across the lines - wrong understanding

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Ravana
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by Ravana » Mon Mar 09, 2009 9:19 am

retrofuturist wrote:I see no reason to think that Buddhist traditions are any more "the same religion" than Abrahamic traditions are "the same religion". Whilst there may be certain common historical themes there are also radical differences in their beliefs. If you compare the Theravada and Mahayana belief structures they're radically different. No less so than that which separates Abrahamic religions.

Of course we can have meaningful cross-tradition dialogue, but to try to force each Buddhist religion into a particular mould based on one tradition's viewpoint is a harmful source of friction and consternation. Best, I think, just to treat them as different religions with some shared heritage... just as how Abrahamic religions refer to each other.

Let's not try to impose some sort of artificial unity simply because it seems like "the Buddhist thing to do". My experience at single tradition sites like Dhamma Wheel versus multi-tradition sites has suggested a greater reduction in "online spats" occur on account of not mistakingly assuming some kind of unified Buddhist position on certain issues. Any "online spats" here tend to point towards differences within Theravada itself and the discussion of such discussions is actually very relevant and potentially very beneficial to Theravadin practitioners, which can learn things and correct their views without having to forego their religion's belief structure.
I agree. I've seen people say that "all traditions lead to the same result" - as far as I can see it is not an idea people have verified to be true, but a baseless assertion that seems of come from a vague sense of political correctness. May be all traditions do lead to the same result; may be they don't. We simply don't know. But in Buddhism we don't assert something simply because it's the politically correct thing to do.
mudra wrote:Not really a question of artificial unity amongst Buddhists, more like finding common threads.
I think one can find common threads when it comes to the basic teachings such as the Four Noble Truths, Dependent Arising, etc. (Discussing the three characteristics don't usually work because discussing Anatta ushers in a discussion about Suññata, which brings about an argument about Mahayana-Emptiness vs. Theravada-Emptiness.) But as you delve further and into practice, the traditions begin to diverge radically.
“The incomparable Wheel of Dhamma has been set in motion by the Blessed One in the deer sanctuary at Isipatana, and no seeker, brahmin, celestial being, demon, god, or any other being in the world can stop it.”

Snowmelt
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by Snowmelt » Mon Mar 09, 2009 9:51 am

retrofuturist wrote:... I see no reason to think that Buddhist traditions are any more "the same religion" than Abrahamic traditions are "the same religion". Whilst there may be certain common historical themes there are also radical differences in their beliefs. If you compare the Theravada and Mahayana belief structures they're radically different. No less so than that which separates Abrahamic religions.

Of course we can have meaningful cross-tradition dialogue, but to try to force each Buddhist religion into a particular mould based on one tradition's viewpoint is a harmful source of friction and consternation. Best, I think, just to treat them as different religions with some shared heritage... just as how Abrahamic religions refer to each other.

Let's not try to impose some sort of artificial unity simply because it seems like "the Buddhist thing to do". My experience at single tradition sites like Dhamma Wheel versus multi-tradition sites has suggested a greater reduction in "online spats" occur on account of not mistakingly assuming some kind of unified Buddhist position on certain issues. Any "online spats" here tend to point towards differences within Theravada itself and the discussion of such discussions is actually very relevant and potentially very beneficial to Theravadin practitioners, which can learn things and correct their views without having to forego their religion's belief structure.
A very pertinent and insightful post, Retro. :) I have started to think this way of late, too. I am also of the opinion that it is very unlikely a person of one tradition will alter their point of view as a result of debating with a person of another tradition. Such things seem to be more matters of the heart than of the intellect. Of course, this may be a cause for rue, in that through accepting as a fact the splintering and transmogrification of the original teachings, we admit that Buddhism is not unified and never will be. Inevitably, I recall once again the prediction that human awareness of the Dhamma must eventually become extinct ...

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tiltbillings
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by tiltbillings » Mon Mar 09, 2009 10:34 am

Ravana:
I agree. I've seen people say that "all traditions lead to the same result" - as far as I can see it is not an idea people have verified to be true, but a baseless assertion that seems of come from a vague sense of political correctness.
Of course the problem with this is who gets to define the results. The sibling of this is: “All religions are one.” To which one might respond: “Well, that is nice, but which one?”

So, what is this “same result,” and who gets to define it? This certainly can be driven by political correctness, warm, fuzzy feel, good new-ageyness, or it could be driven by a subsumptive need of redefining everything in terms of one’s particular vision of things.

