Avoiding the stream?

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

Re: Avoiding the stream?

Postby lowlydog » Tue Nov 13, 2012 12:50 pm

pueraeternus wrote:The vow to become a fully enlightened Buddha. If you have this vow to attain Buddhahood, then you are a Bodhisattva. If you vow to free yourself from samsara and without any specific intention to help others free themselves, then your goal is probably Arhathood.



We must practice different techniques, because I find it impossible to practice without the intention to help other beings. My whole meditation could be interpreted as contact with other beings with the intention to help them come out of suffering.

I have not however taken a formal vow to become a fully enlightened Buddha, I simply practice to the best of my ability.

Gotama sat with the strong determination not to flinch until he was fully enlightened, this is simply one of the perfections we must develope through practice.
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Re: Avoiding the stream?

Postby pueraeternus » Tue Nov 13, 2012 2:41 pm

Huseng wrote:
pueraeternus wrote:For example, Nagarjuna was very explicit that for a Bodhisattva to fall into the state of an Arhat, that means the final end of his career and he will never attain Buddhahood.


Where did you get this from?


From his Bodhisambharasastra (using Bhiksu Dharmamitra's translation):
The grounds of the Sravakas or the Pratyekabuddhas,
If entered, constitute "death" for him
Because he would thereby sever the roots
Of the Bodhisattva's understanding and awareness.

At the prospect of falling into the hell-realms,
The Bodhisattva would not be struck with fright.
The grounds of the Sravakas and the Pratyekabuddhas
Do provoke great terror in him.

It is not the case that falling into the hell realms
Would create an ultimate obstacle to bodhi.
If one fell onto the grounds of the Sravakas or Pratyekabuddhas,
That would create an ultimate obstacle.

Just as is said of one who loves long life
That he is frightened at the prospect of being beheaded,
So too the grounds of the Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas
Should provoke in one this very sort of fear.


Then several verses later, he used the famous analogy of the archer keeping his arrows in the air by firing one against the back of the another:
"In this matter of nirvana,
I must not immediately invoke its realization."
One should initiate this sort of resolve,
For one must succeed in ripening the perfection of wisdom.

Just as an archer might shoot his arrows upwards,
Causing each in succession to strike the one before,
Each holding up the other so none are allowed to fall -
Just so it is with the great Bodhisattva.

Into the emptiness of the gates to liberation,
He skillfully releases the arrows of the mind.
Through artful skillful means, arrows are continuously held aloft,
So none are allowed to fall back down into nirvana


Nāgārjuna in his Mahāprājñā-pāramitôpadeśa states the follows:

問曰:阿羅漢先世因緣所受身必應當滅,住在何處而具足佛道?
答曰:得阿羅漢時,三界諸漏因緣盡,更不復生三界。有淨佛土,出於三界,乃至無煩惱之名,於是國土佛所,聞《法華經》,具足佛道。如《法華經》說:「有羅漢,若不聞《法華經》,自謂得滅度;我於餘國為說是事,汝皆當作佛。 (CBETA, T25, no. 1509, p. 714, a9-15)

Question -- Arhats in their past lives must have extinguished all the conditions and conditions to receive a new body. Where do they abide and perfect the Buddha's path?
Answer -- When one attains arhatship all contaminated causes and conditions of the three realms are extinguished and one is no longer reborn in the three realms. There is a pure Buddha-land beyond the three realms, even being without the word 'defilements'. In this realm, the place of the Buddha, they hear the Lotus Sūtra, and perfect the Buddha's path. As the Lotus Sūtra says, "There are arhats who, if they have not heard the Lotus Sūtra, think of themselves as having attained cessation. In another realm I explain this: you all will become buddhas."


To be honest, as much as I like the Mahaprajnaparamitasastra (I love encyclopedic works such as this), I am not 100% sure of the provenance of the authorship. Are there more recent academic research on this?
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Re: Avoiding the stream?

Postby pueraeternus » Tue Nov 13, 2012 2:46 pm

lowlydog wrote:
We must practice different techniques, because I find it impossible to practice without the intention to help other beings. My whole meditation could be interpreted as contact with other beings with the intention to help them come out of suffering.

I have not however taken a formal vow to become a fully enlightened Buddha, I simply practice to the best of my ability.


Then I would say that there is nothing wrong with such motivation, and it is commendable.

lowlydog wrote: Gotama sat with the strong determination not to flinch until he was fully enlightened, this is simply one of the perfections we must develope through practice.


