Mahayana split

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
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tiltbillings
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Re: Mahayana split

Post by tiltbillings » Wed Nov 23, 2011 7:29 am

First of all the article in question is a poorly done effort. This poor woman is surprised by what modern Buddhology has shown, but she poorly presents it and what she does present, though not completely off base, is a veiled attack on the claim that the Theravada has the truly true teachings of the Buddha and no one else does. This traditional view of the Pali Canon certainly does not hold up, but it could have been handled quite a bit differently while also presenting the issues of early Buddhism far more accurately.

The unspoken thrust of the essay was not to just knock down the Theravadin claim about its canon, but to defend the Mahayana from the criticism of not having the Buddha's word.
Dan74 wrote:I've been told that Mahayana was a schism and those responsible are burning in the worst of hells. I've been told that Mahayana is invented by renegade monks drunk on samadhi or worse. That it is a forgery, a heresy and a perversion of the Buddha's teachings (the last instance of this sort of thing was not too long ago on this forum).
One would wonder how harsh the criticism of the Mahayana would be if it had not enshrined its criticism of those who did not agree with them in their sutras, putting into the mouth of the Buddha some pretty ugly things. Now, I do not buy into these statements as being accurate or appropriate criticsisms of the Mahayana -- they are not.
And of course I've been told that Mahayana is arrogant, supremacist and supercessionist.
This criticism is, of course, easily supported by quoting Mahayana sutras.
I should perhaps add that the later genesis of all Mahayana Sutras is not commonly accepted in Mahayana. I don't think my teacher who is a monastic of many years particularly minds one way or another, but Red Pine, who is perhaps the greatest of the translators of Chinese Mahayana literature (though I will defer to Ven Huifeng on that judgment) does not hold much stock by the current academic consensus on this matter. I am no expert and so I don't hold to a view here.
Let me quote two things here with which I almost completely agree:
Namdrol wrote:Likewise, while the Mahayana sutras were inspired by the blessings of the Buddha, I don't believe he actually taught a single one of them. Nevertheless, I think the teachings in them are profound and stand on their own.

Namdrol wrote:"So for example, it is spiritually meaningful that the PP sutras are set on Vulture's Peak-- but it sure is not a historical reality. Even though Shakyamuni Buddha certainly never actually taught Mahayana, nevertheless, Mahayana stands on its own and is valid as a spiritual path and practice because the folks that wrote the Mahayana sutras down were realized persons. The source of these teachings are all realized beings-- their assumed historical settings are merely skillful means to instill faith in the teachings in those person's who need to crutch of historical literalism."
>> 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

Paññāsikhara
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Re: Mahayana split

Post by Paññāsikhara » Wed Nov 23, 2011 8:14 am

The main problem is this:

The article makes statements implying that with the Gandhari manuscripts, we no longer have any grounds for suggesting that any given tradition is more original or authentic than any other. This is incorrect, because she overstates the range for which this applies. It is not any tradition. Rather, it is various traditions that represent the Agama / Nikaya texts. The evidence produced in this article does not go beyond that, into Mahayana texts, or tantra, or whatever. Prof Harrison says as much on pg. 9. As such, some of his comments, which are actually about Mahayana texts, are taken out of context in this article, and applied elsewhere.

I read that article pretty much as soon as it came out, as Prof Paul Harrison who was quoted in it, handed me a copy as soon as it was published. I was studying Sanskrit with him at that time.

But, as far as scholarship for the masses goes, it is a nice essay, and most people can learn a lot from it.

~~ Huifeng
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: Huifeng's Prajnacara Blog.

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tiltbillings
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Re: Mahayana split

Post by tiltbillings » Wed Nov 23, 2011 8:22 am

Paññāsikhara wrote: But, as far as scholarship for the masses goes, it is a nice essay, and most people can learn a lot from it.
Bhante,

Your bodhisattva practice of generosity is showing.

But out of curiosity, what did Prof Harrison say about the article?
>> 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: Mahayana split

Post by Paññāsikhara » Wed Nov 23, 2011 8:24 am

Red Pine, who is perhaps the greatest of the translators of Chinese Mahayana literature (though I will defer to Ven Huifeng on that judgment)
Sorry Dan, Red Pine is not by a long shot the greatest of the translators of Chinese Mahayana literature.
One would have to get past people like Etienne Lamotte, for starters, John McRae, etc. ... :anjali:

(Note how little glitches by RP have led to more than a few bizarre interpretations on certain online fora...)

