Is Hinayana a derogatory term?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Is Hinayana a derogatory term?

Postby hermitwin » Sat May 21, 2011 3:00 pm

Is Hinayana a derogatory term?
Does anyone know the meaning of hina?
hermitwin
 
Posts: 153
Joined: Fri Feb 25, 2011 11:35 pm

Re: Is Hinayana a derogatory term?

Postby Ytrog » Sat May 21, 2011 3:09 pm

Hina means "lesser". Hinayana means literally "lesser vehicle".
Suffering is asking from life what it can never give you.


mindfulness, bliss and beyond (page 8) wrote:Do not linger on the past. Do not keep carrying around coffins full of dead moments


If you see any unskillful speech (or other action) from me let me know, so I can learn from it.
User avatar
Ytrog
 
Posts: 693
Joined: Thu Sep 16, 2010 4:50 pm
Location: The Netherlands, near Arnhem

Re: Is Hinayana a derogatory term?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat May 21, 2011 3:27 pm

Hinayana is most often translated as small vehicle, lesser vehicle, little vehicle, or even solitary vehicle. While yana is appropriately translated vehicle, means of conveyance, hina, however, is poorly translated by small, lesser, little or solitary. Hina, from the Sanskrit root (discarded, forsaken) as we find it in the Sanskrit and Pali dictionaries, carries meanings of: excluded, shut out from, inferior, low, poor, miserable, vile, base, abject, contemptible, despicable, rejected, thrown away, scorned. To put it in idiomatic English, the hinayana is the "piss-poor" vehicle, or the garbage vehicle. It is hard not to see hinayana as an abusive, polemical term. Sanskrit is a rich language and there are plenty of options for small, little, solitary, or whatever that are not as negative in denotation and connotation.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19022
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am
Location: Turtle Island

Re: Is Hinayana a derogatory term?

Postby plwk » Sat May 21, 2011 3:41 pm

Does anyone know the meaning of hina?

See below...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinayana#Etymology
The word Hīnayāna is formed of hīna (हीन): "poor", "abandoned", "deficient", "defective;" and yāna (यान): "vehicle", where "vehicle" means "a way of going to enlightenment". The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary (1921–25) defines hīna in even stronger terms, with a semantic field that includes "poor, miserable; vile, base, abject, contemptible," and "despicable."

In the Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese languages, the term was translated by Kumārajīva and others as "small vehicle" (小 meaning "small", 乘 meaning "vehicle"), although earlier and more accurate translations of the term also exist. The Tibetan (theg chung) and Mongolian (Baga Holgon) terms for Hinayana also mean "small" or "lesser" vehicle.


Is Hinayana a derogatory term?

Consider below...
http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma3/theramaya.html
Between the 1st Century B.C. to the 1st Century A.D., the two terms Mahayana and Hinayana appeared in the Saddharma Pundarika Sutra or the Sutra of the Lotus of the Good Law.
About the 2nd Century A.D. Mahayana became clearly defined. Nagarjuna developed the Mahayana philosophy of Sunyata and proved that everything is Void in a small text called Madhyamika-karika. About the 4th Century, there were Asanga and Vasubandhu who wrote enormous amount of works on Mahayana. After the 1st Century AD., the Mahayanists took a definite stand and only then the terms of Mahayana and Hinayana were introduced.
We must not confuse Hinayana with Theravada because the terms are not synonymous. Theravada Buddhism went to Sri Lanka during the 3rd Century B.C. when there was no Mahayana at all. Hinayana sects developed in India and had an existence independent from the form of Buddhism existing in Sri Lanka. Today there is no Hinayana sect in existence anywhere in the world.

Therefore, in 1950 the World Fellowship of Buddhists inaugurated in Colombo unanimously decided that the term Hinayana should be dropped when referring to Buddhism existing today in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, etc.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... avada.html
One of these schools eventually gave rise to a reform movement that called itself Mahayana (the "Greater Vehicle") and that referred to the other schools disparagingly as Hinayana (the "Lesser Vehicle"). What we call Theravada today is the sole survivor of those early non-Mahayana schools. To avoid the pejorative tone implied by the terms Hinayana and Mahayana, it is common today to use more neutral language to distinguish between these two main branches of Buddhism. Because Theravada historically dominated southern Asia, it is sometimes called "Southern" Buddhism, while Mahayana, which migrated northwards from India into China, Tibet, Japan, and Korea, is known as "Northern" Buddhism.

See also:
Mahayana, Hinayana, Theravada
The myth of Hinayana
Bhikkhus, if you develop and make much this one thing,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.
What is it? It is recollecting the Enlightened One.
If this single thing is recollected and made much,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.

Anguttara-Nikaya: Ekanipata: Ekadhammapali: Pañhamavagga
VSM VMM WBB TBHT WTBT My Page
plwk
 
Posts: 1119
Joined: Mon Mar 01, 2010 5:14 am

Re: Is Hinayana a derogatory term?

