User:Robertinventor/DRN Evidence and supplementary information

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Evidence and supplementary information for Four Noble Truths DRN.

Evidence from edit histories of distinct SUBPOVs[edit | hide all | hide | edit source]

In summary: There was a change of editors in autumn 2014, the previous editors tried to stop the articles from being rewritten but had no success. @Joshua Jonathan: now does the majority of edits of them.

You can see this from the article edit histories.

Striking change of editors in autumn 2014[edit | hide | edit source]

Up to October 14 2014, the Four Noble Truths article was in a mature state and had been worked on for many years by multiple editors including Joshua Jonathan but only occasionally[1]. At this point it presented mainly the point of view of sutra tradition Buddhists. I will explain this distinction later. But for now just notice, how on this date JJ starts a massive rewrite, and from then on, he is the only editor in the edit history doing substantial changes [2]

There was no consensus on the talk page to do this. He didn't even ask other editors if they thought it needed a rewrite. He just went ahead and did it. There was a discussion of whether the article should have quotes or not, and this is Dorje108's last post on the matter[3] where he clearly does not agree with JJ. So, there was no consensus on what to do about the quotes with three views, to keep "as is", to remove, or to paraphrase. There hadn't even been an RfC on this.

Also, his rewrite was far more radical than to do something about the quotes. He deleted sections, moved things around, and rewrote the whole article. In particular he first reduced the lede almost to nothing, then rewrote the four noble truths themselves in the lede according to a radical reinterpretation of what they are about. This is the core teaching of Buddhism. To rewrite them is somewhat similar to a sutra tradition Buddhist as rewriting the ten commandments would be to a Jew.

Attempts at reverts by Dorje108 and Andi 3ö[edit | hide | edit source]

On 17th October, @Dorje108:, who had done 369 edits of the article over a period of nearly three years [4] reverts JJs edits for the last three days saying [5]

"Please discuss proposed changes on talk page before making major edits"

48 minutes later JJ reverts Dorje108's edit saying[6]:

"This is not how Wikipedia works, and no excuse for removing sourced info. See also WP:OWN

In this project area, sutra tradition Buddhists just don't enter into any controversy at all. I'm an exception here, I don't edit war but I feel it is important to speak up strongly about what I see going on in this project.

So even though JJ had just removed Dorje108's patient work for the previous three years, all he did after a single attempt at a revert was to go away. He would have done nothing at all after that, simply left the project and moved on to other things, if I hadn't tried to get something done about it. But our attempt came to nothing and he is no longer editing wikipedia although he still has a member page here.

In the case of Karma in Buddhism, it is even more striking. Dorje108 did 212 edits over the time period from February 2012 to September 2014[7]. JJ had never done any editing of this article until his major rewrite on 16th November 2014. From that point on he is the only editor to do major edits for a few weeks until eventually other editors joined him[8].

JJ did one post to the talk page before his rewrite saying [9]

"This article contains the same mass of popular notions as does/did the article on the four truths...."

He didn't wait for a reply from Dorje108 or anyone else. He took his own comment here as authorization to do an immediate major rewrite of the article.

Some of us asked him to revert his edits, on the talk page (I was very vocal there, as in my view Dorje108's version was one of the best articles in Wikipedia). Dorje108 didn't try a revert after his previous experience. @Andi 3ö: tried a partial revert, following from a talk page discussion. He did two edits to reinsert some of the deleted content from Dorje108's article, followed by a minor edit saying[10]

"(reinserting content of former sections 1-8 (see talk))"
"(→‎Karmic results are nearly impossible to predict with precision: Inserting Roberts suggestion to better identify different views (see talk))"

However, @VictoriaGrayson:, one of several editors who always support JJ's edits, immediately reverts (just over an hour later) just saying [11]

"(undid last 2 revisions.)"

Dorje108 and I attempted a DRN[edit | hide | edit source]

@Dorje108: and I did attempt dispute resolution. But as soon as we let JJ know that we were going to do a DRN, JJ took me to WP:ANI over some posts I had written several weeks earlier. As always this was without any attempt to raise the issue with me first to try to find an amicable solution. He did not succeed in getting me topic banned this time. But when there is an action against one of the participants in WP:ANI then you can't do a DRN.

When that was over, we worked on it some more and he again took me back to WP:ANI for another reason. After that, Joshua Jonathan: was taken to WP:ARE for copyvio, which once more made a DRN impossible.

