Even the Attanomati is higher than Non-Theravada Suttas or Interpretations

Important Points:

  • Mahāpadesa Sutta advises to reject a teaching that is not in conformity with the Sutta and Vinaya. According to the Mahāpadesasutta Commentary the word “Sutta” herein refers to the whole Tipitaka and the word “Vinaya” refers to “Raga-vinaya …etc.” mentioned in the “Advices to Venerable Gotami” (Anguttanikaya and Cullavagga).

  • All the below mentioned Four Vinayas are ranked higher than “Non-Theravada Suttas” and “Non-Theravada Interpretations of Theravada Suttas”. Therefore according ot the Mahāpadesasutta Commentary, one should remain even in Attanomati when the other one is arguing with Non-Theravada Suttas or Interpretation.

The Four Vinayas

(a) Sutta: here refers to the Three Piṭakas.

(b) Suttānuloma: the four Mahāpadesas (Great Authorities) described in the Vinaya and the four Mahāpadesas described in the Suttanta.

(c) Ācariyavāda: miscellaneous exposition in elucidation of the doctrines of the Buddha that were made even during His lifetime at different places. Since they explain the Pāli texts, they were also called Commentaries (aṭṭhakathā). At the great Councils, the bhikkhu-elders recited the Pāli first and at the end of it, they prescribed the respective Commentaries to each division of the texts as the regular syllabus for elucidation. These learned sayings which were miscellaneous discourses as well as Commentaries, being written by learned teachers, come to be known also as Ācariyavāda. These learned observations or treatises which are referred to by three different names, which are Ācariyavāda, Aṭṭhakathā, Pakiṇṇakadesanā, were carried by the Venerable Mahinda to Sri Lanka. The Sri Lanka bhikkhu-elders translated them into Sinhalese to ensure, for Sinhalese bhikkhus, the tradition against doctrines that might be introduced by other sects later. The Venerable Mahā Buddhaghosa studied the Sinhalese Aṭṭhakathā, (i.e. the Mūḷa Pakiṇṇaka) cleared up repetitive statements and condensed them wherever suitable, classified them under suitable headings which were appropriate to the Piṭaka texts, elucidating wherever necessary, and thereby produced a new Commentary in Māgadī, adding the traditional views held by bhikkhu-elder (Theravāda) which came to be called ‘own views’ (attanomati), wherever necessary. Thus, Ācariyavāda, the third of the four Vinayas, is for practical purposes as used today, refers to (This new) Commentary.

(d) Attanomati: this is a reference to the ‘own views’ i.e. considered opinions held by bhikkhu-elders after following the principles contained in the Sutta, Suttanuloma and Ācariyavāda. Attanomate is also known as Theravāda, the doctrines upheld traditionally by bhikkhu-elders. Thus these four Vinayas are Sutta, Suttānuloma, Ācariyavāda and Attanomati, should be noted…



Dictionary Definition of Mahāpadesa Sutta:

Mahāpadesa Sutta

Preached at the Ananda cetiya in Bhoganagara.

The Buddha tells the monks of the four mahāpadesā to be respected by them. If a monks says he has a certain teaching direct from the Buddha himself, his statement should be compared with the rest of the Vinaya and Dhamma; if these do not agree, it should be rejected; if they do, accepted.

The same applies to that which is said to have been learnt from a group of monks led by a Thera from a body of senior monks residing in a certain place, or from a single senior monk, proficient in the Dhamma, the Vinaya, and the Mātikā. A.ii.167ff.; the sutta is incorporated in the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta (D.ii.123ff).

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I think we should be careful of not caricaturing others’ views in an effort to disparage them. I have never seen anyone who believes that they can understand the suttas without the help of commentaries. On the other hand I have seen people pointing out individual cases where they think the commentary is mistaken. Having noticed that in their view the commentary can make mistakes they advocate for not taking everything it says as word of the Bible and apply analysis to each piece of commentary to evaluate if it seems reasonable or not (I believe this is B. Bodhi’s view, with the willingness to give the commentary the benefit of the doubt in most cases).

Maybe the conversation should then be about whether it coyld be agreed upon that the commentary can sometimes be wrong, or if it should be considered as perfectly flawless. Sadhu

“Maybe the conversation should then be about whether it coyld be agreed upon that the commentary can sometimes be wrong, or if it should be considered as perfectly flawless.”

