The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

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The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby Wizard in the Forest » Tue Dec 14, 2010 1:02 am

The Bodhisattva ideal comes to mind, as does the definition of an Arahant, Buddha, and Nirvana. I remember there were different Parami as well, but I don't quite grasp the main specific philosophical differences there is between the two schools of thought. I'm missing the big point, and am afraid of asking around and setting people off, so perhaps, can anyone explain to me the main philosophical differences?

(I already saw Ajahn Brahm's video, and that didn't clear it up. It just said they're mostly the same when you get to the bare fundamentals, and I know that.)

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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby Cloud » Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:46 am

I think the Mahayana tradition arose because of other enlightened beings that had a different approach to enlightenment, and instead of taking credit for their own teachings, they gave credit to the Buddha... thus giving them authenticity as being the Buddha's teachings, when in fact they are not (though preserving much of what the Buddha had taught). The divisiveness between the schools is in not recognizing that the Buddha taught things a certain way and that these new perspectives are not specifically his teachings; they are modified.

Now we have a school of Buddhism that prays to a Bodhisattva that enlightenment might happen in a future life, and also a school that teaches reincarnation. Further and further we go from the road to self-liberation here in this life that the Buddha (I believe) espoused. There is no difference between the death of a normal man, a Buddha, and a Bodhisattva; the aggregates are not permanently affected by the realization of Nirvana. This is a practice to end our suffering now; it doesn't remove us, or any part of us, permanently from the active universe. All things are not self... there is nothing to fear from enlightenment, but I believe both fear and wrong view lead to some of these newer forms that place higher value on restraining one's self from this very goal of the Buddha's teachings, and placing a selfishness upon those who are trying to awaken for the benefit of all mankind.

The Bodhisattva ideal is a noble one, but if seen with wrong view with a component of self still in the mix, it is misguided and will not lead to the end of suffering. Indeed, it may lead to its perpetuation and the dissolution of the Buddha's teachings.
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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:47 am

What Cloud said.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby Will » Tue Dec 14, 2010 5:41 pm

The main difference is the authenticity of Mahayana sutras: Theravada says none of them were taught by Buddha. So any notion found only in the Mahayana sutras is, says Theravada, not Buddhist.
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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Dec 14, 2010 6:01 pm

Certainly that is an accurate description of the view of many Theravadins.
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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby Hanzze » Tue Dec 14, 2010 6:11 pm

Dear Will, dear friends,

I wrote a quote some days ago, something like that, but more English and poetic *smile*: Knowing the true, we will not dispute about it.

The way of leaving the home in the original way like the Theravadas teaches, is not possible in countries with cool season. The sangha would sooner or later be to much involved (as they are to dependent on support - especial housing and food provide in the cool season) in the worldly life. The Sangha needs the support of the layman. As there is no support in the right way of the laypeople, that teaching (sangha) gets in troubles.

The way of mahayana provides an alternative. It is able to exist also nearly "independent" of the laypeople and it also has a more "social" (from a worldly view) refection on people around even they are not much into the Buddha Dhamma.

I guess that is the main different, but I can be wrong.
The dhamma and the kind of practice on the basis is in all vehicles the same.

_/\_
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Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby ground » Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:26 pm

Wizard in the Forest wrote:The Bodhisattva ideal comes to mind, as does the definition of an Arahant, Buddha, and Nirvana. I remember there were different Parami as well, but I don't quite grasp the main specific philosophical differences there is between the two schools of thought.
I'm missing the big point, and am afraid of asking around and setting people off, so perhaps, can anyone explain to me the main philosophical differences?


If you are looking for philosophical differences then you are on the wrong track.


Mahayana teaches the way of the bodhisattva explicitely and exclusively. This is the essential difference.

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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:29 pm

No thats only part of it T Mingyur, the other part of it is that the Theravada does not teach the way of the Bodhisattva at all.
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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby ground » Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:31 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:No thats only part of it T Mingyur, the other part of it is that the Theravada does not teach the way of the Bodhisattva at all.


Fine. That makes differentiation even more straightforward. :)

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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby Wizard in the Forest » Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:32 pm

I have heard there's a difference on how emptiness is taught too, but I don't know how. I mentioned the Bodhisattva ideal.
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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:35 pm

TMingyur wrote:
Sanghamitta wrote:No thats only part of it T Mingyur, the other part of it is that the Theravada does not teach the way of the Bodhisattva at all.