~~ Huifeng
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: Huifeng's Prajnacara Blog.

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Re: Mahayana split

Post by Paññāsikhara » Wed Nov 23, 2011 8:29 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote: But, as far as scholarship for the masses goes, it is a nice essay, and most people can learn a lot from it.
Bhante,

Your bodhisattva practice of generosity is showing.

But out of curiosity, what did Prof Harrison say about the article?
Not much, really. It wasn't worth the discussion, probably!
ie. among scholars, nobody is really going to pay much attention to this.

His arguments, quite detailed academic ones, have been given a different direction by the author of this article.
I don't think that there is any way that Paul would suggest that somehow all traditions are equally original,
some are older than others, and we still can't say that any given tradition is the oldest, but that doesn't mean that they're all the same.

~~ Huifeng
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: Huifeng's Prajnacara Blog.

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tiltbillings
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Re: Mahayana split

Post by tiltbillings » Wed Nov 23, 2011 8:37 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:

His arguments, quite detailed academic ones, have been given a different direction by the author of this article.
I don't think that there is any way that Paul would suggest that somehow all traditions are equally original,
some are older than others, and we still can't say that any given tradition is the oldest, but that doesn't mean that they're all the same.

~~ Huifeng
Yes, and thank you.
>> 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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Dan74
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Re: Mahayana split

Post by Dan74 » Wed Nov 23, 2011 9:54 am

Hi Tilt and thank you for your response.

I guess this is where we are at a cross-purpose, a little.

I am no scholar of Buddhism but a poor deluded sod who was fortunate to stumble upon this vast Wisdom tradition, for which I am incredibly grateful.

I have no interest in defending Mahayana sutras here - I didn't write them. I was never taught that Hinayana of the sutras is Theravada, this is not my tradition. Personally I would be grateful if people who attack Mayahana were as knowledgeable about it as you, but people will invariably cast stones with their eyes closed, oblivious to destroying their own glasshouses and more.

At the end of the day, we have an incredible body of wisdom handed down to us and we are very lucky indeed. So I hope we don't squabble like billionaire's children, over exactly who was supposed to get what, nor get lost in endless deliberations with the paperwork, but make the most of what we have - get on with practicing to the best of our abilities.

PS Sifu, that other thread on Red Pine's translation of Bodhidharma is a complete misreading, I thought. But of course I take your word as to his place. I just love all the additional material he includes in his translations as well as his style. :bow: Learning Mandarin is on the cards for me - maybe next year.

tiltbillings wrote:First of all the article in question is a poorly done effort. This poor woman is surprised by what modern Buddhology has shown, but she poorly presents it and what she does present, though not completely off base, is a veiled attack on the claim that the Theravada has the truly true teachings of the Buddha and no one else does. This traditional view of the Pali Canon certainly does not hold up, but it could been handled quite a bit differently while also presenting the issues of early Buddhism far more accurately.

The unspoken thrust of the essay was not to just knock down the Theravadin claim about its canon, but to defend the Mahayana from the criticism of not having the Buddha's word.
Dan74 wrote:I've been told that Mahayana was a schism and those responsible are burning in the worst of hells. I've been told that Mahayana is invented by renegade monks drunk on samadhi or worse. That it is a forgery, a heresy and a perversion of the Buddha's teachings (the last instance of this sort of thing was not too long ago on this forum).
One would wonder how harsh the criticism of the Mahayana would be if it had not enshrined its criticism of those who did agree with them in their sutras, putting into the mouth of the Buddha some pretty ugly things. Now, I do not buy into these statements as being accurate or appropriate criticsisms of the Mahayana -- they are not.
And of course I've been told that Mahayana is arrogant, supremacist and supercessionist.
This criticism is, of course, easily supported by quoting Mahayana sutras.
I should perhaps add that the later genesis of all Mahayana Sutras is not commonly accepted in Mahayana. I don't think my teacher who is a monastic of many years particularly minds one way or another, but Red Pine, who is perhaps the greatest of the translators of Chinese Mahayana literature (though I will defer to Ven Huifeng on that judgment) does not hold much stock by the current academic consensus on this matter. I am no expert and so I don't hold to a view here.
Let me quote two things here with which I almost completely agree:
Namdrol wrote:Likewise, while the Mahayana sutras were inspired by the blessings of the Buddha, I don't believe he actually taught a single one of them. Nevertheless, I think the teachings in them are profound and stand on their own.

