The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Goofaholix » Tue May 25, 2010 10:00 am

jcsuperstar wrote:i'm not sure why anyone would say that, as all dhammas are anatta. however it is my own view that knowing whether or not the fridge really exists or not really has nothing to do with my liberation


Unless you are seeking liberation from hunger.

As you say it's what is relevant to liberation that is important, understanding what I take to be me and mine is not self and empty of a separate thingness is what is important. Understanding that the dog and the carrot and the fridge are also not self and empty of a separate thingness goes without saying and I'd have thought was obvious to most people, well maybe not so much in the case of the dog.

I've read posts where people have said that Theravada teaches the emptiness of self only whereas Mahayana teaches the emptiness of phenomena also and they've never made sense to me.
"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
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Ben » Tue May 25, 2010 1:04 pm

Hi Shonin,
Shonin wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Shonin wrote:What does Theravada say about "the illusion of all phenomenal existence" ?
One thing that is clearly said is the all dhammas are empty of any sort of self existing thingness.


Well, that's what I thought. And this is what Mahayana teaches too. Ideas about it being illusion are not universally regarded as useful in Mahayana.

I recall debating with at least one Theravadin who insisted that Anatta did not mean "all dhammas are empty of any sort of self existing thingness" (and thus that it meant the same as Sunyata as I was arguing) and that rather it only implied that 'I' don't have self-existing thingness, that no phenomena are me, mine etc. Yet it seems hard to see the notion that I don't have self-existing thingness, while my dog and the carrot in the fridge do, as a coherent philosophy.


My experience has been that not everyone has the same understanding. Someone misunderstands something and the ideas based on that misunderstanding, if left unchallenged, becomes the basis of what that person thinks is the theravadin pov.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Shonin » Tue May 25, 2010 1:17 pm

Ben wrote:My experience has been that not everyone has the same understanding. Someone misunderstands something and the ideas based on that misunderstanding, if left unchallenged, becomes the basis of what that person thinks is the theravadin pov.


So, the interpretation that 'all phenomena lack essential thing-ness' is more-or-less orthodox Theravada? It's interesting that this common point of contention between Mahayana and Theravada seems to be based on misunderstanding - since they both teach the same thing here albeit emphasising different terminology.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Dan74 » Tue May 25, 2010 1:19 pm

PeterB wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Dexing wrote:. . .Anyway, hope this helps clarify the position.
What it does clarify is that Mahayana really does not understand or address the Theravada. What you have presented is the usual Mahayana polemic against the supposed hinayana, a straw man construct.

Actually I finnd Dexing's post refreshingly honest. What he is saying indeed shows all the triumphalism and assumption of superiority that is prevelant in the Mahayana. even if it is not universal.
The reality though is if one spends time in Mahayana circles that type of view is far more typical than the views of a small proportion of those Mahayana students who join a Theravada Forum. That is the real thing in its natural state. It is absolutely the default view in the Vajrayana, as it is in some Zen circles.


I can't imagine any teacher in any tradition spending more than two seconds of the introductory talk on this subject (but I may be wrong!).

Whether or not the teacher believes that their tradition is superior to the Sravakas and those of the Lesser Vehicle, it just doesn't get anyone very far along this superior tradition if one only keeps dwelling on this supposed superiority.

That's why regardless of whether these views are held (and I am sure they are held by some Mahayana teachers) I don't see how they could be important either to the teacher or to Mr and Mrs Average who have just come for their induction and totally oblivious to the fact that they had wandered into the Greater Vehicle.

I don't think the said teacher would have many people coming back if he (or she) kept carrying on how superior they tradition was.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby PeterB » Tue May 25, 2010 1:32 pm

Shonin wrote:
Ben wrote:My experience has been that not everyone has the same understanding. Someone misunderstands something and the ideas based on that misunderstanding, if left unchallenged, becomes the basis of what that person thinks is the theravadin pov.


So, the interpretation that 'all phenomena lack essential thing-ness' is more-or-less orthodox Theravada? It's interesting that this common point of contention between Mahayana and Theravada seems to be based on misunderstanding - since they both teach the same thing here albeit emphasising different terminology.

I think that this only covers part of the issue.
The real core issue comes from the extrapolations around " Buddhadhatu.."
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Shonin » Tue May 25, 2010 1:36 pm

PeterB wrote:I think that this only covers part of the issue.
The real core issue comes from the extrapolations around " Buddhadhatu.."


I acknowledge that there may be extrapolations in that direction in some traditions as well, but this wasn't this point of contention I was referring to.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby PeterB » Tue May 25, 2010 1:42 pm

I can't imagine any teacher in any tradition spending more than two seconds of the introductory talk on this subject (but I may be wrong!).

