Reading Mahayana books

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

Post by JMGinPDX » Fri Jun 08, 2018 5:09 pm

Saengnapha wrote:
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.
As opposed to....a practitioner/meditator?
I disagree. As a practitioner, melding ideas on anicca, sunyata, anatta, "mu," etc. has been very helpful to my practice. Additionally, contrasting/comparing the Soto Zen concept of shikantaza with jhana practice likewise is helpful to how approach my sitting practice. Sure, it takes more contemplation and study than, say, simply taking meditation direction from an Ajahn and leaving it at that, but different strokes :)
Right now, it's like this...

Saengnapha
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by Saengnapha » Sat Jun 09, 2018 8:07 am

JMGinPDX wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 5:09 pm
Saengnapha wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 1:13 pm
Dinsdale wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:47 am


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.
As opposed to....a practitioner/meditator?
I disagree. As a practitioner, melding ideas on anicca, sunyata, anatta, "mu," etc. has been very helpful to my practice. Additionally, contrasting/comparing the Soto Zen concept of shikantaza with jhana practice likewise is helpful to how approach my sitting practice. Sure, it takes more contemplation and study than, say, simply taking meditation direction from an Ajahn and leaving it at that, but different strokes :)
Working with ideas is basically something that people need in the sense of sorting the ideas out and deciding to devote themselves to 'the doors of perception', to borrow a nifty phrase. Some spend a lifetime doing this, sorting through ideas and never devoting themselves to the work. Some devote themselves cursorily to ideas and then start the work. The work is not about ideas. That is what I mean by the contrast of intellectual or scholar, as opposed to one who has decided to begin the work.

LuisR
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by LuisR » Wed Jun 13, 2018 6:39 pm

I have tried reading about Mahayana but its hard to know where to start. If you go to the book store they got books about zen, a lot of Tibetan stuff and different sutras. Its hard to get an idea of what Mahayana is, they are all over the place.

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JMGinPDX
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by JMGinPDX » Fri Jun 15, 2018 3:45 pm

LuisR wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 6:39 pm
I have tried reading about Mahayana but its hard to know where to start. If you go to the book store they got books about zen, a lot of Tibetan stuff and different sutras. Its hard to get an idea of what Mahayana is, they are all over the place.
That's because Mahayana in general IS all over the place in terms of consistency of doctrine and dogma. :)

The tradition that I have found most closely resembles the Theravada mindset is Zen/Ch'an/Seon.
BUT - "Zen" has also become a very generic and overused phrase, and it's hard to tell what's REAL Zen and what's not.

My favorites:
Shunryu Suzuki "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" [collection of talks by Suzuki. A bit scattered sometimes, but interesting]
Thich Nhat Hanh "Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra" [TNH commentaries on the Heart Sutra]
Koun Yamada "The Gateless Gate" [Yamada's commentaries on the classic Mumonkan]
Seng T'san "Hsin Hsin Ming: Verses on Faith Mind" [this is by far my favorite, and the most definitive summary of Zen]
Eihei Dogen "Shobogenzo" [a bit academic and lofty, but the basis of Soto Zen]
Right now, it's like this...

LuisR
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by LuisR » Fri Jun 15, 2018 4:02 pm

JMGinPDX wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 3:45 pm
LuisR wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 6:39 pm
I have tried reading about Mahayana but its hard to know where to start. If you go to the book store they got books about zen, a lot of Tibetan stuff and different sutras. Its hard to get an idea of what Mahayana is, they are all over the place.
That's because Mahayana in general IS all over the place in terms of consistency of doctrine and dogma. :)

The tradition that I have found most closely resembles the Theravada mindset is Zen/Ch'an/Seon.
BUT - "Zen" has also become a very generic and overused phrase, and it's hard to tell what's REAL Zen and what's not.

My favorites:
Shunryu Suzuki "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" [collection of talks by Suzuki. A bit scattered sometimes, but interesting]
Thich Nhat Hanh "Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra" [TNH commentaries on the Heart Sutra]
Koun Yamada "The Gateless Gate" [Yamada's commentaries on the classic Mumonkan]
Seng T'san "Hsin Hsin Ming: Verses on Faith Mind" [this is by far my favorite, and the most definitive summary of Zen]
Eihei Dogen "Shobogenzo" [a bit academic and lofty, but the basis of Soto Zen]
Nice. Thanks for the recommendations. I have "Zen Mind, Beginners Mind". I haven't finished reading it yet. :namaste:

What scripture does Zen follow? The heart sutra?

