Theravada and Mahayana need each other

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
James Tan
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Re: Theravada and Mahayana need each other

Post by James Tan » Sun Feb 18, 2018 8:50 am

dharmacorps wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 5:54 pm
James Tan wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 1:42 pm
If we refer to early buddhist texts , you can't find any elaborative affirmative description about the state of Nibanna , whereas , the Mahayana and Zen has . The Theravada teachings emphasized merely on the path . Mahayana , Zen and Vajrayana more on the liberation description .
RIght, that's a example of what I was saying-- a description of the state of nibbana which is somewhat fundamentally ineffable in the Pali Canon IS described in other Buddhist religions. Sometimes they don't even seem like the same religion because of those vast differences.
If we may say , what the main thing of Theravada buddhist is talking about is liken to primary , secondary education , tertiary education and the undergraduate and stop at that . They don't go further . Whereas , the Mahayana and Zen and Vajrayana is went further talking about postgraduate and doctorate !
Therefore , what both focusing is totally different levels .

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Coëmgenu
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Re: Theravada and Mahayana need each other

Post by Coëmgenu » Sun Feb 18, 2018 11:16 am

Saengnapha wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 6:13 am
Coëmgenu wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 10:42 pm
dharmacorps wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 5:54 pm


RIght, that's a example of what I was saying-- a description of the state of nibbana which is somewhat fundamentally ineffable in the Pali Canon IS described in other Buddhist religions. Sometimes they don't even seem like the same religion because of those vast differences.
Can you elaborate? Which interpretations of nibbāna do u refer to? Abiding and non-abiding?
It seems like ineffability is common throughout all religions when talking about a transcendent reality no matter what it is called.

If we take Nagarjuna's writings as the definitive 'view' on Mahayana, does he talk about abiding or non-abiding as the descriptive for Nibbana?
I think he would argue along the lines of Ratnāvalī XLII or Mūlamadhyamakakārikā XXV:

In liberation there is neither self nor are there aggregates.
If liberation is asserted thus,
Why is the removal here of the self
and of the aggregates not liked by you?

If nirvāṇa is not a non-thing,
Just how could it have thingness?
The extinction of the misconception
Of things and non-things is called nirvāṇa.
That which when dependent or conditioned comes into and goes out of existence,
that, when not conditioned or dependent, is called nirvāṇa.
Mahāyāna proposes an apratiṣṭhitanirvāṇa (non-abiding extinguishment) in accordance with Nirvāṇaparīkṣā Nāgārjunasya, or the above-quoted MMKXXV.

Nirvāṇa does not have any qualities whatsoever, at least as far as Madhyamaka analysis goes. From there, it follows to the Mahāyānist that nirvāṇa cannot be pratiṣṭhita ('abiding', 'contained', 'situated'). The logic goes something like this:
Thus have I heard: At one time, the Bhagavān was at Vulture’s Peak in Rājagṛiha, together with eighty-three fully-ordained bhikṣavaḥ, and many hundreds of thousands of millions of bodhisattvāḥ, who were all abiding together in one company.

Thereupon, at that time, at that moment, the Bhagavān gave teaching to the Venerable Ānanda thus:

“Ānanda! This is the Far-Reaching Perfection of Deep Insight in a Single Syllable. For the benefit and happiness of all sentient beings, you should retain this! And it goes thus:
ཨཱ། [āḥ]."

The Bhagavān spoke those words, and the bhikṣavaḥ, bodhisattvāḥ, and all the assemblies of gods, humans, demigods and celestial spirits, along with the entire world, rejoiced: they deeply praised what had been spoken by the Bhagavān, the transcendent and accomplished Jina.

(The One-Syllable Wisdom-Perfection, Ākakasharamprajñāpāramitāsarvatathāgatamanāma)
"A-", in Sanskrit as well as numerous Indo-European languages, Greek, Latin, etc., has the property of negation. Kusala. Akusala. Pratiṣṭhita. Apratiṣṭhita.