This is not helpful. If we do this, then next people will hold conversation to decide which sutta is wrong and which is correct, then to discard which Vinaya, then to dismiss which Abhidhamma book…

It is a disaster.

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The document is mostly actually for us who already believe. It is to keep our own faith. But to also be familiar with the common disputes and the proper answers when they arise . I have many projects and have not written so much, but we have the information to write .

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So I assume this means the commentaries are to be seen as perfectly flawless.

Actually this is already the case, this work is already done, and the present compilation of the Atthakathā is valid. According to the Theravāda lineage, the authority of the texts is as follow:

  • Sutta: it means all Tipitaka from the third council. It is Buddhavacana.

Any sutta from the others traditions are considered flawed and rejected. We can then right from this point reject the " authority" of comparative studies from others traditions, since it is based one lineages who had many divergence from the Pāli texts ( their texts are Sanskrit, Chinese and so on…). This is also why at the third council the Venerable Mahā Moggaliputta recited the Kathāvatthu, by rejecting the mistakes, he showed that the others sects had wrong views, wrong texts, could not have any Noble ones and could not be trusted.

  • Suttānuloma : anything wich agrees with the texts are considered as valid.

  • Acāriyovāda: or pakinnaka desanā. This is Atthakathā. Any Atthakathā which is contradictory with Tipitaka is rejected.
    In the present compilation from Buddhagosa Bhante, when it happened (very rarely) he mentioned it and rejected.

  • Attanomati : personal idea, from any teacher ’ s own feeling, insight or belief. This personal opinion can be accepted only of it agree with sutta, if not it is rejected. It is the weakest of all authorities.

This method is given in the commentary of the Mahaparinibbāna sutta, to precise the four great authorities. ( mahā padesa).

Of course, the correct Buddha’ s teaching can come from its source only, i e the ancients who teached it. Anyone who give too much credit to others texts’ sects at the end may doubt about everything… I heard a teacher who wanted to modify the satipatthāna according to his view from comparative studies. Then one Mahā Thero of Nā Uyana said " in this case we can just change the four Noble Truths also!"

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You have to be careful with this.

It occurs actually indeed in the Cy to DN 16:

suttādīsu pana suttaṃ nāma tisso saṅgītiyo ārūḷhāni tīṇi piṭakāni. suttānulomaṃ nāma anulomakappiyaṃ. ācariyavādo nāma aṭṭhakathā. attanomati nāma nayaggāhena anubuddhiyā attano paṭibhānaṃ. tattha suttaṃ appaṭibāhiyaṃ, taṃ paṭibāhantena buddhova paṭibāhito hoti. anulomakappiyaṃ pana suttena samentameva gahetabbaṃ, na itaraṃ. ācariyavādopi suttena samentoyeva gahetabbo, na itaro. attanomati pana sabbadubbalā, sāpi suttena samentāyeva gahetabbā, na itarā. pañcasatikā, sattasatikā, sahassikāti imā pana tisso saṅgītiyo. suttampi tāsu āgatameva pamāṇaṃ, itaraṃ gārayhasuttaṃ na gahetabbaṃ. tattha otarantānipi hi padabyañjanāni na ceva sutte otaranti, na ca vinaye sandissantīti veditabbāni.

But there is another version of this, from the Cy to Pr 1 in the Vinaya, with different definitions of the 4 terms:

catubbidhañhi vinayaṃ, mahātherā mahiddhikā.
nīharitvā pakāsesuṃ, dhammasaṅgāhakā purā.
katamaṃ catubbidhaṃ? suttaṃ, suttānulomaṃ, ācariyavādaṃ, attanomatinti. yaṃ sandhāya vuttaṃ — “āhaccapadena rasena ācariyavaṃsena adhippāyā”ti, ettha hi āhaccapadanti suttaṃ adhippetaṃ, rasoti suttānulomaṃ, ācariyavaṃsoti ācariyavādo, adhippāyoti attanomati.
tattha suttaṃnāma sakale vinayapiṭake pāḷi.
suttānulomaṃ nāma cattāro mahāpadesā; ye bhagavatā evaṃ vuttā — “yaṃ, bhikkhave, mayā ‘idaṃ na kappatī’ti appaṭikkhittaṃ, taṃ ce akappiyaṃ anulometi; kappiyaṃ paṭibāhati, taṃ vo na > ācariyavādo nāma dhammasaṅgāhakehi pañcahi arahantasatehi ṭhapitā pāḷivinimuttā okkantavinicchayappavattā aṭṭhakathātanti.
attanomati nāma sutta-suttānuloma-ācariyavāde muñcitvā anumānena attano anubuddhiyā nayaggāhena upaṭṭhitākārakathanaṃ.

