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Theravada and Buddha nature

Posted: Thu Nov 01, 2012 4:35 pm
by Arjan Dirkse
Hello,

I am interested in exploring Theravada...

I was wondering about a few things, is Nagarjuna and the Mulamadhyakakarika (one of my favorite books) considered part of Theravada? Or is that only Mahayana? Are there things in there that Theravada disagree with? And also "Buddha nature", do Theravadins believe that everybody has Buddha nature?

I would appreciate any reading tips...so far the only Theravada book I have read is "In the Buddha's Words" by Bhikkhu Bodhi, and I really liked it.

Thanks.

Re: Theravada and Buddha nature

Posted: Thu Nov 01, 2012 5:03 pm
by LonesomeYogurt
Nāgārjuna is definitely a Mahayana figure, but most of what he had to say is still very relevant to Theravada practice.

As for Buddha-nature, you might be interested in this essay by Thanisarro Bhikkhu. In short though, there is no concept of Buddha Nature in Theravada.

Re: Theravada and Buddha nature

Posted: Thu Nov 01, 2012 6:39 pm
by m0rl0ck
LonesomeYogurt wrote:Nāgārjuna is definitely a Mahayana figure, but most of what he had to say is still very relevant to Theravada practice.

As for Buddha-nature, you might be interested in this essay by Thanisarro Bhikkhu. In short though, there is no concept of Buddha Nature in Theravada.
Actually that isnt a great explanation of the idea of buddha nature. The author sets up a straw man "buddha nature" to compare it to "the peace that's not fabricated at all.", which might itself be a good explanation of buddha nature. If you want the straight dope on buddha nature, my advice would be to look for mahayana sources.

Re: Theravada and Buddha nature

Posted: Thu Nov 01, 2012 6:48 pm
by befriend
not true, ajahn chah says in Chapter 1 in food for the heart "about this mind in truth there is nothing really wrong with it. it is intrinsically pure. Within itself it is already peaceful. if the mind is not peaceful these days its because it follows moods."

Re: Theravada and Buddha nature

Posted: Thu Nov 01, 2012 8:09 pm
by cooran
Hello all,

A couple of previous threads on Buddha nature:

What is wrong with Buddha Nature?
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=7716" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Buddha nature
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=11429" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

with metta
Chris

Re: Theravada and Buddha nature

Posted: Thu Nov 01, 2012 10:16 pm
by retrofuturist
Greetings Arjan,
Arjan Dirkse wrote:I am interested in exploring Theravada...

I was wondering about a few things, is Nagarjuna and the Mulamadhyakakarika (one of my favorite books) considered part of Theravada? Or is that only Mahayana? Are there things in there that Theravada disagree with?
Given your questions, I'd suggest reading...

The Heretic Sage
http://theravadin.wordpress.com/2010/10 ... etic-sage/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

... to find out what Venerable Nanananda makes of Nagarjuna and some of the challenges to that Nagarjuna poses to classical Theravada orthodoxy.

Metta,
Retro. :)

Re: Theravada and Buddha nature

Posted: Thu Nov 01, 2012 11:35 pm
by LonesomeYogurt
m0rl0ck wrote:Actually that isnt a great explanation of the idea of buddha nature. The author sets up a straw man "buddha nature" to compare it to "the peace that's not fabricated at all.", which might itself be a good explanation of buddha nature. If you want the straight dope on buddha nature, my advice would be to look for mahayana sources.
Well it depends how you define Buddha Nature; if it is just a poetic way of describing the ability of all beings to achieve Nibbana, as some Mahayana sources make it out to be, then obviously no Buddhist school refutes that. But if you make it out to be an ontologically real, essential base of being like many other schools do, then it is at odds with the Buddha's teachings. In order to really discuss this, we need to have a better definition of exactly what kind of Buddha Nature we're talking about here.

Re: Theravada and Buddha nature

Posted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 4:11 am
by dhammapal
Hi,

Hanzze posted Maha Ghosananda's book on the Mahayana forum. It is very interfaith. I think that Cambodia is Theravada.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu points out that the expert on Buddha Nature would have been the historical Buddha and he didn't mention it in the Pali Canon.

