Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby Astus » Mon May 17, 2010 8:30 pm

Why should have I found an self or person? There is no need for it. Let me give an example, why a self is unnecessary for karma.

We say that information is carried by electrical signs throughout the globe and it is called the internet. Is information separate from electricity, or it's the same? Of course, there is only the current of electrons, of electric charge moving.

Similarly, there is the mental continuum, the fluctuation of dharmas, arising and falling. That rise and fall is not carried on by a soul, or a container. Dharmas come and go according to causal relations, dependent arising. Karma is one of the governing factors of the mental continuum induced by ignorance.

You can find more detailed explanation of the different processes in abhidharma works, including the process of rebirth.
"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 8:42 pm

Astus wrote:Why should have I found an self or person? There is no need for it. Let me give an example, why a self is unnecessary for karma.

We say that information is carried by electrical signs throughout the globe and it is called the internet. Is information separate from electricity, or it's the same? Of course, there is only the current of electrons, of electric charge moving.

Similarly, there is the mental continuum, the fluctuation of dharmas, arising and falling. That rise and fall is not carried on by a soul, or a container. Dharmas come and go according to causal relations, dependent arising. Karma is one of the governing factors of the mental continuum induced by ignorance.

You can find more detailed explanation of the different processes in abhidharma works, including the process of rebirth.


Im aware of all the torturous circumlocutions that one can go thru to rationalize anatta in a way that gives some comfort to the ego. When you said this then:
Astus wrote:No need to take it on faith. It is an understandable, logical teaching that can be personally observed through meditation.


To what were you referring? Merit? How have you observed that in your practice?
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby Astus » Mon May 17, 2010 10:48 pm

Is it tortuous? Just look at the periodic table of elements, isn't that too much to describe a simple thing like matter? Using earth, water, fire and wind sounds simpler, easier. But we know that knowing only the list of elements is far from enough to make one a chemist or a pharmacist. It can take even a decade in higher education to get a PhD, and that's nothing unusual, not a Nobel prize. Should Buddhism be easier?

"To what were you referring? Merit? How have you observed that in your practice?"

There is the form of meditation called vipasyana, observing the mind (觀心), also dharmasmrtyupasthana, foundation of mindfulness on dharmas (法念住). In brief: watching thoughts. Seeing how phenomena come and go, looking at the work of internal causality. You can learn this from both a meditation teacher (禪師) and meditation manuals, in case you want to try it out. You can use either Theravada or Mahayana, this is a subject they both like to investigate.
"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 » Tue May 18, 2010 3:39 am

Astus wrote:Is it tortuous? Just look at the periodic table of elements, isn't that too much to describe a simple thing like matter? Using earth, water, fire and wind sounds simpler, easier. But we know that knowing only the list of elements is far from enough to make one a chemist or a pharmacist. It can take even a decade in higher education to get a PhD, and that's nothing unusual, not a Nobel prize. Should Buddhism be easier?


Rather than venture an opinion of my own i will just quote Huang Po. This is from Blofelds "Zen Teaching of Huang Po" Shambala Pocket Classics Edition page 124

All such dualistic concepts as 'ignorant' and 'Enlightened', 'pure' and 'impure', are obstructions. It is because your minds are hindered by them that the Wheel of the Law must be turned [i.e., that the relative truths of orthodox Buddhism must be taught]. Just as apes spend their time throwing things away and picking them up again unceasingly, so it is with you and your learning. All you need is to give up your 'learning', your 'ignorant' and 'Enlightened', 'pure' and 'impure', 'great' and 'little', your 'attachment' and 'activity'.


This is why the heart sutra goes on endlessly about no path, no wisdom etc. The aim is to free us of imprisoning concepts. Knowing lots of stuff is great, i can quote sutras with the best of them (well maybe not with the best of them :tongue: ), but if you start mistaking words and concepts for truth you are straying. The aim is insight into reality.

Astus wrote:There is the form of meditation called vipasyana, observing the mind (觀心), also dharmasmrtyupasthana, foundation of mindfulness on dharmas (法念住). In brief: watching thoughts. Seeing how phenomena come and go, looking at the work of internal causality. You can learn this from both a meditation teacher (禪師) and meditation manuals, in case you want to try it out. You can use either Theravada or Mahayana, this is a subject they both like to investigate.


