The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby Will » Wed Dec 15, 2010 2:34 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Will wrote:It is not correct to say that bodhisatta path is not taught in Theravada, but only in Mahayana. Both teach it, but Theravada gives little emphasis to it and the Mahayana a great deal. See this thread: viewtopic.php?f=19&t=40
Also, let us keep in mind that these two "paths" are quite different. It is not appropriate to speak about a bodhisattva path..


Why not? Both are aimed at buddhahood. Ledi Sayadaw's work, discussed in the other thread, shows there are differences - but nothing colossal, to my mind.
This noble eightfold path is the ancient path traveled by all the Buddhas of eons past. Nagara Sutta
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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:23 am

Will wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Will wrote:It is not correct to say that bodhisatta path is not taught in Theravada, but only in Mahayana. Both teach it, but Theravada gives little emphasis to it and the Mahayana a great deal. See this thread: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=40
Also, let us keep in mind that these two "paths" are quite different. It is not appropriate to speak about a bodhisattva path..


Why not? Both are aimed at buddhahood. Ledi Sayadaw's work, discussed in the other thread, shows there are differences - but nothing colossal, to my mind.
Outside of defining the Buddha and awakening differently from each other, the individual who wants to become a buddha in the Theravada must be on the verge of becoming an arahant and make the vow in front of a living Buddha and receive an acknowledgement from that Buddha about the future awakening (though later Theravadins messed around with that some). This, which was part of the early Buddhist structure, was abandoned by the Mahayana giving us a very different structure. What buddhahood means in the Pali suttas is not what he find in the Mahayana as it systematized itself as and as we find in the ongoing developments of the sutras. So, we are not talking about the same thing at all. At best we are talking about something that uses some of the same terminology, but in significantly different ways; we are talking about something that is only in a very general way is similar; we are talking about something not taught by the Buddha.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby Virgo » Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:42 am

There are quite a few very distinct differences between Theravada and Mahayana. To begin with, after the Buddha passed away, there were a few schisms and many sects emerged (keep in mind that causing a schism in the Sangha leads to rebirth in hell, as in the case with the Buddha's cousin Devadatta). Out of these schisms mainly grew the Mahayana. It started as a sect that highly prized being Bodhisattvas. That in itself is fine, but a few bad things happened. They decided not to teach a Sravaka path and by doing so they really got into cult like idealism of bodhisattvaness rather than Buddhas teachings. Why? Because the Buddha praised again and again the path to Arahantship. That was his main teaching. He mentioned about when he was a bodhisatta but he exhorted all his disciples again and again to attain Arahantship and to be diligent about it. The Mahayana did not. They went further and started saying that people who take that path are "hina" or lowly, even going as far as to mock them heavily in later sutras. They were stuck on their cult idealism and couldn't see the forest for the trees., imo.

Some other differences include that Mahayanists feel that it is perfectly OK to break your vows if it is done to help others. For example, if you know someone who drinks a lot, it is OK to have some drinks with them to befriend them and possibly bring them around to the path. An example is given where a Bodhisattva in a past life killed someone because he knew that person was going to kill a whole bunch of people that night, so the Bodhisattva killed him instead to save him from making that horrible kamma of killing others. That kind of thing is accepted and seen as compassionate (twisted to me). To this day many Mahayana monks and especially Vajrayana monks use money because it helps them do more for other beings or helps them to let others make merit, they also usually eat dinner after noon because they say that if they are healthier they can work for other beings better. So even though they are full monks, they disregard the monks vows they have taken for their "compassionate" ideal. They say that the Mahayana vows supercede their Sravaka vows (monks vows are classified as Sravaka vows, and Vajrayana vows supercede Mahayana vows). Vajrayana was started later when hindus who used yogic methods that have powerful effects on the mind and body converted to Buddhism and decided to use those same methods to try and help them attain "enlightenment" even faster.

