Professor Eviatar Shulman

On Creating the Early Discourses (Suttas) of the Buddha

What are the early discourses attributed to the Buddha? We often think of these texts as attempts to preserve the Buddha’s teachings. While this may be true to some extent, these scriptures are filled with creative elements that show us that they are no less literary efforts, at times even plain entertainment, filled with visionary materials that are meant to move audiences and create aesthetic responses. Rather than trying to tell us what the Buddha said, they offer a continuous investigation of what he could have said, what the Dhamma actually means to a living tradition, and how to cultivate love and respect for the great master. In this talk we will inquire into some of the motivations and methods behind the shaping of the early discourses, in order to obtain an improved understanding of the nature of the early Buddhist tradition.