By the end of this - we debated whether to try to continue with the DRN and decided that for it to succeed we needed to have good will and some feeling that the other party was going to try to find a compromise with us. We just didn't have that at the time.

I now think that it wouldn't have succeeded anyway. The differences of SUBPOV were too great for a consensus NPOV article.

Practical Impossibility of consensus editing to a single WP:NPOV article - my attempt at an RfC on "redeath"[edit | hide | edit source]

If it's not already evident from the editing history, and the failed reverts to try to get Joshua Jonathan to discuss his edits first, here is more evidence that the suggestion to try consensus editing to combine both SUBPOV's into a single article can't work.

In May 2016, I tried an RfC on the smallest difference in opinion I could think of in the many discussions we'd had about this article on its talk page, about "redeath" which is a word used by some western academic Buddhists but is not a word that Buddhists in the sutra traditions typically use. As a practicing Buddhist, I never heard it in 35 years of listening to multiple teachers and reading books.

The RfC is here [12]

The RfC didn't go to a natural conclusion, with myself, as the editor who originated the RfC, topic banned by Joshua Jonathan mid discussion on the subject of "four noble truths" broadly construed, for six months, just for verbosity on the talk page. As is always the case with him, he took me to ANI without any attempt at amicable solution, or even suggesting that he had this in mind. But at that point we had two oppose votes (myself and @John Carter:). There was no sign at all of any consensus emerging.

I now think that there was no way we could have achieved a consensus on this minute point even if I hadn't been topic banned mid discussion. If I understood him right he was making a parallel with early Vedic ideas of a being who has already died, who then redies from heaven. That is not in sutra tradition Buddhism at all. But if I understood JJ right in that discussion, some academics think that Buddha originally taught in a way not dissimilar.

So even on this tiny detail, we were using different WP:RS from different WP:SUBPOV, and there was no way we could have come to a consensus. This RfC is one of the things that got me thinking - if an RfC on such a minute detail is so hard to resolve - how can we do consensus editing for the article? That lead eventually to this idea that we have two SUBPOVs. I think it is a likely explanation for why consensus editing seems next to impossible here.

Example of Scientific Quest's attempt at editing Anatta as evidence of clash of SUBPOVs with differing WP:RS[edit | hide | edit source]

This editor, who was doing a MBS program from UC Berkeley, and an MA in Sanskrit (distance-learning program) from Benares Hindu University was a previous contributor to the Anatta article [13].

After Joshua Jonathan's major rewrite in autumn 2014, he attempted to add 10,000 bytes of content to Anatta article[14]. All of those were reverted by JJ with a single revert [15].

This was due to a disagreement on what count as WP:RS in this topic area. He supported Bikkhu Bodhi as a WP:RS on the basis that he is a noted translator and scholar who is much cited. He was opposed by Joshua Jonathan etc who said that he could be used as a source, but only to back up statements made by western academics.

He writes:

"I am amazed at your claim that Bhikkhu Bodhi would not qualify as a reliable source. Bodhi is the President of the Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy Sri Lanka. He is the author of several of the most highly cited (Springer Citation index says it is more than 100, Google scholar says more than 115) translations of the various Nikayas of the Pali Canon. Citations of Bodhi include people like Richard Gombrich, D J Kalupahana and many others. Bhikkhu Bodhi's student Bhikkhu Analayo is a professor at the Center of Buddhist Studies at the University of Hamburg....Hence I argue that Bhikkhu Bodhi, Bhikkhu Analayo, or Thanissaro Bhikkhu (and any other scholar monk - which by the way itself is a very stringent criterion) would qualify as far better sources for articles on religious doctrines. University Professors may or may not have the maturity required to understand a religious doctrine. And as is the commonly acceptable criterion for religious knowledge, when there is a dissonance between a university professor or an academic (even if it is me) and a reputed scholar monk, the words of the reputed scholar monk override those of the academic."

To which Joshua Jonathan responds

"...If you think that "the words of the reputed scholar monk override those of the academic", then don't edit Wikipedia, but do start your own blog"

You can read the discussion in its entirety in the archives here: About Reliable Sources for Articles on Religion. After some attempt to resolve the matter by discussion, he gave up editing wikipedia soon after [16].

