“Skillful Means” and the rhetoric of Mahāyāna proselytism

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
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Paribbajaka
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Re: “Skillful Means” and the rhetoric of Mahāyāna proselytis

Post by Paribbajaka » Thu May 09, 2013 11:50 am

binocular wrote:
Paribbajaka wrote:http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

How is the above different from skillful means?
In the case of Venerable Nanda, the trick involves two people, one who is in on the trick and one who isn't. And it was resolved within foreseeable time.

As things stand, the Mahayanist "skillful means" look more like an attempt to deliberately fool oneself, actually knowing that one is fooling oneself but doing it anyway. And this for an unspecified time duration.
The Buddha deliberately lied to achieve an aim. This is actually very similar to the accepted definition of skillful means in the Mahayana.

As far as deliberately deluding themselves, most modern Mahayanists accept that their sutras were not spoken by the Buddha,but do not lose sleep over it too much. In this modern world where all scripture is looking to be of somewhat dubious authenticity (even, let's be honest, the Tipitaka), it is a virtue to be able to accept that your scruiptures are not true in the historical sense but true in a spiritual sense :anjali:
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Re: “Skillful Means” and the rhetoric of Mahāyāna proselytis

Post by binocular » Fri May 10, 2013 4:05 pm

Dan74 wrote:How do you mean?

I am not aware of Mahayana Buddhists deliberately fooling themselves as part of their practice.
On the one hand, they talk about the necessity of having compassion for other living beings, of training for the sake of other living beings, and how all living beings have Buddha nature;
and on the other hand, they say there actually are no living beings.

This I gathered from Stcherbatsky's Buddhist logic.
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Paribbajaka
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Re: “Skillful Means” and the rhetoric of Mahāyāna proselytis

Post by Paribbajaka » Fri May 10, 2013 5:31 pm

binocular wrote:
Dan74 wrote:How do you mean?

I am not aware of Mahayana Buddhists deliberately fooling themselves as part of their practice.
On the one hand, they talk about the necessity of having compassion for other living beings, of training for the sake of other living beings, and how all living beings have Buddha nature;
and on the other hand, they say there actually are no living beings.

This I gathered from Stcherbatsky's Buddhist logic.
Binocular, that is just the Mahayana way of expressing Dhamma. Theravada also spends a good deal of time speaking of love and compassion for beings that are inehrently "without self". The understanding is that on a relative level there are sentient beings, but on a deeper level there are not.

Studying the teaching of anatta, one sees that each of us is a temporary amassing of "stuff" that naturally dissipitates. We have no real, fundamental anything yet we live, go to work, eat food, etc.

One truth, two sets of words :anjali:
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ground
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Re: “Skillful Means” and the rhetoric of Mahāyāna proselytis

Post by ground » Sat May 11, 2013 3:41 am

binocular wrote: As things stand, the Mahayanist "skillful means" look more like an attempt to deliberately fool oneself, actually knowing that one is fooling oneself but doing it anyway. And this for an unspecified time duration.
binocular wrote:On the one hand, they talk about the necessity of having compassion for other living beings, of training for the sake of other living beings, and how all living beings have Buddha nature;
and on the other hand, they say there actually are no living beings.
Yes but that does not differentiate Mahayana from Theravada. Theravada also appeals to sense of self in the first place. As long as there arises sense of self that has to be fooled. But actually nothing is fooled and sense of self is foolishness itself. :sage:

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Re: “Skillful Means” and the rhetoric of Mahāyāna proselytis

Post by Dan74 » Sat May 11, 2013 4:10 am

binocular wrote:
Dan74 wrote:How do you mean?

I am not aware of Mahayana Buddhists deliberately fooling themselves as part of their practice.
On the one hand, they talk about the necessity of having compassion for other living beings, of training for the sake of other living beings, and how all living beings have Buddha nature;
and on the other hand, they say there actually are no living beings.

This I gathered from Stcherbatsky's Buddhist logic.
This is well-explained by the two truths doctrine. I don't think this is too different to Theravada.

On the one hand conventionally we speak of beings. Until the truth of anatta is seen, we think largely in terms of selves and discrete entities. Ultimately there are no selves, no beings, as we conceive of them. But until we know it, there is no sense in trying to brainwash ourselves in thinking so.
_/|\_

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Re: “Skillful Means” and the rhetoric of Mahāyāna proselytis

Post by binocular » Sat May 11, 2013 11:56 am

Paribbajaka wrote:Binocular, that is just the Mahayana way of expressing Dhamma. Theravada also spends a good deal of time speaking of love and compassion for beings that are inehrently "without self". The understanding is that on a relative level there are sentient beings, but on a deeper level there are not.
ground wrote:Yes but that does not differentiate Mahayana from Theravada.
Which Theravada?

