Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Dechen Norbu » Wed Jun 15, 2011 3:20 pm

Jñāna wrote:
Dechen Norbu wrote:This is where the wheat gets separated from the chaff. Some will feel inspired by Buddhadharma while others won't. Some will feel inspired to a certain point while others won't be able to overcome some deluded (from a Buddhist perspective) intellectual positions. This is what defines the capacity of the practitioner. What you choose to put to the test by means of dedicated practice.

It's a pluralistic world. I sometimes find myself engaged with practitioners from various traditions. Parroting worn out vajrayāna catchphrases is completely unskillful in such contexts. A more integrated hermeneutic is needed. It's all about communication, relationship, and practice.

I have nothing against your position. Pretty much I agree with what you've been saying.
However, although different schools have similarities, there are differences and some are irreconcilable. Tolerance is not trying to equate these differences as if in the end it was all the same. That's a subtle form of intolerance. As a corollary one ends up respecting the other because deep down one is convinced that both are talking about the same thing. Tolerance and respect, in my opinion, passes more by recognizing and respecting those differences.
I say that it's all about practice, relationship and communication. In the end it's practice that will allow a genuinely caring relationship that will translate in better communication. Perhaps one can reconcile Rangtong and Shentong, but it's very difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile Theravada and Vajrayana. We share common teachings, but then we have many differences.
My interpretation of different capacities goes a little against post modernist thinking, I know. Relativism can be taken to an extreme and for me that's political bs. However I don't define the value of a set of teachings per se, but by its relation to the practitioners. The best teaching is always the one we can understand and follow. So for some the highest teaching is Theravada. For others, it's Dzogchen. But fot a Dzogchen practitioner saying that he would be better or it would be the same practicing Theravada, view and method, is absurd. It's also a breach of samaya for a good reason.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby LastLegend » Wed Jun 15, 2011 3:29 pm

All forms of Buddhism should be subject to evaluation under basic teachings such as 4 Noble Truths and Dependent Origination. If the teachings do not seem to be accord with the basic teachings, then they are not teachings of Buddha. If not teachings of Buddha, then not teachings of all Buddhas.

So if the teachings from a Buddha, then those teachings also from all Buddhas. Based on this, Mahayana is the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha.

Sincerely,
Chief Inspector of Buddhism
Last edited by LastLegend on Wed Jun 15, 2011 3:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Dechen Norbu » Wed Jun 15, 2011 3:55 pm

LastLegend wrote:All forms of Buddhism should be subject to evaluation under basic teachings such as 4 Noble Truths and Dependent Origination. If the teachings do not seem to be accord with the basic teachings, then they are not teachings of Buddha. If not teachings of Buddha, then not teachings of all Buddhas.

So if the teachings from a Buddha, then those teachings also from all Buddhas. Based on this, Mahayana is the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha.

It may be a little more complicate than that. The interpretation of the 4NTs is not exactly the same in all schools. The teachings about cause and effect are seen as definitive by some and provisional by others and so on and so forth.
We believe Mahayana is the teaching of the Buddhas. Theravadins can't believe this. Otherwise they would be negating some tenets of their own tradition.
The sate of affairs is an agreement to disagree while respecting each other. Some sort of unification or homogeneity of views, implicit or explicit, is not going to be achieved neither such is desirable.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby LastLegend » Wed Jun 15, 2011 4:08 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote:
LastLegend wrote:All forms of Buddhism should be subject to evaluation under basic teachings such as 4 Noble Truths and Dependent Origination. If the teachings do not seem to be accord with the basic teachings, then they are not teachings of Buddha. If not teachings of Buddha, then not teachings of all Buddhas.

So if the teachings from a Buddha, then those teachings also from all Buddhas. Based on this, Mahayana is the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha.

It may be a little more complicate than that. The interpretation of the 4NTs is not exactly the same in all schools. The teachings about cause and effect are seen as definitive by some and provisional by others and so on and so forth.
We believe Mahayana is the teaching of the Buddhas. Theravadins can't believe this. Otherwise they would be negating some tenets of their own tradition.
The sate of affairs is an agreement to disagree while respecting each other. Some sort of unification or homogeneity of views, implicit or explicit, is not going to be achieved neither such is desirable.


