The Four Great References From the Maha-Parinibbana Sutta :

And there the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Now, bhikkhus, I shall make known to you the Four Great References. Listen and pay heed to my words." And those bhikkhus answered, saying: "So be it, Lord."

Then the Blessed One said: "In this fashion, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu might speak: 'Face to face with the Blessed One, brethren, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Vinaya, the Master's teachings';

or: 'In an abode of such and such a name lives a community with elders and a chief. Face to face with that community, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Vinaya, the Master's teachings';

or: 'In an abode of such and such a name live several bhikkhus who are elders, who are learned, who have accomplished their course, who are preservers of the Dhamma, the Vinaya. Face to face with those elders, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Vinaya, the Master's teachings';

or: 'In an abode of such and such a name lives a single bhikkhu who is an elder, who is learned, who has accomplished his course, who is a preserver of the Dhamma, the Vinaya. Face to face with that elder, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Vinaya, the Master's teachings.'

"In such a case, bhikkhus, the declaration of such a bhikkhu is neither to be received with approval nor with scorn. Without approval and without scorn, but carefully studying the sentences word by word, one should trace them in the Sutta and verify them by the Vinaya.

If they are neither traceable in the Sutta nor verifiable by the Vinaya, one must conclude thus: 'Certainly, this is not the Blessed One's utterance; this has been misunderstood by that bhikkhu or by that community, or by those elders, or by that elder.' In that way, bhikkhus, you should reject it.

But if the sentences concerned are traceable in the Sutta and verifiable by the Vinaya, then one must conclude thus: 'Certainly, this is the Blessed One's utterance; this has been well understood by that bhikkhu or by that community, or by those elders, or by that elder.'

And in that way, bhikkhus, you may accept it on the first, second, third, or fourth reference. These, bhikkhus, are the Four Great References for you to preserve."

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Indeed, Face to Face is the key. Neither approve or scorn. The rest is dogma. Pay attention.

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