The Buddha and the Upanishads

L.S. Cousins selwyn at NTLWORLD.COM
Mon Dec 11 07:53:57 UTC 2006

Timothy Lubin:
>Christian's: the extant forms of the "early" Buddhist sources are
>almost certainly not nearly as early as the extant forms of the
>Upani.sads; and the Buddha depicted in them may differ greatly from the
>actual Siddhattha Gotama, and cannot be offered as concrete evidence for
>any biographical details of his life and teachings.

I cannot see the first of these statements in Christian Wedermeyer's 
post. Is this really true ? I am not at all expert in the textual 
history of the; so I am curious about the date from which 
we can establish their exact text in the detail with which the Pali 
text is established by Buddhaghosa.

>The strong form of the critique echoed by Christian here is that
>virtually nothing can be asserted with certainty about what Buddhism
>taught much prior to Buddhaghosa, and that even the oldest strata (e.g.,
>Suttanipaata) may not precede 1st c. BCE.

In this strong form, the critique seems simply untenable. We have 
translations in Chinese from the late second century which tell us a 
great deal about what Buddhism taught. That is two centuries or so 
before Buddhaghosa. We even have some Gaandhaarii texts apparently 
from the first century A.D. We have inscriptions and sculptures from 
earlier still.

I am myself somewhat sceptical about the detailed stratification of 
the Buddhist texts within the four Nikaayas. But I cannot see any way 
to doubt that texts like & Apadaana are later than 
anything else in the Pali Canon, while texts like the Petavatthu or 
much of the canonical Abhidhamma are later than most of the other 
works in the four Nikaayas. It is very hard to conceive of these 
developments as happening over a short period of time.

>Asoka at least knows of the Buddhavacana, although he knows it only as
>an ethical ideal, with a heavenly reward, plus the names of a few texts.

We cannot speak of what he knows, only of what he says. Is there any 
king in the history of Buddhism who recommends his subjects to 
practise meditation and attain ?

Lance Cousins

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