True. But even in Theravada, the Buddha did commit himself to such specific vows for many eons, which is the reason why both Sravakayana and Mahayana acknowledges the need for such resolution if one is to become a Buddha. One do not become a Buddha by accident.
If you believe certain words, you believe their hidden arguments. When you believe something is right or wrong, true of false, you believe the assumptions in the words which express the arguments. Such assumptions are often full of holes, but remain most precious to the convinced.

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Re: Avoiding the stream?

Postby lowlydog » Tue Nov 13, 2012 11:24 pm

I thought the Buddha was just determined to find an end to suffering, I did not realize he took a vow to become a buddha.

What is the vow you take, is it just a verbal vow you recite and your done, or is there more to it?

I would think a vow would have to come from a place of very deep wisdom and understanding to be meritous. :thinking:
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Re: Avoiding the stream?

Postby pueraeternus » Wed Nov 14, 2012 12:45 am

lowlydog wrote:I thought the Buddha was just determined to find an end to suffering, I did not realize he took a vow to become a buddha.

What is the vow you take, is it just a verbal vow you recite and your done, or is there more to it?


I took my bodhisattva vows together with my refuge vows. Kneel before my master, recite after him.

lowlydog wrote: I would think a vow would have to come from a place of very deep wisdom and understanding to be meritous. :thinking:


You are somewhat right actually. The vows have been institutionalized and became a ceremony. I did take my vows with a deep sense of awe and faith, but I am not sure if I was (or am, to be honest) in the right gotra, or have done sufficient preliminary work to truly enter the bodhisattva path. That being said, even in the early Mahayana sutras, even the most perfunctory gesture of saying the vows have the effect of laying the definite seeds to become fully enlightened in the far future. In fact, in the Suramgamasamadhi sutra, in order to free himself from magical bonds, Mara pretended to arouse the anuttarasamyaksambodhicitta. Even with this act of deceit, the Buddha (knowing the intent of Mara) bestowed on him the prediction (vyakarana) of future Buddhahood.
If you believe certain words, you believe their hidden arguments. When you believe something is right or wrong, true of false, you believe the assumptions in the words which express the arguments. Such assumptions are often full of holes, but remain most precious to the convinced.

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Re: Avoiding the stream?

Postby lowlydog » Wed Nov 14, 2012 1:27 am

So, in the beginning they are more of a rite and ritual, but plant the seed for the future. Then as one progresses in wisdom they are meant to take on a deeper meaning.

This I can get on board with. :smile:

But the Buddha became fully enlightened and obviously not all beings are free from suffering, how come his circumstances are different?
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Re: Avoiding the stream?

Postby pueraeternus » Wed Nov 14, 2012 1:42 am

lowlydog wrote: But the Buddha became fully enlightened and obviously not all beings are free from suffering, how come his circumstances are different?


I am not sure if I understood your question. Could you rephrase it?
If you believe certain words, you believe their hidden arguments. When you believe something is right or wrong, true of false, you believe the assumptions in the words which express the arguments. Such assumptions are often full of holes, but remain most precious to the convinced.

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Re: Avoiding the stream?

Postby lowlydog » Wed Nov 14, 2012 2:18 am

I was under the impression that the vow was not to attain nibbana until all sentient beings are liberated.
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Re: Avoiding the stream?

Postby pueraeternus » Wed Nov 14, 2012 4:44 am

lowlydog wrote:I was under the impression that the vow was not to attain nibbana until all sentient beings are liberated.


Oh - there are actually 3 types of bodhicitta vows - the king-like (attain enlightenment 1st, then guide others), the ferryman-like (attain enlightenment along with others) and the shepherd-like (only attain enlightenment after all sentient beings have been enlightened).

As far as I know, the King-like is really the original bodhicitta vow, though it is usually considered the least courageous of the three. The other two were probably developed as "skillful devices" to arouse great compassion and pity.
If you believe certain words, you believe their hidden arguments. When you believe something is right or wrong, true of false, you believe the assumptions in the words which express the arguments. Such assumptions are often full of holes, but remain most precious to the convinced.

- The Open-Ended Proof from The Panoplia Prophetica
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Re: Avoiding the stream?

Postby lowlydog » Wed Nov 14, 2012 1:02 pm

So if the vow is the king-like, then I see no difference between a theravaden arahant who teaches to others and a mahayana buddha.

The ferryman path makes no sense to me.

The path of the shepherd seems impossible, as how do we practice and avoid entering the stream?(this was my original understanding of the vow expressed by others, and sparked this question)
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Re: Avoiding the stream?

Postby tomamundsen » Wed Nov 14, 2012 1:20 pm

lowlydog wrote:So if the vow is the king-like, then I see no difference between a theravaden arahant who teaches to others and a mahayana buddha.

The ferryman path makes no sense to me.

