First mahayana sutras, when?

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Greg
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Re: First mahayana sutras, when?

Post by Greg » Tue Jul 24, 2012 5:45 pm

Aemilius wrote:I am replying your statement/opinion that they are literary compositions. The situation is that we have institutions like universities, book publishing companies, schools, etc.. We have unquestioning faith in them, this faith is so selfevident that we don't see it at all. In the same way in ancient India, and ancient world in general, there were equal institutions that had equal authority, power and prestige. If you say "groups of monks and nuns", they are equal to nothing, because they are like nothing in our present day society. Instead you have to realize that monasteries, ascetics, yogis etc had equal power and authority as the universities, publishing companies, etc have in our modern society. These institutions that had real natural authority had percieved what universe was really like. This means that the beings of the three realms, buddhas and bodhisattvas of infinite eons etc were facts. They were reality, like the facts that the modern authorities produce today, they were not tales at all. Almost all of our knowledge exists by faith, habitul faith in the authorities, socially enforced faith. We can not even trust our own experience when the society decides otherwise, we have to deny our own experience, or suffer the consequences of it.
All of that really has no bearing on the arguments to which I refer. The scholars in question are all quite familiar with the milieu they study - far more than you or I. I can see this discussion is going nowhere, so I don't see much point in continuing it.

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Leo Rivers
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Re: First mahayana sutras, when?

Post by Leo Rivers » Tue Jul 24, 2012 11:22 pm

I just want to add that Tradition is one explanation system and that Academia is another explanation system.

They aren't using either the same assumptions or the same information. They are like chess and checkers. The board is the same but the moves and pieces are different. A chess player can "sit in" on a game of checkers if they are willing to play checkers for awhile.

My point is they don't speak the same language so you have to be willing to "play by the rules" of the system you are in to get any good out of it.

Early on in the Buddhist conversation with non-Buddhists an understanding arose about "rules of debate" where Buddhists decided they could usefully engage non-Buddhists when a shared assumption made a point of divergence and discussion possible.

I apologize for not recalling the name of the Buddhist teacher who in the early centuries of the Common Era set up the rules for these kinds of debates.

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pueraeternus
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Re: First mahayana sutras, when?

Post by pueraeternus » Wed Jul 25, 2012 5:07 am

Aemilius wrote:I am replying your statement/opinion that they are literary compositions.
I think the point is that: the written records of the Agamas/Nikayas have all the hallmarks of an oral tradition, whereas the written records of the Mahayana sutras have all the hallmarks of a literary composition (and very little of that of an oral tradition). Hence we can safely say that, as Greg puts it, "it can be established with reasonable certainty that many Mahayana sutras are literary compositions and not strictly the fruit of oral tradition."

Its quite a logical and reasonable conclusion.
"Men must want to do things out of their own innermost drives. People, not commercial organizations or chains of command, are what make great civilizations work. Every civilization depends upon the quality of the individuals it produces. If you over-organize humans, over-legalize them, suppress their urge to greatness - they cannot work and their civilization collapses."
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Michael_Dorfman
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Re: First mahayana sutras, when?

Post by Michael_Dorfman » Wed Jul 25, 2012 5:02 pm

Leo Rivers wrote:
I apologize for not recalling the name of the Buddhist teacher who in the early centuries of the Common Era set up the rules for these kinds of debates.
I'm pretty sure that was Dignāga (although it's possible he got it from Vasubandhu; I haven't read the latter's logical works.)

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Aemilius
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Re: First mahayana sutras, when?

Post by Aemilius » Wed Aug 29, 2012 10:58 am

You must be referring to Vasubandhu's Vadavidhi, A method of Argumentation. It is a difficult text to grasp. There must have been earlier works on the subject. There were in India public discussion forums, or houses built for that specific purpose, these existed already during the Tathagata's lifetime.
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Aemilius
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Re: First mahayana sutras, when?

Post by Aemilius » Wed Aug 29, 2012 12:59 pm

pueraeternus wrote:
Aemilius wrote:I am replying your statement/opinion that they are literary compositions.
I think the point is that: the written records of the Agamas/Nikayas have all the hallmarks of an oral tradition, whereas the written records of the Mahayana sutras have all the hallmarks of a literary composition (and very little of that of an oral tradition). Hence we can safely say that, as Greg puts it, "it can be established with reasonable certainty that many Mahayana sutras are literary compositions and not strictly the fruit of oral tradition."