With metta / dhammapal.

Re: Theravada and Buddha nature

Posted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 5:44 am
by Dan74
LonesomeYogurt wrote:
m0rl0ck wrote:Actually that isnt a great explanation of the idea of buddha nature. The author sets up a straw man "buddha nature" to compare it to "the peace that's not fabricated at all.", which might itself be a good explanation of buddha nature. If you want the straight dope on buddha nature, my advice would be to look for mahayana sources.
Well it depends how you define Buddha Nature; if it is just a poetic way of describing the ability of all beings to achieve Nibbana, as some Mahayana sources make it out to be, then obviously no Buddhist school refutes that. But if you make it out to be an ontologically real, essential base of being like many other schools do, then it is at odds with the Buddha's teachings. In order to really discuss this, we need to have a better definition of exactly what kind of Buddha Nature we're talking about here.
I don't think these are the two possibilities, LY.

The most common Mahayana view is that Buddha Nature is our fundamental state which is obscured by ignorance/delusion/defilements.

By fundamental state I don't mean a self or a thing, but rather simply how it is when the stranglehold on delusion is loosened, it is glimpsed. The Tibetans call it "rigpa" I think and similarly to Zen, it is subsequently stabilised, extended and deepened. So that it pervades every aspect of our lives.

Re: Theravada and Buddha nature

Posted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 6:07 am
by LonesomeYogurt
Dan74 wrote:The most common Mahayana view is that Buddha Nature is our fundamental state which is obscured by ignorance/delusion/defilements.
But is this fundamental state a poetic rendering of the emptiness that allows beings to reach enlightenment, or is it a literal "true self" or base of existence? The question is important, especially if we're going to talk about the Buddha Nature's relation to Theravada.

Re: Theravada and Buddha nature

Posted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 8:03 am
by Kusala
Arjan Dirkse wrote:Hello,

I am interested in exploring Theravada...

I was wondering about a few things, is Nagarjuna and the Mulamadhyakakarika (one of my favorite books) considered part of Theravada? Or is that only Mahayana? Are there things in there that Theravada disagree with? And also "Buddha nature", do Theravadins believe that everybody has Buddha nature?

I would appreciate any reading tips...so far the only Theravada book I have read is "In the Buddha's Words" by Bhikkhu Bodhi, and I really liked it.

Thanks.
As far as I understand, Buddha Nature is a later development...

Re: Theravada and Buddha nature

Posted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 12:09 pm
by daverupa
Kusala wrote:As far as I understand, Buddha Nature is a later development...
Yes.

Re: Theravada and Buddha nature

Posted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 12:26 pm
by Arjan Dirkse
Thanks for all the answers.

Re: Theravada and Buddha nature

Posted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 1:36 pm
by santa100
From AN 1.49-52 ( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; ):
Luminous, monks, is the mind.[1] And it is defiled by incoming defilements. Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is freed from incoming defilements.
From the Theravada context, Ven. Thanissaro commented:
"The luminous mind is the mind that the meditator is trying to develop. To perceive its luminosity means understanding that defilements such as greed, aversion, or delusion are not intrinsic to its nature, are not a necessary part of awareness. Without this understanding, it would be impossible to practice. With this understanding, however, one can make an effort to cut away existing defilements, leaving the mind in the stage that MN 24 calls "purity in terms of mind."
And also Ven. Nanananda's comment (from "Concept and Reality in Early Buddhist Thought - 1971" ):
"Moreover, the reference to a mind intrinsically pure is not to be confused with the idea of an
absolute entity, like a soul, already embedded in every being. The luminosity of the mind is a
potentiality which becomes a reality only when the necessary conditions are fulfilled. These conditions are collectively called bhāvanā, a word which even literally suggests growth. It is significant that this Aṅguttara passage referred to above, is in point of fact, an exhortation stressing the
importance of bhāvanā (development of mind). Thus, according to the Pāli Nikāyas, one has to
“grow” into the luminosity of the mind. It is not something pre-existing in some metaphysical
sense, ready to be traced metaphysically to the seed of the plant. It has to blossom forth in order
to be a lotus."

