THE CHANGES IN THE TEXTS
Traditional Buddhists maintain that the texts record the words of Buddha accurately, even though they were written down over 400 years after his death and were subject to multiple translations, among various other factors.
They explain that the Hindu oral tradition had perfected the memorising of texts, and this true, once the texts had a form, they were, and are still, passed orally accurately through generations.
Method of Memorising and Transmitting the TeachingMaybe some monks had an almost photographic memory for some phrases, but it seems highly doubtful that any single person could spontaneously remember for example, one entire Sutra. I believe the texts took a period of time till they found a form. And in this time, texts were developed and arranged, labelled and sometimes numbered, so they could be easily remembered.
We have almost certainly some phrases which are Buddha's words – and then a mix from peoples memories of what they had understood. It took a period of time before one person could remember a sutra with the same wordings every time, and then he could teach this to others.
But during this process and afterwards were all the translations, which in an oral tradition were undoubtably more flexible than when written. And were all monks fluent in Buddha's native language, or whichever language he spoke?
This is an extraordinarily large subject. Scholars and Buddhists will probably never agree on the extent to which the texts are literally Buddha's words.
And, from Wikipedia (2020 Feb 6th and 2023 Jan 30th, Wikipedia keeps changing) : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pāli_Canon
Between 3 months and 80 yrs. (in 2023 see tooltip) and 30yrs. (in 2020) after Buddhas death, Ananda and Upali recited the texts to a group of Arhats (monks).
If scholars are correct (see tooltip in 2023) with the first Buddhist council at 80 yrs. after Buddha's death, then the idea that Ananda and Upali, actual students of Buddha, recited the texts, would be legend.
The texts were then subject to several oral translations before they were committed to writing during the Fourth Buddhist Council in 29 B.C. – (in which language? previous to being translated into Pali).
Early paper was fragile, would deteriorate, and texts needed rewriting. There were further translations... so that the earliest fragments of the Pali Cannon are in Chinese from 400 C.E. (A.D.) The Sri Lankan version is most complete from the 5th and 6th century C.E.
(India didn't have papyrus as in Egypt. Paper started being made around 100 B.C. in China.)
Independent modern translations in English, French, Spanish, and Farsi, are all up to modern translation standards and compatible in meaning, (only disagreeing significantly in the 6th step of the eightfold path).
Traditional Buddhists do not understand Buddha's instruction "investigation of reality". It is not academic reality which is missing, i must repeat: The end point of any debate on the authenticity of the texts, has to be common sense: pleasure and wanting lead to repetition.
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