the pali texts are incoherent?

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robertk
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the pali texts are incoherent?

Post by robertk » Thu Sep 17, 2015 2:01 pm

On another thread the following comments were made.
It's certainly much easier to have a coherent theory of Dhamma if you ditch all the bits that you find contradictory, hard to explain, or simply inconvenient. This seems to be a very common 20th C approach.

I've heard it said that the Ancient Commentaries seem so incredibly convoluted because they tried to develop a Dhamma theory that took into account everything in the Suttas..
..
Bundokji » Thu Sep 17, 2015 6:02 pm

I doubt there will ever be a coherent theory of Dhamma!
mikenz66 » Thu Sep 17, 2015 3:57 pm

Yes, that's a very good point. Is it a modern idea that everything has to be coherent?

Mr man
I think one of the problems is that we feel the need for a coherent theory of Dhamma when actually we don't need one.
so are the texts incoherent?

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Sekha
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Re: the pali texts are incoherent?

Post by Sekha » Thu Sep 17, 2015 2:07 pm

Well I don't see ekagatta in the sutta stock formula of the first jhana, for one.
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Re: the pali texts are incoherent?

Post by Polar Bear » Thu Sep 17, 2015 2:20 pm

The importance of coherency and consistency is attested to by the Buddha himself. It is not a new concept, as if ancient india had no concept of logic.
The Explicit Teaching and Its Fruit
42. “Monks, this Teaching47 so well proclaimed by me, is plain, open, explicit, free of patchwork.48 In this Teaching that is so well proclaimed by me and is plain, open, explicit and free of patchwork; for those who are arahants, free of taints, who have accomplished and completed their task, have laid down the burden, achieved their aim, severed the fetters binding to existence, who are liberated by full knowledge, there is no (future) round of existence that can be ascribed to them.
Free of patchwork” (chinna-pilotika); lit., devoid of the nature of a patched cloth. Comy: Pilotika is a torn rag cloth patched up with stitches and knots which are similar to hypocrisy and other deceptions. Sub-Comy: substituting assumed attitudes (iriyapatha- santhapana) for an actually, in that individual, non-existing practice of meditation and insight. Pilotika means also “refuse,” referring to false and unworthy monks who do not have any footing in the Buddha’s dispensation.
This phrase chinna-pilotika seems, however, to point to the inner consistency of the Teaching which, like a new cloth (Comy: ahata- sátaka), is of one piece and is not in need of patching up contradictions, by artificial attempts of reconciling inconsistencies. Hence the term may freely be rendered by the single word “consistent.”
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... eel048.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Re: the pali texts are incoherent?

Post by robertk » Thu Sep 17, 2015 2:47 pm

excellent and apposite quotes polarbear.

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Re: the pali texts are incoherent?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Sep 17, 2015 4:47 pm

When you start learning Buddhism it's like you have put only a few pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together. It's only when you have fitted a lot more pieces into the right place that you begin to see a coherent picture.
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Re: the pali texts are incoherent?

Post by Mr Man » Thu Sep 17, 2015 5:41 pm

In the original thread I thought the coherence that was being discussed was from the perspective of "Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, and Democratic", which would be a conditioning that many of us have had. From that perspective there are things, which do not align with the usual ways of thought - rebirth for example. There are some who feel the need to drop things which do not fit in with that view. There are also some who try to squeeze them together often with pseudoscience (in my opinion) and anecdotes. When I said "I think one of the problems is that we feel the need for a coherent theory of Dhamma when actually we don't need one." I meant coherent in relation to WEIRD not that the Buddhist teaching was incoherent within itself.

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Re: the pali texts are incoherent?

Post by dhammarelax » Thu Sep 17, 2015 7:14 pm

I dont know if any other teachers went at this length to provide followers with an easily to memorize canon in the sense that there is so much repetition in it, I think this influences positively the outcome when we are looking for coherence within the canon, I have not found any internal incoherences in it.

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Re: the pali texts are incoherent?

Post by Coyote » Thu Sep 17, 2015 7:34 pm

I wonder to what extent the perception of the classical tradition as a unified whole speaking with one authoritative voice, rather than a collection of voices and different, sometimes incompatible, explanations is actually based on the texts themselves rather than being a modern idea (or myth regarding the origin of the commentaries)? If "classical" explanations are found to be inconclusive and possibly "incoherent" - either from the perspective of the sutta/abhidhamma texts or from the classical explanations themselves - then which one is the "classical" position? How would we define the classical explanation in this case? Is there room for legitimate disagreement when it comes to classical explanations? To me, a question such as this throws out these types of questions and more.