In reference to the OP:
if you can't relate in a polite and even somewhat inspiring way with other Buddhist traditions, there is something lacking in your understanding of your own tradition.
That wipes out a great deal of the Mahayana, a tradition that developed as an aggressive oppositional religion in response to what it cast as a lesser vision of things, giving us a highly subsumptive and supersessionist, we-are-the-true-and-great-fulfilment-of-your-lesser-understanding-of-the-Buddha’s-teachings-for-those-of-lesser-capacity, approach to the Mainstream Buddhist schools of India that gets carried over to this day and applied to the Theravada.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Jechbi
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by Jechbi » Mon Mar 09, 2009 3:25 pm

It takes two to tango, and sometimes we just have different dance styles.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.

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tiltbillings
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by tiltbillings » Mon Mar 09, 2009 3:57 pm

Jechbi wrote:It takes two to tango, and sometimes we just have different dance styles.
What the heck does that mean?
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Jechbi
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by Jechbi » Mon Mar 09, 2009 4:20 pm

Hi Tilt,

The OP indicates that if you can't inspire, then there's something lacking in your understanding. But there are at least two persons involved in any transaction: you and the other person. So if you can't inspire, it may not be due to a one-sided lack in understanding, but rather in a two-sided inability to communicate with natural fluidity.
mudra wrote:if you can't relate in a polite and even somewhat inspiring way with other Buddhist traditions, there is something lacking in your understanding of your own tradition.
Some folks like to fox trot. Others like cha-cha. You put them together and it's not a pretty dance (at least until they get some practice together and figure out some new moves).

Metta
:smile:
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.

mudra
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by mudra » Mon Mar 09, 2009 11:59 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Ravana:
I agree. I've seen people say that "all traditions lead to the same result" - as far as I can see it is not an idea people have verified to be true, but a baseless assertion that seems of come from a vague sense of political correctness.
Of course the problem with this is who gets to define the results. The sibling of this is: “All religions are one.” To which one might respond: “Well, that is nice, but which one?”

So, what is this “same result,” and who gets to define it? This certainly can be driven by political correctness, warm, fuzzy feel, good new-ageyness, or it could be driven by a subsumptive need of redefining everything in terms of one’s particular vision of things.

In reference to the OP:
if you can't relate in a polite and even somewhat inspiring way with other Buddhist traditions, there is something lacking in your understanding of your own tradition.
That wipes out a great deal of the Mahayana, a tradition that developed as an aggressive oppositional religion in response to what it cast as a lesser vision of things, giving us a highly subsumptive and supersessionist, we-are-the-true-and-great-fulfilment-of-your-lesser-understanding-of-the-Buddha’s-teachings-for-those-of-lesser-capacity, approach to the Mainstream Buddhist schools of India that gets carried over to this day and applied to the Theravada.
In answer:

1. There was no intent in the original post to discuss or push towards a conclusion like "all religions are one".

2. Regarding wiping out a great deal of the Mahayana, I agree it does wipe out a great deal of the interpretation and attitude of Mahayana practitioners.

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tiltbillings
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by tiltbillings » Tue Mar 10, 2009 1:33 am

mudra wrote: 1. There was no intent in the original post to discuss or push towards a conclusion like "all religions are one".
But the two go hand in hand; if all religions lead to the same result, what really is the difference among them?
2. Regarding wiping out a great deal of the Mahayana, I agree it does wipe out a great deal of the interpretation and attitude of Mahayana practitioners.
The problem with the Mahayana in these terms is that the triumphalist supersessionist attitude is in the very scriptures of the Mahayana as well as their commentarial literature. I am not dismissing the whole of the Mahayana, but if we are to take your opening dictum - if you can't relate in a polite and even somewhat inspiring way with other Buddhist traditions, there is something lacking in your understanding of your own tradition - the Mahayana appears to be institutionally in a bad place.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by christopher::: » Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:13 am

mudra wrote:In view of a number of on-line spats between members of different traditions, I am developing a theory that:

if you can't relate in a polite and even somewhat inspiring way with other Buddhist traditions, there is something lacking in your understanding of your own tradition.

Please feel free to add to this, refute it, tweak it, whatever - as long as it is with intelligence, compassion, and loving kindness.

