Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

No holds barred discussion on the Buddhadharma. Argue about rebirth, karma, commentarial interpretations etc. Be nice to each other.

Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Jnana » Wed Jan 05, 2011 1:55 am

mr. gordo wrote:The divisive thread you started here by mocking Mahayana and Vajrayana (as you say "Mahāyāna -- a tradition which has no connection to the śramaṇa Gautama"), is just another one of the reasons e-sangha just didn't work out.

My goodness you have a knack for jumping to fallacious conclusions! I'm not "mocking" the Mahāyāna or the Vajrayāna. My Mahāyāna faith isn't contingent upon believing that the Mahāyāna teachings were taught by the śramaṇa Gautama.

mr. gordo wrote:A forum you so quickly ridicule, and yet are duplicating the same behavior from over there into here.

Yet another inaccurate characterization. I have never once ridiculed E-sangha.

mr. gordo wrote:A I have received teachings from Bhantes in Mahasi style vipassana, and they have my deepest respect. When I have discussions on Theravada forums, I am respectful. I have no deceptive agenda because my respect in sincere and genuine. I don't go to a friend or mentor's house and defecate in their dining room.

A discussion of historical developments of Buddhist ideas and practices is not "disrespecting" anything or anyone. Your suggestion that it is analogous to "defecating in someone's dining room" is utterly preposterous.

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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby kirtu » Wed Jan 05, 2011 1:59 am

kirtu wrote:Tantra in general is quite a complex subject.

The śramaṇa Gautama never advocated employing passion in any way whatsoever. There are explicit rejections of the very notion of using passion as a path component in his teachings.


In the Sravakayana that is true but actually the word passion in the quote does not mean just or predominately sexual contact. The main meaning is for any kind of sense contact, pleasant or unpleasant through any of the 6 sense doors. It is the transformation of the sense perceptions and not the rejection of or indulgence in sense contact that is the key method.

But as I said we have no basis for continuing this discussion. We will just end up making dogmatic statements at each other.

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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Jnana » Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:00 am

kirtu wrote:If they lack faith in the Mahayana then that's fine. Please follow the Sravaka path. But don't malign the Bodhisattva path.

The insinuation that I'm somehow "maligning" the bodhisattva path is completely without merit and quite ridiculous.

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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby tobes » Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:12 am

It strikes me that Yeshe is raising an interesting and valid question, much discussed in Buddhist scholarship. Moreover, he is consistently providing well founded responses.

I think he deserves far more respect than he is receiving on this thread.

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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Pero » Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:18 am

Yeshe D. wrote:
kirtu wrote:If they lack faith in the Mahayana then that's fine. Please follow the Sravaka path. But don't malign the Bodhisattva path.

The insinuation that I'm somehow "maligning" the bodhisattva path is completely without merit and quite ridiculous.


When you say things like:

Yeah, I know the "two truths" trip.


The śramaṇa Gautama and his disciples didn't use this kind of convoluted language.


The point is this: Anyone who's faith is based on the Mahāyāna -- a tradition which has no connection to the śramaṇa Gautama, i.e. the "Buddha," would be prudent to show extreme restraint from casting dispersions upon others for teaching, as you put it, a "false Dharma." What is quite laughable here, is how heterodoxy is turned into orthodoxy and then used as a weapon against others.


It's kind of hard to take that seriously.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Jnana » Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:09 am

Pero wrote:It's kind of hard to take that seriously.

What I'm merely trying to point out is this: The śramaṇa Gautama Buddha's life was embedded in a unique social, cultural, and historical situation. Āryāsaṅga's life was embedded in a unique social, cultural, and historical situation. Sarahapāda's life was embedded in a unique social, cultural, and historical situation. Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé's life was embedded in a unique social, cultural, and historical situation. Reginald Ray's life is embedded in a unique social, cultural, and historical situation. All of these individuals have responded to their unique situation by offering teachings which are aimed to help their contemporaries by resonating with the unique social, cultural, and historical situation of their contemporaries. None of these individuals speaks for the others. We can have great faith in whichever path we have chosen without needing to conflate visionary narratives with historical situations. And we can have great faith in whichever path we've chosen without casting dispersions upon learned and dedicated teachers like Reggie Ray.

