Theravada Buddhism

Discussion in 'Buddhism' started by Pathless, May 4, 2004.

  1. Pathless

    Pathless Fiercely Interdependent

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    I am aware of three different schools of Buddhism: Theravada, which I undertand as "basic Buddhism" and the earliest form; Mahayana Buddhism, which I understand as a reform movement of early Buddhism and often called the "greater vehicle" vs. the "lesser vehicle" or Hinayana, which is another, some say deragotory, term for Theravada. And, lastly, what seems to be the most popular form of Buddhism in the West from what I can tell and the most recent: Vajrayana, which I gather is "tantric," although I am still not entirely clear as to what that denotes.

    I'm interested in knowing more about all three schools and how they view each other, but am also particualarly interested in finding out more about Theravada as it seems to me, because of its date of origin, to have the purest connection to Buddha's Dhamma. I am also interested in knowing more because the only Buddhist center in my corner of the world is Theravada (Theravadic? :confused: ), and I would like to hear different perspectives on what exactly that school is before I call them up to schedule a visit and hear their perspective. I want to be informed and not just jump into a system of practice because it is there.

    Any thoughts or input on this would be appreciated. :)
     
  2. Zazen

    Zazen Well-Known Member

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  3. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste pathless,


    thank you for the post.

    your questions are quite good and very broad... which sort of means that we'll have to gloss over a lot of information and stick to the "high level" stuff. we can get into specifics later, if you'd like.

    the first thing that i would like to discuss is the word "school". in your post you indicate your understanding of Hinyana, Mahayana and Vajrayana as three schools. whilst this seems to be correct, it actually is not.

    Hinyana, Mahayana and Vajrayana refer to the three Vehicles of practice, not to individuals schools. an indivdual school, for example, Zen, is a school in the Mahayana Vehicle.

    the Three Vehicles refer to the three primary methods of instruction that the Buddha taught. in the Vajrayana view, the Buddhas period of instruction can be roughly divided into three distinct phases, where certain types of teachings were expounded. this gets a bit complicated and is probably not very condusive to a general conversation at this time. suffice it to say that each of the Vehicles "inter-is" with the others. they are more properly viewed as graduated stages on the path, rather than different paths in and of themselves.

    Hinyana does mean "lesser vehicle" however, it is a mistake to presume that this is a derogatory term.. though it may be used by some individuals in this fashion. the Hinyana Vehicle most directly corresponds with the teachings of morality and discipline that characterize the early teachings of the Buddha.

    Mahayana means "greater vehicle" however it is a mistake to presume that this means that it's "better" than the Hinyana path. both Hinyana and Mahayana teach the Bodhisattva ideal, though often in the Hinyana schools it is not emphasized or discussed much. generally speaking this is because Hinyanaists believe that normal folks are not capable of becoming Bodhisattvas in this life whilst Mahayanists believe that it is possible to become a Bodhisattva in this life. this is a, if not "the", fundamental difference between these two Vehicles.

    Vajrayana is, by and large, Mahayana Buddhism. the Vajrayana is said to have been taught during the final phase of the Buddhas teaching career and it emphasizes the Tantric aspect of Buddhism. with, perhaps, the defining feature being that, though Tantric practice, one can attain Buddhahood in one life time.

    that one thing.. i.e. how long it takes on the path, is probably the single most significant difference between the Vehicles.

    Back in the day.. there were many, many schools in the Hinyana Vehicle. in our time today, the only extant school of Hinyana is called Theraveda and roughly means "Teachings of the Elders." many people, especially westerners that are unfamiliar with Buddhism, find Theravedan praxis to be right up their alley, so to speak. the teachings resonate with them in a way that inspires them to practice.

    now... we get to a rather recondite area here... you, quite naturally, have come to the same conclusion that many, many scholars have... since the Pali canon was written down first, it must, therefore, be a more accurate rendering of the teaching of the Buddha. whilst this seems to be correct, it acutally is not.

    when the Buddha was ready to enter Parinirvana some of the monks were concerned about who the teacher would be when he left. the Buddha replied that when he was gone the Dharma would be the teacher. the Dharma is as present today as it was during the Buddhas historical teaching period.. we aren't to rely on the words that the Buddha used... we are to rely on the Dharma for the teaching.

