The Mahayana Is Not Diluted Theravada.

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Simon E.
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The Mahayana Is Not Diluted Theravada.

Post by Simon E. » Tue Jan 30, 2018 11:16 am

This is not in order to be contentious. But a few posts recently appear to suggest that;

a) The Theravada is older than the Mahayana and is, therefore, more representative of 'pure' or original Buddhism.

b) That the Theravada somehow provides the basic platform on which the Mahayana is built.

c) That the Mahayana has to be validated by the Pali Sutras.

All these suggestions are erroneous. In reality;

The evidence suggests that the Theravada is a relatively recent development in the history of Buddhism and that much of the Mahayana corpus predates it.

The Theravada is a valid vehicle in its own right for those whose ambition is Arhatship. But it has a different set of aims than does the Mahayana.

The Mahayana path including the Vajrayana can be brought to completion with no reference to the Pali Sutras at all.
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Re: The Mahayana Is Not Diluted Theravada.

Post by SunWuKong » Tue Jan 30, 2018 11:36 am

smokin’

Yes that is historically and theologically correct. The other point is that some aspects of Theraveda are of value and are studied by Mahāyāna people, but Theraveda does not / cannot accept even theologically identical teachings if they happen to come from Mahāyāna. It’s a closed system.
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Re: The Mahayana Is Not Diluted Theravada.

Post by Supramundane » Tue Jan 30, 2018 12:08 pm

This is a fascinating subject. i am currently reading an essay on how Mahayana was a revivalist reaction to what was in the 1st century BC a sterile Theravada tradition. This was 300 years after Shakyamuni's death. However, as you point out, there are studies that call into question any sort of linear development of Mahayana and Theravada, as they seemed to have developed simultaneously. It depends whose study you read, i suppose, since the early days of the Buddha were never recorded in writing. Later weren't they recorded on banana leaves which were imbued with too much anicca to survive to this day? If there is scholarly clarity on this issue, however, please let me know.

Perhaps it doesn't matter much when you come down to it. The distinction does not seem to be as marked as Protestant/Catholic, for example.

I recently spoke to a Buddhist nun in Singapore, and she had never heard of the word Mahayana before. I found this quite strange. She was wearing a red robe and i believe she was Chinese or Tibetan... Maybe it is a good thing though as it means there is no sectarianism.

And it may well be possible to shun both and to become the 'buddha before the Buddha" (?).

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Re: The Mahayana Is Not Diluted Theravada.

Post by Simon E. » Tue Jan 30, 2018 12:56 pm

SunWuKong wrote:
Tue Jan 30, 2018 11:36 am
smokin’

Yes that is historically and theologically correct. The other point is that some aspects of Theraveda are of value and are studied by Mahāyāna people, but Theraveda does not / cannot accept even theologically identical teachings if they happen to come from Mahāyāna. It’s a closed system.
There are exceptions.

Ajahn Amaro the Abbott of Amaravati Monastery here in the UK is a Dzogchen student.
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Re: The Mahayana Is Not Diluted Theravada.

Post by Simon E. » Tue Jan 30, 2018 1:24 pm

However if you do a search on certain Theravadin driven forums you will see that this makes him highly suspect in some eyes..
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Re: The Mahayana Is Not Diluted Theravada.

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Tue Jan 30, 2018 4:20 pm

There is also this article on the subject.
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Re: The Mahayana Is Not Diluted Theravada.

Post by SunWuKong » Wed Jan 31, 2018 1:31 am

Simon E. wrote:
Tue Jan 30, 2018 12:56 pm
SunWuKong wrote:
Tue Jan 30, 2018 11:36 am
smokin’

Yes that is historically and theologically correct. The other point is that some aspects of Theraveda are of value and are studied by Mahāyāna people, but Theraveda does not / cannot accept even theologically identical teachings if they happen to come from Mahāyāna. It’s a closed system.
There are exceptions.

Ajahn Amaro the Abbott of Amaravati Monastery here in the UK is a Dzogchen student.
yes, and Ajahn Chah used Zen training books, Fukushima Keido Roshi had a Thai Forest monk student, etc.
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Re: The Mahayana Is Not Diluted Theravada.