Whether or not the teacher believes that their tradition is superior to the Sravakas and those of the Lesser Vehicle, it just doesn't get anyone very far along this superior tradition if one only keeps dwelling on this supposed superiority.

That's why regardless of whether these views are held (and I am sure they are held by some Mahayana teachers) I don't see how they could be important either to the teacher or to Mr and Mrs Average who have just come for their induction and totally oblivious to the fact that they had wandered into the Greater Vehicle.

I don't think the said teacher would have many people coming back if he (or she) kept carrying on how superior they tradition was.


You can imagine what you like Dan74.
I was part of a Vajrayana sangha for rather more than 20 years and direct or indirect references to the Hinayana which was equated with the Theravada ,were a common theme , usually to distingush that approach from The View, which was the Tantric, non dual view.
So it would take the form of "this is the Hinayana ( or Theravada, the terms were used interchangably ) ) view, but the Vajrayana view is ..."
You can either accept my account as being a straight forward one, or you can reject it and decide that I must have my own reasons for distorting my experience..take your pick. I truly dont care one way or the other.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby tiltbillings » Tue May 25, 2010 1:43 pm

Dan74 wrote: I can't imagine any teacher in any tradition spending more than two seconds of the introductory talk on this subject (but I may be wrong!).
Spoken like someone who really has not spent anytime with hardcore Tibetan Buddhist traditionalists.

Whether or not the teacher believes that their tradition is superior to the Sravakas and those of the Lesser Vehicle, it just doesn't get anyone very far along this superior tradition if one only keeps dwelling on this supposed superiority.

That's why regardless of whether these views are held (and I am sure they are held by some Mahayana teachers) I don't see how they could be important either to the teacher or to Mr and Mrs Average who have just come for their induction and totally oblivious to the fact that they had wandered into the Greater Vehicle.
It is part of the path structure and having right view about the path structure is necessary for right practice and right realization.
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.

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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby PeterB » Tue May 25, 2010 1:45 pm

Shonin wrote:
PeterB wrote:I think that this only covers part of the issue.
The real core issue comes from the extrapolations around " Buddhadhatu.."


I acknowledge that there may be extrapolations in that direction in some traditions as well, but this wasn't this point of contention I was referring to.

Certainly we are free to leave that elephant in the corner of the room unpoked.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby tiltbillings » Tue May 25, 2010 1:48 pm

PeterB wrote:
Shonin wrote:
Ben wrote:My experience has been that not everyone has the same understanding. Someone misunderstands something and the ideas based on that misunderstanding, if left unchallenged, becomes the basis of what that person thinks is the theravadin pov.


So, the interpretation that 'all phenomena lack essential thing-ness' is more-or-less orthodox Theravada? It's interesting that this common point of contention between Mahayana and Theravada seems to be based on misunderstanding - since they both teach the same thing here albeit emphasising different terminology.

I think that this only covers part of the issue.
The real core issue comes from the extrapolations around " Buddhadhatu.."

Would you be kind enough to expand on this, as to what you mean by this, please?
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
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby PeterB » Tue May 25, 2010 1:51 pm

Briefly .we can agree a form of words that says something along the lines of " all phenomena lack essential thingness "
But it counts for little if one party in the agreement then adds " except Buddhanature".
You see I think the Buddha meant it. It was totally radical. He did not offer a half way house. It was frighteningly radical.
Later developments could be seen as a failure of nerve in the face of such an uncompromising and unflinching view.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Shonin » Tue May 25, 2010 2:07 pm

PeterB wrote:Certainly we are free to leave that elephant in the corner of the room unpoked.


Yes, although I'll add that I understand it may feel like an elephant in the room for you, with your background, but for me it's a non-issue. Such metaphysical ideas have never played a role in my Zen practice. There are aspects I like about Tibetan Buddhism - the emphasis on compassion for example, but there are aspects that personally I wouldn't touch with a ten foot Vajra.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Shonin » Tue May 25, 2010 2:09 pm

PeterB wrote:But it counts for little if one party in the agreement then adds " except Buddhanature".


Are you sure this is the orthodox Tibetan position. I thought they were influenced by Nagarjuna. Nagarjuna made the exact opposite point repeatedly.

I suspect we're going off-road a little here.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby PeterB » Tue May 25, 2010 2:16 pm

Tell me more about the "exact opposite point " Shonin.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Shonin » Tue May 25, 2010 2:41 pm

It was clumsy to say he holds the opposite view. To say that something ultimately exists or is non-existent is to see it as non-empty, ie. that it is inherently like so or inherently non-existent. Nagarjuna avoids holding any such ontological views about either phenomena or Buddha/Nirvana. The emptiness of Buddha/Nirvana is also expressed as it's non-separation from phenomena/samsara (if it was non-empty it would be permanent and absolutely separate). Here are some snippets.