Postby hermitwin » Sat May 21, 2011 3:57 pm

So, I guess we should stop using the term hina.
hermitwin
 
Posts: 153
Joined: Fri Feb 25, 2011 11:35 pm

Re: Is Hinayana a derogatory term?

Postby Tex » Sat May 21, 2011 4:21 pm

hermitwin wrote:So, I guess we should stop using the term hina.


Probably for the best. It strikes me as a divisive term and therefore Wrong Speech.

Mahayana and Theravada will always have their differences, but there's no reason to use a pejorative term as a blanket label for all practitioners of one or the other.
"The serene and peaceful mind is the true epitome of human achievement."-- Ajahn Chah, Living Dhamma

"To reach beyond fear and danger we must sharpen and widen our vision. We have to pierce through the deceptions that lull us into a comfortable complacency, to take a straight look down into the depths of our existence, without turning away uneasily or running after distractions." -- Bhikkhu Bodhi
User avatar
Tex
 
Posts: 619
Joined: Thu Jan 22, 2009 9:46 pm
Location: Austin, TX, USA

Re: Is Hinayana a derogatory term?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat May 21, 2011 4:30 pm

hermitwin wrote:So, I guess we should stop using the term hina.
The one thing that needs not to be done, in general, is using any Mahayana polemical term to characterize the Theravada.


As Reginald Ray states in his Indestructible Truth:

In fact, as we shall see presently, "Hinayana" refers to a critical but strictly limited set of views, practices, and results. The pre-Mahayana historical traditions such as the Theravada are far richer, more complex, and more profound than the definition of "Hinayana" would allow. ...The tern "Hinayana" is thus a stereotype that is useful in talking about a particular stage on the Tibetan Buddhist path, but it is really not appropriate to assume that the Tibetan definition of Hinayana identifies a venerable living tradition as the Theravada or any other historical school.." Page 240.

Along with hinayana would go shravakayana. As Red Pine states:

Shravaka means “one who hears” and originally referred to those disciples who actually heard the Buddha speak. Later, it was extended to include the members of such early sects as the Sarvastivadinds. And later still, it was used pejoratively by Mahayana Buddhists in reference to those who sought nirvana without concern for others. It should be noted, though, that this depiction of the Hinayana was a Mahayana invention and doubtlessly included a certain amount of distortion of the actual practice of those at whom it was aimed, namely monks and nuns who followed the letter and not the spirit of the Dharma. Thus, a shravaka was often described as one who merely heard the teachings of the Buddha but did not put them into practice. – The Heart Sutra, page 43.

...the earlier teachings, which Mahayanists refer to disparagingly as the Shravakayana, the Pupils Vehicle, as if its followers were mere laymen and not true shramanas, when they are being polite, and as hinayana, 'inferior vehicle,' when they wish to be rude... INDIAN BUDDHISM A.K. Warder, pg 355
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19022
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am
Location: Turtle Island

Re: Is Hinayana a derogatory term?

Postby Anders » Sat May 21, 2011 5:15 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
hermitwin wrote:So, I guess we should stop using the term hina.
The one thing that needs not to be done, in general, is using any Mahayana polemical term to characterize the Theravada.

As Reginald Ray states in his Indestructible Truth:

In fact, as we shall see presently, "Hinayana" refers to a critical but strictly limited set of views, practices, and results. The pre-Mahayana historical traditions such as the Theravada are far richer, more complex, and more profound than the definition of "Hinayana" would allow. ...The tern "Hinayana" is thus a stereotype that is useful in talking about a particular stage on the Tibetan Buddhist path, but it is really not appropriate to assume that the Tibetan definition of Hinayana identifies a venerable living tradition as the Theravada or any other historical school.." Page 240.

Along with hinayana would go shravakayana. As Red Pine states:

Shravaka means “one who hears” and originally referred to those disciples who actually heard the Buddha speak. Later, it was extended to include the members of such early sects as the Sarvastivadinds. And later still, it was used pejoratively by Mahayana Buddhists in reference to those who sought nirvana without concern for others. It should be noted, though, that this depiction of the Hinayana was a Mahayana invention and doubtlessly included a certain amount of distortion of the actual practice of those at whom it was aimed, namely monks and nuns who followed the letter and not the spirit of the Dharma. Thus, a shravaka was often described as one who merely heard the teachings of the Buddha but did not put them into practice. – The Heart Sutra, page 43.

...the earlier teachings, which Mahayanists refer to disparagingly as the Shravakayana, the Pupils Vehicle, as if its followers were mere laymen and not true shramanas, when they are being polite, and as hinayana, 'inferior vehicle,' when they wish to be rude... INDIAN BUDDHISM A.K. Warder, pg 355


Where do you draw the line? It sounds to me like you're saying no school should ever be defined except by their own definition. Which is fine in a world of "we all have our own truths and I'll stick to mine if you'll stick to yours", but it kinds ruins the prospect of intersectarian dialogue and analysis.

