Buddha and Mahavira

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
Caodemarte
Posts: 831
Joined: Fri May 01, 2015 3:21 pm

Re: Buddha and Mahavira

Post by Caodemarte » Sun Sep 03, 2017 4:43 am

Santi253 wrote:...No, because the prospect of attaining Nirvana would be based on a falsehood.

It would be a delusion to think that we can attain Nirvana if there wasn't a historical Buddha who attained Nirvana and taught the path to Nirvana in the first place. It would be just as delusional as believing that Jesus died for your sins if Jesus never existed.
Buddha does not occupy the same place in orthodox Buddhism as Christ does in orthodox Christianity. There is no contract to be fulfilled or Messiah role. There is no claim made that you can enter Nirvana because Buddha did. There is no claim made that any Buddhist practice or belief is valid because the historical Buddha taught what he taught (rather the reverse, he taught it because it was valid and we can prove it valid for ourselves). But back to topic.

Santi253
Posts: 982
Joined: Thu May 11, 2017 4:37 am
Contact:

Re: Buddha and Mahavira

Post by Santi253 » Sun Sep 03, 2017 5:07 am

Caodemarte wrote:There is no claim made that you can enter Nirvana because Buddha did.
Buddhism is, as a religion, rooted in the Buddha's experience of enlightenment, which led him to teach the path to enlightenment. It has never seen itself as ahistorical.

Even the Mahayana sutras, which are believed to have been written at a later date, attempt to establish their own historicity and subsequent authority.
Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. - Mahatma Gandhi

http://www.matthewsatori.tumblr.com

Santi253
Posts: 982
Joined: Thu May 11, 2017 4:37 am
Contact:

Re: Buddha and Mahavira

Post by Santi253 » Sun Sep 03, 2017 5:11 am

Garrib wrote:I agree - and the Mahavira stuff/Jain similarities kind of freaks me out.
It doesn't keep me up at night, especially considering that Buddhism is a much larger and more successful religion, while Jainism is a much more restrictive religion and more limited in its appeal. Jainism makes me wonder why the true religion would be one that so few people seem to be able to follow.
Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. - Mahatma Gandhi

http://www.matthewsatori.tumblr.com

Santi253
Posts: 982
Joined: Thu May 11, 2017 4:37 am
Contact:

Re: Buddha and Mahavira

Post by Santi253 » Sun Sep 03, 2017 7:21 am

If I learned the Buddha never existed, it would be a bigger disappointment than when I learned Cool Runnings wasn't actually a true story:
http://scenestr.com.au/movies/the-10-bi ... l-runnings
Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. - Mahatma Gandhi

http://www.matthewsatori.tumblr.com

Garrib
Posts: 486
Joined: Mon May 30, 2016 8:35 pm

Re: Buddha and Mahavira

Post by Garrib » Sun Sep 03, 2017 5:57 pm

I sometimes experience "synchronicity"-esque events in my life - (To quote Wiki: "Synchronicity (German: Synchronizität) is a concept, first introduced by analytical psychologist Carl Jung, which holds that events are "meaningful coincidences" if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related."). For example, I'll think of someone out of the blue and all of the sudden they call me. Or I'll be thinking about a certain topic and then someone will just start randomly talking about that very thing (and not something that was just on the news). I don't dwell on these things, but they kind of show me how our thoughts and experiences can actually be bound up with those of other beings. I'm sure most of us have had such experiences...

Now, you have what scholars call the Axial age (~800-300BC), during which time Buddha, Mahavira, Zoroaster, Confucious, Plato and other world teachers lived. Jesus showed up not terribly long after this period. And according to the Pali Suttas, it seems that there were many, many beings who were able to attain enlightenment even after listening to just one of the Buddha's discourses, or practicing the Dhamma for a relatively short time. Most non-Buddhist scholars (and even Buddhist scholars for that matter) will probably tend to think of the Axial age as arising out of radical changes in human social organization: more people were living in big-cities, there were specialized labor forces/castes, inequalities may have become more pronounced, new technologies were emerging etc...