This is the foundational interpretive difference that divides bodhisattvayāna & śrāvakayāna afaik. This is why Mahāyāna Buddhas get to run around emanating & whatnot while Theravāda Buddhas remain in an "abiding" extinguishment.

The obvious responce, to the above "Nirvāṇa does not have any qualities whatsoever, at least as far as Madhyamaka analysis goes." is the following: "Well, that's all fine and well, but, it does have a quality. You just said it. This 'apratiṣṭhitatā' business."

But it should be noted that, ideally, apratiṣṭhita is not an affirmation, it is simply an indication of freedom from an extreme.

IMO & afaik of course.
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Tue Feb 20, 2018 5:27 pm, edited 3 times in total.
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः

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Coëmgenu
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Re: Theravada and Mahayana need each other

Post by Coëmgenu » Sun Feb 18, 2018 12:25 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 11:16 am
Saengnapha wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 6:13 am
Coëmgenu wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 10:42 pm


Can you elaborate? Which interpretations of nibbāna do u refer to? Abiding and non-abiding?
It seems like ineffability is common throughout all religions when talking about a transcendent reality no matter what it is called.

If we take Nagarjuna's writings as the definitive 'view' on Mahayana, does he talk about abiding or non-abiding as the descriptive for Nibbana?
The obvious responce, to the above "Nirvāṇa does not have any qualities whatsoever, at least as far as Madhyamaka analysis goes." is the following: "Well, that's all fine and well, but, it does have a quality. You just said it. This 'apratiṣṭhitatā' business."


But it should be noted that, ideally, ["]apratiṣṭhita is not an affirmation, it is simply an indication of freedom from an extreme.["]
And this ties in with wider intersect relations. Keep in mind this is just my own thoughts on the matter. A Theravādin may well respond: "Nirvāṇa is already free of four extremes, apratiṣṭhita-pratiṣṭhita (constrained & unconstrained) is an invalid mode of inquiry with respect to this dhamma. (Pari-)Nirvāṇa leads to the cessation of activities, births, deaths, etc."

Activities, births, deaths, cyclic transmigration, or, in other words: saṃsāra.

This is where Theravādins are divided with regards to Venerable Nāgārjuna, from that same Nirvāṇaparīkṣā Nāgārjunasya ('Nirvāṇa-Analysis of Nāgārjuna', see MMK xxv/25, or p. 302 here if you do not have a copy on-hand), I'm sure you are familiar with this passage, so I'll quote a Chinese recension instead, from the Madhyamakaśāstra (中論, Zhōng lùn), T1564 @ 35c27:

涅槃與世間            無有少分別
nirvāna and this world  not even slight disparity

世間與涅槃            亦無少分別
this world and nirvāṇa   also no[t even] slight disparity

涅槃之實際            及與世間際
nirvāṇa's true apex [koṭi]   towards this world's apex

如是二際者            無毫釐差別
like this there are two apices   [like this there is] not the smallest sliver of disparity


This kind of not-two-theory (無二元) is part and parcel to Madhyamaka, but it does not always find a friendly reception in Theravādin circles, for right or wrong.
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Sun Feb 18, 2018 2:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः

Saengnapha
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Re: Theravada and Mahayana need each other

Post by Saengnapha » Sun Feb 18, 2018 1:27 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 12:25 pm
Coëmgenu wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 11:16 am
Saengnapha wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 6:13 am

It seems like ineffability is common throughout all religions when talking about a transcendent reality no matter what it is called.

If we take Nagarjuna's writings as the definitive 'view' on Mahayana, does he talk about abiding or non-abiding as the descriptive for Nibbana?
The obvious responce, to the above "Nirvāṇa does not have any qualities whatsoever, at least as far as Madhyamaka analysis goes." is the following: "Well, that's all fine and well, but, it does have a quality. You just said it. This 'apratiṣṭhitatā' business."


