Why Theravada?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Why Theravada?

Postby daverupa » Fri Oct 04, 2013 1:28 am

nibbuti wrote:
daverupa wrote:As I recently discovered on the other DW, the mere hint that pre-sectarian texts predate & are not Mahayana texts is enough to drum up a defensive formation prior to clearing a room.

Hi dave. Who says they're not Mahayana text?


Pre-sectarian texts are non-Mahayana because they pre-date Mahayana. Furthermore, the Nikayas/Agamas aren't used by any Mahayana practitioner that I've ever spoken with - they seem to prefer Mahayana Sutras exclusively, and when these two textual groups are in conflict they tend to interpret the earlier material in light of the later material, rather than the other way around - which is to say, they tend to do things opposite the way which is recommended in the Nikayas/Agamas when it comes to assessing textual authority.

:shrug:

Just the taste I've experienced, I suppose. (Note, in terms of the OP, that Theravada in toto doesn't fare much better when held against pre-sectarian materials - rotten ol' ksanas, etc...)
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Why Theravada?

Postby Dan74 » Fri Oct 04, 2013 1:34 am

daverupa wrote:
nibbuti wrote:
daverupa wrote:As I recently discovered on the other DW, the mere hint that pre-sectarian texts predate & are not Mahayana texts is enough to drum up a defensive formation prior to clearing a room.

Hi dave. Who says they're not Mahayana text?


Pre-sectarian texts are non-Mahayana because they pre-date Mahayana. Furthermore, the Nikayas/Agamas aren't used by any Mahayana practitioner that I've ever spoken with - they seem to prefer Mahayana Sutras exclusively, and when these two textual groups are in conflict they tend to interpret the earlier material in light of the later material, rather than the other way around - which is to say, they tend to do things opposite the way which is recommended in the Nikayas/Agamas.


There is actually quite a few Mahayana teachers who also teach Suttas and vice versa. My teacher trained in Korean Zen but prior to that was a student of Phra Khantipalo who himself became a Dzogchen practitioner later on. She has taught material straight out of Suttas many times.

What I have found in many good Buddhist teachers is that they hold these labels very lightly if at all. It is mostly on web forums that people seem to like to dig trenches... Perhaps we can take a leaf out of Ajahn Sumedho's book (who is probably the older Western-born monastic now - 47 years ordained) and consider his deep bond to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, and friendship with Ven Hsuan Hua.
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Re: Why Theravada?

Postby nibbuti » Fri Oct 04, 2013 1:44 am

daverupa wrote:Pre-sectarian texts are non-Mahayana because they pre-date Mahayana. Furthermore, the Nikayas/Agamas aren't used by any Mahayana practitioner that I've ever spoken with - they seem to prefer Mahayana Sutras exclusively, and when these two textual groups are in conflict they tend to interpret the earlier material in light of the later material, rather than the other way around - which is to say, they tend to do things opposite the way which is recommended in the Nikayas/Agamas.

Sure dave, everyone can do whatever they think is right. And many prefer to stick to what their own teacher taught them exclusively, rather than look beyond the borders. But if someone did things generally opposite the way which is recommended in the earliest coherent sources, there would be no point in referring to the Buddha, teacher of all Buddhists, at all. Then it is the duty of a kalyanamitta to kindly point that out. Out of compassion for that person and gratitude for the Buddha.

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Re: Why Theravada?

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Oct 04, 2013 4:18 am

nibbuti wrote:
daverupa wrote:Pre-sectarian texts are non-Mahayana because they pre-date Mahayana. Furthermore, the Nikayas/Agamas aren't used by any Mahayana practitioner that I've ever spoken with - they seem to prefer Mahayana Sutras exclusively, and when these two textual groups are in conflict they tend to interpret the earlier material in light of the later material, rather than the other way around - which is to say, they tend to do things opposite the way which is recommended in the Nikayas/Agamas.

Sure dave, everyone can do whatever they think is right. And many prefer to stick to what their own teacher taught them exclusively, rather than look beyond the borders. But if someone did things generally opposite the way which is recommended in the earliest coherent sources, there would be no point in referring to the Buddha, teacher of all Buddhists, at all. Then it is the duty of a kalyanamitta to kindly point that out. Out of compassion for that person and gratitude for the Buddha.

:thanks:

Hi, everyone,
This difference is another version of a difference of views about Buddhism that I have mentioned in other threads. That is,
(1) If Buddhism is a Revealed Religion then the Words of its Founder are the primary source of all Wisdom, and any later additions are mere commentaries at best, heresies at worst.
(2) If Buddhism is a field of study (like medicine, anthropology or literature) then the words of its founder are important but it is expected that each generation will build on them, add to them, improve them and eventually supersede them.

