With so many different versions of the bible [how does one recognize the word of god?]

Because Buddhism is a religion that does not employ the theistic paradigm, the question of the word of God does not arise. Buddhist teachings are meant to be the road maps and manuals of enlightenment. As such they merely point the way. The truths that are described in the texts have to be personally realized. (The finger pointing to the moon is not the moon.) If, however, someone has realized the most profound spiritual truth, the pointers they offer are invaluable.

In that light the Buddha is seen to be brilliant in pointing the way and one would like to get as close to his words as possible. The oldest texts would get us nearer to the time of the Buddha and closer to what he actually said. Good scholarship, using the ingenious tools of linguistics, can determine the oldest texts. Comparison of the oldest texts from several different geographical areas (India and China) helps us to determine which teachings are common to all the areas where Buddhism was practiced. This kind of research gives some confidence as to authenticity.

Even with the best scholarship, however, teachings can still be interpreted in various ways. Which should we choose? Here's the Buddhas recommendation to those in doubt. When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering for myself and others." -- then you should abandon them.

When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness for myself and others" -- then you should enter & remain in them.

Thus any text should be tested by the results it yields when put into practice; and -- to guard against the possibility of any bias or limitations in one's understanding of those results -- they should further be checked against the experience of people who are wise.

Ajahn Viradhammo

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