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JMGinPDX
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by JMGinPDX » Fri Jun 15, 2018 4:42 pm

LuisR wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 4:02 pm

Nice. Thanks for the recommendations. I have "Zen Mind, Beginners Mind". I haven't finished reading it yet. :namaste:

What scripture does Zen follow? The heart sutra?
I don't know a great deal about it, but there are multiple sutras - the Heart Sutra, Lotus Sutra, Platform Sutra, etc. Keep in mind these are all post-canonical documents by our reckoning, although there is a certain mindset that believes these were "secret teachings" the Buddha gave that were then hidden for 100s of years (despite the canonical evidence that he said there was no "closed fist" secret teaching). Zen also puts special emphasis on the Buddha's disciple Kashyapa, who in the suttas is famous for being the leader of a type of sadhu matted-hair fire sect who converted and brought all his followers with him, increasing the Buddha's monastic sangha exponentially overnight, shortly after his enlightenment. All of the Zen masters trace their lineage back to him, and the Gotama before him.

In reality, Zen tends to downplay the importance of scriptures, in both the Soto and Rinzai sects particularly. The idea is that scriptures only further tempt the student to attach to form, and to words, and causes them to stray from the "wordless" teaching that cannot be understood by conventional thinking.
The Soto zazen style of "shikantaza" even eschews the practice of meditation using objects (although they do emphasize anapanasati), and instead promotes "just sitting" with reality as it really is.
Right now, it's like this...

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BasementBuddhist
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by BasementBuddhist » Sat Jun 16, 2018 2:50 pm

Mahayana teachings have Bastardized my practice. What I mean is, I've definitely become a mix of the two. Pulling this and that from where it makes sense. I used to believe they were two sides of the same coin, but as I've moved between the two I have noticed a marked difference in tone and spirit.

I think one can dabble, and I definitely think there are times when a new perspective can help, but you have to decide ahead of time which practice to defer to when things don't seem to mesh.

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Will
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by Will » Sat Jun 16, 2018 7:25 pm

Luis R:
What scripture does Zen follow?
In the beginning of Chan, the Lankavatara Sutra was a principle one. Later on the Platform Sutra of Hui-neng, along with Diamond Sutra & Surangama Sutra were influential. But there was strand of Chan that was anti-sutra or anything written, as time passed that has become the most powerful element in Zen.
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- AN 10.1

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Dhammanando
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by Dhammanando » Sat Jun 16, 2018 7:27 pm

JMGinPDX wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 4:42 pm
Zen also puts special emphasis on the Buddha's disciple Kashyapa, who in the suttas is famous for being the leader of a type of sadhu matted-hair fire sect who converted and brought all his followers with him, increasing the Buddha's monastic sangha exponentially overnight, shortly after his enlightenment. All of the Zen masters trace their lineage back to him, and the Gotama before him.
"Kaśyapa/Kassapa" is a one of the gotra names for those of the brahmin class, and so there are quite a few disciples with this name.

The Kassapa/Kaśyapa whom Chinese Ch'an Buddhists made their first Indian patriarch is a different character from the fire-worshipping Kassapa whose conversion swelled the ranks of the early saṅgha. The former was Mahākassapa, aka Pippali; the latter were three brothers, Uruveḷakassapa, Gayākassapa, and Nadīkassapa, along with their respective disciples.

Saengnapha
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by Saengnapha » Sun Jun 17, 2018 6:49 am

JMGinPDX wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 4:42 pm
LuisR wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 4:02 pm

Nice. Thanks for the recommendations. I have "Zen Mind, Beginners Mind". I haven't finished reading it yet. :namaste:

What scripture does Zen follow? The heart sutra?
I don't know a great deal about it, but there are multiple sutras - the Heart Sutra, Lotus Sutra, Platform Sutra, etc. Keep in mind these are all post-canonical documents by our reckoning, although there is a certain mindset that believes these were "secret teachings" the Buddha gave that were then hidden for 100s of years (despite the canonical evidence that he said there was no "closed fist" secret teaching). Zen also puts special emphasis on the Buddha's disciple Kashyapa, who in the suttas is famous for being the leader of a type of sadhu matted-hair fire sect who converted and brought all his followers with him, increasing the Buddha's monastic sangha exponentially overnight, shortly after his enlightenment. All of the Zen masters trace their lineage back to him, and the Gotama before him.