Its quite a logical and reasonable conclusion.
The question is much larger, as I have tried to express. You can also put it this way: Does it mean that there was no Mahayana movement at all, preceding the sutras? Or that the Mahayana sutras are not products from the Mahayana that existed as an oral tradition, as an oral teaching, an oral lineage?

Mahayana has all the hall marks of being a genuine teaching of Buddha Shakyamuni. It has been evidenced by the thousands, tens of thousands, of enlightened masters that the Mahayana has produced. Its proof is strictly spiritual, strictly practical.

It is easy to see from elsewhere in the world, from the oral traditions that have existed on all continents, that the written stories that have been produced from these oral traditions do not differ in any way at all from the style and composition of the Mahayana sutras.
svaha
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1. (in english and sanskrit)

Druniel
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Re: First mahayana sutras, when?

Post by Druniel » Sat Aug 04, 2018 1:35 pm

Aemilius wrote:
Mon Jul 23, 2012 10:04 am
This line of thinking presupposes that there were no arhats, no practicers of dhyana, no ascetis, no living bodhisattvas, no persons who had attained the psychic masteries, the supernormal powers, the five eyes etc... who possed oral instructions, who could see past, present and future like the palm of their hand. Instead it supposes that suddenly there appeared a book club that sold Mahayana sutras, which had no contact with anything that really existed!! Can you not see that these books would have no authority at all ! Authority comes from the above mentioned persons: siddhas, bodhisattvas, yogis, ascetics, arhats, etc. Try to imagine the society there was before the loss of memory, before the appearence of bookish domination! Our tendency is to project a past that is very much like our the present, we are severely handicapped in not being able to understand a past oral culture. When the first books appeared they were still fragile and not very long lasting, like the palm leaf books. What is important are the persons of knowledge, without them there is nothing. We don't accept the nature of an oral culture, we don't want to see it. Instead we fabricate a history that is a copy of our modern literary culture, a history that is fundamentally wrong and distorted.
Yes, you have got the very point of it!

tingdzin
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Re: First mahayana sutras, when?

Post by tingdzin » Thu Aug 16, 2018 11:48 am

Please don't speak of the "original Sanskrit" versions of Mahayana sutras. Most of them were translated from Prakrit, mostly NW Prakrit. Sanskrit did not come into widespread use in Buddhism until well past the first century, as I recall.

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Grigoris
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Re: First mahayana sutras, when?

Post by Grigoris » Thu Aug 16, 2018 12:09 pm

This discussion is in the Academic Discussion sub-forum. Either people start coming up with references to back up their claims, or I shut it down.
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Sentient Light
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Re: First mahayana sutras, when?

Post by Sentient Light » Thu Aug 16, 2018 8:13 pm

This paper is a deep look at a partial manuscript from the Baujaur Collection that references Aksobhya Buddha and the Abhirati Pure Land, and the perfection of kshanti. It dates as early as 47CE, but is written in Gandhari script and is indicative of Aksobhya's prominence in Gandhari Buddhism, as well as supports the popular theory that Mahayana Buddhism grew to prominence in Gandhara in the 2nd-1st centuries BCE.

Was the Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita Compiled in in Gandhara in Gandhari? by Seishi Karashima goes deeper into the Baujaur collection, referencing and explaining a collaboration with Harry Falk that showed a Kharosthi script Prajnaparamita sutra from the Baujaur Collection was likely translated from Gandhari. He also mentions another collection that contains a Gandhari version of the same text, discovered in a location near to Baujaur as well.

Later, he discusses his previous work doing a painful word-for-word comparison of Lokaksema's Chinese translation of this text against Sanskrit, Tibetan, six other Chinese versions, and part of this Gandhari version, and concluded that the Gandhari version of this text comes from an earlier stratum than the version Lokaksema was working from.

The second section of this paper is a very detailed linguistic analysis concluding that the underlying source language Lokaksema was working from was Gandhari.

So it appears with these recent finds in Pakistan, there is a strong case that Mahayana scriptures were in wide circulation in Gandhara, at least as early as the 1st century BCE, though I don't think we'll get any clearer insight than this for quite some time yet.
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