The path of the shepherd seems impossible, as how do we practice and avoid entering the stream?(this was my original understanding of the vow expressed by others, and sparked this question)

Well, it's kind of a moot question, IMO. Since Buddhas appear in Samsara, there is no worry about attaining the kind of cessation described in the Nikayas for those on the Mahayana path.
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Re: Avoiding the stream?

Postby pueraeternus » Wed Nov 14, 2012 5:06 pm

lowlydog wrote:So if the vow is the king-like, then I see no difference between a theravaden arahant who teaches to others and a mahayana buddha.


An Arhat's ability to teach the dharma cannot compare to the peerless ability of a Buddha. This is also recognized and accepted in Theravada. An Arhat also cannot turn the wheel and establish the teachings of a Buddha Sasana - so in time when the dharma is entirely forgotten and abandoned, only a Buddha can "restart" the teachings. Also, sentient beings can only attain Arhathood when a Buddha's sasana is still extant. When the dharma has vanished from this realm, only Pratyekabuddhas and Samyaksambuddhas can attain liberation on their own. So these are the differences between an Arhat and a Buddha.

lowlydog wrote: The path of the shepherd seems impossible, as how do we practice and avoid entering the stream?(this was my original understanding of the vow expressed by others, and sparked this question)


There is only need for a Bodhisattva to avoid entering the stream for the Arhat fruit, but not the entry to the 1st Bhumi (which is the stream-entry for Bodhisattvas). By activating the bodhicitta vow and cultivating it, the Bodhisattva avoids falling into the Sravaka and Pratyekabuddha grounds.
If you believe certain words, you believe their hidden arguments. When you believe something is right or wrong, true of false, you believe the assumptions in the words which express the arguments. Such assumptions are often full of holes, but remain most precious to the convinced.

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Re: Avoiding the stream?

Postby seeker242 » Wed Nov 14, 2012 5:29 pm

lowlydog wrote:I was under the impression that the vow was not to attain nibbana until all sentient beings are liberated.


I think it is more like not attaining pari-nibbana until all beings are liberated. That would be more accurate I think. :smile:
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Re: Avoiding the stream?

Postby lowlydog » Wed Nov 14, 2012 6:37 pm

pueraeternus wrote:There is only need for a Bodhisattva to avoid entering the stream for the Arhat fruit, but not the entry to the 1st Bhumi (which is the stream-entry for Bodhisattvas). By activating the bodhicitta vow and cultivating it, the Bodhisattva avoids falling into the Sravaka and Pratyekabuddha grounds.


So, this seems to be the fundamental difference between Theravaden and Mahayana practices, the activation(maturity) of the bodhicitta vow. Our individual practice of meditation could be indistinguishable between the two lineages, but if one has this seed it will mature and produce a Buddha fruit.

I'm just :thinking: if it is actually of any real importance to verbally say this vow or if it is more something that one would be inclined towards by simply following the path. It just seems a bit ritualistic for my tastes, but I suppose any one of us could have already taken this vow before. :smile:

I would also like to thank you for sharing your vast accumulation of knowledge with me, and for your patience. I'm learning a new language here, and it will take some time to absorbe all the information provided. Maybe a few more lifetimes. :tongue:
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Re: Avoiding the stream?

Postby pueraeternus » Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:08 pm

lowlydog wrote: So, this seems to be the fundamental difference between Theravaden and Mahayana practices, the activation(maturity) of the bodhicitta vow. Our individual practice of meditation could be indistinguishable between the two lineages, but if one has this seed it will mature and produce a Buddha fruit.


The concept of the vow is also present in Theravada. When Shakyamuni was an ascetic named Sumedha in a previous life, the Buddha Dipamkara was turning the wheel. He was ripe for Arhathood in that very life should he engage in the insight meditative practices taught to Dipamkara's Arhat disciples. However, he wanted to become a Buddha so that he can lead others into liberation, so he made a vow before Dipamkara and he was given the vyakarana that he will indeed become a Buddha in the distant future.

From what I can tell, the difference in the bodhisattva practice between Theravada and Mahayana is that in Theravada, the insight practices between the Sravaka Arhat and the Bodhisattva in his last life are the same, and the only difference is that the Bodhisattva spends eons to develop his paramis, and during this time, he should not engage in the insight practices lest he slips into the stream. In Mahayana, besides the cultivation of the roots of merits, there are also myriad insight practices and non-dual meditations that are taught in the Mahayana sutras.

