Problem understanding Buddhahood/Bodhisattvahood

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Re: Problem understanding Buddhahood/Bodhisattvahood

Postby jeeprs » Wed Jun 26, 2013 8:42 am

Isn't it fair to say that the Mahayana conception tended towards the idea that the Buddha, or the Buddha Nature, was omnipresent and omniscient - in other words, was attributed with the characteristics of Deity, which was very different from the Theravada conception?
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Re: Problem understanding Buddhahood/Bodhisattvahood

Postby Greg » Wed Jun 26, 2013 10:40 pm

There is extensive discussion of this in Paul Williams, Mahayana Buddhism and in John Makransky, Buddhahood Embodied.

Basically, as Huifeng alluded to, there was a lot of doctrinal development over the centuries in Mahayana Buddhism. The idea of bodhisattvas postponing Buddhahood is a relic from before the concept of nonabiding nirvana was fully developed.
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Re: Problem understanding Buddhahood/Bodhisattvahood

Postby PorkChop » Thu Jun 27, 2013 12:20 am

jeeprs wrote:Isn't it fair to say that the Mahayana conception tended towards the idea that the Buddha, or the Buddha Nature, was omnipresent and omniscient - in other words, was attributed with the characteristics of Deity, which was very different from the Theravada conception?


Nope, not fair at all.
Not to be facetious, but there's no one monolithic "Mahayana."
I think you'd also be surprised at traditional Theravada's take on it, depending on country.
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Re: Problem understanding Buddhahood/Bodhisattvahood

Postby jeeprs » Thu Jun 27, 2013 1:12 am

The Buddha (or Buddha-nature) is omniscient:

Huifeng wrote:In Mahayana Buddhism, the English word "omniscience" is a common translation for the Sanskrit term "sarvajnata", which is "the state of all knowledge". There are other related terms such as "sarvakarajnata", "the state of the knowledge of all modes" - sometimes this is also referred to as "omniscience" as well; and also "margajnata", "the state of knowledge of paths".


and also omipresent:

Wisdom wrote:Furthermore from the view of the ultimate nature of reality, Buddha is present at all points in time, therefore to think that there could be a point in time or space where the Buddha Nature is not all pervasive, immanent and transcendent, and so forth, is to believe that somehow there is a gap within ultimate reality where the Buddha Nature is not to be found.


(from here)

So in this respect, assumes the attributes associated with the mystical conception of deity in theistic religions.

I looked up the Makransky text mentioned in Post 211 which says that:

To enter the Mahayana Buddhist path to enlightenment is to seek both to become free from our dualistic, deluded world and to remain actively engaged in that world until all others are free. How are these two apparently contradictory qualities to be embodied in the attainment of buddhahood (dharmakaya)? How can one's present practice accomplish that? These questions underlie a millennium old controversy over buddhahood in India and Tibet..


So the book is not really talking in terms of a resolution.
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Re: Problem understanding Buddhahood/Bodhisattvahood

Postby LastLegend » Thu Jun 27, 2013 1:21 am

I think human particularly need the nourishment of a deitified figure. But Mahayana also teaches that this mind can become Buddha. Something like, "outside of this mind, there is no Buddha." In a way, at least in Pure Land, to recite Amitabha is to recite one own's true nature. In fact, "Namo" means returning to in Namo Amitabha. So returning to one's own true nature.
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NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)
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Re: Problem understanding Buddhahood/Bodhisattvahood

Postby PorkChop » Thu Jun 27, 2013 1:21 am

jeeprs wrote:So in this respect, assumes the attributes associated with the mystical conception of deity in theistic religions.

I looked up the Makransky text mentioned in Post 211 which says that:

To enter the Mahayana Buddhist path to enlightenment is to seek both to become free from our dualistic, deluded world and to remain actively engaged in that world until all others are free. How are these two apparently contradictory qualities to be embodied in the attainment of buddhahood (dharmakaya)? How can one's present practice accomplish that? These questions underlie a millennium old controversy over buddhahood in India and Tibet..


So the book is not really talking in terms of a resolution to these tensions.


Possibly... but Deity in Theistic religions has a certain nuance that I don't think is there in Buddhahood.
First is a control over events - Buddhas do not control what happens to us, that is our karma (cause & effect).
Second, is the concept of creation, Theistic religions tend to say that Deities have a hand in creation, this is not true of Buddhas.
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Re: Problem understanding Buddhahood/Bodhisattvahood

Postby jeeprs » Thu Jun 27, 2013 1:30 am

I agree.
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Re: Problem understanding Buddhahood/Bodhisattvahood

Postby Greg » Thu Jun 27, 2013 4:39 am

jeeprs wrote:The Buddha (or Buddha-nature) is omniscient:
I looked up the Makransky text mentioned in Post 211 which says that:

To enter the Mahayana Buddhist path to enlightenment is to seek both to become free from our dualistic, deluded world and to remain actively engaged in that world until all others are free. How are these two apparently contradictory qualities to be embodied in the attainment of buddhahood (dharmakaya)? How can one's present practice accomplish that? These questions underlie a millennium old controversy over buddhahood in India and Tibet..


So the book is not really talking in terms of a resolution.


Makransky has a long analysis of the idea of bodhisattvas postponing enlightenment. This is around pgs 336-338. I'm not sure that all of the issues are resolved particularly, so he may not offer a resolution per se.
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Re: Problem understanding Buddhahood/Bodhisattvahood

Postby jeeprs » Sun Jun 30, 2013 7:25 am

'Beyond suffering' is also 'beyond existence'. After all at the end of his life, the Buddha became quite ill and died from an all-too-human illness. So the 'beyond suffering' really is 'transcendent' in the sense of being 'beyond the realm of the six sense gates'. In the early texts, in my view, this is why there was never any discussion of ideas such as 'buddha-nature'. Because the 'transcendent' whilst it is utterly real, is not something that exists - i.e you can't touch it, see it, and so on - but neither is it non-existent. This is stated clearly in the 'Aspiration Prayer of Mahamudra':

"It is not existent--even the Victorious Ones do not see it.
It is not nonexistent--it is the basis of all samsara and nirvana."

So "beyond existence" is not non-existent. It is beyond the realm of phenomenal reality. MY feeling is, in the very early tradition, it was left unsaid, or implicit. Over the generations, it was gradually articulated or encoded in symbolic language.
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Re: Problem understanding Buddhahood/Bodhisattvahood

Postby lobster » Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:11 am

jeeprs wrote:"It is not existent--even the Victorious Ones do not see it.
It is not nonexistent--it is the basis of all samsara and nirvana."

:twothumbsup:

Great answers guys.
Buddhas and other Bodhis, whether eyes fully open or just rousing from sleep :zzz:
are operating at least from, and some for and to awakening. All traditions even some non Buddhist, have graduated series of insight/awakening . . .
The first awakening is the beginning of non dream dharma. So really the beginning destination . . .

Study, practice, wake up.
Seems like a plan :woohoo:
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