Edit:Is there room for more ideas and developments that come out of the study of, say, abhidhamma or are we stuck in 5th century Sri Lanka? If there are found to be parts of the commentary that are inconclusive then could modern attempts to answer those questions become part of a developing "classical" tradition - such as has happened in many other Buddhist traditions?
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Re: the pali texts are incoherent?

Post by robertk » Fri Sep 18, 2015 5:03 am

We already have quotes from polarbear suggesting that the Dhamma is internally consistent ( whether it is consistent with the views of modern westerners can be left for a different thread).

But if you have have found inconsistencies in the classical texts this would be a good time to cite them.

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Re: the pali texts are incoherent?

Post by Sekha » Fri Sep 18, 2015 8:07 am

robertk wrote:We already have quotes from polarbear suggesting that the Dhamma is internally consistent
But if you have have found inconsistencies in the classical texts this would be a good time to cite them.
It seems there is a difference to be made between the Dhamma and the classical texts. There is no doubt the former as taught by the Buddha was consistent, but there is evidence that the latter, especially if we include later texts such as the various abhidhammas, commentaries etc. presents problems in this regard. I think B.Bodhi said things about the evolution of his takes on Commentaries over the years. Also, some suttas having been wrongly tampered with, those inconsistencies have sometimes been imported into the Nikayas. At least, I do think there is evidence of this.
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robertk
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Re: the pali texts are incoherent?

Post by robertk » Fri Sep 18, 2015 8:57 am

Ok, but in over thirty years of Dhamma study, I can't think of single discrepancy between the ancient Commentaries, Abhidhamma and suttas.

I do come across people who don't believe the texts, of course, but that does not mean they are incoherent.

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Re: the pali texts are incoherent?

Post by Sekha » Fri Sep 18, 2015 4:13 pm

robertk wrote:in over thirty years of Dhamma study, I can't think of single discrepancy between the ancient Commentaries, Abhidhamma and suttas.
Well, I just gave an example of discrepancy earlier in this thread. And for example, if you read B. Bodhi's translation notes you will find he often has a critical approach to the Commentaries, which can sometimes give narrow interpretations or even wrong ones, so he doesn't always follow them. This is one of the facts showing, in my opinion, that the idea according to which there may be discrepancies isn't so foolish that it can be discarded without bothering to address objections.
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Re: the pali texts are incoherent?

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Sep 18, 2015 9:13 pm

What can make it confusing is that there are changes in terminology across sutta/vinaya/abhidhamma/commentary. These changes are not necessarily inconsistencies, just progressions in terminology (e.g. the the five-jhana, rather then four-jhana, model, new terms, changes in meaning of terms, or new collections of phenomena). "The Buddha never said (exactly) that" isn't a useful yardstick of consistency either.

And, of course, the existence of various modern Dhamma models (e.g. around Dependent Origination) that differ from the Commentaries doesn't prove the latter wrong. That's a matter of preference rather than an inconsistency in the Commentaries.

It might be interesting to examine some of the claimed inconsistencies in detail, such as the ekagatta example:
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... 09#p356131
and see if they are really inconsistencies, or just changes in classification, etc.

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Re: the pali texts are incoherent?

Post by SDC » Fri Sep 18, 2015 10:38 pm

Is planning a route on a map the same as travelling that route? No. The map merely represents the journey and travelling only bears a certain resemblance to our expectations. Same deal with the texts and practice as far as I can see. We have to go find what the words are pointing to and not dwell on the texts for the entire picture.

Perhaps 'incoherent' or 'incomplete' because we are asking too much from the words?

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Re: the pali texts are incoherent?

Post by Sekha » Fri Sep 18, 2015 10:40 pm

I am assuming here that the question of the texts' consistency with the truth/reality is at least as important as that of their internal consistency.
More times than not, it's a too high level of coherence that is troubling. Similar stories have been transformed to become identical up to a certain point after which they diverge, but far enough in the narration to make it impossible that the exact same things would have happened to two different persons. It's understandable that this simplification would have been operated for the purpose of memorizing the suttas, but at least one of these stories doesn't narrate actual facts.
Also, a lot of Vinaya stories are imputed to the same monks, which sounds rather unlikely. Some of them seem totally made up and are quite laughable. If I remember properly there are texts showing that a lot of Buddhists around the time of birth of Theravada or probably before already thought that many teachings of the Buddha had already been lost forever, so that the original spirit was definitively gone.
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