But just think, "here comes the Buddha" - the Bodhisatta's journey towards supreme self-awakening is like a giant wave that is gaining momentum and finally breaks under the Bodhi tree. That wave wasn't an isolated phenomena, it was carrying a lot along with it. I know that not everyone thinks of the Jatakas as particularly trustworthy accounts, but I just read one which featured Nigantha Nataputta, and other prominent spiritual teachers of Buddha's time (https://suttacentral.net/en/ja528) - needless to say, the Buddha was the hero, and they were the bad guys.

Anyway, I suppose I am putting forward the hypothesis that perhaps some of the strange similarities we see between different traditions (Buddhism and Jainism, in particular) can be explained in part by a synchronicity-like phenomena. The main thing that was happening was the Bodhisatta was getting closer to full awakening, an absolutely momentous event, but a lot of peripheral things were happening as well owing to the Buddha's tsunami like effect. The ripples were felt all over the world, all over the universe actually, but especially affected were those in closest proximity to the Buddha himself (N.India).

I know this is not a totally original idea, I have heard Robert Thurman speculating along these lines, and I'm sure many others as well. It is just another perspective to add to the discussion...

User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 1831
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm
Location: Whitby, Canada

Re: Buddha and Mahavira

Post by Coëmgenu » Sun Sep 03, 2017 6:40 pm

Caodemarte wrote:There is no claim made that you can enter Nirvana because Buddha did. There is no claim made that any Buddhist practice or belief is valid because the historical Buddha taught what he taught (rather the reverse, he taught it because it was valid and we can prove it valid for ourselves).
I will admit that I'm not actually 100% sure of your first point, simply because I have seen a piety that is popular enough among Theravāda Buddhists for me to have encountered it a few times, that basically says: "The Buddha has done the work. You don't need to do the work. You need to study. The Buddha has done the (intellectual? soteriological? 'dhammic'?) work for you."

Obviously this kind of Buddhist sentiment is not necessarily found in traditional Buddhist scriptures, but I have had a fair number of Buddhists describe the religion to me in such a manner.

Your post reminded me of the uppādā vā tathāgatānaṃ anuppādā vā tathāgatānaṃ discourse in the Paccayasutta:
“And what, bhikkhus, is dependent origination? ‘With birth as condition, aging-and-death comes to be’: whether there is an arising of Tathagatas or no arising of Tathagatas, that element still persists, the stableness of the Dhamma, the fixed course of the Dhamma, specific conditionality. A Tathagata awakens to this and breaks through to it. Having done so, he explains it, teaches it, proclaims it, establishes it, discloses it, analyses it, elucidates it. And he says: ‘See! With birth as condition, bhikkhus, aging-and-death.’
Regarding the "There is no claim made that you can enter Nirvana because Buddha did" claim, I think it might be a bit more complicated. The principle of the Dhamma is said to be a "fixed" element. The Dhamma is true regardless of whether or not a Tathāgata has arisen to expound it.

I think it might remain to be seen if it is functionally possible to enter nirvāṇa without a Tathāgata awakening to dependend origination, breaking through to it, explaining it, teaching it, proclaiming it, establishing it, disclosing it, analyzing it, & elucidating it. Do pratyekabuddhāḥ become enlightened via the contemplation of dependent origination? Or some other method known only to them? They apparently are 'known' for not leaving Dharma-dispensations, so the question seems unanswerable.

Then again, according to some interpretations of the Pāli narrative, the Buddha did just that more or less on his own. Why don't we all do it on our own too? I suspect we don't, and go with the Buddhadharma route, is because the claim that 'anyone' can enter nirvāṇa might actually be predicated on the Buddha's accomplishment of it after all, and the framing of the Buddha as an idealized 'everyman'. This is not really coherent with the Buddha being "the perfectly awakened being" (i.e. 'different' from deluded you), but collections of religious views are very rarely completely coherent, especially on a social level, not a personal one.
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः

binocular
Posts: 5638
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Buddha and Mahavira