Post by Supramundane » Wed Jan 31, 2018 7:34 am

Monlam Tharchin wrote:
Tue Jan 30, 2018 4:20 pm
There is also this article on the subject.
this article is a real find.

so let me get this straight: the author contends that Buddhists have always been seeking to establish that their particular movement is the True Path of the Buddha, the oldest, the most faithful, etc., that it captures the essence of the Buddha. However, studies of new manuscripts have determined that all the various movements are so intertwined and connected and interdependent that no one movement can be said to stand alone. They are more like different streams from the same source that interconnect, branch off, then interconnect again at a later point, all inextricably braided together. None of them cannot be said to be freestanding but all co-exist as an interplay of languages and traditions that do not originate from each other but which feed off each other; so not a tree with branches but much like a net...

hmmm....

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Re: The Mahayana Is Not Diluted Theravada.

Post by Simon E. » Wed Jan 31, 2018 10:33 am

All that is accurate.

And it remains a fact also that the Theravada and the Mahayana have different goals, as well as different methodologies.
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Re: The Mahayana Is Not Diluted Theravada.

Post by Wayfarer » Wed Jan 31, 2018 11:28 am

I studied Buddhist Studies at Uni Sydney, and that Whose Buddhism? article was provided to us as part of the curriculum. Actually one of the lecturers was an associate of Richard Saloman. (It's good to have a link to it, as the Tricycle article seems to have been pulled.)

Re the OP - I don't think anyone here would say that Mahayana is diluted anything. Of course it's true that the Theravada doesn't recognise Mahayana texts, but I had the idea the Pali Suttas (also knows as agamas) were the common property of all Buddhist sects and schools. Am I incorrect in saying that?

A paragraph from towards the end of the article mentioned by MT above:
When it comes right down to it, sectarian posturing contradicts the Buddha’s message as all traditions understand it. Those false pictures of history and language within which sectarianism finds a foothold are in turn rooted in another false picture—a picture even more pervasive and pernicious. That picture is an essentialist view of the nature of reality, which according to the Buddha’s doctrine of selflessness is the source of not just this but all our suffering—the wrong view that is the very point of Buddhism to refute.
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Re: The Mahayana Is Not Diluted Theravada.

Post by Simon E. » Wed Jan 31, 2018 11:49 am

Well actually Wayfarer what prompted the thread was a clear implication from two posters on seperate threads which suggested just that.

Little point in naming or linking at this point..But the implication was clear.
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Re: The Mahayana Is Not Diluted Theravada.

Post by Mantrik » Wed Jan 31, 2018 11:59 am

Does age confer wisdom when it comes to scripture? There's no foolish dogma like an old foolish dogma.

Primacy is not the same as efficacy, and chasing proof is a pretty pointless pursuit.
It is also fruitless to be proprietorial and grab at the earliest known text, since whether it was Hinayana or Mahayana depends on who slapped the label on it later on. It could be either or indeed in accordance with both.

Personally I wonder how anyone could water down what is to me tediously repetitive already in the Hinayana. Not that the Avatamsaka Sutra is much better, for example, when it comes to succinctness. They all clearly had too much time on their hands.

Perhaps erroneously, I think of brevity and focus as increasing in the order of Hinayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana, Dozgchen. So if there were a relationship of that sort, which I doubt, I would see it as a distillation rather than a dilution. But that describes difference rather than accepting any one as the origin of another.
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Re: The Mahayana Is Not Diluted Theravada.

Post by Grigoris » Wed Jan 31, 2018 12:51 pm

Non-secatarian Muslims ask this particular question to sectarians:

During the time of the prophet which group stole the most sandals from outside of the mosque during prayer time: the Shia or the Sunni?
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Re: The Mahayana Is Not Diluted Theravada.

Post by Simon E. » Wed Jan 31, 2018 1:31 pm

To return to a point made by you Wayfarer. It is a fact that all Buddhist schools (afaik) reference the Agamas.
What however is being asserted by some is that translates into actual practice, and that furthermore that the Agamas provide a platform for Mahayana/Vajrayana practice to such a degree that the Agamas are the yardstick by which that practice should be validated.

This simply is not the position accepted by many Vajrayana teachers.

I have stated before, to a degree of incredulity.. :smile: That I have received teachings from a number of Vajrayana teachers and have yet to hear one reference the Agamas.

The reality is that many gompas might house translations of the Pali Canon..possibly even the Sutras in Pali might be found. But outside the Gelugpa, the Agamas are honoured only indirectly.
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Re: The Mahayana Is Not Diluted Theravada.

