Mahayana /Vajrayana attitude with Pali Canon?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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greenjuice
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Mahayana /Vajrayana attitude with Pali Canon?

Post by greenjuice » Wed Oct 09, 2019 10:20 pm

What i mean by attitude is how one approaches samsara and what one wants to do with it. This is mahayana and vajrayana concept. According to this concept one can have three attitudes towards the samsara: 1. a 'hinayana' approach to samsara is to simply work towards escaping it, towards reaching nibbana (maybe through working towards becoming an anagami, or sakadagami, or sotapanna); 2. the mahayana approach is to purposefully postpone one's working towards nibbana out of compassion for other beings in samsara (and instead working to become a Buddha so one can help much more beings to escape samsara than one could by simply preaching Buddha's teaching in this life and working towards one's own nibbanna); and 3. the vajrayana approach is to not even want to escape samsara at all (thinking both oneself and other beings can be compassionately helped best in that way).

Yes, a lot of mahayana has additional views, like believing bodhisattvas are beyond samsara and nirvana or in some sense a manifestation of an eternal Buddha, and that they can make people anagamis if those people pray to them, etc; also vajrayana interprets the 'emptiness' doctrine as samsara and nirvana being one (as Nagarjuna said), and says that one can achieve nirvana while living this life and enjoying life, by 'just' realizing the emptiness of everything and not being emotionally attached to pleasure or repulsed by pains.

But here i don't mean those views. I mean just the attitudes i mentioned.

It seems to me that both of those attitudes can be had even if one accepts just the Pali Canon. Afaik, Suttas do talk about previous lives of the Buddha and what characteristics a Buddha must have, and how they have to be developed previously, before that life where he will become a Buddha. One could add the mahayana attitude here, and say, well okay, I don't want to strive to become a sotapanna, sakadagami, anagami, or arahat, but instead i think a more compassionate thing to do is to develop those characteristics and strive to become a Buddha. And there is no need to accept all the theological views peculiar to Mahayana which differ from Theravada. Also, one could also accept the Pali Canon and add a Vajrayana attitude to it, and say, ok, I accept this theological framework, but I disagree with the conclusion, I disagree everything is dukkha, one can have a life of mostly sukkha, I don't want to achieve nibbana, I don't want to stop existing in this way, in samsara, I want to continue to be within samsara life after life, and strive for happiness both for by myself and other beings. Also here there is no need to accept theological framework from Vajrayana schools.

I want to ask if there ever was any school, or author, that had this position - of accepting only the Pali Canon, but having a mahayana or vajrayana attitude?

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Kim OHara
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Re: Mahayana /Vajrayana attitude with Pali Canon?

Post by Kim OHara » Wed Oct 09, 2019 11:40 pm

What you're suggesting works pretty well on an individual level, IMO. (In fact it is close to my own approach, which keeps me happy and doing good things.)
But I don't think it's ever been formulated as a cohesive doctrine, which is what a "school" needs, although individual authors and teachers do tend in that direction at times and you're likely to find them if you read about "Engaged Buddhism."

:reading:
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Re: Mahayana /Vajrayana attitude with Pali Canon?

Post by DooDoot » Thu Oct 10, 2019 12:20 am

greenjuice wrote:
Wed Oct 09, 2019 10:20 pm
Suttas do talk about previous lives of the Buddha and what characteristics a Buddha must have, and how they have to be developed previously, before that life where he will become a Buddha.
Where do the suttas say the above? Thanks. I am only aware of MN 81, which says Gotama was the student Jotipāla in a past life who, after initially despising the Buddha Kassapa, went forth under The Buddha Kassapa but says nothing about Jotipāla's attainments (DN 14 says Buddha Kassapa lived for 20,000 years). However, DN 19 appears to say Gotama was the student named Jotipāla in a past life who became known as the Great Steward, where the Great Steward went forth from the lay life to homelessness and taught disciples the path to communion with Brahmā, which only leads as far as rebirth in the Brahmā realm (DN 19 does not appear to mention any past Buddhas). AN 3.15 say Gotama was a chariot-maker in a past life. MN 123 says the Bodhisatta passed away from the host of Joyful Gods (tusitā kāyā) & conceived in his mother’s womb. These are the only suttas I have read about literal past life of Gotama Buddha. MN 50 says Mahāmoggallāna was a Māra named Dūsī at the time of Buddha Kakusandha (DN 19 says Kakusandha lived for 40,000 years).
greenjuice wrote:
Wed Oct 09, 2019 10:20 pm
What i mean by attitude is how one approaches samsara and what one wants to do with it. ... I want to ask if there ever was any school, or author, that had this position - of accepting only the Pali Canon, but having a mahayana or vajrayana attitude?
If my brief investigations of the Pali suttas, I have found the very rare handful of suttas that refer to literal past lives of the Buddha or a disciple (posted above) that share language (namely, the phrase: "ahaṃ tena samayena") similar to the later literal past-life doctrines found in the later works of the the Buddhavamsa & Apadana, which appear from a similar later time as the Theravada Jataka Tales. In other words, my impression is the Mahayana Bodhisattva doctrine evolved out of the later Theravada doctrines; particularly the Theravada Jataka Tales, Buddhavamsa & Apadana.

