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advice about which techniques of textual criticism to apply to certain early Buddhist texts

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  • bhikkhu santi
    Dear textual criticism group, I asked to join in order to ask for your suggestions and advice about which techniques of textual criticism would be most
    Message 1 of 3 , Sep 4, 2006
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      Dear textual criticism group,

      I asked to join in order to ask for your suggestions and advice about which techniques of textual criticism would be most suitable for the early Buddhist texts I'm working on.

      I'm a Buddhist monk, and I'm doing some comparative study of the half a dozen or so recensions of the books of monastic discipline (Vinaya), I use the original languages. I can read most of the Indic languages, my teacher also reads classical Chinese, and we have friends who can help us with the Tibetan versions.

      I read the article on Wikipedia about textual criticism, and then I realised that textual criticism is far more complex than I could ever have imagined!

      To begin with, I'd like to analyse the various recensions of the Story of Gotami's Request - which is about the first woman who requested full ordination from the Buddha and the founding of the Nuns' Order. There is quite a strong movement to revive the full ordination lineage for nuns in Theravada and Tibetan traditions which is considered extinct in those traditions, but China has never lost it, so basically we intend to revive it by getting the nuns ordained by Chinese bhikshunis. I'm helping a little bit with the research side of the campaign. So this story is quite problematic these days, because on first impressions at least it looks quite chauvinist. Actually I think there are ways of interpreting it in a non-offensive way both by analysing the text more closely and also the social context and the parallels in the Jaina scriptures. Anyway, that is another story.

      There are probably about half a dozen or more versions in different languages: 1 in Pali, several in BH Sanskrit, five or so in Chinese and one in Tibetan.

      I guess first we would have to collect the texts, and make highly literal translations with text and translation in parallel, but then what next? (I have printed editions of all the Indic texts here or on their way, we have the Chinese in digital and printed form and can ask our friends for the relevant sections from Tibetan.)

      In the wikipedia article on TC I read about Greg–Bowers–Tanselle copy-text method. On first impressions this sounds like the most suitable to me. My question to you is, what do you think about applying this technique? Do you know or have access to any simple 1-2-3 guides to applying this technique for a complete beginner?

      My initial hypothesis about the history of this story is that I think it is probably pre-sectarian* but I doubt if it is original - because the story is present in some form in all the versions, but has much more substantive differences between the versions than some other stories which are likely to be historical. I think it was composed with a mythic intent but not meant to be history. The mythic meanings I imagine are several: (i) a male monastic order would be cautious about being seen to be 'embracing' women even metaphorically in case unsympathetic observers take it the wrong way, (ii) the idea of a sage rejecting a woman's advances is a classic motif in Indian mythology, for example the classic Hindu story of Siva being tempted by Kama and then burning him to a cinder with fire from his third eye! (iii) even the traditional commentary suggests a mythical rather than literal interpretation, that the Buddha showed his reluctance to make Gotami more determined because he knew the monastic life would be very hard for her as an aristocratic lady with her entourage of palace handmaids. One could go on and on imagining many more mythic meanings. Basically I doubt very much that it was ever meant to be taken literally, and especially since the Buddha then allowed the ordination of nuns and there are records of some very positive statements about the nuns attributed to him. (*"presectarian": the Buddhist monastic Order was probably united until a few generations after Emporer Ashoka (Maurya dynasty) in about 300BC. After that the Order was splintered into more and more sects and sub-sects, 18 is a traditional number but actually there were even more. Most were only doctrinal schools, but there were about half a dozen ordination lineages with their own recension of the Vinaya (all extremely similar). There are only three remaining ordination lineages today: Mahaviharavasin (aka. Theravada), Dharmaguptaka (most closely related to Theravada, used throughout China and derived traditions) and Mulasarvasitvada (Tibetan and derived traditions).)

      I'm trying to keep this brief but failing, so to recap, my question is: which technique(s) do you think would be most suitable considering the range of languages involved and the fact that there are extra chunks in some versions of the story which have no parallels at all in the others? Where should I start, are there any simple guides for beginners? Is there an "Idiot's Guide to Textual Criticism"?! Would anyone be willing to guide me through the process in a few examples (in a few months when I have all the sources on hand)?

      Thankyou very much in advance,

      Bhikkhu Santi.

