Is the Sutta Nipata the oldest and therefore the only truly reliable text in the canon?

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
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Re: Is the Sutta Nipata the oldest and therefore the only truly reliable text in the canon?

Post by zan » Wed Sep 11, 2019 11:48 pm

Thanks for sharing santa and zom
Never read anything I write as an accurate statement about anything whatsoever. First, look to wiser ones than I. Look to wise texts. Unless you can confirm their accuracy from a reliable source, treat my writings like word games, nothing more.

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Re: Is the Sutta Nipata the oldest and therefore the only truly reliable text in the canon?

Post by zan » Sun Feb 16, 2020 3:05 am

More from Sujato:
2.3 The Gāthā Theory
23 The gist makes a strong case that the traditions, in this case, have got
it right. A major scholarly challenge to this conclusion comes from what
we can call the ‘gāthā theory’. This theory, which includes several eminent
scholars among its adherents, claims that the earliest recorded teachings
that we possess today are to be found primarily among certain of the
28 A History of Mindfulness
verse collections, notably the Aṭṭhaka and Pārāyana of the Sutta Nipāta.5
However, while I agree that some of the verse is early, I do not think that
the reasons given suffice to establish that these verses are generally earlier
than the prose. To briefly state the case for and against the gāthā theory.

24 1) The language found in such texts harks back in some respects
to the Vedas, and therefore is archaic.

25 Verse usually tendsto be archaic; this could be supported in any number
of cases by comparison of verse and prose passages by the same author
even in modern times. This may partially be a matter of style, a preference
for an archaic flavour, as in English verse one might affect ‘thee’ and ‘thou’.
Another factor is that, due to the constraints of metre, it is more difficult
to translate verse as compared with prose from one Indian dialect into
another; thus even in the later hybrid Sanskrit literature, the verse tends
to retain more archaic Prakrit features, while the accompanying prose
tends towards more formal Sanskrit. This tells us something about the
translation process, but nothing about the relative ages of the different
parts of the original text.

26 2) Several of these verses are referred to in the prose Nikāyas, and
therefore must be earlier than those prose discourses.

27 This confirms only the chronological relationship in these few cases.
In many other cases, verses are tacked on to the end of prose discourses,
such as in the Aṅguttara, and there it is likely that the verses were added
later. Anyway, there are also prose passages that are quoted or referred
to in other prose passages, notably the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta,
which is explicitly or implicitly referred to in several important discourses.
The references to the gāthās, moreover, while significant, never declare
such passagesto be the central message of the Dhamma. The key teachings,
extolled over and again in the early texts, are such things as the four noble
truths, the 37 wingsto awakening, the dependent origination, or the ‘aggregates, sense media, and elements’. None of these topics are prominent in
the gāthās. It would be natural to assume that the earliest scriptural body
consisted of teachings on just such core topics. Such references may even
See e.g. Nakamura , chapters 2.3 & 2.4.
2. The GIST 1—Three Strata of Early Texts 29
refer to specific texts where these doctrines are elucidated. The primary
source for all these topics is the Saṁyutta.

28 3) The Aṭṭhaka and Pārāyana have their own canonical commentary within the Khuddaka Nikāya, the Niddesa.

29 This argument has recently been repeated by Gregory Schopen, who
saysthat these are the ‘only’ textsthat have received commentaries by the
time of the earliest known redaction.
6 This seems like a strong point, until
we realize that the Niddesa really just applies Abhidhamma technique to
poetry, listing synonyms in mechanical style for each word in the verses.
It is very similar to the Abhidhamma Vibhaṅga, etc., and must stem from
a similar period as a minor spin-off from the Abhidhamma project. The
Vibhaṅga is clearly the more important work, and that consists largely of
quotations and commentary of central prose passages of the Saṁyutta and
Majjhima. In fact there is much ‘commentarial’ material even in the four
Nikāyas: the Saccavibhaṅga Sutta, which we will examine further below,
is an explicit commentary on the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. Much
of the Vinaya, too, is a commentary on the Pāṭimokkha.

