Huseng wrote:My issue lately has been that as I listen to and look into Theravada, both because I respect it as a legitimate tradition and as an inspiring scholar I'm obliged to know about all forms of Buddhism, I sometimes encounter very critical remarks from respected senior Bhikku about the validity of the Mahayana and its scriptures.
Because I respect and take refuge in the sangha and bhiksuni/bhiksu, I tend to lend my ear to whatever is said by them, in particular senior members with many years of experience. So, when I hear critical and disparaging remarks about the Mahayana it rattles me a bit. Some who profess no ill will about other traditions still make sarcastic remarks unfortunately.
Yes, some of our Theravada brethren are quite militant about their rejection of anything Mahayana. There's a bhikkhu, for instance, who has a whole section on his website devoted to slamming the "bogus sutras" (and you know what those are). He has a lot of good things to say from the standpoint of his tradition so I just sort of roll with it despite the instinctual reaction of annoyance.
Although I don't agree with his assessment, I can see that it's somehow inevitable and perhaps even necessary. All traditions define themselves within certain parameters, which means they reject and exclude things which lie outside those parameters. So if we decide to engage a particular tradition, we have to acknowledge (at least while we're having the dialogue) the rules of the game.
If we're going to talk Theravada, then that means the Pali Canon is the true dhamma spoken by the historical Buddha, and Mahayana is at best an extrapolation (to say nothing of Tantra!). If we're going to engage the Mahayana, then we'll start hearing about how selfish and narrow-minded it is to be Hinayana.
If we go the Zen route, we'll find that what we're seeking can't be found in the sutras. Ah, but then I've heard certain Vajrajana practitioners dismiss Zen as mere "heat on the path". If we listen to Pure Landers, we'll learn that in this dharma-ending age no one is getting enlightened any more via the other methods. If we step foot in a Sokka Gakkai center, we'll be told that everyone else is an "archaic Buddhist". If we hang out with Western Zennists of the revisionist persuasion, we'll hear a lot about "cultural trappings" and "superstitions". If we hang out with traditionalists, we'll hear about Buddhism Lite and pop dharma. I know I'm giving the cartoon version here, but you see what I mean? Every community defines itself by what it is not.
What to do? One answer I guess is to decide which tradition/community/discourse one is going to follow and accept its rules provisionally -- the way one accept's doctor's instructions, contraindications, etc. If the Theravada "therapy" seems to be working, then go with it and follow the directions. Possible downside: it may involve putting on blinders. Another approach, maybe we could call it the "critical thinking" approach, would be to question the whole inclusion/exclusion/definition process. Possible downside: we end up not becoming deeply committed to any method and thus we don't get results.
I've personally found great value in Mahayana sutra and later sastra. Even Mahayana scriptures most likely composed in China I've found great value and inspiration in. I contemplate the teaching, consider it, put it into practise and there is a positive effect.
It's easy to lose track (when bogged down in these debates) of why one was drawn to certain teachings in the first place. If one has an affinity for a tradition, then so be it! Personality and psychology may be a factor -- people of a certain disposition may be more likely to find Theravada a good match; others are attracted to Mahayana for the very same reasons that are a source of irritation to Theravadins. And then of course there are mongrel types who feel affinities with multiple traditions.