Theravada Buddhism

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

  1. Vapour

    Vapour Well-Known Member

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    o.k., better not degenerating into sectarian warfare here. I'm not even a Theravadan Buddhist. I did live in Sri Lanka for a while though. (^_^) As of my understanding of Diamond vehicle come from Japanese Shingon sect, the second major tantric/esotric tradition in buddhism.

    I'm not saying that bohdisatva is a concept absent in Theravadan buddhism. However, Boddhisatva, by definition, has not attained enlightment. If I quote from the link you have provided,

    "There are three types of Buddhahood: the Samma Sambuddha who gains full Enlightenment by his own effort, the Pacceka Buddha who has lesser qualities than the Samma Sambuddha, and the Savaka Buddha who is an Arahant disciple. The attainment of Nibbana between the three types of Buddhahood is exactly the same. The only difference is that the Samma Sambuddha has many more qualities and capacities than the other two."

    As of one's possibility of enlightment in Theravada, because anyone has already been through his or her previous life, whethe particular person can attain enlightment or not is totally up to this person.

    From Theravadan perspective, those who have attained enlightenment ought to be the one who should be leading others in the path of enlightment. If you looks from Theravadan perspective, Mahayanan emphasis on Boddhisatva makes no sence for this reason. It can only make sence if you accept Mahayanan definition of enlightment and boddhisatva which differe significantly from Theravadan. Consequently, from Mahayanan perspective Theravadan will appear to be of *lesser* vehicle. That is why it doesn't help to describe Theravadan buddhism from Mahayanan definition because one cannot avoid making implication that theravada=Hinayana.

    As of issue of textual authenticity, thought I personally am not academic of Pali or Sanskrit language, I am aware of certain basic opinon in pali/sanskrit study. And indeed Pali cannons are more reliable than mahayanan scriptures. It is not a Theravadan opinion, it is shared by many Mahayanan scholars at least from Japanese tradition. That is why most Mahayanan schools consider Pali cannons to be part of Mahayanan traditions. (exception is Nichiren but they are nuts so they doesn't count. :D) This is not same as implying that Pali cannons is like Koran. For people who only use sutras as a reference rather than cannonical scripture, *degree* of reliability make no difference. Both are mere texts to be studied.

    As of the historical reason for the split, it did start with a minor disputes about the monastic rules. Basically, Mahayanan side said something like what you said, "the Dharma is the teacher, not the words." and "historical basis is hardly relevant". That really didn't go down well with the other side. ;)

    Oh, lastly, I should comment on the original thread. It is my impression that core difference of Theravada and Mahayana is in the nature of Buddah. For Theravada, buddah means historical buddah, Prince Siddhartha, who became Gautama Buddha. For Mahayana, Buddah is trancendent in nature, in which Gautama Buddah is merely one of its manifestation.

    It is like approaching Christianity in two different way. For some, Jesus is the Christ the God incarnate. For other, jesus is a guy from Nazzare, much in line of how he was described in the film, "The last temptation of Christ". Both could be the source of inspiration. In case of Christianity, the later option is pretty much lost. Fortunately, in case of Buddhism, you get to pick the one you like. That is not bad, is it. :p
     
  2. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste Vapour,

    thank you for the post.

    vigorous discussion is not sectarian warfare.. besides which... it would be Dharma combat :)

    ah.. i see. were you a Buddhist at one point?

    yes, i'm familiar with their lineage... which is not the same as the Tibetan Vajrayana, though it's quite close in most respects.

    good :) i thought that you were asserting that earlier.

    that is correct, the Bodhisattva has post-poned Anutara Samyak Sambodhi to continually return to where sentient beings dwell to proclaim the Dharma and to help beings liberate themselves.

    you are familiar with the Bodhisattva Vow as described in the Mahanyana schools?



    this is the same teaching in Mahayana and Vajrayana. it is taught that one cannot practice the Mahayana until one has completed the Hinyana and one cannot practice the Vajrayana until one has completed the Mahayana. each of the Yanas Inter-are with each other.

    i would suggest that you read the Suttas that i've referenced in this discussion thus far as i believe that they may be of interest.

    oh? i would be happy to read some information that supports this.

    what does the term, "lesser" mean? does it mean "worse"? no. it is meant to indicate that the Hinyana Vehicle is only applicable for a smaller group of beings, specifically, monastics. the Mahayana does not mean "better", it means "larger" and references the fact that lay people are allowed to practice as well.

    perhaps, you'll find this website of some benefit in the discussion of Buddhist texts:

    http://www.akshin.net/literature/budlitintroduction.htm


    the Mahayana teaching on this is called the Three Kayas, which are basically:

    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.

    indeed... beings respond to the Dharma rain as they are capable and beings are of varying capacities.
     
