Theravada Motivation

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Theravada Motivation

Postby Sherab » Wed Jan 05, 2011 12:21 am

Goofaholix wrote:
Sherab wrote:Agree. That is why the motivation that one has for practising the Dharma AND the quality of that motivation is key.
Yes, and how many times one says an aspirational paryer and whether it is compulsory is not a guarentee that the motivation will be any better than when no prayers are said or they are optional, motivation comes from the heart not from ritual, a wise heart will have the right motivation.

Agree. As I see it, the purpose of making it compulsory is twofold: (1) so that the practitioner will always strive to generate that motivation (2) as a reminder to the practitioner to check whether he/she truly has that motivation or is it still something contrived.
Goofaholix wrote:[
Sherab wrote:I was trying to confirm whether Theravada's motivation for the practice of the Dhamma is something that is up to each individual.
Of course, otherwise we'd be a brainwashing cult wouldn't we.

Wisdom sees that what benefits the individual benefits others, and vis versa. You can wish others well until the cows come home but if you really want to benefit others the starting point is to purify ones own mind so that your interactions with others are not tainted with greed, aversion, and delusion.

Making a big show about benefiting others only serves to strengethen the distinction between self and others I think, wheras wisdom sees there is no seperation and that what benefits the individual benefits all and vis versa.

Compulsory does not equate to brainwashing, ie. bringing horse to water etc.
Compulsory also does not equate to making a big show - the practice is private.
The motivation that I was referring to is not just merely wishing. There are two aspects to it - aspirational and actually doing it, ie. actually benefiting. The latter of course is only truly possible when one's own mind is no longer tainted with greed, aversion and delusion.
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Re: Theravada Motivation

Postby Aloka » Wed Jan 05, 2011 12:47 am

Sherab wrote: Compulsory does not equate to brainwashing, ie. bringing horse to water etc.
Compulsory also does not equate to making a big show - the practice is private.


I'm not so sure about that, having listened to this kind of thing about the superiority of Mahayana motivation at open teachings in the past:

The other key aspect that separates Mahayana from Hinayana is motivation. The Hinayana practitioner feels the pain of samsara and says, "I can't take it anymore. What can I do about it?" And having understood what samsara is, we can all sympathize with the Hinayana practitioner. It is a worthy approach. We are not belittling it.

But the Mahayana practitioner takes a much more radical approach. The Mahayana practitioner wakes up one morning and realizes, "Sentient beings from endless time have been roaming in samsara." Here, we not only understand the pain of samsara and how we have been involved in it; we are also able to see what samsara is doing to all sentient beings.

The person who has this motivation is called "the great bodhisattva," the warrior with the mind of enlightenment. Why? Because that person has transcended their own painful experience of samsara and has woken up to how all sentient beings are suffering.

Mahayana practitioners are inspired not just by the idea of forsaking their own enlightenment so they can help others; they actually drop what they are doing so they can go help somebody else on the spot. When they see somebody who is hungry, they want to take the food they are about to eat and give it to them. The other person's hunger is overwhelming, their sense of compassion overcomes them, and they want to give their own food away.

http://shambhala-europe.org/index.php?id=1423




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Last edited by Aloka on Wed Jan 05, 2011 1:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Theravada Motivation

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Jan 05, 2011 12:51 am

Sherab wrote:Agree. As I see it, the purpose of making it compulsory is twofold: (1) so that the practitioner will always strive to generate that motivation (2) as a reminder to the practitioner to check whether he/she truly has that motivation or is it still something contrived.
...
Compulsory does not equate to brainwashing, ie. bringing horse to water etc.
Compulsory also does not equate to making a big show - the practice is private.
The motivation that I was referring to is not just merely wishing. There are two aspects to it - aspirational and actually doing it, ie. actually benefiting. The latter of course is only truly possible when one's own mind is no longer tainted with greed, aversion and delusion.


If that's the case then as far as I can tell there is no difference between the Mahayana and Theravada motivations in this regard. Except the former recognises that we can easily forget and need to be reminded on a regular basis what the motivation should be until it sinks in I guess, which is probably a good thing as long as it doesn't become another object of attachment.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Theravada Motivation

Postby Nibbida » Wed Jan 05, 2011 12:09 pm

Sherab wrote:I was trying to confirm whether Theravada's motivation for the practice of the Dhamma is something that is up to each individual.

Thus far, it seemed to me that in Theravada, it does not matter if one chooses solely to practise for one's benefit or for the benefit of others or for both, whereas in the tradition that I follow, the motivation itself determines the type of "path" one treads.

That said, I hear you all and I guess we should just leave it as that.


Just for context, I consider myself a non-sectarian practitioner. I am most familiar with the Theravada literature and meditation methods, but I also draw inspiration equally from Vajrayana and Zen.