Post by binocular » Sun Sep 03, 2017 6:52 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:Then again, according to some interpretations of the Pāli narrative, the Buddha did just that more or less on his own. Why don't we all do it on our own too?
Because as long as the Buddha's dispensation is around and we know it, us claiming to have attained nibbana on our own would be plagiarism.
Credit where credit is due.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

Caodemarte
Posts: 831
Joined: Fri May 01, 2015 3:21 pm

Re: Buddha and Mahavira

Post by Caodemarte » Sun Sep 03, 2017 7:49 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:....I will admit that I'm not actually 100% sure of your first point, simply because I have seen a piety that is popular enough among Theravāda Buddhists for me to have encountered it a few times, that basically says: "The Buddha has done the work. You don't need to do the work. You need to study. The Buddha has done the (intellectual? soteriological? 'dhammic'?) work for you."....
Your post reminded me of the uppādā vā tathāgatānaṃ anuppādā vā tathāgatānaṃ discourse in the Paccayasutta:
“And what, bhikkhus, is dependent origination? ‘With birth as condition, aging-and-death comes to be’: whether there is an arising of Tathagatas or no arising of Tathagatas, that element still persists, the stableness of the Dhamma, the fixed course of the Dhamma, specific conditionality. A Tathagata awakens to this and breaks through to it. Having done so, he explains it, teaches it, proclaims it, establishes it, discloses it, analyses it, elucidates it. And he says: ‘See! With birth as condition, bhikkhus, aging-and-death.’
Regarding the "There is no claim made that you can enter Nirvana because Buddha did" claim, I think it might be a bit more complicated. The principle of the Dhamma is said to be a "fixed" element. The Dhamma is true regardless of whether or not a Tathāgata has arisen to expound it....
I think it might remain to be seen if it is functionally possible to enter nirvāṇa without a Tathāgata awakening to dependend origination, breaking through to it, explaining it, teaching it, proclaiming it, establishing it, disclosing it, analyzing it, & elucidating it.
Then again, according to some interpretations of the Pāli narrative, the Buddha did just that more or less on his own. Why don't we all do it on our own too? I suspect we don't, and go with the Buddhadharma route, is because the claim that 'anyone' can enter nirvāṇa might actually be predicated on the Buddha's accomplishment of it after all, and the framing of the Buddha as an idealized 'everyman'. This is not really coherent with the Buddha being "the perfectly awakened being" (i.e. 'different' from deluded you), but collections of religious views are very rarely completely coherent, especially on a social level, not a personal one.
The Buddha or a Buddha "does the work for us" in the sense of realizing Nibbana and helpfully pointing out the way to Nibbana for us. There is no Buddhist dispensation and no one causes Nibbana or the path to be valid and yes, you too, could do the same as the historical Buddha did with Buddhism's useful tips or without (how vanishingly unlikely this is and why you would ignore a useful map is another question). Explaining this fundamental aspect of Buddhism was a major reason why Tathāgatagarbha theory was later felt necessary.

I have no reason to believe that Buddha did not exist, but it seems clear that it is religiously unimportant in Buddhism if the prince of the Shakya clan never lived or if it was really a guy named Joe or Mahavira as long as the teachings can be shown to be useful and true, much like mathematics or physics. Certainly the historical Buddha seemed to preach that!

In contradistinction, Jesus is seen as redeeming mankind by his sacrifice. He causes redemption. As the intersection of God and history and the fulfillment of specific prophecy, his historicity is religiously important in traditional Christianity. None of this is true in Buddhism.