It is entirely possible of course that I am a romantic, but I would have thought that with the Buddha as our inspiration we should be able to relate to each other in such a manner.
Hi mudra and friends. I wonder if it might be more accurate to say, "if you can't relate in a polite and even somewhat inspiring way with people from other Buddhist traditions, there there could be something lacking in your understanding of right speech."

It's hard to judge though, for many of the reasons provided by Peter, Ven. Dhammanando and others. I do know that for myself I've benefited greatly from interactions with friends of other traditions. I've also found that if I spend just a little time, with an open mind, I can usually find a few teachers from other traditions who's presentations of the dhamma inspire me. With that as common ground communication becomes much easier.

If you seek common ground, it can be found. If we wish to focus on differences, then yes, of course, no common ground to be found there...

Just my 2 cents.

:group:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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Ngawang Drolma.
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by Ngawang Drolma. » Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:54 am

In view of a number of on-line spats between members of different traditions, I am developing a theory that:

if you can't relate in a polite and even somewhat inspiring way with other Buddhist traditions, there is something lacking in your understanding of your own tradition.

Please feel free to add to this, refute it, tweak it, whatever - as long as it is with intelligence, compassion, and loving kindness.

It is entirely possible of course that I am a romantic, but I would have thought that with the Buddha as our inspiration we should be able to relate to each other in such a manner.
I think it just depends. Right speech doesn't necessarily mean pretty speech or polite speech. Of course if someone uses words with the specific intent to harm, that's not good. The more mindful the better.

There's no need to pretend that all forms of Buddhism are the same. All I ever really hope for is that my dhamma brothers and sisters will know that at the end of the day we all take refuge in the triple gem. I have been so fortunate to have received inspiring, insightful, informative, and even instructive words from Theravadan practitioners. And I've received as much respect as I've given. What more could I ask for?

It's the person more than the tradition that matters to me.

:namaste:

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Ravana
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by Ravana » Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:19 am

Jechbi wrote:Some folks like to fox trot. Others like cha-cha.
But if those who like to fox-trot keep claiming that fox-trot is an 'advanced practice' for the bright people, and cha-cha is for the not-so-bright people, and say that those who practice cha-cha 'will someday have to take up fox-trot, when they're advanced enough' then there is little possibility of having a dialogue.
christopher::: wrote:If you seek common ground, it can be found. If we wish to focus on differences, then yes, of course, no common ground to be found there...
I think the Dhamma tends to be holistic - most teachings in the Dhamma are connected to each other. You might start to discuss one aspect, but sooner or later you're very likely to find yourself arriving at a topic where differences occur (as can be seen in many threads that have lead to sectarian arguments in other forums). To prevent this you would have to place boundaries and limitations and heavy moderation of posts, in which case the conversation is likely to be stifled.

Before having a conversation with Mahayanists, I think one should establish whether they

1) believe that Arahats also have to become Sammasambuddha's in the end?
2) believe that the Mahayana path to Buddhahood is 'faster' than the Theravada path to Buddhahood
3) believe that Theravada is for people with 'lesser capacity'

Most Mahayanists would answer 'yes' for the above. One might say 'oh but you're focusing on the differences' - true, but the goal of pointing these out is to show that when most Mahayanists claim they want to have a conversation with Theravada, they want to do it all the while maintaining their disparaging opinion towards Theravada - which does not seem very honest. Can we have proper discussions with those who do not have proper respect for the Dhamma and the Ariyas? Proper conversation cannot occur if one party believes themselves to be superior to the other.
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Especially interesting is the protocol of respect for the Dhamma. Buddhist monks and nuns are forbidden from teaching the Dhamma to anyone who shows disrespect, and the Buddha himself is said to have refused to teach his first sermon to the five brethren until they stopped treating him as a mere equal.
Respect in Buddhist Thought & Practice
“The incomparable Wheel of Dhamma has been set in motion by the Blessed One in the deer sanctuary at Isipatana, and no seeker, brahmin, celestial being, demon, god, or any other being in the world can stop it.”

