Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
meindzai
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Post by meindzai » Thu Jan 15, 2009 10:02 pm

If you feel like listening to Thanissaro Bhikkhu talk for about 6 hours, he has a very long (multi part, of course) talk on Emptiness from the Theravada perspective; http://audiodharma.org/talks/ThanissaroBhikkhu.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

There is also a shorter 1 hour version - but the 6 hour one covers a LOT of territory, including the Mahayana perspective. Or, probably better said, a Theravadans perspective of the Mahayana perspective. The Theravada bias is apparent, but understandable.

An article of his is here --> http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... iness.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
which covers a lot of the same territory, but doesn't go into the whole Nagarjuna/Mahayana etc. thing.

Personally, if I'm talking to a mahayanist or zennie friend, I just set my internal mental babelfish to translate it to "anicca, anatta, dukkha" and the conversation tends to progress pretty smoothly. "The Five Skhandas are Empty" (per the heart sutra) translates to "The Five Khandas are anicca, anatta, dukkha" which is absolutely true. When it gets sticky is when people want to talk about this myserious animal called "reality," at which point I try to quietly back out of the conversation, since the only realities I'm concerned with are dukkha and the cessation of dukkha.

-M

Element

Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Post by Element » Thu Jan 15, 2009 10:22 pm

meindzai wrote:When it gets sticky is when people want to talk about this myserious animal called "reality," at which point I try to quietly back out of the conversation, since the only realities I'm concerned with are dukkha and the cessation of dukkha.-M
:goodpost: The emptiness that can end dukkha plus allow harmonious & empathetic living is the genuine emptiness.

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stuka
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Post by stuka » Thu Jan 15, 2009 10:52 pm

meindzai wrote:....since the only realities I'm concerned with are dukkha and the cessation of dukkha.

-M

:goodpost:

8-)

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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Post by Prasadachitta » Thu Jan 15, 2009 10:53 pm

Element wrote:
meindzai wrote:When it gets sticky is when people want to talk about this myserious animal called "reality," at which point I try to quietly back out of the conversation, since the only realities I'm concerned with are dukkha and the cessation of dukkha.-M
:goodpost: The emptiness that can end dukkha plus allow harmonious & empathetic living is the genuine emptiness.
Indeed... It is the same emptiness for each turn of the wheel. :thumbsup:
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332

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stuka
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Post by stuka » Fri Jan 16, 2009 12:54 am

gabrielbranbury wrote:
Indeed... It is the same emptiness for each turn of the wheel. :thumbsup:
The Buddha's teachings were complete and not in need of any further "improvement". The "wheel" has not stopped rolling, and has never been in any need of "re-turning".

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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Post by Karunika » Fri Jan 16, 2009 1:40 am

stuka wrote:
gabrielbranbury wrote:
Indeed... It is the same emptiness for each turn of the wheel. :thumbsup:
The Buddha's teachings were complete and not in need of any further "improvement". The "wheel" has not stopped rolling, and has never been in any need of "re-turning".
I can appreciate differences of opinion between and even within traditions, but I think your sect bashing of Mahayana is inappropriate. I understand this board may be primarily Theravada; however, in a thread discussing aspects of two different traditions, I don't think it helpful to disparage one over the other. That has been done elsewhere to many times already.

The facts are that there are differences between the various schools, but we do not need to put down other schools that we do not belong to or agree with. Sometimes there are true differences and sometimes it is a matter of explanation and terminology. For example, in Tibetan Buddhism there are a variety of traditions. Just because they all do not agree, or they explain things differently, does not mean that they are speculative. There are great scholars and masters in both the Theravada and Mahayana traditions. Sometimes understanding another tradition helps you to better understand your own - at the least, it helps you learn where other people are coming from and why they believe what they do.

K

meindzai
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Post by meindzai » Fri Jan 16, 2009 2:31 am

I think what people forget is that mahayana and Theravada have entirely different goals and idealss, and this is primarily where the differences come from. Theravada aspires to arahantship and Mahayana aspires to Buddhahood. Each is complete and logical with respect to it's respective goal.

