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[ Dhamma Talk ]

On Reliance on Authority

... In this case some Beggar says: "Thus Have I Heard face-to-face with the Lucky Man, friends. I got this straight from him. This is The Word, this is The Discipline, this is the The Teacher's instruction."

Well then, beggars, what this Beggar says is neither to be accepted nor rejected, but without bias, the words and syllables are to be carefully examined, placed side-by-side with the Suttas, side-by-side with the Vinaya.[1] If after having been placed side-by-side with the Suttas, side-by-side with the Vinaya, there is disparity and lack of agreement between what is compared with Sutta and what is compared with Vinaya, then it is fair to conclude: This is not the word of the Bhagava, that Arahant, the Number One Wide-Awakened One. This has been misheard by that Beggar. And one should reject it.

Face to face/agreement accept it

An order said/disagreement/reject it
Agreement/accept it

Some Monk/disagreement/ reject it
Agreement/accept it

A great number of elder monks/disagreement/reject it
Agreement/accept it

A single elder monk/disagreement/reject it
Agreement/accept it


[1] Woodward footnotes: "There were evidently only two collections (baskets or pitakas) Comy. As at DA.ii, 566 attempts to prove that here Sutta = Suttanta-Abhidhamma-Pitakani. But Abhidhamma is obviously a much later collection. Had there been any pitakas at the time of the composition of this sutta the word would surely have been used in it."
On this subject also see: Rhys Davids: Buddhist India, Literature II: The Pali Books; Appendix




See, on this same subject, and with a translation from another Sutta which is virtually identical:
Compare Sutta with Sutta

[AN 4 180]

And see the formula for judging from personal experience:
How to Judge

An extensive examination by Bhikkhu Thanissaro of the issue of authority and the authenticity of the Dhamma has been posted on Access to Insight:

See also the chapters on writing and language in Rhys Davids, Buddhist India:
Writing — The Beginnings
Writing — Its Development
Language and Literature — General View
Language and Literature — The Pali Books

Chronology Of The Pali Canon, B.C. Law, History of Pali Literature. An investigation of the likely dates for the formation of the various books of the Pali Buddhist Canon.

DhammaTalk: Give Ear: On Translation Bias

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