  3. samabudhi

    samabudhi Well-Known Member

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    For me, the difference between Hinayana and Mahayana lies in the understanding of self, and the methods used to meditate. Hinayana do not, in general, use skillful means. Their methods are inline with the idea of non-self, whereas the Mahayana's methods are inline with the idea of dependently originated self. Hinayana's approach aims to root out the negativities whereas Mahayana is to cultivate positivities, such as Pure Land, and in some cases to do both, as in Zen or Tibetan Buddhism.
     
  4. Vapour

    Vapour Well-Known Member

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    Do I know Bodisattvas bow? No because it is too long. :p Oh, my family tradition is Pure Land by the way but I can hardly say I follow it. The last time I came anything near PureLand practice is my granddad's funeral.

    Anyway, again the difference between Theravada and Mahayana is very pronounced here. For Theravada, Bodhisattva usually refer to historical Buddah before he attained enlightment. For this reason, Bodisattva is a symbol of aspiration to become enlightened. While for Mahayana, Bohdisattva refers to transcendent nature of historical buddah which manifest in many forms and is the symbol of those who delay his own enlightenment to bring salvation to all humanity, which is the essence of bodhisattva's vow.

    In Mahayanan Buddhism, skillful means are more about skillful means of bodhisattva, something Theravada buddhism doesn't care much about. According to how theravadan sees it, any action which produce good karma are skillful and any action which produce bad karma are unskillful. By saying that "Hinayana do not, in general, use skillful means", you are saying Theravadan buddhism hasn't got a clue, an another example that describing Theravadan buddhism by Mahayanan perspective lead to defacto slander.

    Basically, the less Mahayanan side says what they think about "Hinayanan" (Theravadan) side, the better. Here is a more of a candid example of what Mahanayan Nichiren school say about Hinayanan.

    http://www.nst.org/articles/lbshm.txt

    Well, at least this article doesn't bother to imply. :D
     
  5. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namatse Vapour,

    thank you for the post.

    hmm.. if you don't know the Vow, how can you comment upon it?

    it does not refer to what you think that it does.. i would ask that you investigate this further.

    this is the same understanding of skillful and unskillful actions.. the fruit of karma that they produce. this is standard through all forms of Buddhism.

    well.. i'm glad that is your opinion.... and you are certainly free to share it, however, i think that you have misunderstood the Mahayana. you are painting with such a broad brush that you are missing a lot of detail.

    we aren't discussing Nichiren Buddhism, we are discussing Mahayana and Theraveda..

    do you feel that Nichrien Buddhism speaks for the entire range of Mahayana schools? i would ask you to seriously reconsider this view. given the nature of some of the Nichiren praxis, you are still going to have to convince me that they are a legitimate Buddhist school... which, i can make a very strong case that they are not.
     
  6. Vapour

    Vapour Well-Known Member

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    Well, I actually know the shorter one. (I had to google to refresh my memory though:)) It is "I will save everyone, end all suffering, know the law (dharma) and become buddah", general thrust being that one will enlighten entire humanity along with yourselves. However, I know longer version exist for othe buddist school (tibettan?), which I obviously don't know but can probably google to find out.

    Buy anyway, my observation is that difference between Mahayanan and Theravadan in regard to boddhisatva originate from different approach, Theravadan one about historical buddah and Mahayanan one about transcendent nature of historical buddah. That in my view, partially explain the different interpretation of the nature of enlightement along with Mahayanan emphasis on the concept of emptiness.

    As of the term "skillfullness", I was merely pointing out something obvious. "Theravadan buddhism doesn't use skillfull means" is not being polite and probably comes from the view that Theravadan lack of the concept of boddhisatva's skillfullness.

    As of Nichiren, they tend to be bit off because they put absolute faith in Lotus Sutra which contain polemics against formalism and disputed doctrines of Hinayana school. So in a way, you can't blame them can you. They are indicative of prevaling Mahayanan attitude of about 50 years ago. It is minority now at least in public though.

    As of my *opinion*, well, i do think one should extend the curtesy of describing Theravadan school in their own term. Therefore, use of three wheel concepts is inheritantly unfair. Obviously, you can use three wheel concept to describe tibettan buddhism. But that is not what this thread is about.
     
