ancientbuddhism wrote:In the lecture I cited above, Norman presents a well argued theory
I don't think so. His arguments are shaky and one sided. Here are his principal arguments and why I think they are shaky.
He says "There is no agreement among scholars about the date when writing first came into use in India
" but this is dubious.
We know for certain that the earliest texts and inscriptions in India are all from the 3rd century BCE, writing cannot have been introduced in India before the 4th century BCE at the earliest. No one claims otherwise.
He says "If writing was in use during the early period of Buddhism, we should have expected to find rules laid down in the Vinaya governing the proper use and storage of
writing implements and materials, in the way in which we find instructions about everything else which concerns a monk’s daily life.
This is also shaky because he presumes that monks should have been the earliest writers or copiers of the sutta manuscripts.
Even if we assume they were, it is not necessary that they used writing for everyday use as to necessitate carrying writing implements along with them wherever they went.
Maybe they didn't even carry the written texts around with them but deposited them for safekeeping at reliable places or monasteries. Monasteries cannot have been used for any other principal purpose in Ashoka's time (other than as a storehouse and copying place for manuscripts) since monks in the early monastic tradition never lived in a single place... the entire paribbajaka i.e. wandering mendicant tradition (which some people wrongly call the sramana tradition) was about living a homeless (non-settled) existence. Monks cannot have lived for extended periods in or around a single monastery. But texts had to have a place to be preserved and copied.
Norman says "The vocabulary of the early texts is centred around the words for hearing, from the root śru - to hear, and for speaking from the root vac to speak
" and uses this as an argument to prove that there was no word for "reading".
But even Ashoka in his (written) rock edicts says things like "This edict is to be listened/heard every 4 months..." (not "read"). Just because he uses the words listen/hear, it doesnt mean some or all of Ashoka's edicts were once part of an oral tradition before they were finally written down as rock edicts.
Similarly Ashoka in another edict says "These Dhamma texts -- Extracts from the Discipline, the Noble Way of Life, the Fears to Come, the Poem on the Silent Sage, the Discourse on the Pure Life, Upatisa's Questions, and the Advice to Rahula which was spoken by the Buddha concerning false speech -- these Dhamma texts, reverend sirs, I desire that all the monks and nuns may constantly listen to...", and this by the same logic does not mean these suttas that Ashoka was referring to by name and suggesting they be heard, were part of a putative oral tradition.
Norman also says "The word bhāṇaka means speaker, from the root bhaṇ “to speak”, and is another of the items of vocabulary which suggest that the early Buddhists used an oral tradition.
However there are no bhāṇakas mentioned either in the canon itself or anytime within the first 10 centuries of Buddhism. Even Buddhaghosa who is the first to mention a bhāṇaka uses it only once in relevance to the sutta pitaka and does not mention that bhāṇakas followed an independent oral tradition. So to use a single occurence of this word virtually a millenium after the buddha's time (and by redefining it) to argue for a great oral tradition in the Buddha's era is kind of odd..
Norman further says "...but everyone, I think, agrees that during the early period of Buddhism, even if writing was available, all teaching was by oral methods, and the Buddhist scriptures were transmitted orally, as was also the case with the brahmanical texts.
" So here we come to the crux of the argument, he is relying on dogma (i.e. "everyone agrees so it must be true") to prove that there was an oral tradition, not because there is any evidence for it, but due to the existence of much evidence against it. He also brings the red herring called the 'brahmanical oral tradition' of the vedas to suggest that buddhists must have adopted the brahmanical oral tradition. However the brahmanical oral tradition was specifically designed for the vedas, applying it for the tipitaka was wholly impossible (see below).
ancientbuddhism wrote:do you have evidence for your claim?
I have evidence that bhanakas are not mentioned at all in the canon.
Nor could they have followed the vedic oral tradition for preserving the pali canon intact since the vedic oral tradition depended on significant linguistic tools and grammatical study which is all still practised in India , it is extremely rigorous and time-consuming, it depends very heavily on grammatical study, I am convinced it can never have been used by the sangha (it took decades of vedic study for a brahmin to become fully proficient in the oral tradition).
ancientbuddhism wrote:Lecture VIII – Buddhism and Canonicity – of the same series cited above, discusses tipiṭaka and the idea of a pāli-canon in general. That the tipiṭaka would be considered as representing a physical collection of texts originally, was not mentioned, although the nearest equivalent to ‘canon’ he comes up with is “…Buddhavacana “the words of the Buddha””.
So how were the suttas transmitted if there was no compilation of them i.e. a canon? How did people know which sutta was what (as Ashoka refers to some of the suttas by name)?