When was the first exclusively Mahayana ordination?

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When was the first exclusively Mahayana ordination?

Postby Leo Rivers » Fri Dec 21, 2012 6:59 pm

When was the first exclusively Mahayana ordination? My impression was that it was in China. (To what extent were the Chinese Buddhists mostly or exclusively Mahayana?)

In India up to about 660 CE at least, Indian Buddhists were Foundational Buddhist who then went on to accept and practice a Mahayana meditation Path.

And my impression was that the Theravda have been evolving for 2000 years too, and are not equivalent to the Foundational Buddhism of 2000 years ago, (rather like the chimps are more reminiscent of our Last Common Ancestor than Humans, but not at all the same thing as).

And what is the most useful term, beyond PC considerations aside, for the Foundational Buddhists - Theravada, Nikaya Buddhists or Hinayana or?


Merry Solstice! :guns:
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Re: When was the first exclusively Mahayana ordination?

Postby songhill » Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:51 pm

Mahayana's appearance on the scene is not without its problems. It might well be the case rendering Mahajñâna (great gnosis), incorrectly, as mahayana. Check out this site for more details: http://www.tamqui.com/buddhaworld/Mahayana.
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Re: When was the first exclusively Mahayana ordination?

Postby Astus » Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:56 pm

Exclusively Mahayana ordination, that was invented by Saicho of the Tendai school, who used only the Brahmajala Sutra and not the usual pratimoksha. In China the ordination has always been based on one or another set of Vinaya, eventually developing into using only the Dharmagupta Vinaya and the threefold ordination (novice + monk + bodhisattva).
"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: When was the first exclusively Mahayana ordination?

Postby Kim O'Hara » Sat Dec 22, 2012 6:17 am

Leo Rivers wrote:And what is the most useful term, beyond PC considerations aside, for the Foundational Buddhists - Theravada, Nikaya Buddhists or Hinayana or?

When I tried to work things out a few years ago I summarised the results like this: "Differences in interpretation emerged in the first century after the Buddha’s death but the most significant split was between those who called their teaching the Mahayana - the 'Great Vehicle' - and the more traditional group whose doctrine they, logically but disparagingly, called the Hinayana - the 'Lesser Vehicle'. The name the non-Mahayana group prefer for themselves is Theravada or 'Teachings of the Elders'. Nikaya is a recent coinage which also means 'non-Mahayana' but it is less pejorative than 'Hinayana': it simply means groups which do not rely on the later writings of the Mahayana school."

I haven't seen anything since then to show me that this is wrong, although I know it's oversimplified.
I have hardly ever seen "Nikaya" used in this way, either, so it looks like it hasn't really caught on. "Theravada" isn't really correct, since the modern school is descended from one (or a couple) post-split schools. You could try "pre-sectarian" or "early" if you want a term that everyone will understand.
I don't think you can safely leave "PC considerations" aside, BTW. They look remarkably like good/bad manners from some angles. :thinking:

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Re: When was the first exclusively Mahayana ordination?

Postby Astus » Sat Dec 22, 2012 12:06 pm

Bhikkhu Sujato has a study: Sects & Sectarianism: The origins of Buddhist Schools, that shows how different sects developed, not because of some doctrinal schism but natural evolution, as a result of historical circumstances. As he writes in the conclusion, "We cannot find any evidence anywhere for the formation of schools due to schisms in the narrow Vinaya sense."
"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: When was the first exclusively Mahayana ordination?

Postby Anders » Sat Dec 22, 2012 12:33 pm

Astus wrote:Exclusively Mahayana ordination, that was invented by Saicho of the Tendai school, who used only the Brahmajala Sutra and not the usual pratimoksha. In China the ordination has always been based on one or another set of Vinaya, eventually developing into using only the Dharmagupta Vinaya and the threefold ordination (novice + monk + bodhisattva).


This. Although I believe Saicho took his inspiration for "Mahayana ordination" from some Chinese groups, although it would not have been mainstream and obviously did not endure. So the first known probably took place in China.

But as far as bhikshu[ni] ordinations go, there are no distinctions of Shravaka or Mahayana in their ordination. Either one is ordained simply as a "Buddhist monk/nun". Mahayana precepts and vows are then taken on top of that (or prior to it even).
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra
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Re: When was the first exclusively Mahayana ordination?

Postby Anders » Sat Dec 22, 2012 12:51 pm

Leo Rivers wrote:And what is the most useful term, beyond PC considerations aside, for the Foundational Buddhists - Theravada, Nikaya Buddhists or Hinayana or?