Yes, if it is accord with logical reasoning.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Sönam » Wed Jun 15, 2011 4:34 pm

LastLegend wrote:All forms of Buddhism should be subject to evaluation under basic teachings such as 4 Noble Truths and Dependent Origination. If the teachings do not seem to be accord with the basic teachings, then they are not teachings of Buddha. If not teachings of Buddha, then not teachings of all Buddhas.

So if the teachings from a Buddha, then those teachings also from all Buddhas. Based on this, Mahayana is the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha.

Sincerely,
Chief Inspector of Buddhism


good point chief !

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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Jnana » Wed Jun 15, 2011 4:35 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote:I have nothing against your position. Pretty much I agree with what you've been saying.
However, although different schools have similarities, there are differences and some are irreconcilable. Tolerance is not trying to equate these differences as if in the end it was all the same. That's a subtle form of intolerance. As a corollary one ends up respecting the other because deep down one is convinced that both are talking about the same thing. Tolerance and respect, in my opinion, passes more by recognizing and respecting those differences.
I say that it's all about practice, relationship and communication. In the end it's practice that will allow a genuinely caring relationship that will translate in better communication. Perhaps one can reconcile Rangtong and Shentong, but it's very difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile Theravada and Vajrayana. We share common teachings, but then we have many differences.
My interpretation of different capacities goes a little against post modernist thinking, I know. Relativism can be taken to an extreme and for me that's political bs. However I don't define the value of a set of teachings per se, but by its relation to the practitioners. The best teaching is always the one we can understand and follow. So for some the highest teaching is Theravada. For others, it's Dzogchen. But fot a Dzogchen practitioner saying that he would be better or it would be the same practicing Theravada, view and method, is absurd. It's also a breach of samaya for a good reason.

I agree. Differences need to be acknowledged and respected. There's no point in trying to manufacture some sort of ahistorical homogenous gunk which fails to fully represent and articulate the distinctness of each school and tradition. That's unnecessary and intellectually sloppy. Granted, many people are probably not so interested in these sort of issues, or don't have the time to pursue them in detail. And that's fine. But for those who do, it can be worth the effort.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Sönam » Wed Jun 15, 2011 4:42 pm

When "engaged with practitioners from various traditions" Dzogchen position consists in using means of other tradition. In his recent teaching ChNN recalls that "why we learn practices of other traditions? Because we need to intergrate all traditions, any kind of practices ... but we go in essence. And what means integrating? you are already in sambhogakaya, and when you integrate you learn how you go to sambhagakaya with that tradition"

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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jun 15, 2011 4:45 pm

adinatha wrote:Also my belief is that making scholarly opinions about what is authentically taught by the Buddha and not creates problems for people. It can harms someone's faith. That's bad. It's one thing to show someone the truth, even if it hurts. But it's entirely another to present scholarly opinions disguised as facts. I will stomp on that every time, because it's misleading.


This is something Buddhists will have to come to terms with. The more traditional and orthodox ones will adhere to positions that are easily disproved. This will not lead to them gaining much respect in either scholarly circles or from educated practitioners.

For example, it used to be the case that Theravāda practitioners could point to scholarly consensus and safely assert that the Pāli canon is the "truest canon" and actual record of what the "historical Buddha" Śākyamuni taught. However, as scholarship advanced it has been demonstrated that this is not entirely the case. The Pāli canon is not identical with the extant canons of other Nikāya-based traditions in history. The oldest actual physical Buddhist scriptures we have are written in Gāndhārī. Nevertheless, some Theravāda proponents will insist their canon is a completely true representation and record of what Śākyamuni Buddha taught. Incidentally, Japanese scholars among others like to refer to Theravāda as "Primitive Buddhism" which further makes people believe that the Theravāda tradition in the modern day is the same Buddhist tradition the Buddha initiated in the 5th century BCE.

This extends into other traditions as well. I recently spoke to a Chinese Buddhist nun who, while formally holding a MA degree in Buddhist Studies, insisted that Śākyamuni taught the Buddhāvataṃsaka Sūtra (Huayan-jing 華嚴經 / Flower Ornament Scripture). I suggested that scholars would disagree and that there is no proof that the flesh and blood Śākyamuni in the fifth century BCE actually taught it. It actually appears it was compiled from multiple scriptures in Central Asia, not India. She insisted that such assertions were incorrect and that she believed it was Śākyamuni who literally preached the sūtra. I imagine she would likewise reject the overwhelming evidence that Mahāyāna scriptures appeared several centuries after the Buddha's death. Again, such attachment to orthodox dogmas will not do a Buddhist tradition any good.

