Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

No holds barred discussion on the Buddhadharma. Argue about rebirth, karma, commentarial interpretations etc. Be nice to each other.

Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Thu Jan 06, 2011 9:34 pm

By the way, I'd like to remind everyone that this is the Dharma-Free-For-All section. That can take a tough stomach sometimes!

If we're looking to define what is and isn't Buddhism, perhaps this is of help:

From the Vinaya Pitaka.

"Of whatever teachings you can assure yourself that they conduce to dispassion and not to passions, to detachment and not to bondage, to decrease of worldly gains and not to their increase, to frugality and not to covetousness, to content and not to discontent, to solitude and not to company, to energy and not to sluggishness, to delight in good and not to delight in evil, of such teachings you may with certainty affirm that this is the Norm, this is the discipline, this is the Master’s message."

Best,
Laura
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Jnana » Thu Jan 06, 2011 9:47 pm

Yeshe wrote:Yeshe D - You are very much aware that, whether as 'devil's advocate' or not, you have thrown out a huge amount of abuse on this thread aimed at members and at the Mahayana.

Yet another inaccurate characterization. If anyone's faith is challenged by an open and frank discussion of the historical development of Buddhist ideas, then they might wish to refrain from visiting the Dharma-free-for-all forum. Moreover, they might do well to understand and acknowledge that taking an opponents proposition and drawing out the consequences of that proposition which are undesirable to him or her is a time honored and accepted method of Mahāyāna Mādhyamaka. One can do so by presenting counter propositions or by pure consequentialism. Whether the proposition in question is "Buddhist" or not is irrelevant. There are no "sacred cows" in Buddhism.

Yeshe wrote:When questioned or reminded of ToS you have tried to evade responsibility and sought to claim others are in fact being unkind to you.

Zsolt (Astus) sent me an e-mail earlier today suggesting that I should publicly declare that I'm a Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna practitioner. I don't feel that such a declaration should be necessary at all.

I'm no shrinking violet. If Gordo is going to publicly attack the reputation and teaching skills of someone as learned and dedicated to the Dharma as Reggie Ray, I'm not going to passively read such nonsense and let it go unchallenged. FYI, that is 100% vajra.

Yeshe wrote:Straw man after straw man.

Either you or some other mod started this thread and you and Gordo then proceeded to ask me to elaborate on a reply from another thread. Which I have done at length.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Jnana » Thu Jan 06, 2011 10:05 pm

Yeshe wrote:Really? I think you are confusing existence arising with moments arising. Moments cannot arise. I think you are misinterpreting.

You're basing your rebuttal on a pretty unsatisfactory translation (I should have provided a better translation). Here "dharmas" is being translated as "moments of existing." And yes, unequivocally, the śramaṇa Gautama and his immediate disciples taught that dharmas do indeed arise and cease. Therefore the Sūtra is indeed calling śramaṇa Gautama and his immediate disciples "foolish people."

Yeshe wrote:In any case, a few examples does not justify your wholesale denial of ANY connection between Buddha and the Mahayana scritpures, which you have stated several times.

It would really be good if you could accurately comprehend what I've been explicitly saying: If by "Buddhism" we mean the teachings given by the historical śramaṇa Gautama, i.e. the "Buddha," then according to this definition mahāyānikas and tantrikas aren't practicing to attain the noble paths and fruitions resulting from cultivating the Dharma of the śramaṇa Gautama, and in this literal sense aren't "Buddhists" at all. This shouldn't come as a shock to anybody. It was and still is quite widely accepted amongst followers of the traditional mainstream Indian Dharma that the Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna discourses are all entirely apocryphal (at best) and in many cases heretical.

Yeshe wrote:Abandoning the Tipitaka would be a downfall of vows for myself. Do yours permit abandoning the Mahayana and its connection to the Buddha?

