Verbal Buddhist Tradition- How much Trustworthy?


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My friend in the forum in thread “Is Buddhism a Religion or it is not a Religion?” tell me that the present Buddhist tradition, of which I know very little, might have been committed to writing, but the Buddhists value Verbal Tradition more than the written tradition which is sometimes not considered more than a chit of short notes prepared by a lecturer, expanded by the lecturer when delivering the lecture. This is what I understood in plain words.
His exact words are, “the suttas/sutras are written down, that is not in question. the question is, how much authority does the written word have in the tradition, and this is where a great difference lies between the Abrahamaic traditions and Buddha Dharma tradition”.
So, according to him the verbal tradition is more important to present day Buddhists than the cryptic Written Tradition with them.
To me, it is deficient when compared with the Abrahamic Religions’ Written and Verbal Tradition. Isn’t it?
Members, for your comments, please. In Abrahamic Religions especially in the Jews and Muslims, we give more importance to the Written Word of God than the verbal tradition, and rightly so.
Namaste inhumility,

thank you for the post.

it is not strange that this is the view that you've come to. it would be the one that i would come to without a more thorough understanding of the tradition.

in the Buddha Dharma, neither the written nor verbal tradition is given the ultimate authority in determining our practice. the final authority, and the one upon which we Buddhists are to rely, is the Dharma.

the written and verbal teachings of a Buddha are called Buddha Dharmas and they are expedient means for sentient beings to use to arrive at the Other Shore. they are not meant to be taken as absolute statements even though there are many Buddhists that may do so.

as Seattlegal mentioned, in the Kalmaa Sutta, we Buddhist types are extolled to determine the correctness or incorrectness of a teaching through our own faculties and reasoning. here's a revelant excerpt:

"Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another's seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, 'The monk is our teacher.' Kalamas, when you yourselves know: 'These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,' enter on and abide in them."


i know that i am much less knowledgeable than many others on here. but, just to add my opinion, i try not to cling to either one, which i think is the point of buddhism. i mean, i use what i learn to the best of my ability, but if i learn something else that may work better in certain situations or with certian people, then ill use another way. not to mention, since i dont live anywhere near a temple or monestary in which i could hear the Buddha Dharma being spoken, then i have to rely on the written word that i can find access to. i dont know if i have helped answer your question at all, Seattlegal, but i hope that i have helped.

be well in peace
Hi seattlegal and Vajradhara!
I have on your suggestion now studied the Buddhists Charter of Independent enquiry called “Kalama Sutra” and I am happy to note that the Buddhists as for as I can understand from the Charter, are not blind followers of anybody, be a priest or monk or anybody else and they would respond to the call of conscience. That is if I have understood it correctly.
As far as the Verbal or Written Tradition are concerned, I would humbly reflect on it and make its comparison with the Abrahamic Religions shortly. Thanks and regards