That way of framing the two models is exaggeratedly polarised, of course, but I think we need to work where we sit on the spectrum between them. (I lost control of my metaphors in there! Drat! :tongue: )

:namaste:
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Re: Why Theravada?

Postby Kusala » Fri Oct 04, 2013 6:49 am

Kim OHara wrote:
nibbuti wrote:
daverupa wrote:Pre-sectarian texts are non-Mahayana because they pre-date Mahayana. Furthermore, the Nikayas/Agamas aren't used by any Mahayana practitioner that I've ever spoken with - they seem to prefer Mahayana Sutras exclusively, and when these two textual groups are in conflict they tend to interpret the earlier material in light of the later material, rather than the other way around - which is to say, they tend to do things opposite the way which is recommended in the Nikayas/Agamas.

Sure dave, everyone can do whatever they think is right. And many prefer to stick to what their own teacher taught them exclusively, rather than look beyond the borders. But if someone did things generally opposite the way which is recommended in the earliest coherent sources, there would be no point in referring to the Buddha, teacher of all Buddhists, at all. Then it is the duty of a kalyanamitta to kindly point that out. Out of compassion for that person and gratitude for the Buddha.

:thanks:

Hi, everyone,
This difference is another version of a difference of views about Buddhism that I have mentioned in other threads. That is,
(1) If Buddhism is a Revealed Religion then the Words of its Founder are the primary source of all Wisdom, and any later additions are mere commentaries at best, heresies at worst.
(2) If Buddhism is a field of study (like medicine, anthropology or literature) then the words of its founder are important but it is expected that each generation will build on them, add to them, improve them and eventually supersede them.

That way of framing the two models is exaggeratedly polarised, of course, but I think we need to work where we sit on the spectrum between them. (I lost control of my metaphors in there! Drat! :tongue: )

:namaste:
Kim


The Buddha warned that a "counterfeit Dhamma" will eventually take over... http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Re: Why Theravada?

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Oct 04, 2013 7:01 am

Kusala wrote:
Kim OHara wrote:Hi, everyone,
This difference is another version of a difference of views about Buddhism that I have mentioned in other threads. That is,
(1) If Buddhism is a Revealed Religion then the Words of its Founder are the primary source of all Wisdom, and any later additions are mere commentaries at best, heresies at worst.
(2) If Buddhism is a field of study (like medicine, anthropology or literature) then the words of its founder are important but it is expected that each generation will build on them, add to them, improve them and eventually supersede them.

That way of framing the two models is exaggeratedly polarised, of course, but I think we need to work where we sit on the spectrum between them. (I lost control of my metaphors in there! Drat! :tongue: )

:namaste:
Kim


The Buddha warned that a "counterfeit Dhamma" will eventually take over... http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Hi, Kusala,
I know about that and acknowledge the possibility of going off the path is always present. However, did he tell us not to develop the dhamma? Did he tell us not to add to it, not to re-interpret it?
Those are genuine questions, btw, not rhetorical ones: I don't know the answers ... except that no-one has ever pointed out to me any such passage in the suttas and I think someone would have done so by now if they could have done so.

:namaste:
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Re: Why Theravada?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Oct 04, 2013 7:40 am

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote:Perfection is achieved, not when there's nothing more to add, but when there's nothing that can be taken away.

The Buddha's Dhamma is Perfect. The Buddha told Māra that he would not pass way until his Dhamma was complete and firmly established.

All we need to do is understand what is Dhamma and what is not Dhamma, then practise in accordance with it to realise it for ourselves.
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Re: Why Theravada?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Oct 04, 2013 7:55 am

:goodpost:

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Why Theravada?

Postby Dan74 » Fri Oct 04, 2013 11:18 am

When we say "Buddha Dhamma is perfect" are we equating Buddha Dhamma with Theravada Dhamma?

And even if we accept the above designation, what is it really saying? If I say that Thai cuisine has all the nutrients one needs is anyone who prefers Japanese or Korean wrong to do so? Much of Thai cuisine and spices have origins in India, does it mean that Indian food is better, more nutritious, etc? There are many covert assumptions that appear to go unexamined in this talk and if one puts much weight in these arguments, perhaps they are worth looking into carefully?

On the other hand if one is enjoying the food and feels well and healthy, then why worry? If Theravada practice works for you, helps relinquish greed, anger and delusion and cultivate compassion an wisdom, then no other reason to justify it is needed. And the same goes for Mahayana practice, IMO.
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Re: Why Theravada?

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Oct 04, 2013 12:06 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:The Buddha's Dhamma is Perfect. The Buddha told Māra that he would not pass way until his Dhamma was complete and firmly established.

All we need to do is understand what is Dhamma and what is not Dhamma, then practise in accordance with it to realise it for ourselves.