We also have to take into account the historical and cultural contexts. This distinction in Theravada vs Mahayana might have been more relevant in the past when the split occurred in India. Historians are not sure exactly why the split occurred and all we have is speculation in retrospect. Mahayana and Theravada are not monolithic entities that are clearly and exactly defined in some rule book. There's nowhere in the Theravada literature that says "Go for the end goal and screw everyone else!" Mahayana places relatively greater verbal emphasis on compassion, placing wisdom and compassion on equal importance, but of course that doesn't mean they're lacking in wisdom. I've practiced among Theravada and Mahayana groups and I can detect no differences in compassion (or wisdom) among them, either in terms of teachers or practitioners. But I'm also living in the United States in the 21st century, where most meditators have been heavily exposed to Tibetan, Zen, and Theravada teachings. We really don't know what it was like when the split happened. Now, even if we are more familiar with one over the other, or favor one over the other, Buddhism in the contemporary West is not what it was in India when the Early schools, Mahayana, and Vajrayana splits happened. These practices in the West are not even what they are in Asia now. They are not static entities (nothing is, since all is emptiness), but influenced by the cultural mindsets of the people who practice them.

The Mahayana heavier emphasis on compassion for others is a very skillful strategy since it can guard against subtleties of self-centeredness creeping in and striving for the end goal (rather than focusing on the current process). So I can see the benefit of the Tibetan practice of making this a frequent reminder in one's practice. I've also found that the Mahayana ways of conveying emptiness (Zen, Cittamatra, Madhyamaka) go beyond and complement what is taught in Theravada. The contemplative/analytical style of vipashyana has been very useful in developing my practice. I've even learned some tantric techniques and find those to be very useful.

But this is my inclination. Sectarianism, to me, seems like clinging to views. Whether one sticks within a single tradition or benefits from the variety is one's choice. But I can see no other way than admiration for all the vehicles for their unique contributions.
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Re: Theravada Motivation

Postby Sherab » Thu Jan 06, 2011 12:11 am

Hi Aloka,

I would say that proselytising is public, but practice to me is always private as it is an inner development.

Aloka wrote:
Sherab wrote:Compulsory also does not equate to making a big show - the practice is private.


I'm not so sure about that, having listened to this kind of thing about the superiority of Mahayana motivation at open teachings in the past:

The other key aspect that separates Mahayana from Hinayana is motivation. The Hinayana practitioner feels the pain of samsara and says, "I can't take it anymore. What can I do about it?" And having understood what samsara is, we can all sympathize with the Hinayana practitioner. It is a worthy approach. We are not belittling it.

But the Mahayana practitioner takes a much more radical approach. The Mahayana practitioner wakes up one morning and realizes, "Sentient beings from endless time have been roaming in samsara." Here, we not only understand the pain of samsara and how we have been involved in it; we are also able to see what samsara is doing to all sentient beings.

The person who has this motivation is called "the great bodhisattva," the warrior with the mind of enlightenment. Why? Because that person has transcended their own painful experience of samsara and has woken up to how all sentient beings are suffering.

Mahayana practitioners are inspired not just by the idea of forsaking their own enlightenment so they can help others; they actually drop what they are doing so they can go help somebody else on the spot. When they see somebody who is hungry, they want to take the food they are about to eat and give it to them. The other person's hunger is overwhelming, their sense of compassion overcomes them, and they want to give their own food away.

http://shambhala-europe.org/index.php?id=1423




:anjali:
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Re: Theravada Motivation

Postby Sherab » Thu Jan 06, 2011 12:19 am

Hi Nibbida,

Appreciate your post.

While compassion is necessary for the generation of the motivation to benefit others, having compassion does not necessarily leads to that motivation. In other words, compassion is a necessary but not sufficient to cause one to generate the motivation to have the practice of Dharma for the benefit of others as one's goal.

Btw, this discussion is going off topic, so I'll stop here.
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Re: Theravada Motivation

Postby Reductor » Thu Jan 06, 2011 12:59 am

Well Tilt, I would need a much, much greater familiarity with the Pali canon before I could add anything of note to your original post. It is very good.

Sadhu! Sadhu! :anjali:

I would ask those reading this to remember this thread as they study the canon, so that they might post relevant material when they happen upon it. Thanks.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Theravada Motivation

Postby Terasi » Sun Jan 09, 2011 2:39 am

Hearing the claims that Theravadin practice is selfish in nature etc etc (and reading a particular book about problems in Theravada tradition), I've got to admit that some questions arose in my mind as to whether by treading this path I am more or less training myself to be even more self-centered. But what OP wrote in the first post has lessen my doubts significantly, so thank you very much for the excellent post.

I'd love to put some nice suttas or practices up there and contribute to the topic, unfortunately I don't have the knowledge, so this is just an appreciation.

Off topic: I notice that there are so many experts here, and quite a tendency to over-analyse things. Being correct, precise, and wise is good, but often good threads degrade into nit-picking feast. That's quite a waste of the good intention that many posters had in mind when they open a new thread that potentially could develop into a stimulating and interesting discussion of Dhamma. Maybe I am being rude, sorry if it is so.
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Re: Theravada Motivation

Postby alan » Sun Jan 09, 2011 3:59 am

Stimulating and interesting discussions hinge upon a wise, precise, and correct view of the subject. Getting to the essential point often involves an analysis of the question.
Good intentions don't always translate into a useful post or topic. Not to be a nit-picker, but you might want to take a look at how you define good intentions. Dumb, silly, and altogether unverifiable claims sometimes are offered with all good intent. The only way to cut through that is to demand a standard of proof. It's not over-analyzing. It's just plain old logic.
Hope this is useful to you Terasi.
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