Why such a difference?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Why such a difference?

Postby Beautiful Breath » Tue May 10, 2011 11:19 am

Hi all,

Can someone explain the major differences that I see between Tibetan (I guess Mahayana generally) and the Theravada schools. From what I can see its pretty much accepted that the Theravadin Sutras are actually the words of Buddha - straight from the horses mough as it were. wheras many of the Tibetan texts seem so very far removed from the simple teachings he originally taught - are these teachings a 'new' form of Buddhism and a mutation of the original ones? I am thinking particularly of the Mahayana emphasis on Emptiness as a philosophy almost on its own and the meditational practices - ie. the massive differences between simple Satipatana.Vipassana and the colourful and complex practices in Tibetan buddhsim that seem to put more stuff in the mnd.

Cheers,

BB
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Re: Why such a difference?

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Tue May 10, 2011 12:04 pm

Hi BB,

You may want to ask for the understanding(s) of actual Vajrayana and Mahayana practitioners. You can find them at Dharma Wheel and other fora. For most of us here, it's a non-issue. Metta.
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Re: Why such a difference?

Postby Dan74 » Tue May 10, 2011 1:25 pm

I think Khalil's suggestion is a good one.

As for the teachings on emptiness, they are an elaboration or rephrasing of the Buddha's key teachings of dependent origination and anatta. The more I study and practice Mahayana and the more I read Pali scriptures, the more I see them as essentially pointing at the same thing. Others further along the path might discern more differences, I don't know. To me the main differences are in methods and culture-specific practices.
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Re: Why such a difference?

Postby LastLegend » Tue May 10, 2011 1:56 pm

Dan74 wrote:I think Khalil's suggestion is a good one.

As for the teachings on emptiness, they are an elaboration or rephrasing of the Buddha's key teachings of dependent origination and anatta. The more I study and practice Mahayana and the more I read Pali scriptures, the more I see them as essentially pointing at the same thing. Others further along the path might discern more differences, I don't know. To me the main differences are in methods and culture-specific practices.


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Re: Why such a difference?

Postby daverupa » Tue May 10, 2011 7:15 pm

I'm going to go out on the limb and say that Mahayana isn't the Dhamma, with differences in the following key respects:

1) Buddha-nature. This is present in Mahayana, and not present in the SuttaVinaya.
2) Ontological emptiness. This is present in Mahayana, and not present in the SuttaVinaya.
3) Mahayana Sutras. These are not Buddhavacana. The SuttaVinaya is Buddhavacana (with some exceptions).

These three are the main problems.

But I'm not one to play favorites: certain Theravada commitments aren't the Dhamma either. The abhidhamma and Commentaries come to mind in this respect, as well as certain of the Khuddaka Nikaya books. In addition, comparisons of the Nikayas with the Agamas (as well as the Commentaries, in fact) has much to offer including awareness and revision of various textual corruptions in the Pali.

This can certainly be seen as an inflammatory post. I regret that possibility, and hopefully it is a minor bump in the internet road for those so affected.

{.02

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Why such a difference?

Postby cooran » Tue May 10, 2011 9:42 pm

Hello daverupa,

The only thing wrong with your post above is that you should have included the words ''In my personal opinion'' quite plainly at the beginning of your post.

with metta
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Re: Why such a difference?

Postby daverupa » Tue May 10, 2011 9:59 pm

cooran wrote:The only thing wrong with your post above is that you should have included the words ''In my personal opinion'' quite plainly at the beginning of your post.


Except 1) and 2) are textual facts, and 3) is a historical fact. The abhidhamma and Commentaries are also known to be late, therefore they aren't Buddhavacana either. Just facts thus far.

I cannot say they're wholly wrong, but they are at best extraneous, and at worst misleading. It seems that to say otherwise is to say the Buddha taught with a closed fist. So these last are my opinions.

SN 20.7:
"Staying at Savatthi. "Monks, there once was a time when the Dasarahas had a large drum called 'Summoner.' Whenever Summoner was split, the Dasarahas inserted another peg in it, until the time came when Summoner's original wooden body had disappeared and only a conglomeration of pegs remained.

