Sources for Theravādin perspective on Mahāyāna doctrines?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
Bakmoon
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Joined: Sat Mar 10, 2012 3:14 pm

Re: Sources for Theravādin perspective on Mahāyāna doctrines

Post by Bakmoon » Fri Mar 28, 2014 9:01 pm

culaavuso wrote:
Bakmoon wrote: Believe it or not, I personally don't think that the idea of sudden enlightenment is in conflict with Theravada Buddhism at all. There are many accounts of people becoming awakened suddenly by just hearing the Buddha teach, and in the Theragatha and Therigatha there are many stories of Monks and Nuns awakening as the result of some sort of surreptitious experience such as blowing out a candle. The Theravada school regards these kinds of experiences as being preceded by training, but the experience of enlightenment itself is quite often a sudden one.
Ud 5.5: Uposatha Sutta wrote: Just as the ocean has a gradual shelf, a gradual slope, a gradual inclination, with a sudden drop-off only after a long stretch; in the same way this Dhamma & Vinaya has a gradual training, a gradual performance, a gradual practice, with a penetration to gnosis only after a long stretch.
As I said, the path itself is indeed a gradual one, and it is necessary to work along it for a long time, but once one is accomplished in the path, realization can come spontaneously. The Uposatha Sutta is talking about the gradual nature of the path, not about realization itself. Even this sutta itself mentions a drop-off after a long stretch, indicating at least the possibility of sudden awakening.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.

culaavuso
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Joined: Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:27 pm

Re: Sources for Theravādin perspective on Mahāyāna doctrines

Post by culaavuso » Fri Mar 28, 2014 9:39 pm

Bakmoon wrote: As I said, the path itself is indeed a gradual one, and it is necessary to work along it for a long time, but once one is accomplished in the path, realization can come spontaneously. The Uposatha Sutta is talking about the gradual nature of the path, not about realization itself. Even this sutta itself mentions a drop-off after a long stretch, indicating at least the possibility of sudden awakening.
Uposatha Sutta seems to reference realization itself as "penetration to gnosis" which parallels the "sudden drop-off after a long stretch" portion of the description of the ocean.

One example of this in the suttas is Ud 1.10, where Bāhiya had for a long time practiced wholesome behavior enough to be venerated but did not "even have the practice whereby [he] would ... enter the path of arahantship". After one discourse from the Buddha he was able to become an arahant "right then and there".
Ud 1.10: Bāhiya Sutta wrote: I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Sāvatthī at Jeta's Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika's monastery. And on that occasion Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth was living in Suppāraka by the seashore. He was worshipped, revered, honored, venerated, and given homage — a recipient of robes, alms food, lodgings, & medicinal requisites for the sick. Then, when he was alone in seclusion, this line of thinking appeared to his awareness: "Now, of those who in this world are arahants or have entered the path of arahantship, am I one?"

Then a devatā who had once been a blood relative of Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth — compassionate, desiring his welfare, knowing with her own awareness the line of thinking that had arisen in his awareness — went to him and on arrival said to him, "You, Bāhiya, are neither an arahant nor have you entered the path of arahantship. You don't even have the practice whereby you would become an arahant or enter the path of arahantship."
...
Then Bāhiya, hurriedly leaving Jeta's Grove and entering Sāvatthī, saw the Blessed One going for alms in Sāvatthī — serene & inspiring serene confidence, calming, his senses at peace, his mind at peace, having attained the utmost tranquility & poise, tamed, guarded, his senses restrained, a Great One (nāga). Seeing him, he approached the Blessed One and, on reaching him, threw himself down, with his head at the Blessed One's feet, and said, "Teach me the Dhamma, O Blessed One! Teach me the Dhamma, O One-Well-Gone, that will be for my long-term welfare & bliss."
...
Through hearing this brief explanation of the Dhamma from the Blessed One, the mind of Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth right then and there was released from effluents through lack of clinging/sustenance. Having exhorted Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth with this brief explanation of the Dhamma, the Blessed One left.
...
"Monks, Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth was wise. He practiced the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma and did not pester me with issues related to the Dhamma. Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth, monks, is totally unbound."

