Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

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Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby Lazy_eye » Sun May 16, 2010 8:00 pm

Hi,

Mahayana and Theravada differ not only in terms of their ultimate goals but in the ways the two paths are set out -- or so it seems to me. Theravada has carefully delineated stages, which are outlined in such detail that a practitioner could conceivably see where they are on the path even without the help of a teacher. Not only is there "stream entry", for instance, but there are even specific sotapanna "subtypes". A Theravada Buddhist can look at the map of path stages, assess where they are now and decide what is the most realistic goal for this life.

But in Mahayana there seems to be nothing between the starting point and bodhisattva-hood, and beyond that "complete perfect enlightenment". The path is inclusive in the sense that anyone can aspire to these lofty ideals, but at the same time there's a disquieting lack of benchmarks. Surely this is one of the reasons that the Pure Land has become such a big deal, since it offers some form of intermediate goal which we can all set our sights on.

Even this is confusing, though, because Pure Land is apparently equivalent to non-retrogression, which in the Theravada scheme comes after sotapanna -- and yet I have heard a Mahayanist should be avoiding sotapanna rather than trying to achieve it!

If what I'm saying above is accurate (and I'm not claiming it is), how then do we frame our aspirations as Mahayana practitioners? I'm particularly interested in answering this question from a lay practitioner's point of view, and particularly from the Ch'an perspective, although others are welcome.

Thanks for any responses! I'm sure there are plenty of howlers in what I wrote and corrections/clarifications are appreciated.

LE
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby Indrajala » Sun May 16, 2010 8:15 pm

There is no single "Mahayana" and never was. It is plural.

There are plenty of models which outline like a map where a practitioner is and how to progress along the way to Bodhisattvahood all the way to Buddhahood.

However, most people don't think of themselves as capable of that much in a single lifetime. Not even bhiksu and bhiksuni. They're more like to stress that such goals can be achieved in future lives by laying down the foundation here and now.
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby Astus » Sun May 16, 2010 8:31 pm

Chan teachings may give the impression that there is no system in Mahayana but that is far from the truth. Actually in terms of stages on the path it is more complicated than what you see in Theravada. For instance, in East-Asian Mahayana they teach a 52 stages of enlightenment set based on the Avatamsaka Sutra, and I'm sure you have heard about the ten stages of the bodhisattva. But even in Chan you find stages like the five ranks of Dongshan, or in Japan Hakuin's koan curriculum. Meditation manuals are also available, most famous of them is Zhiyi's Mohezhiguan (Maha-Samatha-Vipasyana). You definitely should look around for more.
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Does marvelous nature and spirit
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Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun May 16, 2010 8:42 pm

The monk asked: What is the nature of the surpassing strength of one who is suddenly enlightened by the Dharma?
The master said: With right understanding and perfect practice, one can transcend Kalpas. Even in birth and death he can enter Nirvana, or he can stay in the world constantly as well as dwell in the Pure Land forever. He can change the flesh-eye into the Wisdom-Eye and turn the worldly mind into Buddha-Mind. Thus, to believe in the Sudden-Enlightenment Dharma brings great merit.


http://www.ymba.org/sudden/main.html#sudden

Then again if you read the heart sutra, all is empty, if self, path etc are empty, what about the idea of merit? An intangible that "you" are supposedly able to carry from life to life with you, is that empty as well?



I suggest reading Blofelds "The Zen Teachings of Huang Po". In my opinion it contains all you need to know about merit, stages and gradual cultivation.

But most of all i recommend that you contact a teacher if you are interested in chan. This board is not buddhism, its buddhism the online rpg. Most of the replies that you are likely to get to questions like this will be either insincere, or overly complicated and intellectual, by people fueling discussion for the mere sake of debate or people trying to prove they are the smartest person on the board.

EDIT : Oh and btw i wasnt picking out dharmawheel for particular criticism, every buddhist forum i have seen is this way, tho some are better than others.
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby Indrajala » Sun May 16, 2010 9:32 pm

m0rl0ck wrote:
Then again if you read the heart sutra, all is empty, if self, path etc are empty, what about the idea of merit? An intangible that "you" are supposedly able to carry from life to life with you, is that empty as well?


Rebirth is empty and thus it is dependently originated ergo subject to causes and conditions which means liberation is possible when those causes and conditions cease to function.

Emptiness is not nothingness.
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun May 16, 2010 9:35 pm

Huseng wrote:Emptiness is not nothingness.