      Here is a not very literal translation of the Story of Gotami's Request in the Pali version which I copied from accesstoinsight.org :

      Now at that time, the Awakened One, the Blessed One, was staying near Kapilavatthu in the Banyan Grove. Then Mahapajapati Gotami went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, stood to one side. As she was standing there, she said to him: "It would be good, lord, if a woman might obtain the Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline."

      "Enough, Gotami. Don't advocate a woman's Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline (§)."

      A second time ... A third time she said to him: "It would be good, lord, if a woman might obtain the Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline."

      "Enough, Gotami. Don't advocate a woman's Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline."

      So Mahapajapati Gotami, (thinking,) "The Blessed One does not allow a woman's Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline" — sad and unhappy, crying, her face in tears — bowed down to the Blessed One, circumambulated him, keeping him to her right, and then went away.

      The Blessed One, having stayed as long as he liked in Kapilavatthu, set out for Vesali. After wandering in stages, he arrived at Vesali. There he stayed near Vesali at the Gabled Hall in the Great Wood.

      Then Mahapajapati Gotami, having had her hair cut off, having donned ochre robes, set out for Vesali together with a large number of Sakyan women. After wandering in stages, she arrived at Vesali and went to the Gabled Hall in the Great Wood. Then she stood there outside the porch, her feet swollen, her limbs covered with dust, sad and unhappy, crying, her face in tears. Ven. Ananda saw her standing there ... and so asked her, "Why, Gotami, why are you standing here ... your face in tears?"

      "Because, sir, the Blessed One does not allow a woman's Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline."

      "In that case, Gotami, stay right here for a moment (§) while I ask the Blessed One to allow a woman's Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline."

      Then Ven. Ananda went to where the Blessed One was staying and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "Mahapajapati Gotami, lord, is standing outside the porch ... her face in tears, because the Blessed One does not allow a woman's Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline. It would be good if a woman might obtain the Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline."

      "Enough, Ananda. Don't advocate a woman's Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline."

      A second time... A third time, Ven. Ananda said, "It would be good, lord, if a woman might obtain the Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline."

      "Enough, Ananda. Don't advocate a woman's Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline."

      Then the thought occurred to Ven. Ananda, "The Blessed One does not allow a woman's Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline. What if I were to find some other way to ask the Blessed One to allow a woman's Going-forth ..." So he said to the Blessed One, "Lord, if a woman were to go forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline, would she be able to realize the fruit of stream-entry, once-returning, non-returning, or arahantship?"

      "Yes, Ananda, she would..."

      "In that case, lord, Mahapajapati Gotami has been of great service to the Blessed One. She was the Blessed One's aunt, foster mother, nurse, giver of milk. When the Blessed One's mother passed away, she gave him milk. It would be good if a woman might obtain the Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline."

      "Ananda, if Mahapajapati Gotami accepts eight vows of respect, that will be her full ordination (upasampada).

      "(1) A bhikkhuni who has been fully ordained even for more than a century must bow down, rise up from her seat, salute with hands palm-to-palm over her heart, and perform the duties of respect to a bhikkhu even if he has been fully ordained only a day. This rule is to be honored, respected, revered, venerated, never to be transgressed as long as she lives."

      "(2) A bhikkhuni must not spend the rains in a residence where there is no bhikkhu...

      "(3) Every half-month a bhikkhuni should request two things from the Bhikkhu Sangha: she should ask for the date of the uposatha day and come for an exhortation...

      "(4) At the end of the Rains-residence, a bhikkhuni should invite (criticism both from) the Bhikkhu Sangha and the Bhikkhuni Sangha on any of three grounds: what they have seen, what they have heard, what they have suspected...

      "(5) A bhikkhuni who has committed a sanghadisesa offence* must undergo penance for half a month under both Sanghas... [*I have changed the trs. here because I know it to be mistaken.]

      "(6) Only after a probationer has trained in the six precepts for two years should she request ordination from both Sanghas...

      "(7) A bhikkhu must not in any way be insulted or reviled by a bhikkhuni...

      "(8) From this day forward, the admonition of a bhikkhu by a bhikkhuni is forbidden, but the admonition of a bhikkhuni by a bhikkhu is not forbidden. This rule, too, is to be honored, respected, revered, venerated, never to be transgressed as long as she lives.

      "If Mahapajapati Gotami accepts these eight vows of respect, that will be her full ordination."