Caldorian
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Location: Germany

Re: Sources for Theravādin perspective on Mahāyāna doctrines

Post by Caldorian » Sun Mar 30, 2014 10:27 am

Bakmoon wrote:I would also agree with you that the practice of Zazen is a valid method. I don't have a detailed understanding of how it is practiced (in fact, I would be extremely grateful if you could explain it in some detail) but from what I have understood of it, it seems to be quite compatible with Theravada theory and practice, and I don't think it really needs to be modified at all.
Actually, there is not much to it:

In my Saṅgha (AZI in Europe), they put a lot of emphasis on posture. They tell you exactly how to sit and walk (kinhin), and to be honest, they are a bit dogmatic about it.* In fact, I don't even believe that Dōgen Zenji was this specific with regard to the posture, at least it didn't sound like that when I read the chapter on zazen in his Shōbōgenzō. Anyway, you sit with your eyes half open, and they tell you to breathe naturally and observe your mind without noting or clinging. In fact, they don't even tell you to break a chain of thought by noting, like we are often taught in vipassanā, they just tell you to let the thoughts float away without engaging them. They also recommend you to put a lot of attention on your posture, so I guess you could interpret this as an undirected mindfulness of bodily sensations.

They also do kusen (verbal instruction) in the course of meditation from time to time, that is, the head of the group either talks about the correct posture or gives some other discourse on the Dhamma; so, it's basically a mix of Dhamma talk and sitting meditation. Oh, and they use the kyōsaku (hitting the shoulder muscles with a wooden stick) if you ask for it, which I really like because it actually helps with concentration and muscle tension.


* For instance, I was told twice by a senior member that my cushion was too small, that I was sitting to "low" for the full lotus, and that my posture would result in back pains. I must admit that I ignored his admonishment because, well, in contrast to said senior member, I actually sit in the full lotus and I have based my posture on my own experiences in that asana, so that I can sit a full hour in it, and I even know at least one senior bhikkhu-cum-yoga teacher and also sits pretty low in the full lotus. (They aren't all like that in the AZI; the head of my then local dōjō didn't see the need to correct my posture, unless I got adrift in thought and let my chin wander upwards. His corrections were always helpful and accurate...)
beeblebrox wrote:Ven. Nanavira seemed to make that claim (quoted in the second post), and then tried to construct his argument around it. I thought that Morlock made a good point... we can't expect a Theravadin practitioner to be familiar about what is actually involved in Mahayana, and then to say something reliable about it.
m0rl0ck wrote:My post was mostly a reaction to the nanavira qoutes above, sorry i should have made that clearer.
Ah, yes, thanks. Hm, the problem is that you can't expect Theravādin practicioners to know Mahāyāna or Mahāyāna practitioners to know Theravāda. However, this way both sides will continue to misrepresent each other and no meaningful dialogue emerges. :shrug:

I was very impressed and thankful when I had a short retreat with the Czech Bhikkhu Dhammadīpa who is both a scholar in Theravāda and Mahāyāna and could give very interesting and differentiated answers about both traditions. Incidentally, he had also trained Sōtō before he became a Theravādin bhikkhu and encouraged me to continue my zazen practice.
culaavuso wrote:Another point to consider is whether these ideas are answering skillful questions. Some of these doctrinal differences seem to stem from answering questions that the Buddha put aside.
A very good point, culaavuso, and thank you for the quotes! I really should read Thanissaro's book; is there a hardcopy version of it? (I don't really read pdfs on the computer.)

In any case, that's what I meant when I said that is seems like it's dangerous to lose myself in conceptual proliferation about questions that are not directly relevant to my practice.

culaavuso
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Re: Sources for Theravādin perspective on Mahāyāna doctrines

Post by culaavuso » Sun Mar 30, 2014 5:24 pm

Caldorian wrote:I really should read Thanissaro's book; is there a hardcopy version of it? (I don't really read pdfs on the computer.)
Wat Mettavanaram has a free book program that currently has Skill in Questions listed as one of the available books.

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