This is followed by this statement:

apica suttantābhidhammavinayaṭṭhakathāsu āgato sabbopi theravādo “attanomati” nāma.

In fact the entire doctrine of the elders (Theravada!) found in the commentaries to the suttas, abhidhamma and vinaya is also personal opinion.

Furthermore:

taṃ pana attanomatiṃ gahetvā kathentena na daḷhaggāhaṃ gahetvā voharitabbaṃ. kāraṇaṃ sallakkhetvā atthena pāḷiṃ, pāḷiyā ca atthaṃ saṃsanditvā kathetabbaṃ. attanomati ācariyavāde otāretabbā. sace tattha otarati ceva sameti ca, gahetabbā. sace neva otarati na sameti, na gahetabbā. ayañhi attanomati nāma sabbadubbalā. attanomatito ācariyavādo balavataro.
ācariyavādopi suttānulome otāretabbo. tattha otaranto samentoyeva gahetabbo, itaro na gahetabbo. ācariyavādato hi suttānulomaṃ balavataraṃ.

Now one who speaks based on personal opinion is not to do so tenaciously. He is to speak after considered the reasoning, compared the meaning with the Canon and the Canon with the meaning. Personal opinion is to fit the teachers’ doctrine. If it fits in and conforms, it is to be taken. If it neither fits nor conforms, it is not to be taken - for personal opinion is the weakest of all. The teachers’ doctrine is stronger than personal opinion.
The teachers’ opinion is also to fit in the corollary to the sutta. If it fits in and conforms, only then it is to be taken. Otherwise it is not to be taken - for the corollary to the sutta is stronger than the teachers’ doctrine.

So here we have the Commentary saying that the Commentary is ‘personal opinion’, that actually the entirety of Theravada is to be considered as personal opinion.

Now here is a question: is the commentary correct or wrong when it says that the Commentary/Theravada is just personal opinion?

Thanks for your complete nd interesting answer.

"Furthermore:

taṃ pana attanomatiṃ gahetvā kathentena na daḷhaggāhaṃ gahetvā voharitabbaṃ. kāraṇaṃ sallakkhetvā atthena pāḷiṃ, pāḷiyā ca atthaṃ saṃsanditvā kathetabbaṃ. attanomati ācariyavāde otāretabbā. sace tattha otarati ceva sameti ca, gahetabbā. sace neva otarati na sameti, na gahetabbā. ayañhi attanomati nāma sabbadubbalā. attanomatito ācariyavādo balavataro.
ācariyavādopi suttānulome otāretabbo. tattha otaranto samentoyeva gahetabbo, itaro na gahetabbo. ācariyavādato hi suttānulomaṃ balavataraṃ.

Now one who speaks based on personal opinion is not to do so tenaciously. He is to speak after considered the reasoning, compared the meaning with the Canon and the Canon with the meaning. Personal opinion is to fit the teachers’ doctrine. If it fits in and conforms, it is to be taken. If it neither fits nor conforms, it is not to be taken - for personal opinion is the weakest of all. The teachers’ doctrine is stronger than personal opinion.
The teachers’ opinion is also to fit in the corollary to the sutta. If it fits in and conforms, only then it is to be taken. Otherwise it is not to be taken - for the corollary to the sutta is stronger than the teachers’ doctrine.

So here we have the Commentary saying that the Commentary is ‘personal opinion’, that actually the entirety of Theravada is to be considered as personal opinion.

Now here is a question: is the commentary correct or wrong when it says that the Commentary/Theravada is just personal opinion?"