  7. Vapour

    Vapour Well-Known Member

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    here is what "hina" mean in sanskrit

    a. left, forsaken; excluded or shut out from, fallen short of (abl.); devoid or bereft of, free from, without (instr., abl., loc., --- or ---); inferior, less (opp. {adhika}); low, base, mean; incomplete, deficient, wanting. Abstr. {-tA}Å f., {-tva}Å n.
    http://www.uni-koeln.de/phil-fak/indologie/tamil/mwd_search.html

    It doesn't help to claim that hina only means small/lesser because it is plainly not the case. It is like saying that by saying "<explitive deleted", you only meant black people. People who invented the term Hinayana knew exactly what the term will indicates.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 5, 2004
  8. samabudhi

    samabudhi Well-Known Member

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    In the Mahayana tradition, there is something which is known as 'skillful means'. You have obviously never heard of it. Vimalakirti's sutra is the first to expound this, I think.
    When I speak of 'skillful means' I am talking about practices such as mandalas, malas, mantras, visualisations. Theravadin makes use of them sparingly, if at all. It's all got to do with their understanding of the dependent origination, which I feel is lacking in the Theravadin tradition. They see skillful means as methods which breed attachment, which is true, and so they don't use them. But the Mahayana cultivates an understanding of emptiness which is crucial when using skillful means, and so they are able to use them without becoming attached. Wisdom and compassion are a type of skillful means and they can cause attachments, but the Theravadin's big drawcard, awareness, is non-dualistic.

    Please, I didn't mean to say that Theravadins were not skillful.
     
  9. Vapour

    Vapour Well-Known Member

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    ah, yes I do. It is such a common concept in Mahayanan. And you didn't state that your usage of the term was specifically Tibetan. Having said it, stating that Theravadan buddhism doesn't follow Tibetan practice is hardly insightful comment in my opinion. Moreover, the idea that Theravadan school does not have ability to apply the principle of dharma according to the context of the situation is another silly Mahayanan polemic which they have raised in the past. And given that the dispute is more than 1000 years ago it is just too silly to invoke it.

    Practice of denigrating previous orthodoxy is not something unique. Jane are often ridiculed in Pali cannons just as Arahants are ridiculed in Mahayana cannons. Some of the things Buddah's follower did to Jane are darn funny to be honest. I think they once dig a hole at a gate and called/invited a Jane monk to a house test Jane monk's alleged precognition ability. When this particular Jane monk fell into it, they beat him up, apparntly. Me and buddhist friend of mine had a good laugh on that. My friend say it is a good reminder that one shouldn't treat Buddhis sutras as holy books.

    As I said, there is no problem for you to proclaim your Tibetan faith elsewhere. Problem is when someone propagate Tibetan/Mahayanan view of Theravadan buddhism in a thread about theravadan buddhism. It might help to realised that Hinayana in context to Three Wheel scheme is merely an element of Tibetan Buddhism rather than what Therevadan buddhism is. In a way, it is very similar to how buddhism is part of Baha'i faith. Most buddhist would not recognise Baha'i version of buddhism as buddhism.
     
  10. samabudhi

    samabudhi Well-Known Member

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    It isn't. Mantras are used in Pure Land, Visualisations in Zen. When I say skillful means, I mean any method that one could become attached to. This is why they are ignored by the Theravadins in general.

    I didn't say they were unable to, I said they don't.

    You are quite tiring.
    Who ever said I was Tibetan Buddhist, I am not denigrating Theravadin Buddhism, I am pointing out the differences. You are projecting a conflict onto what you think you see. I see nothing wrong with not using skillful means, I don't conform to any particular sect, and it's spelt Jain.
     
  11. Vapour

    Vapour Well-Known Member

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    If you didn't meat to denigrate it, then you shouldn't have made a statement like "Hinayana do not, in general, use skillful means." This may be an unfair comparison but a statement like "N**** are in general economically disadvangaged" can't be excused as a mere statistical observation.

    As of skillfull means, if you did mean to refer to certain Mahayanan techinque which is absent in Theravadan school, that is fine. However, "skillfull means" is a general concept refering to Buddah's ability to teach according to students, something any religious tradition practice.

    I may got carried away because of H words. As of my spelling, read my sig. :)
     
  12. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste Vapour,

    thank you for the post.

    close enough for government work, as they say :)

    the Bodhisattva vow is found in the same form throughout the Mahayana and Vajrayana schools. it is certainly true that, depending on the language that we are speaking, we may use different words.

    well.. you've asserted this three times now.. and i have offered a few other points for you to consider. i would humbly ask that you investiagate this further before you continue in this line of reasoning.

    if you think that the Mahayana and Vajrayana do not place emphasis on Buddha Shakyamuni, i would heartily encourage you to read some Mahayana Sutras or, perhaps better yet, a good book that explains the Mahayana view by a reputable author, such as Thich Nhat Hanh, for instance.

    actually.. i think that you can make a stronger argument here than you have above. in fact, it is the understanding of emptiness that distinguishes the thee Vehicles more significantly than any other single point, from what i've been able to discover.

    of course, these are superficial differences and really correspond with the variety and capacities of sentient beings and do not reflect an inherent conflict within the Buddhist tradition.

    of course, there are always some people that will cling to their doctrine or teachings or view and assert that they are correct and others are wrong. for those folks, i would heartily encourage them to put forth more effort in their meditation sessions.

