Do you find Hinayana offensive?

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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Dec 16, 2009 7:09 am

Paññāsikhara wrote: Unfortunately, Warder only reads Sanskrit texts, and as we know quite well, now, the Sanskrit texts that we have now were developed upon over centuries.
In defense of Warder, whose book, INDIAN BUDDHISM I rather like, his statement, from the time of Shantideva initial attempts at systematizing Indian Mahayana onwards, is really not out of line. Certainly when we look at the very early bodhisattva texts as the Ugra we see something quite different.

The problem, however, is not so much with the early history of these things; rather, it is with how these terms are presently used, particularly by Western converts.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Dec 16, 2009 7:12 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
The term "mainstream (Buddhism)" has become my own standard term, too. I recommend it to others to use as well.

Mainstream Buddhism is appropriate when discussing Indian Buddhism, given the minority status of the various Mahayana manifestations throughout most of Buddhism's tenure in India.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Dec 16, 2009 7:14 am

Hi Sam,
:twothumbsup: thanks!

SamKR wrote:
Manapa wrote:hi 5heeps
hina doesn't just mean lesser
hīna : [pp. of hāyati] diminished; dwindled; wasted away. (adj.), low; inferior; base; despicable.

although I would be interested on what hina means in Nepali & modern Indian if it is different?


In Nepali, "hin" or "hina" has very negative meaning. If someone says to me "you are 'hin' " I feel very offended, it hurts my feeling very much.
The meaning of "hina" you gave above (hīna : [pp. of hāyati] diminished; dwindled; wasted away. (adj.), low; inferior; base; despicable.) is the same in Nepali, Sanskrit, and Hindi (a major language of Northern Part of India today).
A related word "hinata" means condition of being inferior. And another related word "hinatabodh" means inferiority complex.

I don't want to or need to go inside the depth of dictionary meaning to decide whether I should avoid using the term "Hinayana". Even if this term had any positive meaning in the past I would not use it because the words "hina" or "hinayana" are so unpleasant to my ear I just don't want to hear them. I wonder why some people (especially some scholars in the west) still use the term to refer to a major tradition. It should have been avoided long ago.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Dec 16, 2009 7:34 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:I think that one reason is this - what other term does one use for non-Mahayana traditions?

why not what they call themselves?

The term "mainstream (Buddhism)" has become my own standard term, too. I recommend it to others to use as well.

that would be place/group specific wouldn't it? say mainstream Buddhism here it automatically refers to Theravada, say it anywhere else mainstream refers to the majority group, or group the forum is about!
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Wed Dec 16, 2009 7:47 am

Manapa wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:I think that one reason is this - what other term does one use for non-Mahayana traditions?

why not what they call themselves?


Because then one would have to say either "Buddhists" - but the Mahayanists are Buddhists, too, so it doesn't make the necessarily distinction; or say "Theravadins-Sarvastivadins-Vatsiputriyas-Mahisasakas-Dharmaguptas-Kasyapiyas-Bahusrutiyas-Aparasailiyas-Purvasailiyas-Prajnaptivadins-Lokottaravadins" all the time, and that is a huge mouthful!

Unless you have some other term we could use? :)

Maybe you are just thinking of "Theravadins", but my point is, the two categories of "Theravadins" and "Mahayanists" does not exhaust all of the Buddhists, there are still a heck of a lot more. How do we refer to all the non-Mahayanists?

The term "mainstream (Buddhism)" has become my own standard term, too. I recommend it to others to use as well.


that would be place/group specific wouldn't it? say mainstream Buddhism here it automatically refers to Theravada, say it anywhere else mainstream refers to the majority group, or group the forum is about!


I am not sure what you mean by "here", on DhammaWheel Forum?

As Tilt has pointed out, for most of Buddhist history up until maybe the Pala period, after which Buddhism went into decline in India, all the non-Mahayana groups were the "majority". Hence, it is an appropriate term in general.

If the place had some particular school, out of the many non-Mahayana schools, as it's majority, then in that case, one could just use the name of the school. eg. the Sarvastivada in Kasmir / Gandhara, the Theravada in Sri Lanka.
But I am referring to Indian Buddhism in general. Hence, not one single school with it's "own name".
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Dec 16, 2009 8:25 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:Because then one would have to say either "Buddhists" - but the Mahayanists are Buddhists, too, so it doesn't make the necessarily distinction; or say "Theravadins-Sarvastivadins-Vatsiputriyas-Mahisasakas-Dharmaguptas-Kasyapiyas-Bahusrutiyas-Aparasailiyas-Purvasailiyas-Prajnaptivadins-Lokottaravadins" all the time, and that is a huge mouthful!

