Mind-training for a Theravadin

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Mind-training for a Theravadin

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Thu May 02, 2013 10:50 pm

Hello All,

I practice primarily with teachers in the Theravada tradition and am pretty much firmly committed to the Dhamma-vinaya as presented in the Theravadin diaspora. Nonetheless, I have always been impressed by texts such as the Wheel of Sharp Weapons, the Bodhicaryavatara and practices such as tonglen. I guess what I am trying to figure out is if there are teachers who would be willing to work with someone who is unable or (maybe) unwilling to take on the entire Vajrayana and Mahayana package. In short, I don't believe I have what it takes to aspire to Buddhahood but I find the attitudes high-lighted and developed in the various treatises on mind-training to be excellent tools to cultivate the brahma-viharas perhaps all the way to release and, failing that, at least make my life one well lived and not wasted. lease note that I'm not looking for argument or debate, just some guidance so forgive me if I have offended anyone through my inability to articulate my meaning.

Mettaya,

KB
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Re: Mind-training for a Theravadin

Postby ngodrup » Fri May 03, 2013 4:44 am

I have heard Thai Mahapras say that the Bodhisattva ideal can be found in the Pali Canon
in a few places, same with bodhicitta. You might approach one of them about how
metta practice might be expanded.

Much of the philosophy of Bodhicitta is based on Abhidharma models. And you could use
Mahayana phiolosophy and practice without involving yourself in tantra. There are some
really excellent commentaries on Bohicaryavatara (Nectar of Manjushri's Speech for example),
Seven point mind training, lojong texts in general (Trungpa, Kongtrul, etc.),
as well as the practical techniques of tong-len.

I think, you might do well just to have the idea that Buddhahood is possible, regardless
of how far you might get with these things. Since much of the practice is offerings, aspiration
prayers and meditations, why not just explore where it takes you? It can only lead to more merit
and purification, thus to more wisdom and understanding.

I wouldn't recommend sharp wheel for you, since you've expressed reticence, as it is a tantric text.
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Re: Mind-training for a Theravadin

Postby heart » Fri May 03, 2013 5:38 am

Khalil Bodhi wrote:Hello All,

I practice primarily with teachers in the Theravada tradition and am pretty much firmly committed to the Dhamma-vinaya as presented in the Theravadin diaspora. Nonetheless, I have always been impressed by texts such as the Wheel of Sharp Weapons, the Bodhicaryavatara and practices such as tonglen. I guess what I am trying to figure out is if there are teachers who would be willing to work with someone who is unable or (maybe) unwilling to take on the entire Vajrayana and Mahayana package. In short, I don't believe I have what it takes to aspire to Buddhahood but I find the attitudes high-lighted and developed in the various treatises on mind-training to be excellent tools to cultivate the brahma-viharas perhaps all the way to release and, failing that, at least make my life one well lived and not wasted. lease note that I'm not looking for argument or debate, just some guidance so forgive me if I have offended anyone through my inability to articulate my meaning.

Mettaya,

KB


If you are inspired by the Bodhicaryavatara you have touched the heart of Mahayana. You should try to get teachings on these texts from a qualified master, you will not regret it.

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
- Longchenpa
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Re: Mind-training for a Theravadin

Postby Konchog1 » Fri May 03, 2013 6:36 am

I'm afraid you will have to choose at some point. By all means, practice Theravada and study Mahayana. But you're practice will either be Theravada with Mahayana as a supplement or Mahayana with Theravada as a supplement. The reason why its one or the other is that any practice without Bodhicitta is not Mahayana and any practice with Bodhicitta is Mahayana.

You should ask some Theravada master for his opinion. His view might be different.
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."

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Re: Mind-training for a Theravadin

Postby Jnana » Fri May 03, 2013 7:33 am

Konchog1 wrote:I'm afraid you will have to choose at some point. By all means, practice Theravada and study Mahayana. But you're practice will either be Theravada with Mahayana as a supplement or Mahayana with Theravada as a supplement. The reason why its one or the other is that any practice without Bodhicitta is not Mahayana and any practice with Bodhicitta is Mahayana.

Each practitioner does indeed need to choose which vehicle to engage in, but the difference is one of aspiration. The Theravāda has teachings pertaining to all three vehicles. The bodhisattva vehicle includes the development of the perfections as is explained in A Treatise on the Pāramīs by the Theravāda commentator Ācariya Dhammapāla:

    We now undertake a detailed explanation of the pāramīs for clansmen following the suttas who are zealously engaged in the practice of the vehicle to great enlightenment (mahābodhiyāna), in order to improve their skilfulness in accumulating the requisites for enlightenment....

    In detail, to those whose minds are disposed towards the enlightenment of disciples, he gives a discourse establishing and purifying them (in progress towards their goal) by elaborating upon the noble qualities of whichever among the following topics is appropriate.... So too, for beings whose minds are disposed towards the enlightenment of paccekabuddhas and of perfectly enlightened Buddhas, he gives a discourse establishing and purifying them in the two vehicles (leading to these two types of enlightenment) by elaborating upon the greatness of the spiritual power of those Buddhas, and by explaining the specific nature, characteristic, function, etc., of the ten pāramīs in their three stages.