      Then Ven. Ananda, having learned the eight vows of respect in the Blessed One's presence, went to Mahapajapati Gotami and, on arrival, said to her, "Gotami, if you accept these eight vows of respect, that will be your full ordination..."

      "Ven. Ananda, just as if a young woman — or man — fond of ornamentation, having been given a garland of lotuses or jasmine or roses, having taken it in both hands, were to place it on her head, in the same way I accept the eight vows of respect, never to transgress them as long as I live."

      Then Ven. Ananda returned to the Blessed One and, having bowed down, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said, "Mahapajapati Gotami, lord, has accepted the eight vows of respect. The Blessed One's foster mother is fully ordained."

      "But, Ananda, if women had not obtained the Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline, the holy life would have lasted long, the true Dhamma would have lasted 1,000 years. But now that they have gotten to go forth...this holy life will not last long, the true Dhamma will last 500 years. Just as a clan in which there are many women and few men is easily plundered by robbers and bandits, in the same way, in whatever doctrine and discipline women get to go forth, the holy life does not last long... Just as a man might make an embankment in advance around a great reservoir to keep the waters from overflowing, in the same way I have set forth the eight vows of respect for bhikkhunis that they are not to transgress as long as they live." — Cv X.1

      --
      Santi Forest Monastery,
      Lot 6 Coalmines Road,
      PO  Box 132 Bundanoon,
      NSW 2578,
      Australia.
      t: +61 (0)2 4883 6331
      f:+61 (0)2 8572 8286
      http://santifm1.0.googlepages.com/
    • George F Somsel
      I see no reason that all of the principles of textual criticism could not be applied to your project. I should think that they are simply principles regarding
      Message 2 of 3 , Sep 8, 2006
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        I see no reason that all of the principles of textual criticism could not be applied to your project.  I should think that they are simply principles regarding the manner in which MSS reproduction was accomplished and the pitfalls which would have been encountered in the process.  I would recommend that you first determine what the original language was and use the texts in that language as a base.  Generally the older texts are to be preferred to the later though this is not always the case since errors in copying (or even deliberate alteration in some instances).  If you can determine that certain texts are independent of others (i.e., that they do not derive from the same text family) then you can establish some controls for variants.  I would relegate translations from the original to the status as witnesses to the text from which they were translated and therefore as secondary in importance to the original language texts though not therefore lacking in importance.  Never simply "count heads" to see how many support one reading or another.  The evidence must be weighed.  Also, lend primary authority to the MSS themselves before applying any internal criteria.
         
        _____________
         

        bhikkhu santi <bh.santi@...> wrote:
        Dear textual criticism group,

        I asked to join in order to ask for your suggestions and advice about which techniques of textual criticism would be most suitable for the early Buddhist texts I'm working on.

        I'm a Buddhist monk, and I'm doing some comparative study of the half a dozen or so recensions of the books of monastic discipline (Vinaya), I use the original languages. I can read most of the Indic languages, my teacher also reads classical Chinese, and we have friends who can help us with the Tibetan versions.

        I read the article on Wikipedia about textual criticism, and then I realised that textual criticism is far more complex than I could ever have imagined!

        To begin with, I'd like to analyse the various recensions of the Story of Gotami's Request - which is about the first woman who requested full ordination from the Buddha and the founding of the Nuns' Order. There is quite a strong movement to revive the full ordination lineage for nuns in Theravada and Tibetan traditions which is considered extinct in those traditions, but China has never lost it, so basically we intend to revive it by getting the nuns ordained by Chinese bhikshunis. I'm helping a little bit with the research side of the campaign. So this story is quite problematic these days, because on first impressions at least it looks quite chauvinist. Actually I think there are ways of interpreting it in a non-offensive way both by analysing the text more closely and also the social context and the parallels in the Jaina scriptures. Anyway, that is another story.

        There are probably about half a dozen or more versions in different languages: 1 in Pali, several in BH Sanskrit, five or so in Chinese and one in Tibetan.

        I guess first we would have to collect the texts, and make highly literal translations with text and translation in parallel, but then what next? (I have printed editions of all the Indic texts here or on their way, we have the Chinese in digital and printed form and can ask our friends for the relevant sections from Tibetan.)

