Anusrava (P. anussava; T. gsan pa; C. suiwen; J. zuimon; K. sumun 隨聞) is translated as “tradition,” “hearsay,” "report," “that which has been heard or reported,” etc. The Chinese term translates literally as “according to what has been heard”.
The term is used in early Buddhist texts to refer to knowledge that is passed through an oral tradition, from one generation to another. Bhikkhu Bodhi writes that this term is:
- "...generally understood to refer to the Vedic tradition, which, according to the Brahmins, had originated with the Primal Deity and had been handed down orally through successive generations."
The Concise Oxford Dictionary states:
- In the Nikāyas it is chiefly used with reference to the brahmans who appealed to tradition as sacrosanct, believing their own Vedas to be divine revelation and the exclusive source of all knowledge and truth. However, Buddhism maintained that the claim for any doctrine or teaching to represent knowledge or truth cannot rest exclusively on the fact that it is part of or belongs to tradition.
In the Kalama Sutta, the Buddha rejects accepting beliefs simply because they are based on an oral tradition. In this sutta, the Buddha emphasizes that the teachings must be tested by oneself, and validated by one's own personal experience. A teaching should be accepted only after you have validated for yourself that the teaching is beneficial and not harmful.
- Robert E. Buswell Jr., Donald S. Lopez Jr., The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (Princeton: 2014), entry for anusrava
- Kesamutti (aka Kālāmā) Sutta (AN 3.66)
- Anussava (The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, 1997)
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