Believe it or not, i have been a practitioner of buddhist meditation for sometime and i already have a teacher. ty for the recommendation tho :)
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby Astus » Tue May 18, 2010 8:01 am

m0rl0ck,

I didn't mean to question your path, or practice. But in my view there is more to Buddhism than "drop all concepts" and "see your nature". The Heart Sutra is a brief extract of the prajnaparamita teachings, like a synopsis of a novel, a zip file of thousands of teachings. Not to mention teachings beyond the prajnaparamita cycle. If the Heart Sutra were enough in itself the Buddha could have stopped teaching twenty minutes after his enlightenment.

Of course, I admit I didn't experience sudden realisation after reading my first ever Zen saying, so I'm not with the highest potential. And I also find studying the sutras and treatises a beneficial method to deepen my understanding and practice of Buddhism. May not be so for everyone.
"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 Huifeng » Tue May 18, 2010 8:26 am

Sorry if this is :offtopic: but ...

I recall, in Santaraksita's book, the Thousand Petalled Lotus, he recounted an interesting meeting with an Advaita master in India. The master was going on and on about "non-duality", and how "nothing exists".

Santaraksita pointed out that something to the effect that obviously, to him, the master's own bad mood didn't really exist, either.

Sorry, now :focus:
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby Indrajala » Tue May 18, 2010 1:39 pm

Astus wrote:It can take even a decade in higher education to get a PhD, and that's nothing unusual, not a Nobel prize. Should Buddhism be easier?


I like what you said here and I agree with you.

Kind of off topic for a sec, but unfortunately the present approach to Buddhism in most universities is to study Buddhism as literature and/or history and there is no practicum involved (however Ven. Huifeng mentioned to me FGS University in Taiwan has mandatory meditation for the MA degree in Buddhist Studies which is a step forward!).

This might change over time, but for the moment most scholars are secular scholars and not necessarily Buddhist (they might also not want to identify as Buddhist because it might spoil your image as an academic researching Buddhism), so the practicum aspect of Buddhist training will continue to be lacking for the time being.

In any case, I like what you said: it takes a long long time to get a grasp on Buddhism. Even if we set aside Abhidharma and just follow the basic exoteric teachings in the Agamma and Nikayas, there is a lot of practical training involved before many of the teachings become realistic (for example the four jhanas, extinguishing sexual desire, etc...). Once we add later period developments, Abhidharma and so on, it becomes much more complicated and going through all the materials in several foreign languages amplifies everything.

Even after many years, you're still just an ordinary person.
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby Indrajala » Tue May 18, 2010 1:43 pm

m0rl0ck wrote:Rather than venture an opinion of my own i will just quote Huang Po. This is from Blofelds "Zen Teaching of Huang Po" Shambala Pocket Classics Edition page 124

All such dualistic concepts as 'ignorant' and 'Enlightened', 'pure' and 'impure', are obstructions. It is because your minds are hindered by them that the Wheel of the Law must be turned [i.e., that the relative truths of orthodox Buddhism must be taught]. Just as apes spend their time throwing things away and picking them up again unceasingly, so it is with you and your learning. All you need is to give up your 'learning', your 'ignorant' and 'Enlightened', 'pure' and 'impure', 'great' and 'little', your 'attachment' and 'activity'.



This might work for you, but it won't work for everybody. Some people need to study and learn. If your method of abandoning learning works for you that's fine, but don't expect everyone else to conform to it.
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby Astus » Tue May 18, 2010 3:29 pm

Here are some words from Ven. Shengyan:

"The Bodhisattva Path, the realization of wisdom, can be seen as stages of selflessness and nonattachment, as I have jsut de-scribed. But enlightenment can also be seen as activity. Englight-enment means that you have come to realize what you didn't realize before. Ch'an recognizes four levels of the activity of enlightenment, and these levels unfold, one after another, over and over again.

At each level you attain a different kind of wisdom. The first level of enlightenment is to hear the Buddhadharma, which gives you the wisdom to answer some of the questions in your life. The second level is to think about the Dharma in order to better understand what you have heard. The wisdom from this level helps you answer questions about the Dharma, and about practice. The third level of enlightenment is to practice what you have learned, both formally in meditations, chanting, pros-trations, etc., and in daily life. The wisdom gained from practice is deeper and allows you to better understand questions you may have about life, your self, and the Dharma. Through practice you learn more about your body, mind, and behavior. Eventu-ally you will experience directly what you have learned intellec-tually. This is the fourth level of enlightenment, when you illuminate your mind and see you intrinsic nature. this is sudden enlightenment. Wisdom becomes visible because vexation and self-centeredness disappear. In that moment, all problems and questions are resolved.

