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Sunday, December 25, 2016

‘Many errors about Buddhism in Ahmad Iqram’s book’

I refer to the book, ‘Yahudi, Kristian, Hindu dan Buddha berasal daripada Islam?’ by Ahmad Iqram Mohamad Noor, Chapter 7 (Agama Buddha Berasal Daripada Islam). There are too many mistakes. Suffice to mention a few here:
1. The author alleged that the concept of God is found in Buddhism (p209-214). The concept of God was rejected by the Buddha (eg Brahmajala Sutta, Kevaddha Sutta, Patika Sutta, etc). It has also been consistently rejected throughout Buddhist history.
2. On p211, the author quote a passage from Udana (8.3) to show that the concept of God is found in the Buddha’s teachings. This passage is also found in Itivuttaka 37. It is worth noting that the Buddha’s own commentary does not point to a metaphysical entity, a first cause or some such thing; rather, we see that the Buddha is referring to a transformational experience, nirvana, the state, the characteristic, of being free from the conditions of hatred, greed, and ignorance.
3. On Metteyya. The quotation attributed by the author (p215) to Cakavatti Sihanada Sutta is not found in the said sutta or any other suttas.
4. On p227, we find that the author was academically dishonest to quote Walpola Rahula out of context to suggest that there were intention to distort the Buddha’s teachings. In the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, the Buddha mentioned to Ananda that the monastic order may abolish the minor rules after his passing. Many of these rules are concerned with etiquette of the monastics, rather that morality.
The council decided against changing the rules, “not because they felt the rules were ultimate truth, but because the people had come to measure the purity of the sangha by how closely monks followed the rules of the Vinaya; changing the rules might have created a crisis of confidence among the laity”. This episode can be found in Cullavagga XI.
5. On p228, the author seems confused as he provided conflicting reports on the Second Council. To clarify, while the monastic community split during the Second Council, the matter of dispute was a matter of monastic discipline, not doctrinal issue. The Theravada account of the Second Council can be found in Cullavagga XII.
6. On p229, the author mentioned that Mahayana arose from the conflict on Vinaya (monastic discipline). Mahayana was not in origins, and really never was, a rival sect (Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations by Paul Williams (2008), Routledge, p5).
The earliest Mahayana texts often uses the term Mahayana as a synonym for Bodhisattvayana. Mahayana existed as a certain set of ideals, and later doctrines, for bodhisattvas - emulating the Buddha in every detail, following his example so precisely that one becomes a Buddha rather than an Arhat. (A Few Good Men: The Bodhisattva Path According to the Inquiry of Ugra (Ugrapariprccha) by Jan Nattier (2005), University of Hawaii Press)
7. The author alleged that many sects exist during Asoka’s reign, which led him to be concerned that it could affect his rule, therefore he convened the Third Council (p229-230).
While it is true that the monastics had separated into many lineages, the circumstances which led to the Third Council is not due to this, but the infiltration of non-Buddhists into the monastic community (Sangha) in Buddhist monasteries, due to the generosity of King Asoka towards the Sangha, thus corrupting the Sangha and Buddhism. (Dipavamsa VII, Mahavamsa V)
8. While some scholars disagree, the Pali Commentaries maintain that the Abhidhamma was recited during the First Council. Regardless, it was certainly not introduced by Asoka as alleged by the author (p230 ). The Abhidhamma appears to be technical classification or elaborations of what is found in the suttas.
9. The author also mentioned about Katthavathu, a text attributed to Mogaliputta-Tissa. It is interesting to note that the sectarian difference among the various schools are carefully gone through, but theism and content of the suttas are not the issues.
10. On p231, the author alleged that some of the monks expelled during the Third Council might be those who uphold the true teachings of the Buddha. This is not true. To begin with, those who were expelled weren’t even Buddhists. They were expelled based on the Brahmajala Sutta.
11. It is not true that Asoka had aligned Buddhism to his whims and fancy. Asoka was beset by guilt - his men had beheaded several Buddhist monks - and was referred to Moggaliputta-Tissa, who was on a solitary retreat in a mountain.
Asoka had to make three requests before Moggaliputta-Tissa agreed to return to meet Asoka. Moggaliputta-Tissa allayed his guilt, and later, convened the Third Council. It is unlikely that Asoka had any political interest. More likely, he was a genuine Buddhist, trying to set things right.
12. There is no Mahayana Vinaya as alleged by the author (p233). East Asian Buddhism follows the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya, while Tibetan Buddhism follows the Mulasarvastivada Vinaya. Dharmaguptaka and Mulasarvastivada stem from Sthaviravada.
13. With regards to the preservation of the Buddha’s teachings, he had instructed that monks, “should come together and recite them, setting meaning beside meaning and expression beside expression, without dissension, in order that this holy life may continue and be established for a long time for the profit and happiness of the many out of compassion for the world and for the benefit, profit and happiness of devas and humans.”( Pasadika Sutta, DN 29).
This is the origin of chanting which we still see today.
14. With regards to the author’s accusation that the Buddha’s teaching was distorted, we can be confident that the Pali Nikayas is not. An equivalent body of texts exists in Chinese, known as Agamas. The Chinese texts belonged to a different school that was located in a different part of India using a different Prakit than Pali. This particular body of texts then was Sanskritised before it was translated into Chinese.
Now both the traditions of the Pali Texts and the Chinese equivalent were separated by much distance, and importantly not interacting for over 2000 years, and it is obvious that both these bodies of texts separately under went a lot of handling before they found their final forms.
But when they are compared the correspondences are nothing short of remarkable, being often identical in the phrasing and wording in the doctrinal issues, and there are no doctrinal discrepancies. Doctrinal discrepancies are found in the secondary and later literature. The point is that the monastics who preserved the word of the Buddha took quite seriously the charge given them by the Buddha. -Mkini

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