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Dan74
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by Dan74 » Wed Mar 11, 2009 12:11 pm

I think one can find common threads when it comes to the basic teachings such as the Four Noble Truths, Dependent Arising, etc. (Discussing the three characteristics don't usually work because discussing Anatta ushers in a discussion about Suññata, which brings about an argument about Mahayana-Emptiness vs. Theravada-Emptiness.) But as you delve further and into practice, the traditions begin to diverge radically.
One the contrary, I would say that as you delve further and further into practice, the traditions begin to converge, as one recognises that the differences are largely about the methods. From Ven Dr Walpola Rahula:
I have studied Mahayana for many years and the more I study it, the more I find there is hardly any difference between Theravada and Mahayana with regard to the fundamental teachings.
from
http://www.geocities.com/jolly2be/thera ... ayana.html

and also

http://www.dharmaweb.org/index.php/Zen_ ... la_Rahula
Before having a conversation with Mahayanists, I think one should establish whether they

1) believe that Arahats also have to become Sammasambuddha's in the end?
2) believe that the Mahayana path to Buddhahood is 'faster' than the Theravada path to Buddhahood
3) believe that Theravada is for people with 'lesser capacity'

Most Mahayanists would answer 'yes' for the above.
:coffee:
Does this come from some survey of Mahayana Buddhists? What exactly do you base this assumption on?

My teacher who is a nun of some 30 years in Mahayana tradition has never once (publicly or privately) taught anything like this. Nor any other mahayana teacher I've heard for that matter.

It's important to understand that Hinayana that some Mahayana scriptures refer to is a no-longer existing school and not Theravada and these references are used for illustration purposes (at least these days) rather than to score some sectarian points.

I really appreciate Theravada and have many books particularly from the teachers in the Thai Forest tradition as well as CD's. In prison where I go as a chaplain I mostly teach Theravada. Today (after 8 months) I talked about Zen with two of the guys who've come from the start for the first time. I don't think they had any clue... :shrug:

:hug:



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christopher:::
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by christopher::: » Wed Mar 11, 2009 1:41 pm

Ravana wrote: Before having a conversation with Mahayanists, I think one should establish whether they

1) believe that Arahats also have to become Sammasambuddha's in the end?
2) believe that the Mahayana path to Buddhahood is 'faster' than the Theravada path to Buddhahood
3) believe that Theravada is for people with 'lesser capacity'

Most Mahayanists would answer 'yes' for the above. One might say 'oh but you're focusing on the differences' - true, but the goal of pointing these out is to show that when most Mahayanists claim they want to have a conversation with Theravada, they want to do it all the while maintaining their disparaging opinion towards Theravada - which does not seem very honest. Can we have proper discussions with those who do not have proper respect for the Dhamma and the Ariyas? Proper conversation cannot occur if one party believes themselves to be superior to the other.
I'm with Dan. I've never heard a Zen Buddhist talk this way. Sadly, I have heard some Mahayana Buddhists speak this way, over at a certain forum we all know and love. For me, the very tone of such speech, with its assumptions of superiority and inferiority, is a sign to ignore the topic. I ignore a lot of things I hear, if they sound like they are setting things up in an exclusive us/them superior/inferior way.

I think Dan mentioned over at ZFI that he teaches with the Dhammapada. That's a favorite book for many Zen Buddhists, and a lot of us are drawn to Ajahn Chah and the Thai Forest tradition. There are also a lot of Tibetan Buddhist teachers and teachings that are popular with Zen Buddhists. They are mostly teachings that have to do with dhamma practice and how the mind works. Same with the Theravadin teachings we are drawn to...

The Dhamma, how the mind works, how to practice, how to meditate, how to transform your suffering, how to become a happier and more compassionate person. These are spoken of by Buddhist teachers in all traditions, and the core wisdom is pretty much the same, what they share, imo.

I mean, for me that's how I identify something as "core wisdom." If its taught by the great teachers of many different traditions, its "core wisdom"... core dhamma.... the heart of Buddhism...

:group:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

nathan
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by nathan » Wed Mar 11, 2009 2:38 pm

Lots of places with lots of room for everyone who is sincere to learn online. Tolerance, patience, humility and forbearance are all learned with practice. Always room to learn better communications skills, there being so many kinds of people. We can probably all improve something about ourselves and not too much about others.
:smile:
live and let learn
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}

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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by kc2dpt » Wed Mar 11, 2009 6:09 pm

Ravana wrote:Proper conversation cannot occur if one party believes themselves to be superior to the other.
I think it depends on the purpose of the conversation. When I talk with my non-Buddhist friends about religion it is just our of curiosity. We know we're not trying to convert each other. It is obvious we each believe our path is superior and that doesn't ever bring the conversation down. "Oh you believe that? Interesting. We believe this." No pressure.

Like I said, I think the only pressure comes form when people believe there has to be some sort of consensus.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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