Which group of foundational Buddhists to you refer to? The First Council directed by Mahakashyapa or the group led by the arhat Purāṇa, who came late to the council, announced that what he had learned of the Dharmavinaya from the Buddha was different to what they were saying and he would stay with the teachings he had recevied and this departed amicably, but nevertheless not giving his support to the council. Or perhaps all the other groups who never made it there at all due to distance?

The notion of a homogeneous Sangha at the time of the Buddha's death is a flimsy one to my mind. Not even arhats were all in agreement on all points. The differences obviously become more pronounced as time goes on, but even just a few months after the Buddha's death you need to start asking the question: Which group is the foundational one?

I think rather the problem is with the notion of an Ur-Buddhism to begin with. Even in the time of the Buddha the sangha was not entirely homogeneous. And it is notable that the disagreements between the first council and Purāṇa were amicable. It wasn't one group trying to establish itself as authoritative for the rest of the sangha. That is a later imputation on the council. The motivation for the council really was to curtail the likes of Subhadda who felt that with the Buddha dead, they could do whatever they liked.

I refer to the pre-mahayana schools as Early Buddhism, so personally, I would simply go with The Very Early Buddhists for that era between the Buddha's death and the time when Buddhism had branched into clearly delineated schools.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra
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Re: When was the first exclusively Mahayana ordination?

Postby JKhedrup » Sat Dec 22, 2012 1:06 pm

Just a note about the Sarvastivada vinaya, which is the one upheld in Tibet. This is categorized as a 'Hinayana' ordination. So the vows, practice and lineage all fit into that paradigm.
At least in the Gelug tradition monastic ordination is placed in the 'Middle Scope' and 'Small Scope' categories found within the Lam Rim literature- in other words, in the context of the Middle Scope the monastic ordination is mainly an assist to the purifying of the delusions and karma required to obtain liberation from samsara. In terms of the Lower Scope, one understands that by guarding the vows one is protected from accumulating negative karma, and the main cause of a human rebirth,for example, is pure morality. Another interesting thing to note is that the objects of abandonment of many of the monastic vows are considered proscribed misdeeds rather than natural misdeeds.
In Tibetan Buddhism there are not separate or distinct bodhisattva vows for monastics. Monks/nuns and laypeople all take them together, in the same ceremony. These are the vows that are the practice of the 'Great Scope' of the Lam Rim formulation.
When the Sojong or monastic confession ceremony is recited usually it is just the monastic vows that are included. But on special occasions and in certain monasteries where things are done more extensively the Sojong includes rituals to restore the Bodhisattva and Tantric vows as well.
An only slightly off topic question- does anyone know which ordination lineage was held by Atisha?

thanks,
khedrup
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: When was the first exclusively Mahayana ordination?

Postby Anders » Sat Dec 22, 2012 1:16 pm

JKhedrup wrote:An only slightly off topic question- does anyone know which ordination lineage was held by Atisha?


Lokottaravāda, a subset of the Mahasanghikas.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra
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Re: When was the first exclusively Mahayana ordination?

Postby JKhedrup » Sat Dec 22, 2012 1:21 pm

Thanks!
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: When was the first exclusively Mahayana ordination?

Postby Michael_Dorfman » Sat Dec 22, 2012 2:58 pm

Leo Rivers wrote:
And what is the most useful term, beyond PC considerations aside, for the Foundational Buddhists - Theravada, Nikaya Buddhists or Hinayana or?



I'd go with 'Nikaya Buddhism' or 'Early Buddhism', depending on the historical context.

'Theravada' is just plain incorrect-- as Bhikkhu Sujato writes, "In particular it is a mistake to identify this school with the ‘Sthaviras’ who split from the Mahāsaṅghikas at the first schism.
Rather, the Mahāvihāravāsins are just one branch of the Sthaviras who became established in Sri Lanka with their headquarters at the Mahāvihāra in Anuradhapura. In their own texts they refer to themselves as the Mahāvihāravāsins (‘Dwellers in the Great Monastery’) and I will adopt this term."

And, 'Hinayana' is a polemical and loaded term. 'Nikaya', it seems to me, is the best fit.

Now, as to the larger question of the first exclusively Mahayana ordination: is there such a thing? Are there ordinations taking place that are not through the Theravada, Dharmaguptaka, or Mulasarvastivada Vinaya? None of those are "exclusively Mahayana" in any relevant sense.
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Re: When was the first exclusively Mahayana ordination?