Paribbajaka wrote:Binocular, that is just the Mahayana way of expressing Dhamma. Theravada also spends a good deal of time speaking of love and compassion for beings that are inehrently "without self". The understanding is that on a relative level there are sentient beings, but on a deeper level there are not.
You're asserting that ontologically, there is no self. That is indeed the position of Classical Theravada. I am sure you are aware that there is an ongoing discussion of how accurate this is in regard to the Pali Canon, and about the problems that arise from a definitive no-self view.
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Paribbajaka
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Re: “Skillful Means” and the rhetoric of Mahāyāna proselytis

Post by Paribbajaka » Sat May 11, 2013 12:36 pm

Please show me a concrete "self"ness and I will retract my statements.
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Re: “Skillful Means” and the rhetoric of Mahāyāna proselytis

Post by binocular » Sat May 11, 2013 12:46 pm

Paribbajaka wrote:Please show me a concrete "self"ness and I will retract my statements.
It's not my intention to convert you.
Your statements, your karma.
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Re: “Skillful Means” and the rhetoric of Mahāyāna proselytis

Post by ground » Sat May 11, 2013 12:49 pm

binocular wrote:
Paribbajaka wrote:Binocular, that is just the Mahayana way of expressing Dhamma. Theravada also spends a good deal of time speaking of love and compassion for beings that are inehrently "without self". The understanding is that on a relative level there are sentient beings, but on a deeper level there are not.
ground wrote:Yes but that does not differentiate Mahayana from Theravada.
Which Theravada?
Any you can think of. :sage:

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Paribbajaka
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Re: “Skillful Means” and the rhetoric of Mahāyāna proselytis

Post by Paribbajaka » Sat May 11, 2013 1:45 pm

binocular wrote:
Paribbajaka wrote:Please show me a concrete "self"ness and I will retract my statements.
It's not my intention to convert you.
Your statements, your karma.
I am not asking you to convert me. I'm asking to to expalin this statement.
binocular wrote: You're asserting that ontologically, there is no self. That is indeed the position of Classical Theravada. I am sure you are aware that there is an ongoing discussion of how accurate this is in regard to the Pali Canon, and about the problems that arise from a definitive no-self view.
This is not a unique position of "Classical Theravada". In fact, it is one of the defining features of Buddhist philosophy. Every form of Buddhism holds non-self as one of its core views. Yet you spoke as if this was not the case, as if there are people out there who believe that the Buddha did not teach a not-self doctrine (when, in fact, it's one of the "Dhamma seals", the core points of teaching that the Buddha himself said any form or mutation of his teaching would contain). I think when someone makes such a radical statement like that, they should expend a little effort and back it up.
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Re: “Skillful Means” and the rhetoric of Mahāyāna proselytis

Post by Coyote » Sat May 11, 2013 2:06 pm

Both "No self" and "No self in all dhammas" are saying the same thing - that there is no phenomena that is suitable to be clung to as "I am this, this is mine, this is myself".
What binocular has mentioned is the idea that "no self" is misapplied as an definitive ontological statement and instead is a practical tool to see impermanence and eliminate clinging. Please correct me if I am wrong.
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: “Skillful Means” and the rhetoric of Mahāyāna proselytis

Post by binocular » Sat May 11, 2013 3:22 pm

Paribbajaka wrote:
binocular wrote:
binocular wrote: You're asserting that ontologically, there is no self. That is indeed the position of Classical Theravada. I am sure you are aware that there is an ongoing discussion of how accurate this is in regard to the Pali Canon, and about the problems that arise from a definitive no-self view.
This is not a unique position of "Classical Theravada". In fact, it is one of the defining features of Buddhist philosophy. Every form of Buddhism holds non-self as one of its core views. Yet you spoke as if this was not the case, as if there are people out there who believe that the Buddha did not teach a not-self doctrine (when, in fact, it's one of the "Dhamma seals", the core points of teaching that the Buddha himself said any form or mutation of his teaching would contain). I think when someone makes such a radical statement like that, they should expend a little effort and back it up.
I thought most people at this forum were up to date on the matter.

For example:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... self2.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... tself.html
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Re: “Skillful Means” and the rhetoric of Mahāyāna proselytis

Post by Paribbajaka » Sat May 11, 2013 6:03 pm

Bhante Thanissaro wrote:In this sense, the anatta teaching is not a doctrine of no-self, but a not-self strategy for shedding suffering by letting go of its cause, leading to the highest, undying happiness. At that point, questions of self, no-self, and not-self fall aside. Once there's the experience of such total freedom, where would there be any concern about what's experiencing it, or whether or not it's a self?
So, in other words, the not-self concept is a "skillful" way to view the world in order to progress on the path. Which brings us back to the original point; the Mahayana and Theravada aren't so different in their use of skillful means :anjali:
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Re: “Skillful Means” and the rhetoric of Mahāyāna proselytis

Post by Coyote » Sat May 11, 2013 6:19 pm

Paribbajaka wrote: So, in other words, the not-self concept is a "skillful" way to view the world in order to progress on the path. Which brings us back to the original point; the Mahayana and Theravada aren't so different in their use of skillful means :anjali:
All means for ending suffering taught by the Buddha are skillful. But It has a different, specific, connotation in Mahayana. That's not to say he didn't teach different people different things, or that he didn't use simile and poetry to convey his teaching.
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: “Skillful Means” and the rhetoric of Mahāyāna proselytis

Post by mikenz66 » Sat May 11, 2013 9:12 pm

Hi Binocular,
binocular wrote: I thought most people at this forum were up to date on the matter.

For example:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... self2.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... tself.html
While I find Ven Thanissaro's teachings interesting and useful, I don't think that his opinion on this issue (and a number of other issues) can be considered as the consensus view of the Theravada community.

:anjali:
Mike

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