Why Theravada?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Myotai
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Re: Why Theravada?

Post by Myotai » Mon Oct 07, 2013 1:05 pm

kc2dpt wrote:
Myotai wrote:If it can be categorically proven that the Theravada is [X} then the Mahayana Schools will have to concede that they are [Y].
I think your (and my) spiritual life would be simpler if there was only one teacher to follow and all other teachers closed up shop and went home. Somehow I don't think that's ever going to happen. ;)

I think it's normal for most people in the world to suffer doubts and confusions about which path to follow. Not just in spiritual matters either, but in many decision points in life.
My initial intention was to help me clarify the constant inner narrative I have about these difference.
This is what's it's about, I think, not about one school conceding to another. I hope at some point your mind will pick a narrative and settle down to one practice. Until then, do your best to read and listen and learn and practice whatever inspires you at that moment. :)
quote]

...thats the problem. I have been reading and studying (and practicing) for, lets just say a long time now. These differences have evoked the narrative that I speak of. Its not just a case of deciding on which narrative to stick with. Its about choosing the one that is closest to the teaching of the Buddha rather than not.

chownah
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Re: Why Theravada?

Post by chownah » Mon Oct 07, 2013 3:13 pm

Myotai wrote:
chownah wrote:Myopia,
If someone wanted to prove the Theravada claim to you then what sort of thing would you accept as proof?
Just proof...really :thinking:

Errm... :shrug: proof.

I am being facetious :tongue:

Just a proof that the closest we have to what the Historical Buddha taught is contained within Theravada and that other schools are based around these teachings but not rooted in them.

For instance, I heard recently the The Buddha never used the phrase 'Buddha Nature'....if this is correct its MASSIVE!!! Given that nearly all Mahayana schools are based on the existence of an inherent Buddha nature.

M....

ps I think it ws Thanissaro in a talk on dependent Origination who said that.
Myotai,
It is great that you have come here asking about Buddha Nature and whether the Buddha ever used the term. I really doubt that the Theravada scriptures will suggest he said it but I am definitely not a scholar of the scriptures.....I hope someone else more knowledgeable than me helps you. Perhaps a better way to find out is to ask the people who do use the term if they can show a scripture where the Buddha used it, and then perhaps to go look at how scholars date the scripture and what they say about its history.....of course you may choose to accept or refuse any conclusions based on that information since it is only speculative usually.
chownah

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kc2dpt
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Re: Why Theravada?

Post by kc2dpt » Mon Oct 07, 2013 5:59 pm

Myotai wrote:If you're going to quote me....please do me the courtesy of making sire you're accurate?
I did not quote you, nor did I claim I was quoting you. I said, "Here's my summary of this thread, how it looks to me".

Then I said, "This kind of question is I think inherently rude". I stand by that. It is inherently rude to ask "Since they say your path is crap and their path is better, why did you chose your path?"

I also stand by what I said next, that even though it is an inherently rude question it is also understandable that it would be asked. One can't help wanting to ask why a person chose one over the other. My concern is when a question is inherently rude it seems inevitable the discussion will degenerate. Forging ahead anyway...

You ask for proof, chownah asked you to qualify what would constitute proof, and you went in circles. That's not encouraging.

Kim OHara said it about as well as it could be said. In my own words...

The scholarship says the Pali Suttas and the Chinese Agamas have enormous overlap and most likely constitute the oldest record of Buddhist teachings. It is my experience Theravada seeks to adhere to the Pali Suttas as close as possible. Some people I've met feel strongly the Abhidhamma contains a few cases of deviation from the Suttas while other people I've met disagree. It is also my experience that Mahayana has added quite a few scriptures which take the teachings in a very different direction than the Theravada. Some people I have met argue strongly that the differences are minor, or are simply a matter of using different terms to refer to the same thing. Other people I have met argue strongly that the differences are not only major but that Mahayana is the group that has it right and the Theravada has it wrong.

I am personally of the opinion that the Theravada teachers I go to are teaching me as close to the Buddha's intent as is possible. I have confidence these teachings will be more beneficial than any other teachings I could get from other interpretations or other traditions or other religions. Is that proof of anything? No. What it is is the result of my study and practice so far. That's all I got and, frankly, that's all I expect anyone has. When you talk about history, there is no proof, only good guesses.