That being said, to assert that Mahāyāna scriptures were not taught by Śākyamuni Buddha does not take away from their value as some would believe. We judge the teachings based on their content and in the case of said scriptures they are profound, saddharma and buddhavacana (words of the Buddha).

Going back to my original point: if we don't acknowledge scholarship and revise traditions according to what is discovered, then Buddhism will rapidly decay under the weight of old orthodox positions that have become untenable. We need to be flexible and adapt. If someone has their feelings upset in the process then there is nothing we can do about that.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Jnana » Wed Jun 15, 2011 5:25 pm

Huseng wrote:The Pāli canon is not identical with the extant canons of other Nikāya-based traditions in history. The oldest actual physical Buddhist scriptures we have are written in Gāndhārī.

Right. There's no need to privilege the Pāli discourses over those in Gāndhārī or other Indic languages, as well as Chinese and Tibetan translation. All of these sources demonstrate a significant degree of doctrinal consistency.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jun 15, 2011 5:34 pm

Jñāna wrote:
Huseng wrote:The Pāli canon is not identical with the extant canons of other Nikāya-based traditions in history. The oldest actual physical Buddhist scriptures we have are written in Gāndhārī.

Right. There's no need to privilege the Pāli discourses over those in Gāndhārī or other Indic languages, as well as Chinese and Tibetan translation. All of these sources demonstrate a significant degree of doctrinal consistency.


Of course. However, there are differences.

One significant issue is the proclamation by the Buddha that by allowing women into the community the lifespan of the dharma would be reduced from one-thousand to five-hundred years. Such a sermon only appears in Sthaviravādan canons and not those of the Mahāsāṃghika. That is a key difference we need to be mindful of especially when pondering the question of whether or not the Buddha really taught said sermon which is a concern for modern Buddhists.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby kirtu » Wed Jun 15, 2011 6:08 pm

LastLegend wrote:
Dechen Norbu wrote:
LastLegend wrote:All forms of Buddhism should be subject to evaluation under basic teachings such as 4 Noble Truths and Dependent Origination. If the teachings do not seem to be accord with the basic teachings, then they are not teachings of Buddha. If not teachings of Buddha, then not teachings of all Buddhas.

So if the teachings from a Buddha, then those teachings also from all Buddhas. Based on this, Mahayana is the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha.

It may be a little more complicate than that. The interpretation of the 4NTs is not exactly the same in all schools. The teachings about cause and effect are seen as definitive by some and provisional by others and so on and so forth.
We believe Mahayana is the teaching of the Buddhas. Theravadins can't believe this. Otherwise they would be negating some tenets of their own tradition.
The sate of affairs is an agreement to disagree while respecting each other. Some sort of unification or homogeneity of views, implicit or explicit, is not going to be achieved neither such is desirable.


Yes, if it is accord with logical reasoning.


So logical reasoning is your standard? Logic necessarily begins with at least one assumption (ideally we would like to minimize our assumptions as they cannot be proven). So you begin with a bias built in to your system. In this case it seems to be the 4NT's. But actually the 4NT's are a provisional teaching from a higher Vajrayana POV. They are a raft to cross the a further shore and are not the totality of Shakyamuni's teaching.

Sakya Pandita actually make a criticism of logic as the ultimate standard. Similarly Kurt Goedel proves that even with simple systems there can be true statements which cannot be proven in that system (and thus a more comphrensive system is needed for those true statements but in the new system there are also true statements that cannot be proven some we need an even more powerful system, etc).

Logic is good but should not be used for judging Buddhist systems, at least not on it's own.

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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby LastLegend » Wed Jun 15, 2011 6:23 pm

kirtu wrote:So logical reasoning is your standard? Logic necessarily begins with at least one assumption (ideally we would like to minimize our assumptions as they cannot be proven). So you begin with a bias built in to your system. In this case it seems to be the 4NT's. But actually the 4NT's are a provisional teaching from a higher Vajrayana POV. They are a raft to cross the a further shore and are not the totality of Shakyamuni's teaching.