Sorry, but another fallacious argument. I am in no way abandoning the Mahāyāna. I'm discussing the historical development of Buddhist ideas. The two are in no way mutually exclusive categories.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Mr. G » Thu Jan 06, 2011 11:49 pm

Yeshe D, you're foaming at the mouth, take it easy before you give yourself an ulcer. :lol:

If anyone's faith is challenged by an open and frank discussion of the historical development of Buddhist ideas, then they might wish to refrain from visiting the Dharma-free-for-all forum.


In all honesty, I think very few here have had their faith challenged. Personally, I think Huseng most eloquently expressed the Mahayana POV:

viewtopic.php?p=22788#p22788

My personal favorite quote:

Huseng wrote:Even from a Śrāvaka position the Mahāsāṃghika approach is still based entirely on Āgama literature. They also did not accept Abhidharma as canonical. However, their vision and interpretation of the Buddha was quite different from that of Sthaviravāda schools.

Now in such a transcendental interpretation of the Buddha (lokottara) it follows that since the true Buddha manifests forms through which he liberates sentient beings with skilful means one could continue to be taught by the Buddha though Shakyamuni has long since passed away from the physical world.

Those seeking the same transcendence could have been taught the Mahāyāna by the Buddha in pure visions. The Mahāyāna, though not taught by Shakyamuni on Earth, was still a teaching by the Buddha nevertheless. A lot of Mahāyāna scriptures are obviously not meant to be understood as having been taught by Shakyamuni in the ordinary physical world. Basically, Shakyamuni, who was later identified as a nirāmaṇakāya, did not teach the Mahāyāna, but that's not problematic at all. The Mahāyāna was likely first taught by a manifested form in visions to those few individuals capable of grasping its import.

Even by the Mahāsāṃghika approach this is plausible. They wouldn't have accepted such visions as canonical, but those few individuals having them would presumably have taken them quite seriously and perhaps taught them to others.

Your interpretation above sounds very much like Sthaviravāda, which is fine. However, there are other Śrāvaka understandings like that of the Mahāsāṃghika who saw Buddha as representing something transcendental. Indeed, they still sought Arhatship. However, in time some would have asked if it were possible to achieve the same transcendental state that they saw as the true Buddha. They were motivated by compassion and concern for sentient beings. The true Buddha presumably could have revealed to them in visions the means and methods necessary to achieve something beyond Arhatship.

The result was the first Mahāyāna sūtras which are Saddharma and word of the Buddha.


And then Yeshe D., you comment on Huseng's post here with:

viewtopic.php?p=22834#p22834

Yeshe D. wrote:
That said, I agree with your overall assessment.



So, I personally think a thread like this is important for Buddhists in general, but the way you play Devil's Advocate is unskillful. You're not giving anyone a dose of their own medicine, and you're most certainly not having a discussion, and it's barely a debate. You're just barking at people, which is unnecessary. If you're really a practitioner of Vajrayana/Mahayana, don't forget they are your Vajra brothers and sisters.

If Gordo is going to publicly attack the reputation and teaching skills of someone as learned and dedicated to the Dharma as Reggie Ray, I'm not going to passively read such nonsense and let it go unchallenged. FYI, that is 100% vajra.


You make it seem like I went over to his house and punched him in the face...LOL. In that thread, I commented on Ray's statements stating that it seems like he doesn't believe in rebirth. I also said that if he doesn't believe in rebirth, he's not Buddhist. I then went the extra step and said I would email him for further clarification to see if his original statements were taken out of context. So what's the problem? I already said I would retract my statements based on new information provided by Ray. I would have no problem apologizing...why would I?

Your howling at the moon Yeshe D. :alien:
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Dharmakara » Thu Jan 06, 2011 11:51 pm

It goes with out saying that one person's heresy is another person's orthodoxy, so care should be taken when such terms are carelessly tossed around.

Barbara O'Brien used care when addressing the issue of orthodoxy on the About Buddhism website:

Theravadins do not consider the Mahayana scriptures to be authentic. Mahayana Buddhists on the whole consider the Theravada canon to be authentic, but in some cases Mahayana Buddhists think some of their scriptures have superseded the Theravada canon in authority.