I think this is a clash of SUBPOV's here. Bhikkhu Bodhi is clearly a WP:RS according to the criteria for sources in Religion, see Reliable source examples: Religious sources. He also has a PhD in philosophy, and is much cited by scholars, for instance his "The noble eightfold path: The way to the end of suffering" has 130 cites in Google Scholar[17] - so I'm not sure how they can deny him as a reliable source even on the basis of a requirement for western scholarship.

I think the only reason they could deny him as a WP:RS here is because he doesn't represent the SUBPOV of Gombrich et al. Anyway he is certainly an excellent secondary WP:RS for sutra tradition Buddhism according to Reliable source examples: Religious sources.

@ScientificQuest: gave up editing wikipedia at that point. The Anatta article was his main editing interest here [18]

Sutra tradition Buddhism and western academic reinterpretations[edit | hide | edit source]

Dorje108 and I didn't understand at the time why Joshua Jonathan did these rewrites, or why some other editors supported him in them. Their edits made no sense to us, and the resulting articles just seemed to be nonsense (from the perspective of a sutra tradition Buddhist). But now I realize he was editing the article to what to us at the time was an unfamiliar WP:SUBPOV of certain western academic Buddhist scholars.

Buddhism is one of the major world faiths. Major traditions of Buddhists world wide rely on the sutras. These include

  • Therevadhans (the national or majority religion of Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma etc)
  • Mahayana Buddhists (Zen Buddhists in Japan and South Korea, Buddhists from Tibet, Bhutan etc)

Though the Mahayanists have many later sutras not recognized by the Therevadhans, all the sutra traditions overlap in the early sutras of the Pali Canon, and so have almost identical views on these very core ideas of Buddhism. This is a collection of scriptures that's vast, the size of an encyclopedia. These record the words of the Buddha. There is strong evidence for this. But even if it was just faith, articles in the religion topic area are permitted to present the subject as seen from the WP:SUBPOV of those with particular faiths.

Buddhism has a tradition of scholarship that is older than Western scholarship, with rigorous examinations that few Westerners have passed, which test understanding of the sutras. It has its own WP:RS, in the form of books, organizations, and teachers that are widely respected and recognized in their respective traditions. These fulfill all the requirements of a reliable source in the Religion topic area as set out in Reliable source examples: Religious sources. I go into this in detail in my Essay on Reliable Sources in Buddhism and a Proposal.

Some western academics challenge these sutras and with them, the views and teachings common to all of these major branches of Buddhism. They argue that Buddha did not teach in such a radical way, but instead had views similar to modern Hindus, and they also mix in various other ideas which closely resemble Christianity, to do with an afterlife, that are foreign to sutra tradition Buddhism. They claim this is what Buddha originally taught.

The main difference here is that these western academics argue that most of the early sutras are inauthentic. Some of them even think that the four noble truths are not correctly attributed to the Buddha. This makes it possible for them to have views that would otherwise be ruled out by the sutras themselves. Their views are not mentioned by sutra tradition Buddhists in their books or teachings, and many are unaware that the western academics have such views. For instance I and Dorje108 had no idea that they had these views. In my case, that was after 35 years of going to teachings in most of the major traditions of Buddhism mentioned, and reading widely in the topic area of my Buddhist faith.

To editors not aware of sutra tradition Buddhist ideas, the revised articles may seem better, because they may seem easier to understand. This however is because they rephrase core Buddhist ideas in terms of an afterlife and other ideas from Christianity which to Westerners are more familiar - but in the process they change the meaning of the original teachings as understood by sutra tradition Buddhists.

Carol Anderson's two books for the two SUBPOVs[edit | hide | edit source]

Carol Anderson, who is both an academic Buddhist writing in this western tradition, and also a Buddhist who follows Therevadhan Buddhism as her faith, has two different books, one describing the academic Buddhism and the other describing her faith. These two books present these two SUBPOVs and each one relies on the WP:RS appropriate to its WP:SUBPOV.

Her books are

  • "Pain and its Ending" published in 2013 [19], where she presents her view that Buddha did not teach the Four Noble Truths,
  • "Basic Buddhism" published in 2015[20] which presents the basic teachings of her faith, including the story of Buddha's life and enlightenment, and with the Four Noble Truths presented exactly as usually understood by sutra tradition Buddhists

Both these books have the Four Noble Truths as their central topic.

She made it clear in her earlier book, "Pain and its Ending" that she didn't intend it to be used in a revisionary way to change the religious path and practices of sutra tradition Buddhists. Then, her later book "Basic Buddhism" doesn't cite her earlier "Pain and its Ending", and doesn't mention her or anyone else's western academic views.