30 4) Technical terms and formulaic doctrines appear less often.

31 Again, this is simply part of the normal character of verse. Poetry is for
inspiration, not information.

32 5) The monks lived as hermits in the forest rather than in settled
monasteries, whereas in the prose this phase of Buddhism is largely
absent, the discourses being normally set in monasteries.

33 This shift, from the forest life to established monasteries, is depicted in
the texts themselves as having already begun within the Buddha’s lifetime,
and there is every reason to believe that this was so. It is difficult to live in
the forest, and the Sangha must have, before very long, started taking in
recruits who were elderly, or infirm, or weak, and who would have required
decent accommodation. This plain common sense is confirmed in many
stories in the early texts. Here we may point out the parallel with the
Franciscan order, which was accused by St Francis himself of backsliding
from the rigorous standards he had set. In any case, the prose does in fact
constantly refer to monks living in the forest. The mistake stems in part
Schopen 1997, pg. 24.
30 A History of Mindfulness
from the failure to distinguish between the teachings themselves and the
narrative cladding in which the teachings appear, which must obviously be
later. The outstanding example here isthe teaching on the gradual training,
the main paradigm for the monastic way of life, found in tens of discourses.
Although the texts asthey are today are set in monasteries, the body of the
teaching itself refers simply to the monk, ‘gone to the forest, to the root of
a tree, or to an empty hut…’ to meditate, with no mention of monasteries.
This is a good piece of negative evidence: we know that later Buddhism
was largely based in large monasteries, hence the fact that so many of the
teachings extol the forest life strongly suggests these teachings must have
appeared before the development of settled monasticism.
34 So in this instance the traditional belief can be maintained in the face
of modern criticism. I am not saying that the discourses as found today
must be word for word identical with the first teachings, but that these
teachings, in largely the same words and phrases, have been treated since
earliest times as the most fundamental doctrines, and the traditions give
us a plausible reason why this should be so. The massive preponderance
of the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta demands an explanation. The idea,
influential for a time in Buddhist studies, that these teachings hail from a
‘monkish’ revision of the Dhamma after the Buddha’s passing away has all
the romance of a conspiracy theory, and all of its plausibility.
-Bhikkhu Sujato, A History of Mindfulness, pages 27-30
Earliest Discourses: Dhammacakkappavattana, Anattalakkhaṇa, and
Ādittapariyāya Suttas, and the Request of Brahmā.
Earliest Collection: Congruent sections of Saṁyutta Nikāya/Saṁyukta
-Bhikkhu Sujato, A History of Mindfulness, page 37
Never read anything I write as an accurate statement about anything whatsoever. First, look to wiser ones than I. Look to wise texts. Unless you can confirm their accuracy from a reliable source, treat my writings like word games, nothing more.

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Re: Is the Sutta Nipata the oldest and therefore the only truly reliable text in the canon?

Post by AlexBrains92 » Mon Feb 17, 2020 10:24 pm

The Sutta Nipata has a further chronological stratification.
His oldest part is the Atthakavagga, with parallels in the chinese canon.
"If appeasement of desires is what is really blissful, 'desirelessness' as the appeasement of all desires would be the Supreme Bliss, and this in fact is what Nibbāna is." (Bhikkhu K. Ñāṇananda)

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Re: Is the Sutta Nipata the oldest and therefore the only truly reliable text in the canon?

Post by Ceisiwr » Mon Feb 17, 2020 10:41 pm

If we accept that parts of it are the oldest that doesn’t mean the rest are unreliable.
The monk who hasn't slipped past or turned back,
knowing with regard to the world
that "All this is unreal,"
sloughs off the near & far shore —
as a snake, its decrepit old skin.

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Re: Is the Sutta Nipata the oldest and therefore the only truly reliable text in the canon?

Post by Lucas Oliveira » Tue Feb 18, 2020 1:55 am

Ceisiwr wrote:
Mon Feb 17, 2020 10:41 pm
If we accept that parts of it are the oldest that doesn’t mean the rest are unreliable.