    Vapour... are you talking to Samabudhi in this paragraph? i'm not sure.. since that is not something that i asserted.

    as i've pointed out and even sited the Theravedan Suttas where the Bodhisattva is mentioned, i have no idea why you are trying to maintain this position. please, investigate these things for yourself.

    not just the Theravedans... oh no... they are the only "True Buddhist school".. however... we aren't discussion that school in this thread.

    i'm not sure what you are talking about. firstly, Nichrien school arose in the 13th century C.E. secondly, they are a huge organization.. perhaps, you would like to research this further?

    by "wheel" do you mean "yana"? nevertheless, when i talk about Buddhist teachigns, i do so from a non-sectarian point of view. when we get to specifics between the schools and traditions, then i present the teachings from my schools point of view, and i have clearly stated that this is how i operate on many occassions.

    however.. something is puzzling to me... you say that you are not a Theravedan, however, you were raised in a Pure Land house, which is a Mahayana school. therefore, i'm unclear where you are deriving your Buddhist teaching from.. i.e. what is the source of your understanding of the Dharma?

    further, i'm not entirely certain why you dispute the explanation that i've proved from the Vajaryana point of view vis a vie the Hinyana. EVERY Vajrayana practiconer has practiced the Theravedan school.. then, through the Mahayana and finally to the Vajrayana. this three step, graduated path, is outlined in the same Suttas that i've referenced in the Pali Canon and elucidated futher in others.
     
  13. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste Vapour,

    thank you for the post.

    context, context, context. since the word has a great many meanings, the only way to ascertain the way that the word is used is by knowing the context of the text where the term is used.

    futher, nobody claimed that it "only" meant 'lesser'.. the claim was made that Hina, in Hinyana, means lesser in the sense of smaller Vehicle. this is clear in the context of the Mahayana Sutras. please investigate this for yourself and it will be fairly clear, in my opinion.


    ok... that's right out, uncalled for and bigoted. which "people" invented the term, be as specific as you can in this instance as that will be fairly important in our discussion, in the academic sense, as we move forward.
     
  14. Vapour

    Vapour Well-Known Member

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    Yes, it would had been a simple matter if the word "small/Cuula" in sanskrit/pali was used. Instead, Mahayana school decided to choose "Hina". And let see how "hina" is used in the Pali/Sanskrit sutras.

    http://www.lienet.no/hinayan1.htm

    The above linked article explain this issue in term of Tibetan buddhism as well.

    But most importantly, in Theravadan buddhist, even some lay people have basic understanding of pali language. And they will easily recognise the meaning of the term "hina" for what it is. Would it be that important to you or Tibetan buddhist to use the term "Hinayana" even you know it cause offence?
     
  15. Vapour

    Vapour Well-Known Member

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    Well, I did bit of reading on Pure Land. Guess what, aside from the four basic vows, Pure Land actually do have longer version of 48 boddhisatva vows. Not only that, it turned out be in Chinese! Non of it makes sence to ordinary Japanese without commentary.

    As of emphasis on Trancendent nature of Budda/Bodisattva, when I went to SriLanka and there are only one Buddah's stuate with only three variation (standing, siting and laying down), whereas in Japan, there are 100 different type of Buddhist statutes. It didn't take long to recongise the difference in emphasis.

    Here is an introductory link

    http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/bodhisattva.shtml

    As of "skillfull mean" issue, yes I was refering to Samabudhi comment. In Mahayannan Buddhism, it refert to both Buddah and boddhisatva. In Theravadan, because of their focus on historical buddah who start to teach dharma after attaining enlightenemt, so boddhisatva's skillfull means make no sence to them. In Pali Cannons, there are mention of some senior Arahants giving instruction.

    As of prevaling attitude of 50 years, I'm refering to general Mahayanan practice of description of Theravadan as Hinayana and all other prejudice involved. That attitude expressed in the Nichren link was not unique to Nichiren. It was almost customery comment made about Theravada/Hinayana back then.

    Lastly, "EVERY Vajrayana practiconer has practiced the Theravedan school". :D This explain a lot. Did you ever bother to ask theravadan monks if such *claim* is valid from their point of view? In England, there is a new buddhist school which *claim* to teach combination of Theravadan, Mahayanan and Vajrayana practice. British Tibetan buddhist community has few harsh words about their claim.
     
  16. Avinash

    Avinash Well-Known Member

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    Namaskar,

    Do you perhaps mean the (Friends of the) Western Buddhist Order led by Sangharakshita (Dennis Lingwood)?
     
  17. Vapour

    Vapour Well-Known Member

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    http://www.stfu.se/ Just kidding :D
     
  18. Avinash

    Avinash Well-Known Member

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    Namaskar,

    What kind of answer is that? :confused:
     
  19. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    I think something was lost in translation - perhaps we should try again and keep on track with the discussion. :)
     
  20. Vapour

    Vapour Well-Known Member

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    My joke lacked subtlity. I apologise.
     

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