The example of Carol Anderson's two very different books on the Four Noble Truths suggests that at least some academics might be in favour of a proposal for two different articles for the different SUBPOVs

Note on terminology[edit | hide | edit source]

I don't know what other term to use to describe the group of western authors with this SUBPOV. Just about all who have this SUBPOV are western and academic. But not all western academics hold this view. For instance Bikkhu Sujato is an example of a European author published in western journals who holds strongly to the theory of authenticity of the sutras.[1] (Of course there are now many European Bikkhus - just means they have taken the Buddhist monk's vows).

Essential differences in the Western academic and sutra tradition SUBPOVs[edit | hide | edit source]

I think the editing history and #Carol Anderson's two books for the two SUBPOVs (above) are enough evidence for the suggestion that there are two different SUBPOVs here to merit discussion. So, this section is more to help you to appreciate the issues involved in combining these two SUBPOVs into a single WP:NPOV article.

The biggest difference is on the question of whether Buddha realized cessation of unsatisfactoriness and suffering (dukkha) when he became enlightened, or whether this happened only when he died.

The view of these western academic Buddhists is that in the original teachings the aim is to end rebirth in order to avoid the pain of life in samsara, that Buddha didn't realize cessation of dukkha as a young man but rather at death and that when he died he no longer needed to be reborn, and that he was finally free from suffering and unsatisfactoriness only at that point.

For sutra tradition Buddhists, Buddha realized cessation of dukkha as a young man of 30, at that moment beneath the bodhi tree, on that spot, which is something you can realize without dying.

For instance Walpola Rahula writes (in his famous book "What the Buddha Taught" on the essential teachings of Therevadhan Buddhism):

"In almost all religions the summum bonum can be attained only after death. But Nirvana can be realized in this very life; it is not necessary to wait till you die to 'attain' it."

What happened after that, the many decades of the rest of his life, and his paranirvana, according to the sutra traditions, all happened after his realization of cessation of dukkha. Similarly for arhats, though it is their last rebirth, the rest of their life after they realize Nirvana happens after cessation of dukkha. Then, in Mahayana Buddhism, you also have the idea that though the historical Buddha did enter paranirvana, that many other Buddhas don't enter paranirvana when they die.

This leads to differing ideas on what the four noble truths are about. For sutra tradition Buddhists the four truths are teachings that can lead to cessation of suffering and unsatisfactoriness in this very lifetime. This may in fact take many lifetimes, so we also have the idea that it can happen in some far future life. However, the moment of death is not special for us in this context. Death is just a transition from the end of one life to the start of the next rebirth. We don't have the idea of an afterlife.

While Gombrich for instance, in his "What the Buddha Thought", if I understood him right, is of the view that the aim of the historical Buddha's teaching was to lead his followers to find a way to end the cycle of rebirth when they died, to lead their lives in a calm and peaceful way until their death, and to not be upset by the prospect of their impending death.

No need to affirm rebirth as a creed for Buddhists[edit | hide | edit source]

As followers on the path it is not necessary for us to affirm any of the Buddha's teachings as a belief or creed. If we were to take ending rebirth as a path, we would have to have belief in rebirth as a creed. While there is no need for a creed "I believe in suffering and unsatisfactoriness" as we all know that already through numerous daily experiences.

This is just not the way that Buddhism is taught, in teachings or books on sutra tradition Buddhism, indeed the teachers encourage us to have an open mind about what happens when you die. If you don't know for sure that you will take rebirth - then the path of the Buddha is to acknowledge what it is that you don't know. That's where you start. And when you take refuge as a Buddhist, go through the ceremony to affirm that you are following the path of the Buddha, there is no point at which you are asked to recite any kind of a creed, about rebirth or anything else.

For these western academics, however, if I understand them right, Buddha was teaching a path to end rebirth. Their reasoning is that you can only end suffering by dying and never taking rebirth. So according to them, this has to be what he had in mind.

Differences on "non self"[edit | hide | edit source]

There are many other differences between the two SUBPOVs, including different ideas on Anatta or "non self" which for the western academics is an attempt at a philosophical system, which they then criticize for consistency.

For sutra tradition Buddhists, though they talk about it in great detail, elaborated hugely in some teachings, still, essentially it is a form of meditation not unlike a Zen koan. The aim for Buddhists, when they meditate on non self, is to clear away confusions that prevent us seeing the truth, not to build up a philosophical system to capture the essence of truth.

