Reading Mahayana books

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
KiwiNFLFan
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Reading Mahayana books

Post by KiwiNFLFan » Tue May 29, 2018 8:50 pm

When I was at my local library last night before heading to Visakha Puja celebrations, I saw a copy of Thich Nhat Hanh's The Art of Living on display and picked it up.

What is your view on reading books by authors of the Mahayana tradition, like Thich Nhat Hanh or others? Helpful? Not helpful? Confusing?

(Note: for the sake of this discussion I'm excluding Vajrayana books like those by authors in the Tibetan tradition, as they are quite different from a lot of Mahayana books).

SarathW
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by SarathW » Tue May 29, 2018 8:58 pm

Reading any book is helpful as far as you do not blindly accept the content.
I read a Mahayana book once I got confused about the status of the Arahant.
There is a difference in Theravada and Mahayana teaching even though I admire many Mahayana teachers.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

paul
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by paul » Tue May 29, 2018 9:28 pm

Theravada and Mahayana have irreconcilable goals, the former seeing samsara and nibbana as separate, the latter unifying them. So reading Mahayana books will ultimately take the Theravada practitioner in the wrong direction and is a waste of valuable time, as the Theravada doctrine itself requires full attention to understand its internal unity.
The Buddha’s statement that Theravada doctrine is subtle:

“Enough now with teaching
what
only with difficulty
I reached.
This Dhamma is not easily realized
by those overcome
with aversion & passion.

What is abstruse, subtle,
deep,
hard to see,
going against the flow —
those delighting in passion,
cloaked in the mass of darkness,
won't see.”—-SN 6:1

Recommended reading : “The Noble Eightfold Path”, Bikkhu Bodhi
http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/noble8path6.pdf
Last edited by paul on Tue May 29, 2018 9:45 pm, edited 2 times in total.

befriend
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by befriend » Tue May 29, 2018 9:31 pm

Thich nhat hanh is a mixture of theravadan and zen as I think is typical for Vietnamese zen.
Take care of mindfulness and mindfulness will take care of you.

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JamesTheGiant
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by JamesTheGiant » Tue May 29, 2018 9:46 pm

KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Tue May 29, 2018 8:50 pm
What is your view on reading books by authors of the Mahayana tradition, like Thich Nhat Hanh or others? Helpful? Not helpful? Confusing?
Very helpful! But also a little confusing. At the core, both traditions share the same principles and values. But there's a lot of differences of how they do things, and the methods and structure.
For a beginner it can be confusing but once you've got a good grasp of the (theravada) essentials, you can read any tradition's books and get a lot from them.
I highly recommend reading anything Buddhist, nevermind what tradition.
Don't fall for the claims that "theravada is the only way!". It may be the Best way, but the 4 noble truths, and the 8-fold path are common to mahayana too.

santa100
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by santa100 » Wed May 30, 2018 12:41 am

KiwiNFLFan wrote:I saw a copy of Thich Nhat Hanh's The Art of Living on display and picked it up.
Try to see if your library also carry Ven. Bodhi's "In the Buddha's Words" (if not, can always check out the open source version). While building a house, one'd need a strong foundation. Once you've thoroughly read it, you'd have a solid foundation to the Buddha's teaching and you can read any book from any tradition without worrying about being misled.

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TamHanhHi
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by TamHanhHi » Wed May 30, 2018 12:19 pm

Once you have a good foundation, you'll be able to tell what will help you develop the path and what will not. Certain Mahayana practices can help you greatly, but others may be misleading or distracting if your base is primarily Theravadan.

I respect Thich Nhat Hanh's teachings on serious practice, but unfortunately a lot of his books can have a populist feel to them, so it may seem even more secular than Buddhist at times (which shows the hand of the editor). Read with an open but discerning mind and you won't go astray :thumbsup:
“As for the qualities of which you may know, ‘These qualities lead
to dispassion, not to passion;
to being unfettered, not to being fettered;
to shedding, not to accumulating;
to modesty, not to self-aggrandizement;
to contentment, not to discontent;
to reclusiveness, not to entanglement;
to aroused persistence, not to laziness;
to being unburdensome, not to being burdensome’:
You may categorically hold, ‘This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya, this is the Teacher’s instruction.’”
AN 8:53
"Just as a large banyan tree, on level ground where four roads meet, is a haven for the birds all around, even so a lay person of conviction is a haven for many people: monks, nuns, male lay followers, & female lay followers."AN 5.38 :candle: | Blog at http://dhammareflections.wordpress.com

2600htz
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by 2600htz » Wed May 30, 2018 6:38 pm

Hello:

The way i see it, if i was interested in knowing what the Buddha taught i would not read any Theravada or Mahayana and go straight for pre-sectarian buddhist texts, but at the moment the Canon Pali of the Theravada tradition seems to be the closest source we have to the original teachings.

