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Mahayana Buddhist Scriptures

by Nagapriya

This is the third talk in a five-part series by Nagapriya exploring Mahayana Buddhism.

Nagapriya gives an overview of the vast literature of Mahayana Buddhism in this talk. He discusses how the new texts emerged, why so many are still preserved, and how they found legitimacy in the larger Buddhist tradition. He also lays out how Mahayana texts are different than those of the Pali Canon, why they emphasize imagination and myth, and why it remains useful for modern Buddhists to explore them despite their length and repetition.

Talk given at Manchester Buddhist Centre, 2009

This talk is part of the series Visions of Mahayana Buddhism.

Tracks (click play to listen)

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1. Recap of previous talk and overview of the topics to be discussed (5:16) 
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2. The vast size of the Mahayana scriptures; how the Mahayana texts depended on written versus oral tradition (9:59) 
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3. Ways in which Mahayana texts differ from earlier texts; complex, long, verbose, and using rich visionary narrative (4:45) 
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4. How Mahayana texts were legitimized as valid teachings; utilizing the cosmic Buddha as a source (10:16) 
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5. Using imagery, myth and symbol to underpin the legitimacy of the texts; The Gandavyuha Sutra as an example (7:40) 
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6. The parable of the phantom city; The teaching of skillful means legitimizes the texts without undercutting the Buddha (7:12) 
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7. Reasons to read Mahayana texts; participating emotionally in awakened states; conclusion (7:54) 

Total running time: 53:02