Many practitioners like to focus exclusively on the fourth level of enlightenment, and they neglect the first three stages:listening, studying, and practicing in meditaion and daily life.They want to bypass the preliminary activities and instantly illuminate their minds and reveal their wisdom. Such people are naive and have a poor understanding of Ch'an practice.

Even if you experience the fourth level of enlightenment, it doesn't mean that you have attained Buddhahood. In fact, the enlightenment experience may last only a moment. You will go through the four levels over and over again. Each time you will begin at a new place and learn new things.Each time you will have different experiences. By repeating this cycle again and agian, eventually you can reach complete enlightenment. But we must all start at the beginning. Now you are learning about Buddhadharma. Please practice and cultivate the Dharma as well. Don't seek the fourth level. Just practice. The fourth level will manifest naturally in its own time."

(Subtle Wisdom, p. 109-110)
"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 Dexing » Tue May 18, 2010 4:25 pm

Huseng wrote:
m0rl0ck wrote:Rather than venture an opinion of my own i will just quote Huang Po. This is from Blofelds "Zen Teaching of Huang Po" Shambala Pocket Classics Edition page 124

All such dualistic concepts as 'ignorant' and 'Enlightened', 'pure' and 'impure', are obstructions. It is because your minds are hindered by them that the Wheel of the Law must be turned [i.e., that the relative truths of orthodox Buddhism must be taught]. Just as apes spend their time throwing things away and picking them up again unceasingly, so it is with you and your learning. All you need is to give up your 'learning', your 'ignorant' and 'Enlightened', 'pure' and 'impure', 'great' and 'little', your 'attachment' and 'activity'.



This might work for you, but it won't work for everybody. Some people need to study and learn. If your method of abandoning learning works for you that's fine, but don't expect everyone else to conform to it.


I think the point of Huangbo's lines is to not become attached to any words and speech, even as you study.

If there is attachment, then you will study when "you" want to learn something, and not study when "you" don't want to. That's subtle greed and attachment.

Give up your "learning" means just study, just practice... just do it, but don't grasp any of it.

:namaste:
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby m0rl0ck » Tue May 18, 2010 5:15 pm

Astus wrote:m0rl0ck,

I didn't mean to question your path, or practice. But in my view there is more to Buddhism than "drop all concepts" and "see your nature". The Heart Sutra is a brief extract of the prajnaparamita teachings, like a synopsis of a novel, a zip file of thousands of teachings. Not to mention teachings beyond the prajnaparamita cycle. If the Heart Sutra were enough in itself the Buddha could have stopped teaching twenty minutes after his enlightenment.



I know the context of the heart sutra ty, and one of its points is to highlight the falsity of concepts. As long as you know that you are dealing with fictions they probably cant hurt too much, but remember its a means to an end. Even buddhism itself is a tool, a means to an end, not an end in itself.


Astus wrote:Of course, I admit I didn't experience sudden realisation after reading my first ever Zen saying, so I'm not with the highest potential. And I also find studying the sutras and treatises a beneficial method to deepen my understanding and practice of Buddhism. May not be so for everyone.


Actually i think you may be referring to story of Hui Neng who was enlightened by hearing a couple of lines of the Diamond Sutra recited in a market place. :D

But study and scholasticism shouldnt be elevated above practice. Most of the adherents of buddhism up until very recent times must have been illiterate, but they didnt seem to have any trouble getting enlightened, Hui Neng for instance.
In one of the Suttas the buddha says that you can become liberated in 7 days, 7 seven months or 7 years. (i have forgotten which sutta if someone could refresh my memory that would be great). i dont think he was talking about getting a phd,he was talking about practice. Real knowledge is insight into the nature of reality and thats what the buddha taught. One of the reasons that insight was so common in his day and that there were so many arhats, might have been that there was no buddhist scripture to read. So no one wasted their time pretending that reading was as good as practice.

