Early Buddhism and Mahayana

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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Malcolm » Tue Sep 17, 2013 2:23 am

Vidyaraja wrote:
Malcolm wrote: Basically, it is really pretty simple. All yogic paths in Indian religion and its offshoots, whether Buddhist, Jain or Hindu, whether in India or Tibet, or China, etc., accept one thing in common: in order to cease taking rebirth in samsara, one must deal somehow with the kleṣas that drive rebirth.


That is true, but their views on the means to this can be deeply variant.


That's the point -- enlightenment, awakening, is just a story. We all subscribe to different stories of awakening. Some people like to imagine that their story is more solid, more real, that the stories of others. Certainly I have been guilty of this.

Basically, the fact that there is a story of awakening at all is the essence of Dharma. What does not matter very much are the details, except to you, the practitioner. If you ask me what story of awakening I like, I will very swiftly tell you that I like the story of awakening as it is presented in the teachings of self-liberation, Dzogchen. I like it more than the story of awakening presented in the path of renunciation or the path of transformation. I like it more than the story of awakening presented in Samkhya, Trika, Vedanta and so on. The vehicle of self-liberation is my preferred story. I can't convince you to accept my story of liberation anymore than I could have been convinced of it when I was committed to Buddhism as a religion by someone else. Likewise, I cannot convince any one here of any story about liberation they are not disposed to believe.

But the one thing we share is that we all subscribe to narrative about liberation otherwise we would not be here discussing these issues. And that is why there is no closed Canon in Buddhism, why there never can be.

Buddhists, like all other religionists, like to think that they are the only ones who have a true story. Among Buddhists, all assert their preferred story of liberation as the best, or most practical, or the only possible, or the most historically accurate, and so on.

We Dharma practitioners demonstrate our commitment to our preferred stories by the choices we make, and the practices we do. But in the end we are merely making a commitment to a narrative of liberation we have decided to accept. And that is completely subjective, personal and non-verifiable. No one's putative awakening is verifiable by any objective, empirical standard -- and in these conversations about liberation we all behave as if there were some objective criteria by which liberation can be measured. This is absurd. Every standard by which we can measure liberation and awakening is a complete and utterly arbitrary mental line drawn in space. All of our narratives of liberation come from space too, just like clouds billowing in the sky.
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Wayfarer » Tue Sep 17, 2013 2:49 am

Bravo! Well spoken. This is perfectly in keeping with the Parable of the Raft:

In the same way, monks, I have taught the Dhamma compared to a raft, for the purpose of crossing over, not for the purpose of holding onto. Understanding the Dhamma as taught compared to a raft, you should let go even of Dhammas, to say nothing of non-Dhammas.
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Vidyaraja » Tue Sep 17, 2013 3:06 am

Malcolm wrote:That's the point -- enlightenment, awakening, is just a story. We all subscribe to different stories of awakening. Some people like to imagine that their story is more solid, more real, that the stories of others. Certainly I have been guilty of this.

Basically, the fact that there is a story of awakening at all is the essence of Dharma. What does not matter very much are the details, except to you, the practitioner. If you ask me what story of awakening I like, I will very swiftly tell you that I like the story of awakening as it is presented in the teachings of self-liberation, Dzogchen. I like it more than the story of awakening presented in the path of renunciation or the path of transformation. I like it more than the story of awakening presented in Samkhya, Trika, Vedanta and so on. The vehicle of self-liberation is my preferred story. I can't convince you to accept my story of liberation anymore than I could have been convinced of it when I was committed to Buddhism as a religion by someone else. Likewise, I cannot convince any one here of any story about liberation they are not disposed to believe.

But the one thing we share is that we all subscribe to narrative about liberation otherwise we would not be here discussing these issues. And that is why there is no closed Canon in Buddhism, why there never can be.

Buddhists, like all other religionists, like to think that they are the only ones who have a true story. Among Buddhists, all assert their preferred story of liberation as the best, or most practical, or the only possible, or the most historically accurate, and so on.