Postby JKhedrup » Sat Dec 22, 2012 4:42 pm

Now, as to the larger question of the first exclusively Mahayana ordination: is there such a thing? Are there ordinations taking place that are not through the Theravada, Dharmaguptaka, or Mulasarvastivada Vinaya? None of those are "exclusively Mahayana" in any relevant sense.


I agree. These ordination lineages have more to do with geography and the way the vows are listed (though they all cover the same objects of abandonment) rather than any significant doctrinal differences connected with the Mahayana/Sravakayana (theravada) split.

Connected with my query about Atisha was something that I read recently- he was requested to introduce his ordination lineage into Tibet but insisted that the Mulasarvastivada already present there was unbroken and sufficient. It is interesting to note as well that after a period of decline for Buddhism in Tibet there was not a sufficient quorum of monks to pass on the full ordination, so Chinese bhikshus assisted. This would indicate to me that other ordination lineages at least at that time were regarded as pure, no matter what the more crazy fundamentalists try to insist on now :).
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: When was the first exclusively Mahayana ordination?

Postby Sherlock » Sat Dec 22, 2012 8:10 pm

Actually, in Davidson's Tibetan Renaissance, it is written that Atisha was forbidden to introduce a new vinaya lineage to Tibet due to a law dating back to Imperial Tibet stating that the Mulasarvastivada lineage was the only one that could be spread in Tibet.
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Re: When was the first exclusively Mahayana ordination?

Postby Yudron » Sat Dec 22, 2012 8:58 pm

JKhedrup wrote:
Now, as to the larger question of the first exclusively Mahayana ordination: is there such a thing? Are there ordinations taking place that are not through the Theravada, Dharmaguptaka, or Mulasarvastivada Vinaya? None of those are "exclusively Mahayana" in any relevant sense.


I agree. These ordination lineages have more to do with geography and the way the vows are listed (though they all cover the same objects of abandonment) rather than any significant doctrinal differences connected with the Mahayana/Sravakayana (theravada) split.

Connected with my query about Atisha was something that I read recently- he was requested to introduce his ordination lineage into Tibet but insisted that the Mulasarvastivada already present there was unbroken and sufficient. It is interesting to note as well that after a period of decline for Buddhism in Tibet there was not a sufficient quorum of monks to pass on the full ordination, so Chinese bhikshus assisted. This would indicate to me that other ordination lineages at least at that time were regarded as pure, no matter what the more crazy fundamentalists try to insist on now :).


That's a slippery slope! If you continue down that road, you're going to end up with a lot of fully ordained Tibetan nuns on your hands. :jawdrop:
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Re: When was the first exclusively Mahayana ordination?

Postby Leo Rivers » Sat Dec 22, 2012 9:34 pm

I'm glad I asked! :twothumbsup:

By "Foundational Buddhism" I have in mind "Buddhists not accepting any of the new Mahayana Sutras" and a reliance on a form of Agamas parallel to the 'Nikaya' Canon. :buddha1:
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Re: When was the first exclusively Mahayana ordination?

Postby Kim O'Hara » Sat Dec 22, 2012 11:35 pm

Leo Rivers wrote:I'm glad I asked! :twothumbsup:

By "Foundational Buddhism" I have in mind "Buddhists not accepting any of the new Mahayana Sutras" and a reliance on a form of Agamas parallel to the 'Nikaya' Canon. :buddha1:

Was that modern-day "Buddhists not accepting any of the new Mahayana Sutras" or back-in-the-day "Buddhists not accepting any of the new Mahayana Sutras" ?
They are two quite different cans of worms. :tongue:

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Re: When was the first exclusively Mahayana ordination?

Postby Huifeng » Sun Dec 23, 2012 1:38 am

Foundational Buddhists?

Using the term from the Nikaya and Agama texts, it would be Pali "bahusutiya ariya savaka" / Skt "bahusrutiya arya sravaka", ie. "erudite holy disciples". The bahusrutiya and sravaka both indicate that they have heard the teachings of the Buddha.

Early Buddhism is not "Nikaya Buddhism", as in the former, "nikaya" refers to a school / sect / body / group, and is thus post-early period. (It doesn't refer to the Nikaya texts, an exclusively Sri Lankan Mahaviharin name, by the way.)

Obviously it's not "Hinayana" either, which was only coined later by certain - but not all - Mahayana groups.

