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Transitioning from Theravada to Mahayana

Posted: Wed Mar 07, 2018 7:10 pm
by anthbrown84
Hello DW,

I am a little lost and confused and have been posting on the Dhammawheel.com website a bit lately. I recently experienced a nervous breakdown, almost losing my mind in the most severe way possible.

I actually converted to Christianity for a short time during this episode and it took me about a week (I know it doesn't sound long but thankfully my ability to observe suffering really helped me ride it through) to find my feet again without having to check myself into a mental health institute, although it was close.

Since this has happened and I have gone back for refuge to the triple gem, I have started listening to Thich Nhat Hanh, and he has absolutely blew me away. For me, as a once ''Theravada is the ONLY way'' kinda guy, it is very nourishing to hear someone that I can genuinely see has Bodhisatva qualities teaching this stuff.

My heart feels so nourished by this and I am left wondering, should I follow a Mahayana path.

Has anyone got any advice on this? I know this is a broad question to ask... but what do I do? and am I making the right choice - and try not to be to byass given this is a mahayana forum! haha :)

Much love

Anthony

Re: Transitioning from Theravada toMahyana

Posted: Wed Mar 07, 2018 9:15 pm
by Sentient Light
Vietnamese Buddhism has always had elements of Theravada within it. From all accounts, theravada was in Viet Nam first, and it was imperial China that brought Mahayana in from the north, which eventually became dominant. But because of the Theravadin presence, the Nikayas and Pali suttas have always had an impact on Vietnamese Buddhism.

There is even a monastic sangha tradition in Vietnam called the Khat Si, which study the Pali Nikayas and Mahayana sutras alike. They go alms rounds like Theravadin monks and while they hold Thien lineage actually practice samatha-vipasyana in accordance to Pali scripture, but they also still practice the Mahayana sutras, chant in Vietnamese, praise Amitabha and Quan Am.

The Lieu Quan Thien lineage, from which TNH was ordained but also contains more traditional practices, teaches the Nikayas, Agamas, and Mahayana sutras.

It should be noted that the Mahayana path has always existed in Theravada as well, at least until quite recently when a reformation movement swept through, and their path is not much different from ours. Bhikkhu Bodhi's teacher, Ven. Balangdoda Ananda Maitreya Thero, was a well known Theravadin that was on the bodhisattva path.

Re: Transitioning from Theravada toMahyana

Posted: Wed Mar 07, 2018 11:34 pm
by Kim O'Hara
Hi, Anthony,
I hang around both Wheels because both traditions have plenty to offer me. What I value most on the Theravadin side is the Pali Canon - I find the teachings of the suttas, for the most part, very clear, direct and useful. What I value on the Mahayana side is the emphasis, via the bodhisattva ideal, on incorporating the teaching in our daily lives. Like you, I really like the teachings of TNH. The Dalai Lama is always good to read, and surprisingly non-sectarian.
In the end, however, it's all dharma and the only time we need to decide we "belong" to one school or another is when we join a real-life community for (e.g.) weekly meditation or occasional retreats.

:namaste:
Kim

Re: Transitioning from Theravada toMahyana

Posted: Thu Mar 08, 2018 2:36 am
by DGA
anthbrown84 wrote:
Wed Mar 07, 2018 7:10 pm
Hello DW,

I am a little lost and confused and have been posting on the Dhammawheel.com website a bit lately. I recently experienced a nervous breakdown, almost losing my mind in the most severe way possible.

I actually converted to Christianity for a short time during this episode and it took me about a week (I know it doesn't sound long but thankfully my ability to observe suffering really helped me ride it through) to find my feet again without having to check myself into a mental health institute, although it was close.

Since this has happened and I have gone back for refuge to the triple gem, I have started listening to Thich Nhat Hanh, and he has absolutely blew me away. For me, as a once ''Theravada is the ONLY way'' kinda guy, it is very nourishing to hear someone that I can genuinely see has Bodhisatva qualities teaching this stuff.

My heart feels so nourished by this and I am left wondering, should I follow a Mahayana path.

Has anyone got any advice on this? I know this is a broad question to ask... but what do I do? and am I making the right choice - and try not to be to byass given this is a mahayana forum! haha :)

Much love

Anthony
Hi Anthony,

First off, I wish you good health and clear weather ahead.

