anti-"Hinayana" bias in Zen (and Mahayana in general)

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múscailt
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Re: anti-"Hinayana" bias in Zen (and Mahayana in general)

Post by múscailt »

I am going to pontificate a bit more, but I hope that it will useful and interesting.


In the TURNING OF THE WHEEL DISCOURSE, SN v 421 the Buddha states:

"Monks, these two extremes ought not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the household life. (What are the two?) There is addiction to indulgence of sense-pleasures, which is hīna, coarse, vulgar, ignoble, and leads to no good; and there is devotion to self-torment, which is painful, ignoble and leads to no good.”

When there is a string of words such as this in the Pali texts, they are understood as being synonyms, or at least carrying overlapping meanings. The point is that at its root, the term Hīnayāna (and its baggage) is not really appropriate to apply to the Theravada, but as I said above, strictly within a Mahayana framework, the attenuated version of the word is certainly appropriate.


In Shantideva's compendium of Mahayana thought, the Sikshasammuccaya, [quoted in Ven Nyanap[onika’s Heart of Buddhist Meditation (not the edited down Boorstein rewrite)] we find quoted from the Mahayana Ayrya-Sagaramati Sutra:

"There is another rule that can serve as the epitome of Mahayana: 'By taking care to avoid stumbling oneself, one will protect all beings.'"

And he quotes from the Bodhisattva-Pratimoksa:

"If, O Sariputra, one wishes to protect others, one should protect oneself."

And here we have the epitome of Mahayana, which is not shunyata, not Buddha-nature or the trikaya doctrine, not the ekayana. It is worth noting the emphasis on individual practice, individual concern in these two Mahayanist texts. Without individual concern, concern for others is not too terribly meaningful. It is worth noting that the above is a reflection of what can be found in a more expansive, earlier Pali texts where we find the Buddha stating:

"'I shall protect myself,' in that way the foundations of mindfulness should be practiced. 'I shall protect others,' in that way the foundations of mindfulness should be practiced. Protecting oneself one protects others; protecting others one protects oneself. And how does one, in protecting oneself, protect others? By the repeated and frequent practice of meditation. And how does one, in protecting others, protect oneself? By patience and forbearance, by a non-violent and harmless life, by compassion and loving kindness." -- S 52,8

We see here –" By patience and forbearance, by a non-violent and harmless life, by compassion and loving kindness” – a very direct concern with the welfare of others. The Foundations of Mindfulness is understood in the Theravada as the core teaching/practice for the cultivation of insight into interdependent, conditioned/conditioning empty nature of one’s experience (dhammas/dharmas), and in light of this I should think such a practitioner would not disagree with Dilgo Khyentse statement in his book, Pure Perception:

When you recognize the void nature, therefore, any notion of there being an ego to dissolve vanishes, and at the same time the energy to bring about the good of others dawns, uncontrived and effortless.

While the Theravada lacks the profound mythic structure of the bodhisattva doctrine as developed by the Mahayanists, it casts lovingkindness and compassion into a far more prosaic, down to earth, practical level of practice:

In the enjoyment of meditation, in the fullness of knowledge and in the strength of mindfulness a person has full enlightenment [sambodhi] and is a shelter for many. - Sn 503

Sambodhi is also used in reference to the Buddha's awakening.

"Cunda, it is impossible that one who is himself sunk in the mire should pull out another who is sunk in the mire. But it is possible, Cunda, that one not sunk in the mire himself should pull out another who is sunk in the mire.
"It is not possible, Cunda, that one who is himself not restrained, not disciplined and not quenched [as to his passions], should make others restrained and disciplined, should make them attain to the full quenching [of passions]. But it is possible, Cunda, that one who is himself restrained, disciplined and fully quenched [as to his passions] should make others restrained and disciplined, should make them attain to the full quenching [of passions].
-- Majjhima Nikaya 8


So, the word hīnayāna is can be a bit of a problem in how it is used. I suppose that the Theravadins could start calling the Mahayana The Grandiose Vehicle, which is amusing, but I think that the while complete agreement is unlikely, there are many points where the Theravada and the Mahayana can meaningfully interact.