"Thera" or "Sthavira" while originally referring to "elders", only kicks in after the first split in the sangha, into the elders (sthavira / thera) and the majority (mahasanghika).

In buddhist studies, the term "early buddhism" or "original -" is probably the norm.

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Re: When was the first exclusively Mahayana ordination?

Postby Huifeng » Sun Dec 23, 2012 1:42 am

Leo Rivers wrote:I'm glad I asked! :twothumbsup:

By "Foundational Buddhism" I have in mind "Buddhists not accepting any of the new Mahayana Sutras" and a reliance on a form of Agamas parallel to the 'Nikaya' Canon. :buddha1:


If you are talking about those buddhists from the earliest period of time, well, they didn't have any Mahayana sutras to accept or not accept. It's a kind of anachronistic statement.

But if you refer to those during the period when Mahayana sutras had appeared, most used commentaries and abhidharma type texts as standard, not just nikayas / agamas. The term for these people in buddhist studies is something like "mainstream buddhism", though in the past, "sectarian buddhism" was very common. Even if they only used agamas / nikayas, these had sectarian content - nobody had some pure pristine originals, as far as we know - though some schools' texts would be less modified than others.

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Re: When was the first exclusively Mahayana ordination?

Postby Leo Rivers » Sun Dec 23, 2012 2:03 am

I am guilty of both a time-warp and a prejudice as bad as the term Hinayana, perhaps.

I am mostly looking at the years 150-550 CE, (roughly Lokaksema to Kambala), recently, so I was trying to refer to those groups "without Mahayana sutras" as a category of people who saw themselves as representing the original current (to use a Western Occult term) of Buddhism. A weak way to speak on something called "the Academic Discussion" forum! My bad.

Those groups in the Gandhara to Kashmir area using a Sravaka playbook but experimenting with Mahayana ideas, trying this or that, what would it be appropriate to call them? For instance, the Non-Mahayana Yogacarabhumi represented a group of somewhat similar folks to those who then composed the Sravakabhumi, and then connected to the folks who built the 'Mahayana self-aware' 17 Bhumi chunk of the Mahayana Yogacarabhumisastra prior to the 'Sutra of the Hidden Intent' and the 4 Commentary sections which landed on Asanga's desk. On this side you had the Mahayana. What would you call the other far side of the bridge?
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Re: When was the first exclusively Mahayana ordination?

Postby Huifeng » Sun Dec 23, 2012 2:21 am

Leo Rivers wrote:I am guilty of both a time-warp and a prejudice as bad as the term Hinayana, perhaps.

I am mostly looking at the years 150-550 CE, (roughly Lokaksema to Kambala), recently, so I was trying to refer to those groups "without Mahayana sutras" as a category of people who saw themselves as representing the original current (to use a Western Occult term) of Buddhism. A weak way to speak on something called "the Academic Discussion" forum! My bad.


Everybody thought they were representing the original, that's the whole point.
Who is going around claiming "We represent completely derivative Buddhism!"? Pretty much nobody.

Though, the term usually applied in modern Buddhist studies is "mainstream buddhism".

Those groups in the Gandhara to Kashmir area using a Sravaka playbook but experimenting with Mahayana ideas, trying this or that, what would it be appropriate to call them?


Depends what you mean by "experimenting with Mahayana ideas". What ideas exactly are Mahayana?
If its the idea of several paths or yanas, well, pretty much every school had something to say about that. The Vaibhasikas had their theories, the Kasmiris did too, and over the hill so did the Dharmaguptas and Mahasamghikas...

For instance, the Non-Mahayana Yogacarabhumi represented a group of somewhat similar folks to those who then composed the Sravakabhumi, and then connected to the folks who built the 'Mahayana self-aware' 17 Bhumi chunk of the Mahayana Yogacarabhumisastra prior to the 'Sutra of the Hidden Intent' and the 4 Commentary sections which landed on Asanga's desk. On this side you had the Mahayana. What would you call the other far side of the bridge?


Well, the idea of a non-mahayana yogacarabhumi is not exactly proved, for a start. The Yogacara people were really Vaibhasikas or something very similar, who then went all vibhajyavadi instead of sarvastivadi, and drew in their various yana theories as well (which both the former already had), and also several notions from the so-called sautrantikas and darstantikas (like Kumaralata / Srilata etc.) Just call them Yogacara, seems pretty straight forward enough, as long as one knows where they come from.

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