The method described here is the same as what i mentioned, but more precisely and completely. Because . attanomati ācariyavāde otāretabbā. sace tattha otarati ceva sameti ca, gahetabbā. sace neva otarati na sameti, na gahetabbā. ayañhi attanomati nāma sabbadubbalā. attanomatito ācariyavādo balavataro.
ācariyavādopi suttānulome otāretabbo. tattha otaranto samentoyeva gahetabbo, itaro na gahetabboācariyavādopi suttānulome otāretabbo. tattha otaranto samentoyeva gahetabbo, itaro na gahetabbo. ācariyavādato hi suttānulomaṃ balavataraṃ."
It means ācariyovāda, or atthakathā has to be suttanuloma, that is fit to the Pāli texts. And attanomati should fit to both atthakathā and pāli. It is the meaning here.

Nobody said commentary, atthakathā is personal opinion, attanomati. On the opposite atthakathā is defined as Ācariyovāda, as the ancient commentaries already present at the first Sangīti :
“ācariyavādo nāma dhammasaṅgāhakehi pañcahi arahantasatehi ṭhapitā pāḷivinimuttā okkantavinicchayappavattā aṭṭhakathātanti.” That is why it is also called pakinnaka desanā ( miscellaneous teachings).

What we have to consider is the meaning given to the word Theravāda :"apica suttantābhidhammavinayaṭṭhakathāsu āgato sabbopi theravādo “attanomati” nāma.

In fact the entire doctrine of the elders (Theravada!) found in the commentaries to the suttas, abhidhamma and vinaya is also personal opinion."

This is the attanomati present in the compilation of Tipitaka atthakathā, because it is also compiled together. And it is here called Theravāda, in opposition to acariyāvāda.
It does not mean that " actually all atthakathā is attanomati. "This would have no sense.
The meaning is Atthakathā is ācariyovāda from the 500 bhikkhus since the first council. Attanomati is Theravāda, that is personal opinions from the elders compiled together with the atthakathā ( and later also tīka).

I think your confusion is the meaning of Theravāda : strictly speaking it is attanomati, but now as many of us use this word to design the " tradition of Tipitaka atthakathā tīka compiled in the magadhi".
Also Atthakathā, strictly speaking it is ācariyovāda, but now the word is given to describe the compilation of both Ācariyovāda and Theravāda.

Now one may say " but since attanomati and acariyāvāda are compiled together, how we differenciate?" The answer is when it comes from an Elder idea, it is mentioned. But the main part is Ācariyovāda.

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you seem to equate ācariyovāda = atthakathā

This is understandable since Cy to DN 16 says ’ ācariyavādo nāma aṭṭhakathā’. But if you look at the other definition from the Vinaya, you will get a more thorough definition:

ācariyavādo nāma dhammasaṅgāhakehi pañcahi arahantasatehi ṭhapitā pāḷivinimuttā okkantavinicchayappavattā aṭṭhakathātanti.

Teachers’ doctrine means the commentarial tradition, independent of the Pali Canon, consisting of verdicts arrived at by the 500 arahants who were Dhamma collators (at the first council)

So it’s not just any Commentary (given say by someone 1,000 years after Buddha), it is the Commentary given by arahants at the first council. Remember, this is in relation to Vinaya, so there is reasonable grounds to believe that what is refered to here as the commentary is actually the Suttavibhanga, not Buddhagosa’s commentary.

Now perhaps you believe that Buddhagosa’s commentary = 500 arahants’ commentary. You would have to prove that 1) it’s not the suttavibhanga that is meant above 2) the commentary would have been preserved with the same level of accuracy as the suttas (good luck)

It says it right here:

apica suttantābhidhammavinayaṭṭhakathāsu āgato sabbopi theravādo “attanomati” nāma.

In fact the entire doctrine of the elders (Theravada!) found in the commentaries to the suttas, abhidhamma and vinaya is also personal opinion.

And there are Theras and at least one Mahathera who think this is exactly what is meant here.

It would make perfect sense for people who think that way. What I am having a hard time making sense of though is this sentence:

Together with what exactly?

Do you mean that Buddhagosa’s commentary is a mix between the arahants’ and his personal opinion?

Yes, which means that here the word does not refer to Buddhagosa’s commentary, but there is ground to believe it could refer to the Suttavibhanga, which is a commentary on the Patimokkha considered canonical (most probably compiled at the first council).

So the conclusion here is that ācariyavāda is not equal to Buddhagosa’s commentary.

Is this just a statement of faith or is it actually demonstrable?

It seems that you hold the Ācariyovāda from the 500 Arahants of the first Sangīti, mentioned here as in other Atthakathā as well, is suttavibhanga from Vinayamūla.

