what's the fundamental difference?

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what's the fundamental difference?

Postby lowlydog » Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:44 am

Hi all,

What is the fundamental difference between Mahayana, Vajrayana, and Theravaden buddhism?
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Re: what's the fundamental difference?

Postby zAnt » Wed Oct 31, 2012 1:08 am

From what I have learned recently, just that Theravada is much more scripture based, following more of what Buddha taught I. It's original context. Mahayana is where they take a step forward, using logic and life to teach what the Buddha taught, with more of a focus on the compassionate side and helping nature of men. Apparently, the two sides have some sort of light rivalry between another on which is the more pure form. Saying that Mahayana is more of an expansion pack to Theravada and that it is a short cut. From me being non-Buddhist, and just looking at what they are. Theravada is more focused towards ones self of enlightenment and Mahayana is where it's your responsibility to teach others of the Buddha. Both seem like excellent paths, but like most, I prefer Mahayana over the others, because it seems much more helpful to others and is more understanding of the practitioner. Either path you take, they both lead to the same town. It's the journey that is different.
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Re: what's the fundamental difference?

Postby lowlydog » Wed Oct 31, 2012 1:21 am

Hi zAnt,

Do you mean the difference lies within the reaching of the final goal?
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Re: what's the fundamental difference?

Postby tomamundsen » Wed Oct 31, 2012 1:27 am

Well, there's different ways of looking at it. If you want the fundamental difference, I suppose you can say that the fundamental difference between Theravada and Mahayana is the attitude or aspiration. Theravada has a clear goal of attaining Nibbana by yourself, because it's not possible to liberate others. Mahayana has the goal of liberating all sentient beings from Samsara. Now Vajrayana is actually Mahayana, the fundamental difference being the methods utilized. Mahayana uses exoteric methods of meditation, whereas Vajrayana uses esoteric methods that require empowerment from deities and involve working with ourselves at the level of channels, winds, and drops.

There is also a difference in the results. Theravada results in arahantship, Mahayana results in Buddhahood. However, Vajaryana proposes superior forms of Buddhahood that are not reachable through the common Mahayana.

There is also a difference in the countries where these vehicles have been adopted and the resulting cultural accretions to the traditions. For example, (Tibetan) Vajrayana has adopted protector practices because the ancient adepts tamed the local spirits of the Bonpos to aid in Dharma practice. One can go on and on about all of the differences between the vehicles, but if you ask more specific questions, we'd be happy to discuss. :smile:
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Re: what's the fundamental difference?

Postby lowlydog » Wed Oct 31, 2012 1:42 am

Hi tomamundsen,

By attaining Nibbana, do you mean the complete irradication of ones ignorance?
Does your use of the word liberation have another meaning?

I appreciate all the information you provided, I would like to start this investigation from the finish line and work backwards. Just to be safe Nibbana and Nirvana are interchangable right?
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Re: what's the fundamental difference?

Postby tomamundsen » Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:15 am

lowlydog wrote:Hi tomamundsen,

By attaining Nibbana, do you mean the complete irradication of ones ignorance?
Does your use of the word liberation have another meaning?

I appreciate all the information you provided, I would like to start this investigation from the finish line and work backwards. Just to be safe Nibbana and Nirvana are interchangable right?

Hi lowlydog,

I'm using Nibbana instead of Nirvana to emphasize that I'm talking about it from the Theravada perspective. So, not interchangeable.

From the Mahayana perspective, no, arahants attaining Nibbana do not eradicate all ignorance. Another big difference between the Theravada and Mahayana is the identification of afflictions. From a Mahayana perspective, there are two type of obscurations (or afflictions): emotional and cognitive. Arahants remove all emotional obscurations and thus are liberated from Samsara; they no longer suffer. Mahayana doesn't dispute that claim. However, arahants still have remaining cognitive obscurations that distinguish them from Buddhas. The way I was using liberation in the last post indicated eradication of emotional obscurations.

So, in terms of the finish line, we have eradication of emotional obscurations in Theravada, and eradication of both emotional and cognitive obscurations in Mahyana. If you want to go out into the weeds a little, common Mahayana talks about Buddhahood as being the 11th bhumi. Now, Mahamudra in Tibetan Sarma schools (Kagyu, Sakya, Gelug) talks about a result at the 13th bhumi. I don't know much about the 13th bhumi of the Sarma system other than its name and that it is supposed to be the stage where you "realize the universe as being a display of your own wisdom." Going even further into the weeds, Dzogchen in Nyingma talks about the 16th bhumi which is Buddhahood without residue. The idea is that anyone below the 16th bhumi will be reborn as an ignorant sentient being at the start of the next kalpa, whereas the 16th bhumi Buddhas (yeshe lama) don't have such residue.
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Re: what's the fundamental difference?