We Dharma practitioners demonstrate our commitment to our preferred stories by the choices we make, and the practices we do. But in the end we are merely making a commitment to a narrative of liberation we have decided to accept. And that is completely subjective, personal and non-verifiable. No one's putative awakening is verifiable by any objective, empirical standard -- and in these conversations about liberation we all behave as if there were some objective criteria by which liberation can be measured. This is absurd. Every standard by which we can measure liberation and awakening is a complete and utterly arbitrary mental line drawn in space. All of our narratives of liberation come from space too, just like clouds billowing in the sky.


I agree with the gist of what you say and hope my replies in this thread haven't come across as a way of demeaning either Tibetan Buddhism or Nichiren. In fact I admire a good deal of Tibetan Buddhism and still hold it as a possible tradition I may end up in, depending on how my future goes. I also have chanted Daimoku in the past and found it to be a good practice, so nothing against Nichiren either. My posts in this thread were just intended to stimulate discussion and I hope others can add more regarding Mahayana's early history or what they feel about certain schools and their relation to earliest Buddhism. Though I will still maintain my position that Stephen Batchelor's brand of secular-atheistic "Buddhism" isn't Buddhism.

That said, what is the difference between the self-liberation of Dzogchen and renunciation or transformation? Are not Nyingma monks renunciants and do their practices not lead to transformation (even if that transformation is just awareness of our naturally, spontaneously present enlightened state which is always there?) Also, what is the difference between the self-liberation of Dzogchen and the anupaya or "method-less method" or "means of no-means" of Trika/Kashmir Shaivism?
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Malcolm » Tue Sep 17, 2013 3:23 am

Vidyaraja wrote:[Though I will still maintain my position that Stephen Batchelor's brand of secular-atheistic "Buddhism" isn't Buddhism.


Your Buddhism is not his Buddhism, that is all you can say.


That said, what is the difference between the self-liberation of Dzogchen and renunciation or transformation? Are not Nyingma monks renunciants and do their practices not lead to transformation (even if that transformation is just awareness of our naturally, spontaneously present enlightened state which is always there?)


By definition, anyone who practices either Vajrayāna or Dzogchen has abandoned the path of renunciation as their path.


Also, what is the difference between the self-liberation of Dzogchen and the anupaya or "method-less method" or "means of no-means" of Trika/Kashmir Shaivism?


Very different stories.
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Indrajala » Tue Sep 17, 2013 3:39 am

Jikan wrote:Do you really think you could convince anyone that such a form of Buddhism would be acceptable to anyone as Buddhism under any circumstances? If so, whom, and under what circumstances?


Vajrayāna in India seems to have indeed incorporated otherwise taboo practices. Giovanni Verardi in his work Hardships and Downfall of Buddhism in India explains:

    Violence was no longer a taboo for the Buddhists: it was part of their strategy, together with sexual unruliness and a conscious resorting to social revolt. It is a mistake to consider the incitements to revolt contained in the texts and the manifestations of violence in both texts and iconographies as purely symbolic. They are literal and metaphorical, not symbolic. As metaphors, through the analogical process, texts and iconographies transfer the violence committed by the Buddhists on the tīrthika-s to those carried out on the Brahmanical gods by the new Buddhist deities. That a symbolic interpretation started developing at an early stage is not particularly significant, because it was largely the work of trans-Himalayan Buddhists who had to adapt the received tradition to a context where there were no tīrthika-s. The Vajrayāna was considered part of the true teaching of the Buddha, and neither texts nor images could be changed: they could only be interpreted. These interpretations have their own legitimacy, and so deep and influential as to have generated an entire symbolic universe, extending from Tibet to Japan, but we must first distinguish between Indian Buddhism and the violent world where it developed and the forms it took when it was received outside India.


Giovanni Veraridi, Hardships and Downfall of Buddhism in India (New Delhi, India: Manohar, 2011), 349-350.

This was quite a different model from what the Buddha taught, and I'm sure Buddhists at the time were well aware of that.
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Vidyaraja » Tue Sep 17, 2013 3:54 am

Malcolm wrote: Your Buddhism is not his Buddhism, that is all you can say.