But it should be noted that, ideally, ["]apratiṣṭhita is not an affirmation, it is simply an indication of freedom from an extreme.["]
And this ties in with wider intersect relations. Keep in mind this is just my own thoughts on the matter. A Theravādin may well respond: "Nirvāṇa is already free of four extremes, apratiṣṭhita-pratiṣṭhita (constrained & unconstrained) is an invalid mode of inquiry with respect to this dhamma. (Pari-)Nirvāṇa leads to the cessation of activities, births, deaths, etc."

Activities, births, deaths, cyclic transmigration, or, in other words: saṃsāra.

This is where Theravādins are divided with regards to Venerable Nāgārjuna, from that same Nirvāṇaparīkṣā Nāgārjunasya ('Nirvāṇa-Analysis of Nāgārjuna', see MMK xxv/25, or p. 302 here if you do not have a copy on-hand), I'm sure you are familiar with this passage, so I'll quote a Chinese recension instead, from the Madhyamakaśāstra (中論, Zhōng lùn), T1564 @ 35c27:

涅槃與世間            無有少分別
nirvāna and this world  not even small distinctions

世間與涅槃            亦無少分別
this world and nirvāṇa   also no[t even] small distinctions

涅槃之實際            及與世間際
nirvāṇa's true apex [koṭi]   towards this world's apex

如是二際者            無毫釐差別
like this there are two apices   [like this there is] not the smallest sliver of disparity


This kind of not-two-theory (無二元) is part and parcel to Madhyamaka, but it does not always find a friendly reception in Theravādin circles, for right or wrong.
The page 302 link doesn't work.
There seems to be a real disconnect when it comes to Theravada and its relationship to Nagarjuna and Madhyamaka, at least with many of the posters on this board. As you mentioned earlier, there is more of a connection with a path of purification such as we find in Christian mysticism and the writings of St. John Of The Cross. But Theravada is not really a 'via negativa'. It posits an affirmation. With Nagarjuna, there is no affirmation posited, yet it is not a nihilistic nothingness. It simply undermines the intellect in its desire to chain itself to a view of what reality really is. This failure of the intellect to know what is not 'knowable' is a key point in all religious and philosophical endeavors. Abiding/not abiding and all affirmations and negations are transcended through this dialectic.

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Coëmgenu
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Re: Theravada and Mahayana need each other

Post by Coëmgenu » Sun Feb 18, 2018 1:57 pm

Saengnapha wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 1:27 pm
Coëmgenu wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 12:25 pm
Nirvāṇaparīkṣā Nāgārjunasya ('Nirvāṇa-Analysis of Nāgārjuna', see MMK xxv/25, or p. 302 here if you do not have a copy on-hand)
The page 302 link doesn't work.
Apologies. Here. This one should work.
Saengnapha wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 1:27 pm
There seems to be a real disconnect when it comes to Theravada and its relationship to Nagarjuna and Madhyamaka, at least with many of the posters on this board. As you mentioned earlier, there is more of a connection with a path of purification such as we find in Christian mysticism and the writings of St. John Of The Cross.
I am not sure if I brought these things up. I'm not familiar with St. John of the Cross.
What is the parallel you are noticing with Viśuddhimagga though? It could be interesting.
Saengnapha wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 1:27 pm
Theravada is not really a 'via negativa'. It posits an affirmation. With Nagarjuna, there is no affirmation posited, yet it is not a nihilistic nothingness. It simply undermines the intellect in its desire to chain itself to a view of what reality really is. This failure of the intellect to know what is not 'knowable' is a key point in all religious and philosophical endeavors. Abiding/not abiding and all affirmations and negations are transcended through this dialectic.
What, for you, is the 'affirmation' of Theravāda?
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः

Saengnapha
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Re: Theravada and Mahayana need each other

