Why not Theravada

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Re: Why not Theravada

Postby Nighthawk » Thu Oct 25, 2012 3:04 am

Theravada isn't my cup of tea as one needs unwavering determination and discipline for accomplishment, simply put there are no room for mistakes and one must be perfect as possible if taking the goal of enlightenment seriously. With Mahayana, you can rely on the compassion of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to help you out in your quest.
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Re: Why not Theravada

Postby BuddhaSoup » Thu Oct 25, 2012 3:05 am

This is a really good question by the OP.

I've trained and ordained (novice) in Thailand so I feel I have some sense of the Theravada path. I also practice happily in a Soto Zen sangha with an abbot that I truly respect.

Some of the scholarship that I have read on the so-called Theravada / Mahayana divide suggests that there really was not a schism between Theravada and Mahayana...the two practices, their vinaya, and the traditions, are quite similar and identical in some cases. What came to be known as "Hinayana" was not actually Theravada, but another school that broke off after the 3rd Sangha Council and eventually died off.

As Indic Buddhism migrated to China, so did the Vinaya and the Suttas. The Chinese Canon and the Pali Canon are for the most part similar and identical. Eventually, as I have read, the Bodhisattva precepts developed and supplanted the Vinaya in East Asia.

Now that Buddhism is in the West, the question becomes how to sustain and bring vitality to the Dharma. I have the sense that the traditional Buddhadharma, combined with the Bodhisattva ideal of Mahayana, is the proper vehicle to carry the Dharma forward. After all, while the Arahant ideal is very much a part of the traditional monastic approach, the Buddha Gotama was a true Bodhisattva, traveling about, visiting places like Kalama to teach the locals about limited aspects of his Dharma.

I've joked to myself that I'm a Buddha Slut (the way Anthony Bourdain describes himself a food slut), jumping from tradition to tradition, and back again....but to me, one way forward with practice in the West is a firm adherence to the Sutta/Vinaya path, with the partnership with, in my case, Soto Zen, to make my path one that is authentic yet completely appropriate and beneficial to all beings in the 21st century.
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Re: Why not Theravada

Postby catmoon » Mon Oct 29, 2012 5:25 am

To tell you the truth, if Ajahn Chah was still alive I might very well have gone down the Theravada path myself. But he's gone, and the Dalai Lama is still out there teaching and being a living example, so here I am. I think we are incredibly fortunate to live in his times. Someone like him shows up once in a century or two, and it's by no means certain the next such fellow will even be a Buddhist. I'm thinking of Ghandi here.
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Re: Why not Theravada

Postby TaTa » Tue Oct 30, 2012 1:27 am

I dont know much but I've noticed that theravada practitioners rely more on scriptures to "justify" or give credibility to what they think is correct instead of logic and experience.(of curse im generalizing, not to offend anyone). Besides that i really like theravada and I intend to study it more deeply before immersing myself totally in mahayana and vajrayana teachings.
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Re: Why not Theravada

Postby BuddhaSoup » Tue Oct 30, 2012 1:42 pm

TaTa wrote:I dont know much but I've noticed that theravada practitioners rely more on scriptures to "justify" or give credibility to what they think is correct instead of logic and experience.(of curse im generalizing, not to offend anyone). Besides that i really like theravada and I intend to study it more deeply before immersing myself totally in mahayana and vajrayana teachings.


Historians have done a decent job authenticating which of the Suttas capture the Buddha's words and teachings. For this reason, it can be really helpful, if one is a Buddhist, to observe what the Buddha taught.

To suggest that one should dispense with the teachings, and instead rely on logic and experience, might lead you down the wrong path. To me, the Suttas are the roadmap. If you wish to travel to Ireland, and drive from Dublin to Donegal relying on logic and experience, you will end up in Cork. My advice, in navigating Irish roads, as well as life, is to use the roadmap.

There's no reason for practitioners of Mahayana and Vajrayana to dispense with the Suttas. In fact, early Mahayana and early Vajrayana all incorporated the Suttas and the identical Sutras as foundational to practice. I believe it was only later in time (14th, 15th century) that Mahayana teachers began to suggest that practice was accomplished without texts and with direct experience. These teachings cut against the teachings of their masters, but perhaps this was an effort to get away from the monastic side of practice and open the practice to the appetites of the laity.
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Re: Why not Theravada

Postby Arjan Dirkse » Tue Oct 30, 2012 3:16 pm

Overall, I really feel myself drawn to Theravada. It seems relatively straight forward, with an emphasis on meditation and rigorous training, and at its core it seems to lack the supernatural tendencies present in some Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

I've read "In the Buddha's Words" by Bhikkhu Bodhi, and I really liked it. Does anyone have any advice on other interesting books about Theravada?
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Re: Why not Theravada

Postby BuddhaSoup » Tue Oct 30, 2012 3:54 pm

Arjan Dirkse wrote:Overall, I really feel myself drawn to Theravada. It seems relatively straight forward, with an emphasis on meditation and rigorous training, and at its core it seems to lack the supernatural tendencies present in some Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

I've read "In the Buddha's Words" by Bhikkhu Bodhi, and I really liked it. Does anyone have any advice on other interesting books about Theravada?