After all, no matter how elaborate a philosophical system you build up - what happens when you forget it? How can that be more than a temporary alleviation of suffering? At least, that's how we see it. We believe that Buddha when he taught about non self, was teaching us about something we can come to see directly for ourselves, in this very moment, not a theory that we can convince ourselves of by logical reasoning. So for us, it's a truth we can come to glimpse, and eventually realize, but not a philosophical system of ideas that we have to learn and internalize. If it was a cognitive event of some sort like that, understanding a philosophy, then it would be produced, and conditioned, and so would be something you could forget.

As Walpola Rahula put it:

"It is incorrect to think that Nirvana is the natural result of the extinction of craving. Nirvana is not the result of anything. If it would be a result, then it would be an effect produced by a cause. It would be sankhata ‘produced’ and ‘conditioned’. Nirvana is neither cause nor effect. It is beyond cause and effect. Truth is not a result nor an effect. It is not produced like a mystic, spiritual, mental state, such as dhyana or samadhi. TRUTH IS. NIRVANA IS. The only thing you can do is to see it, to realize it. There is a path leading to the realization of Nirvana. But Nirvana is not the result of this path.You may get to the mountain along a path, but the mountain is not the result, not an effect of the path. You may see a light, but the light is not the result of your eyesight."

Though this may seem a subtle distinction, it has many implications. The arguments of western academics about non self, to us, seem a bit like someone trying to find a philosophical system as a solution to a Zen koan.

Given all these differences, it's no surprise we had trouble achieving consensus editing in this topic area, it seems to me.

Why the core ideas of sutra tradition Budhists are almost identical[edit | hide | edit source]

The sutra tradition Buddhists, though they have many differences in detail, are in agreement on the core teachings of the Four Noble Truths, Anatta, Nirvana and Karma in Buddhism. There are differences even in these core teachings, but they are minor enough so that you can write a single article that presents the core ideas along with the variations according to the views of Therevadhans, Zen Buddhist, Tibetan Buddhists etc.

The reason for this is that they share pretty much the entirety of the vast Pali canon - as large as an encyclopedia, as sacred texts. They have variants of these core texts with minor differences. But mainly the Mahayana collections consist of the core sutras of the entire Pali Canon together with additional sutras composed several centuries after Buddha's paranirvana. For an overview of the differences in views see [21].

Respect for these western academics' views[edit | hide | edit source]

By contrast, the differences in SUBPOV between sutra tradition Buddhists and these western academic ideas are (in my view), too great for a single unified treatment. That's possible because they consider the Pali Canon to be inauthentic, or only partly authentic.I'd like to just say that though I don't agree with his views, I do respect Richard Gombrich as a renowned scholar of integrity. His SUBPOV should be represented here. It's just that it seems to be impossible to combine it together with the SUBPOV of sutra tradition Buddhists in a single article. Any attempt to do this seems likely to produce an article that is confusing to the reader.

Fluid state of the Four Noble Truths article[edit | hide | edit source]

Although it is of course locked for the DRN, up to this moment JJ has continued to make major changes to the article without discussion. The lede has changed radically in the last few days since I added the POV tag[22].

Compare its state on 21st April when the tag was removed: [23] with its current state, as fixed for the duration of the DRN:[24].

When he does these major rewrites, you can't keep track to comment. Often it has changed again by the end of the day. The current version has a very short conventional summary of the four truths, toward the end of the first paragraph, and he has now removed his rewritten version of the four truths from the lede. Indeed the current lede is reasonably WP:NPOV.

However, he made this change only a couple of days ago. The rest of the article presents mainly the academic western Buddhism SUBPOV, for instance the section Ending rebirth only presents this view, the Historical development section also (it now briefly mentions the theory of authenticity but has no discussion of the many scholarly, and archaeological arguments for accepting its authenticity). and he will probably continue to do major rewrites of the lede many times into the future.

It's the same with other articles he edits when he is in the middle of a major rewrite. The articles are in a fluid state - come back a day later and much of it has changed already, and other editors have no input into how it will change.

So, I'm not sure how productive it is to try to comment on it in detail for this DRN. Suffice it to say that apart from the lede which is now NPOV the rest presents the western academic views. I don't know if it is possible to coherently present both views in an article, or if it is, whether it is practically possible given the editing history.

My aim is to add the POV tags, present my own proposal, of course other editors would present their ideas as well, then we can see what comments we get in the discussion.