    remember, in Buddhism there is a teaching called "sunyata" or "shunyata".. this is usally rendered in English as "emptiness." in any event, this teaching is quite important.. in fact.. according to the Diamond Sutra, it is this teaching which is the source of all Buddhas of the three times.

    one of the main themes of this teaching is that there is no self to be found in any object, phenomena or being. ipso facto, there was nobody that was the Buddha.. as the Buddha was never born.. and thus, has never died.

    when we understand the teachings of emptiness properly then we understand the doctrine of the Trikaya, or Three Bodies. in a sense, this is similiar to the Christian Trinitiarian view of One God, Three Essences, though obviously with a different character. however, this is probably something that should be given it's own thread if we'd like to discuss this in much more depth.

    we've started a thread on Tantra here: http://www.comparative-religion.com/forum/showthread.php?t=904 that you are free to participate in, if you'd like.

    i'm going to stop for now to avoid information overload and to allow for others to address your questions as well. i'm happy to explain what i can as best that i can, if you've questions about what i've written.
     
  4. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    more questions

    Vaj said: "remember, in Buddhism there is a teaching called "sunyata" or "shunyata".. this is usally rendered in English as "emptiness." in any event, this teaching is quite important.. in fact.. according to the Diamond Sutra, it is this teaching which is the source of all Buddhas of the three times.

    one of the main themes of this teaching is that there is no self to be found in any object, phenomena or being. ipso facto, there was nobody that was the Buddha.. as the Buddha was never born.. and thus, has never died.

    when we understand the teachings of emptiness properly then we understand the doctrine of the Trikaya, or Three Bodies. in a sense, this is similiar to the Christian Trinitiarian view of One God, Three Essences, though obviously with a different character. however, this is probably something that should be given it's own thread if we'd like to discuss this in much more depth."

    This is very interesting. I am attracted to certain Buddhist teachings that strike a cord with me. One that you alluded to before was about 84,000 reeds and using a subset of these to build your raft. Very appealing to me. And the "right thinking, right acting...". Yes, very good stuff.

    I am a simple soul, but with a curious mind, so I hope you do not mind putting up with my naive questions.

    I do have a difficult time understanding the concept/teaching of emptiness. Somehow it seems to represent a potential? Because it is so central to Buddhist teaching I really would like to understand it better.

    I need to take things in small bites. Often when I try to penetrate Buddhist teaching I hit a wall of too much information and no idea where to start. I worry that I will spend a lot of time studying some westernized, watered down and incorrect version. So, one concept at time. Any suggestions on where to begin?

    I have recently returned to my Christian roots and I am not shopping for a religion. But, I think there is much to be gained from understanding Buddhist thought and, as someone said above, we are all of Buddha nature? Can I feed and awaken my Buddha nature while being a Christian? My faith is not threatened by ideas that appear to conflict with Christian dogma. Or, does Buddhism require focus of study and thought such that monotheistic ideas would be too distracting?
     
  5. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste lunamoth,

    thank you for the post.


    not at all.. there are no naive questions with regards to spiritual matters, in my view. there are questions that are more skillful than others... but none are naive :) have no worries in that regard.

    don't worry.. you are not alone. yes.. a "potential" would be a more accurate way of viewing the information. in my experience, the best method of conveying this information, in English, has been with math. i know..., most folks aren't that interested in math.. but don't worry.. this isn't a forumla or anything like that. there is a concept called the "empty set" which is a decent enough method of understanding the teaching of emptiness.

    http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Set.html is a good link for basic ideas of what a set is..

    http://mathworld.wolfram.com/EmptySet.html then let's you review the empty set.

    this is a good tactic to employ.. as for where to begin.. well... not to sound too cliche... but... begin at the beginning :)

    the 4 Noble Truths is a foundational teaching in Buddhism and is shared amongst all schools and paths. the 4 Noble Truths and the Noble 8 Fold Path are, in my opinion, primary or foundational aspects of the Buddhist path. without a proper grasp of these teachings.. the rest of it really becomes quite confusing, in my experience.

    yes.. all sentient beings share Buddhanature :) one of the most remarkable teachings in Buddhism is that you don't have to be a "buddhist" to actually be a Buddhist :) it's not what you call yourself, it is, rather, what your intentions and aims are.

    i would suppose that, as you begin your study, none of it would really conflict with your Christian theology too much... though, when you start to explore it more fully, you will be confronted directly by a few things which will be challenging.

    as a source of inspiration in your journey, i would recommend that, if you've not already, you try to read any of Thomas Mertons books. He was a Trappist monk living in America and then started his own exploration Buddhism, Zen in particular.

    here's a pretty neat site that you can visit to find out more about him:

    http://www.mertonfoundation.org/
     
  6. Pathless

    Pathless Fiercely Interdependent

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    Thank you Vaj for your informed and informative reply. I'll focus on what you said towards the end for now, as it strikes a chord with me.

