Author Topic: Hello all! Norwegian student studying religion  (Read 802 times)

Offline Buddhiststudent321

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Hello all! Norwegian student studying religion
« on: April 25, 2018, 10:28:59 am »
 :r4wheel:

A good forum you guys got cooking here. This might be the wrong thread to post this, but I could not find a more appropriate place to put it.

I am a 24 year old Norwegian student studying religion @ The Norwegian University of Science and Technology. By studying religion, it has made me more self aware, and I've become more self aware. And it is mainly by discussing religion with fellow classmates or persons in general. And I've come to learn more, to extend my views. But first I need your help.
Well, to be quite frank, I'm on the lookout for someone who can help me answering a termpaper, or rather get me on my way answering it. The subject is South Asian Religions, and this one is about Buddhism. The task, freely translated from Norwegian, goes something like this:

"Modern day scholars often differ between Theravada/Hinayana and Mahayana as different schools or areas of Buddhsim. Discuss why this distinction may be problematic. Consider also the history of Southeast Asian Buddhism as the premise of modern research."


I've read about them both, but by the life of me, I cannot get this wheel rolling.. The problem is of course Western distinctions often suffer to historical bias, but that's not enough at all.

Appreciate any help I can get here!
Thank you :)

:anjali:


Offline VincentRJ

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Re: Hello all! Norwegian student studying religion
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2018, 06:09:45 pm »
Welcome to the forum.

I don't know if the following ideas will be useful for your studies, but the problems that I encountered with my own philosophical contemplation of the Buddhist teachings were partly due to the realization that writing did not exist during the times of the Buddha. At least, I think that's the case.

One often comes across references to 'ancient Vedic texts', and one assumes that a text is something which is written down. However, the use of the word 'text' in this situation is misleading.

As I understand, there was no formalized writing system in those times. Everything was held in memory, and therefore the Buddha must have been essentially illiterate.

When teachings are transmitted by memory for about 450 years, before being written down, it's reasonable to expect that different interpretations of the original teachings will evolve.

Consider the Christian gospels. The first was written about 35 years after the death of Christ, and the last Gospel about 75 years after his death, probably by people who had never even met Christ.
If that situation is problematic for some, then the problems could understandably be greater if the first texts of a religion were written 450 years later.

Even the dates ascribed to the first, written Buddhist texts are a bit confusing. According to Wikipedia:

"The earliest known Buddhist manuscripts, recovered from the ancient civilization of Gandhara in north central Pakistan (near Taxila just south west of the capital Islamabad) are dated to the 1st century C.E. and constitute the Buddhist textual tradition of Gandharan Buddhism which was an important link between Indian and East Asian Buddhism."

Yet we also get the following statement from Wikipedia:

"The Pali Canon was composed in North India and was preserved orally until it was committed to writing during the Fourth Buddhist Council in Sri Lanka in 29 BCE, approximately 454 years after the death of Gautama Buddha."

Clearly, 29 BCE is earlier than the 1st century CE."

Perhaps what is meant here is that the original text of the Pali Canon, which is reported to have been written in 29 BCE, no longer exists, therefore the later Gandharan text is the earliest text that physically still exists, on paper bark.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2018, 06:15:30 pm by VincentRJ »

Offline Buddhiststudent321

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Re: Hello all! Norwegian student studying religion
« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2018, 05:04:35 am »
Thank you so much. This is so exciting.  :suit:

Offline IdleChater

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Re: Hello all! Norwegian student studying religion
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2018, 11:14:31 am »
Welcome to the forum.

I don't know if the following ideas will be useful for your studies, but the problems that I encountered with my own philosophical contemplation of the Buddhist teachings were partly due to the realization that writing did not exist during the times of the Buddha. At least, I think that's the case.


It's not.

The earliest forms of writing were around before 3000 BCE (Sumeria & Egypt).

Writing forms are found in the Indus Valley about 500 years after that.

