But the split from which these traditions come is much earlier, around Asoka or so, only 100-200 yrs after the Parinibbana. They were at the opposite ends of the continent.nowheat wrote:You can check one written tradition against another, but the texts you're comparing are from (if I recall) about 400 A.D., most of a millennium after the Buddha lived.Paññāsikhara wrote:...we can compare these various traditions. On comparison, we can often identify errors in one or other tradition, and thus identify something which is probably what was being transmitted at the point of the split. Moreover, there are still some cultures which largely follow these traditions, and have not really been influenced by various western religions or scientific ideas to the degree that those of us sitting here typing on PCs have most likely been.
So, with the willingness to investigate these various traditions, I don't think that it is quite as obscure or "corrupted" as you seem to imply.
Both were oral traditions when they split, not written.Even if there were no disagreements between all extant versions, that doesn't mean that there were no errors introduced before they were written down.
As above. That's the wrong date to look at it from. I am not just talking about written texts.I agree with the scholars accustomed to studing transmitted written texts, that the process of writing it down reduces the number of errors. My understanding is that the first writing-down occurred about 100 A.D. (on fragile palm leaves) which gives about half a millennium for verbal transmission to have been corrupted before the teachings and rules were codified. That's a long time for misunderstanding to creep in.
I don't think that was the reason - ie. that he couldn't understand. Remember, many would ask Ananda what the Buddha meant after a teaching. His main reason was that he was busy as attendant, so didn't have time for much jhana. Also, it was not considered proper for an arhat to be an attendant, so he deliberately stayed as a sotapanna.And we have evidence that the Buddha's teaching was misunderstood in his own lifetime: there are frequent stories in the suttas about him correcting such misconceptions among his own monks and others. His closest personal assistant, his cousin Ananda, wasn't even able to understand what was being said well enough to become an arahant himself during the Buddha's lifetime
But, from the comparisons I am talking about, one can see not just word, but also meaning. It can become clear when they have the same word, but translate it differently, or gloss it differently.-- and this is the man whose prodigious memory brings us the suttas. Even keeping the same exact words is no guarantee that the underlying meaning will be preserved, since words are the shiftiest of impermanent things out there.
Have you ever compared, say, the Dhammapada, in Pali, Sanskrit, Prakrit, Kharosthi and Chinese, to actually find out to what extent the differences are?If misunderstanding was introduced early -- which I would guess it was -- no matter how good written transmission was afterwards, no matter how faithful the Traditions' handing it on, the corruption of meaning would also be faithfully handed on, even with the best of intentions by every hand applied to the canon.
You may be surprised.