I participate in this forum using Google Translator.

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Re: Is the Sutta Nipata the oldest and therefore the only truly reliable text in the canon?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Feb 18, 2020 7:09 am

The texts don't get much older than the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. Even those few passages in the Vinaya Mahāvagga such as the Bodhikathā were presumably memorised later by Upāli. The most reliable is surely the Kesamutti Sutta!?

Mā anussavena: Do not believe something just because it has been passed along and retold for many generations.
Mā paramparāya: Do not believe something merely because it has become a traditional practice.
Mā itikirāya: Do not believe something simply because it is well-known everywhere.
Mā piṭakasampadānena: Do not believe something just because it is cited in a text.
Mā takkahetu: Do not believe something solely on the grounds of logical reasoning.
Mā nayahetu: Do not believe something merely because it accords with your philosophy.
Mā ākāraparivitakkena: Do not believe something because it appeals to common sense.
Mā diṭṭhinijjhānakkhantiyā: Do not believe something just because you like the idea.
Mā bhabbarūpatāya: Do not believe something because the speaker seems trustworthy.
Mā samaṇo no garūti: Do not believe something thinking, “This is what our teacher says.”
When you yourselves know, “This is unwholesome, this is blameworthy, this is censured by the wise, these things when accepted and practised lead to harm and suffering, then you should give them up.”
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Re: Is the Sutta Nipata the oldest and therefore the only truly reliable text in the canon?

Post by AlexBrains92 » Tue Feb 18, 2020 9:59 am

On the doctrinal coherence between the Atthakavagga and the four primary Nikāyas, from "The Notion of Ditthi in Theravada Buddhism: The Point of View" by Paul Fuller:
The understanding of views in the Atthakavagga compared to other parts of the Pāli canon

In a well-known article, ‘Proto-Mādhyamika in the Pāli Canon’, Luis Gómez has argued that the no-views understanding is only found in the Sutta-nipāta and in ‘isolated’ Nikāya passages, and that it only found full expression in the Madhyamaka. Gómez argues that:

"With the exception of the older parts of the Suttanipāta (Atthakavagga and Pārāyanavagga) and scattered passages in the Nikāyas, the Pāli tradition has adopted a view of avidyā which suggests a condemnation of specific theories or views, rather than an outright rejection of the clinging to theorising and opinionating. The ineffability of the goal is not taken to imply the impossibility of theorisation (as in the Mādhyamika), and theorisation is not seen as inextricably connected to clinging (as in the Suttanipāta). Nevertheless, the Pāli tradition preserves, in the Suttanipāta and elsewhere, several important passages in which one could perhaps discover some kind of ‘proto-Mādhyamika’."

Gómez describes the two understandings:

"It is obvious then that the Attha’s intention is not to propose a different view. Nor does it propose a nonview (systematic rejection of all views). The involved rhetoric of this short text seems to be aimed at an injunction to detachment from the tendency of the mind to become fixed in cognitive and affective extremes, in immutable mind-made polarities. I do not believe we could consistently interpret the Attha as the pronouncement of a self-serving Buddhist who believes that the clash of views is counterproductive merely because there is only one correct view and that he who possesses that view (that is, the Buddhist) can afford not to enter the ring of dispute, for, after all, he knows that he is right."

