Commentarial Inerrancy

Can someone be a classical Theravādin if they do not accept that all commentaries and sub-commentaries are perfect? Personally, I do really struggle to accept some of what is written in the commentaries. For example, the idea that Pāli is the natural language of all humans (leave a baby in the wood, and if it survives it will naturally speak Pāli).


They can. The necessity is only

  • Accepting the “Whole Tipitaka” and
  • Giving the priority to the “Ancient Commentary” over Own-opinion (including sub-commentary).

I know even many Classical Theravadins struggle to accept such points, but they still value the Commentary over Own-opinion. So they either keep it for later consideration or try in different ways to understand them.

And there are some minor disagreements even among Commentators about minor points in Commentaries. They are considered Differences (but) inside the Theravada domain”.

If one is going to doubt either the “Fundamentals” or “Considerable part” of the Commentary, then it will lead him to be dragged out of the Theravada domain.

If one accepts the “Interpretation-fundamentals” of the commentary (let alone the rest), he is technically a Classical Theravadin.

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The main thing is not to focus on those things that you yourself find difficult, and to stick with handful of leaves that we have… even though other leaves may be lying around.
Every seldom once in a while I’ll pull a 2+ foot long piece of hair out of my mouth from the food that was cooked for me with love… and then I continue eating from the same bowl.


Some people are more strict than others, but id say yeah. as long as you accept the theravada canon and commentaries, you dont have to believe everything is infallible. Similar with general theravada, some people beleive you qualify if you basically meet the only requirement is being Buddhist and not believing in Mahayana Sutras, others that you have to believe in certain core concepts, and others you have to beleive in certain texts. I feel like you can be a classical theravadin if you accept commentarial authority in general- ranging from complete faith in its infallacy to just beleiving them in general but with varying degrees of faith.


The only things that matter are sila, samadhi, panna. Things like whether pali is a natural language does not matter. So believe it or not, it does not matter. It is better to just ignore stuff like this. With regards to sila, samadhi, panna the commentaries give a significant breath of new knowledge to the contents of the suttas.

Perfect faith can only come from self-realization. Only sotapannas have perfect faith. Knowledge that come from learning need to be balanced by a dose of doubt. Thus we can keep an open mind. Having 100% faith only from learning is called blind faith.

The suttas and commentaries should be regarded like a text book, not a bible. Text books have errors. The important thing is that the knowledge is mostly correct and if we follow it then we will get result.


I believe such concrete things are irrelevant regarding to leave the authority of some thing. This type of acceptance sounds more proper of semitic religions, in where the sacred scriptures should the infallible because are the words from some god. .

Accepting the authority of knowledge doesn’t mean be in agreement with each aspect and word. In example, we accept the authority of a medicine Vademecum despite some things can be old, not right or exact. We take those things by granted in a human production.

When one thinks some aspect sounds too old, not right or convincing, then one can bypass it and that’s all. Rejecting the authority of the whole thing sounds quite absurd.

Why should we reject the authority of the whole thing because the 0.0001% ?
In that type of rejection there is an extreme founamentalism