There was writing at the time of the Buddha and it most likey had found it's way to the Gangeatic Plain, where the Buddha spent most of his time, by then



Offline Pixie

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Re: Hello all! Norwegian student studying religion
« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2018, 11:35:49 pm »
Hi BuddhistStudent321,

You might find these resources useful:

"The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts:

https://ocbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/authenticity.pdf

and

"Sects & Sectarianism - The origins of Buddhist schools"

http://www.ahandfulofleaves.org/documents/Articles/Sects%20and%20Sectarianism_The%20Origins%20of%20Buddhist%20Schools_Sujato.pdf


Good luck with your paper!


Best wishes,

Pixie
« Last Edit: May 01, 2018, 11:38:29 pm by Pixie »
May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May they all be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May they never be deprived of true happiness devoid of any suffering.
May they abide in great impartiality, free from attachment to loved ones and aversion to others.

Offline VincentRJ

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Re: Hello all! Norwegian student studying religion
« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2018, 05:28:02 am »
Welcome to the forum.

I don't know if the following ideas will be useful for your studies, but the problems that I encountered with my own philosophical contemplation of the Buddhist teachings were partly due to the realization that writing did not exist during the times of the Buddha. At least, I think that's the case.


It's not.

The earliest forms of writing were around before 3000 BCE (Sumeria & Egypt).

Writing forms are found in the Indus Valley about 500 years after that.

There was writing at the time of the Buddha and it most likey had found it's way to the Gangeatic Plain, where the Buddha spent most of his time, by then

Okay! I'll clarify what I wrote. I should have been more precise.

There is no evidence that writing existed, at the time, in that part of the world that Gautama Buddha inhabited.

One can speculate as much as one likes, but there is no existing ancient manuscript, or inscription on stone, from that era in India and Nepal, about 2,500 years ago, which indicates that anyone was using a written script.

Of course, writing existed in other parts of the world at that time and much earlier. Egyptian hieroglyphs and the Sumerian script go back possibly as far as 3100 BCE, or maybe even 3400 BCE. 

The Indus Valley civilization, which flourished from about 3300 to 1300 BCE in the region which is now Afghanistan, Pakistan and Northern India, much further west than the Buddha's birth place, and a considerable time earlier, appears to have had a written language, but no-one has yet deciphered it.

In fact, there's a difference of opinion among scholars as to whether it really is a language, because there are far too many different symbols for a written language, between 400 and 600, and inscriptions are usually no longer than 4 or 5 characters in length, hardly long enough to describe any Buddhist Suttas.  :wink1:

It is thought by some scholars that those characters simply symbolize certain objects, like deities, cattle and various objects for trade.

As a Buddhist I pay great attention to the Kalama Sutta. Don't accept speculation and rumour as truth.  :wink1:

Offline IdleChater

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Re: Hello all! Norwegian student studying religion
« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2018, 08:36:56 am »
Welcome to the forum.

I don't know if the following ideas will be useful for your studies, but the problems that I encountered with my own philosophical contemplation of the Buddhist teachings were partly due to the realization that writing did not exist during the times of the Buddha. At least, I think that's the case.


It's not.

The earliest forms of writing were around before 3000 BCE (Sumeria & Egypt).

Writing forms are found in the Indus Valley about 500 years after that.

There was writing at the time of the Buddha and it most likey had found it's way to the Gangeatic Plain, where the Buddha spent most of his time, by then

Okay! I'll clarify what I wrote. I should have been more precise.

There is no evidence that writing existed, at the time, in that part of the world that Gautama Buddha inhabited.

One can speculate as much as one likes, but there is no existing ancient manuscript, or inscription on stone, from that era in India and Nepal, about 2,500 years ago, which indicates that anyone was using a written script.

Of course, writing existed in other parts of the world at that time and much earlier. Egyptian hieroglyphs and the Sumerian script go back possibly as far as 3100 BCE, or maybe even 3400 BCE. 

The Indus Valley civilization, which flourished from about 3300 to 1300 BCE in the region which is now Afghanistan, Pakistan and Northern India, much further west than the Buddha's birth place, and a considerable time earlier, appears to have had a written language, but no-one has yet deciphered it.

In fact, there's a difference of opinion among scholars as to whether it really is a language, because there are far too many different symbols for a written language, between 400 and 600, and inscriptions are usually no longer than 4 or 5 characters in length, hardly long enough to describe any Buddhist Suttas.  :wink1:

It is thought by some scholars that those characters simply symbolize certain objects, like deities, cattle and various objects for trade.