I do not think a ‘self-serving Buddhist’ believes in right-view. To believe in right-view would be to adopt a position. I have argued that the reluctance to state any position, as expressed by the middle-way, is prominent in the Nikāyas and Pāli canon in general. Gómez also equates wrong-view with a form of ignorance. As I argued in Chapter 3, to do this is to misunderstand why views are wrong. They are primarily wrong because they are a form of attachment, not essentially a form of ignorance, though these ideas are clearly related in Buddhism. The Atthakavagga could be taken as a description of the non-attached cognition of the stream-attainer, and as such there is nothing incongruous with this description and that found in other parts of the Pāli canon. The stream-attainer sees the dependent nature of all phenomena, which is the middle-way, grasping no extremes. However, Gómez does not acknowledge such a process in the Pāli canon as a whole and argues that such ideas were ‘unfortunately neglected’ by the Abhidhamma. This book has suggested the contrary.
Much of his argument is based upon an apparent condemnation of certain terms denoting wisdom or insight found in the Atthakavagga. This in turn is used as another way of distinguishing it from other parts of the Nikāyas. It is this aspect of the no-views understanding that leads me to question it, for it appears to propose the rejection of all views and knowledge. However, the Atthakavagga condemns attachment to knowledge, not knowledge itself. Knowledge is a valid means to overcome dukkha if there is no craving for knowledge. Right-view can overcome wrong-view if the content of right-view is an expression of calm and insight: if it expresses what is true and of value, ‘is’ and ‘ought’. However, Gómez claims that there is a criticism of knowledge (ñāna) found in the Mahāviyuha-sutta of the Atthakavagga. This is in the following verse:

"The brahmin, considering, does not submit to figments. He does not follow views (and) he has no association with knowledge, and knowing commonplace opinions he is indifferent to them (saying) ‘Let others take them up’."

He might equally have cited the Patthāna as giving a criticism of knowledge. The Patthāna describes something very similar to the Mahāviyuha-sutta. This is that there should be a correct attitude to the path. It should not give rise to craving and attachment. In fact, the early Abhidhamma suggests that right-view cannot give rise to craving and attachment. To have ‘no association with knowledge’ is not to be bound by it (ñānabandhu).
The Suddhahaka-sutta is often cited as the epitome of the anti-knowledge thesis of the Atthakavagga. This sutta states that purity does not come by knowledge. But the sutta is clearly explaining attachment to knowledge:

"‘I see what is purified, highest, diseaseless. Purity comes to a man by means of what is seen.’ Understanding this, knowing ‘(It is) the highest,’ (and thinking) ‘I am a seer of the purified,’ he believes that knowledge (leads to purity)."

Knowledge usually implies knowledge of something. However, knowledge is being described in a certain way in the Atthakavagga. The sutta is explaining that if knowledge is taken as asserting that it is the highest knowledge, then it is a form of attachment. This is another way of saying ‘only this is true, anything else is wrong’. The middle-way is the dhamma, and apprehending it constitutes ñāna, or right-view, the non-attached seeing of the rise and fall of all dhammas.
The Atthakavagga does not follow the no-views understanding in the sense of rejecting all knowledge and views, it proposes the same thing as the four primary Nikāyas: the transcendence of all views. It seems to me that the opposition understanding and the no-views understanding have led us away from the teachings of both the four primary Nikāyas (which do not teach the opposition understanding), and the Atthakavagga (which does not teach the no-views understanding). They both teach the same thing: a non-attached attitude through the cultivation of right-view.
"If appeasement of desires is what is really blissful, 'desirelessness' as the appeasement of all desires would be the Supreme Bliss, and this in fact is what Nibbāna is." (Bhikkhu K. Ñāṇananda)

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Re: Is the Sutta Nipata the oldest and therefore the only truly reliable text in the canon?

