Mahayana and Theravada

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Mahayana and Theravada

Postby Prometheus » Tue Jun 05, 2012 5:09 pm

I'm looking to practice Buddhism, but i have some concerns on where to start. I'm wondering if anyone can help me with these beginner questions

What are the differences between Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism?

If the Buddha only taught one dharma, why are there these two vehicles to choose from?

Perhaps most important:In choosing a path, how best to find the best one for me?

Sorry if these question have been addressed elsewhere, please direct me there.
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Re: Mahayana and Theravada

Postby Anders » Tue Jun 05, 2012 7:01 pm

Prometheus wrote:I'm looking to practice Buddhism, but i have some concerns on where to start. I'm wondering if anyone can help me with these beginner questions

What are the differences between Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism?


There are a lot. The most obvious is that Theravada takes the path of the arhat, of full liberation in this liberation, as the ideal and Mahayana takes the bodhisattva path, working towards eventual Buddhahood for the sake of all other beings, as the ideal.

Besides this, there is the historical factor whereby Theravada is the only one of the pre-mahayana schools that survive today. But there are dozens of surviving Mahayana schools. So the question is not just "What are the differences between Mahayana and Theravada?" but also "what are the differences between all the different mahayana schools?"

If the Buddha only taught one dharma, why are there these two vehicles to choose from?


Buddhism is a living and vibrant tradition. Rather than simply keeping to saying things exactly the same way the Buddha said it and refusing to make interpretation, successive generations have tried their best to present the path in ways accessible to the generations of their time and also to clarify various doubts. It's these differences in presentation and interpretation that have created different schools.

But they nevertheless agree that the Buddha taught only liberation and it is this same core they all seek to point back towards. So although there may be differences in the school, the Nirvana they aim for practitioners to realise is hopefully the same.

Perhaps most important:In choosing a path, how best to find the best one for me?

Whichever one you find yourself to have the most affinity with. This may also boil down to finding a guru you have affinity with.

Sorry if these question have been addressed elsewhere, please direct me there.


I am sure they have, but we shouldn't mind repeating ourselves. Give it a few years of talking about Buddhism and you'll basically find yourself repeating yourself most of the time anyway. It's good practise.

Best of luck and keep the questions coming if you have them.

rgds
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Re: Mahayana and Theravada

Postby NIRMAL2 » Tue Jun 05, 2012 8:18 pm

Common ground in meditation

Breathing with sunyata corresponds to breathing in Theravada.

The 'victorious bodhicitta' corresponds to 'the merciful mind'

The 'unattainability of mind in the three times' corresponds to 'mind is impermanent'

The 'eight negatives' correspond to 'discrimination of elements'

The 'three wheels of sunyata' correspond to 'all dharmas without self'

The 'six similes of the Diamond Sutra' correspond to "dependent origination', 'all feelings are painful' and 'the body is impure'

The 'four unborns' corresponds to 'all dharmas without self'

The 'eight negatives' corresponds to 'discrimination of elements'
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Re: Mahayana and Theravada

Postby Wesley1982 » Tue Jun 05, 2012 11:39 pm

Prometheus wrote:Perhaps most important:In choosing a path, how best to find the best one for me?


My path in life is decided by what I can understand and "trodding" it to the best of my knowledge.

a) What others say
b) Your reponse to what others say
c) Time & Effort
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Re: Mahayana and Theravada

Postby Wesley1982 » Tue Jun 05, 2012 11:55 pm

Prometheus wrote:What are the differences between Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism?

The differences were likely culminated by 2500 years of dharma practice.
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Re: Mahayana and Theravada

Postby Prometheus » Wed Jun 06, 2012 3:57 pm

Thanks for the answers.

Anders wrote: Buddhism is a living and vibrant tradition. Rather than simply keeping to saying things exactly the same way the Buddha said it and refusing to make interpretation, successive generations have tried their best to present the path in ways accessible to the generations of their time and also to clarify various doubts. It's these differences in presentation and interpretation that have created different schools.

But they nevertheless agree that the Buddha taught only liberation and it is this same core they all seek to point back towards. So although there may be differences in the school, the Nirvana they aim for practitioners to realise is hopefully the same.


With so many paths to choose from how is one to decide what is and what isn't wholesome? Some things may be obvious with a little inspection, but other things are hard to discern. For instance there are Buddhist schools near me that teach rebirth is not true in any literal sense. I understand that this would have a great bearing in attaining liberation?