No Mahayanist I know would argue that Theravada is incomplete WRT to arahantship. With regards to arahantship, no improvements can be made by mahayana becuase mahayanists do not aspire to be Arahants. What mahayana says is that mahayana is the path of the Bodhisattva - someone who aspires to Buddhahood. The mistake of forgetting this distinction is made by both people who wish to disparage one or the other philosophy, and also by people who attempt to reconcile them by saying "They're both two different interpretations of the same doctrines." They're different doctrines becuase the goals are different. The teachings on emptiness then follow different paths from there.

-M

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stuka
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Post by stuka » Fri Jan 16, 2009 2:50 am

Karunika wrote:
stuka wrote:
gabrielbranbury wrote:
Indeed... It is the same emptiness for each turn of the wheel. :thumbsup:
The Buddha's teachings were complete and not in need of any further "improvement". The "wheel" has not stopped rolling, and has never been in any need of "re-turning".
I can appreciate differences of opinion between and even within traditions, but I think your sect bashing of Mahayana is inappropriate.
This is not sect-bashing at all, friend. The view that claims that Theravada is somehow incomplete or in need of improvement is, in fact, sect-bashing. As is very the use of the term "Maha-yana", as it is used to elevate those sects above what it refers to as "Hina-yana", the "inferior vehicle".Pointing out the shortcomings of one philosophy or another is not anything like "sect-bashing". The Buddha did it all the time. What you are attempting here is philosophical extortion.
I understand this board may be primarily Theravada; however, in a thread discussing aspects of two different traditions, I don't think it helpful to disparage one over the other. That has been done elsewhere to many times already.


What you seem to defensively hold a "disparagement" is simple analysis of characteristics.

The facts are that there are differences between the various schools, but we do not need to put down other schools that we do not belong to or agree with.
...such as referring to the Buddha's teachings as "Hina-yana". Again, pointing out problems inherent to the speculative views of others is not "putting them down" in the perjorative sense to which you allude. The Buddha pointed out other philosophers' and teachers' shortcomings on a regular basis.
Sometimes there are true differences and sometimes it is a matter of explanation and terminology. For example, in Tibetan Buddhism there are a variety of traditions. Just because they all do not agree, or they explain things differently, does not mean that they are speculative.
It is being pointed out that the myriad speculative views of the tibetan religions are speculative because they are speculative. Many of them are also based on obvious superstitions as well. A great many of them go directly against the Buddha's own teachings. For example, the Buddha did not teach in the consultation of "oracles" and worship of "deities".
There are great scholars and masters in both the Theravada and Mahayana traditions. Sometimes understanding another tradition helps you to better understand your own - at the least, it helps you learn where other people are coming from and why they believe what they do.
Understanding the contradictions, shortcomings, and deviations of other traditions and distantly-related religions from the Buddha's teachings does indeed help us to better understand the teachings of the Buddha. It helps one to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Last edited by stuka on Fri Jan 16, 2009 6:20 am, edited 5 times in total.

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Ben
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Post by Ben » Fri Jan 16, 2009 2:55 am

Dear friends

Please keep in mind that while this is a forum for the discussion and discovery of the Theravada, it is intended that Dhammawheel becomes a haven for all sincere practitioners regardless of tradition.

It is hoped that practitioners from non-Theravadin traditions may share their view and thus help us all to gain a deeper perspective on the Dhamma.

Be mindful that personal views on the efficacy of Mahayanist or Vajrayanist doctrine do not breach the Terms of Service with regards to right speech. Please be respectful, especially to those who may have a differing view or opinion. Remember, that until we enter the stream, we are all still subject to the grosser and finer defilements that cloud our minds. None of us yet have pristine right view.
Thank you for your cooperation.
With metta,

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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stuka
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Post by stuka » Fri Jan 16, 2009 3:08 am

meindzai wrote:I think what people forget is that mahayana and Theravada have entirely different goals and idealss, and this is primarily where the differences come from. Theravada aspires to arahantship and Mahayana aspires to Buddhahood. Each is complete and logical with respect to it's respective goal.
We are aware of what the Mahayana party line is. We do not hold to it. The Buddha taught that his Dhamma led to the absolute completion of the Holy Life, beyond which there was "no more to be done".
No Mahayanist I know would argue that Theravada is incomplete WRT to arahantship.
Many Mahayanists will argue that what they espouse improves upon what the Buddha taught could not be improved upon.