Post by Admin_PC » Wed Jan 31, 2018 2:24 pm

Wayfarer wrote:
Wed Jan 31, 2018 11:28 am
Of course it's true that the Theravada doesn't recognise Mahayana texts, but I had the idea the Pali Suttas (also knows as agamas) were the common property of all Buddhist sects and schools. Am I incorrect in saying that?
Well I think one of the major issues is that the Agamas and the Nikayas are not a direct 1 to 1. There are some differences. While some of those differences may be in order, layout, setting, or other small details - other differences are doctrinal.
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Re: The Mahayana Is Not Diluted Theravada.

Post by SunWuKong » Wed Jan 31, 2018 2:45 pm

Wayfarer wrote:
Wed Jan 31, 2018 11:28 am
I studied Buddhist Studies at Uni Sydney, and that Whose Buddhism? article was provided to us as part of the curriculum. Actually one of the lecturers was an associate of Richard Saloman. (It's good to have a link to it, as the Tricycle article seems to have been pulled.)

Re the OP - I don't think anyone here would say that Mahayana is diluted anything. Of course it's true that the Theravada doesn't recognise Mahayana texts, but I had the idea the Pali Suttas (also knows as agamas) were the common property of all Buddhist sects and schools. Am I incorrect in saying that?

A paragraph from towards the end of the article mentioned by MT above:
When it comes right down to it, sectarian posturing contradicts the Buddha’s message as all traditions understand it. Those false pictures of history and language within which sectarianism finds a foothold are in turn rooted in another false picture—a picture even more pervasive and pernicious. That picture is an essentialist view of the nature of reality, which according to the Buddha’s doctrine of selflessness is the source of not just this but all our suffering—the wrong view that is the very point of Buddhism to refute.
Tibetan Buddhism accepts all canonical literature, but in the Far East traditionally there is a teaching that all Sutras are merely provisional, no matter where they come from. In the contemporary Western world who knows what the latest flavor is. Usually boring.

Allow me to add, it’s not just Theravada that’s dated later than Buddha’s lifetime; the Vipasssna Movement is entirely contemporary 20th/21st Century. I’ve heard it incorrectly stated that it came from Buddha’s lifetime as well.
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Re: The Mahayana Is Not Diluted Theravada.

Post by Dharma Flower » Thu Feb 01, 2018 4:35 am

Mahayana sutras typically begin with the phrase “Thus have I heard,” suggesting an oral tradition going back to the Buddha himself.

Given that the Buddha taught different things to different people in different circumstances, it wouldn’t be surprising to me if both the Mahayana and Theravada scriptures were taught by the Buddha.

Ancient India was an oral culture, and important religious texts like the Rigveda were passed down for hundreds of years before taking a written form.

I am not saying, however, that the Mahayana sutras are meant to be historical word-for-word. Both the Theravada and Mahayana sutras have literary embellishments.

As far as I know, the oldest Buddhist manuscripts, such as the Gilgit and the Gandharan manuscripts, are of Mahayana sutras.

I recently read Hsuan Hua's commentary on the Amitabha Sutra, and he takes seriously the words "Thus have I heard" in the sutra.

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Re: The Mahayana Is Not Diluted Theravada.

Post by Wayfarer » Thu Feb 01, 2018 7:08 am

Simon E wrote:Little point in naming or linking at this point..But the implication was clear.
Fair enough - I must have missed it.

Regarding your other post - one thing I remember reading is that when Xuangzang visited India, in around 6th C C.E., he noted that Mahayana monastics lived in the same monasteries and shared the same Vinaya as the other orders - at that stage they co-existed. But clearly Mahayana developed very differently in Tibet, China and Japan, I presume because it was mainly the Sanskrit sutras that were taken to those cultures and formed the basis for ongoing development. But I do know the historiography of the subject is very complicated.
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Re: The Mahayana Is Not Diluted Theravada.

Post by Simon E. » Thu Feb 01, 2018 10:45 am

Well, we have several members who are the go-to guys for the historicity, particularly Malcolm.
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Re: The Mahayana Is Not Diluted Theravada.

Post by Dharma Flower » Fri Feb 02, 2018 5:27 am

While there might be mythical embellishments in the sutras for literary affect, especially if they developed over hundreds of years, I take at face value that the Mahayana sutras contain the historical Buddha's essential teachings.

Why be Mahayana rather than Theravada if one doesn't actually believe that the Buddha taught the Bodhisattva vehicle? It sort of defeats the point, in my opinion.

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