And Dhammapāla adds:

    Since it [i.e. the great aspiration to realize mahābodhi] has as its object the inconceivable plane of the Buddhas and the welfare of the whole immeasurable world of beings, it should be seen as the loftiest, most sublime and exalted distinction of merit, endowed with immeasurable potency, the root-cause of all the qualities issuing in Buddhahood. Simultaneous with its arising, the Great Man enters upon the practice of the vehicle to great enlightenment (mahābodhiyānapaṭipatti). He becomes fixed in his destiny, irreversible, and therefore properly gains the designation “bodhisattva.” His mind becomes fully devoted to the supreme enlightenment in its completeness, and his capacity to fulfill the training in the requisites of enlightenment becomes established. For when their aspiration succeeds, the Great Men correctly investigate all the pāramīs with their self-evolved knowledge which prefigures their future attainment of omniscience. Then they undertake their practice, and fulfill them in due order, as was done by the wise Sumedha when he made his great aspiration.

The development of the perfections and the bodhisattva's aspiration are also explained in A Manual of the Excellent Man by Ven. Ledi Sayādaw:

    What is meant by “the Noblest Aspiration”? It is the verbal and mental undertaking that the bodhisatta had made at some point of time aeons before taking up the perfections. It was made in these terms:

    “As a man who knows his own strength, what use is there to get to ‘the yonder shore’ (nibbāna) alone? I will attain to Supreme Knowledge and then convey men and devas to the yonder shore.”

    That was the pledge that sent the ten thousand universes reeling and echoing in applause. That was the bodhisatta’s earnest wish. For he intensely aspired to Supreme Self-Enlightenment thus:

    “Knowing the Truth, I will let others know it. Freeing myself from the world, I will free others. Having crossed over, I will enable others to cross.”

    This fervent and most daring aspiration is called “the Noblest Aspiration.”
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Re: Mind-training for a Theravadin

Postby Jnana » Fri May 03, 2013 7:40 am

Khalil Bodhi wrote:In short, I don't believe I have what it takes to aspire to Buddhahood but I find the attitudes high-lighted and developed in the various treatises on mind-training to be excellent tools to cultivate the brahma-viharas perhaps all the way to release and, failing that, at least make my life one well lived and not wasted.

You can certainly meet with Tibetan teachers and learn more about Mahāyāna Mind Training, tonglen practice, etc., but you should know that these teachings are presented within the context of the bodhisattvayāna and so the aspiration to attain buddhahood is an integral part of the practice.
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Re: Mind-training for a Theravadin

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Fri May 03, 2013 10:03 am

Thank you everyone for your thoughtful replies. I have, in the past, tried to practice under a Karma Kagyu lama and have spoken with a Sakya lama specifically about this. Suffice it to say that I was not able to continue the course of training under the former and latter actually advised that I continue to practice in the Theravada due to my confidence and commitment to the tradition. All of which is to say that it looks as though I will simply use these works as inspirations to my own practice and take from them what I can without worrying too much about points of doctrine. Sukhi hotu!
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Re: Mind-training for a Theravadin

Postby Luke » Fri May 03, 2013 12:27 pm

Khalil Bodhi wrote:All of which is to say that it looks as though I will simply use these works as inspirations to my own practice and take from them what I can without worrying too much about points of doctrine. Sukhi hotu!

Yes, that's great. I hope you receive great blessings from studying Mahayana texts! :D
I know that I have benefited from the bits of the Pali Canon I have read, so the exchange goes both ways.

Dharma Wheel is becoming so friendly and non-sectarian these days. Quick! Group hug! :group: lol
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Re: Mind-training for a Theravadin

Postby ngodrup » Fri May 03, 2013 3:28 pm

I can think of several Thai monks who have studied certain mahayana texts in some detail.
One in particular received them from His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.
So, my recommendation is to really seek out a Mahapra, scholar abbot, who will
encourage your study of the two canons-- Pali and Sanskrit. Of course it would be great
if you got the oral transmission for Bhodicharyavatara and some of its commentaries,
especially the Nectar or Manjushri's Speech. Generally speaking, one needs to read
the Suttas and Shastras closely many times. I hope you will study both lineages
very closely, because they inform each other. My teachers say: "What is implied in one,
is explicit in another."
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Re: Mind-training for a Theravadin

Postby kirtu » Sat May 04, 2013 11:50 am

The Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind from Samsara are universal. There are slightly different presentations between Sakya and everyone else but these thoughts are precious human birth, impermanence and the inevitability of death, karma and the sufferings of samsara. These four thoughts contemplated in detail again and again can revolutionize a Buddhist's spiritual life.

Another thing to consider is an adaptation of Buddhanature - enlightenment is actually quite close if we really work toward it. In the Theravadin tradition this means that Arahanthood is really quite close, something that I have seen several Theravadin's basically deny. But within a handful of lifetimes one could attain Stream Entry and then the story is more or less over within seven lifetimes. A point in favor of this view is I think Bhante Gunaratana who urges his student's to attain Stream Entry or the weaker near Stream Entry in this lifetime.

Kirt
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Re: Mind-training for a Theravadin

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Sat May 04, 2013 12:14 pm

kirtu wrote:The Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind from Samsara are universal. There are slightly different presentations between Sakya and everyone else but these thoughts are precious human birth, impermanence and the inevitability of death, karma and the sufferings of samsara. These four thoughts contemplated in detail again and again can revolutionize a Buddhist's spiritual life.

Another thing to consider is an adaptation of Buddhanature - enlightenment is actually quite close if we really work toward it. In the Theravadin tradition this means that Arahanthood is really quite close, something that I have seen several Theravadin's basically deny. But within a handful of lifetimes one could attain Stream Entry and then the story is more or less over within seven lifetimes. A point in favor of this view is I think Bhante Gunaratana who urges his student's to attain Stream Entry or the weaker near Stream Entry in this lifetime.

Kirt


Kirt,

Thank you for the reminder. I am familiar with the Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind and have always found them to be a potent and succinct distillation of the need to practice and to arouse samvega. I have been finding this discussion very enlightening and truly appreciate everyone's contributions. :anjali:
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