The difference in the understanding of emptiness is vast. Even among Mahayanists there is great debate about it and different schools that believe different things exist, yet they all think they have the right understanding of emptiness. There is a doctrine of "Two Truths" which basically says that there are two levels of reality. They are the conventional and the ultimate levels (this is borrowed from Theravada and other earlier sects) but they define these much differently than Theravada did. They say that on the conventional level, things are impermanent, dukkha, and so on and that actions have effects, but that on the ultimate level, all things are dream like, not real manifestations. Therefore, all their insight practices are based on seeing everything as a dream, and this is described in many Mahayana sutras and practiced in Dzogchen. This type of Buddhist insight is completely foreign to Theravada which is based on the Pali Suttas-- completely foreign. To say that things are dreamlike on the ultimate level is to completely misunderstand the path according to classical Theravada. It is the fact that on the ultimate level, everything is comprised of separate very real but not self, impermanent, and dukkha realities that one can become detached from these real things and experience nibbana, which is the one dhamma that is not conditioned, ie. does not arise or fall. The view on insight between Mahayana and Theravada is like the difference between Democratic and Communist political views, they are about as different as can be.

Moreover, the Mahayana accept all kinds of things that Theravada does not, such as that Buddhas exist after death and have pure realms where they entertain people, that chanting to these Buddhas can cause things to happen, and so on and so forth. The list of differences is too vast to endure. They are in fact like a completely different religion in many ways, although they do accept that Gotoma was a Buddha and they do accept the Four Noble Truths and some other basics (yet usually interpret them very differently). They don't teach a Sravaka path (to Arahantship) at all. Well, perhaps maybe 1% of Mahayana teachers will but that is about it. While Theravada does have texts on how to be a Bodhisatta complied by Commentators.

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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:45 am

Virgo wrote:There are quite a few very distinct differences between Theravada and Mahayana. . . .
You might want to do a little reading of Buddhist history that is more recent.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby Virgo » Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:55 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Virgo wrote:There are quite a few very distinct differences between Theravada and Mahayana. . . .
You might want to do a little reading of Buddhist history that is more recent.

There were quite a few schisms that we don't even read about because they were mostly schisms withing sects that happened a little bit later (or much later) than the schisms we know about, and those sects are dead now, not in existence, so we don't know all of what happened. For example, even in modern times, the Gelugpa sect was a Schism from the Sakya and Kagyu sects, the Nichiren sect was formed from a Schism with the Tendai sect, etc.

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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:56 am

Virgo wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Virgo wrote:There are quite a few very distinct differences between Theravada and Mahayana. . . .
You might want to do a little reading of Buddhist history that is more recent.

There were quite a few schisms that we don't even read about because they were mostly schisms withing sects that happened a little bit later (or much later) than the schisms we know about, and those sects are dead now, not in existence, so we don't know all of what happened. For example, even in modern times, the Gelugpa sect was a Schism from the Sakya and Kagyu sects, the Nichiren sect was formed from a Schism with the Tendai sect, etc.

Kevin

As I said, you might want to do some reading of Buddhist history. The Mahayana did not start out as a schismatic movement or a "sect."
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby BlackBird » Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:57 am

Wizard in the Forest wrote:I have heard there's a difference on how emptiness is taught too, but I don't know how. I mentioned the Bodhisattva ideal.


According to Lama Ridzin Choepal, a monk I met in Sri Lanka: The Mahayana, especially the Vajrayana have a different conception of anatta than Theravada which is objectively more far reaching. In essence things (phenomena) are not as they appear to be, a common theme in all mystical religions. While Theravada confines anatta to the self, the Mahayana extends it to all phenomena so that while the Arahant may understand anatta in relation to the self, he does not understand the emptiness of all phenomena that the Bodhisattva does. Furthermore the Arahant still has a subtle self-view, and thus he will eventually take rebirth which will put him on the Bodhisattva path.
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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby Virgo » Wed Dec 15, 2010 4:02 am

tiltbillings wrote:As I said, you might want to do some reading of Buddhist history. The Mahayana did not start out as a schismatic movement or a "sect."

Oh no many sects under that name developed.