Post by AlexBrains92 » Tue Feb 18, 2020 1:47 pm

From "The Buddha Before Buddhism: Wisdom from the Early Teachings" by Gil Fronsdal:
The Book of Eights, or Aṭṭhakavagga, is a relatively small anthology of sixteen poems tucked away in a larger anthology that is itself relegated to yet another anthology, the canonical group of texts known as the Minor Collection (Khuddaka Nikāya). Perhaps because of this inconspicuous placement, the Book of Eights has not received the attention it deserves for containing a unique and, for some, a very inspiring presentation of important Buddhist teachings. Here we find the Buddha’s teachings pared down to their most essential elements, free of the more complex doctrines often associated with Buddhism. The Book of Eights gives the impression of containing the seeds that grew into the fully developed early Buddhist teachings in India.
What may be perplexing to many is that the Book of Eights does not espouse a religious doctrine that exists in opposition to other doctrines. Nor does it put forth a teaching that is meant to be seen as superior to other teachings. In a manner that challenges the religious beliefs of many people—including many Buddhists—the text explicitly denies the role of ultimate religious “truth” and “knowledge” in attaining personal peace.
Instead, the text points to a direct and simple approach for attaining peace without requiring an adherence to any specific ideology. The possibility of this peace is what guides the teachings and practices in the text. The value of these teachings is not the profundity of their philosophy or their authority as “scripture”; rather, they are valuable for the results they bring to those who live by them. Instead of doctrines to be believed, the Book of Eights describes means or practices for realizing peace.
The goal put forth in the Book of Eights is described both in terms of the states of mind to be attained and the mental activities to be abandoned. Peace and equanimity are the most common descriptions of what is attained, and clinging, craving, being entrenched, and quarreling are the activities most frequently said to be abandoned. There is a clear relationship between the states to be attained and the activities to be let go in that to experience peace for oneself, one must release one’s clingings. The person who realizes this is called a sage, or muni, an ancient Indian designation for a wise or holy person. In much later Buddhist literature, the Buddha is referred to as Sakyamuni—that is, “the Sage of the Sakya [Clan].”
While the attainment of peace is often referred to in personal terms, the Book of Eights also places its teaching in the context of social strife. This is seen dramatically in the opening of “The Discourse on Being Violent” (Chapter 15), where the Buddha recounts his dismay at the quarrels and conflicts he witnessed in his own society. In “The Discourse to Pasūra” (Chapter 8), the Buddha is keenly sensitive to the suffering that comes from doctrinal conflicts between rival religious groups. Many of the poems in the Book of Eights emphasize that a sage doesnot get involved in these interpersonal and interreligious conflicts. Because the book frequently discusses social conflict and the avoidance of such conflict, the teachings not only point to the possibility of personal peace, but they also suggest the possibility of peace between people as well.
Remarkably, the teachings in the Book of Eights are presented without recourse to many of the standard, systematized teachings associated with early Buddhism. No mention is made of most of the familiar numbered lists such as the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path— teachings that are often considered to be the essence of Buddhism. Nowhere in the text does one find the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, the four jhānas (concentration states), the Five Aggregates, the Three Characteristics, the Seven Factors of Awakening, or the Three Refuges. Also missing are the teachings that modern audiences often find the most confusing, such as the concepts of not-self and an unconditioned reality that transcends ordinary life. The common Buddhist concerns of rebirth and ending the cycles of rebirth are primarily discussed in terms of what non-Buddhists believe. The Book of Eights’ emphasis is on overcoming any longing for any form of future rebirth. In contrast to later Buddhist teachings that are predicated on the belief in rebirth, the Book of Eights presents a path of practice—attainable in this lifetime— that appears free from concern with multiple lives.
The absence of standardized and systematized teachings is one reason the Book of Eights is easy to overlook. It doesn’t provide numerical lists or easy quotes to illustrate the teachings found in introductory-level books on Buddhism. The text can also be dismissed if one is looking for a devotional-based orientation to Buddhism and the Buddha. In this text, the Buddha does not appear in superhuman forms or with supernatural powers that would inspire devotees. Nowhere is he called “the One Who Is Thus” (tathāgata), a title frequently associated with him in other early scriptures. Even the title of Buddha is rare, occurring only once. Furthermore, only once in the verses is he referred to by the illustrious title “the Blessed One” (bhagavant).
Because the teachings of the Book of Eights differ from what is generally understood to be the Buddha’s message, a few scholars have suggested that it was not originally a Buddhist text. These scholars believe that one or more converts from another religious group may have brought the text along when they joined the Buddha’s order. Because the text was seen as compatible with early Buddhist teachings, it was accepted into the Buddhist canon.
However, the more common theory among Buddhist scholars is that the Book of Eights is a Buddhist text that was composed early, perhaps originating in the first years of the Buddha’s forty-five-year teaching career. It is fairly common for these scholars to assume the Book of Eights is among the earliest surviving teachings of the Buddha. The lack of systematized, numerically ordered teachings is taken as evidence of its early composition. The ancient poetic meter in which some of the verses are composed further suggests an early date, as do some of the unusual and archaic words and word forms. The lack of any reference to settled monastic life also suggests that it may have been composed soon after the Buddha’s awakening, while he and his monastic followers were peripatetic mendicants.
The most compelling evidence for the antiquity of the Book of Eights, however, is the fact that it is mentioned by name in three ancient Buddhist scriptures. We can at least conclude that the Book of Eights predates these canonical texts. One of them provides a lengthy commentary on a verse explicitly identified as coming from the Book of Eights. In nearly identical passages in the other two texts, the Buddha asks a monk named Soṇa to recite the Dharma—that is, the teachings. Soṇa does so by reciting “all sixteen parts of the Book of Eights.” The Buddha then congratulates Soṇa for his clear, well-delivered recitation. From this reference, it seems that the Book of Eights was already assembled at a very early date into the sixteen chapters we have today. It also shows that the anthology existed as an independent work at that time.
"If appeasement of desires is what is really blissful, 'desirelessness' as the appeasement of all desires would be the Supreme Bliss, and this in fact is what Nibbāna is." (Bhikkhu K. Ñāṇananda)