On the flip side, accepting the historicity of a religious teacher does not make you a believer. In Islam the historicity of Mohamed is important for quite different reasons so it is not possible to be a Muslim if you do not accept the historicity of Mohammad. However, all serious historians accept his historicity and the Koran as a pretty historically accurate rendition of what he preached. However, this does not make them Muslims.
Last edited by Caodemarte on Sun Sep 03, 2017 8:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
DNS
Site Admin
Posts: 11876
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 4:15 am
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, Estados Unidos de América
Contact:

Re: Buddha and Mahavira

Post by DNS » Sun Sep 03, 2017 8:36 pm

binocular wrote:
Coëmgenu wrote:Then again, according to some interpretations of the Pāli narrative, the Buddha did just that more or less on his own. Why don't we all do it on our own too?
Because as long as the Buddha's dispensation is around and we know it, us claiming to have attained nibbana on our own would be plagiarism.
Credit where credit is due.
Yes, I agree with this and also why not follow those signs and road-maps the Buddha gave us. If someone knows the way from point A to point B and has a road-map, why not use it? Sure, we could wander around aimlessly for years and we might find it, but if there's a much easier and efficient way, it's better to use that. None of us are paccekabuddhas. No need to reinvent the wheel.

road-map = Pali Canon

:reading:

Santi253
Posts: 982
Joined: Thu May 11, 2017 4:37 am
Contact:

Re: Buddha and Mahavira

Post by Santi253 » Sun Sep 03, 2017 9:15 pm

David N. Snyder wrote: Yes, I agree with this and also why not follow those signs and road-maps the Buddha gave us. If someone knows the way from point A to point B and has a road-map, why not use it? Sure, we could wander around aimlessly for years and we might find it, but if there's a much easier and efficient way, it's better to use that. None of us are paccekabuddhas. No need to reinvent the wheel.
Exactly. With the Buddha, we see the life of a historical person who demonstrated that Nirvana is attainable, and that there's a path leading to it.

The similarities in the life stories and teachings between Jainism and Buddhism, though, are a little unsettling.
Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. - Mahatma Gandhi

http://www.matthewsatori.tumblr.com

binocular
Posts: 5638
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Buddha and Mahavira

Post by binocular » Mon Sep 04, 2017 5:04 am

David N. Snyder wrote:why not follow those signs and road-maps the Buddha gave us.
Why not? Because we have to take them on trust, and nothing else.
If someone knows the way from point A to point B and has a road-map, why not use it?
Because we don't know that he knows.
Sure, we could wander around aimlessly for years and we might find it, but if there's a much easier and efficient way, it's better to use that. None of us are paccekabuddhas. No need to reinvent the wheel.
Religious people like to say such things.
Compare:
/.../
Vedic knowledge is not a question of research. Our research work is imperfect because we are researching things with imperfect senses. We have to accept perfect knowledge which comes down, as is stated in Bhagavad-gītā, by the paramparā disciplic succession. We have to receive knowledge from the proper source in disciplic succession beginning with the supreme spiritual master, the Lord Himself, and handed down to a succession of spiritual masters. Arjuna, the student who took lessons from Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, accepts everything that He says without contradicting Him. One is not allowed to accept one portion of Bhagavad-gītā and not another. No. We must accept Bhagavad-gītā without interpretation, without deletion and without our own whimsical participation in the matter. The Gītā should be taken as the most perfect presentation of Vedic knowledge. Vedic knowledge is received from transcendental sources, and the first words were spoken by the Lord Himself. The words spoken by the Lord are different from words spoken by a person of the mundane world who is infected with four defects. A mundaner 1) is sure to commit mistakes, 2) is invariably illusioned, 3) has the tendency to cheat others and 4) is limited by imperfect senses. With these four imperfections, one cannot deliver perfect information of all-pervading knowledge.
Vedic knowledge is not imparted by such defective living entities. It was imparted unto the heart of Brahmā, the first created living being, and Brahmā in his turn disseminated this knowledge to his sons and disciples, as he originally received it from the Lord.
/.../

https://prabhupadabooks.com/bg/introduction?d=1&f=97

The book: https://books.google.si/books?id=dSA3hs ... ch&f=false
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

binocular
Posts: 5638
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Buddha and Mahavira

Post by binocular » Mon Sep 04, 2017 5:08 am

Santi253 wrote:Exactly. With the Buddha, we see the life of a historical person who demonstrated that Nirvana is attainable, and that there's a path leading to it.
We "see" those things only if we take a number of things for granted. Namely: that the person called "the Buddha" actually existed; that we know what "Nirvana" means; that the instructions for how to attain Nirvana have been adequately preserved; that we are qualified to pursue this practice. And more.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

Garrib
Posts: 486
Joined: Mon May 30, 2016 8:35 pm

Re: Buddha and Mahavira

Post by Garrib » Mon Sep 04, 2017 3:34 pm

You're right Binocular, for most of us (I don't say all because I believe some people do have real confirmed confidence) a level of faith is a necessary starting point on this path.