So, to answer JMGinPDX, the term hīnayāna has not a thing to do with the Theravada.
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Re: anti-"Hinayana" bias in Zen (and Mahayana in general)

Post by Dan74 »

I have heard sectarian comments both on- and off-line, by students and teachers of Mahayana and Theravada.

I think it is good fodder for practice to reflect on this human need to compare and rank, even when we ourselves are totally underqualified for the task. And on the one hand I think it is fair enough if people accept their teacher's view and swallow the teachings including sectarianism, line-hook-and-sinker. On the other I think nah, we are grown-ups and should think for ourselves.


Yes, the sutras do compare and rank too, but in Pali suttas too the Buddha extols those practicing for themselves and for others. The suttas are not selfish, how could they be? Just as the Vows are not wishful thinking - they are powerful practice. For me, respect for the traditions works better than denigration and ranking, focus on my practice with its failing, rather than the perceived failings of others produces results, or at least a little more honesty. But horses for courses.
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Re: anti-"Hinayana" bias in Zen (and Mahayana in general)

Post by múscailt »

Dan74 wrote: Wed May 29, 2019 8:08 pm I have heard sectarian comments both on- and off-line, by students and teachers of Mahayana and Theravada.

It is actually rather interesting to see/hear that sort of thing in terms of, at times, how utterly ignorant the criticisms from either side can be, but then I have seen criticism by some Theravadins of vipassana, for example, showing little to no understanding of, or experience with, what they were criticizing. The worst, however, was on a long defunct forum where Zen was brutally attacked by a Tibetan Buddhist. It was a painful thing to watch. What was the point of it? None that I could see.


I think it is good fodder for practice to reflect on this human need to compare and rank, even when we ourselves are totally underqualified for the task. And on the one hand I think it is fair enough if people accept their teacher's view and swallow the teachings including sectarianism, line-hook-and-sinker. On the other I think nah, we are grown-ups and should think for ourselves.
As I am wont to say occasionally, adherence to a religion can make a person quite stupid.

but in Pali suttas too the Buddha extols those practicing for themselves and for others. The suttas are not selfish, how could they be? Just as the Vows are not wishful thinking - they are powerful practice. For me, respect for the traditions works better than denigration and ranking, focus on my practice with its failing, rather than the perceived failings of others produces results, or at least a little more honesty. But horses for courses.


The Mahayana has something of a built-in problem in terms of the concepts of Hinayana/Mahayana. What the Mahayanists can, however, do is recognize that it is potentially problematic, and that these terms are not really meant to be some sort of objective, freestanding basis for characterizing the Theravada, since the Theravada is the only non-Mahayana school still extant. To me Hinayana/Mahayana are best kept within the framework of the Mahayana, where they work just fine.

But then this is naught more than my opinion. Also, let me add, this is not to say that the Theravada cannot, or should not, be criticized by Mahayanists, but I would hope that it done respectfully and with some degree of knowledge of what is being criticized. And, of course the same should be so for any criticism of the Mahayana.
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Re: anti-"Hinayana" bias in Zen (and Mahayana in general)

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We really need to be mindful of the historical context of these terms. The Mahayana developed over many centuries amongst dedicated monks and householder practitioners, steeped in the discipline of Buddhism in a Buddhist culture. Now in the context of modern Western culture, many of these terms have a different meaning, or rather, we view them within a different context, and so from a different perspective. (This is a point which was explored in some depth by David McMahan's book Making of Buddhist Modernism.)

The criticism of conservative or literalistic reading of Buddhism, in the context of the original culture, is undertaken from a different perspective to the perspective that us moderns will automatically bring to the matter.

I suspect that in traditional cultures a certain amount of sectarianism is more or less built into the curriculum, and is absorbed by those who are trained in it. Accordingly, those thus trained are likewise inclined to sometimes appear critical of the 'mere' hearers etc. But I think it behoves us to remember what is being criticized, and by whom, and on what basis. The status of 'arhat-hood' is said to be exceedingly rare and hard to attain, even amongst the Theravada orders within which it is viewed as the final aim of the practice. And speaking for myself, I am culturally well outside the milieux in which such criticisms were made, even if I aspire in some way to practice this path. Just something to bear in mind.
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Re: anti-"Hinayana" bias in Zen (and Mahayana in general)

Post by Joseph »

I think it was DJKR who said that the Heart Sutra is actually praising the the shravaka and pratyekabuddha , as it shows that they realised something ... Where as we look down on them and don't actually realise anything!

