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(1/12) Truth
November 11th, 2018 (November 17th, 2018)

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

(1/12) Truth

(intro to the series at
Question 1, and its answer provided by the spam:
If Buddhists themselves cannot agree on which scriptural writings or traditions for practice are actually true statements from Buddha, how can Buddhism as a system claim any truth?

Even within Buddhism, there are contradictory claims related to the validity of a variety of late appearing religious texts, all of which claim to accurately represent the words of Buddha. None of these texts stands unchallenged as having come from the time in which Buddha lived. Many have very questionable origins. How are we to know which are authoritative? Many scholars believe it is impossible to say with confidence, “This is what Gautama Buddha said.” How can anyone make a claim for the truth without first establishing the foundation for Buddhistic truth?

First, and contrarily to what's suggested, Buddhists at large agree quite well on what the Buddha said!
The Pāḷi Canon (or one of its translations, notably the Chinese 'parallels' āgama ) is the basis for all schools; this is considered as the closest account we have. And sure enough it's not a text from the Buddha himself, it's 'reported' speech… but that shouldn't be an argument from Evangelist since what we know of Jesus is also reported by witnesses, not directly written by him.
On top of the fundamental and foundational suttas, some schools do add later texts to their Canon, texts not necessarily accepted by other schools. Many are signed by their authors (as commentaries, analyses, poems, etc. as well as 'teachings' per se ) without dubious attribution to the Buddha, but some texts are indeed attributed to the Buddha: well, that's the nature of witness accounts, not everyone has experienced, seen or heard the same!
Apocrypha and pseudepigrapha are classics within the Christian faith too, leading to very few texts being 'unchallenged' between Christian groups… so that'd be an argument against Buddhism with extremely feeble strength in a comparison!

Moreover, and that's where I find it hilarious: when later texts are attributed to the Buddha, they're usually attributed to his saṃbhogakāya body (in the trikāya doctrine), or potentially to another nirmāṇakāya body in some heaven than the nirmāṇakāya body known as Siddhārtha Gautama. This should be no difficulty for Christians, because this is not so dissimilar from the "holy spirit" of the Holy Trinity!
This is to say: sure, the text supposedly is a 'report' anyway, and written by someone else than the Buddha; and sure, the text might not even report what the Buddha said (famously, some sūtras report some dialogue between students of the Buddha, with the Buddha merely acquiescing at the end —cf. e.g. the ultra famous Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya or "heart sutrā"), but that's not a problem in Buddhism: the text might merely be by 'inspired' by the Buddha, or a causal consequence from previous speeches, and that's OK because the Buddha does not matter, Wisdom matters! And there's no personal ownership, or exclusivity, on Wisdom! In fact, Siddhārtha Gautama is meant to be neither the first nor the last buddha: he's the 28th buddha, and the next will be Metteya… (

Second, actually, there's a rather simple approach proposed by the Buddha to "make a claim for a truth, without first establishing the foundation for Buddhistic Buddhist truth." And it's to try it out, to test it for oneself, to check if it actually works, leads somewhere, improves one's experience of reality… Buddhism rejects accepting anything based on logical fallacies such as 'This contemplative is our teacher' (cf. kalama sutta, AN 3.65).
Sure enough, the Buddha did expect people to see things like he did, after enquiring into them (and the kalama sutta doesn't suggest "everything goes", cf. It's not an expectation out of reverence or blind acceptance though, it's out of having replicated some results —which is why Buddhism is regularly compared to science, as reproducibility is also key in the scientific method.
There's a notion of 'faith' in Buddhism, but it's based on 'trust', rather than blind 'faith', and the 'trust' is to be earned through personal experiment. So it doesn't —in the least— matter whether the Buddha is the one who said something, or not. The Buddha was not merely repeating the words of some 'higher' authority, God or whatever; the 'truth value' isn't found in the origin of the claim, it is found in the fact that it sustains analysis, experiment, enquiry… The message is to what's true or not, and this doesn't depend on the messenger!
And, of course, to evaluate if some statements are true, it requires efforts… efforts to understand well, to abandon undue skepticism, to try it out for real and for long enough, etc. So, usually, some harder-to-prove 'truths' are tested only after 'trust' or 'faith' has been gained on easier-to-prove 'truths' (if you get to trust some claims, you're in a better position to give the benefit of the doubt to other claims from the same person… and then to find a willingness to put in the efforts needed to test these other claims). Effort is where most people stop, unfortunately: they'd rather be spoon-fed with easy 'truths' that they'll simply accept based on a logical fallacy of 'authority' than behave like reasonable wise human beings with a brain susceptible of discussing 'valid cognition'!

#Buddhism #Dharma