In reality, Zen tends to downplay the importance of scriptures, in both the Soto and Rinzai sects particularly. The idea is that scriptures only further tempt the student to attach to form, and to words, and causes them to stray from the "wordless" teaching that cannot be understood by conventional thinking.
The Soto zazen style of "shikantaza" even eschews the practice of meditation using objects (although they do emphasize anapanasati), and instead promotes "just sitting" with reality as it really is.
It seems to me, the reason Chan Buddhism traces their 'lineage' back to Mahakasyapa is because of the incident where a large group of monks were gathered and the Buddha produced a flower and held it up before the assembly. Mahakasyapa was the only one to smile and this was thought of as 'transmission' of the teachings to him. Zen is very much based on transmission from teacher to student.

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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by Dhammanando » Sun Jun 17, 2018 8:33 am

Saengnapha wrote:
Sun Jun 17, 2018 6:49 am
It seems to me, the reason Chan Buddhism traces their 'lineage' back to Mahakasyapa is because of the incident where a large group of monks were gathered and the Buddha produced a flower and held it up before the assembly. Mahakasyapa was the only one to smile and this was thought of as 'transmission' of the teachings to him. Zen is very much based on transmission from teacher to student.
The theory might be plausible if the flower sermon were mentioned in some Indian Buddhist text, even if only a Mahayana sutra. As it is, there's no mention of it in any Indian text at all, nor for that matter in any Chinese text earlier than the 11th century Niān huá wéi xiào.

My own hunch is that Ch'an Buddhists probably selected Kaśyāpa as their patriarch on account of his Bodhidharma-like brusqueness and abrasiveness, and then later concocted the flower sermon to serve as a legitimising myth.
Niān huá wéi xiào

(J. nenge mishō; K. yŏmhwa miso 拈花微笑) In Chinese, lit. “holding up a flower and smiling subtly”; a famous Ch’an transmission story in which Śākyamuni Buddha instructs the congregation nonverbally by simply holding up a flower. Only Mahākāśyapa understands the Buddha’s intent and he smiles back in recognition, making him the first recipient of the Buddha’s “mind-to-mind transmission” (yixin chuanxin). Mahākāśyapa is thus considered the first patriarch (zushi) of the Ch’an school. This story, also called the “World-Honored One holding up a flower” (Shizun nianhua), first appears in the 1036 imperially ratified Chan genealogical record, Tiansheng Guangdeng lu. There, the story also portrays the Buddha giving his disciple his robe as a token of transmission, but this event does not appear in the later versions of the story, such as in the 1093 Zongmen tongyao ji and the 1183 Liandeng huiyao. The same story is recorded also in the apocryphal Chinese sūtra Da fantianwang wenfo jueyi jing (“Mahābrahmā Questions the Buddha and Resolves His Doubts”), compiled sometime between the mid-twelfth and the late fourteenth centuries, probably in order to defend the historicity of the story, the authenticity of which was questioned even in Chan circles. The story became famous among not only Buddhist clerics but also literati. The tale eventually became a meditative topic within the Chan school and is recorded as the sixth case (gong’an) in the 1228 Wumen Guan (“Gateless Checkpoint”); there, it concludes by giving the Buddha’s verbal confirmation that the transmission is complete: “I have this repository of the true dharma eye (zhengfayanzang), the sublime mind of Nirvāṇa, the authentic quality (C. shixiang; S. tattva) that is free from all qualities, the subtle and sublime dharma gate that does not rely on words or letters (buli wenzi) but is a special transmission outside of the scriptures (jiaowai biechian). This I entrust to Mahākāśyapa.” In Western literature, this story has been dubbed the “Flower Sermon,” but this designation is never used in Chan literature.

(Robert Buswell, The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism)

Saengnapha
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by Saengnapha » Sun Jun 17, 2018 10:33 am

Dhammanando wrote:
Sun Jun 17, 2018 8:33 am
Saengnapha wrote:
Sun Jun 17, 2018 6:49 am
It seems to me, the reason Chan Buddhism traces their 'lineage' back to Mahakasyapa is because of the incident where a large group of monks were gathered and the Buddha produced a flower and held it up before the assembly. Mahakasyapa was the only one to smile and this was thought of as 'transmission' of the teachings to him. Zen is very much based on transmission from teacher to student.
The theory might be plausible if the flower sermon were mentioned in some Indian Buddhist text, even if only a Mahayana sutra. As it is, there's no mention of it in any Indian text at all, nor for that matter in any Chinese text earlier than the 11th century Niān huá wéi xiào.

