Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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clw_uk
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Post by clw_uk » Thu Apr 16, 2009 3:51 pm

"Genkaku's the name. Suffering is the game."

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clw_uk
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Post by clw_uk » Thu Apr 16, 2009 4:06 pm

Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?
Depends on what is being discussed i would say, if its about Suññatā or the 4NT or NEFP etc then i would say yes, but if its about bodhisatta importance etc then i would say no


Metta
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Post by mikenz66 » Thu Apr 16, 2009 9:36 pm

Dan74 wrote: Are we not just a bunch of people trying to find our way, using the best guidance we know to the best of our abilities?
Well, yes, but since much of the language and assumptions are different in different schools things can get confusing. Mahayana concepts to do with Buddha Nature, Bodhisattvas etc, usually make no sense in the context of my practise. That doesn't make them "wrong", but different schools have radically different paradigms.

There is an analysis of the sort of contradictions one can run into in this post:
http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index. ... &p=1068365" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

My preference is to learn a particular approach thoroughly, rather than worry about other approaches.

By all means discuss things, but be cognisant that Mahayana assumptions can be very different from Theravada ones.

Metta
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Ngawang Drolma.
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Post by Ngawang Drolma. » Fri Apr 17, 2009 12:43 am

I'm sort of naive at times, and I know this. But I like to think that when I'm writing here readers just see me as a person.
Not a Mahayana or Vajrayana this or that. Just a practitioner.

:anjali:

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Post by pink_trike » Fri Apr 17, 2009 7:59 am

As a long-time practitioner in both Theravada and Mahayana/Vajrayana, I'm aware of how different they are, and how similar much of those differences are under the surface. I find the tension that exists between Theravada and Vajrayana practice to be extremely revealing and fruitful. I mostly post in the lounge, or at least try to - because it is often difficult enough for me to understand that interesting tension and how the combined path forms my view and actions, let alone someone with no experience with Vajrayana - which may be incomprehensible to a non-practitioner...and at this point I often don't even know which perspective is talking, and don't really care anymore, being more interested in practice and its fruits, and less interested in knowing which side we're supposed to part our hair on. So I understand why those who practice a strict approach to Theravada might not want to engage with some of my posts that may have the seemingly crazy stink of Vajrayana on them, whether they are able to identify the name of the stink or not. And I usually don't comment in threads that have too much of the stink of Theravada "Law". Part of the value of an inclusive forum is that we can just listen without commenting - maybe some recognition will follow at some point.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

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Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Post by Dan74 » Fri Apr 17, 2009 8:35 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Dan,

And not to shoo you away of course, but don't forget...

Dharma Wheel (Mahayana and Vajrayana forum)
http://www.dharmawheel.net/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Metta,
Retro. :)
Thanks, Retro, but for the moment I am all forumed out.. :coffee: :computerproblem:

_/|\_
_/|\_

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Mexicali
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Post by Mexicali » Thu Apr 23, 2009 11:13 pm

Spaking strictly for myself;

I didn't switch from Mahayana practice because I thought it was useless; Zuochan and to a lesser extent Pure Land practice were helpful to me, as were the ethics I learned which were essentially the same. But I came to the conclusion that the method that the Buddha layed out was clear and precise enough and did not need things added or subtracted, and Mahayana adds and subtracts rather haphazardly. It's hard to deny, say, Shinran's compassion when he says that he wants to be reborn in hell to help the suffering, but it doesn't change that many of Shinran's "reforms" were directly contrary to the Buddha's teachings. It's hard for me to deny the legitimate insights of many Chan teachers, but that doesn't change that it comes with a lot of shift in emphasis that often dismisses the very foundations of the dharma and the sangha. So I would never call Mahayana useless, but I think the Buddhadhamma as preserved by the Theravada is where real practice and insight await.
"We do not embrace reason at the expense of emotion. We embrace it at the expense of self-deception."
-- Herbert Muschamp

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Post by Avery » Fri May 01, 2009 6:39 am

Personally, I have felt studying Mahayana in Japan was the most detrimental possible thing that could happen to me religiously, and rereading Smith & Novak (an ecumenical and materialist introduction to Buddhism) was the antidote. Yes, even Zen was a terrible experience. I cannot honestly recommend any form of Mahayana to someone who is seeking not a religion but the truth about human nature. But I will not deny that everything works differently for different people, and I learned from the best American teachers of Japanese Mahayana who explained very clearly why those paths were useful for them. So, there is no reason to disparage it as a form of religion.
Mexicali wrote:It's hard to deny, say, Shinran's compassion when he says that he wants to be reborn in hell to help the suffering, but it doesn't change that many of Shinran's "reforms" were directly contrary to the Buddha's teachings.
When considering a religion I think about who you are required to place your faith in. In Theravada we understand that the Buddha is our refuge and teacher, but he is not still around granting wishes. In Mahayana Buddha's cosmic body is emphasized which usually translates into magical thinking for the confused laity. I think what Shinran came up with, despite his years of careful study, was based quite firmly in that magical thinking. As my teacher explained it to me, Shinran asked the laity to be a vessel for Amida's work, just as for a Christian the opposite of living selfishly is being a vessel of Jesus or God. Now that we live in a materialist society this is very confusing language and I don't think it is useful for everyone--not just my own conclusion, but also reflecting the historical facts in Japan.

