Now on Twitter and Facebook

If I’ve done it right, this blog will now automatically update to facebook and twitter accounts I’ve set up as ‘sujato’. I don’t use either of those apps, so I’m not really sure if it works yet. This is just for the convenience of anyone who does use them – obviously, lots of you. I won’t be following or checking either of these places regularly, so if you want to join the conversation, here’s still the place.

24 thoughts on “Now on Twitter and Facebook

  1. not on topic – just wanted to say thank you very much for your wise words this weekend, they helped my meditation very much. It was a great privilege to stay at Santi for the weekend and of enormous benefit to me and those I am in contact with.

    i also read some of a translation of the Dammapada in the library there which was very helpful. One verse is of great comfort to me at the moment:

    Like a fish which on being dragged
    from its home in the water
    and tossed on dry land
    will thrash about,
    so will the heart tremble
    when withdrawing from the current of Mara.

  2. Hello, sorry not on topic but I was just looking at wikipedia under bhikkhuni and does anyone have the energy to clarify and quote the Buddha where he established the bhikkhuni sangha? If someone can quote that it’d be great :) Wikipedia seems to have an influence and there’s a lot of wrong view in there. I don’t have enough knowledge in the suttas to clarify it.

    Secondly, when people say that the first woman who asked to ordain had to ask 3 times, and they use this argument to say that the Buddha didn’t want to ordain women- this reasoning is flawed and does not bear weight. I was reading the Udana (part of the Tipitika) and Sona, a layman, had to ask 3 times to Ven. Mahakaccana to go forth. He ended up being a monk praised by the Buddha. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/ud/ud.5.06.than.html
    Perhaps there were other monks who had to ask 3 times as well.

    Anyways, the best way to develop bhikkhuni sangha which will allow women more opportunity to lead a monastic life is if we (females) practice well, nibbana, and then are inspiring examples through our conduct and teaching. It’s easy to get caught up arguing with the world about bhikkhuni issues. Of course some is necessary because women do need more places/opportunity to practice, but just one inspiring and wise bhikkhuni will definitely open the doors to many others. This should give us more motivation to practice. I know it does for my mind. So this is said just to inspire us females to practice our eightfold path and meditation more so we can one day perhaps be an ariyan or arahant bhikkhuni and be an inspiration for others to start their path towards nibbana :):):) Then the bhikkhuni sangha will flourish and be very strong:)

    • Hi Dania,

      The difference is that normally the Buddha said okay after requesting three times, whereas in the Mahapajapati story, he kept on refusing even after two times three requests.

  3. Dear & Venerable Bhante Sujato,

    I would like to suggest you reading a latest interview with Mr. Stephen Batchelor on his just released book “Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist”, in which he try to uncover an untold story of the Buddha’s life and death, based on historical elements found here and there within the Pali Canon and its commentaries.

    The link is: http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?264459

    I am looking forward to hearing your comments on the interview.

    Kindest regards,

    Gabriel Laera
    (a Brazilian Buddhist in Bangkok, Thailand)

    • Hi Gabriel,

      It’s an interesting article, thanks for directing us over there. Batchelor always has some provocative things to say, and while i don’t always agree with him he’s worth listening to.

      Just a few general points about this article. I will have to be cautious here, as I have not read the book so i don’t want to misrepresent Batchelor’s arguments.

      The general idea that the life of the Buddha is scattered and broken through the various parts of the early scriptures is not new. in fact it’s obvious to anyone who reads the pali canon. Exactly the same situation pertains, incidentally, in the Agamas. However, this article ignores the Agamas, which is a fatal scholarly flaw in any serious attempt to reconstruct any actual history.

      Batchelor’s depiction of the Buddha suffering a series of losses and setbacks in the last years of his life is, so far as I know, a new emphasis. All the individual events he mentions are well known, but he goes further in linking, for example, Sunakkhatta’s criticism of the Buddha to the Vajjians with the Buddha staying outside of Vesali. It’s an interesting line of argument, but one that i’d need to consider more carefully.

      One flaw of the article is that it conflates commentarial legends with Sutta passages to create an overall narrative. This needs to be taken with extreme care. At the very least, we need to compare these versions of events with the texts of the Northern traditions before making any conclusions, and even then we are on uncertain grounds.

      There are a number of obvious factual errors in the article, such as saying there are 2 references in the Pali canon to the Brahmins trying to identify the Buddha based on the 32 marks; in fact there are many more references than this. Or else the claim that Kassapa was recently ordained at the time of the Buddha’s death: the traditions are in agreement that he was ordianed shortly after the Awakening, and was senior to Ananda. In arguing that the Buddha was likely poisoned, he is ignoring the medical thesis made a number of years ago by Mettanando, who argued convincingly that the Buddha died of a well-described illness.