"In the same way, in the course of the future there will be monks who won't listen when discourses that are words of the Tathagata — deep, deep in their meaning, transcendent, connected with emptiness — are being recited. They won't lend ear, won't set their hearts on knowing them, won't regard these teachings as worth grasping or mastering. But they will listen when discourses that are literary works — the works of poets, elegant in sound, elegant in rhetoric, the work of outsiders, words of disciples — are recited. They will lend ear and set their hearts on knowing them. They will regard these teachings as worth grasping & mastering.

"In this way the disappearance of the discourses that are words of the Tathagata — deep, deep in their meaning, transcendent, connected with emptiness — will come about.

"Thus you should train yourselves: 'We will listen when discourses that are words of the Tathagata — deep, deep in their meaning, transcendent, connected with emptiness — are being recited. We will lend ear, will set our hearts on knowing them, will regard these teachings as worth grasping & mastering.' That's how you should train yourselves."
Last edited by daverupa on Tue May 10, 2011 10:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Why such a difference?

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue May 10, 2011 10:03 pm

The Pali Canon is mostly Buddhavacana, with some exceptions for some later works as noted by Daverupa.

The Mahayana has added some later teachings too. The Buddha taught different methods to different people based on different temperaments and this can be seen as skillful means.

The different schools can be seen as different methods for reaching nibbana.

Some Mahayana schools hold that the Buddha held back some teachings for those who were "ready" for them and these are found in the later sutras. In my opinion there are no secret teachings that are held back, but again, that is just my opinion.

Esoterism is the idea that some spiritual teachings should be kept secret from the majority and only be revealed to a select few. The Upaniùads, which were composed around the time of the Buddha, were secret teachings only made available to high caste people who pledged total loyalty to the teacher. Even in Tibetan Buddhism or Vajrayana, some teachings are reserved only to those who have been initiated. The idea that the Dhamma should be restricted to or monopolized by an ‘in-group’ was repugnant to the Buddha. He perceived the truths he taught as being understandable to all, relevant to all and applicable to all. On one occasion he said, ‘Three things shine openly, not in secret. What three? The orb of the moon, the orb of the sun and the Dhamma and discipline taught by the Tathàgata’ (Anguttara Nikaya I. 283). He reiterated this same point just before his final passing when he said; ‘I have proclaimed the Dhamma without any idea of a hidden and open teaching. I do not have the closed fist of the teacher who holds anything back’ (Digha Nikaya II. 100).

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Re: Why such a difference?

Postby cooran » Tue May 10, 2011 10:40 pm

Hello all,

Thanks for your opinion David.

This discussion by RobK might also be of interest:

Origin and authenticity of Texts
http://www.abhidhamma.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=4

with metta
Chris
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---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
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Re: Why such a difference?

Postby Kim OHara » Tue May 10, 2011 11:35 pm

Hi, everyone,
A couple more references:
http://www.freewebs.com/haastexts/Mahayana%20and%20Theravada.htm Mahayana vs. Theravada: a Multiform Comparison by John Haas -- analyses the Theravada-Mahayana split.
http://peterdellasantina.org/books/tree_of_enlightenment.htm Peter della Santina's The Tree of Enlightenment. Much longer but (IMO) very good.

:namaste:
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Re: Why such a difference?

Postby cooran » Tue May 10, 2011 11:44 pm

Kim said: http://peterdellasantina.org/books/tree ... enment.htm Peter della Santina's The Tree of Enlightenment.


Thanks Kim. Peter della Santina knows his stuff! :smile:

with metta
Chris
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Re: Why such a difference?

Postby daverupa » Tue May 10, 2011 11:48 pm

I might, or might not, become motivated to respond to those articles, which are interesting in that they convey the view "abhidhamma is valid" in various flawed ways.

Irrespective of this claim, which seems second only to rebirth discussions in potential agitation, the main line of the OP is over Mahayana. Returning to this, I expect that 1) 2) 3) stand as valid critiques (allowing for this purpose that "SuttaVinaya" might include more than I prefer). Objections?
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Why such a difference?

Postby kirk5a » Wed May 11, 2011 12:05 am

daverupa wrote:I might, or might not, become motivated to respond to those articles, which are interesting in that they convey the view "abhidhamma is valid" in various flawed ways.