I hope this is helpful. :)
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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Myotai
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Re: Why Theravada?

Post by Myotai » Mon Oct 07, 2013 6:44 pm

kc2dpt wrote:
Myotai wrote:If you're going to quote me....please do me the courtesy of making sire you're accurate?
I did not quote you, nor did I claim I was quoting you. I said, "Here's my summary of this thread, how it looks to me".

Then I said, "This kind of question is I think inherently rude". I stand by that. It is inherently rude to ask "Since they say your path is crap and their path is better, why did you chose your path?"

I also stand by what I said next, that even though it is an inherently rude question it is also understandable that it would be asked. One can't help wanting to ask why a person chose one over the other. My concern is when a question is inherently rude it seems inevitable the discussion will degenerate. Forging ahead anyway...

You ask for proof, chownah asked you to qualify what would constitute proof, and you went in circles. That's not encouraging.

Kim OHara said it about as well as it could be said. In my own words...

The scholarship says the Pali Suttas and the Chinese Agamas have enormous overlap and most likely constitute the oldest record of Buddhist teachings. It is my experience Theravada seeks to adhere to the Pali Suttas as close as possible. Some people I've met feel strongly the Abhidhamma contains a few cases of deviation from the Suttas while other people I've met disagree. It is also my experience that Mahayana has added quite a few scriptures which take the teachings in a very different direction than the Theravada. Some people I have met argue strongly that the differences are minor, or are simply a matter of using different terms to refer to the same thing. Other people I have met argue strongly that the differences are not only major but that Mahayana is the group that has it right and the Theravada has it wrong.

I am personally of the opinion that the Theravada teachers I go to are teaching me as close to the Buddha's intent as is possible. I have confidence these teachings will be more beneficial than any other teachings I could get from other interpretations or other traditions or other religions. Is that proof of anything? No. What it is is the result of my study and practice so far. That's all I got and, frankly, that's all I expect anyone has. When you talk about history, there is no proof, only good guesses.

I hope this is helpful. :)
Since they say your path is crap and their path is better, why did you chose your path?"
My friend again you put this statement in quotes...who is it that you're saying is stating this?? It's a very aggressive way of putting it and not at all what they're saying, unfair.

Anyway, I think 'they're' saying that they have discovered a swifter path to liberation. If time has facilitated this, then it begs the question, what keeps you in the path you're in and stops you joining theirs?

Hope that clarifies, it's not meant to be rude or contentious. But if someone said here have a new faster more economical car, why not take it?

M...

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daverupa
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Re: Why Theravada?

Post by daverupa » Mon Oct 07, 2013 6:52 pm

Myotai wrote:But if someone said here have a new faster more economical car, why not take it?
Assuming the claims are valid, it might be that you've got to haul a trailer of mountain bikes and the new car is just not going to get the job done. Maybe it's a crappy foreign import. Or fails safety regulations. Or only runs on diesel. Or the maker stole the plans from an existing line of automobiles and is making a cheap knockoff with no warranty.

Etc.

But that's only on an assumption. The claims aren't even supported, as yet...
  • "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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Myotai
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Re: Why Theravada?

Post by Myotai » Mon Oct 07, 2013 7:06 pm

daverupa wrote:
Myotai wrote:But if someone said here have a new faster more economical car, why not take it?
Assuming the claims are valid, it might be that you've got to haul a trailer of mountain bikes and the new car is just not going to get the job done. Maybe it's a crappy foreign import. Or fails safety regulations. Or only runs on diesel. Or the maker stole the plans from an existing line of automobiles and is making a cheap knockoff with no warranty
:jumping: :clap:

Love it...fantastic :goodpost:

Although my point was without caveats ... Ie. the new cars a good un'

M...

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Myotai
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Re: Why Theravada?

Post by Myotai » Mon Oct 07, 2013 7:16 pm

For me the Theravada seems to be much more to the point, less baggage as it were. I've been reading The Art of Living recently (never really exposed to Goenka) and I love the way he - and other Vipassana teachers - keep things really down to earth.

To ground myself out I sometimes ask myself 'what is it you want'?' After I put aside all the tinsel and accoutrements from some other traditions the Theravada seems to give me the answers I need.

