What if transmission of Buddhism was egalitarian....

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What if transmission of Buddhism was egalitarian....

Postby Lotus_Bitch » Sun Jan 27, 2013 2:54 am

http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/archives/approaching_buddhism/teachers/lineage_masters/life_buddha_pali_canon.html

Just before Buddha’s remains were about to be cremated, a group of monks arrived from Pava. They were headed by Mahakassapa (‘Od-srung chen-po, Skt. Mahakashyapa), who insisted that the cremation wait until they had paid their last respects. Mahakassapa was a brahmin from Magadha who had become a monk in his old age a few years earlier. When Buddha had first met him, he had given Mahakassapa his old worn out robe in exchange for the brahmin’s new one. Later, this presentation of Buddha’s robe was taken to represent the transmission of authority and the start of the line of Buddhist patriarchs.

Buddha, however, had stated explicitly to his disciples on several occasions that, after he had passed away, the Dharma itself would serve as their teacher. He wished his community to continue on the model of the parliamentary system of Vajji. He did not intend for them to model themselves after a kingdom like Kosala and Magadha and have a single chief monk as its head.

Nevertheless, after Buddha’s passing away, there seems to have been a power struggle between Mahakassapa and Ananda, in other words a struggle between a traditional Indian system of transmission of autocratic authority from guru to disciple and a more democratic egalitarian system of mendicant monks living in small communities and following a common set of practices and principles. Mahakassapa won out.

After Buddha was cremated and his relics distributed, the monks agreed to Mahakassapa’s proposal to hold a council in Rajagaha the next rainy season to recount, confirm, and codify what Buddha had taught. Mahakassapa was to choose those elders who could attend. He chose only arhats, those who had attained liberation, and these numbered 499. At first, Mahakasspa did not include Ananda on the grounds that he had not yet attained arhatship. Mahakassapa excluded him despite Ananda having the best memory of Buddha’s discourses. In addition, Ananda was a strong supporter and vocal advocate of Buddha’s wish for his order not to have a singular leader. Perhaps another factor involved in Mahakassapa’s dislike of Ananda was the fact that Ananda was the one who had convinced the Buddha to ordain women. This would have offended Mahakassapa’s conservative brahmin background. In the end, however, the monastic elders protested Ananda’s exclusion and Mahakassapa gave in and allowed Ananda to attend. According to the Theravada account, Ananda attained arhatship the night before the council.

While waiting for the council to convene, however, Ananda met Vassakara (dByar-gyi rnam-pa, Skt. Varshakara), King Ajatasattu’s prime minister. Ananda learned from him that in addition to the attack on Vajji that the Magadha forces were preparing, they were also preparing for an expected attack from King Pajjota (Rab-gsal, Skt. Pradyota) of Avanti (A-banti’i yul, Skt. Avanti), the kingdom to the west of Magadha. Thus, although Buddha did not intend for there to be a line of patriarchs heading his community, Mahakassapa’s taking over the leadership undoubtedly contributed to the survival of Buddha’s teachings and monastic community through these perilous and uncertain times.






http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=106&t=11615

In older forms of Buddhist thought like abhidharma, philosophy and general sutra, you don't need a guru. They wrote it down so people could benefit from it and hopefully gain the means to liberation. I believe that a guru as a precondition for liberation was a later development in Buddhism in India which was eventually transmitted to China. Post-Gupta India saw the rise of feudalism with both Hindu and Buddhist doctrines shifting towards dependence on living authorities rather than scripture. In other words, more pressing concern with hierarchy and authority than before. That is not to say this is a negative thing that should be rejected, but just that in the classical exoteric approach having a guru is not a precondition for liberation.

In a lot of Classical Indian thought it seems assumed that you can become liberated through reading, understanding and realizing the content of scriptures. There is no particular need for it to be transmitted from a superior to you. You just need to accurately understand the content and apply it. For instance, Nāgārjuna's basic model suggests dhyāna coupled with realization of emptiness (wisdom) as a means to liberation. He doesn't mention a guru as a precondition, though perhaps it helps to have reliable spiritual friends. However, liberation in this context is not identical to attaining buddhahood.

So, presumably if you master dhyāna and read scriptures while maintaining a moral lifestyle you'll advance towards liberation. It might not be a lineage or identifiable tradition you're following, but then in earlier periods I don't detect much concern for such things.....

I suspect that towards the end of the Gupta (550) and the rise of Indian feudalism thereafter we can identify practices or lineages that insist on a guru as a precondition for liberation. This was perhaps tied in with vast cultural and religious changes in north India where authority, both political and religious, came to be heavily emphasized. This likewise applied to Hindu schools of thought as well. Buddhist institutions like Nālandā became fortresses with abbots acting effectively as lords over the peoples in their territories. In such a cultural context authority and deference to authority seem to have become a lot more emphasized than ever before.