(note: I decided to comment on it after all, because it is currently in a stable state for the duration of the DRN, see below)

POV sections of the article[edit | hide | edit source]

Since the article is in a stable state for the duration of this DRN, perhaps I can go through and show how some example sections are WP:POV.

From the western Buddhist academic point of view of course the old article is POV too because it presents the sutra tradition Buddhist WP:SUBPOV and not the western academic WP:SUBPOV. But I'll focus on the current version as its editors say it is WP:NPOV.

In the new article, both SUBPOVs are indeed mentioned but the sutra tradition SUBPOV is only touched on briefly, and is explained to be wrong, in one passage after another, or ignored.

Example 1 - Therevadhan section[edit | hide | edit source]


The second last paragraph starting

"Spiro notes that most (lay) Theravada Buddhists do not aspire for nirvana and total extinction, but for a pleasurable rebirth in heaven."

It talks about nirvana as total extinction - which is a Western idea about it.It presents the idea that search for ordinary worldly happiness is wrong. Again this is a Western idea.

Spiro notes that this presents a "serious conflict," since the Buddhist texts and teaching "describe life as suffering and hold up nirvana as the summum bonum. In response to this deviation, ""monks and others emphasize that the hope for nirvana is the only legitimate action for Buddhist action. Walpola Rahula, for example, states that Buddhism "shows you the way to perfect freedom, peace, tranquility and happiness,"

But Walpola Rahula doesn't say that "this is the only legitimate action for Buddhist action" whatever that means. That the path shows the way to Nirvana doesn't prove there is anything wrong with searching for ordinary happiness. Indeed Buddha praises the highest forms of worldly happiness, while saying at the same time that they are dukkha, not because there is anything wrong with being happy; just because they don't last.

This is what Walpola Rahula actually says about worldly happiness

"The Buddha does not deny happiness in life when he says there is suffering. On the contrary he admits different forms of happiness, both material and spiritual, for laymen as well as for monks. In the Anguttara-nikaya, one of the five original Collections in Pali containing the Buddha's discourses, there is a list of happinesses (sukhdni), such as the happiness of family life and the happiness of the life of a recluse, the happiness of sense pleasures and the happiness of renunciation, the happiness of attachment and the happiness of detachment, physical happiness and mental happiness etc.

But all these are included in dukkha. Even the very pure spiritual states of dhyana (recueillement or trance) attained by the practice of higher meditation, free from even a shadow of suffering in the accepted sense of the word, states which may be described as unmixed happiness, as well as the state of dhjana which is free from sensations both pleasant (sukha) and unpleasant' (dukkha) and is only pure equanimity and awareness—even these very high spiritual states are included in dukkha. In one of the suttas of the Majjhima-nikdya, (again one of the five original Collections), after praising the spiritual happiness of these dhyanas, the Buddha says that they are 'impermanent, dukkha, and subject to change' (anicca dukkha viparinamadbamma). Notice that the word dukkha is explicitly used. It is dukkha, not because there is 'suffering' in the ordinary sense of the word, but because 'whatever is impermanent is dukkha' (yad aniccam tam dukkham). "

So - there is no way Walpola Rahula's work can be used to support Spiro's idea that somehow the search for worldly happiness is wrong. It's not lasting, but in as much as it is happiness while it lasts, it's good and worth seeking. It's just not permanent happiness. This idea that happiness is wrong is a Western idea that is not in the Buddhist sutra traditions.

The end of the Therevadhan section the last sentence, is:

"According to Ambedkar, total cessation of suffering is an illusion; yet, the Buddhist Middle Path aims at the reduction of suffering and the maximalisation of happiness, balancing both sorrow and happiness"

That conclusion implies that Therevadhan sutra tradition Buddhists are completely mistaken in their understanding of the Four Noble Truths sutra, saying that total cessation of suffering is an illusion and that the aim of a Buddhist following the path is to reduce suffering, maximize happiness, and balance sorrow and happiness. That is not the path as sutra tradition Buddhists understand it. Yet this is the article's conclusion of its section on Therevadha.

Example 2 Historical Development[edit | hide | edit source]


This section opens out with a list of three positions as listed by Schmithausen:

  • "Stress on the fundamental homogeneity and substantial authenticity of at least a considerable part of the Nikayic materials;"
  • "Scepticism with regard to the possibility of retrieving the doctrine of earliest Buddhism;"
  • "Cautious optimism in this respect."

