Mahāyāna is based (I am speaking only of the philosophical aspect) on two wrong views. (i) That all our normal experience is merely appearance, behind which there lurks Reality (which it is the business of the yogin to seek out), and (ii) that what the Buddha taught was that this Reality behind appearance is the non-existence of things. We can sum this up by saying that Mahāyānists (generally speaking—and also many Theravādins) hold that the Buddha taught that things do not really exist, but only appear to, that this apparent existence is due to avijjā or ignorance.
http://nanavira.org/index.php/letters/p ... ember-1963Mahāyānists accept the Pali Suttas (at their own valuation) and then claim to go beyond them (rather as Hegelians claimed to have gone beyond Christianity, by mediation in a higher synthesis). The Mahāyānists interpret the Pali Suttas (with which they are usually not very well acquainted) to conform with their own ideas; and the trouble is that there is much in the current orthodox Theravādin interpretation of the Pali Suttas to support the Mahāyānist contention. (An English bhikkhu with Theravāda upasampadā uses these interpretations to ridicule the Theravādin claims to be different from Mahāyāna; and so long as these interpretations are allowed to be orthodox it is not easy to challenge his argument.)
I think I told you some time ago (in connexion with Huxley and chemical mysticism) that the Mahāyānist view can be summed up in two propositions, the first common to all mystics, and the second supposed to represent the Buddha's solution to the problem raised by the first.
(i) Behind the ordinary appearance of things there lies Reality, which it is the task of the Yogi to seek. Existentialist philosophers do not go as far as this: if they admit such a Reality—Jaspers, for example—they qualify it by saying that it is necessarily out of reach. See Preface (m).
(ii) Reality is the non-existence of things. In other words, things do not really exist, they only appear to do so on account of our ignorance (avijjā). (George Borrow tells of a Spanish gypsy in the last century whose grandfather held this view, so it hardly needs a Buddha to declare it. It seems to be closely allied to the Hindu notion of māyā—that all is illusion.)
Now the Pali texts say that the Buddha taught anicca/dukkha/anattā, and the average Theravādin, monk or layman, seems to take for granted that aniccatā, or impermanence, means that things are perpetually changing, that they do not remain the same for two consecutive moments. Failing to make the necessary distinctions (see PATICCASAMUPPĀDA [c]), they understand this as implying perpetual flux of everything all the time. This, of course, destroys the principle of self-identity, 'A is A'; for unless something endures unchanged for at least a certain interval of time you cannot even make the assertion 'this is A' since the word 'is' has lost its meaning. Bypassing dukkha as something we all know about, they arrive at anattā as meaning 'without self-identity'. (This is Mr. Wettimuny's theme, following Dahlke. I do not think he is aware that he is putting himself among the Mahāyānists.) Granted the premise that anicca means 'in continuous flux', this conclusion is impeccable. Unfortunately, in doing away with the principle of self-identity, you do away with things—including change, which is also a thing. This means that for the puthujjana, who does not see aniccatā, things exist, and for the arahat, who has seen aniccatā, things do not exist. Thus the Mahāyānist contention is proved.
The difficulty arises when we deal with the sekha, who is in between the two; are we to say for him that 'things partly exist and partly do not exist', or that for him 'some things exist and some do not' (in which case we seem to have Eddington and the quantum theory)? The former, no doubt, would be preferable, but what is one to make of a partly non-existent thing? And in any case we have the curious state of affairs that there is change (or impermanence) only so long as it is not seen; for in the very instant that it is seen it vanishes. (This is certainly true of avijjā—see A NOTE ON PATICCASAMUPPĀDA §24—but the vanishing of avijjā, as I understand it, leaves impermanence intact and does not interfere with the three Laws of Thought.)
Bakmoon wrote:All in all, I think that Soto Zen only has a few doctrinal issues from a Theravada perspective, and certainly in terms of actual practice, the differences aren't necessarily all that big at all.
m0rl0ck wrote:Actually, the view of reality in chan / zen seems to be summed up in the lankavatara sutra "Things are not as they seem, nor are they otherwise." Which is a long way from "nothing really exists".
As far as the hidden atta, i recently read a philosopy snippet somewhere on the net that classified theravada buddhism as one of the "ideal self" philosophies. You only need to look at my sig to see why.
m0rl0ck wrote:I see alot of criticism of mahayana buddhism on this board and much of it is qoutes from people who obviously have no idea what they are talking about and who are spreading sectarian poison imo just to make themselves look wise. If you want to know what mahayana buddhism is about you should ask a mahayana teacher. Also, mahayana buddhism is not some monolithic dogmatic belief structure. So generalizations with a view to screaming heresy are useful only if you enjoy getting worked up about nothing or are interested in putting a few philosophical notches on your gun.