      More generally, the approach suffers from taking an excessively modernist or literalist approach to its material. My own studies of often the same texts has shown to me how much even the early texts were shaped by the conventions of the Hero Myth. It is not an easy matter to discern how this affects the material as we have it. For example, the struggle between Kassapa and Ananda is a genuine conflict in the texts. But what happened in reality we do not know. I believe there is good reason to think that much of the redaction of that material stems from the Second Council and should be seen as representing their point of view. In addition, there are more subtle, mythic paradigms invoked here: the fraternal squabble between brothers, starting with Cain and Abel, marks the unease and tensions held within the Buddhist community as it faced its uncertain future without its founder.

      In the end, perhaps the most significant aspect of Batchelor’s idea is that, if it is true that the Buddha suffered a series of setbacks in the last years of his life, this would help explain the sometimes paranoid and irrational behaviour of the Sangha. There was a massive fear of death and dissolution; the story of Mahapajapati is just one of the myths that emrged from this fear.

  4. Dear & Venerable Bhante Sujato,

    Firstly, thank you very much for your attention and comments.

    I very much agree with your point that an analysis could not be complete if not taking in consideration the Chinese Agamas & Tibetan Kanjurs (please correct me if I am referring to these wrongly).

    What called my attention was not so much the political analysis he draws of Buddha and the royal people of Magadha, but indeed the point of Mahakassapa taking over the Sangha, and how this was contradictory to the very instructions of the Blessed One.

    I could never understand the claims of an “unspoken transmission” between Buddha and Mahakassapa present in the roots of Zen/Chan’Buddhism (Flower Sermon), just as I always thought to be a little bit out of place the references in the Pali Canon to The Buddha putting the elder at the same level as him… maybe these are indeed the result of the take over that happened before the first rehearsal of the ancient discourses, probably it was based on these claims that he could head the fragile Sangha in the months after the passing away of its Founder.

    Finally, yes, I completely agree with your conclusion and link with the paranoid and irrational behaviour of the Sangha, which we see until nowadays sometimes, unfortunately.

    Changing the subject, if I can, I would like to know if you have ever had the chance to read any of the translations and studies done in the past century on the Salistamba Sutra, a sutra which could be considered an interesting missing link between Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism.

    What is interesting about this sutra is that it is about paticca-samupada, a fundamental doctrinal point which as far as I am concerned does not have a consensual framework in the Theravada Tradition (I admit I am ignorant about what are exactly the different approaches to it within Theravada).

    If you have not ever heard about this sutra, I would be grateful to share with you (and anyone else interested!) a PDF file containing one study by N. Ross Reat based on both Chinese Agamas and Tibetan Kanjurs’ version of the discourse.

    Kind regards,

    Gabriel Laera

    • Hello Gabriel,

      Is there a way you can post the pdf file on this blog? I would be very interested in reading this study, and I imagine others would be as well.

      Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

    • I found the book a number of places for sale online, but nothing free except this bit from the jacket; it looks fascinating:

      “The Salistamba Sutra, a Mahayana text of great antiquity, has perished in its original Sanskrit form. It is, however, extensively quoted in Sanskrit commentarial literature which does survive in the original. Moreover, the Salistamba survives in several Chinese versions and in Tibet, including a seventh century manuscript which represents one of the earliest extant examples of the Tibetan language. As a result, surviving Sanskrit quotations of the Salistamba Sutra can be matched against the Tibetan and Chinese translations of an original Sanskrit version of the text.

      “The resulting approximation of the Sanskrit text of the sutra is of considerable historical importance with regard to the origins of Mahayana Buddhism and the early history of Buddhism in general. The Salistamba Sutra appears to represent a formative period in which there yet remained many points in common between incipient Mahayana Buddhism and what was to become Theravada Buddhism. This situation suggests a gradual divergence between the two major streams of Buddhism rather than the radial schism depicted in traditional Buddhist history, and provides evidence for the contention that the Theravada suttas do indeed contain the earliest, most accurate version of the teachings of historical Buddha.”

    • Hi Linda,

      I can send it by e-mail to anyone interested, please feel free to mail me at gnlaera@gmail.com with the subject “Salistamba Sutra”.

      Kind regards,

      Gabriel Laera

    • Hi Gabriel,

      There’s no doubt the texts are constructed to authorize Kassapa’s leadership after the parinibbana, with all this entails. My only problem with analyses such as Batchelors (Mettanando did a similar analysis a number of years ago) is that they take the events far too literally, with little understanding of the influence of the redaction process, and a too-quick readiness to slip between canonical and commentarial texts.

  5. Dear Sujato

    The subject of the First Council brings a question to mind that has always tugged at my sleeve.

    It seems that the Buddha went to a lot of trouble to establish a functioning fourfold sangha with female and male lay people, nuns and monks. However, from the accounts I’ve read, the First Council seems to have consisted of one fold only: 500 male ordained arhats. No lay pracitioners and no women.

    After all this time is it possible to judge from the scriptures with any certainty if this is what actually happened and, if it seems that it did happen that way, do the scriptures give any clue as to why three folds of the sangha were excluded?

