[Buddha-l] Ariyapariyesana

L.S. Cousins selwyn at ntlworld.com
Fri Nov 11 13:06:31 MST 2011

On 10/11/2011 09:42, Dan Lusthaus wrote:
> While the Sanskritized Agamas of the Mūlasarvāstivāda that are extant
> represent a *linguistically* later form (or so we may presently presume),
> their *content* sometimes preserves an earlier passage or variant, as
> Schopen and others have shown.
While that may be so in a few cases, they seem generally to be generally 
later where they differ significantly from the so-called Sarvāstivādin 
or Recension One texts.
> So, in general, one should not really generalize about one entire corpus vs
> another corpus re: content, but take every passage, sentence, and term on a
> case by case basis, with as many witness texts as possible.

A generalization is simply that, a generalization.
>> In regard to Analayo's earlier work, I tended to think he over-favours
>> the Chinese. He seems to use a principle of evaluation which I would
>> call 'primacy of the plebeian' — if there is anything complex or subtle
>> in the Pali, it must be a corruption or later addition. Since I suspect
>> that the Chinese translators also tended to simplify, I suspect that
>> distorts the situation.
> That is not my impression of his work at all. He is paying attention to the
> Chinese texts because, (in my opinion) (i) they have been largely ignored
> and marginalized in discussions of the Nikaya-Agama lit. until recently, or
> treated in crude block generalities rather than careful reading of their
> contents,

That's an exaggeration. One has only to think of the work of various 
French scholars or of Konrad Meisig.

> (ii) they shed a great deal of light on the degree of variation --
> in passages, in redaction placement, in doctrinal lists, in doctrinal
> interpretations, in the names to whom various actions and sayings are
> attributed, etc. -- which in turn (iii) sheds a great deal of light on how
> the Nikaya-Agama project worked, mutated, and was used. Nor do I see him
> biased for or against the Pali, Ch., etc. On the contrary, I find him very
> restrained about drawing conclusions and implications. Since he tends to
> discuss the texts using paraphrases with occasional translated passages,
> rather than putting up full and detailed translations of each of the
> versions side by side (which would be a monumental undertaking -- and his
> Comparative MN book, 2 vols, is already monumental), the full impact of the
> degree of variance between the Pali and the Chinese trs. may not always be
> fully evident in the English discussion (he's hitting highlights, not
> detailing every shred of variant minutiae). That is much clearer if one
> reads the Pali and Chinese versions side by side.

We will probably disagree about this, once I have read his books.
> As for suspicions of possible distortions introduced by translators -- the
> same could be said for transmitters of the Pali (hence the need for
> Buddhahosa to clean up the mess).

I don't think it could. One can hardly compare the task of moving from 
one form of Middle Indian to another slightly more Sanskritized version 
of Middle Indian with the task of translating into a non-Indo-European 
language like classical Chinese.

>   But more importantly, while we only have
> very late variant editions of the Pali (Sinhala vs Burmese, etc.)(the
> Buddhaghosa project successfully eliminated variants),

Actually we don't know how much variation there is in Pali Mss because 
the work has never been done. I see no reason to suppose that there was 
a Buddhaghosa project that eliminated variants.

> we have for many
> Agamas multiple translations of the same sutta, by different translators,
> most probably from different root texts, so -- unless one wants to blanket
> accuse every single translator of making exactly the same sorts of errors a
> priori, which would be an odd position to hold without having read a single
> word of their works -- comparisons between the different Chinese versions,
> in additional comparison to Pali and (when available) Skt versions, provides
> a check against that sort of criticism. In fact, sometimes the Ch. has less
> detail than the Pali, sometimes a great deal more.

Obviously there is much of interest here.
> Analayo does occasionally speculate about primacy on the basis of
> 'coherency' -- when a passage fits the context, when it doesn't, when its
> occurrence is awkward, etc., in one version but not in another, or when
> something odd doesn't appear at all in other versions, or in some but not
> all, and so on. One might argue that coherency can just as much be a sign of
> a later revisionist or redactor cleaning/clearing up a unclear passage as it
> might be a sign of an original 'coherent' statement that gets garbled in
> transmission. There is no a priori for this. One has to, again, take all
> such instances on a case by case basis, and one is free to agree or disagree
> with Analayo's impressions and conclusions.

We also need to look at the affiliations of particular translations so 
far as possible. If all Chinese versions are from Sarvāstivādin sources, 
that has less weight than when the affiliations are  clearly distinct.

>   Either way, he has done a
> tremendous service by putting the evidence easily within reach after having
> organized and collated it for us.

I quite agree.
> Once you have had an opportunity to examine Analayo's book (more thorough
> than his previously published articles on some of the suttas -- articles
> which I also find useful and thoughtful), perhaps you might revise your
> opinion.

We shall see.


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