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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby ground » Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:23 am

Yeshe D. wrote:We can have great faith in whichever path we have chosen without needing to conflate visionary narratives with historical situations.


From an intellectual perspective Yes.

However the role inconceivable "figures", i.e. idealized meta-persons play in this context should not be underestimated. I think that those are the "emotional- experiential" basis of any efficient faith and therefore of any efficient path. This human fact seems to be the origin of the saying that "the teacher is the root of the path" which - with reference to contemporary teachers - necessarily comprises "lineage".

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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby ground » Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:40 am

My personal view is such:
Mahayana is the teaching of bodhisatvas. Bodhisattvas also have written all the Mahayana sutras and sastras.
The Mahayana is like a mesh: Only a few do not pass the mesh and practice the bodhisatva path.
The majority practices the path that will entail devine rebirth.
Another group following the Mahayana teachings actually practices the arhat path (without necessarily being aware about this fact).
Those who deludedly think that they follow Mahayana teachings and have aversion against the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha (who taught the arhat path but who did not teach the Mahayana by means of words) are to be regretted. Actually these are the ones that require compassionate help more urgently than any ordinary non-buddhist but ethically qualified people.


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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby kirtu » Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:43 am

Yeshe D. wrote:
Pero wrote:It's kind of hard to take that seriously.

What I'm merely trying to point out is this: The śramaṇa Gautama Buddha's life was embedded in a unique social, cultural, and historical situation.


That's not true. Shakyamuni Buddha was actually omniscient. That's one of the definitions of Buddhahood (although we can debate what omniscience actually means). He was not constrained by his environment. He was not an ordinary being at all not even as a physical form Buddha (a Nirmanakaya). And from the Mahayana and Vajrayana perspective he gave Mahayana and some Vajrayana teachings.

Āryāsaṅga's life was embedded in a unique social, cultural, and historical situation.


Sure - he eventually became a 2nd Bhumi Bodhisattva. He was constrained by his perceptions away from practice.

Sarahapāda's ... Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé's life was embedded in a unique social, cultural, and historical situation.


Looking at their external circumstances this is true but they weren't strictly limited in this way.

And we can have great faith in whichever path we've chosen without casting dispersions upon learned and dedicated teachers like Reggie Ray.


I certainly hope that he blossoms into a teacher like those mentioned above ....

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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Mr. G » Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:58 am

mr. gordo wrote:A I have received teachings from Bhantes in Mahasi style vipassana, and they have my deepest respect. When I have discussions on Theravada forums, I am respectful. I have no deceptive agenda because my respect in sincere and genuine. I don't go to a friend or mentor's house and defecate in their dining room.

A discussion of historical developments of Buddhist ideas and practices is not "disrespecting" anything or anyone. Your suggestion that it is analogous to "defecating in someone's dining room" is utterly preposterous.



Take a good look at the tone of your posts. There's discussion, and then there's dismissiveness in a combative fashion.

Yet another inaccurate characterization. I have never once ridiculed E-sangha.


We know how successful this attitude of "[W]hy practice Buddhism if one doesn't believe in rebirth?," conjoined with similar sentiments and actions, proved to be for E-sangha. - viewtopic.php?p=22531#p22531

And in my opinion the Dharma is far too precious and rare in this world for the E-sangha fiasco to ever be repeated in any arena or amongst any people attempting to learn and integrate all of the aspects of the eightfold path. - viewtopic.php?p=22548#p22548

:reading:



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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jan 05, 2011 4:19 am

Yeshe D. wrote:
Huseng wrote:However, both Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna alike never rejected the fundamental ideas taught by the Buddha like rebirth and karma.

There are numerous examples in the Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna literature where, by blurring of distinctions between ethical and unethical conduct, karma and its consequences for low rebirth are diluted to the point of being meaningless. For example, the Mañjuśrīparivartāparaparyāyā Saptaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra:


The texts you cited are alluding to the higher teaching of emptiness.

