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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Jechbi
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by Jechbi » Wed Mar 11, 2009 8:07 pm

Ravana wrote:
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.
True, true. But I was talking about communication styles, not Buddhist traditions. "Fox trot" talk might be slow and systematic, "cha-cha" might be quick and confrontational. Any way, I'm rambling. Point is, we can't take full responsibility for whether another person feels inspired or informed by what we have to say. And if inspiration is lacking in a dialogue between two people, it might not refect any shortcoming in the understanding of either person with regard to their respective traditions.

But, yeah, that "one-upsmanship" approach to discussing traditions can really get in the way of the dialogue.

Metta
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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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Ravana
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by Ravana » Fri Mar 13, 2009 6:10 am

Dan74 wrote:
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
I don't think there's much point in continuing this argument, but to make one point - among the many points on which I disagree with Ven. Rahula's article, one that I see quoted a lot is this:
Ven. Walpola Rahula wrote:We must not confuse Hinayana with the Theravada because the terms are not synonymous. Theravada Buddhism went to Sri Lanka during the third century B.C. when there was no Mahayana at all. Hinayana sects developed in India and had an existence independent from the form of Buddhism existing in Sri Lanka. Today there is no Hinayana sect in existence anywhere in the world.
This would depend on the definition of the term 'Hinayana'. As far as I know, Hinayana - as its name connotes - is defined as any school of Buddhism that teaches a path leading to Arahantship. Therefore, from a Mahayana perspective, any school that does not make Sammasambuddhahood mandatory for all its practitioners is a Hinayana school - and hence, from a Mahayana point of view, Theravada is also a Hinayana school.

I also don't think he's correct in claiming that Nagarjuna's doctrine of Emptiness is found in Theravada.
“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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kc2dpt
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by kc2dpt » Mon Mar 16, 2009 3:47 am

Ravana wrote:As far as I know, Hinayana - as its name connotes - is defined as any school of Buddhism that teaches a path leading to Arahantship.
I don't think it's that simple. Mahayana defines arahantship differently than Theravada defines it. Just because both traditions use the same word doesn't mean they are talking about the same thing. So if we put it this way:

Mahayana teachings that any school of Buddhism that teaches a path leading to X is hinayana.
Therevada teaches a path leading to Y.

then once again we can question whether hinayana is correctly applied to Theravada.
- Peter

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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by cooran » Mon Mar 16, 2009 4:25 am

Oh, Come O-o-n Tilt!!!! :thinking:

You know there is the truth of the THERAVADA taught daily by the Buddha for 45 years, which was supplanted centuries after He reached Nibbana by truly true teachings for those of superior understand in the MAHAYANA, and then there is the the really truly true teachings for those few of superlative understanding in the VAJRAYANA and then there is the ultimate really truly true teachings for those rare few of priceless understanding in the Dzogchentradition. :popcorn:

Stop playing games and get over it - oh ye of little ... hang on, that's another fight in another Tradition ... but one, at least, that we Theravadins can all feel superior to. Thank heavens there's one! It's hard being considered the bottom of the heap - no wonder the newbies all want to start with Dzogchen. :stirthepot:
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by retrofuturist » Mon Mar 16, 2009 4:28 am

Greetings Chris,

Shouldn't Dzogchen be in flashing lights or something?

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by tiltbillings » Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:29 am

Thank heavens there's one! It's hard being considered the bottom of the heap - no wonder the newbies all want to start with Dzogchen.
Well, one could say that Dzogchen is an attempt at reintroducing and centralizing mindfulness practice by running it through the mill of warmed over Yoagachara and Madhyamaka that has been de-Indianized and dressed upon in Tibetan garb and given an a dubious pedigree to prove its superiority, but then that would be no way to win friends and influence people, so I will not say that for fear of getting bad breath, warts, a lengthy stay in an unpleasent hell realm and - worse - incurring the disadain of a "devotee of Saint Columba," or some other malcontent.
>> 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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tiltbillings
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by tiltbillings » Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:33 am

Dan74,
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.

Does this come from some survey of Mahayana Buddhists? What exactly do you base this assumption on?
It is standard Mahayana doctrine. Whether it get applied to the Theravada or not depends upon whether ot not one feels that the Mahayana, or one's own Mahayana school, is the arbiter of all things Buddhist.
>> 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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fig tree
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by fig tree » Mon Mar 16, 2009 9:04 am

mudra wrote: 1. There was no intent in the original post to discuss or push towards a conclusion like "all religions are one".
I didn't suppose you did. However, when Peter wrote
Peter wrote:On the flip side, I find the most tension, the spats as you say, seem to have at their root an assumption of unity. "We all claim to follow the Buddha so that means at heart our practices must be the same, right?" Then we get arguments whether the Buddha taught this or that scripture, or whether one can violate precepts as skillful means, or whether arahant is a path to be respected, etc. I have a teacher who often uses the phrase "In this tradition we believe X" or "In this tradition we teach Y" as if to say "We believe this, you believe that, OK. We teach this, you teach that, OK. We practice this way, you practice that way, OK." There is no attempt to reconcile, to find who is right. You want to do it that way? I want to do it this way. OK.
I took this as offering a different account of how friction is created, and not a suggestion that you were doing so yourself. Peter can correct me if I've misunderstood him.