Bhikkhu Bodhi is outstanding. A great scholar, and a true Bodhisattva. His http://www.buddhistglobalrelief.org/ is an excellent example of a Theravada monk on a Bodhisattva path. I also enjoy the fact that he lives at a Chan monastery, and seems to integrate, with his life and his teaching, a universal Buddhist path with the suttas/sutras as his foundation.

Any time my Zen friends call Theravada "selfish," I point them to Bhikkhu Bodhi. Anytime my Theravada friends criticize Mahayana, I point them to Bhikkhu Bodhi.

Perhaps even more than HHDL, Bhikkhu Bodhi is a living representation of what Buddhist practice in the West can strive to be.
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Re: Why not Theravada

Postby Arjan Dirkse » Tue Oct 30, 2012 4:29 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:
Arjan Dirkse wrote:Overall, I really feel myself drawn to Theravada. It seems relatively straight forward, with an emphasis on meditation and rigorous training, and at its core it seems to lack the supernatural tendencies present in some Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

I've read "In the Buddha's Words" by Bhikkhu Bodhi, and I really liked it. Does anyone have any advice on other interesting books about Theravada?



Bhikkhu Bodhi is outstanding. A great scholar, and a true Bodhisattva. His http://www.buddhistglobalrelief.org/ is an excellent example of a Theravada monk on a Bodhisattva path. I also enjoy the fact that he lives at a Chan monastery, and seems to integrate, with his life and his teaching, a universal Buddhist path with the suttas/sutras as his foundation.

Any time my Zen friends call Theravada "selfish," I point them to Bhikkhu Bodhi. Anytime my Theravada friends criticize Mahayana, I point them to Bhikkhu Bodhi.

Perhaps even more than HHDL, Bhikkhu Bodhi is a living representation of what Buddhist practice in the West can strive to be.


The "selfish" aspect of Theravada is something that I thought about...I think that just because Theravada doesn't seem to spell out the need to save all sentient beings, doesn't mean that Theravadins don't have the compassion that does in fact save all sentient beings...it is just the right thing to do, right action according to the Noble Eightfold Path, if you will.

The Buddha himself helped others see enlightenment, so how could that action - helping others to see enlightenment - not be a part of Theravada?
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Re: Why not Theravada

Postby BuddhaSoup » Tue Oct 30, 2012 4:34 pm

Arjan Dirkse wrote:
BuddhaSoup wrote:
Arjan Dirkse wrote:


The "selfish" aspect of Theravada is something that I thought about...I think that just because Theravada doesn't seem to spell out the need to save all sentient beings, doesn't mean that Theravadins don't have the compassion that does in fact save all sentient beings...it is just the right thing to do, right action according to the Noble Eightfold Path, if you will.

The Buddha himself helped others see enlightenment, so how could that action - helping others to see enlightenment - not be a part of Theravada?


:good: :thumbsup:
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Re: Why not Theravada

Postby alpha » Tue Oct 30, 2012 8:18 pm

Lunngpo Summedho all the way......now retired.
Bhikkhu Boddhi suffers from terrible migraines.
Ajaan Sucito very technical.
Ajaan Chandapalo very kind.
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Re: Why not Theravada

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Oct 30, 2012 9:27 pm

Hi AJ,
Arjan Dirkse wrote:Overall, I really feel myself drawn to Theravada. It seems relatively straight forward, with an emphasis on meditation and rigorous training, and at its core it seems to lack the supernatural tendencies present in some Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

I've read "In the Buddha's Words" by Bhikkhu Bodhi, and I really liked it. Does anyone have any advice on other interesting books about Theravada?

You might be interested in the talks he gave based on that book:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=2392
http://www.noblepath.org/audio.html
And his talks on the Majjhima Nikaya which pre-date In the Buddha's Words, but uses the same system of classification:
http://bodhimonastery.org/a-systematic- ... ikaya.html
And there are other talk series there:
http://bodhimonastery.org/religion/audios
And some other talks here:
http://www.audiodharma.org/teacher/19/
http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/33/


:anjali:
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Re: Why not Theravada

Postby Zenda » Tue Oct 30, 2012 9:35 pm

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Re: Why not Theravada

Postby PorkChop » Tue Oct 30, 2012 10:43 pm

Arjan Dirkse wrote:Overall, I really feel myself drawn to Theravada. It seems relatively straight forward, with an emphasis on meditation and rigorous training, and at its core it seems to lack the supernatural tendencies present in some Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.