        In the wikipedia article on TC I read about Greg–Bowers–Tanselle copy-text method. On first impressions this sounds like the most suitable to me. My question to you is, what do you think about applying this technique? Do you know or have access to any simple 1-2-3 guides to applying this technique for a complete beginner?

        My initial hypothesis about the history of this story is that I think it is probably pre-sectarian* but I doubt if it is original - because the story is present in some form in all the versions, but has much more substantive differences between the versions than some other stories which are likely to be historical. I think it was composed with a mythic intent but not meant to be history. The mythic meanings I imagine are several: (i) a male monastic order would be cautious about being seen to be 'embracing' women even metaphorically in case unsympathetic observers take it the wrong way, (ii) the idea of a sage rejecting a woman's advances is a classic motif in Indian mythology, for example the classic Hindu story of Siva being tempted by Kama and then burning him to a cinder with fire from his third eye! (iii) even the traditional commentary suggests a mythical rather than literal interpretation, that the Buddha showed his reluctance to make Gotami more determined because he knew the monastic life would be very hard for her as an aristocratic lady with her entourage of palace handmaids. One could go on and on imagining many more mythic meanings. Basically I doubt very much that it was ever meant to be taken literally, and especially since the Buddha then allowed the ordination of nuns and there are records of some very positive statements about the nuns attributed to him. (*"presectarian": the Buddhist monastic Order was probably united until a few generations after Emporer Ashoka (Maurya dynasty) in about 300BC. After that the Order was splintered into more and more sects and sub-sects, 18 is a traditional number but actually there were even more. Most were only doctrinal schools, but there were about half a dozen ordination lineages with their own recension of the Vinaya (all extremely similar). There are only three remaining ordination lineages today: Mahaviharavasin (aka. Theravada), Dharmaguptaka (most closely related to Theravada, used throughout China and derived traditions) and Mulasarvasitvada (Tibetan and derived traditions). )

        I'm trying to keep this brief but failing, so to recap, my question is: which technique(s) do you think would be most suitable considering the range of languages involved and the fact that there are extra chunks in some versions of the story which have no parallels at all in the others? Where should I start, are there any simple guides for beginners? Is there an "Idiot's Guide to Textual Criticism"?! Would anyone be willing to guide me through the process in a few examples (in a few months when I have all the sources on hand)?

        Thankyou very much in advance,

        Bhikkhu Santi.

        Here is a not very literal translation of the Story of Gotami's Request in the Pali version which I copied from accesstoinsight. org :