Those five deadly sins are dependently arisen just as enlightenment is. This is a higher teaching presumably reserved, at least originally, for a small number of individuals who already lived ethical lives and understood well the difference between conventional and ultimate truths.

In the Mahāyāna as I am sure you know there is an idea that sentient beings are of different capacities and faculties.

In this case, emptiness taught to the unprepared is like feeding milk to a snake. One will come to erroneous conclusions such as karma and its consequences for low rebirth being diluted to the point of being meaningless.

If one understands the teaching properly there is no such dilution.

I am sure you understand this position, but are just playing the devil's advocate.



Huseng wrote:
Yeshe D. wrote:The Indian Nikāya schools who only accepted the Āgamas (and corresponding Nikāyas) as the Buddha word. These schools were mainstream until at least the 5th or 6th century CE.

Well that's your definition of mainstream dharma, however millions of others devout Buddhists who practise Mahāyāna would disagree.

You're merely offering the fallacy of appeal to large numbers.


There is no fallacy to begin with. The idea of "mainstream dharma" is entirely subjective. "Mainstream" by modern standards would mean that by popular majority the Mahāyāna would be most mainstream.


Quite well established research actually.


I'm well aware of present day research and its limitations. Trying to reconstruct Indian history two thousand years ago or so is not an easy task.

It is again a demonstrable fact that anything even approaching popular support for the Mahāyāna cannot be documented until 4th/5th century AD, and ... although there was -- as we know from Chinese translations -- a large and early Mahāyāna literature there was no early, organized, independent, publicly supported movement that it could have belonged to.



Do we have access to historical records for every single kingdom in the Indian subcontinent? How about accounting records?


Huseng wrote:In any case, the roots of Mahāyāna ideas are easily found in the Āgama literature. Without ever looking at a Mahāyāna text, one could see the spark of the Mahāyāna simply by asking, "How did Shakyamuni become a Buddha and how can I likewise achieve such a thing?"

The śramaṇa Gautama didn't become a buddha by practicing the above teachings from the Mahāyāna Sūtras and Tantras.


According to one opinion.

Then again we need to keep in mind the definition of "Buddha" differs from school to school. Even amongst the Śrāvaka schools there was no universal consensus on the qualities of the Buddha.

One good work which outlines this is The Concept of the Buddha by Guang Xing.

Consider the following:

The concept of the Buddha was significantly advanced at the time of
the early Indian Buddhist schools, especially the Sarvastivada and the
Mahasanghika. The Sarvastivadins were more empirical in their approach.
They summarized and synthesized the attributes and qualities of the Buddha
as described in the early sutras before formulating, for the first time, the
two-body theory: that of the rupakAya and the dharmakAya. The rupakAya,
according to the Sarvastivadins, although impure, is endowed with the thirtytwo
major and eighty minor marks as well as a one-fathom halo. The
dharmakAya is endowed with the eighteen exclusive attributes: the ten
powers, the four kinds of intrepidity, the three foundations of mindfulness
and great compassion. None of the constituents of either the rupakAya or
the dharmakAya are innovative; rather, they consist of the qualities of the
Buddha which were already present in early Buddhism. Some of them, such
as the ten powers and the thirty-two major marks were simply taken from
the NikAyas and the Agamas with further explanations. Other qualities,
for instance the eighty minor marks and the one-fathom halo, were taken
after careful synthesis.



As well as this:

The Mahasanghikas’ religious philosophy was based more on faith than on
reason, and accepted whatever was said by the Buddha or, more precisely,
whatever was taught in the NikAyas and the Agamas. As a result, they
developed the concept of a transcendental (lokottara) Buddha based on the
superhuman qualities of the Buddha, as discussed in Chapter 1 above. Two
aspects of the Mahasanghikas’ concept of the Buddha can be identified: the
true Buddha who is omniscient and omnipotent, and the manifested forms
through which he liberates sentient beings with skilful means. Shakyamuni
was considered but one of these forms. The true Buddha supports the manifested
forms that can appear in the worlds of the ten directions. In Mahayana
Buddhism, the former aspect – the true Buddha – was developed and divided
into the concept of the dharmakAya and the concept of the sambhogakAya;
the latter aspect – the manifested forms – was developed into the concept of
nirmAnakAya. Thus, the Mahasanghikas are the originators of the idea of
the nirmAnakAya, and the manifested forms can have many embodiments.
Furthermore, they also introduced the theory of numerous Buddhas existing
in other worlds.