You can still view that as a back-handed compliment. I guess as long as we work with cognition, hierarchies are inevitable :guns:
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Re: anti-"Hinayana" bias in Zen (and Mahayana in general)

Post by Simon E. »

Joseph wrote: Thu May 30, 2019 11:57 am I think it was DJKR who said that the Heart Sutra is actually praising the the shravaka and pratyekabuddha , as it shows that they realised something ... Where as we look down on them and don't actually realise anything!

You can still view that as a back-handed compliment. I guess as long as we work with cognition, hierarchies are inevitable :guns:
This...I identify with the Vajrayana, but in all honesty I have been more impressed by some Theravadins I have spent time with than I am with some of my co-religionists. It would be a calumny to identify the Theravada with the Hinayana in any generalised way.
CTR said that the hinayana is a particular mindset that can be found in all schools of Buddhism, one that values the letter over the spirit, process over outcome and rigidity over the pragmatic.
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Re: anti-"Hinayana" bias in Zen (and Mahayana in general)

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múscailt wrote: Thu May 30, 2019 5:22 am
Dan74 wrote: Wed May 29, 2019 8:08 pm I have heard sectarian comments both on- and off-line, by students and teachers of Mahayana and Theravada.

It is actually rather interesting to see/hear that sort of thing in terms of, at times, how utterly ignorant the criticisms from either side can be, but then I have seen criticism by some Theravadins of vipassana, for example, showing little to no understanding of, or experience with, what they were criticizing. The worst, however, was on a long defunct forum where Zen was brutally attacked by a Tibetan Buddhist. It was a painful thing to watch. What was the point of it? None that I could see.


I think it is good fodder for practice to reflect on this human need to compare and rank, even when we ourselves are totally underqualified for the task. And on the one hand I think it is fair enough if people accept their teacher's view and swallow the teachings including sectarianism, line-hook-and-sinker. On the other I think nah, we are grown-ups and should think for ourselves.
As I am wont to say occasionally, adherence to a religion can make a person quite stupid.

but in Pali suttas too the Buddha extols those practicing for themselves and for others. The suttas are not selfish, how could they be? Just as the Vows are not wishful thinking - they are powerful practice. For me, respect for the traditions works better than denigration and ranking, focus on my practice with its failing, rather than the perceived failings of others produces results, or at least a little more honesty. But horses for courses.


The Mahayana has something of a built-in problem in terms of the concepts of Hinayana/Mahayana. What the Mahayanists can, however, do is recognize that it is potentially problematic, and that these terms are not really meant to be some sort of objective, freestanding basis for characterizing the Theravada, since the Theravada is the only non-Mahayana school still extant. To me Hinayana/Mahayana are best kept within the framework of the Mahayana, where they work just fine.

But then this is naught more than my opinion. Also, let me add, this is not to say that the Theravada cannot, or should not, be criticized by Mahayanists, but I would hope that it done respectfully and with some degree of knowledge of what is being criticized. And, of course the same should be so for any criticism of the Mahayana.
I basically agree with all of the above. The only thing I can add about the 'built-in problem' is that for me there are lots of teachings that don't seem to be relevant to where I am in life/practice right now. The various exalted stages of Buddhahood, the siddhis, etc etc. I am happy to be agnostic and just put them aside for now. Hopefully for no longer than necessary. :D
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Re: anti-"Hinayana" bias in Zen (and Mahayana in general)

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unification of buddhism in lets say , 10 or 8 centralized buddhist schools , each with its own interpretation and leadership, would make buddhism stronger and more able to spread. i dont undestand why theravada and mahayana cant unify and reach a compromise. it would do wonders to the dharma. same is valid for hinduism. darmic religions suffer with severe descentralization and lack of organization.
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Re: anti-"Hinayana" bias in Zen (and Mahayana in general)

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AkashicBrother wrote: Thu May 30, 2019 7:34 pm unification of buddhism in lets say , 10 or 8 centralized buddhist schools , each with its own interpretation and leadership, would make buddhism stronger and more able to spread. i dont undestand why theravada and mahayana cant unify and reach a compromise. it would do wonders to the dharma. same is valid for hinduism. darmic religions suffer with severe descentralization and lack of organization.
But to be unified there world need to be a universal leader, who would that be? Everyone would want it to be their teacher. If the Buddha gave a lineage head before he passed into parinivarna there would be a lineage for this.

