Early Buddhism and Mahayana

General forum on the teachings of all schools of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. Topics specific to one school are best posted in the appropriate sub-forum.
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Vidyaraja
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Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Vidyaraja » Sun Sep 15, 2013 7:12 pm

Which form of Mahayana is the most different from early Buddhism and which is the most similar in your opinion? I've heard Theravadins claim that they felt Zen was most similar to early Buddhism and that Vajrayana was the most different with its yab-yum imagery, consort practice, tantra, wrathful deities, guru yoga, etc. I've also heard people claim that Nichiren Buddhism and Pureland are quite different from earliest Buddhism, the former with its emphasis on chanting the Japanese name of a sutra to achieve enlightenment and the latter with its emphasis on being reborn in a Pureland rather than working on attaining enlightenment here in this life.

Also, what are the counter arguments made by Vajrayana to those Theravadins and Mahayinists that claim "Lamaism" is heretical or isn't really Buddhism? What are the counter arguments presented by Nichiren or Pureland for those who claim the same about them? Is there even such a thing as heretical Buddhism?

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Kim O'Hara
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Kim O'Hara » Sun Sep 15, 2013 10:34 pm

I've seen all these claims and mostly agree ... but then again, I'm not a "serious Mahayana practitioner" but someone who thinks all traditions have something to offer.
Theravadins (naturally) believe that Theravada is closest to Early Buddhism, which means whatever is closest to Theravada is closest to Early Buddhism.

FWIW, the similarity often seen between Theravada and Zen is more a matter of the simplicity (even austerity) of style than of doctrine.

:namaste:
Kim

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yan kong
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby yan kong » Sun Sep 15, 2013 10:42 pm

It's probably a mistake to relate Theravadins to "early buddhism" simply because they don't accept the Mahayana Sutras.
"Meditation is a spiritual exercise, not a therapeutic regime... Our intention is to enter Nirvana, not to make life in Samsara more tolerable." Chan Master Hsu Yun

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Kim O'Hara
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Kim O'Hara » Sun Sep 15, 2013 11:13 pm


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Vidyaraja
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Vidyaraja » Mon Sep 16, 2013 12:35 am


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yan kong
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby yan kong » Mon Sep 16, 2013 1:57 am

Sorry Kim, I did not mean to imply I was responding directly to your comment. It was more of a general statement of the original post.

And scholars are well aware that the Theravada is a school that developed later. While I have great respect for the Theravada some of its practitioners have a distorted view of the history of Buddhism.
"Meditation is a spiritual exercise, not a therapeutic regime... Our intention is to enter Nirvana, not to make life in Samsara more tolerable." Chan Master Hsu Yun

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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Wayfarer » Mon Sep 16, 2013 2:27 am

I have found from the viewpoint of being a Western student of Buddhism (which is a different perspective to that of someone who is culturally Buddhist) that the thematic histories of the development of Buddhism have helped me to understand that. Books such as Edward Conze's Buddhism: Its Essence and Development (although that is probably dated).

I have the idea that the 'early Mahayana' corresponding with the stratum of the Prajnaparamita Sutras is really a unique development not only in Buddhism but in the history of earth's culture. I think this period coincides with the form Indian Buddhism took before it died out in India itself, after which time it continued to develop in Tibet, China, and Japan and elsewhere. I have always felt that this period was unique, and in some sense, is lost, in that the kind of minds that enabled those ideas, are long since vanished from the earth.
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Indrajala » Mon Sep 16, 2013 3:11 am

The Theravada that most are exposed to in the west is austere, scholarly and orthodox, which in actual fact is quite different from what you see amongst Theravada communities in Asia.

For example, a lot of Thai monks have tattoos, practice magic, perform exorcisms and bless amulets. One of my friends, a Vajrayana practitioner, was in Myanmar and they took an interest in his practice. Incantations, summonings and blessings and so forth are far from alien to these monks.

Also, the idea that monks don't use money, as apparently reflective of early Buddhist VInaya standards, is again from a minority. Most monks use money. In ancient India it seems a lot, if not most of them, did in fact possess and use money. If you look at the journals of Faxian (fifth century) and Yijing (eighth century), you see explicit mention of money being possessed and used by monks. Yijing said that when a monk dies in India (probably he meant around Nalanda), they distribute his gold and silver amongst the monks present. So, clearly, they were possessing wealth.

So saying Theravadin monks more closely follow the Vinaya is likewise problematic. But then there's the issue that a lot of Theravada literature reflects cultural developments long after the Buddha's death, or are pieced together from already existent scriptures and reconfigured.
tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Wayfarer » Mon Sep 16, 2013 3:39 am

In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Vidyaraja
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Vidyaraja » Mon Sep 16, 2013 3:53 am

So is it known when Mahayana began to develop as a separate tradition? What are the oldest Mahayana Sutras and are they based, as if often the case, on oral traditions or modes of practiced religiosity that precede their composition?

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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Indrajala » Mon Sep 16, 2013 4:10 am

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Kim O'Hara » Mon Sep 16, 2013 5:39 am


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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Indrajala » Mon Sep 16, 2013 6:31 am

Last week in Melaka I noticed the Guanyin statue at the Thai temple.
tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Michael_Dorfman » Mon Sep 16, 2013 9:26 am


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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Indrajala » Mon Sep 16, 2013 9:34 am

Also Jan Nattier's A Few Good Men: The Bodhisattva Path According to the Inquiry of Ugra (Ugraparipṛcchā) is worth reading cover to cover.
tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby shaunc » Mon Sep 16, 2013 10:05 am

I hope you guys don't mind me throwing my hat into the ring but plenty of religions do a bit of mix & match. My wife is a catholic from the Philippines. On our wedding day we also had to see a shaman, even though it's a catholic country it's not uncommon to hear the word "karma" which is a Hindu/buddhist word. I'm Australian from an Irish/catholic background but my grandmother who went to mass on a regular basis also read tea-leaves for friends & neighbours. To me none of this seems outrageous. All religions at one time, either evolved from or absorbed another religion.

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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Huifeng » Mon Sep 16, 2013 10:36 am

Probably when one of the Buddha's own disciples, while he was still alive, thought "I want to be just like the Buddha". That's the original spirit of the Mahayana in a nutshell, right there during the Buddha's own life, ie. early Buddhism.

To be honest, the OP is not very well framed. What are meant by "Mahayana" and "early Buddhism" here? It seems to assume some form of present Mahayana, but obviously that's not all there is. And assumes a difference between the two in the first place, which is not guaranteed.

~~ Huifeng


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Vidyaraja
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Vidyaraja » Mon Sep 16, 2013 4:46 pm


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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Indrajala » Mon Sep 16, 2013 6:10 pm

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Malcolm » Mon Sep 16, 2013 6:23 pm





འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


Free of hope and fear, relax.
Human life spent in
a state of great spaciousness is enjoyable.


— Kunzang Dechen Lingpa


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