Even from a Śrāvaka position the Mahāsāṃghika approach is still based entirely on Āgama literature. They also did not accept Abhidharma as canonical. However, their vision and interpretation of the Buddha was quite different from that of Sthaviravāda schools.

Now in such a transcendental interpretation of the Buddha (lokottara) it follows that since the true Buddha manifests forms through which he liberates sentient beings with skilful means one could continue to be taught by the Buddha though Shakyamuni has long since passed away from the physical world.

Those seeking the same transcendence could have been taught the Mahāyāna by the Buddha in pure visions. The Mahāyāna, though not taught by Shakyamuni on Earth, was still a teaching by the Buddha nevertheless. A lot of Mahāyāna scriptures are obviously not meant to be understood as having been taught by Shakyamuni in the ordinary physical world. Basically, Shakyamuni, who was later identified as a nirāmaṇakāya, did not teach the Mahāyāna, but that's not problematic at all. The Mahāyāna was likely first taught by a manifested form in visions to those few individuals capable of grasping its import.

Even by the Mahāsāṃghika approach this is plausible. They wouldn't have accepted such visions as canonical, but those few individuals having them would presumably have taken them quite seriously and perhaps taught them to others.

Your interpretation above sounds very much like Sthaviravāda, which is fine. However, there are other Śrāvaka understandings like that of the Mahāsāṃghika who saw Buddha as representing something transcendental. Indeed, they still sought Arhatship. However, in time some would have asked if it were possible to achieve the same transcendental state that they saw as the true Buddha. They were motivated by compassion and concern for sentient beings. The true Buddha presumably could have revealed to them in visions the means and methods necessary to achieve something beyond Arhatship.

The result was the first Mahāyāna sūtras which are Saddharma and word of the Buddha.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Pero » Wed Jan 05, 2011 9:07 am

Yeshe D. wrote:
Pero wrote:It's kind of hard to take that seriously.

...All of these individuals have responded to their unique situation by offering teachings which are aimed to help their contemporaries by resonating with the unique social, cultural, and historical situation of their contemporaries. None of these individuals speaks for the others. We can have great faith in whichever path we have chosen without needing to conflate visionary narratives with historical situations. And we can have great faith in whichever path we've chosen without casting dispersions upon learned and dedicated teachers like Reggie Ray.


I see, I think I mostly agree with that.

Kirt wrote:That's not true. Shakyamuni Buddha was actually omniscient. That's one of the definitions of Buddhahood (although we can debate what omniscience actually means). He was not constrained by his environment. ...


That's not true Kirt, of course he was constrained by his environment. Everyone who has a physical body is. Being omniscient has nothing to do with it. If I'm omniscient and I know that there is the element buddhonium on Io which can be used as a source for creating infinite amounts of electricity it wouldn't do much good to me or anyone else to tell it to people who believe there isn't anything else in the universe than the Moon and the Sun and/or if even electricity is not being used yet. Especially if my intention is to teach people how to achieve Buddhahood.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Astus » Wed Jan 05, 2011 10:19 am

In Zen (no matter which version) they teach that there is a transmission lineage coming from Shakyamuni and even beyond that from the previous buddhas up to the current generation of so called Zen patriarchs. This concept of transmission is especially cherished in the West as something central to Zen. Its importance is clearer if we understand that what is transmitted is the buddha-mind, the enlightenment of the buddha, consequently those receiving this transmission are equals of a buddha.