Namdrol wrote:"So for example, it is spiritually meaningful that the PP sutras are set on Vulture's Peak-- but it sure is not a historical reality. Even though Shakyamuni Buddha certainly never actually taught Mahayana, nevertheless, Mahayana stands on its own and is valid as a spiritual path and practice because the folks that wrote the Mahayana sutras down were realized persons. The source of these teachings are all realized beings-- their assumed historical settings are merely skillful means to instill faith in the teachings in those person's who need to crutch of historical literalism."
_/|\_

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daverupa
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Re: Mahayana split

Post by daverupa » Wed Nov 23, 2011 2:40 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:I didn't use the word 'chauvinist' although it seems that you think I did.
Heuman used that term; you used the term "absolutist", and in this context either of those terms point to interesting assumptions, yet neither term has been clearly unpacked.
Kim O'Hara wrote:While I'm off catching up with the rest of my life, you folk may like to toss the implications of the 'Tantric Theravada' thread into this discussion. More braided rivers!
You might be joking about the braided rivers, but in fact this is precisely the point; that Tantric business is simply not attested in the SuttaVinaya, and afaik nowhere in any Early Buddhism source, and as such the idea that braiding rivers allows it to be considered viable as Buddhavacana is simply flawed. This'll be one of the problems with that article - it allows this sort of sloppy "anything goes" approach to be brought to bear on what is obviously not attested in the early source material, a very significant problem with Tantra... and a very significant problem with Mahayana, one that the author appears to want to sidestep.

Indeed, the author's primary source material has been disingenuously massaged, as noted a few posts ago by Paññāsikhara, which lends credence to this perception.

The whole thing is a house of cards.

(IMO <--- should go without saying, but just in case, here it is.)
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Mahayana split

Post by Nyana » Wed Nov 23, 2011 3:03 pm

daverupa wrote:You might be joking about the braided rivers, but in fact this is precisely the point; that Tantric business is simply not attested in the SuttaVinaya, and afaik nowhere in any Early Buddhism source, and as such the idea that braiding rivers allows it to be considered viable as Buddhavacana is simply flawed.
Actually, your reasoning is flawed. The methods taught in the Pāli Yogāvacara meditation texts are based on canonical practices. Who are you to say they aren't effective? Moreover, as Lance Cousins correctly states in his paper Aspects of Esoteric Southern Buddhism:
  • There is a surprisingly widespread notion that Theravāda Buddhism is, at least doctrinally, a rather uniform, if not monolithic, type of Buddhism. This is certainly a mistaken impression.
And not only doctrinally, but in terms of practice as well. This idea of some sort of pristine dhamma practice passing from the lips of the Buddha to our ears 2500 years later is quite naïve.
daverupa wrote:a very significant problem with Tantra... and a very significant problem with Mahayana
The problem is when you reify some sort of hypothetical monolithic "Mahāyāna" and then set out to attack this illusion.

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daverupa
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Re: Mahayana split

Post by daverupa » Wed Nov 23, 2011 3:54 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:The methods taught in the Pāli Yogāvacara meditation texts are based on canonical practices. Who are you to say they aren't effective?
I never said they weren't effective, I said they weren't attested as Buddhavacana; "based on", in terms of the thread in question, is not something I see support for, and the phrase "who are you to say" is the shadow of an ad hominem.

(You have elsewhere said that in your view meditation is a matter of working with internal energy, but I think this reads a lot into the texts which isn't there. I'm no stranger to kundalini and qigong practices, and indeed Majjhima Nikaya 23 shows a certain awareness of esoterica. Despite this, it's never touted as a preferred modality for practice, and the lack of a closed fist indicates it'd be talked about if it were.)

:offtopic: + :strawman:
Ñāṇa wrote:And not only doctrinally, but in terms of practice as well. This idea of some sort of pristine dhamma practice passing from the lips of the Buddha to our ears 2500 years later is quite naïve... The problem is when you reify some sort of hypothetical monolithic "Mahāyāna" and then set out to attack this illusion.
I'm not reifying the phrase, I'm using it equivalently per the article in question (and, the linked thread in question). I'm also nowhere asserting the presence of "pristine dhamma practice"; I claim that that which is not dhamma practice (of whatever level of pristineness) can be ascertained by reference to the SuttaVinaya, and what isn't there? Mahayana as understood and conveyed by the author of the article.

