A question on Mahayana philosophical schools

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A question on Mahayana philosophical schools

Postby dyanaprajna2011 » Wed May 15, 2013 1:16 pm

I know that there are three (at least primary) philosophical traditions in Mahayana Buddhism: Madyamaka, Yogacara, and Tathagatagarbha. I know the general ideas behind each one, as well. But I do have a few questions.

1. How are these philosophical schools assimilated into the various practice schools, such as Tibetan, Zen, Pure Land, etc.?
2. Can anyone of these said to be the highest or most profound? (I do realize that the answer to this question may be school specific)

I was in a debate on another forum with a member who argued that Nagarjuna's Madyamaka school was the only philosophical tradition that was truly Buddhist, and the others were just aberrations. I always viewed them as parts to a whole, and one, taken by itself, is not the whole story. Being Zen myself, I do feel a pull more towards Yogacara than the other two, but this doesn't discount any of them.
"If you want to travel the Way of Buddhas and Zen masters, then expect nothing, seek nothing, and grasp nothing." -Dogen
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Re: A question on Mahayana philosophical schools

Postby Jikan » Wed May 15, 2013 2:19 pm

dyanaprajna2011 wrote:Can anyone of these said to be the highest or most profound? (I do realize that the answer to this question may be school specific)


You'll get different answers here. For myself, I'm interested in the ways in which Tathagathagarbha or Buddha-nature theory is elaborated in different contexts. TienTai/Tendai holds that this is the highest teaching, and gets there from premises derived from Chinese Madhyamaka, a particular reading and ordering of the sutras, and so on. Most East Asian schools either follow from the TienTai position or react against it in one way or another.

I was in a debate on another forum with a member who argued that Nagarjuna's Madyamaka school was the only philosophical tradition that was truly Buddhist, and the others were just aberrations.


Wow, that's a closed-minded, constipated, arrogant-Puritanical attitude to have. How is that person going to learn anything new if s/he is already convinced s/he is in the right?

I always viewed them as parts to a whole, and one, taken by itself, is not the whole story.


True story.
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Re: A question on Mahayana philosophical schools

Postby Astus » Wed May 15, 2013 2:59 pm

In India there was only Madhyamaka and Yogacara as distinct branches of Mahayana thought, although we could say that they were not too separate. Tathagatagarbha didn't have its own philosophical system there. In East Asian Buddhism there are two other "philosophical" schools, Tiantai and Huayan, and they are strongly connected to the Tathagaragarbha teachings.

Although it is questionable what can be categorised as a "philosophical school". All Buddhist traditions have their own teachings, and all teachings are connected to practices. There is no such thing as a purely theoretical Buddhism, nor is there a purely pragmatic path.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: A question on Mahayana philosophical schools

Postby Michael_Dorfman » Mon May 20, 2013 12:45 pm

dyanaprajna2011 wrote:I know that there are three (at least primary) philosophical traditions in Mahayana Buddhism: Madyamaka, Yogacara, and Tathagatagarbha. I know the general ideas behind each one, as well. But I do have a few questions.

1. How are these philosophical schools assimilated into the various practice schools, such as Tibetan, Zen, Pure Land, etc.?
2. Can anyone of these said to be the highest or most profound? (I do realize that the answer to this question may be school specific)


I'd suggest you take a look at Paul Williams's book <i>Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations</i>, which describes the various schools doctrinally, and their relationship to various practice positions for a good answer to #1.

Regarding #2, many schools have their own ranking system (each of which puts themselves at the top of the ladder, naturally.) In Tibetan Buddhism, this tends to result in doxographies that put Madhyamaka higher than other schools, and the Prasaṅgika interpretation of Madhyamaka above other interpretations of Madhyamaka-- but other, contrary, doxographies exist. In Chinese Buddhism, there are various <i>P'an-chiao</i> systems which rank the schools and doctrines.

In short, pretty much everybody thinks that their way is the best way, and that the other schools are legitimate but inferior.
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Re: A question on Mahayana philosophical schools

Postby Kim O'Hara » Mon May 20, 2013 12:49 pm

Michael_Dorfman wrote:In short, pretty much everybody thinks that their way is the best way, and that the other schools are legitimate but inferior.

And not only the best way but the *original* way.
:smile:

:focus:
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