Caldorian wrote:Bakmoon wrote:All in all, I think that Soto Zen only has a few doctrinal issues from a Theravada perspective, and certainly in terms of actual practice, the differences aren't necessarily all that big at all.
I agree with you, Bakmoon. And I also think that the Buddha-nature and the idea of sudden enlightenment are the biggest fields of contention between Theravāda and Zen practice.
That said, the zazen/shikantaza practice itself is pretty sound in my opinion and experience, even though I sometimes get the feeling that it represents a longer and more subtler approach than the more systematic ones. Also, I think what actually hampers many zazen practicioners (at least in my Saṅgha) is that they put very little focus on cultivating sīla and mettā.
Caldorian wrote:However, I don't know exactly what you refer to when you write "Which is a long way from 'nothing really exists'." because I don't remember anyone making this claim here. Or did I miss something?
Caldorian wrote:The problem is that the Mahāyāna schools amongst themselves have so different and sometimes contradictory ideas and definitions that it's hard to have a good intra-Mahāyāna dialogue, let alone a fruitful Theravāda-Mahāyāna dialogue.
AN 3.67: Kathavatthu Sutta wrote:Monks, it's through his way of participating in a discussion that a person can be known as fit to talk with or unfit to talk with. If a person, when asked a question, doesn't give a categorical answer to a question deserving a categorical answer, doesn't give an analytical (qualified) answer to a question deserving an analytical answer, doesn't give a counter-question to a question deserving a counter-question, doesn't put aside a question deserving to be put aside, then — that being the case — he is a person unfit to talk with. But if a person, when asked a question, gives a categorical answer to a question deserving a categorical answer, gives an analytical answer to a question deserving an analytical answer, gives a counter-question to a question deserving a counter-question, and puts aside a question deserving to be put aside, then — that being the case — he is a person fit to talk with.
MN 58: Abhaya Sutta wrote:In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.
In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.
DN 16: Maha-parinibbana Sutta wrote:I have set forth the Dhamma without making any distinction of esoteric and exoteric doctrine; there is nothing, Ananda, with regard to the teachings that the Tathagata holds to the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back.
AN 7.51: Avyakata Sutta wrote:Because of the cessation of views, monk, uncertainty doesn't arise in an instructed disciple of the noble ones over the undeclared issues. The view-standpoint, 'The Tathagata exists after death,' the view-standpoint, 'The Tathagata doesn't exist after death,' the view-standpoint, 'The Tathagata both does and doesn't exist after death,' the view-standpoint, 'The Tathagata neither does nor doesn't exist after death': The uninstructed run-of-the-mill person doesn't discern view, doesn't discern the origination of view, doesn't discern the cessation of view, doesn't discern the path of practice leading to the cessation of view, and so for him that view grows.
MN 63: Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta wrote:So, Malunkyaputta, remember what is undeclared by me as undeclared, and what is declared by me as declared. And what is undeclared by me? 'The cosmos is eternal,' is undeclared by me. 'The cosmos is not eternal,' is undeclared by me. 'The cosmos is finite'... 'The cosmos is infinite'... 'The soul & the body are the same'... 'The soul is one thing and the body another'... 'After death a Tathagata exists'... 'After death a Tathagata does not exist'... 'After death a Tathagata both exists & does not exist'... 'After death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist,' is undeclared by me.
And why are they undeclared by me? Because they are not connected with the goal, are not fundamental to the holy life. They do not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, calming, direct knowledge, self-awakening, Unbinding. That's why they are undeclared by me.
Wikipedia wrote:According to the doctrine of some Tibetan schools ... It is held that Buddhas remain in the world, able to help others ...
SN 13.8: Samudda Sutta wrote:In the same way, monks, for a disciple of the noble ones who is consummate in view, an individual who has broken through [to stream-entry], the suffering & stress that is totally ended & extinguished is far greater. That which remains in the state of having at most seven remaining lifetimes is next to nothing: it's not a hundredth, a thousandth, a one hundred-thousandth, when compared with the previous mass of suffering. That's how great the benefit is of breaking through to the Dhamma, monks. That's how great the benefit is of obtaining the Dhamma eye.
MN 61: Abhalatthika-rahulovada Sutta wrote:Rahula, whatever there is of a contemplative in anyone who feels no shame at telling a deliberate lie is tossed away just like that.
Rahula, whatever there is of a contemplative in anyone who feels no shame at telling a deliberate lie is turned upside down just like that.
Rahula, whatever there is of a contemplative in anyone who feels no shame at telling a deliberate lie is empty & hollow just like that.