EDIT: If reading led to wisdom and insight, proofreaders would be buddhas.
Last edited by m0rl0ck on Tue May 18, 2010 5:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby m0rl0ck » Tue May 18, 2010 5:34 pm

Astus wrote:Even if you experience the fourth level of enlightenment, it doesn't mean that you have attained Buddhahood. In fact, the enlightenment experience may last only a moment. You will go through the four levels over and over again. Each time you will begin at a new place and learn new things.Each time you will have different experiences. By repeating this cycle again and agian, eventually you can reach complete enlightenment. But we must all start at the beginning. Now you are learning about Buddhadharma. Please practice and cultivate the Dharma as well. Don't seek the fourth level. Just practice. The fourth level will manifest naturally in its own time."[/i]
(Subtle Wisdom, p. 109-110)


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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby Astus » Tue May 18, 2010 5:46 pm

m0rl0ck,

I didn't elevate study above practice. Practice is the application of what one has heard, studied and understood. If one only knows to count his breath, well, then that's all Buddhism is for him - no problem.

Actually, I don't know any other famous Chan teacher who was illiterate besides the legendary Huineng. Probably because those who were appointed abbots of monasteries were expected to be well versed in Dharma and Vinaya.

The sutra mentioning 7 days, 7 weeks, etc. is the Sutra on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness (in Pali it is the Satipatthana Sutta).

In the early times they didn't read sacred texts but memorised them. And I'm sure it takes longer to memorise at least the basic sutras (like the Mahavagga) then to read them a couple of times and have the book on the shelf.

In case of busy laypeople it is understandable they have neither the time nor the inclination to learn more about the Dharma beyond a few basic concepts, rather do as much practical thing as possible. In the West instead of lighting incense, chanting texts and doing prostrations people go and do some sitting. Quite similar in mentality actually. Simple ways to obtain spiritual goods. That's how Buddhism can be appropriate for both monks and laymen.
"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 teebee » Tue May 18, 2010 6:34 pm

Dexing wrote:Give up your "learning" means just study, just practice... just do it, but don't grasp any of it.
:namaste:


Finally, some sanity in this thread.

Gassho,

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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby m0rl0ck » Tue May 18, 2010 7:21 pm

teebee wrote:
Dexing wrote:Give up your "learning" means just study, just practice... just do it, but don't grasp any of it.
:namaste:


Finally, some sanity in this thread.

Gassho,

Terry Beresford


:rolling:
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby Indrajala » Wed May 19, 2010 12:55 am

Dexing wrote:I think the point of Huangbo's lines is to not become attached to any words and speech, even as you study.


And if Huangbo said it, it's gotta be true.



Give up your "learning" means just study, just practice... just do it, but don't grasp any of it.


Do you assert yourself as being suitable to make a judgement between who grasps while studying and who doesn't?
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby Indrajala » Wed May 19, 2010 1:00 am

m0rl0ck wrote:But study and scholasticism shouldnt be elevated above practice. Most of the adherents of buddhism up until very recent times must have been illiterate, but they didnt seem to have any trouble getting enlightened, Hui Neng for instance.


Studying, contemplating and considering the Buddhadharma is practice, so study and scholastic efforts can be included in practice.

Your example of Huineng holds little weight. His life story has numerous versions (they were modified over the centuries) and in all likelyhood it is a lot of fiction like most hagiographies are. The sutra contains much wisdom, but don't take it as historical fact.
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby Dexing » Wed May 19, 2010 2:19 am

Huseng wrote:
Dexing wrote:I think the point of Huangbo's lines is to not become attached to any words and speech, even as you study.


And if Huangbo said it, it's gotta be true.


What do you mean? Are you arguing for the sake of arguing?

I'm only talking about practice.

Huseng wrote:
Dexing wrote:Give up your "learning" means just study, just practice... just do it, but don't grasp any of it.


Do you assert yourself as being suitable to make a judgement between who grasps while studying and who doesn't?


Not sure why you respond like this. I'm not making a judgment on anyone. I'm just talking about practice.

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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed May 19, 2010 8:19 pm

Astus wrote: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.


Thanks, Astus. As I suspected it would, the OP just bore testimony to my ignorance. Interesting discussion, though!
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Re: Mahayana vs Theravada aspirations

Postby m0rl0ck » Wed May 19, 2010 8:55 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:
Astus wrote: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.


Thanks, Astus. As I suspected it would, the OP just bore testimony to my ignorance. Interesting discussion, though!


I have been a chan lay practitioner for a while, and i dont think i have ever heard the teacher mention the five ranks or the 52 stages (of course its possible that it was mentioned and i wasnt paying attention) and if it werent for the internet, i probably wouldnt even know about them :) Come to think of i think someone in the group may have said something about the 52 stages, just jokingly. You should really find a chan teacher to ask your questions.
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