Just want to spark a discussion on the pros and cons of transmission of Dharma, through a guru/disciple system; in comparison to more of a egalitarian way of propagating the Dharma to the next generation.

Does anyone agree on the necessity of a guru/disciple transmission as a means for continuation of the teachings? As a way to insure that the next generation receives the correct or right teachings of the Buddha?

What if the sangha itself have had served a greater role in the continued transmission of the Buddha Dharma? How would the propagation of the Buddha-Dharma fare, if it was transmitted exclusively through the community of practitioners?
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Re: What if transmission of Buddhism was egalitarian....

Postby Indrajala » Sun Jan 27, 2013 3:11 am

Lotus_Bitch wrote:Does anyone agree on the necessity of a guru/disciple transmission as a means for continuation of the teachings? As a way to insure that the next generation receives the correct or right teachings of the Buddha?


Certain practices require initiation and transmission from guru to disciple. That's just a non-negotiable condition.

However, general Buddhadharma does not require any sort of formal master-disciple relationship. This is why it was written down at some point and then reproduced for future generations to make ready use of. Reading a text is equivalent to hearing a teaching.



What if the sangha itself have had served a greater role in the continued transmission of the Buddha Dharma? How would the propagation of the Buddha-Dharma fare, if it was transmitted exclusively through the community of practitioners?


Well, if it was insisted that only monks could teach Dharma (which at times it is), then the pool of available teachers will inevitably prove small. In frontier lands where there is next to no sangha, you'll be hard pressed to get any formal teachers.
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Re: What if transmission of Buddhism was egalitarian....

Postby Son of Buddha » Sun Jan 27, 2013 1:02 pm

It seems common in India and Japan for tranmissions to be passed down from father to son(in some cases from father to daughter,(Shennyo-en)
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Re: What if transmission of Buddhism was egalitarian....

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun Jan 27, 2013 1:53 pm

I fail to see how asking for teachings and then receiving them is not egalitarian. :shrug:
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Re: What if transmission of Buddhism was egalitarian....

Postby greentara » Sun Jan 27, 2013 2:08 pm

Of course Buddhism is egalitarian. "Where is the Buddha? We may think the Buddha has been and gone, but the Buddha is the Dhamma, the Truth. Some people like to say, “Oh, if I was born in the time of the Buddha I would go to Nirvana.” Here, stupid people talk like this. The Buddha is still here. The Buddha is truth. Regardless of whoever is born or dies, the truth is still here. The truth never departs from the world, it’s there all the time. Whether a Buddha is born or not, whether someone knows it or not, the truth is still there."
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Re: What if transmission of Buddhism was egalitarian....

Postby Lotus_Bitch » Sun Jan 27, 2013 8:11 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:I fail to see how asking for teachings and then receiving them is not egalitarian. :shrug:

Lol, that is true. What I should've stated was whether the Buddha's teachings could survive (without a lineage of patriarchs) or that it was necessary for the lineage of transmission to continue through a guru/disciple framework. I myself think that Buddhism wouldn't have been able to be transmitted otherwise (especially into East Asia.)

Now that I actually think about it, the whole premise of this thread is flawed, lol.
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Re: What if transmission of Buddhism was egalitarian....

Postby Astus » Sun Jan 27, 2013 11:47 pm

Transmission of Buddhism happened through people and texts. Today you might include audio and video recordings. What is being transmitted are the teachings, in one way or another. It is only natural for Buddhism to be egalitarian in receiving people to accept the teaching since it is the very goal of the teachers and texts to be spread far and wide. What might not be (and often isn't) egalitarian is the way religious power are given to certain people, how things are organised in different communities. On the other hand, people are free to create new communities.
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Re: What if transmission of Buddhism was egalitarian....

Postby Yudron » Mon Jan 28, 2013 1:54 am

In the Vajrayana and Dzogchen, our main practice is guru yoga. It could even be said to be our only practice, since all of our myriad practices--while outwardly appearing differently--inwardly are actually guru yoga. Therefore, eliminating the teacher from the equation makes no sense, since the pure connection with the teacher is the main point, and the first samaya.
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Re: What if transmission of Buddhism was egalitarian....

Postby Sara H » Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:21 am

Lotus_Bitch wrote:Just want to spark a discussion on the pros and cons of transmission of Dharma, through a guru/disciple system; in comparison to more of a egalitarian way of propagating the Dharma to the next generation.

Does anyone agree on the necessity of a guru/disciple transmission as a means for continuation of the teachings? As a way to insure that the next generation receives the correct or right teachings of the Buddha?

What if the sangha itself have had served a greater role in the continued transmission of the Buddha Dharma? How would the propagation of the Buddha-Dharma fare, if it was transmitted exclusively through the community of practitioners?


