The Orthodox View Of The Pali Canon

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The orthodox fundamentalist view of the Pali Canon by those who look to it for the foundation of their system of spirituality, religion, and culture is that the Pali Canon is the Buddhavacana, the literal word of the historical Buddha; therefore, the Pali language in which it is written is the literal language of Magadhi, where the Buddha lived and taught. In this scenario, the Pali words simply transcribe the dialogue of the living Buddha, preserved perfectly in the photographic memory of Ananda. Unfortunately, the texts themselves refute this view by virtue of the fact that they show signs of editing and include contradictory views and statements. The Pali Canon is the result of a process of development that did not end till the time of Yeshua at the earliest, about 400 years after the Buddha’s death or parinibbana. For one thing, it seems unlikely that the Buddha taught in numbered lists or stock paragraphs. What we have in the Pali Canon is rather a snapshot of a collective memory, taken in Sri Lanka, far away from the Buddha’s homeland in northeast India, four hundred years after the Buddha’s death. To adapt a metaphor used by the Buddha himself, it is a long and winding path through an ancient and forgotten forest, including many interconnecting paths and many circuitous routes, all faint and overgrown, leading to an abandoned city. Some scholars contest the historicity of the First Buddhist Council, but it seems reasonable to me that the Buddha’s senior disciples

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