Bodhisattva Path of Theravada

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Dharmasherab
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Bodhisattva Path of Theravada

Post by Dharmasherab » Sun Nov 19, 2017 4:10 pm

I am aware that the Theravada has 10 Perfections (Dasa Paramita). I hear conflicting views where some say Theravada has its Bodhisattva path whiles others say that it doesnt. So my question is -

Does the Theravada have its own Bodhisattva path leading to Supreme Buddhahood as an alternative to the paths of the Sravaka and Pacceka Buddha?

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Re: Bodhisattva Path of Theravada

Post by dharmacorps » Sun Nov 19, 2017 6:56 pm

In a nutshell, no. The boddhisattva path is a later invention/creation.

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Re: Bodhisattva Path of Theravada

Post by bradyt112 » Sun Nov 19, 2017 8:03 pm

Hey Dharmasherab!

I have been looking online for a few minutes and I, too, have been having trouble finding the answer. From what I have found, there does not seem to be any explicit record of the Buddha in the Nikayas telling people to take up the Bodhisattva path. However, I found a writing by Theravadan monk Bhikku Bodhi that I have read in the past comparing the Theravada and Mahayana traditions that you might find interesting. His conclusion seems to be that it is beneficial honoring both Theravada and Mahayana ideals and that these schools are essentially two sides of the same coin. I think he used an analogy saying the schools of Buddhism are like a single icon of the Buddha being viewed from two different angles, and each view highlights different views of his face. It's a great essay that I would suggest reading in full if you have the time or interest. It helped me a lot when I was questioning which Buddhist way is the "right" way. Anyways, I digress. Here's an excerpt from section V of the essay regarding the Bodhisattva path:
In view of the fact that in later times so many Buddhists, in Theravāda lands as well as in the Mahāyāna world, have been inspired by the bodhisattva ideal, it is perplexing that no teachings about a bodhisattva path or bodhisattva practices are included in the discourses regarded as coming down from the most archaic period of Buddhist literary history. This remains a puzzle – for me personally, and also, I believe, a puzzle for Buddhist historiography. In any case, the texts that we inherit do not show as steep a difference between the Buddha's "other-regarding" functions and the so-called "self-enlightenment" of the arahants as later tradition makes them out to be. The Nikāyas show sufficient emphasis on altruistic activity aimed at sharing the Dhamma with others; admittedly, though, most of this emphasis comes from the Buddha himself in the form of injunctions to his disciples. Thus, several texts distinguish people into four types: those concerned only with self-good, those concerned only with others' good, those concerned with the good of neither, and those concerned with the good of both; these texts praise as best those who are devoted to the good of both. And what is meant by being devoted to the good of both is practicing the noble eightfold path and teaching others to practice it; observing the five precepts and encouraging others to observe them; working to eliminate greed, aversion, and delusion and encouraging others to eliminate them (AN 4:96-99). In other suttas the Buddha urges all those who know the four foundations of mindfulness to teach their relatives and friends about them; and the same is said about the four factors of stream-entry and the four noble truths (SN 47:48, 55:16-17, 56:26). In the beginning of his ministry, he exhorts his disciples to go forth and preach the Dharma "out of compassion for the world, for the good, welfare, and happiness of devas and human beings" (Vin I 21). Among the important qualities of an outstanding monk are abundant learning and skill in expounding the Dharma, two qualities that are directly relevant to the benefit of others. Also, we must remember that the Buddha established a monastic order bound by rules and regulations designed to make it function as a harmonious community, and these rules often demand the renouncing of self-interest for the sake of the larger whole. Regarding the lay followers, the Buddha praises those who practice for their own good, for the good of others, and for the good of the whole world. Many prominent lay followers converted their colleagues and neighbors to the Dharma and guided them in right practice.

Thus, we can see that while Early Buddhism emphasizes that each person is ultimately responsible for his or her own destiny, holding that no one can purify another or rescue another from the miseries of saṃsāra, it includes an altruistic dimension that distinguished it from most of the other religious systems that flourished alongside it in northern India. This altruistic dimension might be seen as the "seed" from which the bodhisattva doctrine developed. It might thus also be considered one of the elements in ancient Buddhism that contributed to the emergence of the Mahāyāna.
And here is a link to the entire article: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/aut ... ttvas.html

I hope this was helpful in some way! :D
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no ease other than peace.

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Re: Bodhisattva Path of Theravada

Post by DNS » Sun Nov 19, 2017 8:33 pm

There is a bodhisatta aspiration that can be made in Theravada, where the person makes an aspiration to become a future samma-sam-buddha, but it is very rare and I don't think hardly any Theravada Buddhists openly admit to have such an aspiration.

