also possible late additions, which point to s specific amendment of rules to fit Sri Lankan customs.
- https://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/i ... /view/8824

And this general thought from the same article, I find frankly highly intriguing:
But the study of the institutional history of Buddhist monasticisms may also have been hampered as much by some of its own assumptions.
It has, for example, been commonly believed—and still is by some—that elements found to be common to all or most of the extant vinayas must go back to a hypothetical, single, "pre-sectarian," primitive vinaya.
This belief has had at least two consequences. First, most of the energy and effort in the study of the vinayas has been directed toward finding or ferreting out these common elements. This procedure has resulted in, if nothing else, a kind of homogenization of potentially significant differences and has led—at least according to SyWain L6vi—"to a kind of single archetype, which is not the primitive Vinaya, but the average of the Vinayas."
Secondly, this same belief has almost necessarily determined that any deviation from the mean or average would have to be explained in chronological terms as a "late addition" or "an isolated accretion"—as if there were no other possible explanation for such differences.
We are, in short, left with little sense of how the differenct monastic orders might have solved different or even common problems, or what kinds of external forces might have been working on the different orders in different geographical and cultural areas.
As you mentioned them, looking at Agama Parallels of some of the matters which create quite some emotions in recent years, for example the Bikkhuni ordination story, I see lots of room for interpretation and ample indication that what on the surface might look similar could arguably have undergone an intentional process of editing. But again, we are forced to speculate based on very thin data points.

Therefore, of course, multiple opinions exist, which all could be the truth. For exmaple, a refutation of some of the broader arguments of Schopen is not difficult to find, see for example here:
- https://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebsut056.htm

Still, doubts remain (at least for me), so I post this merely as food for thought, to point out, that our knowledge of the Canon as we have it, and its possible evolution is severely limited and that there is a good chance that our understanding suffers for it. Therefore I think it necessary not just to read the Canon and to try to understand it -- already a mighty difficult task! -- but to keep in mind at all times that we have here the product of many centuries of a tradition that might have taken intentional influence.
The teaching is a lake with shores of ethics, unclouded, praised by the fine to the good.
There the knowledgeable go to bathe, and cross to the far shore without getting wet.
[SN 7.21]

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Volovsky
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Re: Different editions of the Pali Canon?

Post by Volovsky » Fri Dec 07, 2018 8:17 am

AgarikaJ wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 7:32 am
But again, we are forced to speculate based on very thin data points.
Not at all. Nobody forces is to speculate if there are not enough data for any solid conclusion. But unfortunately that is what most of so called "buddhologists" do: 10% of facts + 90% of speculations = another weird theory on how early Buddhism looked like. Therefore I always read, on what argumentation they base their theories, usually there is very little support.
but to keep in mind at all times that we have here the product of many centuries of a tradition that might have taken intentional influence.
Current tendency (at least as I see it) is to question significant parts of Canon (and all commentaries) out of desire to be innovative (and publish interesting article) or for political issues (like with bhikkhunis) or to justify one's own meditation practice. With such approach we will most probably throw away the baby together with the water. Therefore I'm against speculations with little support.

But thanks for sharing the articles - some facts, which are otherwise difficult to come across are still there, even if I disagree with conclusions.

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