I don't really agree with Red Pine's assessment of Shravaka in this particular case. Early Buddhist schools use this term self-referentially themselves. It seems to me imputing a derogatory slant to it in its usage in Mahayana texts is basically by resort to the argument "of course it's derogatory. It's used by mahayanikas." As far as I can see, there is no real basis for Red Pine's analysis of the word here other than his own guesswork.

BTW, does this also mean that monks who disrobe have opted for the 'piss poor path', since 'hina' is also used to refer to this? It sounds to me like you are basically imputing the worst of intentions onto Mahayana usage and taking that as your means of interpretation. 'Hina' is an elastic word. I don't think your rendering of 'piss-poor' applies to its most common usages. At any rate, there is a linguistic philosophy argument to be made here as well (perhaps even foremost) and I don't really subscribe to the philosophy that the primary meaning of a word is necessarily its earliest meaning. Certainly, neither Tibetans nor Chinese would have understood Hinayana as 'piss poor' vehicle. Lesser? Certainly. Perjorative? Quite probable. But I do think you are guilty of overstating your case with fervour here.

As for me, as a Mahayana practitioner, I don't really use the word 'Hinayana', except when commenting on textual passages that use the word. I accept it like I accept the celebration of chain smoking in pre 90s cinema: Glossing over it, because to kick up a fuzz over it now and demand retroactive censorship is a waste of time and would frankly ruin an otherwise good movie. I do find it largely derogatory and unnecessary in our present-day religious climate however. I generally use the term 'early Buddhism' or 'early Buddhist school' to distinguish it along sectarian lines and find the appellation 'shravakayana' a proper term to distinguish the path of arhatship in contradistinction to the paths of Pratyeka-buddhahood and the Bodhisattva-yana.

Theravadins will probably want to use other terms themselves and I am fine with that. "Mainstream Buddhism" has currency among some scholars to distinguish early Buddhist schools from later Mahayana ones. But really tilt, if one were to supplant your zeal for interpretation here to the other side of the coin, we could start writing articles about triumphalist and exclusive terms like 'mainstream' implying that Mahayana is heterodox and how dare you and bla bla bla. It would be a shame to let [s]political[/s] religious correctness strangulate inter-sectarian dialogue and analysis altogether because there can't even be a whisper of implied inequality in one's comparative analysis.
User avatar
Anders
 
Posts: 97
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 10:52 pm

Re: Is Hinayana a derogatory term?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat May 21, 2011 6:31 pm

Anders Honore wrote: Where do you draw the line? It sounds to me like you're saying no school should ever be defined except by their own definition. Which is fine in a world of "we all have our own truths and I'll stick to mine if you'll stick to yours", but it kinds ruins the prospect of intersectarian dialogue and analysis.
The Mahayana does not get to define what is what about the Theravada or how the Theravada should be called, and why should we use a derogatory polemical term, or set of terms, of one school to characterize another when the other finds those terms offensive? If the Mahayana gets to call the Theravada hinayana, then the Theravada can certainly with justification call the Mahayana the Grandiose Vehicle, or worse. What ruins the prospects of inter-sectarian dialogue is the insistence that such categories as Mahayana/hinayana have any sort of objective reality and can be meaningfully applied to schools that find being called such offensive.

I don't really agree with Red Pine's assessment of Shravaka in this particular case. Early Buddhist schools use this term self-referentially themselves. It seems to me imputing a derogatory slant to it in its usage in Mahayana texts is basically by resort to the argument "of course it's derogatory. It's used by mahayanikas." As far as I can see, there is no real basis for Red Pine's analysis of the word here other than his own guesswork.
Red Pine and A.K. Warder are quite correct in their assessment, given that the Mahayana have shifted the meaning of Sharavaka significantly to make it coincide with the ugly word hinayana:

In the Mahayana sutra, the Asokadattavyakarana Sutra, Asokadatta, a 12 year old princess who refused to stand and make obeisance to (hinayana/shravaka) monks when they entered the palace, said to her father: ”Your Majesty, why should one who follows the path leading to supreme enlightenment, who is like the lion, king of beasts, salute those who follow the Hinayana, who are like jackals?

Your Majesty, if one is already engaged in a virtuous effort to seek the great, pure path, should he associate with S'raavakas of small and few good roots?

Your Majesty, if a person wishes to go to sea of great wisdom to seek thorough knowledge of the great Dharma in its entirety, does he bother to turn to S'raavakas, whose knowledge, based upon the Buddha's oral teachings, is as limited as the water in a cow's hoof print?

Your Majesty, if one wishes top reach Buddhahood, [the spiritual] Mount Sumeru, and acquire the infinite body of a Tathaagata, should he pay homage to S'raavakas, who seek only as much samaadhi power as could be confined to the space of a tiny mustard seed?” [And on and on and on]
-- A Treasury of Mahayana Sutras, Garma Chang page 116

As one gray forum user said:
As Theravadins we do not have to accept the Mahayana framework when referring to the savaka. Our framework is such that the savakas are given the most exalted position as one of the three refuges. The term 'savaka sangho' is often used in the Pali text. As great as the bodhisatta may be, according to the Theravada framework, he/she is still not a noble one (ariya) like the savaka is. Strictly speaking the title savaka can only be given to the Buddha's closest disciples who have reached ariyahood. Which is also why as much as a Theravadin will give much respect to bodhisattas, a Theravadin usually does [not] take refuge in a bodhisatta. -- astroboy
In other words, like any number of commonly held terms among the Mahayana and the Theravada, the meanings are not the same.