To add to the confusion, schools of Mahayana Buddhism have different views about which Mahayana scriptures are authentic and authoritative. Some Mahayana scriptures are important to some schools and ignored by others. For example, the Lotus Sutra is the only scripture accepted by the Nichiren school, but it plays no part in Tibetan Buddhism.


As for the issue of attempting to define what Buddhism "is" or "is not", one must recognize such an attempt as what it is: a fool's errand.

There can be no universal definition of Buddhism, for the same reason there can be no universal definition of religion in general, because its constituent elements and relationships are not only historically specific, but because the definition is in and of itself the historical product of discursive processes, an agrument first put forth by Talal Asad.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Jnana » Fri Jan 07, 2011 12:03 am

Dharmakara wrote:As for the issue of attempting to define what Buddhism "is" or "is not", one must recognize such an attempt as what it is: a fool's errand.

There can be no universal definition of Buddhism, for the same reason there can be no universal definition of religion in general, because its constituent elements and relationships are not only historically specific, but because the definition is in and of itself the historical product of discursive processes, an agrument first put forth by Talal Asad.

Well said. My point exactly.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Mr. G » Fri Jan 07, 2011 12:04 am

Dharmakara wrote:It goes with out saying that one person's heresy is another person's orthodoxy, so care should be taken when such terms are carelessly tossed around.

Barbara O'Brien used care when addressing the issue of orthodoxy on the About Buddhism website:

Theravadins do not consider the Mahayana scriptures to be authentic. Mahayana Buddhists on the whole consider the Theravada canon to be authentic, but in some cases Mahayana Buddhists think some of their scriptures have superseded the Theravada canon in authority.

To add to the confusion, schools of Mahayana Buddhism have different views about which Mahayana scriptures are authentic and authoritative. Some Mahayana scriptures are important to some schools and ignored by others. For example, the Lotus Sutra is the only scripture accepted by the Nichiren school, but it plays no part in Tibetan Buddhism.


As for the issue of attempting to define what Buddhism "is" or "is not", one must recognize such an attempt as what it is: a fool's errand.

There can be no universal definition of Buddhism, for the same reason there can be no universal definition of religion in general, because its constituent elements and relationships are not only historically specific, but because the definition is in and of itself the historical product of discursive processes, an agrument first put forth by Talal Asad.


Hi Dharmakara,

I agree with your overall assessment. However, you would agree though that whether one follows Theravada or Mahayana that there are certain criteria that assist in qualifying Buddhism from other religions, yes? Like all Buddhist traditions believe in the 4 Noble Truths, 8 Fold Path, Karma, Rebirth..etc.

:namaste:
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    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Jnana » Fri Jan 07, 2011 12:10 am

mr. gordo wrote:Yeshe D, you're foaming at the mouth, take it easy before you give yourself an ulcer.

Yet another completely pointless and inaccurate reply. You're batting 1000 Gordo.

mr. gordo wrote:In that thread, I commented on Ray's statements stating that it seems like he doesn't believe in rebirth. I also said that if he doesn't believe in rebirth, he's not Buddhist.

You asserted quite unequivocally that he doesn't believe in rebirth.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Mr. G » Fri Jan 07, 2011 12:15 am

Yeshe D. wrote:Yet another completely pointless and inaccurate reply. You're batting 1000 Gordo.


OK, if you say so. I guess other members think you're doing a bang up job with your discourse then.


You asserted quite unequivocally that he doesn't believe in rebirth.


I did. However, I then said to clarify I would email his organization (which I've done). It's very convenient of you to leave that out of your response.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Fri Jan 07, 2011 12:19 am

I hope this thread doesn't stray too far off topic. Let's make sure to stay on task.

Thanks Ven. Dharmakara for your input.

Best,
Laura
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Jnana » Fri Jan 07, 2011 12:20 am

mr. gordo wrote:OK, if you say so. I guess other members think you're doing a bang up job with your discourse then.