The big difference from that to Mahayana is that in Mahayana a large number (majority?) do take the Bodhisattva ideal to become a Buddha.

And then the other big difference is that the Bodhisatta in Theravada does not "forego" nibbana for saving other sentient beings, rather he perfects his paramitas over numerous liftetimes.

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Re: Bodhisattva Path of Theravada

Post by perkele » Sun Nov 19, 2017 9:10 pm

DNS wrote:
Sun Nov 19, 2017 8:33 pm
And then the other big difference is that the Bodhisatta in Theravada does not "forego" nibbana for saving other sentient beings, rather he perfects his paramitas over numerous liftetimes.
Well, it seems he forgoes it at least for the several eons through which he has to perfect his paramita in order to become a samma-sam-buddha, IIRC, as it was stated as one of the preconditions for becoming a bodhisatta, that one should already have the "paramita" (or whatever, the definite ability) to attain arahatship within the same lifetime when making that aspiration (in front of an actual samma-sam-buddha, whom one first would have to meet and who would confirm this aspiration as "valid" somehow).

I don't know the source for this. It's not in the suttas. I think Ven. Dhammanando has mentioned it and enumerated the preconditions for taking on the bodhisatta path here quite recently somewhere.

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Re: Bodhisattva Path of Theravada

Post by DNS » Sun Nov 19, 2017 9:14 pm

I meant he doesn't deliberately not progress, but rather progresses over lifetimes, perfecting the paramitas. He doesn't get full-enlightenment and then forego nibbana, the way a Mahayana enlightened master would, as far as I understand the concept and differences between Theravada and Mahayana.

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Re: Bodhisattva Path of Theravada

Post by perkele » Sun Nov 19, 2017 9:28 pm

DNS wrote:
Sun Nov 19, 2017 9:14 pm
I meant he doesn't deliberately not progress, but rather progresses over lifetimes, perfecting the paramitas. He doesn't get full-enlightenment and then forego nibbana, the way a Mahayana enlightened master would, as far as I understand the concept and differences between Theravada and Mahayana.
I see, yes, thanks for clarifying.

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Re: Bodhisattva Path of Theravada

Post by Zom » Sun Nov 19, 2017 11:28 pm

I am aware that the Theravada has 10 Perfections (Dasa Paramita). I hear conflicting views where some say Theravada has its Bodhisattva path whiles others say that it doesnt. So my question is -

Does the Theravada have its own Bodhisattva path leading to Supreme Buddhahood as an alternative to the paths of the Sravaka and Pacceka Buddha?
The answer is: yes, there is a bodhisatta path to Buddhahood in Theravada, however, Buddha never spoke about this and never taught this -) The fact is, some things in Theravada are later doctrinal developments, and some elements are taken from some other sources.

I'd personally say that bodhisatta aspiration even conflicts with the Buddha's idea of salvation.

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Re: Bodhisattva Path of Theravada

Post by Kim OHara » Sun Nov 19, 2017 11:43 pm

This page presents several versions of the Mahayana Bodhisattva vows - http://www.katinkahesselink.net/tibet/vows.html.

Re the OP: the first answers from brady and DNS agree with my understanding, i.e., the bodhisattva path is not totally absent from Theravada but it's way out on the fringe. At the daily-life level, however, the differences seem to be more theoretical than practical, in that both traditions advocate boundless compassion and encourage followers to do good works - and say that we're not going to make it to nirvana/nibbana anytime soon so we just have to keep on being good people.

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: Bodhisattva Path of Theravada

Post by DooDoot » Mon Nov 20, 2017 4:31 am

Dharmasherab wrote:
Sun Nov 19, 2017 4:10 pm
I hear conflicting views where some say Theravada has its Bodhisattva path
In Theravada, the term "Bodhisatta" refers to an unenligthened puthujjana. This is why there is no Bodhisatta path in Theravada but only a path to Nibbana.
Bhikkhus, before my enlightenment, while I was still only an unenlightened Bodhisatta, it occurred to me: ‘Suppose that I divide my thoughts into two classes. Then I set on one side thoughts of sensual desire, thoughts of ill will, and thoughts of cruelty, and I set on the other side thoughts of renunciation, thoughts of non-ill will, and thoughts of non-cruelty....

https://suttacentral.net/en/mn19

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Re: Bodhisattva Path of Theravada