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Re: Mahayana /Vajrayana attitude with Pali Canon?

Post by jabalí » Thu Oct 10, 2019 6:36 pm

... and says that one can achieve nirvana while living this life and enjoying life, by 'just' realizing the emptiness of everything and not being emotionally attached to pleasure or repulsed by pains.
... and a enlightened teacher can drink alcohol and have sex with his students because of that...

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Re: Mahayana /Vajrayana attitude with Pali Canon?

Post by Dhammanando » Fri Oct 11, 2019 4:42 am

greenjuice wrote:
Wed Oct 09, 2019 10:20 pm
Also, one could also accept the Pali Canon and add a Vajrayana attitude to it, and say, ok, I accept this theological framework, but I disagree with the conclusion, I disagree everything is dukkha, one can have a life of mostly sukkha, I don't want to achieve nibbana, I don't want to stop existing in this way, in samsara, I want to continue to be within samsara life after life, and strive for happiness both for by myself and other beings.
This sounds a bit like my Thai dentist. The man is in his eighties now but doesn't want to retire as he loves his work so much. Though he's in private practice he treats me (and all other monks) free of charge, merit being more important to him than money. And so after each of my treatment sessions with them, the dentist and his wife (who's also a dentist) will get down on their knees, fold their hands in añjalī and ask for my blessing. As I recite the anumodanā verses they'll pour out the lustral water together and recite a dedication formula, which goes something like this:
"Whatever merit may accrue from this gift of dental treatment to Dhammānando we divide into five portions:

The first portion we dedicate to our departed parents: by the power of this merit may they be happy!

The second portion we dedicate to King Vajiralongkorn: by the power of this merit may His Majesty live long!

The third portion we dedicate to the four Great Regent Devas: by the power of this merit may they enjoy success in safeguarding the human realm!

The fourth portion we dedicate to our next cycle in saṃsāra: by the power of this merit may we both be reborn in the same country, meet each other, get married and become dentists again!

The fifth portion we dedicate to our eventual attainment of Nibbāna ... during the Dispensation of some future Buddha!"
When they get to the fifth aspiration I sometime have trouble keeping a straight face. It rather reminds me of how St Augustine used to pray when he was still a decadent young playboy in Carthage: Domine da mihi castitatem et continentiam, sed noli modo (“O Lord, grant me chastity and continence, but not just yet.” Confessions VIII 7)
“Keep to your own pastures, bhikkhus, walk in the haunts where your fathers roamed.
If ye thus walk in them, Māra will find no lodgement, Māra will find no foothold.”
— Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta

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Re: Mahayana /Vajrayana attitude with Pali Canon?

Post by SarathW » Fri Oct 11, 2019 5:49 am

"Whatever merit may accrue from this gift of dental treatment to Dhammānando we divide into five portions:
If I heard this from someone else I would have thought this is a practical joke.
:rofl:
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Re: Mahayana /Vajrayana attitude with Pali Canon?