As a Buddhist I pay great attention to the Kalama Sutta. Don't accept speculation and rumour as truth.  :wink1:

Well, but your assertions are as speculative as mine.

A lack of evidence or the absense of evidence, isn't evidence of anything.  IOW to say there is no evidnce of writing on the Gangeatic plain around 600bce doesn't mean there wasn't any writing there.  All it means is there is no evidence.  But speculation is allowed. 

We have evidence of writing in the Indus valley around 2600 bce.  Later, we have script in China around 1200 bce.  The fact that the Buddha lived and taught in an area with a major navigable waterway (Ganges watershed) indicate a broad trading network - it was not a cultural backwater.  Taken together, while still speculative, it is not unreasonable to speculate that there was a form of writing, of some sort, in that region at the time of the Buddha.

Why there is no evidence can't be explained.

Why, if there was writing, noone recorded the Buddha's teachings, cannot be explained either.

And I've wondered about that.  If there was a form of writing (and I speculate that there was) why didn't someone write down the Buddha's teachings?  At least some of them.  Recording a teacher's teaching are a big deal in modern Buddhism and this tradition probably goes back centuries, perhaps. 

It coukld be that, as you suggest, there was no writing (something I doubt).  It may be there was noone available to do the writing.   It could be they were written down, but have not survived or have not been found.  It could also be that noone thought it was that important.

Who knows?

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Hello all! Norwegian student studying religion
« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2018, 03:12:06 am »
:r4wheel:

A good forum you guys got cooking here. This might be the wrong thread to post this, but I could not find a more appropriate place to put it.

I am a 24 year old Norwegian student studying religion @ The Norwegian University of Science and Technology. By studying religion, it has made me more self aware, and I've become more self aware. And it is mainly by discussing religion with fellow classmates or persons in general. And I've come to learn more, to extend my views. But first I need your help.
Well, to be quite frank, I'm on the lookout for someone who can help me answering a termpaper, or rather get me on my way answering it. The subject is South Asian Religions, and this one is about Buddhism. The task, freely translated from Norwegian, goes something like this:

"Modern day scholars often differ between Theravada/Hinayana and Mahayana as different schools or areas of Buddhsim. Discuss why this distinction may be problematic. Consider also the history of Southeast Asian Buddhism as the premise of modern research."


I've read about them both, but by the life of me, I cannot get this wheel rolling.. The problem is of course Western distinctions often suffer to historical bias, but that's not enough at all.

Appreciate any help I can get here!
Thank you :)

:anjali:

There is no writing from the time of the Buddha because it was an aural tradition. Deliberately so, for me, since the Buddha was skillful enough to adapt his teachings to each individual, and any written records might have been misunderstood later on and used in a universal way. Later attempts to produce written records relied on handed-down teachings, which had changed over time and location so it is not surprising that so many different traditions developed. Our task is to find for ourselves that which has the "taste of salt" that shows us it is an authentic piece of work for us to incorporate into our practice.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline VisuddhiRaptor

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Re: Hello all! Norwegian student studying religion
« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2018, 04:16:56 am »
The task, freely translated from Norwegian, goes something like this:

"Modern day scholars often differ between Theravada/Hinayana and Mahayana as different schools or areas of Buddhsim. Discuss why this distinction may be problematic. Consider also the history of Southeast Asian Buddhism as the premise of modern research."

I've read about them both, but by the life of me, I cannot get this wheel rolling.. The problem is of course Western distinctions often suffer to historical bias, but that's not enough at all.


Possibly my reply is too late to help you but to answer this question requires a lot of knowledge of cultural Southeast Asian Buddhism.

Firstly, you should address the similarities of Theravada & Mahayana and how Mahayana evolved out of Theravada, which occurred as follows:

1. In the early discourses of the Buddha, called Theravada "sutta", the Buddha taught about "birth" ("jati"), which means the arising of self-identity or social-identity, exactly the same as the word "jati" means today in modern India.

2. However, the Buddha spoke in a language which lent to words, such as "jati", being interpreted by unenlightened people in physical or material ways.