Postby Konchog1 » Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:26 am

Mahayana has Bodhicitta. Theravada does not. Vajrayana is a more mystical add on to Mahayana.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: what's the fundamental difference?

Postby lowlydog » Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:32 am

Thanks for the info, lots to digest. A little confused on the interchangability of nibbana and nirvana, why are they not interchangeable other than the language difference?
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Re: what's the fundamental difference?

Postby Yudron » Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:40 am

Konchog1 wrote:Mahayana has Bodhicitta. Theravada does not. Vajrayana is a more mystical add on to Mahayana.


As I understand it, Theravada does not hold that all sentient beings have buddha nature. Also, the emptiness of phenomena is looked at differently in the Theravada than the Mahayana/Vajrayana.

The flavor is also very different, you can compare by flipping back and forth between the Dhammawheel website and the Dharmawheel website.

Nibbana and nirvana are the same word.
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Re: what's the fundamental difference?

Postby tomamundsen » Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:52 am

lowlydog wrote:Thanks for the info, lots to digest. A little confused on the interchangability of nibbana and nirvana, why are they not interchangeable other than the language difference?

Well, it's more of the connotation of the word. There is the idea of abiding nirvana vs. non-abiding nirvana. Theravada results in an abiding nirvana. Mahayana sees Samsara and Nirvana as both arising from the mind and thus different sides of the same coin. So, Bodhisattvas and Buddhas can attain a non-abiding nirvana where they can help beings in Samsara while still being liberated from suffering themselves.
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Re: what's the fundamental difference?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Oct 31, 2012 8:53 am

zAnt wrote:From what I have learned recently, just that Theravada is much more scripture based, following more of what Buddha taught I. It's original context. Mahayana is where they take a step forward, using logic and life to teach what the Buddha taught, with more of a focus on the compassionate side and helping nature of men.
Where do you get this "information" (for want of a better word) from? There is a HUGE mahayana canon. Theravadra has a long and distinguished history of "using logic and life to teach what the Buddha taught". Theravadra also has meditations to generate and develop compassion (Brahma vihara meditations, for example).
Saying that Mahayana is more of an expansion pack to Theravada and that it is a short cut.
It would be clearer to say that Mahayana developed from within Theravadra. And that its later develop was more influenced by the east Asian traditions it encountered as it journeyed towards the east.
Theravada is more focused towards ones self of enlightenment and Mahayana is where it's your responsibility to teach others of the Buddha.
Neither tradition has an emphasis on missionary work. Mahayana differs in that it tends to place importance on the enlightenment of others (freedom from suffering) above ones own liberation. Not that one does not strive for one's liberation in the Mahayana, just that there are more options in terms of: liberating oneself first and then leading others, guiding others towards liberation and then liberating oneself, reaching liberation together with others.
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: what's the fundamental difference?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Oct 31, 2012 8:58 am

Konchog1 wrote:Mahayana has Bodhicitta. Theravada does not.

images.jpg
images.jpg (7.38 KiB) Viewed 1329 times
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: what's the fundamental difference?

Postby joda » Wed Oct 31, 2012 10:03 am

lowlydog wrote:What is the fundamental difference between Mahayana, Vajrayana, and Theravaden buddhism?


Nowadays the fundamental difference is imo that they accept different sources as authentic. While the Theravadins accept the Tripitaka as authentic, of which the Suttapitaka is academically considered to still have some traces of what the historical Buddha taught, both Mahayana and Vajrayana have a whole load of own Sutras and Shastras. Those texts can contain all sorts of things ranging from philosophical debate, over summaries of a schools teachings up to mystical/magical content.
How Mahayana actually came to be is still not fully understood. In the early 20th century people thought that it had come from an early school called Mahasamgika, but that has been overthrown as incorrect. A problem is that the socalled Mahayana sources are a wide range of scriptures which emerged to different times in different places and inhabited often a huge amount of regional influence. Compare Zen Buddhism to Vajrayana for example. Another problem is that many westerners look at Mahayana through the lens of Vajrayana indoctrination which results in all sorts of rather surprising misconceptions of which we have seen two or three even in this thread.
If you are interested in things like this I would suggest grabbing editions of the books by Paul Williams which give very good insight.
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Re: what's the fundamental difference?

