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The Word of the Buddha or the Disputations of his Disciples?

UCLA Asia Institute, March 13, 2008

The Buddhist Path as Presented in the Pali Nikayas

Los Angeles, CA (USA) -- The Pali Nikayas contain a number of different schemes of the Buddhist path. These schemes are characteristically set out in the Nikayas by way of variations on stock formulas presented in a variety of narrative frames.

It has been argued by scholars that these different schemes represent competing voices within early Buddhist texts, and some scholars even argue that it is possible to identify the authentic voice of the Buddha among these voices.

Such an approach assumes that the Nikayas are best considered as the end result of a somewhat haphazard and unsystematic process of compilation and redaction that reveals instances of incoherence and inconsistency which can then be used as a basis for distinguishing between early and late in the different path schemes.

Rupert Gethin argues that such an approach has overlooked the extent to which the Nikayas are a systematically redacted whole: the product of a particular process of compilation and editing which the compilers and editors deliberately employed in order to present a particular vision of the Buddhist path.

Analysing the schemes and formulas both numerically and contextually, Gethin attempts to articulate what the vision was by establishing what the compilers of the Nikayas wished to highlight and emphasize in their presentation of the Buddhist path.

Rupert Gethin will be presenting this paper at the University of Bristol on Friday, March 14, 2008, 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM at 243 Royce Hall.

About Rupert Gethin

Rupert Gethin is Reader in Buddhist Studies in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, and co-director of the Centre for Buddhist Studies, at the University of Bristol, and (since 2003) President of the Pali Text Society.
He holds a BA in Comparative Religion (1980), a Masters Degree in Buddhist Studies (1982), and a PhD in Buddhist Studies (1987), all from the University of Manchester. He was appointed Lecturer in Indian Religions by the University of Bristol in 1987, and then Reader In Buddhist Studies in 2005.

His 1998 book The Foundations of Buddhism is frequently used in university-level classes on Buddhism in English-speaking countries. He is the Numata Visiting Professor in Buddhist Studies at UC-Berkeley for Spring 2008.

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