That's easy to say, bhante, but rather harder to flesh out, to explain or to teach.
What "is Dhamma" and why? What tests do we apply to be sure that it "is not Dhamma", and how do we know they are the correct tests?

:namaste:
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Re: Why Theravada?

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Oct 04, 2013 12:25 pm

Dan74 wrote:When we say "Buddha Dhamma is perfect" are we equating Buddha Dhamma with Theravada Dhamma?


Or with a particular school of Theravada? I hope not. ;)
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Re: Why Theravada?

Postby rohana » Fri Oct 04, 2013 12:39 pm

nibbuti wrote:Mahayana Sutra, those I've read, had a taste of pomposity (like the Lotus Sutra) and well-meant confusion (Heart Sutra), rather than freedom.

I personally don't think the Heart Sūtra is in conflict with the Sūttas. But that's a different subject I guess. Also, some of the pompous descriptions of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can perhaps be indicative of visions(nimittas) received in samādhi, while othes may be just written out of intense devotion.

Dan74 wrote:When we say "Buddha Dhamma is perfect" are we equating Buddha Dhamma with Theravada Dhamma?

Personally, I would think of it as "texts that can be reasonably attributed to the Buddha or having the sanction of the Buddha(e.g. spoken by Ven. Sāriputta)". The Buddha is an unsurpassed teacher of dēvas and men.

There is actually quite a few Mahayana teachers who also teach Suttas and vice versa. My teacher trained in Korean Zen but prior to that was a student of Phra Khantipalo who himself became a Dzogchen practitioner later on. She has taught material straight out of Suttas many times.

Sure, but when there is a conflict, the general tendency is to assume that the Mahāyāna position supersedes the Nikāya/Āgama position. Some sūtras give explicit sanction of this (e.g. Saṃdhinirmocana Sūtra). And I suspect that the use of Nikāya/Āgama scriptures among Mahāyāna traditions is more common in the West than in Āsia (so we're really talking about a small subset of world-wide Buddhism here).
"Delighting in existence, O monks, are gods and men; they are attached to existence, they revel in existence. When the Dhamma for the cessation of existence is being preached to them, their minds do not leap towards it, do not get pleased with it, do not get settled in it, do not find confidence in it. That is how, monks, some lag behind."
- It. p 43
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Re: Why Theravada?

Postby Dan74 » Fri Oct 04, 2013 12:42 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
Dan74 wrote:When we say "Buddha Dhamma is perfect" are we equating Buddha Dhamma with Theravada Dhamma?


Or with a particular school of Theravada? I hope not. ;)


Indeed! Or the school of no schools, which is just one man's interpretation. But in fact, this is what we all do, isn't it? We all filter the bits of Buddhadhamma we are exposed to through our personality and kamma and construct a path through that. Hopefully there is enough of Dhamma in that to help us towards liberation and our teachers and kalyana mittas will hopefully set us straight when we stray.

The danger is when we erect yet another castle of the self around it - my Buddhism is the right one. This is just more sakkaya ditthi - personality view, reification, attachment, delusion.

That's why the Buddha exhorted us to use the raft rather than making a fetish of it.
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Re: Why Theravada?

Postby kc2dpt » Fri Oct 04, 2013 12:46 pm

This thread started out as asking "why Theravada". People have been giving their honest answers. This last day or so of posts, however, seems to include some people getting defensive about some of those answers and arguing the efficacy of non-Theravada schools. This would seem to me a] off-topic and b] taking this thread down a contentious path I have seen far too often.

If I ask you why you prefer chocolate to vanilla and you answer honestly, I think it would then be a bit rude of me to then lecture you about why you should like vanilla as well.


Looking back at the initial post, I'm starting to wonder at the motivation of this thread. I do hope the intent was not simply to tell us Theravadins how deluded and close-minded we are. That would be rude indeed.
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Re: Why Theravada?

Postby Dan74 » Fri Oct 04, 2013 12:56 pm

Peter, I don't think you are being fair.

Up until the point when Kusala posted that Venerable's video, people have been expressing their opinions. But once there is a public statement by a Venerable who dismisses an entire Buddhist tradition as having no taste of liberation, then I think there is value in speaking up. You may not be interested in the content, but things like these should not go unanswered. Besides it is even against the ToS, I believe.

As for preferences, we all have them. But there is a world of difference between saying "I don't really get X" or "X doesn't appeal to me" and "X is crap". Or am I being pedantic?
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Re: Why Theravada?

Postby daverupa » Fri Oct 04, 2013 1:36 pm

Dan74 wrote:As for preferences, we all have them. But there is a world of difference between saying "I don't really get X" or "X doesn't appeal to me" and "X is crap". Or am I being pedantic?