Sakya Pandita actually make a criticism of logic as the ultimate standard. Similarly Kurt Goedel proves that even with simple systems there can be true statements which cannot be proven in that system (and thus a more comphrensive system is needed for those true statements but in the new system there are also true statements that cannot be proven some we need an even more powerful system, etc).

Logic is good but should not be used for judging Buddhist systems, at least not on it's own.

Kirt


4NTs are a necessary teaching. Look at the content of it and you will see that the work is to end the cause of suffering. So the logical reasoning here is to explain how it works to end the cause of suffering.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby adinatha » Wed Jun 15, 2011 6:43 pm

Jñāna wrote:The criteria that your extreme demands would require for "proof" cannot be satisfied. That doesn't mean that reasoned analysis cannot proceed coherently for others. You've simply set an unreasonable, false standard. As far as I'm concerned, if you think that the śramaṇa who initiated the dispensation in the 5th century BCE also taught the anuttarayoga tantras then either you are using faulty hermeneutics or you're intent upon living in a mythological worldview.


To the contrary, it IS the standard for truth. I'm not saying it is true Gautama taught tantras. I'm saying there is no fact either way. So how can you conclude one way? That biased position is unjustified by an facts.

adinatha wrote:What's harmful in this day and age is being unable to successfully move between rational and trans-rational levels of understanding; instead regressing to pre-rational worldviews. This isn't a very functional place to be in the 21st century.


Oh I definitely agree with you here. The problem is when people think they are being rational when they are not. A lot of talk sounds rational but is just a mask for an emotional bias, which is pre-rational.

adinatha wrote:Your methods are very similar to those employed by the climate change deniers.


Oh you mean science? How 20th century, right? Now, I'm not saying what my position is about this. I don't have one. But you are again demonstrating politics as a foundation for your opinions, not rational thought.

Rational skepticism is a rigorous standard. I would not have it any other way. I will not stake my life and my heart on something that has not been tested, retested and re-re-tested. I won't believe anything is true unless it's been vetted up the yin yang.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby adinatha » Wed Jun 15, 2011 6:49 pm

Namdrol wrote:
adinatha wrote:
Also my belief is that making scholarly opinions about what is authentically taught by the Buddha and not creates problems for people. It can harms someone's faith. That's bad. It's one thing to show someone the truth, even if it hurts. But it's entirely another to present scholarly opinions disguised as facts. I will stomp on that every time, because it's misleading.


Then you should be stomping down on all four lineages presentation of history of Buddhist tantra since all of them are in conflict, use different indian sources or engage in pure speculation, etc.

N


Honestly, I don't hear much about history around my lama. It's all nature of mind mahamudra, etc., etc., The lineage is presented as transmission of mind, which one can experience first hand with the methods. But I hear ya. When I do hear some garbage facts, I jump on it. It's a reflex.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby adinatha » Wed Jun 15, 2011 6:52 pm

Jñāna wrote:
adinatha wrote:I deal strictly with factual evidence.

You're either bullshitting yourself or trying to bullshit everyone else.


No. It's my religion. Perhaps an obsession with a hatred of hypocrisy, lies and half-truths. I mean what are we doing here practicing dharma, trying to get a fresh breath of unmediated reality right?
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby adinatha » Wed Jun 15, 2011 6:57 pm

Astus wrote:Looking for evidence? Should try some reading first.

A history of Indian Buddhism: from Śākyamuni to early Mahāyāna by Akira Hirakawa, Paul Groner
Introduction to the History of Indian Buddhism by Eugène Burnouf, Katia Buffetrille, Donald S. Lopez
Indian Buddhism by A. K. Warder
Figments and fragments of Mahāyāna Buddhism in India: more collected papers by Gregory Schopen
Bones, stones, and Buddhist monks: collected papers on the archaeology, epigraphy, and texts of monastic Buddhism in India by Gregory Schopen
Bodhisattvas of the forest and the formation of the Mahāyāna: a study and translation of the Rāṣṭrapālaparipr̥cchā-sūtra by Daniel Boucher
Indian esoteric Buddhism: a social history of the Tantric movement by Ronald M. Davidson


Sounds expensive. What you got? You got anything concise and to the point that shows conclusively what came out of the Buddha's mouth? I bet you $1mil you got nothin.