The best you've been able to muster on this entire thread are meaningless ad homs.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Fri Jan 07, 2011 12:20 am

Ngawang Drolma wrote:I hope this thread doesn't stray too far off topic. Let's make sure to stay on task.

Best,
Laura


Bumped
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Jnana » Fri Jan 07, 2011 12:23 am

Ngawang Drolma wrote:
Ngawang Drolma wrote:I hope this thread doesn't stray too far off topic. Let's make sure to stay on task.

Best,
Laura


Bumped

Word.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Dharmakara » Fri Jan 07, 2011 12:26 am

mr. gordo wrote:Hi Dharmakara,

I agree with your overall assessment. However, you would agree though that whether one follows Theravada or Mahayana that there are certain criteria that assist in qualifying Buddhism from other religions, yes? Like all Buddhist traditions believe in the 4 Noble Truths, 8 Fold Path, Karma, Rebirth..etc.

:namaste:


If you're talking about criteria in qualifying Buddhism as a construct (or an "ism"), then yes, especially when it comes to the 8 fold path, but where does this leave us when addressing past and future Buddhas, especially if the latter were to be born into a different culture or society?

More important, where does this leave us if the Dharma is a universal truth? Does this mean it's a culturally specific truth? If this would be the case, then the Dharma would be far from being the truth, long enough universal.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Mr. G » Fri Jan 07, 2011 12:28 am

Yeshe D. wrote:
mr. gordo wrote:OK, if you say so. I guess other members think you're doing a bang up job with your discourse then.

The best you've been able to muster on this entire thread are meaningless ad homs.


I would actually have liked to participate further in this thread, but had my focus on the Reginald Ray thread. In all honesty, Huseng and kirtu have been more than ample to counter your statements. For me to add on to what has already been so elegantly accomplished wouldn't be as impressive. Perhaps when I have the time later this weekend I shall add my own minor views as I am off from work the next 2 days.

Oh, and if by "ad hom" you mean I accuse you of being emotionally charged and borderline irrational in this thread...then yes, I am.
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Mr. G » Fri Jan 07, 2011 12:30 am

Dharmakara wrote:
If you're talking about criteria in qualifying Buddhism as a construct (or an "ism"), then yes, especially when it comes to the 8 fold path, but where does this leave us when addressing past and future Buddhas, especially if the latter were to be born into a different culture or society?


I'm not sure I understand what you're saying as I believe in the 4NT, 8FP, Karma, rebirth...etc.

I would have no problem with a future Buddha being born in a different culture or society. I don't see how that is a problem at all.

More important, where does this leave us if the Dharma is a universal truth? Does this mean it's a culturally specific truth? If this would be the case, then the Dharma would be far from being the truth, long enough universal.


Oh, I've never said "universal" truth. I mean sure, for me it is "Truth". I don't posses the insight to speak on universal truths. :smile:
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Jnana » Fri Jan 07, 2011 12:33 am

Dharmakara wrote:If you're talking about criteria in qualifying Buddhism as a construct (or an "ism"), then yes, especially when it comes to the 8 fold path, but where does this leave us when addressing past and future Buddhas, especially if the latter were to be born into a different culture or society?

More important, where does this leave us if the Dharma is a universal truth? Does this mean it's a culturally specific truth? If this would be the case, then the Dharma would be far from being the truth, long enough universal.

Again, well said. My point precisely.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby tobes » Fri Jan 07, 2011 12:37 am

mr. gordo wrote:Yeshe D, you're foaming at the mouth, take it easy before you give yourself an ulcer. :lol:

If anyone's faith is challenged by an open and frank discussion of the historical development of Buddhist ideas, then they might wish to refrain from visiting the Dharma-free-for-all forum.


In all honesty, I think very few here have had their faith challenged. Personally, I think Huseng most eloquently expressed the Mahayana POV:

viewtopic.php?p=22788#p22788

My personal favorite quote:

Huseng wrote:Even from a Śrāvaka position the Mahāsāṃghika approach is still based entirely on Āgama literature. They also did not accept Abhidharma as canonical. However, their vision and interpretation of the Buddha was quite different from that of Sthaviravāda schools.