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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Dec 15, 2010 4:56 am

BlackBird wrote: While Theravada confines anatta to the self, the Mahayana extends it to all phenomena so that while the Arahant may understand anatta in relation to the self, he does not understand the emptiness of all phenomena that the Bodhisattva does. Furthermore the Arahant still has a subtle self-view, and thus he will eventually take rebirth which will put him on the Bodhisattva path.
Which is, of course, Mahayana polemical straw-man hinayana stuff that has not a thing to do with the Theravada or Pali suttas or the Abhidhamma Pitaka. It neatly illustrates the problems that can happen when Theravadins try to talk to Mahayanists who take their polemical stuff as being an accurate reflection of the Theravada.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby ground » Wed Dec 15, 2010 4:58 am

"Mahayana" actually means "attitude" and "motivation" and not "tradition" or "school". And what is that attitude? It is striving to become a buddha for the benefit of others. Once this attitude has arisen in an individual she/he is called "bodhisattva" and is then practicing Mahayana regardless of what tradition or school she/he follows. Therefore the philosophical view or view of emptiness is not relevant at all.

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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Dec 15, 2010 5:07 am

TMingyur wrote:"Mahayana" actually means "attitude" and "motivation" and not "tradition" or "school". And what is that attitude? It is striving to become a buddha for the benefit of others. Once this attitude has arisen in an individual she/he is called "bodhisattva" and is then practicing Mahayana regardless of what tradition or school she/he follows. Therefore the philosophical view or view of emptiness is not relevant at all.

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Opinions on that significantly vary and why does one need to become a buddha to benefit others? The Buddha did not teach that?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby ground » Wed Dec 15, 2010 5:15 am

tiltbillings wrote:
TMingyur wrote:"Mahayana" actually means "attitude" and "motivation" and not "tradition" or "school". And what is that attitude? It is striving to become a buddha for the benefit of others. Once this attitude has arisen in an individual she/he is called "bodhisattva" and is then practicing Mahayana regardless of what tradition or school she/he follows. Therefore the philosophical view or view of emptiness is not relevant at all.

Kind regards
Opinions on that significantly vary.


You should say "exegeses vary". The view I put forth is based on Shantideva and others following Atisa. However this is the most consistent view. Because how could sectarianism or attachment to philosophical views be compatible with the goal "benefit of others"? How could it be compatible with teachings that stress that capacities and /or lineages of individuals vary and thus their paths vary too. How could "I" and "mine" making in context of traditional teachings be compatible with attaining qualities that may benefit all beings?


tiltbillings wrote:The Buddha did not teach that?

Here I could state my personal opinion but I won't do that.

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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby Wizard in the Forest » Wed Dec 15, 2010 5:23 am

Virgo that was awesome, I really want to hear more if you have more. I hardly ever hear anyone be honest about the differences and they try to dismiss the differences without giving real illustration or understanding of the differences.
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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Dec 15, 2010 5:29 am

TMingyur wrote:You should say "exegeses vary". The view I put forth is based on Shantideva and others following Atisa.
That is very self-serving. The reality is that the various mahayana doctors engaged in extended negative critiques of the supposed hinayana in terms of doctrine as an expression of a lower, debased attitide. And we just saw a well meaning, I am sure, Tibetan teacher expressed this negative critique and directly applied it to the Theravada. Nothing new in that.

However this is the most consistent view. Because how could sectarianism or attachment to philosophical views be compatible with the goal "benefit of others"? How could it be compatible with teachings that stress that capacities and /or lineages of individuals vary and thus their paths vary too. How could "I" and "mine" making in context of traditional teachings be compatible with attaining qualities that may benefit all beings?
Yes, that is a good set of questions for the Mahayanists.


tiltbillings wrote:The Buddha did not teach that?

Here I could state my personal opinion but I won't do that.
The Buddha did not teach the Mahayana/bodhisattva notion. It is a construct that evolved over a long period of time.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby Nyana » Wed Dec 15, 2010 6:41 am

Wizard in the Forest wrote:Virgo that was awesome, I really want to hear more if you have more. I hardly ever hear anyone be honest about the differences and they try to dismiss the differences without giving real illustration or understanding of the differences.

Unfortunately, Virgo is not offering an accurate representation of anything but his own misconceptions of Mahāyāna and Buddhist history.
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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby Virgo » Wed Dec 15, 2010 6:41 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
Wizard in the Forest wrote:Virgo that was awesome, I really want to hear more if you have more. I hardly ever hear anyone be honest about the differences and they try to dismiss the differences without giving real illustration or understanding of the differences.