I don't think it's pedantic since those are actual distinctions, but it's something of a false dichotomy. There is a certain nuance to being confused that I want to address:

If I say that the Lotus Sutra is not Buddhavacana, historically and according to the best of modern scholarship, I'm being accurate. Quite literally, the Buddha did not say it. It utterly confuses me how people can treat this as historically valid Buddhavacana, just as it utterly confuses me how Mormonism can be treated as historically valid Jesus-vacana.

Now, we are likely thinking of the passage that says something along the lines of, whatever is well-spoken is Buddhavacana. There was a reference to this before in terms of 'whatever helps attentuate greed, hate, and delusion', and so forth.

But notice what's happening here: the Nikayas, which are the very source for (1) talk about greed, hate, and delusion and how to end them, are being used to define the normative Buddhist goal, and then the Nikayas are used to claim that (2) whatever is well-spoken is Buddhavacana, and with this use of the Nikayas the next step is to set these Nikayas aside in order to study (3) poetic words of disciples.

It's as though, of three (1-3) Nikaya passages pertinent to this modern situation, only two are used (if at all) insofar as they provide a warrant for claiming an equivalent 'skillful means' for whatever Sutra is their favorite flavor, while the warning about sham dhamma is ignored (to say nothing of Mahayana claims to real completion of, better fulfillment of, or improvement upon the Dhamma).

It's quite illegitimate to use the Nikayas to hoist a Buddhist flag, and then cut down the flagpole, isn't it?
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Why Theravada?

Postby Dan74 » Fri Oct 04, 2013 1:54 pm

Hmmm....Dave, there's a few points here. First, the origin. My knowledge of the Lotus is quite sketchy, but it is a compendium of different teachings with different origins, right? Are they outright inventions, poetic works of the disciples? Are they wisdom of realized noble ones? Are they received wisdom generations after generations that purportedly had origins in Shakyamunivacana before written down? A mix of all of the above and more? I don't know. What I do know is that Buddhadhamma would indeed be a strange teaching if it said 'only listen to the Nikayas. Even though this Dhamma leads to liberation, whomsoever attains liberation, he or she should not teach, nor should you follow his or her teachings. And what is more, his or her teachings will always be inferior to my teachings.'

I might be stupid, but I have not yet arrived at a point where I am torn whether to follow the Pali Canon teachings or the conflicting Mahayana teachings. I found different methods and approaches, different attitudes to practice and different positions on some very lofty matters but nothing that had me skewered on the horns of a dilemma vis-a-vis my practice right here and now. But then again, this is just me. As far as I discern the teachings I had received in Mahayana and the teachings I have read and heard in Theravada, have one goal - liberation of all sentient beings from greed, hatred and delusion.
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Re: Why Theravada?

Postby Aloka » Fri Oct 04, 2013 2:07 pm

daverupa wrote:
If I say that the Lotus Sutra is not Buddhavacana, historically and according to the best of modern scholarship, I'm being accurate. Quite literally, the Buddha did not say it. It utterly confuses me how people can treat this as historically valid Buddhavacana, just as it utterly confuses me how Mormonism can be treated as historically valid Jesus-vacana.




Yes indeed, and more about that here:

"That the Lotus Sutra and other Mahayana Sutras were not spoken by the Buddha is unanimously supported by modern scholarship. I don’t know of a single academic in the last 150 years who has argued otherwise"

http://sujato.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/is-the-lotus-sutra-authentic/



:anjali:
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Re: Why Theravada?

Postby beeblebrox » Fri Oct 04, 2013 2:29 pm

kc2dpt wrote:This last day or so of posts, however, seems to include some people getting defensive about some of those answers and arguing the efficacy of non-Theravada schools.


Hi Kc2dpt,

I don't get that impression... I was more impressed by Dan74's patience with some of the posts. I think he has been showing a lot of respect in here.

I'm unable to watch the video unfortunately, since I'm deaf and it's not subtitled... so I don't really know.

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Re: Why Theravada?

Postby Hickersonia » Fri Oct 04, 2013 2:42 pm

Dan74 wrote:I might be stupid, but I have not yet arrived at a point where I am torn whether to follow the Pali Canon teachings or the conflicting Mahayana teachings. I found different methods and approaches, different attitudes to practice and different positions on some very lofty matters but nothing that had me skewered on the horns of a dilemma vis-a-vis my practice right here and now. But then again, this is just me. As far as I discern the teachings I had received in Mahayana and the teachings I have read and heard in Theravada, have one goal - liberation of all sentient beings from greed, hatred and delusion.

This has been my take also, friends. I won't argue whether certain texts were directly uttered by the Buddha himself because I do not know, but I have no problem finding parity between both the Mahayana teachings and the Nikayas I have read. Different maybe, on a conventional level, but not invalid.

Be well, friends. :anjali:
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