BTW, does this also mean that monks who disrobe have opted for the 'piss poor path', since 'hina' is also used to refer to this? It sounds to me like you are basically imputing the worst of intentions onto Mahayana usage and taking that as your means of interpretation.
That is a gambit, to euphemize the word hina, Namdrol tried on the gray forum, ignoring what the actual texts had to say. I'll repeat my response to him there, which went unanswered:

Namdrol, in his defense of the use of the word hinayana stated:

"The point is that in Buddhist Sanskrit texts the usage of word 'hiina' was considerably wider than Theravada scholars would have us beleive-- it is even wider in their own texts than they would have us beleive, as I have pointed out several times, and which has been completely ignored, since it is inconvientient [i.e. the term hiina being used to describe those who have given up their ordination]. "

What he is pointing to is the use of the Pali words, hinaya avattati/hinay'avatta, that refer to those who have gone from being monks to being layman again. It seems that Namdrol, in advocating a fluffy-bunny reading of the term hinayana, wants us to see these two terms as supporting his reading.

Namdrol, when asked to quote a text or two to support his position that this use of hiina in these compounds was fairly benign and neutral, he simply quoted this part of the PTS entry on hina:

hinaya avattati to turn to the lower, to give up orders, return to secular life Vin I.17; S II.231; IV.191; Ud 21; A III.393 sq.; M I.460; Sn p. 92; Pug 66; hinaya vattati id. J I.276; hinay'avatta one who returns to the world M I.460, 462; S II.50; IV.103; Nd1 147.
PTS Dictionary.

And he refused to say more on the subject.

Here is the whole Pali Text Society Dictionary’s entry on hina:

Hina (p. 732) [pp. of jahati] 1. inferior, low; poor, miserable; vile, base, abject, contemptible, despicable Vin I.10; D I.82, 98; S II.154 (hinan dhatun paticca uppajjati hina sanna); III.47; IV.88, 309 (citta h. duggata); D III.106, 111 sq., 215 (dhatu); A II.154; III.349 sq.; V.59 sq.; Sn 799, 903 sq.; Nd1 48, 103, 107, 146; J II.6; Pv IV.127 (opp. panita); Vv 2413 (=lamaka VvA 116); Dhs 1025; DhsA 45; Miln 288; Vism 13; DhA III.163. -- Often opposed to ukkattha (exalted, decent, noble), e. g. Vin IV.6; J I.20, 22; III.218; VbhA 410; or in graduated sequence hina (>majjhima)>panita (i. e. low, medium, excellent), e. g. Vism 11, 85 sq., 424, 473. See majjhima. -- 2. deprived of, wanting, lacking Sn 725= It 106 (ceto--vimutti°); Pug 35. -- hinaya avattati to turn to the lower, to give up orders, return to secular life Vin I.17; S II.231; IV.191; Ud 21; A III.393 sq.; M I.460; Sn p. 92; Pug 66; hinaya vattati id. J I.276; hinay'avatta one who returns to the world M I.460, 462; S II.50; IV.103; Nd1 147.
nn--adhimutta having low inclinations J III.87; Pug 26; °ika id. S II.157; It 70. --kaya inferior assembly VvA 298 (here meaning Yamaloka); PvA 5. --jacca lowborn, low--caste J II.5; III.452; V.19, 257. --vada one whose doctrine is defective Sn 827; Nd1 167. --viriya lacking in energy It 116; DhA I.75; II.260. (The texts in bold are quoted below.)

The nice thing is that the PTS Dictionary gives us a number of texts were the words in question are used. Given Namdrol's comments and insistence that the use of "hiina" in this context is fairly neutral, it is obvious that Namdrol did not bother to look up the passages referenced in the dictionary. Given that I don't have the complete Pali Canon at hand in translation, I'll given translations of the texts I have on hand and add a couple more beyond what the PTS has listed.

hinaya avattati/hinay'avatta:

SN II. 231: He sees women there lightly clad or lightly attired and lust invades his mind; invaded by lust he gives up the training and returns to the hiina life.

SN IV.191: When a bhikkhu is conducting himself thus and dwelling thus [with mindfulness well-developed], kings or royal ministers, friends or colleagues, relatives or kinsmen, might invite him to accept wealth, saying: 'Come, good man, why let these saffron robes weigh you down? Why roam around with a shaven head and a begging bowl? Come, having returned to the lower life, enjoy wealth and do meritorious deeds.' Indeed, bhikkhus, when conducting self thus and dwelling thus [with mindfulness well-developed], it is impossible the he will give up the training and return to the hiina life.