That said I am massively intrigued by Chan and the Korean Schools, but I am not completely convinced that there is the evidence to say that they're adhering to what the Historical Buddha taught about how to practice.

Like I say though, I don't know enough to be definitively convinced either way....and does it really matter?

M...

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kc2dpt
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Re: Why Theravada?

Post by kc2dpt » Tue Oct 08, 2013 4:08 am

Myotai wrote:I think 'they're' saying that they have discovered a swifter path to liberation. If time has facilitated this, then it begs the question, what keeps you in the path you're in and stops you joining theirs?
As I've said before, I tend to be wary of people offering shortcuts. It's a common trick of swindlers. It preys on our unwholesome tendency to seek the easy way out. So in this case we have a teacher who might be sincere or might be out to trick me. This world has no shortage of people trying to trick others by means of fake spirituality.

But even if we give 'them' the benefit of the doubt and assume they have pure intentions, we are still left with the fact that 'they' think they are able to improve upon the Buddha. That's a pretty bold claim, one that speaks to a different set of defilements in the mind. And so in this case we have a teacher who might be genuine or might be a victim to his own ego, making more of his progress than is warranted. Again, the world has no shortage of people who think too much of themselves.

My teachers whom I trust, they say "Here's is this text, here is how it is traditionally understood. Maybe you like it, maybe you don't. Maybe you will benefit from it, maybe you won't. It's all OK. We're here if you want to talk about it." This feels like a safer environment for me. No one is making flashy claims. No one is claiming special knowledge. People are checking each other's work, keeping each other in check. It strikes me as responsible and humble - things I want in a spiritual path.

Furthermore, I have never understood the Mahayana paths I have checked out. They are flowery, poetic, pithy, but they do not show me a path to get from where I am to where I'd like to be. Only Theravada has managed to show me this.
if someone said here have a new faster more economical car, why not take it?
There will always be an advertisement for a 'better' car. You buy a new one today and next week there is one even better. One can waste one's entire life chasing after every new car that comes out. This is the nature of craving, the very problem the Buddha said is the root of all suffering.
I am not completely convinced that there is the evidence to say that they're adhering to what the Historical Buddha taught about how to practice.
Are you concerned if these newer school are actually better than the old or are you concerned if they adhere to the old teachings? I feel like perhaps you are asking two separate questions at once.

A new school could adhere to the old teachings and be better.
A new school could adhere to the old teachings and be worse.
A new school could deviate from the old teachings and be better.
A new school could deviate from the old teachings and be worse.

Any of those four are possible.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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Kusala
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Re: Why Theravada?

Post by Kusala » Tue Oct 08, 2013 4:35 am

Myotai wrote:
kc2dpt wrote:This thread started out as asking "why Theravada". People have been giving their honest answers. This last day or so of posts, however, seems to include some people getting defensive about some of those answers and arguing the efficacy of non-Theravada schools. This would seem to me a] off-topic and b] taking this thread down a contentious path I have seen far too often.

If I ask you why you prefer chocolate to vanilla and you answer honestly, I think it would then be a bit rude of me to then lecture you about why you should like vanilla as well.


Looking back at the initial post, I'm starting to wonder at the motivation of this thread. I do hope the intent was not simply to tell us Theravadins how deluded and close-minded we are. That would be rude indeed.
Hi,

My initial intention was to help me clarify the constant inner narrative I have about these difference. "Two men say they're Jesus, one of them has to be wrong".

Dress it how you like, the differences are too vast to imply that its ALL Buddhism. Anapanasati, Jhana, Vipassana are all practices that I see as the bread and butter of the Theravada. I see the Mahayana as having adopted these but only as a stepping stone to what they see as more profound practices, not as the foundation of their practice. Then the Mahayana (IMHO) seem to launch off into a completely different religion with Deities, mantra, yantra, bells, rituals, etc etc...

Now this doesn't meant to say that its wrong. I just don't think its the same. I make a point not to mention specific practices that I do, however.....I practice Silent Illumination as taught by Chan Master Sheng Yen. Frankly I am not too concerned as to whether its directly linked to the Buddhas teachings or not. It seems to work for me and its a practice that is surrounded by interpretations of the Buddhas teachings. So I guess it justifies in being called a Buddhist practice.