    I like this idea; let me paraphrase and you can tell me if I am understanding correctly. Also, correct me if I have any historical facts wrong. What I hear you saying is that in the Vajrayana vehicle, the focus is on the Buddha's teachings, of course, but, a difference between the Vajrayana and Theravada is that Vajrayana has evolved over time, incorporating different ideas--it is the evolution of Dharma, of Buddha's teaching--while Theravada has, more or less over time, stuck to the words of Buddha as the primary source of inspiration. So, while Theravada honors Buddha and focuses almost exclusively on him, Vajrayana is more open to incorporating other ideas, whether they be paying respect to many Boddhisatvas or even different Buddhas, perhaps in a mythological sense, perhaps found in different world systems.

    When you speak of emptiness or Shunyata, it seems that you are speaking, to me, of inter-connectedness; the idea is that everything has Buddha nature, whether we are talking about a human being or a rock. On the ultimate level, we are all made of the same stuff; coming from the same source, returning to the same source. This idea of emptiness is one of no distinction, of no difference. This is how I understand it.

    Also, it seems I read somewhere, and this may be incorrect information or perhaps just another interpretation of things, but it seems I read somewhere that Theravada Buddhists tend to not believe in the concept of Boddhisatva, since there was only one historical Buddha. I can clearly see where this would seem to contradict the idea that we all have Buddha-nature and are evolving towards "Buddhahood." Yet, it seems that I also read that there is no reference to Boddhisatvas in the Pali Cannon, and that this is a concept that was added or invented later.

    Finally, Vaj, could you expound on what you mean by Trikaya or Three Bodies? Is this the set of three periods of teaching that you referred to at the beginning of your post? Thanks. If so, does understanding the teaching of emptiness correctly allow us to understand the Trikaya correctly since, at the beginning of practice, we are focused on an external Buddha, then, as our understanding deepens, we focus on a permanent, formless state of Buddha, rather than a man? What I am asking is does understanding this doctrine correctly parallel an evolution of understanding of the nature of the Buddha.

    Thanks again.

    Peace.
     
  7. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste Pathless,

    thank you for the post.

    good questions again :)

    i'll try my best to present you with accurate information, however, it is subject to my own limited understanding.
    hmm... evolved is an unusual word to use in this instance.. but it will probably suffice.

    it's not so much different ideas.. though there are some of those... rather, it's more of a difference in emphasis, in my opinion.

    your conception, at this point, is fairly accurate in the sense that there are differences between the schools and these differences give rise to some different praxis. i would agree... the Theravedan tradition does foucs on the Buddha Shakyamuni... we are starting to get away from the basics a bit...

    probably the best method of discerning the real, underlying, differences between the three Vehicles is to review the philosophical positions that they operate with. i've started a thread on this very topic here:
    http://www.comparative-religion.com/forum/showthread.php?t=719

    though i'll excerpt just a bit for our conversation here:

    The 4 philosophical schools correspond to the Hinyana and Mahayana views; Vaibhasika and Sautrantika are Hinyana schools whereas the Chittamatra and Madhyamika correspond with the Mahayana. In this post i shall explain our view of the two Hinayana schools.

    According to Vaibhasika and Sautrantika, Hearer and Solitary Realizer Foe Destroyers (Arhan) are lower than a Budda. All three are equally liberated from cyclic existence and all will equally disappear upon death with the severance of their continuum of consciousness and form. However, while they are alive, a Bodhisattva at the effect stage is called a Buddha whereas the others are only called Foe Destroyers - those who have destroyed the foes of the afflictions, mainly desire, hatred, and ignorance - because a Buddha has special knowledge, more subtle clarivoyance, and a distinctive body. A Bodhisattva accumulates merit and wisdom for three countless aeons, thus attaining the greater fruit of Buddhahood. For Vaibhasika and Sautrantika, a person treading the path of Buddhahood is very rare.