The rest of the section however only describes the views of scholars who take the second of these three views, and to some extent, the third.

The section ends:

"Stephen Batchelor notes that the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta contains incongruities, and states that The First Discourse cannot be treated as a verbatim transcript of what the Buddha taught in the Deer Park, but as a document that has evolved over an unspecified period of time until it reached the form in which it is found today in the canons of the different Buddhist schools."

As usual JJ uses "notes that", and "states that" to indicate editorial approval. Note, I'm not saying that this is intentional, as a way to sway the reader. I just take it as an indication that it is written from the western academic SUBPOV.

The final conclusion of this section is:

"According to Feer and Anderson, the four truths probably entered the Sutta Pitaka from the Vinaya, the rules for monastic order. They were first added to enlightenment-stories which contain the Four Jhanas, replacing terms for "liberating insight". From there they were added to the biographical stories of the Buddha."

To see how POV this section is, compare it with Pāli_Canon#Origins. None of the authors mentioned in that article who have the POV that the canon is authentic are mentioned in the historical section of Four Noble Truths.

The relevance to western academic Buddhism is that many of their writings are based on the assumption of inauthenticity of the sutras, because then they can ascribe views to Buddha based on the idea that what he originally taught was different from what the Pali Canon records him as saying.

So this emphasis on inauthenticity puts the article firmly into the western academic Buddhism WP:SUBPOV. Sutra tradition Buddhists consider the Pali Canon to be authentic for what they consider to be good reasons:

"Prayudh Payutto argues that the Pali Canon represents the teachings of the Buddha essentially unchanged apart from minor modifications. He argues that it also incorporating teachings that precede the Buddha, and that the later teachings were memorized by the Buddha's followers while he was still alive. His thesis is based on study of the processes of the first great council, and the methods for memorization used by the monks, which started during the Buddha's lifetime. It's also based on the capability of a few monks, to this day, to memorize the entire canon."[2]

"Bhikkhu Sujato and Bhikkhu Brahmali argue that much of the Pali Canon dates back to the time period of the Buddha. They base this on many lines of evidence including the technology described in the canon (apart from the obviously later texts), which matches the technology of his day which was in rapid development, that it doesn't include back written prophecies of the great Buddhist ruler King Ashoka (which Mahayana texts often do) suggesting that it predates his time, that in its descriptions of the political geography it presents India at the time of Buddha, which changed soon after his death, that it has no mention of places in South India, which would have been well known to Indians not long after Buddha's death and various other lines of evidence dating the material back to his time"[3]

This line of reasoning doesn't fit the WP:SUBPOV of western academic Buddhism and is not mentioned in the article.

Since writing this, JJ has moved this into a new section, Pāli Canon#Attribution according to Theravadins which rather serves to underline the point that this is a distinct SUBPOV.

If you look at the article on Prayudh Payutto, he is one of the most erudite and distinguished Buddhist scholars in Thailand and is of course a WP:RS on Therevadhan Buddhism. 93.6% of the Thai population self identify as Therevadhan Buddhist[25].

Bhikkhu Sujato is an Australian monk who has written many books[26], and his book on the authenticity of the early Buddhist texts, co authored with Bhikkhu Bramali, was published by the Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies. He and Bhikkhu Bramali are both teachers at the Buddhist Society of Western Australia

Example 3 Ending Rebirth[edit | hide | edit source]


"The four truths describe dukkha and its ending as a means to reach peace of mind in this life, but also as a means to end rebirth. Some contemporary teachers tend to explain the four truths psychologically, by taking dukkha to mean mental anquish in addition to the physical pain of life, and interpreting the four truths as a means to attain happiness in this life. Yet, though happiness is part of the way, it is not the goal. Spiro notes that "the Buddhist message is not simply a psychological message," but an eschatological message."

Note how he says "Spiro notes that". JJ often uses this terminology for views that he approves of. Here "eschatological" is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as

" "The part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind."

Those ideas are all completely foreign to sutra tradition Buddhism, but often enter into western academic treatments of it.