Now in such a transcendental interpretation of the Buddha (lokottara) it follows that since the true Buddha manifests forms through which he liberates sentient beings with skilful means one could continue to be taught by the Buddha though Shakyamuni has long since passed away from the physical world.

Those seeking the same transcendence could have been taught the Mahāyāna by the Buddha in pure visions. The Mahāyāna, though not taught by Shakyamuni on Earth, was still a teaching by the Buddha nevertheless. A lot of Mahāyāna scriptures are obviously not meant to be understood as having been taught by Shakyamuni in the ordinary physical world. Basically, Shakyamuni, who was later identified as a nirāmaṇakāya, did not teach the Mahāyāna, but that's not problematic at all. The Mahāyāna was likely first taught by a manifested form in visions to those few individuals capable of grasping its import.

Even by the Mahāsāṃghika approach this is plausible. They wouldn't have accepted such visions as canonical, but those few individuals having them would presumably have taken them quite seriously and perhaps taught them to others.

Your interpretation above sounds very much like Sthaviravāda, which is fine. However, there are other Śrāvaka understandings like that of the Mahāsāṃghika who saw Buddha as representing something transcendental. Indeed, they still sought Arhatship. However, in time some would have asked if it were possible to achieve the same transcendental state that they saw as the true Buddha. They were motivated by compassion and concern for sentient beings. The true Buddha presumably could have revealed to them in visions the means and methods necessary to achieve something beyond Arhatship.

The result was the first Mahāyāna sūtras which are Saddharma and word of the Buddha.


And then Yeshe D., you comment on Huseng's post here with:

viewtopic.php?p=22834#p22834

Yeshe D. wrote:
That said, I agree with your overall assessment.



So, I personally think a thread like this is important for Buddhists in general, but the way you play Devil's Advocate is unskillful. You're not giving anyone a dose of their own medicine, and you're most certainly not having a discussion, and it's barely a debate. You're just barking at people, which is unnecessary. If you're really a practitioner of Vajrayana/Mahayana, don't forget they are your Vajra brothers and sisters.

If Gordo is going to publicly attack the reputation and teaching skills of someone as learned and dedicated to the Dharma as Reggie Ray, I'm not going to passively read such nonsense and let it go unchallenged. FYI, that is 100% vajra.


You make it seem like I went over to his house and punched him in the face...LOL. In that thread, I commented on Ray's statements stating that it seems like he doesn't believe in rebirth. I also said that if he doesn't believe in rebirth, he's not Buddhist. I then went the extra step and said I would email him for further clarification to see if his original statements were taken out of context. So what's the problem? I already said I would retract my statements based on new information provided by Ray. I would have no problem apologizing...why would I?

Your howling at the moon Yeshe D. :alien:


I don't have a strong position on this debate, but I think the ad hom attacks levelled at Yeshe D are very unreasonable and disappointing. It seems to me that at every stage he has given open and fair minded responses.

:namaste:
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Mr. G » Fri Jan 07, 2011 12:41 am

tobes wrote:
I don't have a strong position on this debate, but I think the ad hom attacks levelled at Yeshe D are very unreasonable and disappointing. It seems to me that at every stage he has given open and fair minded responses.



He has given responses. Open and fair minded is a matter of opinion. I know you and Yeshe D have the same positions, but no need to butter him up that much! :lol:
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Re: Defining Buddhism - Theravada/Mahayana/Varayana

Postby Dharmakara » Fri Jan 07, 2011 12:42 am

Ah, my friend, the Dharma is said to be changeless in time and space, eternal and undying (amita), hence it is highest in the world and therein lies the rub when it comes to instituionalized Buddhism because the Buddha summed up the whole of his teaching in one gatha: to cease from all evil actions, to generate all that is good, and to cleanse one's mind, that this was (and still is) the constant advice of the Buddhas.
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