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Extra resources for Dharma - Studies in its Semantic, Cultural and Religious History (selected chapters)

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First, because I think taking dhamma in the sense of the teaching of the Buddha as the starting point for the history of its usage is problematic. Secondly, because, as we saw above, apart from the four truths the dhammas that the text spells out as objects of contemplation are not in fact the teachings of the Buddha as such; certainly the Buddha of the Nikayas teaches about the hindrances, the aggregates, the senses and their objects, etc . , but these · things are not actual teachings; moreover if we were to understand dhammas here in the sense of teachings about the hin­ drances, etc .

This does not mean that I consider that the Buddha taught everything just as the Nikayas/Agamas say he did. It does mean, however, that I think there are serious methodological flaws in attempting to dis­ tinguish in the Nikayas/Agamas two clear categories consisting of 'authentic' teachings of the Buddha ' on the' one hand and later 'inauthentic' interpretations on the other. It follows from this that my drawing principally on the Pali sources is not to be taken as indicating that they are necessarily a more 'authentic' witness of early Buddhist thought - apart from the obvious fact that they are preserved in an ancient Indian language which must be relatively close to the kind of dialect or dialects used by the Buddha and his first disciples - than the Chinese Agamas.

I think we can see a precisely parallel . development of the usage of dhamma in Buddhist thought. In fact I have already -suggested that the early Buddhist under­ standing of dhammas as the basic mental and physical qualities that constitute experience or reality is to be related to the usage of dham­ ma at the end of a bahuvrzhi compound in the sense of a particular nature or quality possessed by something. To this extent the basic qualities of early Buddhist thought and the attributes of Nyaya­ Vai§e�ika are the same things.

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