Given that my introduction to Thai Theravadan Buddhism came via receiving a protection amulet and a couple protection bracelets, I'm not so sure I'd agree with that assessment.
There are a lot of "supernatural" occurrences described in the Pali Suttas.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el273.html
When Ananda reached one hundred and twenty years, he felt that his death was near. He went from Rajagaha on a journey to Vesali, just as his master had done. When the king of Magadha and the princes of Vesali heard that Ananda would soon die, they hurried to him from both directions to bid him farewell. In order to do justice to both sides, Ananda chose a way to die in keeping with his gentle nature: he raised himself into the air through his supernormal powers and let his body be consumed by the fire element. The relics were divided and stupas erected.
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Re: Why not Theravada

Postby Arjan Dirkse » Tue Oct 30, 2012 11:36 pm

PorkChop wrote:
Arjan Dirkse wrote:Overall, I really feel myself drawn to Theravada. It seems relatively straight forward, with an emphasis on meditation and rigorous training, and at its core it seems to lack the supernatural tendencies present in some Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.


Given that my introduction to Thai Theravadan Buddhism came via receiving a protection amulet and a couple protection bracelets, I'm not so sure I'd agree with that assessment.
There are a lot of "supernatural" occurrences described in the Pali Suttas.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el273.html
When Ananda reached one hundred and twenty years, he felt that his death was near. He went from Rajagaha on a journey to Vesali, just as his master had done. When the king of Magadha and the princes of Vesali heard that Ananda would soon die, they hurried to him from both directions to bid him farewell. In order to do justice to both sides, Ananda chose a way to die in keeping with his gentle nature: he raised himself into the air through his supernormal powers and let his body be consumed by the fire element. The relics were divided and stupas erected.


Alright then :lol:

Still from what I have read and heard about, for instance, the Forest Sangha, I believe their practice is fairly straightforward. More about psychological training than magical Buddha power hocus pocus. I hope I'm not wrong about that. :?

Maybe there are others within the Theravada tradition that do believe in the power of protection bracelets, and that's great for them - but I want to keep myself as far away from that as I can. I think something that's uncomplicated, and down to Earth suits me better.
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Re: Why not Theravada

Postby catmoon » Tue Oct 30, 2012 11:39 pm

There's tons of down to earth stuff available whichever way you choose to go.
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Re: Why not Theravada

Postby BuddhaSoup » Tue Oct 30, 2012 11:42 pm

Arjan Dirkse wrote:
PorkChop wrote:
Arjan Dirkse wrote:Overall, I really feel myself drawn to Theravada. It seems relatively straight forward, with an emphasis on meditation and rigorous training, and at its core it seems to lack the supernatural tendencies present in some Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.


Given that my introduction to Thai Theravadan Buddhism came via receiving a protection amulet and a couple protection bracelets, I'm not so sure I'd agree with that assessment.
There are a lot of "supernatural" occurrences described in the Pali Suttas.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el273.html
When Ananda reached one hundred and twenty years, he felt that his death was near. He went from Rajagaha on a journey to Vesali, just as his master had done. When the king of Magadha and the princes of Vesali heard that Ananda would soon die, they hurried to him from both directions to bid him farewell. In order to do justice to both sides, Ananda chose a way to die in keeping with his gentle nature: he raised himself into the air through his supernormal powers and let his body be consumed by the fire element. The relics were divided and stupas erected.


Alright then :lol:

Still from what I have read and heard about, for instance, the Forest Sangha, I believe their practice is fairly straightforward. More about psychological training than magical Buddha power hocus pocus. I hope I'm not wrong about that. :?

Maybe there are others within the Theravada tradition that do believe in the power of protection bracelets, and that's great for them - but I want to keep myself as far away from that as I can. I think something that's uncomplicated, and down to Earth suits me better.


There are many Thai Wats, with the Forest Tradition included, where you won't see the amulets and protection bracelets. These items are vestiges of old Siam customs and practices, and have nothing to do with traditional Theravada. Many of the lay people in Thailand enjoy these things rooted in their culture, and some city monks play on these superstitions in order to raise money. It's kind of unseemly, and at the same time, kind of charming, once you understand the root of these practices. Some Wats survive by giving the lay people what they want, even when what is wanted is superstition and magic amulets.
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Re: Why not Theravada

Postby PorkChop » Wed Oct 31, 2012 7:43 am

BuddhaSoup wrote:There are many Thai Wats, with the Forest Tradition included, where you won't see the amulets and protection bracelets. These items are vestiges of old Siam customs and practices, and have nothing to do with traditional Theravada. Many of the lay people in Thailand enjoy these things rooted in their culture, and some city monks play on these superstitions in order to raise money. It's kind of unseemly, and at the same time, kind of charming, once you understand the root of these practices. Some Wats survive by giving the lay people what they want, even when what is wanted is superstition and magic amulets.