22:16
What is the nature of the thus-gone one (the Buddha), that is the nature of the world.
The thus-gone one is devoid of nature; the world is devoid of nature...

24:18, 24:19
Whatever is dependently co-arisen / That is explained to be emptiness.
That, being a dependent designation, / Is itself the middle way.
Something that is not dependently arisen / Such a thing does not exist.
Therefore a non-empty thing / Does not exist...

That image of nirvana in which the Buddha (Tathagata) either "is" or "is not"—
By him who so imagines nirvana the notion is crudely grasped...

The self-existence of the "fully completed" being is the self-existence of the world.
The "fully completed" being is without self-existence and the world is without self-existence...

And if nirvana is an existing thing, nirvana would be a constructed product (samskrta),
Since never ever has an existing thing been found to be a non-constructed-product (asamskrta).


Mūlamadhyamakakārikā

This also seems pertinent:

If the most commonly accepted attribution of texts (that of Christian Lindtner) holds, then he was clearly a Māhayānist, but his philosophy holds assiduously to the non-Mahāyāna canon, and while he does make explicit references to Mahāyāna texts, he is always careful to stay within the parameters set out by the canon.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagarjuna
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Aloka » Tue May 25, 2010 2:57 pm

Some comments from a Vajrayana teacher who's said to be a Nagarjuna expert:

"In the Second Turning of the Wheel," Khenpo Tsultrim explained, "the Buddha proclaimed that all phenomena from the grossest form on up to the mind of the Buddha are empty because they are not one or many, both or neither. So nothing has any essence and nothing exists. All appearances merely come about dependently through causes and conditions. Later, Nagarjuna clarified this point in his Fundamental Treatise on the Wisdom of the Middle Way in 25 chapters. People kept coming up with new reasons why things exist, so he had to keep writing new chapters refuting their belief in existence! But in the Third Turning the Buddha stated that the Buddha Nature is the essence of all beings; however, because we don't know that this nature pervades all equally, like butter existing in milk, we engage in faults, such as thinking we don't have the ability to attain enlightenment, or that some beings are superior to others.

Do the Buddha's two positions contradict each other? No. The Third Turning was presented to counteract our tendency to these faults. Nor did the Buddha posit the existence of Buddha Nature just to make us feel good. He wasn't teaching that something that doesn't exist exists. In reality, only because the Buddha Nature exists do faults represent problems. The fact that we all long for peace is the sign that we have enlightened mind, otherwise we would have no wish for peace and no aversion to suffering."


http://www.khandro.net/lama_Tsultrim_BudNature.htm


.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby PeterB » Tue May 25, 2010 3:05 pm

In reality of course what he did was to go back and drag in Atman. Dust it off, give it a new suit and name badge and send it scampering on its way..
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Shonin » Tue May 25, 2010 3:09 pm

Aloka wrote:Some comments from a Vajrayana teacher who's said to be a Nagarjuna expert:

"In the Second Turning of the Wheel," Khenpo Tsultrim explained, "the Buddha proclaimed that all phenomena from the grossest form on up to the mind of the Buddha are empty because they are not one or many, both or neither. So nothing has any essence and nothing exists. All appearances merely come about dependently through causes and conditions. Later, Nagarjuna clarified this point in his Fundamental Treatise on the Wisdom of the Middle Way in 25 chapters. People kept coming up with new reasons why things exist, so he had to keep writing new chapters refuting their belief in existence! But in the Third Turning the Buddha stated that the Buddha Nature is the essence of all beings; however, because we don't know that this nature pervades all equally, like butter existing in milk, we engage in faults, such as thinking we don't have the ability to attain enlightenment, or that some beings are superior to others.

Do the Buddha's two positions contradict each other? No. The Third Turning was presented to counteract our tendency to these faults. Nor did the Buddha posit the existence of Buddha Nature just to make us feel good. He wasn't teaching that something that doesn't exist exists. In reality, only because the Buddha Nature exists do faults represent problems. The fact that we all long for peace is the sign that we have enlightened mind, otherwise we would have no wish for peace and no aversion to suffering."


He attributes this doctrine to the Third Turning of the Wheel (Vajrayana) not to Nagarjuna. So that is a revision of what both Buddha originally taught and how Nagarjuna commented on his teachings - a revision which looks very much like a kind of Atman-view.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby Shonin » Tue May 25, 2010 3:09 pm

PeterB wrote:In reality of course what he did was to go back and drag in Atman. Dust it off, give it a new suit and name badge and send it scampering on its way..


Where did Nagarjuna do this? Give me some quotes.

Or rather, was this what later Vajrayanas (is that a word?) did (as described above)?
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada

Postby PeterB » Tue May 25, 2010 3:16 pm

To Japan Tibet and China.. :smile:
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