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Re: Is the Sutta Nipata the oldest and therefore the only truly reliable text in the canon?

Post by Ceisiwr » Tue Feb 18, 2020 2:43 pm


In other words, the teachings are a raft to be used for crossing and not for clinging to once across. Ven. Nananada had this to say:

In many a context it is said that the muni has abandoned all views. He has no views
because he has got rid ofthe point of view, that is, the illusion of the ego. Hence he neither formulates nor proffers any views. There is, however, a widespread tendency to define the word `ditthi' in such contexts strictly to mean the traditional list of sixty-two false views (micchâ-diññhi) as given in the Brahmajâla Sutta (D. N.). This tendency is evident in the commentaries, which, while defining 'tanhâ' and 'mâna' in a more elementary form as to be comprehensive, take great care to be more specific in the case of 'diññhi'. This may be due partly to a complacent belief that the list of sixtytwo comprehends all possible forms of diññhi, and partly also to a desire to safeguard 'Right - view' (sammâ-diññhi). But it appears that this commentarial definition has created new problems. 'Diññhi' has thereby lost its fundamental significance as the deep-seated proclivity in the worldling's mind to be beguiled by concepts. If by 'diññhipapañca' is meant merely the sixty-two false views, then it would be possible for the disciple of the Buddha to put an end to 'diññhipapañca' by virtue of the very fact that he has given up false views. But as we have shown above, it persists even in the disciple as the notion of an ego until he attains Nibbâna. Besides, the tendency towards 'diññhi' in the sense of dogmatic involvement in concepts, can also become manifest through Sammâ Diññhi in its theoretical aspect. It can assume the form of attachment to concepts which constitute 'Sammâ Diññhi'. It is precisely this danger that the Buddha forewarns against, in the 'Parable of the Raft' in the Alagaddûpama Sutta (M. N. p. 134ff). Therein the Buddha declares in unmistakable terms that he is preaching the Dhamma which is comparable to a raft, just for the purpose of crossing over (the sea of Samsâra), and not for grasping dogmatically. After crossing over, even the 'dhammas' have to be discarded, not to speak of the 'adhammas' (i, e. 'what does not pertain to Dhamma'). The parable which is so instructive as to merit analysis, runs thus:- [parable of the arrow is quoted]