    Both Hinyana tenet systems present three vehicles which they say are capable of bearing practitioners to their desired fruit. Both present an emptiness that must be understood in order to reach the goal, and in both systems this emptiness is the non-substantialiy of persons. They prove that a person is not a self-sufficient entity and does not substantially exist as the controller of mind and body, like a lord over it's subjects. Through realizing and becoming accustomed to this insubstantiality, the afflictions and thereby, all sufferings are said to be destroyed. According to the Hinyana tenet systems the path of wisdom is the same for Hinyanists--Hearers and Solitary Realizers--and for Bodhisattvas. The length of time that practitioners spend amassing meritorious power constitutes the essential difference between the vehicles.

    Hearers and Solitary realizers all eventually proceed to the Bodhisattva path. After sometimes spending aeons in solitary trance, they are aroused by Buddhas who make them aware that they have not fulfilled even their own welfare, not to mention the welfare of others. Thus, though there are three vehicles, there is only one final vehicle.

    well... not exactly :) in Buddhism there is a teaching that we call Interdependent Co-Arising... which is, in essence, the teaching of the interconnectedness of all phenomena... the teaching of emptiness is different.. this teaching, depending on the philosophical view that ones' school has, asserts the lack of independent, self-sufficient existence of a self or phenomena. this is covered in more detail in the referenced post on Buddhist Philosophy.

    it's not so much that they don't believe in it.. they do. what they feel, however, is that people are not capable of achieving this goal in this lifetime and as such, should focus on self liberation.

    in the Pali Canon, there is a section of the Tipitaka called the Dhammapada. this section of the Sutra contains many stories of the Buddhas past lives... from animals to humans to, in his last life, Bodhisattva.

    the presence of the bodhisattva ideal in the Theraveda Buddhist Pali canon is primarily restricted to Gotama Buddha. the use of the term "bodhisattva" occurs in a number of the suuttas (Skt: sutra) in the Majjhima, Anguttara, and Samyutta Nikaayas where the Buddha is purported to have said: "Monks, before my Awakening, and while I was yet merely the Bodhisatta [Skt: bodhisattva], not fully-awakened...." in addition to referring to the present life of Gotama, the term "bodhisattva" is also used in relation to the penultimate life of Gotama in Tusita heaven, as well as his conception and birth.

    in the Pali canon, the term "bodhisattva" is also used in reference to other previous buddhas. For instance, in the Mahaapadaanasutta of the Diigha Nikaaya, the notion of past buddhas (and hence past bodhisattvas) is elucidated. In the beginning of this sutta, the six buddhas who preceded Gotama are mentioned as well as their names, the eons when they became buddhas (i.e., when they attained enlightenment and taught), their caste, their clan, their life span, the trees where they attained enlightenment, the number of their disciples, their personal attendants, and their parents. (1) After briefly outlining the lives of these six buddhas, Gotama begins an in-depth recollection of the first buddha, Vipassii, from his life in Tusita Heaven until he dispersed his monks for the purpose of spreading the teachings. In this narration, the Buddha not only refers to Vipassii up to his enlightenment as a bodhisattva, (2) but also takes the life events of Vipassii as the example for all future bodhisattvas and buddhas, including (retroactively) Gotama himself. (3)

    another section of the Sutta-pitaka where the term "bodhisattva" pertains to each of the six previous buddhas is the Samyutta Nikaaya. For instance, in the fourth section of the second book, we find the phrase "To Vipassi, brethren, Exalted One, Arahant, Buddha Supreme, before his enlightenment, while he was yet unenlightened and Bodhisatta, there came this thought...." This same phrase, then, is used in conjunction with the other five previous buddhas in the following verses: Sikhi, Vessabhu, Kakusandha, Konaagamana, and Kassapa. (4)

    the Trikaya does not correspond to the various periods of teaching.. though that's an excellent insight!

    the Trikaya teaching is particular to Mahayana Buddhism... at least, i've not found the analog in the Pali text yet... though i've not really searched to diligently for it. in any event, this should be a fair summary of the teaching:


    1. Nirmanakaya: his "Transformation (or Appearance) body." This is the body in which he appears in the world for the benefit of suffering beings. It is not a real, physical body but more a phantom-like appearance assumed by

