Buddhism in Five Minutes - Elizabeth J. Harris

Buddhism in Five Minutes - Elizabeth J. Harris

15. Can we Know what the Historical Buddha Taught?

Buddhism in Five Minutes - Elizabeth J. Harris

Rupert Gethin [+-]
University of Bristol
Rupert Gethin is Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Bristol. His primary research interest is the history and development of Buddhist thought in the Nikayas and Abhidhamma. He is the author of The Fountains of Buddhism (OUP 1998), The Buddhist Path to Awakening (Oneworld 2001), Summary of the Topics of Abhidhamma and Exposition of the Topics of Abhidhamma with R.P. Wijeratne (Pali Text Society 2002) and Sayings of the Buddha: A Selection of Suttas from the Pali Nikayas (OUP 2008).

Description

To ask this question is to ask how the teachings of the Buddha presented in ancient Buddhist texts relate to what the historical Buddha taught. It is clear that the collections of texts regarded by Buddhists today as “the word of the Buddha” are very diverse and date from various periods. If we assume that the oldest texts—those closest in time to the historical Buddha (c. fifth century bce)—are the texts most likely to contain what the historical Buddha taught, then we must ask whether we can reliably identify a set of texts relatively close in time to the historical Buddha. The answer to this question is, in broad terms, yes, we can do this, by paying attention to ancient disputes about the authenticity of the texts, and by considering their contents.

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Citation

Gethin, Rupert. 15. Can we Know what the Historical Buddha Taught?. Buddhism in Five Minutes. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 76-80 Nov 2021. ISBN 9781800500907. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=40752. Date accessed: 23 Oct 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.40752. Nov 2021

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