Agamas divergence from Pali Canon, still practiced?

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
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Sati1
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Agamas divergence from Pali Canon, still practiced?

Post by Sati1 » Mon Apr 13, 2015 7:13 am

Hello,

I was wondering when the Chinese Agamas diverged from the Pali Canon and if there are still Buddhists who lead their practice by them. Is there somehing equivalent to Theravada Buddhism but for the Agamas?

Many thanks,
Sati1
London, UK

----
"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)

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Re: Agamas divergence from Pali Canon, still practiced?

Post by Dhammanando » Mon Apr 13, 2015 8:54 am

Sati1 wrote:... and if there are still Buddhists who lead their practice by them. Is there something equivalent to Theravada Buddhism but for the Agamas?
Yes to the former and no to the latter. There is the odd individual or two —like the Mahayana monk Thích Minh Châu and the Theravadin one Anālayo— who make it their business to study the Āgamas and whose outlook and practice are no doubt informed by them, but there isn't any living tradition based upon them.

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Re: Agamas divergence from Pali Canon, still practiced?

Post by Zom » Mon Apr 13, 2015 10:39 am

I was wondering when the Chinese Agamas diverged from the Pali Canon
I would not be so sure to say so. Agamas is just one version, Pali is another. Still, there are even some more versions (not so full as these two). In Buddha's time, as it seems, different people remembered a bit differently as well (there is a notice about that in the First Council Story in Vinaya).

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Re: Agamas divergence from Pali Canon, still practiced?

Post by santa100 » Mon Apr 13, 2015 2:33 pm

Zom wrote:I would not be so sure to say so. Agamas is just one version, Pali is another. Still, there are even some more versions (not so full as these two). In Buddha's time, as it seems, different people remembered a bit differently as well (there is a notice about that in the First Council Story in Vinaya).
+1. From Ven. Bodhi's ongoing MN lecture series at Chuang Yen monastery, I remember he pointed out some passage in MN 125 where the Pali version's structure is not as well organized as the Agamas equivalence. It's great that there're scholar monks like Ven. Bodhi, Thich Minh Chau, Analayo, etc. who present the Dhamma referencing both sources for comparison and for complementing each other..

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Sati1
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Re: Agamas divergence from Pali Canon, still practiced?

Post by Sati1 » Mon Apr 13, 2015 8:36 pm

Hello,

Thank you very much for your replies. I dont understand how there can be parallel versions of dozens (or hundreds?) of suttas, without them having diverged from each other at some point. Is the First Council considered to be the time when the agamas and Pali suttas arose separately? I am looking for evidence that points to the historical dates when the core messages in the suttas arose. The latest date when messages present in both sets of suttas arose would be the date when the two sets of suttas diverged from each other. Or am I missing something?

Many thanks,
Sati1
London, UK

----
"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)

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Re: Agamas divergence from Pali Canon, still practiced?

Post by Bakmoon » Mon Apr 13, 2015 10:54 pm

Sati1 wrote:Hello,

Thank you very much for your replies. I dont understand how there can be parallel versions of dozens (or hundreds?) of suttas, without them having diverged from each other at some point. Is the First Council considered to be the time when the agamas and Pali suttas arose separately? I am looking for evidence that points to the historical dates when the core messages in the suttas arose. The latest date when messages present in both sets of suttas arose would be the date when the two sets of suttas diverged from each other. Or am I missing something?

Many thanks,
Well, the texts did diverge from each other some time ago. The question of when really depends on the individual texts in question, but even in that case we don't really have any good evidence to date when it occurred.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.

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Re: Agamas divergence from Pali Canon, still practiced?

Post by alan » Tue Apr 14, 2015 12:08 pm

Aren't the Agamas just translations from the original? I say 'just' to point out that they are not necessarily divergent views--that came later.
Some scholars compare the two in their research, which is perfectly acceptable in an academic context. Anaylo is well known for that and is worth reading if you already have a good understanding of the suttas, and would like to hear a slightly different take on individual phrases, or, in some cases, study what was later censored in the Chinese version.

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Re: Agamas divergence from Pali Canon, still practiced?

Post by SarathW » Tue Apr 14, 2015 12:39 pm

Some info related to OP:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%80gama_(Buddhism" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;)
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Sati1
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Re: Agamas divergence from Pali Canon, still practiced?

Post by Sati1 » Tue Apr 14, 2015 7:20 pm

Hello,

Thank you very much for the information. I will look for a book by Ven Analayo on this topic to study it further.

With metta,
Sati1
London, UK

----
"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)

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Zom
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Re: Agamas divergence from Pali Canon, still practiced?