Thus the 'Parable of the Raft' is a typical illustration of the relative and pragmatic value of the Dhamma. The raft is improvised out of the stray twigs and branches growing on the hither bank. By merely boarding the raft, by clutching at it, by decorating it with more twigs and branches one does not arrive at the farther bank. One has to exert oneself, having embarked for the beyond, and has gradually to cross over with the aid of the raft. Once he has reached the farther bank, he has to disembark; he has to abandon and disown the raft. He might, however, out of compassion instruct those living on the hither bank, as to how they should build similar rafts for themselves. But for his part, he no longer needs a raft. He has realised that the raft is useful and meaningful at the hither bank, as it is the product of the twigs and branches growing there. Similarly, 'Dhamma' which constitutes the theoretical content of Sammâ Diññhi is improvised out of the medium of language and logic in worldly parlance. By merely mastering it, by dogmatically clinging to it, by clothing it with more concepts, one does not reach the Goal. One has to exert oneself spiritually, having mastered the Dhamma, in order to attain Nibbâna. Now, after his attainment, the pragmatic value of the Dhamma is lost for him, but as he is now convinced of its value for the suffering worldlings, he might preach it to them out of disinterested compassion. As for the truth value of the Dhamma, it has its validity from the worldling's point of view, as it is presented through the media familar to him. Thus the truth value of Dhamma — of Sammâ Diññhi — pertains to the path, and it is essentially a view of the Goal and not the Goal itself. Dhamma or 'Sammà Diññhi', we may add, is neither more nor less true of the Goal, than the raft is of the farther bank. Being a form of Diññhi or view, it presupposes a view-point, and it is, or ought to be, the view-point of the Ariyan disciple. As we have earlier pointed out, the emancipated sage has no view-point — indeed he needs none as he has reached the Goal. He has transcended all views of Truth and is in possession of a vision of it. Thus we arrive at another paradox, as in the case of 'the silence' of the 'muni'. The sage does not entertain any views not only when he refutes 'micchâ-diññhi' (false view), but also when he preaches `sammâ diññhi' (right view). It may also be mentioned that 'Sammâ Diññhi' itself embodies the seed of its own transcendence, as its purpose is to purge the mind of all views inclusive of itself. This dialectic aspect of the Dhamma, has had a staggering effect on the society to which it was first preached, and the Buddha himself refers to it in the Alagaddûpama Sutta. ... ev_4.0.pdf
The monk who hasn't slipped past or turned back,
knowing with regard to the world
that "All this is unreal,"
sloughs off the near & far shore —
as a snake, its decrepit old skin.

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Re: Is the Sutta Nipata the oldest and therefore the only truly reliable text in the canon?

Post by Ceisiwr » Tue Feb 18, 2020 3:29 pm

He continues:
Thus 'Sammâ Diññhi' aims at the utter eradication of all views together with propensities towards the same. The entire conceptual structure has to leave — though gradually — and in the final reckoning, even those concepts that have rendered us the greatest help in our spiritual endeavour, have to make their bow. As such, one must be extremely cautious in regard to concepts pertaining to Sammâ Diññhi. One might distinguish between the relatively true and false in theory, between the precise and the vague in terminology, between the scholastic and the wayward in phraseology, but one has to remember that as concepts they are all one. Nor should one seriously regard some concepts as absolute and inviolable categories in preference to others, and pack them up in water-tight cartons labelled 'paramattha'. Indeed, he may regard some concepts as paramattha in the sense that they are more conducive to the attainment of the Goal than others — truer, more precise and more scholastic. In this connection we may also add that the word 'paramattha' in its earlier and non-technical usage, actually meant the Highest Goal as the object of realisation, and any words tending towards that goal were called 'paramatthasa§hita' ('connected with the Highest Goal'), irrespective of their precision or technicality. However the Buddha, for his part, was content to treat all of them as 'sammuti'. For him, they were 'merely worldly conventions in common use, which he made use of, without clinging to them' (D. N. I. 202). ... ev_4.0.pdf

All of the above is extremely wise. I think it highlights some of the problems of using "ultimate truth" to dismiss "relative truth", as if "ultimate truth" is "the truth". As if those concepts are truly true.
The monk who hasn't slipped past or turned back,
knowing with regard to the world
that "All this is unreal,"
sloughs off the near & far shore —
as a snake, its decrepit old skin.

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Re: Is the Sutta Nipata the oldest and therefore the only truly reliable text in the canon?

Post by manas » Fri Feb 28, 2020 12:10 am

zan wrote:
Wed Sep 11, 2019 1:39 am
I just read the relevant sections in "A History of Mindfulness" by Bhikkhu Sujato.