Post by SarathW » Fri Oct 11, 2019 5:59 am

I want to ask if there ever was any school, or author, that had this position - of accepting only the Pali Canon, but having a mahayana or Vajrayana attitude?
Not quite the Mahayana or Vajrayana way.
But gradual training is major teaching in Theravada.
You find a comfortable place for yourself and work towards Nibbana.
I am trying at least to become a Sotapanna (whatever it is) as it guarantees the Nibbana in seven lives.
When I become Sotapanna I may try to attain the next level.
Sotapana can still enjoy life pleasures but do not break the five precepts.
Perhaps they may help others towards enlightenment as well.

Some people think that they can become Sotapanna and can go for their life with sensual pleasures!!!!
viewtopic.php?f=13&t=35358
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Mahayana /Vajrayana attitude with Pali Canon?

Post by SteRo » Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:21 am

greenjuice wrote:
Wed Oct 09, 2019 10:20 pm
What i mean by attitude is how one approaches samsara and what one wants to do with it. This is mahayana and vajrayana concept. According to this concept one can have three attitudes towards the samsara: 1. a 'hinayana' approach to samsara is to simply work towards escaping it, towards reaching nibbana (maybe through working towards becoming an anagami, or sakadagami, or sotapanna); 2. the mahayana approach is to purposefully postpone one's working towards nibbana out of compassion for other beings in samsara (and instead working to become a Buddha so one can help much more beings to escape samsara than one could by simply preaching Buddha's teaching in this life and working towards one's own nibbanna); and 3. the vajrayana approach is to not even want to escape samsara at all (thinking both oneself and other beings can be compassionately helped best in that way).

... I mean just the attitudes i mentioned.

It seems to me that both of those attitudes can be had even if one accepts just the Pali Canon. Afaik, Suttas do talk about previous lives of the Buddha and what characteristics a Buddha must have, and how they have to be developed previously, before that life where he will become a Buddha. One could add the mahayana attitude here, and say, well okay, I don't want to strive to become a sotapanna, sakadagami, anagami, or arahat, but instead i think a more compassionate thing to do is to develop those characteristics and strive to become a Buddha. And there is no need to accept all the theological views peculiar to Mahayana which differ from Theravada. Also, one could also accept the Pali Canon and add a Vajrayana attitude to it, and say, ok, I accept this theological framework, but I disagree with the conclusion, I disagree everything is dukkha, one can have a life of mostly sukkha, I don't want to achieve nibbana, I don't want to stop existing in this way, in samsara, I want to continue to be within samsara life after life, and strive for happiness both for by myself and other beings. Also here there is no need to accept theological framework from Vajrayana schools.

I want to ask if there ever was any school, or author, that had this position - of accepting only the Pali Canon, but having a mahayana or vajrayana attitude?
Since you mentioned three 'attitudes' I think 'both attitudes' should be replaced by 'all these attitudes' ...?

I think that Mahayana doctrines are too diverse to be characterized by only the attitude you mention. E.g. it may be interpreted that nirvana is simply re-defined in some Mahayana doctrines or as to sotapanna and the like there may be status corresponding to sotapanna and the like in some Mahayana doctrines.

Also, I don't know whether the defining characteristic should - instead of 'attitude' - better be called 'resolve' considering the goal of practice. In that regard Vajrayana belongs to Mahayana.

I do not know any buddhist tradition based on the Pali Canon exclusively that does interpret the path laid down in the Pali Canon as a means to attain the goal of Buddhahood. But I think there are quite some Theravada practitioners who are striving to attain this goal.

Last but no least there are Mahayana doctrines that teach that ultimately there is only ekayana and from that perspective every individual simply practices the path of her/his current lineage, regardless whether for one's own sake, for the sake of others or both, because all paths will finally flow in the same ultimate path.

Noteworthy in this context:
"Of two people who practice the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, having a sense of Dhamma, having a sense of meaning — one who practices for both his own benefit and that of others, and one who practices for his own benefit but not that of others — the one who practices for his own benefit but not that of others is to be criticized for that reason, the one who practices for both his own benefit and that of others is, for that reason, to be praised."
AN 7.64

:anjali:

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Re: Mahayana /Vajrayana attitude with Pali Canon?

Post by sentinel » Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:39 am

SarathW wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 5:59 am

I am trying at least to become a Sotapanna (whatever it is) as it guarantees the Nibbana in seven lives.
When I become Sotapanna I may try to attain the next level.
Is that the correct way ? One do not try to achieve a state , one abandon the fetters and automatically arrive at it .
:coffee:

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Re: Mahayana /Vajrayana attitude with Pali Canon?