Re: Theravada and Buddha nature

Posted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 2:11 pm
by Dan74
LonesomeYogurt wrote:
Dan74 wrote:The most common Mahayana view is that Buddha Nature is our fundamental state which is obscured by ignorance/delusion/defilements.
But is this fundamental state a poetic rendering of the emptiness that allows beings to reach enlightenment, or is it a literal "true self" or base of existence? The question is important, especially if we're going to talk about the Buddha Nature's relation to Theravada.
Maybe neither!

Sure some Mahayana teachers say that talk of Buddha nature is a crutch. And Nagarjuna makes a very compelling case for all concepts to be very provisional and only useful as far as they point our the way the liberation, but empty of any inherent validity. So this puts a great big WARNING! on the label.

Then all dualities like "existence and its base" or "having or attaining this base" cannot be maintained.

In the end Buddha Nature and its associated teachings to me simply point out that nibbana is not "out there" but right here. It's an inspirational teaching to encourage us to stop reaching out. To trust what is right here and take a very very close look. As far as I can make out.

Re: Theravada and Buddha nature

Posted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 2:23 pm
by Bonsai Doug
Arjan Dirkse wrote:I would appreciate any reading tips...so far the only Theravada book I have read is "In the Buddha's Words" by Bhikkhu Bodhi, and I really liked it.
Thanks.
This book has been mentioned above, and represents teachings from the Theravada perspective
by one of its foremost and respected monks: Food for the Heart: The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah.

Re: Theravada and Buddha nature

Posted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 4:54 pm
by Arjan Dirkse
Bonsai Doug wrote:
Arjan Dirkse wrote:I would appreciate any reading tips...so far the only Theravada book I have read is "In the Buddha's Words" by Bhikkhu Bodhi, and I really liked it.
Thanks.
This book has been mentioned above, and represents teachings from the Theravada perspective
by one of its foremost and respected monks: Food for the Heart: The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah.
Thanks...

Another question, eventually I'd like to buy the Nikaya translations by Bhikkhu Bodhi, but money being tight, I can't buy them all at once.

Is there a recommended reading order for them?

Re: Theravada and Buddha nature

Posted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 5:14 pm
by LonesomeYogurt
Arjan Dirkse wrote:
Bonsai Doug wrote:
Arjan Dirkse wrote:I would appreciate any reading tips...so far the only Theravada book I have read is "In the Buddha's Words" by Bhikkhu Bodhi, and I really liked it.
Thanks.
This book has been mentioned above, and represents teachings from the Theravada perspective
by one of its foremost and respected monks: Food for the Heart: The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah.
Thanks...

Another question, eventually I'd like to buy the Nikaya translations by Bhikkhu Bodhi, but money being tight, I can't buy them all at once.

Is there a recommended reading order for them?
For sure start with the Majjhima Nikaya. It's by far the easiest and the best introduction; aside from the first sutta, it avoids the super complex stuff and mostly focuses on the basics of the Theravada perspective.

Re: Theravada and Buddha nature

Posted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 5:28 pm
by Bonsai Doug
Arjan Dirkse wrote:
Bonsai Doug wrote:
Arjan Dirkse wrote:I would appreciate any reading tips...so far the only Theravada book I have read is "In the Buddha's Words" by Bhikkhu Bodhi, and I really liked it.
Thanks.
This book has been mentioned above, and represents teachings from the Theravada perspective
by one of its foremost and respected monks: Food for the Heart: The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah.
Thanks...

Another question, eventually I'd like to buy the Nikaya translations by Bhikkhu Bodhi, but money being tight, I can't buy them all at once.

Is there a recommended reading order for them?
Not sure about an order, but you can find many of them here: http://what-buddha-said.net/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;