PS. I may not sound too smart, but I read. I probably even read most of these rags.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby kirtu » Wed Jun 15, 2011 6:58 pm

LastLegend wrote:
kirtu wrote:So logical reasoning is your standard? Logic necessarily begins with at least one assumption (ideally we would like to minimize our assumptions as they cannot be proven). So you begin with a bias built in to your system. In this case it seems to be the 4NT's. But actually the 4NT's are a provisional teaching from a higher Vajrayana POV. They are a raft to cross the a further shore and are not the totality of Shakyamuni's teaching.

Sakya Pandita actually make a criticism of logic as the ultimate standard. Similarly Kurt Goedel proves that even with simple systems there can be true statements which cannot be proven in that system (and thus a more comphrensive system is needed for those true statements but in the new system there are also true statements that cannot be proven some we need an even more powerful system, etc).

Logic is good but should not be used for judging Buddhist systems, at least not on it's own.

Kirt


4NTs are a necessary teaching.


The 4NT's are one way to frame the basic plight that sentient beings are caught in and to present a gradual path to extracate beings from suffering. It's not the only way. Although I've heard Tibetan Buddhist teaching on the 4NT's that actually is a Mahayana presentation, using the 4NT's as a standard for judging Buddhist systems throws out sections of Mahayana and puts a focus on Sravakayana. The 4NT's are a stepping stone (albeit a liberative one). Why didn't you pick the Four Seals instead of the 4NT's?

Look at the content of it and you will see that the work is to end the cause of suffering.


That is the hallmark of all the Buddha's teaching. All of the Sravakayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana's sole purpose is to end the cause of suffering.

So the logical reasoning here is to explain how it works to end the cause of suffering.


Yeah, logic is limited and has a limited purpose. It's a good tool but it's just a tool.

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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby adinatha » Wed Jun 15, 2011 7:10 pm

Namdrol wrote:
adinatha wrote:The most common fact is that there is no fact supporting anything the whole school of thought relies upon. When that is the case, chop chop.


Right. Therefore, the idea that Shakyamuni Buddha taught the tantras is best treated as a legend, with no more objective truth value than the Theravadin legend that he taught Abhidhamma in the heavens.

N


But you can't even say it's a "legend." You can treat it how you want, whatever makes you feel cozy. My practice is to be unbiased with regard to unknowables.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby LastLegend » Wed Jun 15, 2011 7:13 pm

I picked 4NTs because it talks about the cause of suffering and to end the cause of suffering...So the practice is to end suffering. One can employ many methods such as Theravada way, Chan, Tantra, Pure Land, etc. However, the components of some practice need to be evaluated-how can this particular component contribute to end the cause of suffering? I am not questioning the validity of Tantrayana, I am just questioning the understanding of the practitioners on this forum regarding certain components of teachings. The teacher can speak about a particular teaching, and we both listen but our understanding of it can be quite different.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Malcolm » Wed Jun 15, 2011 7:30 pm

adinatha wrote:
To the contrary, it IS the standard for truth. I'm not saying it is true Gautama taught tantras. I'm saying there is no fact either way. So how can you conclude one way?



It is an inference based partly on the appearance of sutras in translation into Chinese, the noted evolution of these sutras in Chinese translation, comparisons with their late and in many cases final forms in Tibetan translation; the clear evolution of Indian tantras in Sanskrit, and in Tibetan translation, differing versions of the same text between new and older recensions, etc. The gradual evolution of tantra, uttaratantras, etc. The evolution of commentaries on these tantras, when they first appear, etc., intertextuality with non-buddhist tantras, and so on. The mutual rise of Buddhist and non-Buddhsit tantra, etc.

There are very many excellent reasons to assume that both Mahāyāna literature and Vajrayāna primary literature evolved in a manner that is simply absent in Nikāya/Agama sources. There is no evidence whatever to suggest that any Mahāyāna texts ever were communicated through an oral lineage like the Nikāya/Agamas. Even the so called gatha portion of these texts it turns out are generally _later_ in composition than the prose portions they summarize.
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