This is not correct, the Atthakathā of Sutta, Vinaya, and Abhidhamma, brought by Venerable Mahinda to Srilanka in Sinhala and later translated compiled and edited by Venerable Buddhagosa is the one. Look:

From Dīghanikāya Atthakathā :

“atthappakāsanatthaṃ, aṭṭhakathā ādito vasisatehi.
pañcahi yā saṅgītā, anusaṅgītā ca pacchāpi.
sīhaḷadīpaṃ pana ābhatātha, vasinā mahāmahindena.
ṭhapitā sīhaḷabhāsāya, dīpavāsīnamatthāya.
apanetvāna tatohaṃ, sīhaḷabhāsaṃ manoramaṃ bhāsaṃ.
tantinayānucchavikaṃ, āropento vigatadosaṃ.”

“The commentaries, recited at the first council by the 500, and later again recited (in the second and third council), then brought to the island of Srilanka, by the Great Mahinda. Having removed the Sinhala language
and rendering them to exquisite language, free from defects and suitable to the texts…”

Then from Abhidhamma Atthakathā :

“Yā mahākassapādīhi, vasīhiṭṭhakathā purā;
Saṅgītā anusaṅgītā, pacchāpi ca isīhi yā.
Ābhatā pana therena, mahindenetamuttamaṃ;
Yā dīpaṃ dīpavāsīnaṃ, bhāsāya abhisaṅkhatā.
Apanetvā tato bhāsaṃ, tambapaṇṇinivāsinaṃ;
Āropayitvā niddosaṃ, bhāsaṃ tantinayānugaṃ.”

" By Mahā Kassapa and others, this commentary (to Abhidhamma ) recired ans again recited (at different councils) by the others sages, has been brought to superb island by the excellent Mahinda and put in the language of the dwellers. Removing it from the language of Tambapanni, rendering it to the fautless language suitable for the texts"…

Also, the Vinaya Atthakathā makes it clear in the verses introduction that this comes from the 500 elders of the Sangīti, and since it was in Sinhala to be beneficial to many others bhikkhus the Venerable Buddhagosa task was to translate and compile it.

And the main part of the Atthakathā is Visuddhimagga, the meditation methods, since all atthakathā refers to it.

As to the accuracy, well, commentaries are clear, and visuddhimagga also about the practice. We may accept their authority or not but they stand without contradictions or weaknesses.

Please you can read the commentaries. You will see, when it comes from an Elder, from a teacher or rarely by Ven Buddhagosa himself, he mentioned it.

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This is a possibility yes, because that’s what the suttavibhanga is in, all likelihood. Can you demonstrate the contrary?

So which is it? The Atthakathā of Sutta, Vinaya, and Abhidhamma is acariyavada or is it attanoma? Because the text clearly says it is the latter. It can’t be both, or the commentary is just nonsense.
[edit : are you saying that the commentary is divided in 3 parts 1) what it believes to be the words of arahants at the first council 2) opinions of contemporary theras 3) Buddhagosa’s opinions and that acariyavada is meant to refer to 1) while attanoma is meant to refer to 2) and 3)?]

Well we just put the finger on one.

So we have to trust the personal opinion of Buddhagosa that what he writes is verbatim what the arahants said at the first council. Given the self contradiction above, I think circumspection is in order.

There are people in this world who don’t accept everything blindly out of faith. They can never be convinced by mere assertions of faith. You need to demonstrate that what the commentary says is historically accurate and not just the belief at the time.

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I think my previous answer is explicit enough😊…

Ok, i think i was not clear enough. I will therefore quote the Tipitaka expert Mingun Sayadaw who was well know for his deep scolarship, in his book " The Great chronicles of Buddha" this is how he explained it (taking mainly from Mahaparinibbāna Atthakathā ):

"The Four Vinayas

-Sutta: here refers to the Three Piṭakas

-Suttānuloma: the four Mahāpadesas (Great Authorities) described in the Vinaya and the four Mahāpadesas described in the Suttanta.

