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Buddhadharma : Summer 2013
SUMMER 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 17 been passed down as if it were factual history, but of course it isn’t. What historical research tells us is that the Mahayana scriptures gradu- ally emerged after the Buddha’s lifetime over the course of centuries. The Heart Sutra is the charter text for many Mahayanists, who view it as an accu- rate account of the words of the historical Buddha. But it cannot be considered historical if by “history” we mean, as we usually do, a factual narrative about things that happened empirically—events that a camcorder could have recorded had it existed at that time. The Heart Sutra is not that but something else, which I shall simply call a story. “Story” is a more encompassing category than “history.” Both are types of narrative, but historical nar- ratives are constituted from the facts as best we know them; stories are not constrained by the demands of factual accuracy. Novels, films, plays—these can be entirely fictional, yet we all know they can, nevertheless, com- municate values and meaning. Religious orthodoxy resists this perspec- tive. Every religion, at least sometimes, claims that its forms—its literature, its doc- trines, its practices—derive from a source of unimpeachable authority. This includes Buddhism. Tradition tells us that the Buddha was the World Teacher, whose realization was complete and unsurpassed and whose skillful means were perfect. Every Buddhist tradition has staked its authority on its claim to a direct link with the Buddha’s true teach- ing. Therefore, in Buddhism, tradition itself becomes that unimpeachable source. Many times, I have heard teachers say that since masters of the past were more accomplished than we are and knew what they were doing, we can’t tamper with established forms. That even a nontheistic religion like Buddhism tends so often to rely on an inflexible source for its forms indicates how desperately many humans long to deflect responsibility for shaping their religious life. FROM INSIGHT JOURNAL, FEBRUARY 2013 see him, and talk to him, in order to change. The way we breathe, the way we walk, can change him in ourselves. Invite him to walk with us, to sit with us, to smile with us, and the father inside of us will change. Otherwise we will grow up and behave exactly like him. There are many children who hate their father, who promise that when they grow up they will not act and say things like their father. But when they grow up they will act exactly like their father, and they will say things exactly like their father. That has happened many times. You hate it; you don’t want to do it, you don’t want to say it. And yet you will do exactly that, and you will speak exactly like that. In Buddhism, that is what we call samsara, going around. You continue your father, not only with your body, but with your way of life. That is why when you encounter the buddhadharrna, you have a chance to change your father in you first. When you have been able to change your father inside of you, he will not go to samsara again. And you will not transmit that kind of habit to your children. So you end the round of samsara going around. When the father inside has been transformed, the transformation of the father outside will be much easier. That is my experience. FROM THE MINDFULNESS BELL, WINTER/SPRING 2013 HISTORY VS. STORY Buddhist scholar Rita Gross explains how we sometimes mistake Buddhist myths for history. According to Mahayana legend, the Buddha hid his Mahayana teachings in the realm of the nagas, serpent-like creatures who dwell under the sea, because his students were not yet ready to receive them. Eventually these teachings were retrieved by the great second- century master Nagarjuna. This account has