As to your question, I would say there's no harm in being willing to learn and to listen to new perspectives. Broad-mindedness is a virtue.

Which Dharma path is ultimately the best choice for you? Only you are able to make that decision for yourself. How to make that decision? By meeting some teachers, listening to their teachings and reflecting on them with care, and then seeing what your heart and your head lead you.

Re: Transitioning from Theravada toMahyana

Posted: Thu Mar 08, 2018 4:34 am
by SunWuKong
anthbrown84 wrote:
Wed Mar 07, 2018 7:10 pm
Hello DW,

I am a little lost and confused and have been posting on the Dhammawheel.com website a bit lately. I recently experienced a nervous breakdown, almost losing my mind in the most severe way possible.

I actually converted to Christianity for a short time during this episode and it took me about a week (I know it doesn't sound long but thankfully my ability to observe suffering really helped me ride it through) to find my feet again without having to check myself into a mental health institute, although it was close.

Since this has happened and I have gone back for refuge to the triple gem, I have started listening to Thich Nhat Hanh, and he has absolutely blew me away. For me, as a once ''Theravada is the ONLY way'' kinda guy, it is very nourishing to hear someone that I can genuinely see has Bodhisatva qualities teaching this stuff.

My heart feels so nourished by this and I am left wondering, should I follow a Mahayana path.

Has anyone got any advice on this? I know this is a broad question to ask... but what do I do? and am I making the right choice - and try not to be to byass given this is a mahayana forum! haha :)

Much love

Anthony
Well, there's a word of explanation that might help. I'm also very influenced by Theraveda practices, but my outlook is mostly Mahayana. I've been practicing according to the Thich Nhat Hanh teachings, meditation for about 18 years. I also attend church with my wife - and there is turmoil around this issue. But anyway, in Vietnam the monks are closer to Theraveda, the lay people closer to Mahayana. Thich Nhat Hahn tries to feed both, as he has both monks and lay followers. Additionally, the sitting meditation used in Community of Mindful Living and Plum Village is very much the same as basic samatha and vipassana. So i can understand why you're nourished by it. I particularly like Ajahn Chah, not only what he teaches but how he comports himself. I don't think its so much the flavor range between Mahayana and Theraveda that's important as whether or not you are open to change, and you have a regular sitting practice. But - there's nothing in all this worth having a nervous breakdown over. Find a competent person to talk these thing through with.

Re: Transitioning from Theravada toMahyana

Posted: Thu Mar 08, 2018 9:02 am
by Grigoris
All very good advice. I would just like to add that you should possible consider seeing a mental health professional too, especially if the "feelings" you experienced during this episode start to return. Mental health illnesses, like physical illnesses can respond quite well to medication, so you should not rule out this option as doing so may be to your overall detriment.

Re: Transitioning from Theravada toMahyana

Posted: Thu Mar 08, 2018 11:29 am
by Vasana
I have nothing more to add to all of the above excellent comments and reccomendations other than to encourage you to read and listen to more of Thich Naht Hahn. His style is very soothing and gentleness and tenderness are qualities we're in need of the most especially when we're dealing with some turbulence in our lives.


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If new to the Bodhisattva path, you may also find the Mahayana and secular teachings from the Dalai Lama very accessible/ universal and inspiring.


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Re: Transitioning from Theravada toMahyana

Posted: Sat Oct 20, 2018 3:41 pm
by Dhammavaro
I like this topic. During my first years in the theravada sangha, I was not open to other traditions. As a Monastic I met once a Rinpoche during a meeting in Bangkok. He gave some talks, and I was not interested in anything he told us.
Later I lost my teacher and I made no progress in my meditation practice. During a holiday in France I was invited to a day of mindfulness.
First I was shocked by some things there, but then I realized that this could be a new start.

I was amazed about the loving kindness there. For many years I was like a warrior in my practice, my body was only a tool.

After a few days I had to return to my country.
A few weeks later I went back to plumvillage for a retreat.
I also found out that Thay was a bridge builder between theravada and Mahayana.

Thank you for sharing your experience with me.

I wish you peace!