Ud 21: Thus have I heard. At one time the Lord was staying near Savatthi in the Jeta Wood at Anathapindika's monastery. On that occasion the Venerable Nanda, the Lord's (half-) brother, the son of his maternal aunt, informed a number of bhikkhus thus: "I am discontented with leading the holy life, friends. I am unable to endure the holy life. I will give up the training and return to the hiina life." ...

"But why, Nanda, are you discontented with leading the holy life?"

"On departing from home, revered sir, a Sakyan girl, the loveliest in the land, with her hair half-combed, looked up at me and said, 'May you return soon, master.' Recollecting that, revered sir, I am discontented with leading the holy life... I am unable to endure the holy life. I will give up the training and return to the hiina life."

AN III.393: This one, monks, who disavows his training, returns to the hiina life of the world.

DN iii 49: ...[he] does not approve of such harming, ... he does not crave for sensual pleasure ... Through this restraint, through making this his austerity, he takes an upward course and does not fall back into hiina things [hinaya avattati].

M I.459-460-1: In the same manner four fears should be expected by a person leaving the household to become a homeless. What four?. The fear of waves, fear of crocodiles, fear of whirlpools and fear of alligators. …

When I was a householder, I advised others, here I have to abide by the advice of those who are like my sons and grand sons. Then he gives up robes and returns to the hiina life, out of fear for waves, it is said. Bhikkhus, fear of waves is a synonym for anger and aversion.

...

Then it occurs to him, when I was a householder, I too partook these five strands of sensual pleasures, possessed and provided. I have wealth in my clan, to enjoy these sensual pleasures. I could do merit, too. Then he gives up robes and becomes a layman. He gives up robes and returns to the hiina life out of fear for whirlpools, it is said. Bhikkhus, fear for whirlpool is a synonym for, the five strands of sensual pleasures.

SN II 271:Drunk with the intoxication of youth, a monk leaves the training and returns to the hiina life.

Sn p 92: What if I were to return to the hiina life and enjoy sensual pleasures?

SN IV. 103: "Friend Sariputta, a bhikkhu who was my co-resident has given up the training and returned to the hiina life." "So it is, friend, when one does not guard the doors of the sense faculties, is immoderate in eating, and is not devoted to wakefulness."

These texts are what Namdrol would have found had he made the effort to read the texts referenced by the PTS Dictionary. Now, the question of what does hiina mean in these contexts.

From the opening lines of the Buddha's TURNING OF THE WHEEL DISCOURSE, SN v 420:

"Monks, these two extremes ought not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the household life. (What are the two?) There is addiction to indulgence of sense-pleasures, which is hiina, coarse, vulgar, ignoble, and leads to no good; and there is devotion to self-torment, which is painful, ignoble and leads to no good.”

When there is a string of words such as this in the Pali texts, they are understood as being synonyms, or at least carrying overlapping meanings. Hiina is seen here in decidedly negative terms, particularly in the context of sense pleasures. All of the reference I could find to in the "hiina" compounds hinaya avattati/hinay'avatta are in terms of monks leaving the order for less than noble reasons, and often for sense pleasures, which is to say, he leaves the monastic training for hiina, inferior, vulgar, coarse, ignoble reasons.

In the contexts of these two words, hinaya avattati/hinay'avatta, leaving the order is an "hiina” action, an inferior, degraded, action. These terms, hinaya avattati/hinay'avatta, are not, as Namdrol has suggested, benignly neutral, but are rather pointed and negative as is appropriate to the context. And they do not support the fluffy-bunny reading of hinayana that Namdrol and some others here would have us believe is appropriate to the word hinayana as they try to tag the Theravada with it.

Tilt, who prefers lean, sleek bunnies
.


'Hina' is an elastic word. I don't think your rendering of 'piss-poor' applies to its most common usages.
It maybe "elastic," but it is decidedly negative, not only in it is definition, but also in its usage in Sanskrit and Pali.

At any rate, there is a linguistic philosophy argument to be made here as well (perhaps even foremost) and I don't really subscribe to the philosophy that the primary meaning of a word is necessarily its earliest meaning. Certainly, neither Tibetans nor Chinese would have understood Hinayana as 'piss poor' vehicle. Lesser? Certainly. Perjorative? Quite probable. But I do think you are guilty of overstating your case with fervour here.
The Tibetans and Chinese clearly euphemized, soft-peddled, the obvious dysphemism hinyana.

As for me, as a Mahayana practitioner, I don't really use the word 'Hinayana', except when commenting on textual passages that use the word.
The term hinayana has its place solely within the context of the Mahayana. The problem is when it gets applied outside that context.