No it isnt, but by definition what is empty is beyond categories of existence and non existence and all dependently originated phenomena are impermanent. Run faster entropy is catching up :)
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby Indrajala » Sun May 16, 2010 9:45 pm

You said:

An intangible that "you" are supposedly able to carry from life to life with you, is that empty as well?


Yes, it is empty, which means it is dependently originated.
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun May 16, 2010 10:44 pm

Huseng wrote:You said:

An intangible that "you" are supposedly able to carry from life to life with you, is that empty as well?


Yes, it is empty, which means it is dependently originated.


and impermanent and karma creating, which just binds you harder to samsara. How do you know when you have enough to go for the win?
where is the cosmic balance sheet?
what if someones attachment to the idea of merit kept them from doing their very best in this very life?

Its seems an unwholesome concept at its root to me, not provable and at the very best likely to encourage laziness and complacency. According to some scriptural sources having a human body is a vanishingly rare and precious opportunity, why not go for the win? why not do your absolute best? even if you dont get the prize, isnt sincere, all out effort likely to build great merit, (supposing for the moment that the concept has value) maybe even greater merit ?

But i guess my real problem with the whole idea is that there is no self existent entity to which "merit" can be attached.
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby Dexing » Mon May 17, 2010 5:30 am

Lazy_eye wrote:But in Mahayana there seems to be nothing between the starting point and bodhisattva-hood, and beyond that "complete perfect enlightenment". The path is inclusive in the sense that anyone can aspire to these lofty ideals, but at the same time there's a disquieting lack of benchmarks.


As Astus pointed out, it is quite a bit more complicated in Mahayana, with the 52 stages and all the rest...

But the thing is, there's no real difference between stage one and the so-called end. All stages are but a single moment when all attachment to thinking is cut off.

Even this is confusing, though, because Pure Land is apparently equivalent to non-retrogression, which in the Theravada scheme comes after sotapanna -- and yet I have heard a Mahayanist should be avoiding sotapanna rather than trying to achieve it!


Non-retrogression of what? You may be conflating ideas here. In Theravada this non-retrogression is entering the stream toward Nibbana. Whereas this non-retrogression in Pure Land and other Mahayana schools is about non-backsliding faith.

If what I'm saying above is accurate (and I'm not claiming it is), how then do we frame our aspirations as Mahayana practitioners?


First perceive suffering in this world, then moment to moment just help others.

:namaste:
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby Astus » Mon May 17, 2010 7:04 am

"there is no self existent entity to which "merit" can be attached."

Neither is there a self which you can attach a body and clothes on, but I guess you don't run around naked on the streets. Merit is simply "positive karma", and while it may sound too intellectual for you, the work of karma and rebirth works perfectly well in Buddhism exactly because there is no permanent self. Plus there is also "immeasurable merit" of the arya bodhisattvas who practice the prajnaparamita.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby Indrajala » Mon May 17, 2010 7:12 am

m0rl0ck wrote:But i guess my real problem with the whole idea is that there is no self existent entity to which "merit" can be attached.


There is no self-existent entity, but there is a relative-existent person that is subject to birth, death and rebirth.

Ultimately that might dissolve when you put it under analysis, but that is the ultimate truth as alluded to in the Heart Sutra.

In everyday conventional existence -- the life you're living right now -- you are subject to cause and effect, so it is best to create the optimal conditions that will allow for your current medium of existence to continue onward in a positive and progressive way.
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby muni » Mon May 17, 2010 7:15 am

m0rl0ck wrote:
Huseng wrote:You said:

An intangible that "you" are supposedly able to carry from life to life with you, is that empty as well?


Yes, it is empty, which means it is dependently originated.


and impermanent and karma creating, which just binds you harder to samsara. How do you know when you have enough to go for the win?
where is the cosmic balance sheet?
what if someones attachment to the idea of merit kept them from doing their very best in this very life?

Its seems an unwholesome concept at its root to me, not provable and at the very best likely to encourage laziness and complacency. According to some scriptural sources having a human body is a vanishingly rare and precious opportunity, why not go for the win? why not do your absolute best? even if you dont get the prize, isnt sincere, all out effort likely to build great merit, (supposing for the moment that the concept has value) maybe even greater merit ?

But i guess my real problem with the whole idea is that there is no self existent entity to which "merit" can be attached.


:namaste: The two accumulations wisdom and merit clear away the emotional obscurations and the most subtle cognitive obscurations. The union of compassion and wisdom.