    2. Dharmakaya: his "dharma body," wherein he is one with the eternal dharma that lies beyond all dualities and conceptions. There is also

    3. Sambhogakaya: his "Enjoyment (or Bliss) body." This is body that appears to bodhisattvas in the celestial realm where they commune with the truth of the Mahayana.

    so.. yes, a proper understanding of emptiness allows one to grasp this teaching as well...

    not to put too fine a point on it... however... in Buddhism, none of the teachings really stand alone... everything inter-relates with everything else and supports the rest of the teachings. this is, actually, one of the things that makes it difficult to study Buddhism in an academic sense... since we cannot dissect the teachings into discrete bits... we have to work with the whole thing, which is unusual for some folks.


    1. - Diigha Nikaaya 2:1-7

    2. - For instance, we find: "Now Vipassii, brethren, when as a Bodhisatta, he ceased to belong to the hosts of the heaven of Delight, descended into his mother's womb mindful and self-possessed" (Diigha Nikaaya 2:12).

    3. - In many of the following paragraphs, for instance, we find the phrase "It is the rule, brethren, that...." (Ayam ettha dhammataa) used to refer to the paradigm set by Vipassii.

    4. - Samyutta Nikaaya 2:4 ff. The six previous buddhas mentioned in the Diigha and Samyutta Nikaayas are increased to twenty-four and even to twenty-seven in later canonical texts such as the Buddhava.msa. In yet a later canonical text, the Apadaana of the Khuddaka-Nikaaya, the number of previous buddhas increases to more than thirty-five
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2004
  8. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    thank you

    I'm not put off by math, and I have a grasp of what an empty set is (thank you for the helpful websites), but I still have a difficult time making the leap to how it applies to emptiness in Buddhist thought. Does it mean that I am an empty set, the apple on my desk is an empty set, any concept I may have of the Ground of Being is an empty set?

    V siad: the 4 Noble Truths is a foundational teaching in Buddhism and is shared amongst all schools and paths. the 4 Noble Truths and the Noble 8 Fold Path are, in my opinion, primary or foundational aspects of the Buddhist path. without a proper grasp of these teachings.. the rest of it really becomes quite confusing, in my experience.

    lunamoth: These seem quite in line with my monothesitic thinking. How might I deepen my perspective of them from a Buddhist standpoint? Will the books by Thomas Merton help? (and thank you also for his website)


    V said: i would suppose that, as you begin your study, none of it would really conflict with your Christian theology too much... though, when you start to explore it more fully, you will be confronted directly by a few things which will be challenging.

    lunamoth: I read (quickly) the essay you suggested to someone somewhere about The Buddhist Attitude Toward God. Clearly this will be an obstacle for me! I do want to explore the Ground of Being concept, which I never heard of before your posts.

    Thank you again for your concise and helpful reply!
     
  9. Zenda71

    Zenda71 Well-Known Member

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    Greetings.

    I hope neither of you minds if I interject. Vajra is much more studied than I am, so I won't attempt to post scripture. But I think I might be able to help with the concept of non-self. In my experience, non-self is realized when one accepts that one is both a construction of one's own mental processes and that nothing "real" exists outside these constructs.

    The next step, of course, is resolving the dual nature of existence and nonexistence ... :)

    With metta,
    Zenda
     
  10. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    no soul either?

    Thank you, Zenda. Yes, your description is also helpful to me. If I combine the ideas of non-self (that I am a construct of my mental processes) and also no soul (no higher metaphysical reality to my being), am I getting closer to the idea or have I gone too far? I read in another post that it is just our 8th conciousness that is reborn, something I am imagining to be like the sum of our good actions. This is similar to another idea I have cultivated, that only our virtues, perhaps only our love and compassion, "go on" and all else is basically lost opportunity.

    I realize that I have actually derailed this thread with my unskilled questions, so I apologize to all and thank you for your patience.
     
  11. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste lunamoth,

    thank you for the post.

    excellent, that will, i think, be a useful tool.

    sort of... remember... there is no "i" to be the emtpy set, in Buddhist thought. the conception of "i" is a mental imputation.. an ego trick, if you will, to give the appearance of solidity. one of the things that this teaching is trying to bring forth is how our mental conceptions shape our understanding of reality.. and how our mental conceptions do not actually represent reality.