Post by Saengnapha » Sun Feb 18, 2018 3:59 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 1:57 pm
Saengnapha wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 1:27 pm
Coëmgenu wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 12:25 pm
Nirvāṇaparīkṣā Nāgārjunasya ('Nirvāṇa-Analysis of Nāgārjuna', see MMK xxv/25, or p. 302 here if you do not have a copy on-hand)
The page 302 link doesn't work.
Apologies. Here. This one should work.
Saengnapha wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 1:27 pm
There seems to be a real disconnect when it comes to Theravada and its relationship to Nagarjuna and Madhyamaka, at least with many of the posters on this board. As you mentioned earlier, there is more of a connection with a path of purification such as we find in Christian mysticism and the writings of St. John Of The Cross.
I am not sure if I brought these things up. I'm not familiar with St. John of the Cross.
What is the parallel you are noticing with Viśuddhimagga though? It could be interesting.
Saengnapha wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 1:27 pm
Theravada is not really a 'via negativa'. It posits an affirmation. With Nagarjuna, there is no affirmation posited, yet it is not a nihilistic nothingness. It simply undermines the intellect in its desire to chain itself to a view of what reality really is. This failure of the intellect to know what is not 'knowable' is a key point in all religious and philosophical endeavors. Abiding/not abiding and all affirmations and negations are transcended through this dialectic.
What, for you, is the 'affirmation' of Theravāda?
The affirmation is Nibbana.
I've never read Visuddhimagga.

Saengnapha
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Re: Theravada and Mahayana need each other

Post by Saengnapha » Sun Feb 18, 2018 4:04 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 1:57 pm
Here. This one should work.
This verse from page 302:

There is no distinction whatsoever between saṃsāra and
nirvāṇa.
There is no distinction whatsoever between nirvāṇa and
saṃsāra

Is there any parallel to this in Theravada?

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Coëmgenu
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Re: Theravada and Mahayana need each other

Post by Coëmgenu » Sun Feb 18, 2018 4:21 pm

Saengnapha wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 4:04 pm
Coëmgenu wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 1:57 pm
Here. This one should work.
This verse from page 302:

There is no distinction whatsoever between saṃsāra and
nirvāṇa.
There is no distinction whatsoever between nirvāṇa and
saṃsāra

Is there any parallel to this in Theravada?
And therein lies the controverted point.

From earlier, p.296:

ya ājavaṃjavībhāva upādāya pratītya vā |
so ’pratītyānupādāya nirvāṇam upadiśyate ||
That which when dependent or conditioned comes into and goes out of existence,
that, when not conditioned or dependent, is called nirvāṇa


This is the foundation for the above statement: "there is no distinction whatsoever between saṃsāra and nirvāṇa" from later in the text. Especially when it is read in light of the text as a whole, from the Contemplation of Causality (MMKI, Pratyayaparīkṣā in Sanskrit, 'An Analysis of Conditions' in the translation we've been linked to):

不生亦不滅  不常亦不斷
Not arising but not ceasing  not constant but not annihilated

不一亦不異  不來亦不出
not same but not other  not coming but not going

能說是因緣  善滅諸戲論
There is one who speaks on this matter of cause and condition  the auspicious cessation of all prapañca

我稽首禮佛                         
I lower my head in propriety before the Buddha         


Some say that Theravāda does not have language like this. Some say that this is perfectly "in-line with the suttas", whatever that means, the meaning dependent as always on the speaker.
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः

dharmacorps
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Re: Theravada and Mahayana need each other

Post by dharmacorps » Sun Feb 18, 2018 6:06 pm

James Tan wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 8:50 am
If we may say , what the main thing of Theravada buddhist is talking about is liken to primary , secondary education , tertiary education and the undergraduate and stop at that . They don't go further . Whereas , the Mahayana and Zen and Vajrayana is went further talking about postgraduate and doctorate !
Therefore , what both focusing is totally different levels .
So us hinayanists are just slumming it as less educated undergrads? Hmm. :thinking:

You could just as unfairly and divisively say mahayana, zen, and vajrayana are "going further" from the reality of what the Buddha actually taught.

Saengnapha
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Re: Theravada and Mahayana need each other

Post by Saengnapha » Mon Feb 19, 2018 4:22 am

Coëmgenu wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 4:21 pm
Saengnapha wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 4:04 pm
Coëmgenu wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 1:57 pm
Here. This one should work.
This verse from page 302:

There is no distinction whatsoever between saṃsāra and
nirvāṇa.
There is no distinction whatsoever between nirvāṇa and
saṃsāra

Is there any parallel to this in Theravada?
And therein lies the controverted point.