-Ācariyavāda: miscellaneous exposition in elucidation of the doctrines of the Buddha that were made even during His lifetime at different places. Since they explain the Pāli texts, they were also called Commentaries (aṭṭhakathā). At the great Councils, the bhikkhu-elders recited the Pāli first and at the end of it, they prescribed the respective Commentaries to each division of the texts as the regular syllabus for elucidation. These learned sayings which were miscellaneous discourses as well as Commentaries, being written by learned teachers, come to be known also as Ācariyavāda. These learned observations or treatises which are referred to by three different names, which are Ācariyavāda, Aṭṭhakathā, Pakiṇṇakadesanā, were carried by the Venerable Mahinda.The Sri Lanka bhikkhu-elders translated them into Sinhalese to ensure, for Sinhalese bhikkhus, the tradition against doctrines that might be introduced by other sects later. The Venerable [Mahā] Buddhaghosa studied the Sinhalese Aṭṭhakathā, the Mūḷacleared up repetitive statements and condensed them wherever suitable, classified them under suitable headings which were appropriate to the texts, elucidating wherever necessary, and thereby produced a new Commentary in Māgadī, adding the traditional views held by bhikkhu-elder (Theravāda)which came to be called ‘own views’ (attanomati), wherever necessary. Thus, Ācariyavāda, the third of the four Vinayas, is for practical purposes as used today, refers to (This new) Commentary.

Attanomati: this is a reference to the ‘own views’ i.e. considered opinions held by bhikkhu-elders after following the principles contained in the Sutta, Suttanuloma and Ācariyavāda. Attanomate is also known as Theravāda, the doctrines upheld traditionally by bhikkhu-elders. Thus these four Vinayas are Sutta, Suttānuloma, Ācariyavāda and Attanomati, should be noted…"

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That’s interesting. There may indeed have been a misunderstanding. I will try and follow up on this

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This is by studying carefully and respectfully correct teachings that we can increase a faith wich is " accompanied by knowledge “, ñāna sampayutta… In this way our faith increase because we recognize more and more the teaching…
We are not scientists, to " demonstrate” is not the point, we have to understand with wisdom…otherwise better to study with scientists on nde cases…
But Buddha ’ s disciple have faith.
Dhamma is not science. Without faith faculty, saddhā indriya, one can not grow up in wholesome qualities, one can not develop samādhi, can not do proper vipassanā… This point is important. Dhamma seeds without faith is like a dry land, the seeds can not grow up… It is better to look our lineage with great faith and respect, it will help understanding and increase our wholesome qualities🙂…

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MN 76

A sensible person reflects on this matter in this way: ‘This teacher takes oral transmission to be the truth. He teaches by oral transmission, by the lineage of testament, by canonical authority. But when a teacher takes oral transmission to be the truth, some of that is well learned, some poorly learned, some true, and some otherwise. This spiritual life is unreliable.’

As Buddha sāvaka we know the Buddha ’ s words arethe Truth and the Arahant words are the Truth.

We don’t need to take a small quote in order to interpret in the way to fit our views… like this one or kalama sutta sutta to reject the authority of the Triple Gems… Buddha ’ s disciple rely on faith, Bhante, wathever the ay you look at it it is like that.
Look, you are ordained, and you will have Upasampadā ordination soon… Based on your faith.

On what are based the Vinaya kamma Bhante? Not only on mūla, but on commentaries as well… Based on the transmission of the teachings. The suttas, are know, together with pāli because commentaries.

So we can be respectful and grateful wich are good qualities. We should respect our lineage, they have protected Dhamma… We have Dhamma because of them. To be grateful is important.

For understanding, to study carefully is necessary.

But it is a vast topic and im not going to say more on this discussion… Arguments are harmful for me and i like to avoid it.
I prefer rely on my faith, with the help of my kalyānamittaand teachers to study and practice this golden Dhamma…
Okāsa vandāmi Bhante🙏
Theruwan Saranayi :gem::gem::gem:

We don’t until we become sotapannas. And even then we can’t tell exactly what is Buddha Vacana and what isn’t. Only if something is clearly contrary to the Dhamma. Let us not overstate our abilities and let’s remain humble.

We do need to be respectful and heed the advice of the suttas and avoid rejecting it when it doesn’t suit us.

Yes I agree, but some people happen to draw a distinction between respecting, being grateful and following blindly without doing our due diligence as regards to the Truth.

We also need to be humble and recognize what we truly know from what we take on faith.

:pray:

It is not helpful at all.

What is not helpful, and why?

Thanks for the excellent explanations Matthias.

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