Irrespective of this claim, which seems second only to rebirth discussions in potential agitation, the main line of the OP is over Mahayana. Returning to this, I expect that 1) 2) 3) stand as valid critiques (allowing for this purpose that "SuttaVinaya" might include more than I prefer). Objections?

1) 2) and 3) are offered in support of this claim:

"Mahayana isn't the Dhamma"

What does it mean for something, that it, "isn't the Dhamma"?

Does it mean that, in following such a teaching, one would not achieve the true end of suffering as described by the Buddha?

Or does it just mean that it isn't how or what the Buddha taught about that goal?
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Why such a difference?

Postby daverupa » Wed May 11, 2011 12:48 am

kirk5a wrote:What does it mean for something, that it, "isn't the Dhamma"?


I use it to refer to what wasn't taught by the Buddha; in an extended way, even if such teachings are true, it's extrapolating leaves of the forest from leaves in the hand, a wholly useless endeavor since the Buddha himself decided this wasn't necessary.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Why such a difference?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed May 11, 2011 1:25 am

Greetings Cooran,

cooran wrote:Thanks Kim. Peter della Santina knows his stuff! :smile:

From a Vajrayana perspective, hence the references to "Hinayana schools" throughout his treatise.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Why such a difference?

Postby cooran » Wed May 11, 2011 1:40 am

Hello Retro,

Gosh! you read it quickly! He mentioned hinayana in talking about the perspectives of mahayna and vajrayana.

Please, Retro, show me where he mentions Hinayana in Part Four : The Abhidharma In Chapters 30 through 41, I will discuss the philosophical and psychological aspects of Buddhism presented in the seven books of the Abhidharma Pitaka of the Pali canon.

with metta
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---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Why such a difference?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed May 11, 2011 1:44 am

Greetings Cooran,

cooran wrote:Gosh! you read it quickly!

Actually, I'd already read it... cover to cover.

As to your question, I'm confused about the connection to the original post.

My mentioning of Peter's use of the term Hinayana was simply to show that he is looking at the cross-school comparison from a Vajrayana lens, as opposed to an independent one (or a Theravada one, which would be apt in this sub-forum). It is an important distinction when the OP asks, "Can someone explain the major differences that I see between Tibetan (I guess Mahayana generally) and the Theravada schools."

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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Re: Why such a difference?

Postby Dan74 » Wed May 11, 2011 3:03 am

If you learn about the schools from scholars, or from Buddhist teachers, or go to the centres and practice there for some time, I bet in all three cases you would get quite different answers to your questions.

As to Daverupa's comments, I would say that whatever leads to liberation is Buddhavacana, whether or not it was actually spoken by the historic Shakyamuni Buddha in the way we conventionally understand this. Also the Dhamma as it travelled to different cultures was naturally adapted and couched in familiar terms in order to reach the audience. There is a theory that Mahayana was originally a movement back to the core of the Buddha's teachings at a period of decline and the scriptures attempt to emphasize that core. Great teachers and arahats have come from all traditions and often those who dismiss one know very little about the others. Best to find out for yourself.
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Re: Why such a difference?

Postby ground » Wed May 11, 2011 3:08 am

retrofuturist wrote:... he is looking at the cross-school comparison from a Vajrayana lens, as opposed to an independent one

Can there be an "independent one"? If yes what may be the use of it?

retrofuturist wrote:(or a Theravada one, which would be apt in this sub-forum).

This (at least) appears to be a valid point.

Kind regards
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Re: Why such a difference?

Postby daverupa » Wed May 11, 2011 3:30 am

Dan74 wrote:As to Daverupa's comments, I would say that whatever leads to liberation is Buddhavacana, whether or not it was actually spoken by the historic Shakyamuni Buddha in the way we conventionally understand this.


By "conventionally understand this" I shall mean only the Nikayas et al which I am known to accept; with this presumption in place I will assert:

Maha-parinibbana Sutta:
"No such direct personal knowledge, indeed, is mine, Lord, of the Arahants, the Fully Enlightened Ones of the past, the future, and the present; and yet I have come to know the lawfulness of the Dhamma..."
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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