But really tilt, if one were to supplant your zeal for interpretation here to the other side of the coin, we could start writing articles about triumphalist and exclusive terms like 'mainstream' implying that Mahayana is heterodox and how dare you and bla bla bla.
You could, but the reality is that for most of the history of Indian Buddhism the Mahayana was a minority movement, and at times an almost invisible minority movement, or collection of small movements. “Mainstream Buddhism” is used in that context of Indian Buddhist history. That deprives your argument of any teeth. The reality is that the Mahayana schools more than any of the other Buddhist schools has stuck us with an us-versus-them-ism, which needs to be seen clearly for what it is.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19022
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am
Location: Turtle Island

Re: Is Hinayana a derogatory term?

Postby Jason » Sat May 21, 2011 7:27 pm

hermitwin wrote:Is Hinayana a derogatory term?
Does anyone know the meaning of hina?


It depends on the context, but it can be extremely derogatory, especially when it's applied to Theravada. The Pali/Sankrit term hina basically means 'low' or 'inferior,' but those translations doesn't really do it justice. The entry for hina in the Pali Text Society's Pali-English dictionary gives a fuller range of its meaning: inferior, low; poor, miserable; vile, base, abject, contemptible, despicable. Whatever the definition, it should be clear that the connotation is extremely negative; and while one translation for hinayana is 'lower vehicle,' an equally valid translation is 'garbage vehicle.'

That said, I don't have problems with it describing a difference in attitude or motivation, as in the 'three turnings of the wheel.' Even though I more or less disregard the the other two and just stick with the first — believing it be as close as we can come to what the Buddha himself taught — I understand how others who do see them as a natural progression: i.e., Theravada leading to nibbana, the path of the arahant (who many in Mahayana believe are awoken from their 'samadhi of cessation' by a buddha and continue to practice towards buddhahood); Mahayana leading to becoming a buddha, the path of the bodhisattva; Vajrayana a fast-track to becoming a buddha, the path of the super-duper bodhisattva.
Last edited by Jason on Sat May 21, 2011 10:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

leaves in the hand (Buddhist-related blog)
leaves in the forest (non-Buddhist related blog)
User avatar
Jason
 
Posts: 462
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 1:09 am
Location: Earth

Re: Is Hinayana a derogatory term?

Postby Anders » Sat May 21, 2011 10:19 pm

tiltbillings wrote:The Mahayana does not get to define what is what about the Theravada or how the Theravada should be called, and why should we use a derogatory polemical term, or set of terms, of one school to characterize another when the other finds those terms offensive? If the Mahayana gets to call the Theravada hinayana, then the Theravada can certainly with justification call the Mahayana the Grandiose Vehicle, or worse. What ruins the prospects of inter-sectarian dialogue is the insistence that such categories as Mahayana/hinayana have any sort of objective reality and can be meaningfully applied to schools that find being called such offensive.


That is not really what I argued for though.

Red Pine and A.K. Warder are quite correct in their assessment, given that the Mahayana have shifted the meaning of Sharavaka significantly to make it coincide with the ugly word hinayana:


So basically, "of course it's derogatory. It's used by mahayanikas."

'Sravaka' coincides with 'Arhat' as 'Shravakayana' does with 'Hinayana'. Shvravaka and Arhat are both terms with no derogatory self-referential use among early Buddhism. Would you have us wash our mouth with soap whenever the dirty word 'arhat' is used by a Mahayanika as well?

In the Mahayana sutra, the Asokadattavyakarana Sutra, Asokadatta, a 12 year old princess who refused to stand and make obeisance to (hinayana/shravaka) monks when they entered the palace, said to her father: ”Your Majesty, why should one who follows the path leading to supreme enlightenment, who is like the lion, king of beasts, salute those who follow the Hinayana, who are like jackals?

Your Majesty, if one is already engaged in a virtuous effort to seek the great, pure path, should he associate with S'raavakas of small and few good roots?

Your Majesty, if a person wishes to go to sea of great wisdom to seek thorough knowledge of the great Dharma in its entirety, does he bother to turn to S'raavakas, whose knowledge, based upon the Buddha's oral teachings, is as limited as the water in a cow's hoof print?

Your Majesty, if one wishes top reach Buddhahood, [the spiritual] Mount Sumeru, and acquire the infinite body of a Tathaagata, should he pay homage to S'raavakas, who seek only as much samaadhi power as could be confined to the space of a tiny mustard seed?” [And on and on and on] -- A Treasury of Mahayana Sutras, Garma Chang page 116


Really, you keep trouncing out this quote from a sutra that has never caught on in its treatment of the subject and truthfully, I don't think you have any interest in presenting a balanced account of its usage as much as you have in finding the worst possible cases and then using this as the baseline for what mahayana supposedly really feels about this. But one sutra does not define Mahayana. On the contrary. Do you see Mahayana commentators picking up on this jackal theme? No. So why do you, when the Panditas who represent the Mahayana did not think it's worth picking up on. Such a sensationalist hermeneutic approach to this topic is neither fair, balanced nor representative.

It maybe "elastic," but it is decidedly negative, not only in it is definition, but also in its usage in Sanskrit and Pali.


I don't disagree. Nevertheless, I think you are prone to hyperbole in your interpretation. 'poor show' and 'f*** shit show' are both negative too. I dare say they are not equivalent.