Unfortunately, Virgo is not offering an accurate representation of anything but his own misconceptions of Mahāyāna and Buddhist history.

So then clear it up.

Thanks,

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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Dec 15, 2010 6:42 am

Virgo wrote:Out of these schisms mainly grew the Mahayana. It started as a sect that highly prized being Bodhisattvas.
Mahayana was not in its inception a singular movement. The "Mahayanist" monks existed within the framework of the exiting ordination lineages along side their Mainstream brothers. They just held funny beliefs.

That in itself is fine, but a few bad things happened. They decided not to teach a Sravaka path and by doing so they really got into cult like idealism of bodhisattvaness rather than Buddhas teachings.
If you read very early bodhisattva sutras, such as the Ugra, you'll see that that is not at all true. The path to arhatship was regarded as a legitimate, noble path to be taught. The way of the bodhisattva was for the very good men who were inspired to dedicate their lives to such a practice, but it was clearly not expected of everyone.

Unquestionably, there was a shift in attitude, maybe because the early Mahayanists were pretty much ignored by the Mainstream Buddhists:
"... even after its initial appearance in the public domain in the 2nd century
[Mahayana] appears to have remained an extremely limited minority movement - if
it remained at all - that attracted absolutely no documented public or popular
support for at least two more centuries. It is again a demonstrable fact that
anything even approaching popular support for the Mahayana cannot be documented
until 4th/5th century AD, and even then the support is overwhelmingly monastic,
not lay, donors ... although there was - as we know from Chinese translations - a large
and early Mahayana literature there was no early, organized, independent,
publicly supported movement that it could have belonged to."

-- G. Schopen "The Inscription on the Ku.san image of Amitabha and the
character of the early Mahayana in India." JIABS 10, 2 pgs 124-5
With the shift in attitude, the bodhisattva emphasis shifted greatly as did the characterization of the Mainstream Buddhists

Some other differences include that Mahayanists feel that it is perfectly OK to break your vows if it is done to help others. For example, if you know someone who drinks a lot, it is OK to have some drinks with them to befriend them and possibly bring them around to the path.
If you are going to criticize the Mahayana, try to do it accurately, rather than with such a caricature.

The difference in the understanding of emptiness is vast. Even among Mahayanists there is great debate about it and different schools that believe different things exist, yet they all think they have the right understanding of emptiness. There is a doctrine of "Two Truths" which basically says that there are two levels of reality. They are the conventional and the ultimate levels (this is borrowed from Theravada and other earlier sects) but they define these much differently than Theravada did. They say that on the conventional level, things are impermanent, dukkha, and so on and that actions have effects, but that on the ultimate level, all things are dream like, not real manifestations.
This is a distortion of the two truths. If there are Mahayanists who hold it as you say, they are not indicative of the Mahayana as a whole.

While there is much for which one might criticize the Mahayana, it is best to accurately portray that which you are criticizing. It is also worth keeping in mind there is also much within the Mahayana that worthy and of great value.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby ground » Wed Dec 15, 2010 6:44 am

tiltbillings wrote:
TMingyur wrote:You should say "exegeses vary". The view I put forth is based on Shantideva and others following Atisa.
That is very self-serving. The reality is that the various mahayana doctors engaged in extended negative critiques of the supposed hinayana in terms of doctrine as an expression of a lower, debased attitide. And we just saw a well meaning, I am sure, Tibetan teacher expressed this negative critique and directly applied it to the Theravada. Nothing new in that.

I do not know of a specific one. But it may be that there are persons that are called "teacher" by some that do not qualify as teachers or sometimes they do quality and sometimes they do not which may be a manifestation of their attainments.


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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby Wizard in the Forest » Wed Dec 15, 2010 6:48 am

Tilt, maybe you have a clear understanding of the differences, so I would like to hear what you think they are if you don't mind.
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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby Virgo » Wed Dec 15, 2010 6:57 am

Wizard in the Forest wrote:Virgo that was awesome, I really want to hear more if you have more. I hardly ever hear anyone be honest about the differences and they try to dismiss the differences without giving real illustration or understanding of the differences.

Dear Wizard,

I will, when the time is right. We have to watch our emotions and curtail them at times, so we do not enter a moment that is not a moment on the path.

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