I get the same impression about how the friction occurs myself. Most Buddhists I have discussions with are pleasant to deal with. The few who I've found difficult are nearly all people I can deal with easily enough most of the time. Some of the most frustrating discussions have been when one participant assumes a kind of unity that isn't there. They may describe a situation as their own school describes it, although not stating it as such, but protest that they don't want to get into sectarian issues when someone describes their own school as having a different point of view! Talking like Peter's teacher seems to help, but it doesn't seem to prevent all such situations (and I'm not sure there's any way to do so).

It's not just Buddhists who do this, of course. In the U.S. we seem to have quite a few people who suffer from an illusion of national unity on various cultural, religious or political issues. I suspect there's a desire by many for the problem of getting along with people who have different points of view to be easier than it really is. A documentary was made for Passover and Easter (which are essentially Jewish and Christian celebrations of the spring equinox) in which one priest made what I thought was a good observation. He said he came to realize that although they could learn from each other, there were good things in the other tradition that could not simply be absorbed into his own. He said he needed to know that to have a real dialog with the other. This is an advance over certain half-baked attempts at friendship by supposing there to be a hyphenated joint tradition (if you know what I mean). This is not to say that everything that calls itself a tradition deserves such respect, although my opinion is that they have to be pretty bad before they don't.

Understanding and acting on our own traditions requires right intention and right speech, which will be kind speech. This will tend to be polite and inspiring more often than usual, but as the Buddha points out in the Abhaya sutta, sometimes the kindest speech is disliked by the person hearing it. Thinking in terms of general kindness, however, it seems to be easy to miss the unkindness that is inflicted by misunderstanding others. It doesn't feel unkind the way that hating others and wishing them harm does, but it sets the stage for our speaking and acting based essentially on faulty guesses as to what would be beneficial. I don't know how an unkindness of this kind can even begin to be cured without a recognition that it's an unkindness. Not misunderstanding others may be part of our tradition, but it requires wise attention to what (we think) we know about the other's tradition.

Fig Tree

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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by sparrowhawk » Mon Mar 16, 2009 3:08 pm

My two cents about it...

In my opinion, the main things two practitioners of Mahayana and Theravada must accept before any conversation are:

Each one considers his tradition best for himself and perhaps (not always) others. Otherwise why would they practice it?

The Theravadins consider Mahayana later developments of the teachings, never revealed by the Buddha, not always accurate and by any means consider Mahayana superior. By the opposite, they consider Theravada more correct.

The Mahayanists consider Theravada teachings incomplete, although extremely wholesome, but philosophically less accurate.

If both accept this and that both are in different circumstances due to the effects of past actions, who is right or wrong matters little when it comes to respect.

There will be differences and incompatibilities. Trying to make all traditions equal is the same as respecting them just because of that, not in spite of their differences. That's just a subtle form of intolerance.

If people ease up, accept the differences and move on, recognizing that there is great virtue in practicing Buddhadharma, whatever it's form, then I believe friendship can consolidate. The subtle doctrinal differences matter mostly to very advanced practitioners. Whatever the result of the practice of these two traditions, it is always excellent compared to our current state... so one will win a Ferrari while another will win a Mercedes. Who knows who will win the Ferrari? Right now we only ride on a broken skateboard.

I believe that practitioners of different, yet outstanding traditions, as Theravada and Mahayana not being able to harmoniously communicate only shows great immaturity. One can criticize the view of each other with fair play, but should be careful when speaking about the path or the practitioner.

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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by Dan74 » Mon Mar 16, 2009 11:09 pm

While the post above is probably a more accurate statement of doctrinal differences, I am still not sure why we have to play party politics with our spiritual paths.

I am one individual practicing in my limited way some of the sublime teachings and practices that come under the umbrella of Mahayana Buddhism and more specifically Zen. But really I am just one man trying to make sense of life, accept it, to be with it fully, to bring compassion rather than suffering to it, to help others do likewise and ultimately perhaps awaken to Reality as it is. Where does "my path is superior to yours" fit in here? I fail to see.

Likewise I fail to see how anyone who is sincerely concerned with similar goals would bother with this kind of one-man-upmanship and the various types of party politics - "this is my party line and it is different to yours. Ours is correct!" Better put in more effort, more commitment into my practice and leave all squabbles and sceptical doubts aside!