I think the problem is that if it can be categorically proven that the Theravada is the closest to the original teachings of the historical Buddha then the Mahayana Schools will have to concede that they are an elboration that take on board His teachings, nothing more.

But has the authenticity of the Theravadin claim been proven?

M...
"..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."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Image

"He, the Blessed One, is indeed the Noble Lord, the Perfectly Enlightened One;
He is impeccable in conduct and understanding, the Serene One, the Knower of the Worlds;
He trains perfectly those who wish to be trained; he is Teacher of gods and men; he is Awake and Holy. "

--------------------------------------------
"The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One,
Apparent here and now, timeless, encouraging investigation,
Leading to liberation, to be experienced individually by the wise. "

skandha
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Re: Why Theravada?

Post by skandha » Tue Oct 08, 2013 10:06 am

Myotai wrote:For instance, I heard recently the The Buddha never used the phrase 'Buddha Nature'....if this is correct its MASSIVE!!! Given that nearly all Mahayana schools are based on the existence of an inherent Buddha nature.
In the Mahayana sutras there is mentioned of tathagathagarbha (womb of tathagatha). However I do not think that all Mahayana schools emphasise this teaching of tathagathagarbha. Historically there tends to be two camps, one that emphasise the notion of tathagathagarbha as ultimate, while the other has the view that emptiness/dependent arising is the ultimate. So within Tibetan Buddhims we hear about debates between the Madhyamika school (dependent arising) vs Yogacara (tending more towards tathagathagarbha). Even in Chinese Buddhism, there is this distinction. Early Chinese Buddhism tend more towards emptiness/dependent arising whilst later and current day Chinese Buddhism tends toward tathagathagarbha. The prominent Chinese scholar monk, Yinshun, is of the view that emptiness/dependent arising is the ultimate teaching whilst the teaching of tathagathagarbha is provisional. He explains that this was necessary because in the time of the Buddha, the notion of soul (atta) was so strong that it was hard for the people to accept the teaching of dependent arising, so the Buddha used a skillful mean of introducing the idea of tathagathagarbha to these people and to slowly introduce dependent arising to them. More information on Ven. Yinshun's view http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/His ... ddhism.pdf.

Of course, all of the above is from the Mahayana. In Theravada, there is no notion of Tathagathagarbha. Theravada is in agreement with the other camp of Mahayana where dependent arising is emphasised.

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Re: Why Theravada?

Post by Feathers » Wed Oct 09, 2013 12:01 am

This thing about various bits of Mahayana offering more 'direct' routes, the 'sudden illumination' you find in Zen and so forth . . . I'm not sold on it. I mean, I think there's quite a lot of Mahayana that still involves a pretty long trek.

(a) 'Sudden illumination' often comes after years of apparently fruitless searching. So it isn't that quick.
(b) Some of the Vajrayana stuff is a SERIOUSLY long term commitment - years, hundreds of thousands of mantras etc.
(c) Theravada seems pretty direct to me. It seems pretty free of faffing around, pretty clear in instructions (whatever meditation method you use)

I know there are Mahayana schools that claim to offer a shortcut, but I don't think they all do by any means - it just seems a bit harsh to lump them all together in this debate (which started as a discussion about shortcuts). And it makes any school that does claim shortcuts look even more suspect, as they're deviating from quite a lot of Mahayana as well, as far as I can see.
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Re: Why Theravada?

Post by Samma » Wed Oct 09, 2013 1:38 am

Myotai wrote: I think the problem is that if it can be categorically proven that the Theravada is the closest to the original teachings of the historical Buddha then the Mahayana Schools will have to concede that they are an elboration that take on board His teachings, nothing more.

But has the authenticity of the Theravadin claim been proven?
Textual study mainly. We see the later works refer to ideas in the earlier, and no t the other way around. And what little history they can piecetogether from other texts. Also archaeological findings. I'd suggest looking at the early Buddhist schools and timeline generally agree on by scholars. This stuff is not exactly a secret hard to piece together.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_bud ... ols#Legacy

For example try Analayo's book looking how elaborations to nikayas could have lead to bodhisattva ideal. Because everyone knows bodhisattva = mahayana right right?
http://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg. ... nalayo.pdf

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Kusala
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Re: Why Theravada?