    I’ve been away from the internet for a little while and have been catching up on discussions here. This really is a rich dhamma resource. Thank you for your continued work.

    David

    • Dear Sujato

      Behind the above question was my wondering if the monastic patriarchy hijacked the sangha from the beginning, with results we are seeing today.

      There is another related question that has bugged me for a long time too. I understand that the Buddha said that after his death the sangha could drop the minor rules but should keep the major ones. In the end they kept them all. Was that because:
      – they are all major?
      – the minor ones may be minor but they help practice, so they were kept?
      – the council didn’t know which were major and which were minor (and what would that say for their understanding of the Vinaya and its purpose)?
      – another reason?

      Thanks

      David

    • The ostensible reason was that the householders are familiar with the rules, and would criticize the monks if they abandoned them immediately after the Buddha’s death. It is also true that the Vinayas depict the 500 arahants as being unable to work our which rules were ‘lesser and minor’. In fact, I think it’s actually not that hard to work it out with a pretty high degree of probability….

      More important, and hence more overlooked, is that the motif of giving up rules is a recurring theme in the narrative from the beginning of the Mahaparinibbana Sutta right up until the Second Council. It’s just too neat for me to treat it as straight history, and I think that the theme is there to buttress the authority of the victors at the Second Council, who effectively raised Vinaya above Dhamma.

    • Dear Sujato

      I can see the monks not wanting to lose the confidence of the householders but it does leave the monastics in a position of “performing” for the laity which may have led in part to the consequences that you pointed out in your “Projection” post. I have to admit I’ve always thought that most people could have a pretty good go at picking the minor rules just from the level of penalty for infringement.

      The idea of a “competiton” between Vinaya and Dhamma with the Vinaya winning is new to me. Is there any published work on it?

      Any ideas on why female and lay arhants were excluded from the first council?

      Many thanks

      David

  6. Actually what I should have said to complete that completely was “thank you for your continued work and care”.

    David

    • And also to completely complete it, thank you to everybody else who participates and adds to the richness, information, questioning and insight.

  7. Dear all,

    I am happy to share with you the link to my Box.net shared folder, there you may find the book on Salistamba Sutra & other subjects related to history of Buddhism.

    * http://www.box.net/shared/b0xprtaam7# *

    Regarding the subject of the article I suggested in my first post in this thread – the human aspect of Buddha as both a religious leader and historical character – I think one may find interesting to have a look at the first chapter of the book within the file “The concept of the Buddha – allfreeebook.tk.pdf”.

    I would like to apologize to Bhante Sujato and all other if I am “polluting” the thread by bringing these subjects all at once.

    I have indeed been thinking of taking part in this blogs’ online conversations for some months already as I have been following it since the bhikkhuni ordination events (which I support and wish could be present, at the same time I have a sincere gratitude and respect for the elders from Thai Forest Sangha).

    I will be putting more books on the folder and will try to bring these as subject to this blogs’ threads whenever it sounds reasonable to me.

    Also, you all please feel free to do the same and forward me any other books you think should be in that selection too.

    Bhante Sujato, thank you for your kind feedback and honor, you cannot imagine how your book on Sects and Sectarianism changed my approach to Buddhism as a whole and how after reading it I found myself in my practice and study of Buddha’s Teachings.

    Sorry for such a long post! hehee

    Kind regards,

    Gabriel

    • He mentions a strong dissatisfaction with the Tibetan focus on the Commentarial tradition, and to this end re-visits the original texts as often as possible. However, there seems to be an implicit assumption that the Sutta Pitaka is itself sufficient for an appropriately Western form of Buddhism to sprout and thrive.

      It is almost too obvious, but a key component of the DhammaVinaya is… the Vinaya. This attitude that the Vinaya ought to be largely uninvolved in the westernization process strikes me as very much throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    • Actually, I’ve heard him encourage people to read the Vinaya, saying that there’s an erroneous and unfortunate assumption that it contains only the monastic discipline and therefore is only relevant to monastics.

      However, these days, he is definitely very interested in exploring what it means to be a lay Buddhist, and he looks at the texts in this light. Needless to say, some of his analysis and propositions are controversial, to say the least. Even though I disagree with his reading/interpretation of the texts in some essential ways, I find his thinking original and thought-provoking, and worthwhile in its questioning of long-held views and assumptions.

      For people interested, here’s another link to some talks: http://abqsangha.org/recordings.html

  8. Dear Dhamma-bloggers,

    here’s some grim reading from “The Economist” on what they term “gendercide”, the wholesale destruction of baby girls.

    http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?story_id=15606229&source=most_commented

    here is the closing paragraph:

    “And all countries need to raise the value of girls. They should encourage female education; abolish laws and customs that prevent daughters inheriting property; make examples of hospitals and clinics with impossible sex ratios; get women engaged in public life—using everything from television newsreaders to women traffic police. Mao Zedong said “women hold up half the sky.” The world needs to do more to prevent a gendercide that will have the sky crashing down.”

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