From earlier, p.296:

ya ājavaṃjavībhāva upādāya pratītya vā |
so ’pratītyānupādāya nirvāṇam upadiśyate ||
That which when dependent or conditioned comes into and goes out of existence,
that, when not conditioned or dependent, is called nirvāṇa


This is the foundation for the above statement: "there is no distinction whatsoever between saṃsāra and nirvāṇa" from later in the text. Especially when it is read in light of the text as a whole, from the Contemplation of Causality (MMKI, Pratyayaparīkṣā in Sanskrit, 'An Analysis of Conditions' in the translation we've been linked to):

不生亦不滅  不常亦不斷
Not arising but not ceasing  not constant but not annihilated

不一亦不異  不來亦不出
not same but not other  not coming but not going

能說是因緣  善滅諸戲論
There is one who speaks on this matter of cause and condition  the auspicious cessation of all prapañca

我稽首禮佛                         
I lower my head in propriety before the Buddha         


Some say that Theravāda does not have language like this. Some say that this is perfectly "in-line with the suttas", whatever that means, the meaning dependent as always on the speaker.
I have always found myself speechless after contemplating this.

Saengnapha
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Re: Theravada and Mahayana need each other

Post by Saengnapha » Mon Feb 19, 2018 4:28 am

dharmacorps wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 6:06 pm
James Tan wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 8:50 am
If we may say , what the main thing of Theravada buddhist is talking about is liken to primary , secondary education , tertiary education and the undergraduate and stop at that . They don't go further . Whereas , the Mahayana and Zen and Vajrayana is went further talking about postgraduate and doctorate !
Therefore , what both focusing is totally different levels .
So us hinayanists are just slumming it as less educated undergrads? Hmm. :thinking:

You could just as unfairly and divisively say mahayana, zen, and vajrayana are "going further" from the reality of what the Buddha actually taught.
I would say that all of them have drifted from the reality of what the Buddha taught. However, there are some notables in each tradition who were able to come to the point of seeing things as they are.

James Tan
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Re: Theravada and Mahayana need each other

Post by James Tan » Mon Feb 19, 2018 7:37 am

dharmacorps wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 6:06 pm
James Tan wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 8:50 am
If we may say , what the main thing of Theravada buddhist is talking about is liken to primary , secondary education , tertiary education and the undergraduate and stop at that . They don't go further . Whereas , the Mahayana and Zen and Vajrayana is went further talking about postgraduate and doctorate !
Therefore , what both focusing is totally different levels .
So us hinayanists are just slumming it as less educated undergrads? Hmm. :thinking:

You could just as unfairly and divisively say mahayana, zen, and vajrayana are "going further" from the reality of what the Buddha actually taught.
No , if you take the education processes until undergraduate as the path , and say the Nibanna as the doctorate Thesis , then Theravada Buddhism does not say much about the Thesis !

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aflatun
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Re: Theravada and Mahayana need each other

Post by aflatun » Mon Feb 19, 2018 1:55 pm

Saengnapha wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2018 4:22 am

I have always found myself speechless after contemplating this.
That's what's supposed to happen :D

:heart:
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

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Re: Theravada and Mahayana need each other

Post by Disciple » Mon Feb 19, 2018 6:10 pm

bodom wrote:
Sun Feb 04, 2018 10:38 pm
Theravada most certainly does not need the Mahayana. I would go as far as to say the Mahayana needs the Theravada to retain any semblance as to what the Buddha originally taught and what Buddhism is all about, the fundamental teachings.

:namaste:
True.

dharmacorps
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Re: Theravada and Mahayana need each other

Post by dharmacorps » Mon Feb 19, 2018 6:47 pm

James Tan wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2018 7:37 am

No , if you take the education processes until undergraduate as the path , and say the Nibanna as the doctorate Thesis , then Theravada Buddhism does not say much about the Thesis !
That is fair to say. Theravada is more "on the job" training in that way!

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