Early Buddhism and Mahayana

General forum on Mahayana.

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?
User avatar
Vidyaraja
 
Posts: 156
Joined: Sat Jan 26, 2013 3:48 am

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
User avatar
Kim O'Hara
 
Posts: 804
Joined: Fri Nov 16, 2012 1:09 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

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
User avatar
yan kong
 
Posts: 139
Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2012 1:01 am

Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

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

yan kong wrote:It's probably a mistake to relate Theravadins to "early buddhism" simply because they don't accept the Mahayana Sutras.

That's a long-running argument, Yan Kong. It has been going on, AFAIK, since the terms "Mahayana" and "Hinayana" were coined. :thinking:
There are some interesting posts relevant to it on the "Zen, Buddhism and Taoism thread - viewtopic.php?f=69&t=13964
What I said above was, as I said, the Theravadin view of the situation. I'm not asserting that it is the only view.

:namaste:
Kim
User avatar
Kim O'Hara
 
Posts: 804
Joined: Fri Nov 16, 2012 1:09 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

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

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


Agreed, I was just reiterating the claims I've heard Theravadins make.

yan kong wrote:It's probably a mistake to relate Theravadins to "early buddhism" simply because they don't accept the Mahayana Sutras.


I am not making that relation, though as Kim O'Hara said I am sure the Theravadins feel that relation is the case. I believe I read somewhere that scholars are beginning to question whether Therevada represents earliest Buddhism and Mahayana was a much later development, but I am not sure where I read it and in what context they meant.
User avatar
Vidyaraja
 
Posts: 156
Joined: Sat Jan 26, 2013 3:48 am

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
User avatar
yan kong
 
Posts: 139
Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2012 1:01 am

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.
Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas
User avatar
Wayfarer
 
Posts: 1931
Joined: Sun May 27, 2012 8:31 am
Location: Sydney AU

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.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5914
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Nepal

Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

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

I noticed this book on Amazon some time ago

The Gods Drink Whiskey: Stumbling Toward Enlightenment in the Land of the Tattered Buddha, Stephen T. Asma:

Asma, a professor of Buddhism at Columbia College in Chicago ...recounts his intense and revelatory Cambodian adventures while teaching at Phnom Penh's Buddhist Institute. In an electrifying and frank mix of hair-raising anecdotes and expert analysis, he explicates the vast difference between text-based Buddhist teachings and daily life in a poor and politically volatile Buddhist society. Amid tales of massage parlors, marijuana-spiced pizza, and bloodshed, he cogently explains how Theravada Buddhism, the form practiced throughout Southeast Asia, differs from the Buddhism Westerners are familiar with, and how entwined it is with animistic beliefs.
Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas
User avatar
Wayfarer
 
Posts: 1931
Joined: Sun May 27, 2012 8:31 am
Location: Sydney AU

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?
User avatar
Vidyaraja
 
Posts: 156
Joined: Sat Jan 26, 2013 3:48 am

Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

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

Vidyaraja wrote: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?


The Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā is one of the earliest (1st century BCE).

We can be rest assured such traditions existed in some form or another before the texts emerged.

Some Mahāyāna seems to have developed in the NW and around Bactria where creative talents had been the first to create sculptures of the Buddha, which might suggest subtle Hellenic influences.

In the fifth century actually Mahāyāna Buddhism as a mainstream institution only existed in Central Asia, in places like Khotan.

I wrote something about this:

http://huayanzang.blogspot.com/2013/01/ ... nt-in.html
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5914
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Nepal

Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

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

Indrajala wrote: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.

Indeed.
There's a long thread on "Tantric Theravada" over on the other DW - http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=10503
You can also see Hindu deities in Theravada Buddhist temples in Thailand (I saw some in Chiang Mai), and "Mahayana" bodhisattvas, too (for e.g. see the thread about Guan Yin on dhammawheel that I haven't time to look for just now).
And just yesterday I was looking at iconography of a Taoist shrine which explicitly combined Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.
The more I learn, the more the I think that neat divisions between traditions are more theoretical than real.

:namaste:
Kim
User avatar
Kim O'Hara
 
Posts: 804
Joined: Fri Nov 16, 2012 1:09 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

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.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5914
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Nepal

Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

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

Vidyaraja wrote: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?


If you're interested in the development of Mahāyāna over time, Paul Williams's book Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations provides a nice overview, but I think the best book about the early development of Mahāyāna is Joseph Walser's book Nāgārjuna in Context, which actually covers more ground than its title would indicate.
Michael_Dorfman
 
Posts: 51
Joined: Tue Mar 20, 2012 2:09 pm

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.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5914
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Nepal

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.
shaunc
 
Posts: 294
Joined: Fri Jan 11, 2013 8:10 am

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
User avatar
Huifeng
 
Posts: 1469
Joined: Tue Nov 17, 2009 4:51 am

Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

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

Indrajala wrote:The Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā is one of the earliest (1st century BCE).


Interesting. I thought I read somewhere that parts of the Lotus Sutra date from around the same time period too.

Indrajala wrote:I wrote something about this:

http://huayanzang.blogspot.com/2013/01/ ... nt-in.html


Looks like an interesting article, I will most certainly give it a read. Thanks for sharing that.

Huifeng wrote: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.


Well the discussion as turned into general Mahayana, but my initial question was wondering which of the present forms would be most recognizable to the earliest disciples of Buddhism and which would be most alien--be it in doctrine, modes of practice, approach, etc. I suppose what is meant by early Buddhism would be Buddhism during the first few centuries of its existence.
User avatar
Vidyaraja
 
Posts: 156
Joined: Sat Jan 26, 2013 3:48 am

Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

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

Vidyaraja wrote:Well the discussion as turned into general Mahayana, but my initial question was wondering which of the present forms would be most recognizable to the earliest disciples of Buddhism and which would be most alien--be it in doctrine, modes of practice, approach, etc. I suppose what is meant by early Buddhism would be Buddhism during the first few centuries of its existence.


I think Pure Land Buddhism would be seen as rather alien to the early Buddhists, especially Shinran's ideas.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5914
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Nepal

Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

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

Indrajala wrote:
Vidyaraja wrote:Well the discussion as turned into general Mahayana, but my initial question was wondering which of the present forms would be most recognizable to the earliest disciples of Buddhism and which would be most alien--be it in doctrine, modes of practice, approach, etc. I suppose what is meant by early Buddhism would be Buddhism during the first few centuries of its existence.


I think Pure Land Buddhism would be seen as rather alien to the early Buddhists, especially Shinran's ideas.



Who cares? "Early" Buddhism is not the standard of what Buddhadharma is. "Early Buddhism" is a pedantic reconstruction.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
User avatar
Malcolm
 
Posts: 11942
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

Next

Return to Mahāyāna Buddhism

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 9 guests

>