"Some contemporary teachers tend to explain the four truths psychologically, by taking dukkha to mean mental anquish in addition to the physical pain of life, and interpreting the four truths as a means to attain happiness in this life"

But that is what they are about in sutra tradition Buddhism, right from early times. Walpola Rahula when he talks about it as a path to happiness and eventually the "summum bonum", again in this very life, is presenting a scholarly summary of the Pali Canon, the most ancient of the Buddhist texts available to us. And dukkha has always meant much more than physical pain. Even a state of happiness with not a trace of suffering, is dukkha, according to Buddha's teachings on worldly happiness (see above). This again is not "some contemporary teachers" but has been present in the sutras from the earliest times as his citations from the sutras show.

Walpola Rahula along with the many other distinguished Therevadhan scholars are not "some contemporary teacher". He is one of the most renowned of Pali scholars in recent times setting out the central teachings in the Pali Canon.

"As Geoffrey Samuel notes, "the Four Noble Truths [...] describe the knowledge needed to set out on the path to liberation from rebirth."[56] By understanding the four truths, one can stop this clinging and craving, attain a pacified mind, and be freed from this cycle of rebirth and redeath"

This presents the western idea that it is a "path to liberation from rebirth" as the goal of a practitioner following the path, and with its summum bonum only at death, rather than the idea of a "path to cessation of dukkha" with its summum bonum in this life. Yes, at that point a Buddha may realize it is his last rebirth, but has already realized cessation (according to sutra tradition Buddhists).

Again he says "As Geoffrey Samuel notes" using the word "notes" to show editorial approval of Geoffrey Samuel's views. He would never write "Walpola Rahula notes". I've never seen JJ say that "X notes" where X is expressing sutra tradition Buddhist views. He frequently uses "notes" or "states" for the views he approves of.

I could go on to cite many more examples, but hopefully this is enough to get an idea of why sutra tradition Buddhists find these articles POV and indeed often barely state the views of our SUBPOV. Where these views are stated they are usually "explained" to be mistaken and the concluding sentences and paragraphs of each section almost invariably state in one way or another that the POV of sutra tradition Buddhists is wrong. Usually cited to some author or other, but in such a way as to give that author editorial approval, or at least, to give them the last word always, and in terms of word count, most of the section will be about what is wrong about the sutra Buddhists POV and right about the academic Buddhists POV.

About Religous Sources[edit | hide | edit source]

The discussion that lead to the guidelines includes this comment, on which there was general agreement[27]:

"The proposal would add clarity and prevent two extremes. On the one hand, we've had a perenniel problem of people referring to books, web sites, and pet doctrines of ministers etc. in religion articles without evidence of stature or reliability in a religious context. On the other hand, a number of editors have been interpreting the reliable sources guidelines, perhaps reinforced by a personal skepticism of religion, as implying that all religious sources should be considered self-published and that only secular academics can be considered reliable even for highly religious subjects, on grounds that because theologians rely on revelation and tradition rather than empirical investigation, they lack a reputation for checking facts and hence are inherently unreliable. The proposal attempts to implement a reasonable understanding of the spirit of WP:RS as representing sources regarded as reliable and authoratative within a community and for presenting a specific viewpoint. The intent is to limit what is permissable to only religious opinion that is documentably authoratative and where such opinion is appropriate and properly attributed. It also attempts to avoid the overuse of WP:RS to make what sometimes seems to be a de facto end run around WP:NPOV, explicitly permitting references to religious experts on matters of their own religious expertise. "

The guidelines, as finally agreed, read Religious sources.

"In significant world religious denominations with organized academies or recognized theological experts in religious doctrine and scholarship, the proceedings of official religious bodies and the journals or publications of recognized and well-regarded religious academies and experts can be considered reliable sources for religious doctrine and views where such views represent significant viewpoints on an article subject. Ordination alone does not generally ensure religious expertise or reliability. Absent evidence of stature or a reputation for expertise in a leading, important religious denomination or community, the view of an individual minister or theologian is ordinarily not reliable for representing religious views.

Secondary sources are not necessarily from recent years – or even centuries. The sacred or original text(s) of the religion will always be primary sources, but any other acceptable source may be a secondary source in some articles. For example, the works of Thomas Aquinas are secondary sources for a Roman Catholic perspective on many topics, but are primary sources for Thomas Aquinas or Summa Theologica."

  1. Bhikkhu Sujato and Bhikkhu Brahmali. ""The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts"] by". ,a supplement to Volume 5 of the Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies. 
  2. Payutto, P. A. "The Pali Canon What a Buddhist Must Know" (PDF). 
  3. Bhikkhu Sujato and Bhikkhu Brahmali. ""The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts"] by". ,a supplement to Volume 5 of the Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies. 
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