Post by Kusala » Fri Oct 11, 2013 9:36 am

BuddhaSoup wrote:For me, it was important to source the school closest to the teachings of the Buddha. The scholarship in the area of the etiology of the Dhamma reflects that the Pali Canon captures to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty the teachings of Gautama Buddha. Many of the Ajahns and teachers that teach from the Theravada and Early Buddhism perspective are highly credible. We have today teachers like Vens. Thanissaro, Bodhi, Brahm, Gunuratana, and others who are highly intelligent people (some with strong science and research backgrounds) who likely wouldn't waste their time on a fool's errand. Lifetimes have been spent on this Dhamma, and have yielded sound roadmaps for the navigation of mind/ life and release from samsara as the Buddha intended.

After starting with Korean Zen, and spending some back and forth time with other Mahayana traditions, when the time came for me to commit to a practice and a school, there was no question other than choosing Pali Canon/Theravada. There is so much positive to be said of Mahayana, but to be critical, in some respects Mahayana has taken the Buddhavacana and created a practice out of completely new cloth. The Buddha's Vinaya is rejected. The Canon is displaced by 8th century fabrications that were geared more to nationalistic concerns, than Dhamma. Buddha is said to have made statements in later sutras that no independent scholar accepts as valid or true.

There is so much cohesiveness, intelligence, wisdom and authenticity in the Pali Canon based schools, that to practice otherwise would suggest a rejection of Buddhism in favor of, for example, "Dogenism."
Try going to a Zen sangha and learning jhana. It was the Buddha who advised his monks to practice jhana, to meditate in a certain way, and this practice was later rejected by Mahayana schools seeking to "brand" themselves in a more populist manner. All forms of meditation are beneficial, but it seems to me important to practice meditation the way that the Buddha taught it.

It's a bit like the barrel analogy. There is a beauty and simplicity to a well made oak barrel. Start creating cracks and pounding pegs into it, and soon it is no longer a barrel, and it no longer holds water. Maybe I'm a jerk for saying this, but the Dhamma can be considered medicine for a deluded society, so why not try to get the antidote as effective and pure as we possibly can?
:anjali:
Image

"He, the Blessed One, is indeed the Noble Lord, the Perfectly Enlightened One;
He is impeccable in conduct and understanding, the Serene One, the Knower of the Worlds;
He trains perfectly those who wish to be trained; he is Teacher of gods and men; he is Awake and Holy. "

--------------------------------------------
"The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One,
Apparent here and now, timeless, encouraging investigation,
Leading to liberation, to be experienced individually by the wise. "

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Dan74
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Re: Why Theravada?

Post by Dan74 » Fri Oct 11, 2013 10:37 am

Most of people I know who practice Mahayana Buddhism don't practice it as a rejection of Theravada or the suttas but simply because it was what they were first exposed to and it works!

Also there is clearly a wealth of sublime liberating teachings in Mahayana, otherwise great Theravadan teachers, like Ajahns Maha Bowa, Buddhadasa and Chah would not be using them in their teachings and praising them. Otherwise, Western Theravadan monks and teachers, like Ajahn Amaro, Phra Kantipalo and Joseph Goldstein, would not be taking teachings from Mahayana masters.

I think people who rejoice in their own tradition and make full use of the wonderful teachings it provides, don't need to bash other traditions. This is just sakkaya dithi and slander of a valid Dharma path, a slight on all those who have walked it and the Theravadan teachers who have praised it. Sorry I can't sugar-coat it.

If you find that Theravada is a better fit, I understand perfectly well. Theravada has wonderful teachings, practices and teachers. But to go and pour dirt on Mahayana, which is really many diverse schools, is unnecessary and damaging. If you have a specific point you have an issue with, let's discuss it and maybe we can all learn something. Otherwise it is just Bad Speech, pure and simple.
Last edited by Dan74 on Fri Oct 11, 2013 11:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Kim OHara
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Re: Why Theravada?

Post by Kim OHara » Fri Oct 11, 2013 11:03 am

:goodpost:
:namaste:
Kim

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