Postby Astus » Wed Oct 31, 2012 10:57 am

First it should be clarified what they are that you want to see the difference between. Theravada is a specific school that is based on Pali language canonical and extra-canonical works with several regional varieties in South Asia. Mahayana and Vajrayana are not schools, they don't have their own organisation or any fixed canon, they are rather types of teachings and practices. However, what people usually mean by Mahayana is every other existing Buddhist schools besides Theravada, and by Vajrayana it is usually Tibetan Buddhism. Therefore, for practical and historical reasons, Buddhism is divided to regional areas, that is: South (mainly Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand; source is Sri Lanka), East (mainly China, Korea, Vietnam, Japan; source is China), North (mainly Tibet, Bhutan, Mongolia; source is Tibet). These three regions first of all use different canonical languages, developed on their own mostly without connection to the other two, and also represent distinct cultural areas. One more important thing is that they use slightly different monastic regulations, and since Buddhism's primary upholders are the monastics, the lineages are first of all defined by ordination type.
"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)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“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; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: what's the fundamental difference?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Oct 31, 2012 11:27 am

I reckon the fundamental difference is that they are all Buddhist! Image
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: what's the fundamental difference?

Postby tomamundsen » Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:56 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:I reckon the fundamental difference is that they are all Buddhist!Image

Greg, has everyone here made you looney? :rolleye:
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Re: what's the fundamental difference?

Postby lowlydog » Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:27 pm

tomamundsen wrote:
lowlydog wrote:Thanks for the info, lots to digest. A little confused on the interchangability of nibbana and nirvana, why are they not interchangeable other than the language difference?

Well, it's more of the connotation of the word. There is the idea of abiding nirvana vs. non-abiding nirvana. Theravada results in an abiding nirvana. Mahayana sees Samsara and Nirvana as both arising from the mind and thus different sides of the same coin. So, Bodhisattvas and Buddhas can attain a non-abiding nirvana where they can help beings in Samsara while still being liberated from suffering themselves.


Hi all,

First off, thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge. I'm new to Mahayana but find it all facinating. :reading:

Hi Toma,

I think this idea of non-abiding nirvana is the fundamental difference.

Non abiding Nirvana is the state of Buddhahood itself, It is the goal that all Bodhisattvas, namely those who have made a vow to become a Buddha for the sake of all sentient beings, aspire to. This state is neither Samsara or Nirvana.

So, Nibbana = Nirvana, but a Buddha is not extinct, a Buddha resides in this state known as non abiding Nirvana which lies between Samsara and Nirvana/Nibbana watching over us.

If my understanding is correct up to this point,

Is the Buddha residing in the stream of consciousness(the flow of thoughts in the conscious mind) as the thoughts free from greed, hatred, and ignorance?
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Re: what's the fundamental difference?

Postby zAnt » Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:51 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:Where do you get this "information" (for want of a better word) from?

You guys. I've asked many questions and read many answers. From both Dhammawheel.com and Dharmawheel.net
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Re: what's the fundamental difference?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Oct 31, 2012 3:20 pm

zAnt wrote:You guys.
Image
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: what's the fundamental difference?

Postby PorkChop » Wed Oct 31, 2012 4:43 pm

zAnt wrote:
gregkavarnos wrote:Where do you get this "information" (for want of a better word) from?

You guys. I've asked many questions and read many answers. From both Dhammawheel.com and Dharmawheel.net


In your other thread, it was pointed out that they are a lot more similar than is popularly thought:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_Poi ... 1y%C4%81na

Mahayana has extra sutras and an extra cast of characters (Avalokiteshvara, et al).
Personally, I'm a big fan of Nagarjuna and the Madhyamaka school; though sometimes I agree with Ajahn Chah's comments on the Heart Sutra:
This is talking about deep wisdom beyond all conventions. How could we teach without them? We have to have names for things, isn’t that so?.
Either way, Mahayana gets this bad rap for being all "magical"; when in reality supernatural occurrences are common to all traditions - that was my point in the other thread.

For whatever reason, Theravada has attracted a lot of atheists in the west.
I've often seen them online trying to supplant the doctrinal Theravadan world view with their own - reddit.com/r/Buddhism can be bad for this.
Whatever flavor of Buddhism (Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana), there will be certain schools that place more focus on experience than on doctrine.
Many traditions focus on meditative practice & practical application of wisdom and compassion, rather than reading a ton of sutras/suttas.

But in the end, all flavors of Buddhism are experiential with a grounding in doctrine.
If you're going into things with a closed mind about what is what, then you're probably going to miss something important.
At the same time, blindly accepting something is never good, you should always question everything.
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