The Right View is the same in Theravada and Mahayana, so what is there to quibble about?

This is how I see it, I realise others here see it very differently and are probably more serious practitioners than me. I just fail to understand why they bother with this...

_/|\_
_/|\_

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Anders
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by Anders » Tue Mar 17, 2009 7:18 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.
Well, lets look at the salient differences - do the various followers of the abrahamic religions believe the other abrahamic religions are still favoured enough to go to heaven? AFAIK, that answer is mostly no.

In Mahayana it is considered that people in early buddhists schools still very much can get enlightened and thus are objects of refuge. I'd say that's a pretty foundational point of unity, alongside of course all the teachings in common like the 4NT, 3 marks of existence, triple gem, dependent origination, 37 factors of awakening, etc.

A lot of mahayana is really just elobarations upon elaborations of the early teachings. Most haven't studied them enough to trace back that development so don't recognise that. But for 'undirected awareness' teaching you can find in Zen and vajryayana , read the gateway of wishlessness, for emptiness in mahayana terms, read the gateways of selflessness and signlessness, etc.

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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by tiltbillings » Tue Mar 17, 2009 7:32 am

Anders,
In Mahayana it is considered that people in early buddhists schools still very much can get enlightened and thus are objects of refuge.
Sure, as long as they eventually do the Mahayana thing, which means that they are not on equal ground according to the Mahayana.
A lot of mahayana is really just elobarations upon elaborations of the early teachings.
And a lot of the Mahayana - the bodhisattva path, bodhisattvas, the intellectual elaborations - is naught more than fancy do-dads to lure childern out of a burning house, to turn the Lotus Sutra's little story in the proper direction. The real work has already been laid out in the suttas.
>> 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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Anders
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by Anders » Tue Mar 17, 2009 9:37 am

tiltbillings wrote:Sure, as long as they eventually do the Mahayana thing, which means that they are not on equal ground according to the Mahayana.
No, that is irrespective of whatever view various mahayana schools may have on this.
A lot of mahayana is really just elobarations upon elaborations of the early teachings.
And a lot of the Mahayana - the bodhisattva path, bodhisattvas, the intellectual elaborations - is naught more than fancy do-dads to lure childern out of a burning house, to turn the Lotus Sutra's little story in the proper direction. The real work has already been laid out in the suttas.
For someone who just disqualified a large part of the mahayana on account of not being polite and inspiring, you sure put a quick close to that 'across the lines' angle.

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tiltbillings
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by tiltbillings » Tue Mar 17, 2009 10:00 am

Anders Honore wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Sure, as long as they eventually do the Mahayana thing, which means that they are not on equal ground according to the Mahayana.
No, that is irrespective of whatever view various mahayana schools may have on this.
I do not follow you here.
Thee: A lot of mahayana is really just elobarations upon elaborations of the early teachings.
Me: And a lot of the Mahayana - the bodhisattva path, bodhisattvas, the intellectual elaborations - is naught more than fancy do-dads to lure childern out of a burning house, to turn the Lotus Sutra's little story in the proper direction. The real work has already been laid out in the suttas.
For someone who just disqualified a large part of the mahayana on account of not being polite and inspiring, you sure put a quick close to that 'across the lines' angle.
This is a problem that the Mahayana has made for itself once it started down the road of defining itself in terms of opposition.

I have not disqualified anything. If we look at the statement of 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., the Mahayana falls significantly short. I didn't do it. It was the "church fathers" whose vision of the Dhamma was one that defined itself in terms of opposition, triumphalism, and supersessionism. The problem is that the genuine insights of the Mahayana are encrusted with this oppositional characteristic of the Mahayana, and it is stuff that needs to be put aside, or not taken literally if we are to have any sort of meaningful dialogue. As we have seen repeatedly on the Grey Forum, it is virtually impossible for that to happen, given that there were those who saw this oppositional stuff as being integral to the Mahayana and who saw the Mahayana, in whatever guise (mostly the Madhayamakin), as being the arbiter of all things Buddhist.
>> 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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kc2dpt
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Post by kc2dpt » Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:46 pm

Anders Honore wrote:In Mahayana it is considered that people in early buddhists schools still very much can get enlightened
Not quite. The different schools define "enlightened" differently.
Theravada says they can attain X.
Mayhayana says only they can attain X while Theravada thinks they are attaining X but really it's Y.

This sort of statement by Anders Honore is precisely why friction occurs. Someone says "We all practice for enlightenment so we're the same." Then when the discussion gets into the nature of enlightenment there is disagreement. But since it was already established that everyone's the same there is argument over which definition of enlightenment is correct. See?
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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