Plus what would be the benefit of this hierarchy of a central leadership with individual leaders of each school? Ignoring the difficulty in the number of schools and the fact not all have a lineage head.
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Re: anti-"Hinayana" bias in Zen (and Mahayana in general)

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Lobsang Chojor wrote: Thu May 30, 2019 8:00 pm
AkashicBrother wrote: Thu May 30, 2019 7:34 pm unification of buddhism in lets say , 10 or 8 centralized buddhist schools , each with its own interpretation and leadership, would make buddhism stronger and more able to spread. i dont undestand why theravada and mahayana cant unify and reach a compromise. it would do wonders to the dharma. same is valid for hinduism. darmic religions suffer with severe descentralization and lack of organization.
But to be unified there world need to be a universal leader, who would that be? Everyone would want it to be their teacher. If the Buddha gave a lineage head before he passed into parinivarna there would be a lineage for this.

Plus what would be the benefit of this hierarchy of a central leadership with individual leaders of each school? Ignoring the difficulty in the number of schools and the fact not all have a lineage head.


In my mind this statement implies that unification would require a specific teaching to unify the schools.

For me It raises the question can the schools simply respect each other's teachings as the golden words of Buddha while remaining true to their own?
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Re: anti-"Hinayana" bias in Zen (and Mahayana in general)

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AkashicBrother wrote: Thu May 30, 2019 7:34 pm dharmic religions suffer with severe decentralization and lack of organization.
That's a feature, not a bug. You want centralised organisation, consider Roman Catholicism. :smile:

There is a non-sectarian statement published of principles common to all Buddhists - I think Ven. Walpola Rahula was one of the instigators of that.
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Re: anti-"Hinayana" bias in Zen (and Mahayana in general)

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

I think large organizations are usually poisonous on some level. They don't have to be necessarily, there are some that do ok, but generally speaking, the more levels of hierarchy, officialdom and credentialing, the more room there is for the ugliest parts of Samsara to rear their heads.

Smaller, autonomous groups are where it's at for me, and I agree with Wayfarer that it's a feature, not a bug. We can participate and learn from one another without needing to declare allegiance or draw strict boundaries.
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Re: anti-"Hinayana" bias in Zen (and Mahayana in general)

Post by Kim O'Hara »

Wayfarer wrote: Thu May 30, 2019 10:37 pm There is a non-sectarian statement published of principles common to all Buddhists - I think Ven. Walpola Rahula was one of the instigators of that.
Yes. I posted a link to it a couple of days ago in reply to Akashic Bro - viewtopic.php?f=69&t=29617&start=20#p494108

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Re: anti-"Hinayana" bias in Zen (and Mahayana in general)

Post by Thomas Amundsen »

Wayfarer wrote: Thu May 30, 2019 10:37 pm
AkashicBrother wrote: Thu May 30, 2019 7:34 pm dharmic religions suffer with severe decentralization and lack of organization.
That's a feature, not a bug. You want centralised organisation, consider Roman Catholicism. :smile:
That exactly the same thought that ran through my mind when I read the comment! Word for word.
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Re: anti-"Hinayana" bias in Zen (and Mahayana in general)

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as an aside to the above, there's an essay on a Vedic website about the difference between dharma and religion. Being from a Vedantic rather than Buddhist source, there are many points of divergence from the Buddhist understanding, but the basic distinction it makes is important - that 'dharma' and 'religion' are not exact synonyms, although they have overlapping meanings.
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Re: anti-"Hinayana" bias in Zen (and Mahayana in general)