Post by SarathW » Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:58 am

sentinel wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:39 am
SarathW wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 5:59 am

I am trying at least to become a Sotapanna (whatever it is) as it guarantees the Nibbana in seven lives.
When I become Sotapanna I may try to attain the next level.
Is that the correct way ? One do not try to achieve a state , one abandon the fetters and automatically arrive at it .
Agree.
I am just talking in conventional language.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Mahayana /Vajrayana attitude with Pali Canon?

Post by dharmacorps » Fri Oct 11, 2019 5:22 pm

One argument I have been told by Mahayana/Vajrayana practitioners and teachers-- more than once and seriously-- is that yes, the Buddha taught everything in the Pali Canon, but after teaching that "stuff", he took his top disciples aside and instructed them in tantric Vajrayana techniques, (secretly of course). :shrug:

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Re: Mahayana /Vajrayana attitude with Pali Canon?

Post by Kim OHara » Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:58 pm

dharmacorps wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 5:22 pm
One argument I have been told by Mahayana/Vajrayana practitioners and teachers-- more than once and seriously-- is that yes, the Buddha taught everything in the Pali Canon, but after teaching that "stuff", he took his top disciples aside and instructed them in tantric Vajrayana techniques, (secretly of course). :shrug:
Every religious tradition does this sort of thing, i.e., claiming more miraculous origins, more direct authority and greater antiquity (or all three) than its competitors. The only reasonable response to all origin stories, in view of this habit, is to treat them as unreliable myths - and that includes the origin stories of one's own tradition.

:coffee:
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Will
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Re: Mahayana /Vajrayana attitude with Pali Canon?

Post by Will » Sat Oct 12, 2019 3:41 pm

greenjuice, see this old thread on the Manual of the Excellent Man:

viewtopic.php?f=19&t=40

Your notion of vajrayana as 'not wanting to escape' samsara is wrong. A voluntary return to birth on this planet is not samsara, nor is this planet or realm samsara. An automatic cyclic existence of rebirth that we have no control over is samsara. Vajrayana is simply a faster path to full buddhahood, yet the bodhisattva attitude is identical with Mahayana.

A metaphor might be bodhisattvas are like nurses that spend more time and effort with patients than doctors, but doctors, like buddhas provide the cure.
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- AN 10.1

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Re: Mahayana /Vajrayana attitude with Pali Canon?

Post by dharmacorps » Sat Oct 12, 2019 5:34 pm

Kim OHara wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:58 pm

Every religious tradition does this sort of thing, i.e., claiming more miraculous origins, more direct authority and greater antiquity (or all three) than its competitors. The only reasonable response to all origin stories, in view of this habit, is to treat them as unreliable myths - and that includes the origin stories of one's own tradition.

:coffee:
Kim
Hmm, well I am not so sure it is true in every religion, nor is it harmless embellishment. In the case of the Buddha, saying that the Buddha taught secret techniques that were better after teaching subpar stuff (i.e. the Pali Canon)--makes him look like a disingenuous and duplicitous teacher, not to mention a hypocrite. Especially when you consider the Pali Canon contains numerous places where the Buddha himself criticizes those who teach in such a way.

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Re: Mahayana /Vajrayana attitude with Pali Canon?

Post by binocular » Sat Oct 12, 2019 6:13 pm

greenjuice wrote:
Wed Oct 09, 2019 10:20 pm
It seems to me that both of those attitudes can be had even if one accepts just the Pali Canon.
Holding such attitudes would require a massively selective reading of the Pali Canon. Ignoring most, and interpreting the rest willfully to one's own biases.
Sure, possibly some, maybe even many people do that. But it can hardly be called "adhering to the Pali Canon" or "holding the Pali Canon as relevant scripture".
I want to ask if there ever was any school, or author, that had this position - of accepting only the Pali Canon, but having a mahayana or vajrayana attitude?
There are individuals (some even at this forum) who _say_ they accept the Pali Canon, but otherwise have a mahayana or vajrayana attitude. But the emphasis is on "say". Discuss with them a bit, and it turns out they don't care about the Pali Canon, and, at most, have a poor knowledge of it.
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