The reason it's done this way is because that's what's proven to work over a 2,500 years.

Other ways of doing things have died out. Or have not lasted as long.

What you are suggesting in the OP, is the Christian model, and look where it got them without direct Master/deciple Mentor/student transmission of linniage and teachings.

Now everybody has a different opinion about Christianity, and 99% of those who do practice it no longer do contemplative practice, priests or laity.

Egalitarianism is essentially what these so called "New Buddhist Teachers" practice, people who had a bit of novice monk training from a few different trachers, did not recieve teaching qualification, and now thing they know better about Buddhism than those who taught it to them, simply because they didn't like some of the things they were taught. Those things are apart of Buddhism though.

In practice, there is essentially a near complete democracy on the transmitted monk/teacher level, but saying someone who hasn't had an experience of enlightenment, and the follow up training should have an equal voice to those do, is just absurd, especially since those novice trainee's won't have any idea what they are talking about and what the teachings of the Dharma means without an experience of enlightenment and follow up training to filter it through.

Dharma Transmission, is essentially a checks-and-ballance system to ensure that someone knows what they are talking about before they pass the Teachings on.

Same reason why we have college professors and degree's.
We want to make sure somebody has an engineering degree and knows what they are talking about before we entrust the lives of thousands or many people to their buildings design.

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Re: What if transmission of Buddhism was egalitarian....

Postby Sara H » Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:27 am

Egalitarianism, is an ideal that does not actually exist.
The truth is, we are not all equal in knowledge, in experience, in wisdom, or in some abilities.

Buddhism is not about ideals, it's about working with what actually exists, and what practically works within that.

While we are all equally within the Eternal, and are not-sepperate within that, we still have differences to overcome and accept.

All is one, AND all is different. Both at the same time.

Thus, it's nessicary to set up teaching doctines and practices.

And it's for this reason that rules, and laws are nessicary.
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Re: What if transmission of Buddhism was egalitarian....

Postby Lotus_Bitch » Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:33 am

Good points, everyone!

:namaste:
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Re: What if transmission of Buddhism was egalitarian....

Postby randomseb » Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:07 pm

Politics should have no place in Buddhism, as the Dharma is not constrained by any thing, place or person, and is not something that can be "transmitted", as it's already there :shrug: If there is politics, there is a concentration on the super-mundane and all of the garbage that comes with it :shock:
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Re: What if transmission of Buddhism was egalitarian....

Postby Jikan » Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:09 pm

I'm not clear on what you mean by "super-mundane."
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Re: What if transmission of Buddhism was egalitarian....

Postby randomseb » Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:15 pm

Jikan wrote:I'm not clear on what you mean by "super-mundane."


This chair I am sitting on appears to me to be a complete solid object, but as we all know it's really a cloud of particles in mostly empty space, which themselves are something smaller, which are themselves something smaller, and so on and so forth. My brain insists on telling me it has the form of 'chair' though.
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Re: What if transmission of Buddhism was egalitarian....

Postby Jikan » Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:21 pm

randomseb wrote:
Jikan wrote:I'm not clear on what you mean by "super-mundane."


This chair I am sitting on appears to me to be a complete solid object, but as we all know it's really a cloud of particles in mostly empty space, which themselves are something smaller, which are themselves something smaller, and so on and so forth. My brain insists on telling me it has the form of 'chair' though.


Right. It's a conventional designation: very mundane and ordinary.

Here's what supramundane means according to the OED:

Of or relating to a region above or beyond the earthly world; otherworldly, divine. Also: above or superior to worldly affairs.


Which is what you seem to be getting at here, but I don't like to be presumptuous:

randomseb wrote:Politics should have no place in Buddhism, as the Dharma is not constrained by any thing, place or person, and is not something that can be "transmitted", as it's already there :shrug: If there is politics, there is a concentration on the super-mundane and all of the garbage that comes with it :shock:


Do you mean something that very very mundane, or something that is not mundane at all?
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Re: What if transmission of Buddhism was egalitarian....

Postby deepbluehum » Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:24 pm

I love my gurus more than anyone. The blessing of dharma surpasses any worldly joy. I most certainly would never have had such experiences on my own. What I feel in my heart is indescribable pure ecstasy.
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Re: What if transmission of Buddhism was egalitarian....

Postby randomseb » Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:59 pm

Jikan wrote:
Right. It's a conventional designation: very mundane and ordinary.

Here's what supramundane means according to the OED:

Of or relating to a region above or beyond the earthly world; otherworldly, divine. Also: above or superior to worldly affairs.


Do you mean something that very very mundane, or something that is not mundane at all?


Supramundane - "above/beyond" the mundane (also supermundane, one word)
Super-mundane - super mundane.. very very mundane

I suppose the hyphen makes all the difference :shrug:
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