    Merton is a wonderful writer, in my opinion, and really has a way of explaining some esoteric concepts in a way that western readers can grasp fairly easily.. so yes, he would be a good resource. another one that would be of great value is a Buddhist named Thich Nhat Hahn. he has a book called Jesus and Buddha as Brothers, Coming Home, which is a wonderful comparison of traditions, in my opinion.

    the method of increasing our understanding of the teachings, in the Buddhist paradigm, is via meditation. as my Zennist friends would say "just sit". calm your mind and investigate the teachings thoroughly.


    indeed... there will be some areas that the two traditions are going to be diametrically opposed... most of these areas, however, are going to be issues of faith. i.e. is there a soul or not? by contrast, the practicle teachings of living a life that is oriented towards good and wholesome activies is something that will be common betwixt both.

    both traditions have solid moral and ethical teachings that they enjoin their adherents to uphold and fulfill, to the best of their ability.

    here's a good link to access some of Paul Tillich's writings about God as the Ground of Being: http://www.theology.ie/theologians/tillich.htm
     
  12. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste Zenda,

    thank you for the post.

    you should, in my opinion, never let that bother you :) your insights are valuable and appreciated. whilst i may have spent more time studying scripture that in no way indicates that my perspective is more correct than yours' on these issues :)

    besides which... posting scripture is boring :)
     
  13. samabudhi

    samabudhi Well-Known Member

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    Apologies for the late replies.

    Quite simply, it is an additional set of methods which are added to the foundation techniques (of Mahayana and Hinayana) which employs the skilled use of desire to achieve enlightenment (where conventional practices would take ages.)

    Date of origin maybe, but the Theravada teachings were carried away so quickly to distant countries and without consolidation and connection with the continuing traditions in India. Remember that what the Buddha taught was a revolution. It was phenomenally different. Here is someone who claims to have found the essence of essences. He set up monasteries, a drastically different way of life. Issues about monastic life were the first to fall under the hammer after he left. His descendents had many meetings and much was discussed and changed after he left. The Hinayana groups prefered the traditional approach and took everything he said and plasted it in stone (not literally.) This is in stark contrast to the Buddhas own approach to Dharma and actually goes against many Abhidharma teachings. Maybe this is why studying is not big in Theravada, because too many problems were encountered, so they emphasised meditation.

    The purest connection. The difference between Mahayana and Hinayana is the texts they are concerned with. The Hinayana look at the Tipitaka (3 baskets of Vinaya(Monastic rules), Sutra(teachings), Abhidharma(metaphysics)) which were laid out 100 years after the Buddha's parinirvana (death).
    The Mahayana attribute some more Sutra to the Buddha such as the Prajna Paramita Sutra, the Heart Sutra and Vimalakirti. The Hinayana view the connecting of these teaching to the historical Buddha as an act of proselytisation, which I am inclined to agree with. Either that or they were given by the Buddha Vajradhara as the Tibetans believe (I think. I've seen Lama Yeshe write of it like that.) What's Buddha Vajradhara? Don't worry. Too much information for now.

    I don't know if Vaj mentioned, but the Vajrayana consider themselves part of the Mahayana. What differentiates them from the other schools such as Zen is their practices, not their approach or their phenomenalogical understanding.

    Don't worry. They're perfectly benign. But I assure you that jumping into practice is what Theravadins do best. They like things simple.
    It will be great for you. I hope you take it up. This way you can follow the evolution of Buddhist thinking which will give you a much better grounding for the Mahayana. All too often I see people who have not done the basics and flounder around in misconceptions about Buddhism.
    Going the Theravada way will get you straight into meditation and you should be able to impress the Mahayana with your ability to meditate, (not that that's what it's about.)

    I went this way, and I'm really glad I did.

    If you're a meat and potatoe kind of person like me, you'd probably want to leave this alone for now. It'll probably just confuse you. The whole Tantra deal (which makes use of the 3 bodies) uses an entirely different outlook on things and for a beginner in Buddhism, it could just complicate things. I'm not trying to be elitist or anything, but I just don't think it'll help you at this stage.