But if we put aside the religious idea and look at it historically it turns out the whole transmission is made up and has no factual basis. While the notion of this special transmission has a meaning in the context of Zen it is at the same time a device used by monks of the past to gain authority and prestige. Those who firmly believe in the importance of a "Zen Master" (with capitals) might find these scholarly things insulting and offensive towards Zen (although it seems to me that those scholars who research Zen's history do that not because it is such a good business but because they are interested in it, might as well be followers of the religion).

The situation with other schools is similar. There is an internal, mythological legend of the history of Buddhism and there is an external, scientific version. It is noteworthy that neither the internal nor the external view are finished or stable. An important difference in the two versions is in their purpose as one takes religious preferences while the other takes scientific ones. Thus one should see things for what they are and understand the different categories of views and statements. This is not a bad practice for being free from attachments to concepts that - as we can see from this very thread too - can cause emotional disturbances.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby muni » Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:07 pm

Astus wrote:Thus one should see things for what they are and understand the different categories of views and statements. This is not a bad practice for being free from attachments to concepts that - as we can see from this very thread too - can cause emotional disturbances.


If there is doubt. Just thinking some years ago, such internet debates didn't exist. Choices.

Good, we can encourage our fellows to go beyond comfort zone.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Jnana » Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:03 pm

mr. gordo wrote:Take a good look at the tone of your posts. There's discussion, and then there's dismissiveness in a combative fashion.

No dismissiveness of anything other than the conflation of religious hagiography and history. Again, your suggestion that my posts are analogous to "defecating in someone's dining room" is utterly preposterous. If I were easily offended, your analogy would probably be considered offensive.

mr. gordo wrote:
Yeshe D. wrote:Yet another inaccurate characterization. I have never once ridiculed E-sangha.


We know how successful this attitude of "[W]hy practice Buddhism if one doesn't believe in rebirth?," conjoined with similar sentiments and actions, proved to be for E-sangha. - viewtopic.php?p=22531#p22531

And in my opinion the Dharma is far too precious and rare in this world for the E-sangha fiasco to ever be repeated in any arena or amongst any people attempting to learn and integrate all of the aspects of the eightfold path. - viewtopic.php?p=22548#p22548

If you're implying that these posts, or any others, are ridiculing E-sangha, then that is a completely inaccurate characterization and you're wrong. The mention of the E-sangha fiasco is in reference to a series of well-known events which occurred on the E-sangha forum. It is not a qualification of the E-sangha Forum as a whole.

All the best,

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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Mr. G » Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:16 pm

Yeshe D. wrote:No dismissiveness of anything other than the conflation of religious hagiography and history.


I appreciate the points you bring up actually, but I’m not the only one to have noticed your hostile and flippant quips.

mr. gordo wrote:
Yeshe D. wrote:Yet another inaccurate characterization. I have never once ridiculed E-sangha.


We know how successful this attitude of "[W]hy practice Buddhism if one doesn't believe in rebirth?," conjoined with similar sentiments and actions, proved to be for E-sangha. - viewtopic.php?p=22531#p22531

And in my opinion the Dharma is far too precious and rare in this world for the E-sangha fiasco to ever be repeated in any arena or amongst any people attempting to learn and integrate all of the aspects of the eightfold path. - viewtopic.php?p=22548#p22548
If you're implying that these posts, or any others, are ridiculing E-sangha, then that is a completely inaccurate characterization and you're wrong. The mention of the E-sangha fiasco is in reference to a series of well-known events which occurred on the E-sangha forum. It is not a qualification of the E-sangha Forum as a whole.



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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Jnana » Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:43 pm

mr. gordo wrote:I’m not the only one to have noticed your hostile and flippant quips.

Any perceptions of hostility perceived on the part of the reader were not part of the posts. Again, another inaccurate characterization.

All the best,

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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby plwk » Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:44 pm

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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Mr. G » Wed Jan 05, 2011 4:00 pm

Yeshe D. wrote:
mr. gordo wrote:I’m not the only one to have noticed your hostile and flippant quips.

Any perceptions of hostility perceived on the part of the reader were not part of the posts. Again, another inaccurate characterization.



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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby muni » Wed Jan 05, 2011 4:07 pm

plwk wrote:Image


:anjali: Thank you plwk.
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