Wesley1982 wrote:My path in life is decided by what I can understand and "trodding" it to the best of my knowledge.

a) What others say
b) Your reponse to what others say
c) Time & Effort


Indeed, it was the Kalama sutra which brought Buddhism to my attention. But how am i to know whether those things i myself find wholesome really are. In particular, what am i to do if what i find wholesome is different to the Buddha's teachings?

nirmal wrote:The 'victorious bodhicitta' corresponds to 'the merciful mind'
'


Is then the path of the arhat to be found in Mahayana traditions and the bodhisattva path in Theravada traditions, the difference being primarily one of emphasis?
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Re: Mahayana and Theravada

Postby kirtu » Wed Jun 06, 2012 5:38 pm

Prometheus wrote:
nirmal wrote:The 'victorious bodhicitta' corresponds to 'the merciful mind'
'


Is then the path of the Arhat to be found in Mahayana traditions and the bodhisattva path in Theravada traditions, the difference being primarily one of emphasis?


The Arhat paths in the Mahayana and the Thervada are the same in terms of goal, personal liberation from samsara. However this goal is specialized in Theravada and so I would now expect differences in advanced training. Since most monks and laypeople doing the advanced training don't talk about it except in biographies published after death, we don't know enough about this training. If any info about advanced training exists the the sister site, DhammaWheel, will have it. In the Vajrayana, basically Arhat training is glossed because the goal there is to attain full Buddhahood in this lifetime.

Nonetheless there is more than enough authentic teaching from the Theravada to actually attain the Arhat path in this lifetime, if one is inclined to it.

Bodhisattva training in the Theravada and Mahayana is different. The bodhisattva path is fully developed in several Mahayana and all Vajrayana schools. In the Theravada school it seems that the bodhisattva training there is limited to just merit accumulation because their view is that it takes one uncountable eon to accumulate the causes and conditions to become a Bodhisattva (and will then take two uncountable eons to actually become a Buddha) and so they don't apparently teach mind training (or not much of it), in order to not prematurely derail the Bodhisattva in training to Arhatship.

Anders said earlier:
Anders wrote:Besides this, there is the historical factor whereby Theravada is the only one of the pre-mahayana schools that survive today.


This isn't completely correct. Theravada is not a direct survival of one of the (18?) pre-Mahayana schools. It stems from at least two of those schools and developed further. Perhaps someone could suggest a history of the Theravada beyond their canonical myth?

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Re: Mahayana and Theravada

Postby Wesley1982 » Thu Jun 07, 2012 3:28 pm

Prometheus wrote:Indeed, it was the Kalama sutra which brought Buddhism to my attention. But how am i to know whether those things i myself find wholesome really are. In particular, what am i to do if what i find wholesome is different to the Buddha's teachings?


That is up to you. I think the Buddha always welcomed someone who paid attention or is a good listener.
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Re: Mahayana and Theravada

Postby Spirituality » Thu Jun 07, 2012 8:48 pm

Just take it slow. Try out the various groups in the neighborhood. Google terminology you don't know. Try meditation. If you believe in reincarnation, the group that ignores it (following Steve Batchelor perhaps?) is probably not the one for you. You don't have to pick one anyhow. If at some point you feel you trust Buddhism enough to take refuge, that still doesn't imply having to choose a particular school of buddhism. Most of us aren't going to be either Buddhas or arhats or even Bodhisattvas in this lifetime anyhow.

And even if you do become a Buddhist and settle on a particular school: the Dalai Lama himself says that when he finds Buddhism is wrong, he goes with what he knows is right. You do not have to shelve your analytical mind to become a Buddhist.

Just take whatever of Buddhism that helps you become a better person and seems reasonable, shelf the rest.
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Re: Mahayana and Theravada

Postby Prometheus » Sun Jun 10, 2012 7:29 pm

kirtu wrote:Bodhisattva training in the Theravada and Mahayana is different. The bodhisattva path is fully developed in several Mahayana and all Vajrayana schools. In the Theravada school it seems that the bodhisattva training there is limited to just merit accumulation because their view is that it takes one uncountable eon to accumulate the causes and conditions to become a Bodhisattva (and will then take two uncountable eons to actually become a Buddha) and so they don't apparently teach mind training (or not much of it), in order to not prematurely derail the Bodhisattva in training to Arhatship.


Could you expand on this point a little? And what exactly is mind training, different forms of meditation?

Thanks
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