    I attribute the dissolution of Buddhism in India partly to the lack of structure in which people are taught Buddhism (cause the monasteries were destroyed by invaders). The Buddhism that spread to other countries was taken in little bits and it too has lost it's way a bit. But the Buddhism which landed up in Tibet, where the distances were close enough to ensure comprehensive understanding of the literature, and the political climate was 'OK', has developed into the most complete and formidable exponent of modern Buddhism. I urge you to follow the historical route, if nothing other than because it is the easiest. You wouldn't learn Calculus before Algebra would you?
     
  14. Vapour

    Vapour Well-Known Member

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    Hmmm, I think this "Theravada Buddhism" thread is severely lucking in Theravada perspective. Obviously, Vajradhara follow tibetan tradition and his knowledge of Theravada is more about what Tibetan buddhism says about "Hinayana", which often has no relationship to what goes on in Theravadan buddhism. Think about it. Before Tibetan buddhism was forced to move out from tibet by chinese, do you think any of tibetan monks ever went all the way down to sri lanka or Thailand to see what theravadan buddhism is like?

    Firstly, Hinayana (smaller vehicle) is a derogetory term. You have to understand that from Theravadan perspective, there is no such thing as different "size" of vehicle. 'Hinayana' translates as 'lesser wheel' but it also translates as 'crummy wheel' or 'lousy wheel,' 'stingy' or 'narrow minded'. In Japanese, it is called Daijyou and Shoujyou. Even an elementary school kids would recognised that Big/Great vehicle (Lexus) is better than small vehicle (nissan micra). When Mahayanan school invented these term, they knew exactly what it meant.

    Secondly, from Theravadan perspective, the importance Mahayanan place on Boddhisatva makes no sence. The purpose of buddhism is to become Arahants. Because boddisatva has not attained enlightenment, it is obvious from theravadan perspective that arahants are in higher spirutual level than boddisatvas. From Mahayanan perspective, this can be explained by the fact that, within their ranking of enlightment, arahat is placed as the lowerest level of enlightment. In Vajrayana (diamond vehicle) school, whose name would obviously implided the further superiority over the other two vehicle, it is claimed that it is possible to attain of the highest level of enlightmentin in one's life time. Such claim is fine except that they then go on to say that, in case of other school especially Hinayanan school, such feats are not possible.

    Thirdly, Theravadan sutras are indeed more accurate and reliable than mahayanan scriptures. Some of Mahayanan sutras are said to be *discovered* through mystic revleation so that it has no historical basis for it's authenticity. This is not even disputed by mahayanan scholars. Main dispute between Mahayanan and Threvadan is in regard to what degree sutras should be used as the basis of Dharma. And this dispute between Mahayanan and Theravadan school is a legitimate dispute because, even in theravadan pali sutras, buddah (in the famous Kalama Sutta) says that "revelation (anussana), tradition (parampara), the authority of the scriptures (pitakasampada) and one's own point of view (ditthinijjhanakkhanti) are inadequate means of determining right and wrong."
     
  15. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste Vapour,

    thank you for the post.

    whilst that may seem "obvious" it actually isn't :) i've studied the Pali canon as well.. you cannot be a Vajrayana practiconer without a firm understanding of the Pali canon.

    :) yes, they did, however, it is certainly true that most of them did not. however, recall that Theravedan Buddhism was not the only school of the Hinayana vehcile when it started... it was only later that the other Hinyana schools collapsed and left the Theravedans extant.

    i would direct the interested reader to this site for more detailed historical treatment of the development of Theravedan and Mahayana Buddhism:

    http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma3/theramaya.html


    i apologize if you are offended, nevertheless, it is misunderstood if it is held to be a derogatory term. this is clearly stated in the majority of the Vajrayana texts that deal with these issues, for this very reason. needless to say, the term is hardly relevant any longer as the only extant school is Theraveda, as such, we can just call it Theravedan Buddhism.

    whilst it's true that during the schism between the Mahayana and Hinyana, the term was used as a degoratory term, that is not the case today. www.buddhanet.net is wonderful online resource for both the Hinyana and Mahayana traditions.


    do you disagree with this paragraph:

    the presence of the bodhisattva ideal in the Theraveda Buddhist Pali canon is primarily restricted to Gotama Buddha. the use of the term "bodhisattva" occurs in a number of the suuttas (Skt: sutra) in the Majjhima, Anguttara, and Samyutta Nikaayas where the Buddha is purported to have said: "Monks, before my Awakening, and while I was yet merely the Bodhisatta [Skt: bodhisattva], not fully-awakened...." in addition to referring to the present life of Gotama, the term "bodhisattva" is also used in relation to the penultimate life of Gotama in Tusita heaven, as well as his conception and birth.