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Kim O'Hara wrote:I posted a link to it a couple of days ago...
Yes - that's the one I was thinking of. Thanks!
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Re: anti-"Hinayana" bias in Zen (and Mahayana in general)

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I’d like to talk with serious Mahayana people who see the advantage of unifying with Theravada. Personally I don’t see any advantages. And this is in spite of the fact that the Thien tradition I’m in borrows quite a lot from Theravada.
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Re: anti-"Hinayana" bias in Zen (and Mahayana in general)

Post by Kim O'Hara »

Wayfarer wrote: Fri May 31, 2019 12:59 am as an aside to the above, there's an essay on a Vedic website about the difference between dharma and religion. Being from a Vedantic rather than Buddhist source, there are many points of divergence from the Buddhist understanding, but the basic distinction it makes is important - that 'dharma' and 'religion' are not exact synonyms, although they have overlapping meanings.
:good:

This section seems particularly relevant here:
dharma-and-religion wrote:The word religion as used in the standard form carries three connotations as reflected in the Abrahamic religions:

That a religion is conclusive, that is to say it is the one and only true religion;
That a religion is exclusionary, that is to say, those who don't follow it are excluded from salvation and
That a religion is separative, that is to say, in order to belong to it one must not belong to another.

These three notions of religion are not a universal idea and by and large do not express the reality of what are called Eastern religions. For instance, the conclusive and separative notion of religion implies that one can only be a member of one religion or another. In both Eastern and many indigenous societies, this does not hold true. In each of these three ways the notion of dharma, which is the original Indian concept, is very different from the notion of religion.

These three notions of religion – conclusive, exclusionary and separative, give Abrahamic religions a hard-edged identity. In Abrahamic religions there has been a strong emphasis on the separation of “believer” and “non-believer” and a religious imperative to move as many people from the latter category to the former. Truth has been conclusively and unquestionably revealed and captured in a book, and those that follow it are the only ones that are on the right path. Quite literally, this means that you are “with us or against us” – that the believers are right and represent the good who are “with God”; and all the others are misguided and are part of the darkness and deprived of any direct access to what is the ultimate good.

The worldview of the dharmic traditions is that while scriptures can be very helpful, Truth cannot be found by scripture alone but by a path of experiential realization and Self-discovery – and in that sense religion is not conclusive. It is also not separative and exclusive in the sense of dividing the world into believers and non-believers. The dharmic worldview is that there are many tribes throughout the world, and many teachers and teachings. Each tribe has good and bad people in a continuum; people that have a greater degree of access to truth and “goodness” are worthy of respect; and others less so. Since there is a continuum of “goodness” among individuals of each tribe, the need for converting other tribes to a particular conception of God as a religious imperative is not really there. A teacher can share his or her understanding of the truth; and means and ways for others to access this; but there is no underlying belief that only one such way exists. These ideas find clear expression as far back as the Rig Veda, with its famous quotation:

Ekam sad; vipra bahudha vadanti
while Truth is One, the wise describe it in different ways
— I.164.46 of the Rig Veda

So dharma itself does not create a religious identity. One's worldly self-identity in the dharmic model derives from one's local community, profession or ancestry, jati or kul, but that identity is not a religious identity, fundamentally opposed to the existence of the identity of the “other” as a manifestation of falsehood.
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Re: anti-"Hinayana" bias in Zen (and Mahayana in general)

Post by Astus »

It doesn't really make sense to unify schools. Mahayana includes and accepts the Agamas and Abhidharma works, while if a Theravadin were to accept Mahayana scriptures and treatises that would simply make that person a Mahayana follower, unless they come up with a new explanation of how the Mahayana is a subsidiary of the Theravada doctrines, thus not unifying the schools but actually creating a new one.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Re: anti-"Hinayana" bias in Zen (and Mahayana in general)

Post by Simon E. »

Astus wrote: Fri May 31, 2019 9:08 am It doesn't really make sense to unify schools. Mahayana includes and accepts the Agamas and Abhidharma works, while if a Theravadin were to accept Mahayana scriptures and treatises that would simply make that person a Mahayana follower, unless they come up with a new explanation of how the Mahayana is a subsidiary of the Theravada doctrines, thus not unifying the schools but actually creating a new one.
This.
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