Post by Dharmasherab » Mon Nov 20, 2017 3:15 pm

DooDoot wrote:
Mon Nov 20, 2017 4:31 am
In Theravada, the term "Bodhisatta" refers to an unenligthened puthujjana.
Being unenglightened does not mean the same as 'puthujjana'. The term 'puthujjana' has more than one meaning to it as defined in this link -
http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/n_r/puthujjana.htm
Nowhere in the Pali Canon or any Theravada texts is mentioned that Bodhisattvas are 'puthujjana'. Therefore saying that Theravada mentions that Bodhisattvas are unenlightened may be correct, but not that Bodhisattvas are 'puthujjana'. The Maireya Bodhisattva lived during the time of Gautama Buddha, where the Gautama Buddha approved of the actions of Maitreya Bodhisattva.
If we take the defintion of 'puthujjana' as being a person who is still bound by all the Samyojana (the 10 fetters) then referring to Bodhisattvas as 'puthujjana' is also incorrect. It is known that taking Bodhisattva vows does not prevent one from reaching Jhanas where it required to escape from the 5 Hindances (4 of which overlap with the Samyojana). Had those who took Bodhisattva vows were just 'puthujjana' then such individuals wont be able to reach even a Jhana.
DooDoot wrote:
Mon Nov 20, 2017 4:31 am
there is no Bodhisatta path in Theravada but only a path to Nibbana.
This is actually incorrect.
"There's a common misunderstanding that the Theravada school teaches only the savaka path, but a glance at Theravada history will show that many Theravadins have vowed to become bodhisattvas and have undertaken the practice of the ten perfections as set forth in the Theravadin Jatakas."
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu, The Ten Perfections: A Study Guide

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/stu ... tions.html
All I am asking is that in addition to the 10 Perfections is there any other elements and factos from Theravada which support the Bodhisattva path?

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Re: Bodhisattva Path of Theravada

Post by Will » Mon Nov 20, 2017 4:13 pm

Yes Theravada does have a bodhisatta path, just not much attention is paid to it. Here is Ven. Ledi Sayadaw from his Manual of the Excellent Man:

What is meant by “the Noblest Aspiration”? It is the verbal and mental
undertaking that the bodhisatta had made at some point of time aeons before
taking up the perfections. It was made in these terms:

“As a man who knows his own strength, what use is there to get
to ‘the yonder shore’ (nibbāna) alone? I will attain to Supreme
Knowledge and then convey men and devas to the yonder shore.”

That was the pledge that sent the ten thousand universes reeling
and echoing in applause. That was the bodhisatta’s earnest wish.
For he intensely aspired to Supreme Self-Enlightenment thus:

“Knowing the Truth, I will let others know it. Freeing myself
from the world, I will free others. Having crossed over, I will
enable others to cross.”

This fervent and most daring aspiration is called “the Noblest Aspiration.”
Distrust everyone in whom the impulse to punish is powerful!
Nietzsche

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Re: Bodhisattva Path of Theravada

Post by Annatar » Mon Nov 20, 2017 4:30 pm

The Jatakas, a part of the Pali canon, relate stories of the Buddha as a Bodhisatta. At least some of these are related as tales told by the Buddha himself.

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Re: Bodhisattva Path of Theravada

Post by bodom » Mon Nov 20, 2017 5:40 pm

Dharmasherab wrote:
Sun Nov 19, 2017 4:10 pm
I am aware that the Theravada has 10 Perfections (Dasa Paramita). I hear conflicting views where some say Theravada has its Bodhisattva path whiles others say that it doesnt. So my question is -

Does the Theravada have its own Bodhisattva path leading to Supreme Buddhahood as an alternative to the paths of the Sravaka and Pacceka Buddha?
This ancient commentary is an indispensable resource for the study of the Bodhisattva path in the Theravadan tradition:

A Treatise on the Paramis From the Commentary to the Cariyapitaka by
Acariya Dhammapala translated from the Pali by
Bhikkhu Bodhi

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/aut ... el409.html

:namaste:
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To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With mindfulness immersed in the body
well established, restrained
with regard to the six media of contact,
always centered, the monk
can know Unbinding for himself.

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"Dont send the mind outside. Watch the mind right at the mind."

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Re: Bodhisattva Path of Theravada

Post by binocular » Mon Nov 20, 2017 5:45 pm

perkele wrote:
Sun Nov 19, 2017 9:10 pm
I think Ven. Dhammanando has mentioned it and enumerated the preconditions for taking on the bodhisatta path here quite recently somewhere.
viewtopic.php?f=13&t=30546

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Dharmasherab
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Re: Bodhisattva Path of Theravada

Post by Dharmasherab » Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:48 pm

Here are some useful things which I found some of which I am about to read.

The Ten Perfections: A Study Guide by Bhikkhu Thanissaro
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/stu ... tions.html

The Theravada section within the Bodhisattva article in Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhisatt ... a_Buddhism

The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theory and Practice by Jeffrey Samuels
https://info-buddhism.com/Bodhisattva-I ... muels.html

I am also considering reading on an article on the Bodhisattva ideal within Theravada which was published in The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies.

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