    if so, are you able to verify my claim by reading the suttas referenced?

    this site http://www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/sutta/index.html has the majority of the Pali canon online, for those that are interested.

    actually... we call them Bodhisattva-yana, Pratekya-buddha-yana and Sravaka-yana. and whilst it is true enough that these represent differing levels, it is not correct to say that they represent differing levels of awakening. only a buddha is fully awakened, Anutara Samyak Sambodhi.. the rest of us are in varying points along the path, from our view.

    only if one chooses to view it in this fashion. i'm not entirely certain why that would be. i'm very unclear, however, where the "implication" of superiority is derived from.. for it's certainly not from our texts. i have the feeling that this is your view as this does not correspond to any of the views that i've read in the Vajrayana nor had expressed to me privately by any teacher.

    yes, this is absolutely correct. however, i think that you are misconstruing something... the reason that the Vajrayana says that the Theravedan schools and the Mahayana schools cannot do this in the same amount of time is because the Suttas and Sutras that the two use proclaim that for themselves. it is not a Vajrayana snub or anything like that.

    are you aware of the field of textual critisim and analysis? if so, you should be well aware that there is no method of ascertaining if what is written in the Pali canons are the Buddhas words or not... however, it's relatively unimportant, from our point of view, as the Dharma is the teacher, not the words.

    actually.. the "discovered" sutras and so forth are usually in the Vajrayana, especially the termas left behind by Padmasambhava who brought Buddhism to Tibet. again, historical basis is hardly relevant.

    why do you say this? i'm not sure how much academic study of this subject that you've done, however, i would humbly ask that you continue your study. perhaps, this is the view of the Theravedans, i really couldn't say... however, from the Mahayana/Vajrayana, this is not even close to what caused the schism.

    what caused the schism, if i can sum up something as complex as a religions schism in a few words, is the difference between if only monks could awaken or if lay people could as well... and it revolved around Buddhanature.

    i would sugges this essay on the Kalama Sutta by Bhisku Bodhi for a more full and comprehensive explanation of this teaching:

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/bps/news/essay09.html

    it cannot be stated enough, in my opinion. when the Buddha taught, it was specific to the situtation and the audience that he was addressing. i think that many people will be fairly surprised when they read this explanation.
     
  16. samabudhi

    samabudhi Well-Known Member

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    Vajra means 'hard'. Tibetans think that a lightening bolt is a solid object, so it can be seen as the diamond vehicle or the lightening vehicle, lightening implying that it is a very fast path to follow.
     
  17. Avinash

    Avinash Well-Known Member

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    Slightly off topic, but I read that the Vajra (lightening bolt or thunderbolt) was the weapon used by Lord Shiva (also known as Vajradhara = "the wielder of the thunderbolt"). I'm wondering how exactly it entered into Vajrayana Buddhism?
     
  18. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste all,


    actually.. Vajra means "indestructable" :) which i, suppose, can be hard.. but indestructable is.. well... more hard ;)

    samabudhi, Tibetans do not think that lightening bolts are solid :)

    the use of the Vajra, in Buddhist Tantric symbolism, represents the Industrucable Truth of Buddhadharma and, often, it is wielded by the wrathful aspects of the deities to destroy obstructions to awakening.

    i'm not clear when the first actual representation of this was made in an icongraphic fashion.. though i may be able to find that out.. with some searching...
     
  19. Avinash

    Avinash Well-Known Member

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    Namaskar,
    By chance "avinash" also has the meaning of indestructable (vinash means total destruction or annihilation). :)
     
  20. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste Avinash,

    thank you for the post.

    well.. that is interesting!

    i tend to translate Vajradhara as The Diamond Thunderbolt of Industructable Wisdom ....

    as for Vajrayana... it's not so much that it means "lightning fast" or something.. though that is often how it's portrayed.. as it does contain those teachings. however, the thrust of this is the union of the awakened aspects of Wisdom and Method and it is this which defines the Vajradhara as a tantric Vehicle, in my opinion.
     

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