3. Therefore, the idea of life-to-life "rebirth" became strong in Theravada Buddhism.

4. A few hundreds years after the Buddha, this idea of life to life "rebirth" resulted in the writing of the Theravada Jataka Tales, which are children's fables about the many former lifetimes of the "Bodhisatta", who became the Buddha.

5. In addition, as Theravada sought to convert Brahmans (Hindus) & other to Buddhism, it included many suttas with a cosmology of Brahman gods.

6. Mahayana, who were slack people who did not want to follow the rules of discipline, created their core doctrine around the idea of the former lifetimes of the "Bodhisatta", who became the Buddha; however the Mahayana twist was the Bodhisattva would postpone final enlightenment until they save all sentient beings.

7. In addition, Mahayana borrowed more gods from the new Hinduism, such as Tara, Jambhala, Bhaiṣajyaguru, Avalokiteśvara, etc.

8. Also, Mahayana borrowed the Hindu practises of Tantra & Non-Duality (Advaita).

9. Mahayana spread from China into South East Asia, particularly in the Srivijayan Empire that existed between Indonesia & Southern Thailand. For example, the important Tibetan/Mahayana sage named "Atisha" is said to have visited Java and Sumatra. Borobudur is a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia, and the world's largest Buddhist temple. In Southern Thailand, Mahayana relics have been found, such as this famous statue of Avalokiteśvara. http://www.art-and-archaeology.com/seasia/bangkok/bnm08.html

10. Importantly, Mahayana still considers the Theravada suttas to be completely valid however the Mahayana believe they have an additional, higher & secret path for Bodhisatvahood to save all sentient beings. Thus Mahayana breaks Buddhism up into Hinayana (Theravada; liberating oneself); Mahayana (Bodhicitta; wish to save all sentient beings); and Vajrayana (Tantra; developing the beautiful qualities of a deity; to save sentient beings). In short, Mahayana does not reject the Theravada suttas. 

Therefore, I suggest you research Mahayana influences in South Asia, such as:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_in_Thailand

http://vamsapala.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/mahayana-buddhism-in-thailand.html

http://www.burmese-buddhas.com/burmese-buddha-statues/bagan-period-buddha-statues/

https://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/index.php/jiabs/article/viewFile/8892/2799

https://www.buddhistdoor.net/features/the-impact-of-mahayana-buddhism-on-sri-lanka

http://www.island.lk/2006/10/14/satmag3.html

Also, I suggest to research compassion & helping others in Theravada Buddhism (because the Mahayana often claims the Theravada does not have compassion and the wish to help people). 

 :namaste:

Quote
If anyone, when speaking rightly, were to say, 'A being not subject to delusion has appeared in the world for the benefit & happiness of many, out of sympathy for the world, for the welfare, benefit, & happiness of human & divine beings,' he would rightly be speaking of me.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.004.than.html


Quote
Then, having understood Brahma's invitation, out of compassion for beings, I surveyed the world with the eye of an Awakened One.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.026.than.html


 

« Last Edit: May 04, 2018, 04:25:53 am by VisuddhiRaptor »

Offline IdleChater

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Re: Hello all! Norwegian student studying religion
« Reply #9 on: May 04, 2018, 06:05:36 pm »
The task, freely translated from Norwegian, goes something like this:

"Modern day scholars often differ between Theravada/Hinayana and Mahayana as different schools or areas of Buddhsim. Discuss why this distinction may be problematic. Consider also the history of Southeast Asian Buddhism as the premise of modern research."

I've read about them both, but by the life of me, I cannot get this wheel rolling.. The problem is of course Western distinctions often suffer to historical bias, but that's not enough at all.


Possibly my reply is too late to help you but to answer this question requires a lot of knowledge of cultural Southeast Asian Buddhism.

Firstly, you should address the similarities of Theravada & Mahayana and how Mahayana evolved out of Theravada, which occurred as follows:

1. In the early discourses of the Buddha, called Theravada "sutta", the Buddha taught about "birth" ("jati"), which means the arising of self-identity or social-identity, exactly the same as the word "jati" means today in modern India.


Interesting.  I wonder how the mening of a word can mean "exactly the same" today as it was 2500 years ago and how we know what it meant then?