In this respect, I feel that the Theravada method is lacking in something. Even in Theravada, the Buddha's wisdom and insight are supreme, and none of his Arhat disciples come close. So how can the Buddha attain such unsurpassed bodhi if the insight practices that leads to his full enlightenment are the same as the insight practices of his Arhat disciples? Perhaps they operate on the premise that during the long career of the Bodhisattva, he will naturally come across other teachings that are not explicitly taught in the Agamas.


lowlydog wrote: I'm just :thinking: if it is actually of any real importance to verbally say this vow or if it is more something that one would be inclined towards by simply following the path. It just seems a bit ritualistic for my tastes, but I suppose any one of us could have already taken this vow before. :smile:


If you do feel that you like to attain the fruit of a Buddha, then you can take it in your heart. To me, the ritual forms are not essential.

lowlydog wrote: I would also like to thank you for sharing your vast accumulation of knowledge with me, and for your patience. I'm learning a new language here, and it will take some time to absorbe all the information provided. Maybe a few more lifetimes. :tongue:


You are most welcome. I really do not possess any vast store of knowledge - only sharing with whatever Iittle I have learned. There are many here who are much more learned and cultivated than I am.

Please do feel free and continue to ask any questions.
If you believe certain words, you believe their hidden arguments. When you believe something is right or wrong, true of false, you believe the assumptions in the words which express the arguments. Such assumptions are often full of holes, but remain most precious to the convinced.

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Re: Avoiding the stream?

Postby lowlydog » Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:22 pm

pueraeternus wrote:If you do feel that you like to attain the fruit of a Buddha, then you can take it in your heart. To me, the ritual forms are not essential.



I do not feel any need to attain the fruit of a Buddha, I am very content to keep developing in my practice and I feel confident that it is leading in the right direction on the path.

I do feel I have this seed in my heart.

The nature of contact that I am having with other beings is slowly changing, I'm finding myself more open and willing to share. Also, when the storms come they are not as powerful as in the past, they do not overwhelm me as often, and they seem to pass quickly.

I believe that once we find the path and learn to step in the right direction, the path becomes our teacher, picking up insights as we travel.

I have a feeling that anything I need to know, or do, will make itself apparent(so to speak), with this attitude I have no problem exploring other religions and finding pointers here and there.

:anjali:
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Re: Avoiding the stream?

Postby pueraeternus » Thu Nov 15, 2012 12:39 am

lowlydog wrote: I have a feeling that anything I need to know, or do, will make itself apparent(so to speak), with this attitude I have no problem exploring other religions and finding pointers here and there.


:smile: Then may your path be sure, and the light of dharma always guide you.
If you believe certain words, you believe their hidden arguments. When you believe something is right or wrong, true of false, you believe the assumptions in the words which express the arguments. Such assumptions are often full of holes, but remain most precious to the convinced.

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Re: Avoiding the stream?

Postby lowlydog » Thu Nov 15, 2012 1:25 am

Much metta :smile:
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Re: Avoiding the stream?

Postby Azidonis » Wed Nov 21, 2012 8:16 pm

pueraeternus wrote:In this respect, I feel that the Theravada method is lacking in something. Even in Theravada, the Buddha's wisdom and insight are supreme, and none of his Arhat disciples come close. So how can the Buddha attain such unsurpassed bodhi if the insight practices that leads to his full enlightenment are the same as the insight practices of his Arhat disciples?


I think this is an important question worth examining in any school of thought, mystical tradition, philosophy, religion, or what-have-you.

It has always been my understanding that the point of the practices is to become Awakened, to become a Buddha (no matter what term is used to describe an awakened person). Understanding why one would approach the path with aspirations to anything less than the full possible development of their potential is very tricky at times.

By the way, this has been a most wonderful thread thus far.
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Re: Avoiding the stream?

Postby wisdom » Wed Nov 21, 2012 11:19 pm

No need to avoid the stream. Nirvana is the attainment of mental peace, free from all extremes, clinging, and all things that produce suffering. If you enter Nirvana without having first cultivated compassion there will be little that can disrupt that experience due to its power. However if you enter it as a Bodhisattva it will be like languishing in bed while you have a million things to do. You might be able to enjoy it for a bit, but compassion will motivate you to "re-enter" Samsara, and the whole time there is a nagging feeling in the back of your head saying "Get up, you got things to do!". However, the truth is that if you are a Bodhisattva who has experienced Nirvana, you have also apprehended the true nature of reality. Hence on some level you experience Nirvana only to transcend it and go beyond both Samsara and Nirvana, beyond the need to leave one or abide in the other.

Why does compassion do this? Because compassion does not give us peace of mind. In fact it is a state of agitation in my opinion. It demands our attention, like an itch, or a hunger. This is why compassion will keep us out of Nirvana and in Samsara, but it is also why it is the key to transcending both and hence why Bodhicitta is so emphasized from the very beginning of Mahayana practice.
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