My own hunch is that Ch'an Buddhists probably selected Kaśyāpa as their patriarch on account of his Bodhidharma-like brusqueness and abrasiveness, and then later concocted the flower sermon to serve as a legitimising myth.
Niān huá wéi xiào

(J. nenge mishō; K. yŏmhwa miso 拈花微笑) In Chinese, lit. “holding up a flower and smiling subtly”; a famous Ch’an transmission story in which Śākyamuni Buddha instructs the congregation nonverbally by simply holding up a flower. Only Mahākāśyapa understands the Buddha’s intent and he smiles back in recognition, making him the first recipient of the Buddha’s “mind-to-mind transmission” (yixin chuanxin). Mahākāśyapa is thus considered the first patriarch (zushi) of the Ch’an school. This story, also called the “World-Honored One holding up a flower” (Shizun nianhua), first appears in the 1036 imperially ratified Chan genealogical record, Tiansheng Guangdeng lu. There, the story also portrays the Buddha giving his disciple his robe as a token of transmission, but this event does not appear in the later versions of the story, such as in the 1093 Zongmen tongyao ji and the 1183 Liandeng huiyao. The same story is recorded also in the apocryphal Chinese sūtra Da fantianwang wenfo jueyi jing (“Mahābrahmā Questions the Buddha and Resolves His Doubts”), compiled sometime between the mid-twelfth and the late fourteenth centuries, probably in order to defend the historicity of the story, the authenticity of which was questioned even in Chan circles. The story became famous among not only Buddhist clerics but also literati. The tale eventually became a meditative topic within the Chan school and is recorded as the sixth case (gong’an) in the 1228 Wumen Guan (“Gateless Checkpoint”); there, it concludes by giving the Buddha’s verbal confirmation that the transmission is complete: “I have this repository of the true dharma eye (zhengfayanzang), the sublime mind of Nirvāṇa, the authentic quality (C. shixiang; S. tattva) that is free from all qualities, the subtle and sublime dharma gate that does not rely on words or letters (buli wenzi) but is a special transmission outside of the scriptures (jiaowai biechian). This I entrust to Mahākāśyapa.” In Western literature, this story has been dubbed the “Flower Sermon,” but this designation is never used in Chan literature.

(Robert Buswell, The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism)
I think there are many similar examples of teachings created in all traditions of Buddhism to fit a form. Perhaps even in Theravada? What do you think, Bhante?

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Dhammanando
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by Dhammanando » Sun Jun 17, 2018 11:57 am

Saengnapha wrote:
Sun Jun 17, 2018 10:33 am
I think there are many similar examples of teachings created in all traditions of Buddhism to fit a form.
Wherever Buddhists set great store by lineage, lineages will be invented. In the case of China, I think nearly every major school concocted a lineage of Indian and Chinese patriarchs for itself. Some Indian eminences (notably Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu) found themselves posthumously appointed the patriarchs of several Chinese schools.
Saengnapha wrote:
Sun Jun 17, 2018 10:33 am
Perhaps even in Theravada? What do you think, Bhante?
I think that in general the tendency in the Theravada is for teachers to be assessed on their merits, rather than on fictitious connection to some lineal forebears. Exceptions to this are rare, but one does meet with them occasionally, for example in the case of the U Ba Khin tradition.

http://www.vridhamma.org/Myanmar-Teache ... -Tradition

Saengnapha
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by Saengnapha » Sun Jun 17, 2018 2:11 pm

Dhammanando wrote:
Sun Jun 17, 2018 11:57 am
I think that in general the tendency in the Theravada is for teachers to be assessed on their merits, rather than on fictitious connection to some lineal forebears. Exceptions to this are rare, but one does meet with them occasionally, for example in the case of the U Ba Khin tradition.

http://www.vridhamma.org/Myanmar-Teache ... -Tradition
I meant more along the lines of re-interpreting doctrine to fit the model. Lineage doesn't seem to be fixated on like Mahayana.

LuisR
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Re: Reading Mahayana books

Post by LuisR » Sun Jun 17, 2018 11:46 pm

Do Mahayana Buddhist believe in the four noble truths and the eight fold path? If so what scripture do they get these teachings from?

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