Of course, there are also assumptions most make when they enter a calculus course, for instance: that calculus actually makes sense (is an internally logical mathematical system), that Leibniz and Newton actually existed, that the teacher actually knows the subject, that we are capable of understanding, etc..

IMO Buddhists, especially those who have "converted" have already developed a level of faith - I was learning and practicing and toying with Buddhism for a number of years before I actually took refuge...the tipping point came when faith had become sufficiently high.

So thank you for reminding us that faith is an essential ingredient in our practice/life until such time that we have realized some stage of awakening.

...Don't forget the "incontrovertible teaching"!

binocular
Posts: 5638
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Buddha and Mahavira

Post by binocular » Mon Sep 04, 2017 6:30 pm

Garrib wrote:You're right Binocular, for most of us (I don't say all because I believe some people do have real confirmed confidence) a level of faith is a necessary starting point on this path.
Saying things like --
Yes, I agree with this and also why not follow those signs and road-maps the Buddha gave us. If someone knows the way from point A to point B and has a road-map, why not use it? Sure, we could wander around aimlessly for years and we might find it, but if there's a much easier and efficient way, it's better to use that. None of us are paccekabuddhas. No need to reinvent the wheel.
is not just faith anymore. It's something only an arahant can rightfully say.
Of course, there are also assumptions most make when they enter a calculus course, for instance: that calculus actually makes sense (is an internally logical mathematical system),
But one already knows that calculus makes sense, one learns it in the course of compulsory education.
And, of course, one does not stake one's life on calculus, Newton, or Leibniz. Unlike in religion, where one has to put everything on the line.
that Leibniz and Newton actually existed, that the teacher actually knows the subject, that we are capable of understanding, etc..
One has already come to terms with those things or come to know them as true long before one faces any choice in the matter.
The same cannot be said for when one approaches religion for the first time as an adult.
IMO Buddhists, especially those who have "converted" have already developed a level of faith - I was learning and practicing and toying with Buddhism for a number of years before I actually took refuge...the tipping point came when faith had become sufficiently high.

So thank you for reminding us that faith is an essential ingredient in our practice/life until such time that we have realized some stage of awakening.
As long as it is expressed as mere faith. People usually don't do that, though. They speak as if they are totally certain, as if they had already obtained the fruit that the faith is supposed to lead to.
Last edited by binocular on Tue Sep 05, 2017 6:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

User avatar
DNS
Site Admin
Posts: 11876
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 4:15 am
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, Estados Unidos de América
Contact:

Re: Buddha and Mahavira

Post by DNS » Mon Sep 04, 2017 7:26 pm

Saddha (faith or confidence) is an important factor along the path, especially at the beginning. One need not be an arahant to have saddha. It appears in the 5 faculties, 5 powers, 37 factors of enlightenment and probably elsewhere too in the teachings.

From another thread:
binocular wrote:The devil’s advocate office ensures that AMAN’s intelligence assessments are creative and do not fall prey to group think.
AMAN, the Israeli forces’ directorate of military intelligence, had to change the way it did business, and in the aftermath of the Agranat Commission it created two new tools: the position of the Tenth Man, also referred to as the Revision Department, and the option of writing “different opinion” memos.

In the context of a Buddhist forum, rather than thinking that everyone who is skeptical or presents a contrarian view is a troll or just idle, consider that they actually might have a point, based on valid concerns.

https://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f ... 86#p436186
You're doing a good job in the role of the "10th man" of DW. :tongue:

Keep up the good work. :thumbsup:

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Majestic-12 [Bot] and 63 guests