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The Saddhamma Sutta – False Dhamma’s
The Saddhamma Sutta answers a question about the need for additional rules of behavior within the sangha as the sangha developed. Even during the Buddha’s time there were adaptations. accommodations and embellishments made to the Dhamma that led to unskillful behavior.
The intense desire to alter the dhamma to fit confused views rooted in ignorance of The Four Noble Truths has persisted until today. This has resulted in many contradictory “Buddhist” religions that together present a confusing “dharma.” What has developed is at best ineffective in developing the stated purpose of the Buddha’s teaching: “I teach the origination of dukkha and the cessation of dukkha, nothing more.” (Majjhima Nikaya 22.37 +)
What is most interesting to note today is how far-reaching is the belief that the Buddha’s teachings SHOULD be accommodated to fit ever-changing views. Often the justification for these accommodations is another misapplied teaching from the Buddha: “Therefore, O monks, if you know the purpose of what I have said, you should keep it in mind accordingly. But if you do not know the purpose of what I have said, you should question me about it, or else (ask) those monks who are wise.” (Majjhima Nikaya 22.12 +)
This one phrase, repeated often by the Buddha, has been reinterpreted to imply that the Buddha taught to question everything including the clear and direct Four Noble Truths. Rather than question the Buddha directly in his time, or to compare the adapted teaching for fidelity to the Buddha’s direct teaching as preserved in the Pali Canon, wholesale changes are made resulting in a modern “Buddhism” that is, as the Buddha states here: “a counterfeit of the true Dhamma (that) has arisen in the world.”
This is not to say that the varied modern adaptations of Buddhism are not legitimate religions, only that what has developed is not what the Buddha taught and is as different as gold is from silver – both valuable in application but very different in substance.
The Saddhamma Sutta
Samyutta Nikaya 16.13
The Buddha was in Savatthi, in Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s monastery. A senior monk, Maha Kassapa went to the Buddha with a question. “Why is it that there are more training rules than before yet fewer sangha members developing full understanding?”
“Kassapa this is the direct result of what occurs when beings are degenerating and the true Dhamma begins to disappear. This would not occur when a counterfeit Dhamma has not arisen in the world but will always occur when counterfeit Dhamma’s are revered.
“Just as there is no diminishing or disappearance of gold when there is no counterfeit gold, when counterfeit dhamma is present it diminishes the value of the true dhamma and can completely obscure the true dhamma. In the same way, when there is no counterfeit dhamma in the world there will be no diminishing or disappearance of my teachings.
“It is not the nature of the world to cause the true dhamma to disappear. It is foolish people who arise within the sangha that cause the true dhamma to disappear. The true dhamma disappears gradually from within, like a boat slowly sinking.
“There are five unskillful qualities that confuse people and lead to the disappearance of the true Dhamma.
- Those that live with disrespect for true teachers.
- Those that five with disrespect for the Dhamma.
- Those that live with disrespect for the Sangha.
- Those that live with disrespect for the Eightfold Path.
- Those that live with disrespect for deepening concentration.
“These are the five unskillful qualities that confuse people and lead to the disappearance of the true Dhamma.
“My friends, there are five skillful qualities that develop stability and clear insight that will preserve the true Dhamma.
- Those that live with respect for true Teachers.
- Those that live with respect for the Dhamma.
- Those that live with respect for the Sangha.
- Those that live with respect for the Eightfold Path.
- Those that live with respect for deepening concentration.
“These are the five skillful qualities that develop stability and clear insight that will preserve the true Dhamma.
Upon hearing the Buddha’ words those assembled were delighted.
End Of Sutta
As has been seen, from the time of the Buddha to today there will always be a strong desire to accommodate the Buddha’s teachings to fit conditioned views of what Buddhism should be. This not a “right or wrong” question. It is simply what has occurred and will continue to occur as long as individuals adapt the Buddha’s direct teachings to fit conditioned views.
The accommodations made over the past two thousand six hundred years can be clearly seen as an aspect of The First Noble Truth: there is confusion, delusion and resulting dukkha in the world. It can also be clearly seen that the cause of contradictory teachings are an aspect of The Second Noble Truth: Craving originates and clinging perpetuates suffering. This is all continuing “I-making.”
Of course, the result of the unskillful desire for the dhamma to be different than it was as first presented is a diminishing, and often complete dismissal, of the importance of developing the profound understanding of The Four Noble Truths.
The Buddha awakened to the profound understanding that it was ignorance of the true nature of confusion, delusion and ongoing disappointment, ignorance of true nature of Dukkha, that continues Dukkha. Dependent Origination states that from this initial ignorance of The Four Noble Truths, through twelve observable causative links, all manner of suffering arises.
Developing the Eightfold Path maintains the refined mindfulness necessary to avoid the common tendency to accommodate the clear teachings of the Buddha to fit conditioned views and to remain mindful of the five skillful qualities that support awakening, that support full human maturity.
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My Dhamma articles and talks are based on the Buddha's teachings (suttas) as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. I have relied primarily on Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent and insightful translation of the Pali generously made freely available at his website Dhammatalks.org, as well as the works of Acharya Buddharakkhita, Nyanaponika Thera, John Ireland, Maurice Walsh, Hellmuth Hecker, and Sister Khema, among others, as preserved at Access To Insight.
Also, I have found Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations from Wisdom Publications Pali Canon Anthologies to be most informative and an excellent resource.
I have made edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain contextual relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.
Becoming-Buddha.com and Dhamma articles and recordings by John Haspel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.