Cultivation of joy, compassion, equanimity and love which are immeasurable in daily life, each moment. By that the quality of life really changes and become beautiful.

No self existent entity is available as showed in the explanation of the transcendent perfections: no concepts like subject, object or action.
No thing to attach something (merit) but purification.

Purity is traceless regarding karma and there can be acting as a protector for all beings.
So is me thaught.
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby m0rl0ck » Mon May 17, 2010 7:23 am

Astus wrote:"there is no self existent entity to which "merit" can be attached."

Neither is there a self which you can attach a body and clothes on, but I guess you don't run around naked on the streets.


Mmm you dont really know me do you :)

I dont count on my clothes to survive death either. I dont count on merit to survive or be permanent either. Actually the ideas of karma and rebirth arent too intellectual for me, check my sig. I dont take much on faith. I do however beleive in karma, the concept of merit however, as it is popularly understood, is just short of the xian myth of heaven imo. If you are committing acts with a view to creating merit, that very intention poisons them.
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby Astus » Mon May 17, 2010 7:31 am

No need to take it on faith. It is an understandable, logical teaching that can be personally observed through meditation.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby m0rl0ck » Mon May 17, 2010 7:38 am

Dexing wrote:
But the thing is, there's no real difference between stage one and the so-called end. All stages are but a single moment when all attachment to thinking is cut off.



First perceive suffering in this world, then moment to moment just help others.

:namaste:


Best part of this thread imo :bow:
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby muni » Mon May 17, 2010 7:53 am

m0rl0ck wrote:
Astus wrote:"there is no self existent entity to which "merit" can be attached."

Neither is there a self which you can attach a body and clothes on, but I guess you don't run around naked on the streets.


Mmm you dont really know me do you :)

I dont count on my clothes to survive death either. I dont count on merit to survive or be permanent either. Actually the ideas of karma and rebirth arent too intellectual for me, check my sig. I dont take much on faith. I do however beleive in karma, the concept of merit however, as it is popularly understood, is just short of the xian myth of heaven imo. If you are committing acts with a view to creating merit, that very intention poisons them.


Nothing can taint nature as it is. but coarse state of mind (suffering) will be very well helped by wisdom and merits. There is no solid self which is accumulating, rejecting, accepting.

"Faith" has more than one definition. For me no faith is subtle clinging.
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby m0rl0ck » Mon May 17, 2010 7:57 am

Actually the way some talk about and apparently perceive merit (and i could be wrong, has happend before) reminds me of this story:

Black-Nosed Buddha

A nun who was searching for enlightenment made a statue of Buddha and covered it with gold leaf. Wherever she went she carried this golden Buddha with her.

Years passed and, still carrying her Buddha, the nun came to live in a small temple in a country where there were many Buddhas, each one with its own particular shrine.

The nun wished to burn incense before her golden Buddha. Not liking the idea of the perfume straying to the others, she devised a funnel through which the smoke would ascend only to her statue. This blackened the nose of the golden Buddha, making it especially ugly.
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby muni » Mon May 17, 2010 8:03 am

m0rl0ck wrote:Actually the way some talk about and apparently perceive merit (and i could be wrong, has happend before) reminds me of this story:

Black-Nosed Buddha

A nun who was searching for enlightenment made a statue of Buddha and covered it with gold leaf. Wherever she went she carried this golden Buddha with her.

Years passed and, still carrying her Buddha, the nun came to live in a small temple in a country where there were many Buddhas, each one with its own particular shrine.

The nun wished to burn incense before her golden Buddha. Not liking the idea of the perfume straying to the others, she devised a funnel through which the smoke would ascend only to her statue. This blackened the nose of the golden Buddha, making it especially ugly.


State of "mind"? Label nun, pig...but state of mind?
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby m0rl0ck » Mon May 17, 2010 6:58 pm

Huseng wrote:
m0rl0ck wrote:
There is no self-existent entity, but there is a relative-existent person that is subject to birth, death and rebirth.

Ultimately that might dissolve when you put it under analysis, but that is the ultimate truth as alluded to in the Heart Sutra.



Well at least you used the word person and not soul :applause:

So show me how you use the heart sutra to justify an atta.
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby m0rl0ck » Mon May 17, 2010 7:03 pm

Astus wrote:No need to take it on faith. It is an understandable, logical teaching that can be personally observed through meditation.



You have observed an atta or soul or person of some sort in you practice?
Tell me about this :popcorn:
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