If his atheistic-materialism (nihilism) is Buddhism, anything can be Buddhism, thus rendering the appellation "Buddhism" a meaningless term.
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Malcolm » Tue Sep 17, 2013 4:16 am

Indrajala wrote:
Vajrayāna in India seems to have indeed incorporated otherwise taboo practices.


So did Shakyamuni -- like abandoning his family, living in charnel grounds, and so on, wearing dyed winding sheets, etc.
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Malcolm » Tue Sep 17, 2013 4:20 am

Vidyaraja wrote:
Malcolm wrote: Your Buddhism is not his Buddhism, that is all you can say.


If his atheistic-materialism (nihilism) is Buddhism, anything can be Buddhism, thus rendering the appellation "Buddhism" a meaningless term.


He feels his story is squarely grounded in the Buddha's teachings. You feel yours is. You are both interested in liberation from suffering. All that separates the two of you is that you are substance dualist and he is a physicalist. Oh, and he will readily call you a Buddhist, but you deny him (as I have in the past) the same decency -- that's another difference.

M
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby brendan » Tue Sep 17, 2013 4:23 am

Vidyaraja wrote:
Malcolm wrote: Your Buddhism is not his Buddhism, that is all you can say.


If his atheistic-materialism (nihilism) is Buddhism, anything can be Buddhism, thus rendering the appellation "Buddhism" a meaningless term.


What Shakyamuni found out about "Ultimate reality" dosnt seem to be out debatable. But what Shakyamuni found out about "relative reality" seems to be just another story.

Maybe that was Siddhartas first life as this is our first life. Maybe his visions of past life's were just culturally based visions.

When ever there is a cognition of what "Ultimate reality" of "relative reality" is there must never be room for harmful side effects. If there are harmful side effects that view should be excluded.

Thankfully what Shakyamuni found out about "Ultimate reality" has little room for side effects as opposed to the view of theism were one is made by a deity or one must become one with a deity clearly has negative side effects. It leaves no room for self liberation or personal freedom and creates a grandiose identity and creates a I can do what I want as I'm protected by the deity.

On the other hand the story that Siddharta has for "relative reality" seems to have some negative side effects. From his perspective it would of been very easy to out debate another sentient being with his cognition of re-birth believing that he has already been similar to that being and hence running over the top of that particular beings karmic past so to speak. Where as if he was cognizing from the view of his birth being his first life his power would of been decreased so to speak.

Due to his cognition of re-birth he would of viewed females very differently as he believed he had already been a female. This is just one example but maybe an important point.
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Indrajala » Tue Sep 17, 2013 4:26 am

Malcolm wrote:So did Shakyamuni -- like abandoning his family, living in charnel grounds, and so on, wearing dyed winding sheets, etc.


Not really. The śramaṇa culture was already well-developed. Many of the Buddha's disciples were already mendicant yogis before studying under him.

In any case, the point is that Vajrayāna seems to have responded with violence and taboo sexual practices to ongoing repression on the part of Brahmins. This was rather revolutionary given the long-standing nominal observance of non-violence and brahmacarya on the part of the Buddhist sangha.
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Malcolm » Tue Sep 17, 2013 4:41 am

Indrajala wrote:
Malcolm wrote:So did Shakyamuni -- like abandoning his family, living in charnel grounds, and so on, wearing dyed winding sheets, etc.


Not really. The śramaṇa culture was already well-developed. Many of the Buddha's disciples were already mendicant yogis before studying under him.

In any case, the point is that Vajrayāna seems to have responded with violence and taboo sexual practices to ongoing repression on the part of Brahmins. This was rather revolutionary given the long-standing nominal observance of non-violence and brahmacarya on the part of the Buddhist sangha.


Taboo sexual practices? Like having sex? With real people? Vajrayāna is just more practical, that's all. And in terms of violence, all Buddhists did in those days was appropriate the symbols of ritual violence and procedures that were well known in their culture.