Bakmoon wrote:Believe it or not, I personally don't think that the idea of sudden enlightenment is in conflict with Theravada Buddhism at all. There are many accounts of people becoming awakened suddenly by just hearing the Buddha teach, and in the Theragatha and Therigatha there are many stories of Monks and Nuns awakening as the result of some sort of surreptitious experience such as blowing out a candle. The Theravada school regards these kinds of experiences as being preceded by training, but the experience of enlightenment itself is quite often a sudden one.
Ud 5.5: Uposatha Sutta wrote:Just as the ocean has a gradual shelf, a gradual slope, a gradual inclination, with a sudden drop-off only after a long stretch; in the same way this Dhamma & Vinaya has a gradual training, a gradual performance, a gradual practice, with a penetration to gnosis only after a long stretch.
I am a bit confused about whom you are addressing with your post, m0rl0ck. Your post reads like an admonishment for something that did not occur in this thread.
Neither do I see any divisive posts in this thread, nor does it help me to ask for the opinion of Mahāyāna teachers for answering the questions I had.
culaavuso wrote:Bakmoon wrote:Believe it or not, I personally don't think that the idea of sudden enlightenment is in conflict with Theravada Buddhism at all. There are many accounts of people becoming awakened suddenly by just hearing the Buddha teach, and in the Theragatha and Therigatha there are many stories of Monks and Nuns awakening as the result of some sort of surreptitious experience such as blowing out a candle. The Theravada school regards these kinds of experiences as being preceded by training, but the experience of enlightenment itself is quite often a sudden one.Ud 5.5: Uposatha Sutta wrote:Just as the ocean has a gradual shelf, a gradual slope, a gradual inclination, with a sudden drop-off only after a long stretch; in the same way this Dhamma & Vinaya has a gradual training, a gradual performance, a gradual practice, with a penetration to gnosis only after a long stretch.
Bakmoon wrote:As I said, the path itself is indeed a gradual one, and it is necessary to work along it for a long time, but once one is accomplished in the path, realization can come spontaneously. The Uposatha Sutta is talking about the gradual nature of the path, not about realization itself. Even this sutta itself mentions a drop-off after a long stretch, indicating at least the possibility of sudden awakening.
Ud 1.10: Bāhiya Sutta wrote:I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Sāvatthī at Jeta's Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika's monastery. And on that occasion Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth was living in Suppāraka by the seashore. He was worshipped, revered, honored, venerated, and given homage — a recipient of robes, alms food, lodgings, & medicinal requisites for the sick. Then, when he was alone in seclusion, this line of thinking appeared to his awareness: "Now, of those who in this world are arahants or have entered the path of arahantship, am I one?"
Then a devatā who had once been a blood relative of Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth — compassionate, desiring his welfare, knowing with her own awareness the line of thinking that had arisen in his awareness — went to him and on arrival said to him, "You, Bāhiya, are neither an arahant nor have you entered the path of arahantship. You don't even have the practice whereby you would become an arahant or enter the path of arahantship."
Then Bāhiya, hurriedly leaving Jeta's Grove and entering Sāvatthī, saw the Blessed One going for alms in Sāvatthī — serene & inspiring serene confidence, calming, his senses at peace, his mind at peace, having attained the utmost tranquility & poise, tamed, guarded, his senses restrained, a Great One (nāga). Seeing him, he approached the Blessed One and, on reaching him, threw himself down, with his head at the Blessed One's feet, and said, "Teach me the Dhamma, O Blessed One! Teach me the Dhamma, O One-Well-Gone, that will be for my long-term welfare & bliss."
Through hearing this brief explanation of the Dhamma from the Blessed One, the mind of Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth right then and there was released from effluents through lack of clinging/sustenance. Having exhorted Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth with this brief explanation of the Dhamma, the Blessed One left.
"Monks, Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth was wise. He practiced the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma and did not pester me with issues related to the Dhamma. Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth, monks, is totally unbound."
Bakmoon wrote:I would also agree with you that the practice of Zazen is a valid method. I don't have a detailed understanding of how it is practiced (in fact, I would be extremely grateful if you could explain it in some detail) but from what I have understood of it, it seems to be quite compatible with Theravada theory and practice, and I don't think it really needs to be modified at all.
beeblebrox wrote:Ven. Nanavira seemed to make that claim (quoted in the second post), and then tried to construct his argument around it. I thought that Morlock made a good point... we can't expect a Theravadin practitioner to be familiar about what is actually involved in Mahayana, and then to say something reliable about it.
m0rl0ck wrote:My post was mostly a reaction to the nanavira qoutes above, sorry i should have made that clearer.
culaavuso wrote:Another point to consider is whether these ideas are answering skillful questions. Some of these doctrinal differences seem to stem from answering questions that the Buddha put aside.
Caldorian wrote:I really should read Thanissaro's book; is there a hardcopy version of it? (I don't really read pdfs on the computer.)