Friday, January 28, 2011

Terminology used before 'tipitaka'

The tentitive organization of Buddha's teachings before tipitaka

In the time of the Buddha, most of his scattered teachings obviously were not recorded or organized and put into a proper system as today. Therefore, the existence of the ‘tipitaka’ is unacceptable. Nonetheless, they were at least two possible systems and terminologies used to preserve and refer to his teachings drawn from various sutta such as:

1. ‘ḅraḥmacariya’- (P. literally means - Live virtuously, or virginal conduct, or live like Brahma –God of creation) – However, what does it mean for Buddhist interpretation is that ‘to study and learn doctrinal metaphysics and virtuous conduct from Buddha’s teaching’. The terminology of ‘ḅraḥmacariya’ firstly manifested in the suṭta from Buddha’s utterance when he decided to send his first group of sixty monks to propagate his teaching that;
        “caratha biḳkave cārikaṃ bahujanahitāya bahujanasukhāya lokānukaṃpāya aṭthāya hitāya sukhāya devamanuṣsānaṃ desetha biḳkave dhaṃmaṃ ādikalyāṇaṃ maj̣jhekalyāṇaṃ pariyosānakalyāṇaṃ saṭthaṃ saḅyaṇ̌janaṃ kevalaparipuṇṇaṃ parisuḍdhaṃ ḅraḥmacariyaṃ pakāsetha.”
        “monks, you! go on a mission! for the great benefit and happiness of people, for the compassion (aid, support), for the benefit and happiness of gods (devā) and human. Monks! You teach! (propagate) the dhamma which is beautiful at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. You teach! (propagate) the ḅraḥmacariya (teaching, doctrine or sublime life- or God like-life: A.K. Warder; Introduction to Pali) possessed with pure and completed meanings and expression.”

Clearly, the terminology of ‘dhaṃma’ for teaching, or doctrine in the time that this notion was widely used to express theoretical ontology of various schools and well conceived in India more than twenty-five Centuries ago, is understandable. However, the reason of using ‘ḅraḥmacariya’ included in this significant mission is unclear. The hypothetical view that the Buddha might have adopted or loaned some terminology and expression used in Brahmanical doctrine which, however, still mainly dominated most part of Indian societies while seeking to create his own term to express it, is possible.

2. ‘dhaṃmavinaya’ p. literally means doctrine and monastic rules – This terminology had always been expressed to Ananda (his cousin, also well known as his personal secretary and care-taker). In the ‘mahāparibānasuṭta – s. mahāparivāraṇasūtra’, the Buddha expressed the significant clarification of who would be his successor after his attaining the complete extinction (nirvana) that;
    “yo vo ānaṇda mayā dhaṃmo ca vinayo ca desito paṇ̌ňaṭto so vo mamac̣cayena saṭtha”
       “Ananda! whichever dhamma and vinaya that has been expressed (taught) and legislated by me, that will be your teacher by the time of my extinction.”

Thus, both mentioned terminologies which expressed by the Buddha in the most two significant occasions, one shortly after he achieved the enlightenment, and secondly shortly before attaining the complete liberation, has proved that, for almost 45 years of the doctrine propagation, there were no proper and systematic assembly and organization of his substantial teachings into a practical collection. However, there is some form of evidence which at least shows that there had been an attempt (by some unknown disciple) to put his scattered teachings into collection, when he was still alive, called ‘navaŋgasaṭthusāsanaṃ’ which literally means ‘the nine categories (groups) of the teacher’s teaching’. What are those nine types of his teachings?

I will describe in details of this terminology in the next chapter.

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