Well there is some debate on whether or not it's allowed for Theravadan Bikkhus, but the practice in Buddhism dates well before Buddhism arrived in Thailand.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... .ch10.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .piya.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .piya.html (Ratana sutta - the Jewel Discourse)

What is worth noting here is that all of these parittas (sic. allowable protection charms) stake their power on skillful qualities in the mind of the person chanting them: good will, respect for the Triple Gem, and truthfulness. Thus, other self-protective charms that stake their power on skillful qualities of mind would seem to be allowable under the Great Standards. Charms based on unskillful mental states, such as the desire to bring harm to whatever is threatening one's safety, would not.


FYI - One of the temples where I received a protection amulet is a Thai Forest temple with lineage to Ajaan Muhn. The associated chant with the protection amulet describes the qualities of the Buddha.

In the end, it's all skillful means - whether you're talking Theravada, Mahayana, or Vajrayana.
The goal is to ease suffering for yourself and others.
The goal is not to be performing magic tricks.
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Why not Theravada

Postby GrahamR » Wed Oct 31, 2012 8:07 am

zAnt wrote:Why choose Mahayana over Theravada? I see minor differences, but why have you choose this path? Is it because it was what you where first introduced to? Was it the only Dharma school near you? What are the different practices?


Why worry about titles or names, just practice.

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Re: Why not Theravada

Postby TaTa » Wed Oct 31, 2012 7:42 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:
TaTa wrote:I dont know much but I've noticed that theravada practitioners rely more on scriptures to "justify" or give credibility to what they think is correct instead of logic and experience.(of curse im generalizing, not to offend anyone). Besides that i really like theravada and I intend to study it more deeply before immersing myself totally in mahayana and vajrayana teachings.


Historians have done a decent job authenticating which of the Suttas capture the Buddha's words and teachings. For this reason, it can be really helpful, if one is a Buddhist, to observe what the Buddha taught.

To suggest that one should dispense with the teachings, and instead rely on logic and experience, might lead you down the wrong path. To me, the Suttas are the roadmap. If you wish to travel to Ireland, and drive from Dublin to Donegal relying on logic and experience, you will end up in Cork. My advice, in navigating Irish roads, as well as life, is to use the roadmap.

There's no reason for practitioners of Mahayana and Vajrayana to dispense with the Suttas. In fact, early Mahayana and early Vajrayana all incorporated the Suttas and the identical Sutras as foundational to practice. I believe it was only later in time (14th, 15th century) that Mahayana teachers began to suggest that practice was accomplished without texts and with direct experience. These teachings cut against the teachings of their masters, but perhaps this was an effort to get away from the monastic side of practice and open the practice to the appetites of the laity.


It wasn't my intention to say that a non sutta path is the best. Is of my understanding that there is a lot of sutta study in the kagyu linage (the one im working on). I just wanted to say that when i discuss dharma with theravada practicioners i usually get that kind of response. Sutta quoting for me is useful but more as a detail than the "main" reason for something to be right or wrong.

Its interesting what you said about historians, ill do my research. I'm the kind of guy that thinks " the scriptures came 200 years after Buddha died so don't know which one is the buddha's words " But ill try to find out more. If you have some source it will be appreciated

I wish i made myself clear, my english is kind of rusty.

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Re: Why not Theravada

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Oct 31, 2012 8:57 pm

Hi TaTa,
TaTa wrote:It wasn't my intention to say that a non sutta path is the best. Is of my understanding that there is a lot of sutta study in the kagyu linage (the one im working on). I just wanted to say that when i discuss dharma with theravada practicioners i usually get that kind of response. Sutta quoting for me is useful but more as a detail than the "main" reason for something to be right or wrong.

Is this in on-line, or in "live" interactions? There's certainly a Theravada sub-culture, especially on-line, that gives the impression that any question about Dhamma or Dhamma-practice can be best answered by analysis of the Suttas. I don't notice that nearly so much in "real life", and it's partly the nature of on-line forums. Discussing analysis on-line is a natural thing to do. Analysing experience less so...

Most "live" Theravadins I know would incline more to this view:
"We don't use the Pali Canon as a basis for orthodoxy, we use the Pali Canon to investigate our experience."
-- Ajahn Sumedho

[I can't locate a source of that quote, though it's all over the internet...]

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