With regards to arahantship, no improvements can be made by mahayana becuase mahayanists do not aspire to be Arahants.
Again, we are fully aware of the Mahayana party line, and do not hold to it.
What mahayana says is that mahayana is the path of the Bodhisattva - someone who aspires to Buddhahood.
Mahayanists define "Bodhisattva", "Arahant", and "Buddha" (especially with respect to the Mahayanist idea of "Buddha-hood") differently than the Buddha did, in order to further their own self-view-serving agendas. The Buddha did not teach that we should aspire to become omniscient Gods.
The mistake of forgetting this distinction is made by both people who wish to disparage one or the other philosophy,
Image

That is a straw-man. No one here is unaware of the false distinction that Mahayanists make here. And again, pointing out inherent problems in any philosophy is not, in and of itself, "disparaging" it in the perjorative sense you are attempting to invoke, that of "sect-bashing". The Buddha did it all the time. What you are attempting here is philosophical extortion -- it is the same thing as if you were to claim that "anyone who does not vote for Barack Obama, or who voices disagreement with any of his political policies and ideas, is a racist". It's utter nonsense.
and also by people who attempt to reconcile them by saying "They're both two different interpretations of the same doctrines."
Nor do I know of any Theravadins who hold this view. 'Nuther Straw Man. Image
They're different doctrines becuase the goals are different. The teachings on emptiness then follow different paths from there.
-M
I do not disagree with this. However, the Buddha taught one goal -- the way to cessation of suffering -- which Theravada follows. That Mahayanists and followers of the tibetan religions have different goals and teach and follow something else that parts company with the Buddha's goal and teachings, is their own problem.
Last edited by stuka on Fri Jan 16, 2009 6:43 am, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Post by Prasadachitta » Fri Jan 16, 2009 5:39 am

I only brought up the turning of the wheel as a matter of convention. Of course the wheel has not stopped. :quote:
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332

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stuka
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Post by stuka » Fri Jan 16, 2009 6:38 am

gabrielbranbury wrote:I only brought up the turning of the wheel as a matter of convention. Of course the wheel has not stopped. :quote:
Whether you were aware of it or not, the notion of a "second and third turning of the wheel" is part of an attempt to portray Maha- and Vajra- doctrines as if they were actual teachings of the Buddha. It is merely an attempt to co-opt the Buddha's famous metaphor of "Turning the Wheel of Dhamma", part of a broad propaganda campaign aimed at legitimizing their own, very different, teachings.

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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Post by Karunika » Fri Jan 16, 2009 4:31 pm

Stuka, you can lump everyone together if you want, but I have never disparaged the Theravada, and I do not refer to it as Hinayana. As to "mahayana," I don't know what other word to use in order to describe it. I'm sure that Theravadan's use the same word to describe that vehicle because that is the term generally used by everyone.

Stuka, you are disparaging other traditions by saying they are speculations or are not true. If you said that according to Theravada, such and such in Mahayana is this or that, it would be different, but you are just dismissing it as wrong. There can be no helpful dialogue if you are going to play word games and not recognize your own prejudiced feelings.

I have deep respect for the Theravada, and I started out as a Theravadin. We each follow the path that is best for us at the time. The best path is the one that helps you progress towards enlightenment. Debate about which school is better and what is wrong with such and such school is chatter that is not conducive to enlightenment, harmony, and the spreading of the Dharma.

You did the same thing at E-sangha, and now you are doing it here. It seems that non-Theravadins are welcome here only if they accept that they are wrong and inferior to Theravada. Well, just because Theravadins may not have always been treated fairly elsewhere is no reason to disparage non-Theravadins here. You can call what you are doing anything you like, but it is clearly disparagement, and I'm not going to stick around while you continue with your pompous remarks disguised as pointing out the errors of others.

K

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bodom
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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Post by bodom » Fri Jan 16, 2009 4:39 pm

Karunika wrote: It seems that non-Theravadins are welcome here only if they accept that they are wrong and inferior to Theravada.
K
Its funny you bring this up because thats exactly how i was made to feel at e-sangha, inferior to the Mahayana.

:namaste:
The heart of the path is so simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice.

Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing.

Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this-just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle.

- Ajahn Chah

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Re: Emptiness - mahayana and theravada

Post by Dhammanando » Fri Jan 16, 2009 5:02 pm

:focus:
“Keep to your own pastures, bhikkhus, walk in the haunts where your fathers roamed.
If ye thus walk in them, Māra will find no lodgement, Māra will find no foothold.”
— Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta

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