Quote
2. However, the Buddha spoke in a language which lent to words, such as "jati", being interpreted by unenlightened people in physical or material ways.


Are you, then, enlightened, or repeating the teachng of an enlightened being? 

Quote
3. Therefore, the idea of life-to-life "rebirth" became strong in Theravada Buddhism.


I like that.  "Life-to-life" rebirth.  That, as opposed to "moment-to-moment" rebirth.

Quote
4. A few hundreds years after the Buddha, this idea of life to life "rebirth" resulted in the writing of the Theravada Jataka Tales, which are children's fables about the many former lifetimes of the "Bodhisatta", who became the Buddha.

5. In addition, as Theravada sought to convert Brahmans (Hindus) & other to Buddhism, it included many suttas with a cosmology of Brahman gods.


I don't know that what you describe is the case or not.  I do know that  cultural forces, such as a religion, will appropriate elements of the culture it encunter as it spreads.  Another example is Tibetan Buddhists adopting certain aspects of the native Bon religion.

Quote
6. Mahayana, who were slack people who did not want to follow the rules of discipline, created their core doctrine around the idea of the former lifetimes of the "Bodhisatta", who became the Buddha; however the Mahayana twist was the Bodhisattva would postpone final enlightenment until they save all sentient beings.


Y'know, I've never heard that Mahayanaists were "slack" pr slackers(?) wher it came to discipline.  As I understand it, Mahayana monks are bound to the same vinaya as Theravedins.  They do allow marriage in some cases Dilgo Kyentse is one example othrs who marry generally disrobe first.

Quote
7. In addition, Mahayana borrowed more gods from the new Hinduism, such as Tara, Jambhala, Bhaiṣajyaguru, Avalokiteśvara, etc.


But doctrinally, they aren't "gods" per se.  People may worship them, but worshipping things isn't the sole purvue of the Mahayana.  I was in correspondence with a fellow who was a monk of the Forest Tradiion in Thailand.  He described the abbot having the monks venerate (worship?) a pile of his own exrement.

Quote
8. Also, Mahayana borrowed the Hindu practises of Tantra & Non-Duality (Advaita).


With Tantra, it's a matter of the practice working so why not continue.  Look at this image of the Kagyu Refuge Tree - https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a6/KagyuRefugeTree.jpg.

In the branches of the tree sit being with halos.  This signifies that the person is enlightened.  They are also Tantrikas.

As far as non-duality goes, the belief is that the Buddha taught it, although I can't give to chapter and verse.  Philospohical schools like Madyamika teach it.

9. Mahayana spread from China into South East Asia, particularly in the Srivijayan Empire that existed between Indonesia & Southern Thailand. For example, the important Tibetan/Mahayana sage named "Atisha" is said to have visited Java and Sumatra. Borobudur is a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia, and the world's largest Buddhist temple. In Southern Thailand, Mahayana relics have been found, such as this famous statue of Avalokiteśvara. http://www.art-and-archaeology.com/seasia/bangkok/bnm08.html

Quote
10. Importantly, Mahayana still considers the Theravada suttas to be completely valid however the Mahayana believe they have an additional, higher & secret path for Bodhisatvahood to save all sentient beings. Thus Mahayana breaks Buddhism up into Hinayana (Theravada; liberating oneself); Mahayana (Bodhicitta; wish to save all sentient beings); and Vajrayana (Tantra; developing the beautiful qualities of a deity; to save sentient beings). In short, Mahayana does not reject the Theravada suttas. 


Well Theraveda and Hinayana are not the same  thing.  Theraveda is a tradition and Hinayana is a "yana" or vehicle.  The teaching of the Hinaya, which are found in the Pali canon, were around for a lot longer than than Theraveda.

You are wrong about the purpose of Vajrayana.  The practice's intent is for the practitioner to become a Buddha.


Offline VisuddhiRaptor

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Re: Hello all! Norwegian student studying religion
« Reply #10 on: May 05, 2018, 03:40:36 am »
Interesting.  I wonder how the mening of a word can mean "exactly the same" today as it was 2500 years ago and how we know what it meant then?

Cuz itz literally defined in zee old zuttas.  :teehee:

 


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