So i would only read authors that take that into consideration (and this criteria even leaves out many Theravada authors). Im sure there are many good teachers outside that circle, but there are so many authors and so many books that seems logic to establish some filter to avoid reading stuff that really wasn´t taught by the Buddha.

Regards.

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Kim OHara
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by Kim OHara » Wed May 30, 2018 10:24 pm

TamHanhHi wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 12:19 pm
Once you have a good foundation, you'll be able to tell what will help you develop the path and what will not. Certain Mahayana practices can help you greatly, but others may be misleading or distracting if your base is primarily Theravadan.

I respect Thich Nhat Hanh's teachings on serious practice, but unfortunately a lot of his books can have a populist feel to them, so it may seem even more secular than Buddhist at times (which shows the hand of the editor). Read with an open but discerning mind and you won't go astray :thumbsup:
“As for the qualities of which you may know, ‘These qualities lead
to dispassion, not to passion;
to being unfettered, not to being fettered;
to shedding, not to accumulating;
to modesty, not to self-aggrandizement;
to contentment, not to discontent;
to reclusiveness, not to entanglement;
to aroused persistence, not to laziness;
to being unburdensome, not to being burdensome’:
You may categorically hold, ‘This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya, this is the Teacher’s instruction.’”
AN 8:53
:goodpost:
Kim

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JMGinPDX
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by JMGinPDX » Thu Jun 07, 2018 10:36 pm

My very limited experience is that there is Mahayana, and then there is Zen - in the sense that Zen seems to be a different sort of practice from other Mahayana sects that may put more emphasis on dogma or emphasis on the supernatural (I'm looking at you, Pure Land :tongue: )
And Vajrayana, well don't even get me started...

But for me, the simplicity and fairly singular focus of Zen dovetails nicely with my Theravada understanding - knowing there are some parallels, including the fact that my lineage's main teachers (Chah and Sumedho) have/had Zen backgrounds.

So, I'm as likely to pick up a book by one of the many Ajahns as I am the Mumonkan.
Right now, it's like this...

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SDC
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by SDC » Fri Jun 08, 2018 1:33 am

I'm going to move this to "Connection to other Paths"

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SDC
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by SDC » Fri Jun 08, 2018 1:35 am

I've noticed that most Mahayana books smell like patchouli, but I did read "The Tibetan Book of the Dead" a few years before I started seriously studying Buddhism and found it very inspiring. :D

Saengnapha
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by Saengnapha » Fri Jun 08, 2018 4:31 am

Dividing things up is never a good idea. This and that, good and bad, right and wrong. Sectarian views always fall short no matter from where they come from. How one sect interprets the Buddha's teaching compared to another, doesn't solve any of the problems that the Buddha spoke about which is what each person must do, ultimately. If there was really an indisputable 'path', anyone with the interest would be walking it. Hence, lies the problem. We prevent ourselves from really seeing into our own lives by our various pursuits, desires, goals, etc. Break through the conditioned responses and your life will change radically. You do that through contemplating your own experience, not someone else's.

Dinsdale
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by Dinsdale » Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:47 am

KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Tue May 29, 2018 8:50 pm
What is your view on reading books by authors of the Mahayana tradition, like Thich Nhat Hanh or others? Helpful? Not helpful? Confusing?
I think it's useful to develop a sense of the bigger picture. Comparing and contrasting the different assumptions and practices across Buddhist schools can be very illuminating.
Buddha save me from new-agers!

Saengnapha
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by Saengnapha » Fri Jun 08, 2018 1:13 pm

Dinsdale wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:47 am
KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Tue May 29, 2018 8:50 pm
What is your view on reading books by authors of the Mahayana tradition, like Thich Nhat Hanh or others? Helpful? Not helpful? Confusing?
I think it's useful to develop a sense of the bigger picture. Comparing and contrasting the different assumptions and practices across Buddhist schools can be very illuminating.
Yes, for an intellectual or scholar.

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