You could, but the reality is that for most of the history of Indian Buddhism the Mahayana was a minority movement, and at times an almost invisible minority movement, or collection of small movements. “Mainstream Buddhism” is used in that context of Indian Buddhist history. That deprives your argument of any teeth.


Is this where I am supposed to say stuff like 'but the reality is also that Buddhahood is superior to arhatship?' and take us on the merry go round? The factual basis of such coinage are less relevant compared to the polemical aims of its usage, wouldn't you say? That is after all the point of this issue.

But my point is, I don't mind the usage of 'mainstream buddhism' and I don't really mind the potential polemical implications either. As polemical terms go, it's fairly mild. What I am rather arguing is that I don't see the point of taking issue with terms like Shravakayana either, which are decidedly milder than a word like 'Hinayana'.

The reality is that the Mahayana schools more than any of the other Buddhist schools has stuck us with an us-versus-them-ism, which needs to be seen clearly for what it is.


this -ism was widespread in Indian Buddhism as a whole.
User avatar
Anders
 
Posts: 97
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 10:52 pm

Re: Is Hinayana a derogatory term?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun May 22, 2011 12:27 am

Anders Honore wrote:
Red Pine and A.K. Warder are quite correct in their assessment, given that the Mahayana have shifted the meaning of Sharavaka significantly to make it coincide with the ugly word hinayana:


So basically, "of course it's derogatory. It's used by mahayanikas."
That is your attempted spin on this as a way of trying to dismiss what is being said rather than actually engaging the argument. The question is why would one choose to use a word -- hina -- that is used in extremely negative way throughout the canon and throughout Sanskrit literature, if not to make a strongly graphic point? Hinayana is a very negative word. Is it and its polemical baggage appropriate to the Theravada? Is that what you are saying?

'
Sravaka' coincides with 'Arhat' as 'Shravakayana' does with 'Hinayana'. Shvravaka and Arhat are both terms with no derogatory self-referential use among early Buddhism. Would you have us wash our mouth with soap whenever the dirty word 'arhat' is used by a Mahayanika as well?
And we see the idea of the arhat devalued considerably by the Mahayanists, to the point that arhats have attained to a delusory attainment from which they must wake up and continue on the bodhisattva path. In other words the teachings found in the Pali Canon are a lie when it is said that the arahant’s awakening is full complete and final. As Red Pine and A.K. Wader neatly and accurately point out, Shravakayana is a lesser, hinayana path.

Really, you keep trouncing out this quote from a sutra that has never caught on in its treatment of the subject and truthfully, I don't think you have any interest in presenting a balanced account of its usage as much as you have in finding the worst possible cases and then using this as the baseline for what mahayana supposedly really feels about this. But one sutra does not define Mahayana.
That quote graphically illustrates the point. Certainly, Mahayana sutras and texts are an extremely uneven collection of opinions about things non-Mahayana, but the generally accepted notion that get codified in the various texts of the various systems state that the arhat path is a lesser goal for those of lesser intelligence and lesser abilities, and that the arhat's nirvana is not a real goal in the sense that the arhat is deluded in thinking that he has attained final, full complete liberation, which is, of course, a significant shift from the very earliest Mahayana texts such as the Ugra Sutra.

On the contrary. Do you see Mahayana commentators picking up on this jackal theme? No. So why do you, when the Panditas who represent the Mahayana did not think it's worth picking up on. Such a sensationalist hermeneutic approach to this topic is neither fair, balanced nor representative.
No jackal, but we certainly see Mahayanists continually using the words hinayana/shravakayana and continually applying the Mahayana polemic against the hinayana to the Theravada as if it were accurate.

It maybe "elastic," but it is decidedly negative, not only in it is definition, but also in its usage in Sanskrit and Pali.


I don't disagree. Nevertheless, I think you are prone to hyperbole in your interpretation. 'poor show' and 'f*** shit show' are both negative too. I dare say they are not equivalent.
While you may want the fluffy bunny interpretation of hinayana, one simply has to ask why the Mahayana authors chose such a negative term. It is also interesting to note that it is with that term, and the attitude that goes with calling others such an ugly name that the Mahayana shifts into an us-versus-them-ism, which was absent in such very early Mahayana sutras as the Ugra.

But my point is, I don't mind the usage of 'mainstream buddhism' and I don't really mind the potential polemical implications either. As polemical terms go, it's fairly mild. What I am rather arguing is that I don't see the point of taking issue with terms like Shravakayana either, which are decidedly milder than a word like 'Hinayana'.
But why should any Mahayana polemical term be used given the baggage they carry in reference to the Theravada, which does not accurately characterize the Theravada. The Mahayana, in whatever guise, is not the arbiter of all things Buddhist. What are you arguing for? The right to call the Theravada Shravakayana? No one can stop you from doing that, but certainly objections can be and should be raised in response to such usage, given the inappropriate baggage that such a word carries. Theravada is not the Mahayana Shravakayana; it is not hinayana. Are you arguing that it is?