:strawman:

In sum:
Paññāsikhara wrote:...she overstates the range for which this applies. It is not any tradition. Rather, it is various traditions that represent the Agama / Nikaya texts. The evidence produced in this article does not go beyond that, into Mahayana texts, or tantra, or whatever.
:heart:
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Mahayana split

Post by Nyana » Wed Nov 23, 2011 5:30 pm

daverupa wrote:I'm no stranger to kundalini and qigong practices
You're the one who keeps bringing kundalini into the discussion.
daverupa wrote:I claim that that which is not dhamma practice (of whatever level of pristineness) can be ascertained by reference to the SuttaVinaya, and what isn't there? Mahayana as understood and conveyed by the author of the article.
You went well beyond this by asserting:
daverupa wrote:This'll be one of the problems with that article - it allows this sort of sloppy "anything goes" approach to be brought to bear on what is obviously not attested in the early source material, a very significant problem with Tantra... and a very significant problem with Mahayana, one that the author appears to want to sidestep.
I don't know who your Mahāyāna teachers are, but the teachers I've had would never accept nor teach a "sloppy anything goes approach." Quite the opposite.

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daverupa
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Re: Mahayana split

Post by daverupa » Wed Nov 23, 2011 7:14 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
daverupa wrote:I'm no stranger to kundalini and qigong practices
You're the one who keeps bringing kundalini into the discussion.
Once, in an off-topic parenthetical. This is very nit-picky.
Ñāṇa wrote:I don't know who your Mahāyāna teachers are, but the teachers I've had would never accept nor teach a "sloppy anything goes approach." Quite the opposite.
I was primarily criticizing the article, which appeared in a widely-read Buddhist magazine and as such propagated a very problematic point of view. The "sloppy" phrase through which I criticized Mahayana generally (as a colloquial term with the same referents as in the article) applies in that context: it means that the article provides an excuse to allow historically late and geographically distant texts to be considered as equivalent to those historically and geographically situated in an altogether earlier and more proximal stratum of Buddhist history. This is, in a word, sloppy, and it's a perspective the article consciously supports.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Kim OHara
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Re: Mahayana split

Post by Kim OHara » Wed Nov 23, 2011 9:55 pm

daverupa wrote:The whole thing is a house of cards.
Dave, you (and Tilt) seem to be taking the article far more seriously than it warrants and then finding grave faults in it. It isn't a house of cards (IMO :tongue: ), but neither is it a rigorous scholarly article in which every sentence should be able to stand up to scrutiny. Rather, it is (as Huifeng said) a piece of reasonably competent, reasonably interesting and informative journalism for a general audience.
Relax! Laugh about it, if you wish.
If you want to discuss the article's contents seriously, I think you need to discuss Heuman's source material, not her article.

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: Mahayana split

Post by tiltbillings » Wed Nov 23, 2011 10:37 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:
daverupa wrote:The whole thing is a house of cards.
Dave, you (and Tilt) seem to be taking the article far more seriously than it warrants and then finding grave faults in it. It isn't a house of cards (IMO :tongue: ), but neither is it a rigorous scholarly article in which every sentence should be able to stand up to scrutiny. Rather, it is (as Huifeng said) a piece of reasonably competent, reasonably interesting and informative journalism for a general audience.
Relax! Laugh about it, if you wish.
If you want to discuss the article's contents seriously, I think you need to discuss Heuman's source material, not her article.

:namaste:
Kim
It is a poorly done article that has an unfortunate subtext. As for dealing with the source material, that has already been done, but we certainly could do it to a far greater extent, though I am sure that would get complained about as well, and what we saw, for example, in this article is that the author grossly misused used what Harrison said. Tricycle has scholars writing articles for it all the time, so there is really no excuse for this drivel.
>> 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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Kim OHara
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Re: Mahayana split

Post by Kim OHara » Thu Nov 24, 2011 1:12 am

tiltbillings wrote:It is a poorly done article that has an unfortunate subtext. As for dealing with the source material, that has already been done, but we certainly could do it to a far greater extent, though I am sure that would get complained about as well, and what we saw, for example, in this article is that the author grossly misused used what Harrison said. Tricycle has scholars writing articles for it all the time, so there is really no excuse for this drivel.
Hi, Tilt,
You have just reinforced my feeling that you are taking it far too seriously and (therefore) exaggerating both its importance and its faults.
I don't think it's worth the trouble of defending further - or attacking further, as the case may be.
The field is yours, FWIW. I'll go and :meditate: or :toast: - or, more realistically, water my garden. The monsoon hasn't deigned to appear yet.

:namaste:
Kim

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