What I think most people ignore is that prior to the rise of Vajrayāna, there was a huge Puranic revolution that popularized and made available many rites and rituals that previously have been the precinct only of ritual specialists i.e. Brahmins. Buddhists used these rites and symbols, even making arguments for why Buddhist homavidhi was more effective than that of traditional Brahmins. The fact is that Buddhist ritual specialists increasingly took business away from Brahmins. In the context of Indian culture, anyone sufficiently expert in the general lines of Vajrayāna ritual, derived from Brahmanic dinācarya anyway, could replace a Brahmanic priest. This was not true in the day of the Buddha. Buddhist rulers for example continued to rely on Brahmin priests for state functions, etc. It is only after the fall of the Gupta that we see the rise in Vajrayāna texts, and this corresponds to the breaking of traditional patron/priest relationships in Northern India, and the replacement of the old order with new Buddhist ritual experts.
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Malcolm » Tue Sep 17, 2013 4:42 am

Indrajala wrote:
The śramaṇa culture was already well-developed.



Yes, and was systematically engaged in breaking all kinds of social taboos.
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby rory » Tue Sep 17, 2013 4:49 am

Bother, I posted earlier. Anyway as a NIchiren Buddhist I'm happy to respond to this:

Nichiren claims that only the Lotus sutra and the chanting of Daimoku can lead to liberation in this degenerate age of the Dharma. If his revelation is true, this invalidates most other forms of Buddhism

As Astus pointed out NIchiren's doctrine comes from the Lotus Sutra.

So I'd be happy to say to the historical Shakyamuni Buddha as he was teaching, "I follow the teachings you preached in the Lotus Sutra; that you are the Eternal Buddha (ch 16) continuously preaching at Vulture Peak, that all sentient beings will become Buddhas, that this is the dharma-ending age and all other teachings are useless, that Never-Despising Buddha is a good model, I chant the title of the Lotus Sutra to still my mind and invite you into it so I can follow you."

Now the latter involving the daimoku is of course ichnen-sanzen, Zhiyi's famous philosophy that permits the various heavenly worlds to interpenetrate the mundane ones, it's how I can be with the buddha.If Shakyamuni objected to this innovation I can still say I calm and concentrate my mind with daimoku and then concentrate on the Buddha's teaching. So no problem that way. Finally the 3rd Tiantai patriarch Zhanran practiced exclusive Tiantai, meaning all other sects should be abandoned. And you can find that squarely in the Lotus Sutra.

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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Indrajala » Tue Sep 17, 2013 4:57 am

Malcolm wrote:And in terms of violence, all Buddhists did in those days was appropriate the symbols of ritual violence and procedures that were well known in their culture.


The opinion of Giovanni Verardi is that these were not merely symbolic: they were reflective of violence actively exercised in real life.

Now, granted, not everyone agrees with him. When I spoke to Dr. Lokesh Candra about this over tea, he said he disagreed, and that he feels there was no major violent conflict between Buddhists and Brahmins.
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Lindama » Tue Sep 17, 2013 5:09 am

... enlightenment, awakening is just a story.


is that so? ... or is it a collusion. I have seen this before in another tradition... To me, it is a dumbing down of tradition so that we can all take comfort in our illusions together... forget the story. The awakened ones are carefree in such matters.
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Malcolm » Tue Sep 17, 2013 1:15 pm

Lindama wrote:The awakened ones are carefree in such matters.


That is just another story.

The point here is that we need to be aware of the fact that we are following narratives, preferring one narrative to another. There is not much meaning to the term "awakened one" if there is no narrative connected with their awakening. This is why there are compelling narratives around the liberations of Shakyamuni, Padmasambhava, Tonpa Shenrab and so on.