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Post by Mexicali » Fri May 01, 2009 6:15 pm

Well, Shin Buddhism is a very extreme case, in that they've jettisoned most of the identifying characteristics of Buddhism entirely. Most Mahayana schools haven't gone as far out there. I personally think that Japanese Buddhism in general has historically speaking become the least recognizable, largely because of historical and political factors unique to Japan.

I guess what I was trying to say earlier; I think what the Buddha taught is profoundly and fundamentally different from what everyone before had taught, though of course there are areas of overlap that will allow well-meaning perennialists and new agers to claim that the Buddha and Jesus and Muhammad were teaching the exact same thing from now til doomsday. I honestly think that to some extent even a misunderstood, watered down version of that teaching is better than the rest of what's out there in terms of giving us a method to gain awareness and end suffering. I view vajrayana as mostly unnecessary and potentially dangerous, but most vajrayana Buddhism still has at root the noble truths, noble path, dependent arising, anatta, and self-effort.

If we're just talking comparative religion and the role it serves in society, Theravada isn't especially distinguished; the Theravada portion of Southeast Asia doesn't seem especially moral or contented these days as compared to the rest. But I don't really care that much about that.
"We do not embrace reason at the expense of emotion. We embrace it at the expense of self-deception."
-- Herbert Muschamp

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Dan74
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Post by Dan74 » Fri May 01, 2009 9:46 pm

I view vajrayana as mostly unnecessary and potentially dangerous, but most vajrayana Buddhism still has at root the noble truths, noble path, dependent arising, anatta, and self-effort.
This is going to take the thread off-corse, but the quote above would have some justification if you have crossed to the other shore and have helped others do likewise without vajrayana methods. Have you?

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Mexicali
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Post by Mexicali » Sat May 02, 2009 3:43 am

Hmm, I really seriously doubt that you're one of those people who never find any reason to criticize any method, and since I'm pretty sure you're not a Buddha either, maybe you should avoid passive-aggressive rhetorical questions as to why I don't hypocritically pretend that I think every method is of equal value in my eyes. Thanks!

:focus:
"We do not embrace reason at the expense of emotion. We embrace it at the expense of self-deception."
-- Herbert Muschamp

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Post by floating_abu » Sat May 02, 2009 4:18 am

That's a harsh answer to a fair question. I find it odd how people not subsumed or genuinely versed in the methods and teachings of another tradition, can be so certain about their judgements. There is nothing that is not dangerous, and there is nothing that is not capable of immense boon. Religion for example comes to mind for both facets. Perhaps more dangerous when the edge of certainty becomes more and more ingrained in those whom believe. I don't think Buddha's intention was just to create another group of "Buddhists".

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Post by Mexicali » Sat May 02, 2009 4:35 am

It's a "fair question" to ask rhetorically if I'm an Arahant? Are you serious?

So I guess those comments about the NKT in another thread were out of line, yes? Oh no, silly me, that's a group it's okay to say you find suspect.

The Buddha was pretty clear that he wasn't big on a lot of practices. Was the Buddha a sectarian? Should he have been more tolerant and said 'it's cool, Hinduism is just as good as what I'm teaching'? Hey, I guess all the mainstream Vajrayana teachers who have said that one can only reach enlightenment through Vajrayana are equally subject to criticism, right?

In my experience, tantric Buddhism seems to screw a lot of people up. Mainstream Tibetan Buddhism often has cult like aspects including severe guru-worship, crazy lineage politics, and threats of hell to people who break complex ritual vows. Agree or disagree, fine. Telling me that I have no right to an opinion because I haven't reached enlightenment? Different story entirely.
"We do not embrace reason at the expense of emotion. We embrace it at the expense of self-deception."
-- Herbert Muschamp

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Post by floating_abu » Sat May 02, 2009 8:05 am

Being an Arahant is no big deal, but do heed Luang Por Chah's advice on the matter. :) Best wishes in all.

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Post by Mexicali » Sat May 02, 2009 5:07 pm

floating_abu wrote:Being an Arahant is no big deal, but do heed Luang Por Chah's advice on the matter. :) Best wishes in all.
:anjali:

Best wishes to you as well.

And I hold Ajhan Chah in the highest esteem. However, I have to disagree at least provisionally with teachings by himself and Buddhadasa that I've read as essentially saying that all paths are the same. It's contrary to the basic teachings of the Buddha and my own experience. As for my own admittedly generally dim view of vajrayana, I don't expect anyone to agree with me. We all have our opinions and if we see a method as bad or dangerous, I see no reason we should pretend that we don't. As I pointed out, mainline Tibetan Buddhists have no problem expressing such sentiments regarding Shugden practitioners, followers of Trinlay Thaye Dorje, etc. Saying "you can't criticize anything until you're a Buddha/Arahant" is not only silly, its hypocritical. Let us say what we mean and mean what we say.
"We do not embrace reason at the expense of emotion. We embrace it at the expense of self-deception."
-- Herbert Muschamp

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