Post by Zom » Tue Apr 14, 2015 7:25 pm

Thank you very much for your replies. I dont understand how there can be parallel versions of dozens (or hundreds?) of suttas, without them having diverged from each other at some point. Is the First Council considered to be the time when the agamas and Pali suttas arose separately? I am looking for evidence that points to the historical dates when the core messages in the suttas arose. The latest date when messages present in both sets of suttas arose would be the date when the two sets of suttas diverged from each other. Or am I missing something?
If you want to know my opinion: From the very start Buddha gave instructions (probably detailed) to his monks, but these texts were not memorized yet. Some time after, probably, either Buddha or his students suggested that texts should be memorized, and, probably, the first memorized text was Suttanipana's Atthakavagga and Parayanavagga (because there is no specific buddhist terminology there). Some time after that more texts started to be memorized, but different people remembered them a bit differently, though, learning them by heart. Buddha gave lectures in different areas/locations, and people (mostly monks) memorized texts in all those places but they didn't communicate with each other too often. I mean, there could be a group of monks in Savatthi, in Kuru lands, in Kasi and so on - these groups rarely met each other, though, ofc, ancient monks travelled much - and if they met each other, they, probably, taught each other new suttas (heard from the Buddha). In this way canonical texts were "accumulated" over time all over India, but *not* in some 1 place. If there was a misunderstanding or debates (on the text), monks went to the Buddha or famous disciples and asked them whose version is correct. Also, as it seems to me - though it is rarely mentioned in the suttas themselves - most of time monks spent not in meditation, but in learning suttas by heart and repeating them over and over again. This itself was a strong practice which lead to both concentration and mindfulness-non-forgetfulness and, ofc, wisdom/dhamma-understanding. Passing the texts down to new monks was a practice of dana (actually, the highest and most valuable form of dana), so merits were accumulated as well. After Buddha's final nibbana best monks decided to make a council where all Dhamma texts were standardized and - very probable - many texual formulas (which we now see in numerous suttas) were composed just on this massive and lenghthy meeting and, probably, this version of texts was considered as, well, "the best one". However, there were still some suttas which were remembered a bit differently and maybe even with different words used. Also, some texts could be missed on the first council, and they were added later when heard and collected. Probably, for during the next 50-100 years all monks were forced to remember "council" version but this didn't went smoothly and some texts became a mixture of 2 versions or maybe even 3 versions (this depended on a particular area where monks resided). As a result, different local sanghas had a bit different versions and when these local sanghas were formed into "schools" over time, it turned out that different schools had slightly different texts. Together with that there were some intentional distortions when certain teachers considered themselves authoritative/clever/wise enough to make changes (but at first it happened rarely and probably during Asoka reign - and ofc later - this became em... a tendency so to call). And, ofc, there were groups/teachers which were strict traditionalists and tried to minimize this effect, but they couldn't not exclude it altogether, and so even in their own collections there appeared some distortions or texts not spoken by the Buddha or chief disciples. In any case, when Mahayana and Abhidhamma-vada appeared, this to some extent helped to preserve old texts from further distortion - simply because no one really read them but studied "high/better" teachings (mayahana/abhidhamma/vajrayana (later) - and so these texts were forgotten by the majority of buddhists for a long time. Luckily, they survived up till now and so we have a rare and fortunate opportunity to read and study them.

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Re: Agamas divergence from Pali Canon, still practiced?

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Apr 14, 2015 9:23 pm

Thanks for the interesting post, Zom.

I have not followed all of the details, but I get the impression that a lot of comparative textual discussion by Theravada-oriented people makes the assumption that there was one source, and that they need to identify divergences from that source. If, as seems more likely to me, there were a variety of sources, then the idea of figuring out the "best combination" is doomed to failure, and may actually be counter-productive, since it may involve trying to reconcile inconsistent (as opposed to divergent) texts.

Though one hopes that the people involved are smart enough to have figured this out for themselves...

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Agamas divergence from Pali Canon, still practiced?

Post by Zom » Tue Apr 14, 2015 10:23 pm

There is one more thing which I always keep in mind when dealing with this topic. It is ...well... the absense of texts but achieving arahantship by earliest disciples. What this means - is that if you understand the main idea of Dhamma and if you understand the main idea of right practice - you can become an arahant even without knowing that much. Just think: Did Moggallana or Sariputta or Kondannya or Mahakassapa learn all 5 Nikayas to become an arahant? No. They heard short instructions and practised jhana for some days (or weeks). After that - an arahant. Same with many other people. I think this fact is important to remember if you see that you are becoming too anxious about that there (maybe) some textual distortions, or lack of details, or later additions and so on. Knowing that common core (which is one and the same everywhere) in all early buddhist texts is enough to stop digging in order to reveal some hypothetically hidden "True Teaching". Some people attach too much to details and suffer because of that.
:coffee:

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Re: Agamas divergence from Pali Canon, still practiced?

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Apr 14, 2015 11:37 pm

I agree. It's interesting to look at these textual details, and it can sometimes be quite illuminating, but I consider it unlikely that the problems we have will be solved by getting "the absolutely correct text".



I liked Tilt's response here:
The Pali Canon is Not Original, So What Shall We Do?
tiltbillings wrote: Nothing.
Zom provided a little more detail:
Zom wrote: Major teachings are repeated many times in many suttas - so no need to worry - you (can) know enough to practise efficiently. We cannot be certain only when it comes down to some (often unnecessary) details.
:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Agamas divergence from Pali Canon, still practiced?

Post by SarathW » Wed Apr 15, 2015 12:14 am

I think even a good Christian or any other can become an Arahant if he eliminate the personality view.
(Understanding Anatta)
So the crux of Buddha's teaching is Anatta.
The rest of the teaching is found in other religions as well.
:)
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Agamas divergence from Pali Canon, still practiced?

Post by IanAnd » Wed Apr 15, 2015 4:25 am

SarathW wrote: So the crux of Buddha's teaching is Anatta.
The rest of the teaching is found in other religions as well.
Are you certain of that? In what other doctrine of truth/reality (your word "religion") is there found a teaching the same as paticca samuppada (dependent co-arising) or pancakkhanda (the five aggregates)?
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV

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