If we prefer so-called "early Buddhism" to Mahāyāna, or vice versa, we are giving preference to one story over another.
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Fa Dao » Tue Sep 17, 2013 4:37 pm

One common underlying thread/theme/narrative that is taught either directly or indirectly in all traditions of "Buddhism" is the Four Noble Truths, regardless if one is following Theravada, Mahayana, Zen, Vajrayana, Nichiren, Pure land, Dzogchen etc etc. Although it may or may not be directly emphasized it is there.
"But if you know how to observe yourself, you will discover your real nature, the primordial state, the state of Guruyoga, and then all will become clear because you will have discovered everything"-Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Vidyaraja » Tue Sep 17, 2013 6:25 pm

Malcolm wrote:He feels his story is squarely grounded in the Buddha's teachings. You feel yours is. You are both interested in liberation from suffering. All that separates the two of you is that you are substance dualist and he is a physicalist. Oh, and he will readily call you a Buddhist, but you deny him (as I have in the past) the same decency -- that's another difference.

M


Going by this, anyone who calls themselves Buddhist is in fact a Buddhist. Materialism is nihilism, nihilism is against what the Buddha taught, and materialism doesn't lead to the cessation of suffering or nirvana. It isn't decency to call something what it isn't but rather error. Neither the Buddha himself, nor all the Buddhist masters of the past, nor any Buddhist worth their salt today would call Batchelor a Buddhist. The equivalent would be if Batchelor were a Christian who denied the crucifixion, the existence of God, heaven and hell, the possibility of salvation, judgement, or any of the miracles of Jesus and then expect Christians to include him simply because he calls himself one. Same thing if a liar called himself honest or a greedy thief called himself a charitable giver.
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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Malcolm » Tue Sep 17, 2013 6:54 pm

Vidyaraja wrote:
Materialism is nihilism, nihilism is against what the Buddha taught, and materialism doesn't lead to the cessation of suffering or nirvana.


Ucchedavada, often mistranslated as nihilism, is the view that there is a self which perishes at death. But I am quite sure that is not Batchelor's view at all.

Neither the Buddha himself, nor all the Buddhist masters of the past, nor any Buddhist worth their salt today would call Batchelor a Buddhist.


Batchelor practices that portion of Buddhadharma that he can accept. That makes him a follower of Buddhadharma whether you like it or not. He accepts that all conditioned phenomena are impermanent, that all afflicted phenomena are suffering, and that all phenomena lack self. He probably also accepts that nirvana is peaceful. In other words, I am quite certain he accepts the four seals. Among the four seals there is not one word that mentions rebirth. He takes refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

I am quite certain that Buddha, being kinder than you, would find room for Batchelor among his students.

He just has problems with literal rebirth because he is a physicalist, just as you are a substance dualist. From my point of view, you are both wrong.

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Re: Early Buddhism and Mahayana

Postby Vidyaraja » Tue Sep 17, 2013 7:25 pm

Malcolm wrote: Batchelor practices that portion of Buddhadharma that he can accept. That makes him a follower of Buddhadharma whether you like it or not. He accepts that all conditioned phenomena are impermanent, that all afflicted phenomena are suffering, and that all phenomena lack self. He probably also accepts that nirvana is peaceful. In other words, I am quite certain he accepts the four seals. Among the four seals there is not one word that mentions rebirth. He takes refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.


The Buddha teaches that there is a deathless state, as mentioned in the Dhammapada "Thousands" chapter:

One day's glimpse of the deathless state is better than a hundred years of life without it.

The deathless is not to be found among conditioned phenomena:

There is, monks, an unborn, unbecome, unmade, unconditioned.
If, monks there were not that unborn, unbecome,
unmade, unconditioned, you could not know an escape here
from the born, become, made, and conditioned.

But because there is an unborn, unbecome,
unmade, unconditioned, therefore you do know an escape
from the born, become, made, and conditioned.

Batchelor's materialism precludes this. He isn't a Buddhist as he cuts out the very heart of Buddhism. Regarding rebirth, see here:

http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/n_r/punabbhava.htm

Malcolm wrote:He just has problems with literal rebirth because he is a physicalist, just as you are a substance dualist. From my point of view, you are both wrong.

M


I am not a substance dualist.

Malcolm wrote:I am quite certain that Buddha, being kinder than you, would find room for Batchelor among his students.


That is different than Buddha accepting what Batchelor espouses as his teaching or a right view or in line with the Dharma.
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