You say you are not, but you are obviously trying to argue for a "mild" reading of the word hinayana. It is not a mild word. It is meant to be shocking. Why deny it?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19022
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am
Location: Turtle Island

Re: Is Hinayana a derogatory term?

Postby Monkey Mind » Sun May 22, 2011 12:32 am

Follow-up question: I participate in "pan-Buddhist" or non-sectarian Buddhist discussion groups, both in the real world and on the Internet. Occasionally someone will use the term "Hinayana", and swear up and down that the term is not derogatory. Any advise about what to do with these situations?
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710
User avatar
Monkey Mind
 
Posts: 536
Joined: Sat Dec 05, 2009 8:56 pm
Location: Pacific Northwest, USA

Re: Is Hinayana a derogatory term?

Postby daverupa » Sun May 22, 2011 12:39 am

Monkey Mind wrote:Follow-up question: I participate in "pan-Buddhist" or non-sectarian Buddhist discussion groups, both in the real world and on the Internet. Occasionally someone will use the term "Hinayana", and swear up and down that the term is not derogatory. Any advise about what to do with these situations?


Offer this:
According to Jan Nattier, it is most likely that the term Hīnayāna post-dates the term Mahāyāna, and was only added at a later date due to antagonism and conflict between bodhisattvas and śrāvakas. The sequence of terms then began with Bodhisattvayāna, which was given the epithet Mahāyāna ("Great Vehicle"). It was only later, after attitudes toward the bodhisattvas and their teachings had become more critical, that the term Hīnayāna was created as a back-formation, contrasting with the already-established term Mahāyāna.


So already a claim to supremacy, then the derogatory term developed afterwards.
    "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]
User avatar
daverupa
 
Posts: 4025
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: Is Hinayana a derogatory term?

Postby Jason » Sun May 22, 2011 12:43 am

Monkey Mind wrote:Follow-up question: I participate in "pan-Buddhist" or non-sectarian Buddhist discussion groups, both in the real world and on the Internet. Occasionally someone will use the term "Hinayana", and swear up and down that the term is not derogatory. Any advise about what to do with these situations?


My advice would be to either note that it can be derogatory in certain contexts or simply ignore the comment altogether and just let it go. It's just a word, after all.
Last edited by Jason on Sun May 22, 2011 12:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

leaves in the hand (Buddhist-related blog)
leaves in the forest (non-Buddhist related blog)
User avatar
Jason
 
Posts: 462
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 1:09 am
Location: Earth

Re: Is Hinayana a derogatory term?

Postby retrofuturist » Sun May 22, 2011 12:44 am

Greetings MM,

Monkey Mind wrote:Follow-up question: I participate in "pan-Buddhist" or non-sectarian Buddhist discussion groups, both in the real world and on the Internet. Occasionally someone will use the term "Hinayana", and swear up and down that the term is not derogatory. Any advise about what to do with these situations?

"Maybe not to you... but if it's understood to be offensive to a lot of Buddhists, why would you use it? You don't want to cause offense where none is intended do you?"

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


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14609
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Is Hinayana a derogatory term?

Postby plwk » Sun May 22, 2011 1:59 am

Follow-up question: I participate in "pan-Buddhist" or non-sectarian Buddhist discussion groups, both in the real world and on the Internet. Occasionally someone will use the term "Hinayana", and swear up and down that the term is not derogatory. Any advise about what to do with these situations?
Education with a dose of metta...
Bhikkhus, if you develop and make much this one thing,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.
What is it? It is recollecting the Enlightened One.
If this single thing is recollected and made much,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.

Anguttara-Nikaya: Ekanipata: Ekadhammapali: Pañhamavagga
VSM VMM WBB TBHT WTBT My Page
plwk
 
Posts: 1119
Joined: Mon Mar 01, 2010 5:14 am

Re: Is Hinayana a derogatory term?

Postby icyteru » Sun May 22, 2011 2:13 am

now the term hinayana is rarely used.
The most complete english tipitaka on the internet world. http://realtruthlife.blogspot.com .
User avatar
icyteru
 
Posts: 98
Joined: Sun May 22, 2011 1:11 am

Re: Is Hinayana a derogatory term?

Postby alan » Sun May 22, 2011 3:11 am

I love tilt's passion on this argument and support him completely.
Notice he took no easy shots on Mahayana but kept the discussion clean. Well done.
alan
 
Posts: 2476
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:14 am
Location: Miramar beach, Fl.

Re: Is Hinayana a derogatory term?

Postby Monkey Mind » Sun May 22, 2011 4:32 am

:anjali: thank you for the feedback. The usual responses I get when I educate are: "My guru says that Hinayana is not offensive" or "In such-and-such sutra it says to respect the Hinayana, so it must be okay." So much for polite consideration.
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710
User avatar
Monkey Mind
 
Posts: 536
Joined: Sat Dec 05, 2009 8:56 pm
Location: Pacific Northwest, USA

Next

Return to General Theravāda discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Nicolas and 21 guests