He disagrees about the conclusions drawn by some on the Sutta Nipata and finds that there are some suttas that are earliest and a collection that is earliest:
...all of
the texts identified as earliest discourses are found in the Saṁyutta, the
earliest collection.
-A History of Mindfulness, Bhikkhu Sujato
This is refreshing and heartening! The Samyutta Nikaya contains almost everything you could possibly want to learn of the dhamma. The bulk of the dhamma is present in the Samyutta Nikaya. So, not that we should say this, but just as a hypothetical: if we say that the oldest texts are the most likely to go back to the Buddha himself and are therefore the most reliable, and that these texts are the Samyutta Nikaya, then we are on firm ground: the bulk of the dhamma can reasonably be counted on as reliable. Doubly fantastic when we notice that the other Nikayas have many suttas that seem to be built by piecing together suttas from the Samyutta. Even if these suttas seem late, if they are built largely of early material, then they have similar reliability.

If it was just the Sutta Nipata, we'd be up a creek because there's just not enough of the vast information of the dhamma preserved within. So we would have to say the bulk of the dhamma is of questionable dating and may not go back to the Buddha, and therefore the bulk of the dhamma would have to be said to be of questionable reliability (if we use the above parameters, which, again, it's not to say that we should use such parameters at all).

I imagine the other three Nikayas are considered largely early for the reason I wrote above: largely built of early material shared with the Samyutta, and probably with some material that may not be from the Samyutta but is considered early for other reasons.

What a relief! I have been barbed by this Sutta Nipata opinion for years and it's nice to finally have discussed it and come to a reasonable and satisfying conclusion.

Side note: To be fair, this is not necessarily the most reasonable attitude because even the latest material that doesn't go back to the Buddha could have been composed by an arahant or other wise practitioner and therefore be just as useful as early material. That's why I have clarified that I'm not saying we should use the parameters of early is reliable, late is unreliable.
Being a sceptical type, I've had to endure not having firm faith, that the Pali Suttas are - even in terms of their meaning, which is the most important aspect - necessarily authentically from the Buddha. What to do? Put the teachings to the test. Every day. Is what is written in the suttas, borne out by personal experience? Obviously, for most, stories of deva beings and other realms can't be personally verified at this time, but regarding how this mind works, and how pain & distress can be alleviated, such that this can be directly known, seeing how the Dhamma actually works in changing one's life & perspective for the better - that's what, primarily, keeps me practicing.

It's not an easy path for those who are naturally sceptical and even somewhat mistrustful. If I had not already seen a few interesting and life-improving things I'd not seen before - thanks to practicing (such as my imperfect practice is) the Path - I would not still be here, or a Buddhist. But when something actually works in the way it's intended to, that tends to increase one's faith.

But hey, I'm still a doubter and sceptic. For all I know, this could all be a simulation in some alien being's computer, right? But I can't find any wiser instructions regarding how to attain freedom from pain & suffering, than the Pali Suttas, and so long as this is the case, it would be wise to keep practicing. Aside from the clinging aggregates, I don't think anyone on Earth likes any of the things described in the First Noble Truth. Birth, sickness, old age, dying, separation from what is loved, etc - who wouldn't want to be free from these things? - and aside from the Buddha, who else offers a comprehensive explanation & Path of practice leading to their cessation?

EDIT: since the topic relates to some collections of suttas being more likely to be authentic than others, I ought to state that I do agree. I look for consistency with essential teachings, when deciding this, although obviously I lend ear to knowledgeable Pali scholars & historians also.

Anyway there's your two cents' worth from your resident doubter & sceptic. You may assume I'm still a Buddhist despite all my problems. This mind hasn't seriously flipped for a while now, maybe there's hope for me yet.

Seeking your own happiness,
you should pull out your own arrow:
your own lamentation, longing, & sorrow.

With arrow pulled out,
attaining peace of awareness,
all grief transcended,
griefless you are

(excerpt, Sn 3:8)

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