Fine. That makes differentiation even more straightforward. :)

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I think it is. I dont see what the problem is. The Theravada is not the Mahayana. The Mahayana is not the Theravada, its only a problem if we try to create a weird hybrid.
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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby ground » Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:37 pm

Wizard in the Forest wrote:I have heard there's a difference on how emptiness is taught too,...


As there are different methods of learning a foreign language

So the didactical approach is different yes. But really this only distracts from the essential difference as to what is taught.

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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby Wizard in the Forest » Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:39 pm

I learn foreign languages for a living so I'll be honest in saying that's a terrible metaphor when you're talking about a philosophical system. If a term is used in a completely different way the differentiation can be like the difference between 2 different explanations of physics.
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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby ground » Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:40 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:
TMingyur wrote:
Sanghamitta wrote:No thats only part of it T Mingyur, the other part of it is that the Theravada does not teach the way of the Bodhisattva at all.


Fine. That makes differentiation even more straightforward. :)

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I think it is. I dont see what the problem is. The Theravada is not the Mahayana. The Mahayana is not the Theravada, its only a problem if we try to create a weird hybrid.


I dont see a problem either. and I do not advocate hybrids at all.
But obviously the OP has a problem as to recognizing the difference.


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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby ground » Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:42 pm

Wizard in the Forest wrote:I learn foreign languages for a living so I'll be honest in saying that's a terrible metaphor when you're talking about a philosophical system. If a term is used in a completely different way the differentiation can be like the difference between 2 different explanations of physics.


If you want to discuss philosophy then go ahead (without me).

I just said what the essential difference is: The teachings of the way of the bodhisattva.


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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby ground » Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:56 pm

TMingyur wrote:
Sanghamitta wrote:
TMingyur wrote:I think it is. I dont see what the problem is. The Theravada is not the Mahayana. The Mahayana is not the Theravada, its only a problem if we try to create a weird hybrid.


I dont see a problem either. and I do not advocate hybrids at all.
But obviously the OP has a problem as to recognizing the difference.


Kind regards


However ... I have to say that the teachers I am following exhort to practice and study all paths. So I am not creating a hybrid because none of the Buddhas teachings should be rejected according to the teachings I am following :)


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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby Hanzze » Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:17 pm

Dear Wizard in the Forest,

the teaching sequence of both is different.
In Theravada one normally starts to run on the feet of wisdom, while (the other leg) compassion is at the beginning, (let me use the word without seeing it negativ please) a crutch. These crutch are the Silas (while they are not developed, as the wisdom is not rippen enough). The interaction of both are reaching to more wisdom and with it a second leg grows. With both legs you are able to walk and do not fall. That is the point I guess you will not see much differences between both any more.

In Mahayana one normally starts to run on the leg of compassion, while (the other leg) wisdom is also a crutch at the beginning. With its limits of "compassion" by missing wisdom, the second leg starts to grow. Just in the same way, but contrariwise.

In Theravada the three pillows are:

Sila --- Sati --- Panna

It is the same in Mahayana:

Compassion - Mindfullness - Wisdom

Sila is an act of Compassion, even for one self.

Mindfulness keeps sure that both are growing equal as they are developed a little.

In Theravada the most commune motivation is the own liberation. (as it was taught by the Buddha)
In Mahayana is the most commune motivation to liberate all. (as it was shown by the Buddha)

You could call Theravada as the operating regiment (defensive), while the pioneer regiment is Mahayana (offensive) and they are interacting in all levels. The more people are walking (having compassion with those who like a cars) the more others are able to use cars (to transport those who are need it fast).

perfect wheel of the Dhamma, you just need to take that care what looks safety for you. No need to worry, as one sees that it goes on the right way, he is also able to change the stile of moving on.
Walking is safe and even very beautiful. Who would waste time to discuss, which car. If you start to walk, you have already some kilometers in the right direction. There will also come some cars along. You can choose a change on the way.

Some may discuss for month, years and lifetimes. Should we take the bus, rent a car, buy a motorbike, maybe a train, no this driver does not look serious... Just walk on, step by step.

Buddha walked his whole lifetime, never taking a vehicle, after he left his home, and even so he was able to bring so many to the aim.

_/\_
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Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby Will » Tue Dec 14, 2010 10:28 pm

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
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 » Tue Dec 14, 2010 10:42 pm

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..
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Re: The specific differences between Mahayana and Theravada?

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Dec 15, 2010 12:47 am

For specific difference we can go on and on as threads on this topic are inclined to do.

From my point of view the main difference is idealism versus pragmatism, Theravada is pragmatic Mahayana is idealistic (as is most religion).
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"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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