        Now at that time, the Awakened One, the Blessed One, was staying near Kapilavatthu in the Banyan Grove. Then Mahapajapati Gotami went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, stood to one side. As she was standing there, she said to him: "It would be good, lord, if a woman might obtain the Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline."
        "Enough, Gotami. Don't advocate a woman's Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline (§)."
        A second time ... A third time she said to him: "It would be good, lord, if a woman might obtain the Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline."
        "Enough, Gotami. Don't advocate a woman's Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline."
        So Mahapajapati Gotami, (thinking,) "The Blessed One does not allow a woman's Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline" — sad and unhappy, crying, her face in tears — bowed down to the Blessed One, circumambulated him, keeping him to her right, and then went away.
        The Blessed One, having stayed as long as he liked in Kapilavatthu, set out for Vesali. After wandering in stages, he arrived at Vesali. There he stayed near Vesali at the Gabled Hall in the Great Wood.
        Then Mahapajapati Gotami, having had her hair cut off, having donned ochre robes, set out for Vesali together with a large number of Sakyan women. After wandering in stages, she arrived at Vesali and went to the Gabled Hall in the Great Wood. Then she stood there outside the porch, her feet swollen, her limbs covered with dust, sad and unhappy, crying, her face in tears. Ven. Ananda saw her standing there ... and so asked her, "Why, Gotami, why are you standing here ... your face in tears?"
        "Because, sir, the Blessed One does not allow a woman's Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline."
        "In that case, Gotami, stay right here for a moment (§) while I ask the Blessed One to allow a woman's Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline."
        Then Ven. Ananda went to where the Blessed One was staying and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "Mahapajapati Gotami, lord, is standing outside the porch ... her face in tears, because the Blessed One does not allow a woman's Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline. It would be good if a woman might obtain the Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline."
        "Enough, Ananda. Don't advocate a woman's Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline."
        A second time... A third time, Ven. Ananda said, "It would be good, lord, if a woman might obtain the Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline."
        "Enough, Ananda. Don't advocate a woman's Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline."
        Then the thought occurred to Ven. Ananda, "The Blessed One does not allow a woman's Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline. What if I were to find some other way to ask the Blessed One to allow a woman's Going-forth ..." So he said to the Blessed One, "Lord, if a woman were to go forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline, would she be able to realize the fruit of stream-entry, once-returning, non-returning, or arahantship?"
        "Yes, Ananda, she would..."
        "In that case, lord, Mahapajapati Gotami has been of great service to the Blessed One. She was the Blessed One's aunt, foster mother, nurse, giver of milk. When the Blessed One's mother passed away, she gave him milk. It would be good if a woman might obtain the Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline."
        "Ananda, if Mahapajapati Gotami accepts eight vows of respect, that will be her full ordination (upasampada) .
        "(1) A bhikkhuni who has been fully ordained even for more than a century must bow down, rise up from her seat, salute with hands palm-to-palm over her heart, and perform the duties of respect to a bhikkhu even if he has been fully ordained only a day. This rule is to be honored, respected, revered, venerated, never to be transgressed as long as she lives."
        "(2) A bhikkhuni must not spend the rains in a residence where there is no bhikkhu...
        "(3) Every half-month a bhikkhuni should request two things from the Bhikkhu Sangha: she should ask for the date of the uposatha day and come for an exhortation. ..
        "(4) At the end of the Rains-residence, a bhikkhuni should invite (criticism both from) the Bhikkhu Sangha and the Bhikkhuni Sangha on any of three grounds: what they have seen, what they have heard, what they have suspected...
        "(5) A bhikkhuni who has committed a sanghadisesa offence* must undergo penance for half a month under both Sanghas... [*I have changed the trs. here because I know it to be mistaken.]
        "(6) Only after a probationer has trained in the six precepts for two years should she request ordination from both Sanghas...
        "(7) A bhikkhu must not in any way be insulted or reviled by a bhikkhuni...
        "(8) From this day forward, the admonition of a bhikkhu by a bhikkhuni is forbidden, but the admonition of a bhikkhuni by a bhikkhu is not forbidden. This rule, too, is to be honored, respected, revered, venerated, never to be transgressed as long as she lives.
        "If Mahapajapati Gotami accepts these eight vows of respect, that will be her full ordination."
        Then Ven. Ananda, having learned the eight vows of respect in the Blessed One's presence, went to Mahapajapati Gotami and, on arrival, said to her, "Gotami, if you accept these eight vows of respect, that will be your full ordination.. ."
        "Ven. Ananda, just as if a young woman — or man — fond of ornamentation, having been given a garland of lotuses or jasmine or roses, having taken it in both hands, were to place it on her head, in the same way I accept the eight vows of respect, never to transgress them as long as I live."
        Then Ven. Ananda returned to the Blessed One and, having bowed down, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said, "Mahapajapati Gotami, lord, has accepted the eight vows of respect. The Blessed One's foster mother is fully ordained."
        "But, Ananda, if women had not obtained the Going-forth from the home life into homelessness in the Tathagata's doctrine and discipline, the holy life would have lasted long, the true Dhamma would have lasted 1,000 years. But now that they have gotten to go forth...this holy life will not last long, the true Dhamma will last 500 years. Just as a clan in which there are many women and few men is easily plundered by robbers and bandits, in the same way, in whatever doctrine and discipline women get to go forth, the holy life does not last long... Just as a man might make an embankment in advance around a great reservoir to keep the waters from overflowing, in the same way I have set forth the eight vows of respect for bhikkhunis that they are not to transgress as long as they live." — Cv X.1
        --
        Santi Forest Monastery,
        Lot 6 Coalmines Road,
        PO  Box 132 Bundanoon,
        NSW 2578,
        Australia.
        t: +61 (0)2 4883 6331
        f:+61 (0)2 8572 8286
        http://santifm1. 0.googlepages. com/
        .




        george
        gfsomsel
        _________


        Do you Yahoo!?
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      • yennifmit
        One approach would be to identify in which language the episode was originally recorded, then make back translations of the other language versions, then try
        Message 3 of 3 , Sep 9, 2006
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          One approach would be to identify in which language the episode was
          originally recorded, then make back translations of the other language
          versions, then try to create a stemma for the texts.

          Best

          Tim Finney
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