Unless you have some other term we could use? :)

Maybe you are just thinking of "Theravadins", but my point is, the two categories of "Theravadins" and "Mahayanists" does not exhaust all of the Buddhists, there are still a heck of a lot more. How do we refer to all the non-Mahayanists?


Mahayana is an umbrella term itself for several different schools, if one is being referred to specifically then that name is used! other possibility for non-Mahayana schools could be early Buddhist schools.

that would be place/group specific wouldn't it? say mainstream Buddhism here it automatically refers to Theravada, say it anywhere else mainstream refers to the majority group, or group the forum is about!


I am not sure what you mean by "here", on DhammaWheel Forum?


Here or anywhere, mainstream indicates the norm, the main current of accepted thought or behaviour, and majority, but would always be within a context when referring to something, and would change when in a time and place. at one time Sri Lanka was a mahayana country, so the context or mainstream would change when refering to the history of Buddhism there, and be confusing when it is so closely related to Theravada today.

As Tilt has pointed out, for most of Buddhist history up until maybe the Pala period, after which Buddhism went into decline in India, all the non-Mahayana groups were the "majority". Hence, it is an appropriate term in general.

If the place had some particular school, out of the many non-Mahayana schools, as it's majority, then in that case, one could just use the name of the school. eg. the Sarvastivada in Kasmir / Gandhara, the Theravada in Sri Lanka.

But I am referring to Indian Buddhism in general. Hence, not one single school with it's "own name".

in context of history that would be correct, but we don't always talk in the historical context. mahayana being a term which can be used in both present and historical context and understood accurately, and 100 years after the Buddha there started being recognisably different schools so mainstream would be different even in the pre-schism period to after the splits.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Wed Dec 16, 2009 8:56 am

Good points.

The whole "hinayana" vs "mahayana" argument came up at an historical point in time, so I (and quite a few others) thought that "mainstream" was appropriate for the non-Mahayana groups at that time. As you say, that may not work all the time. How are we do deal with this now?

Also, some of those schools are no "earlier" than the Mahayana (eg. a lot of Theravada theory - the "teachings of the Elders" is about co-temporal with the start of the Mahayana), so "early Buddhist schools" won't work either.

So, having rejected "hinayana" (obviously!) and "mainstream" as terms to describe non-Mahayana groups as a whole, do you have any other terms that will work? I think that this is an important question. If we are keen to drop the nasty terms as long gone history, how are we to proceed in the present?
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:05 am

I might be underthinking this, but what's wrong with the term 'non-mahayana'?
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:37 am

Mawkish1983 wrote:I might be underthinking this, but what's wrong with the term 'non-mahayana'?


hmmmm, well, then do all the other schools, which during the real boom-time of Buddhism in India were the majority, get to be defined merely in terms of what they are not?

eg. for Americans, could we get away with calling the Democrats (etc.) (at present) simply the "non-Republicans"? :rolleye:

"Welcome to Dhamma Wheel: A Buddhist discussion forum on the Dhamma of the non-Mahayana!"

Okay, okay, I'm just being silly now. Time to shut up for a bit!
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby catmoon » Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:43 am

SamKR wrote: the words "hina" or "hinayana" are so unpleasant to my ear I just don't want to hear them.


well here's an odd thing. I have always found the word "hinayana" to be exceptionally beautiful in sound. It is rhythmic, soft and lofty.

Or is it? Certainly if you feel the way you do, that proves my perception is far from universal. So where is this beauty found? What are it's causes?


In any event, the CONTENT of the word, the thing it refers to, is pretty awful so I'm avoiding it anyhow.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Wed Dec 16, 2009 1:38 pm

Paññāsikhara wrote:do all the other schools ... get to be defined merely in terms of what they are not?

But isn't that exactly what we're doing? If we're talking about all schools that are not mahayana then non-mahayana is the obvious choice of word. All sensitivities aside, the Theravada isn't the only non-mahayana school and this forum is for Theravada, not non-mahayana. If we are to discuss the Theravada we'll call it Theravada. If we're to discuss all schools that are not mahayana then why not call them non-mahayana schools? I don't see the problem.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Wed Dec 16, 2009 1:42 pm

Paññāsikhara wrote:eg. for Americans, could we get away with calling the Democrats (etc.) (at present) simply the "non-Republicans"?

... and third party candidates. The comparison doesn't really work because American politics is not binary but of course the Democrats are included in the non-republican umbrella, as are other third party and independent groups. In the case of discussing all traditions defined as being 'not mahayana' the term 'non-mahayana' is the only one I can see that makes sense.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Wed Dec 16, 2009 1:56 pm

I wonder if 'amahayanayana' would be prefered? Or if non-mahayana schools want to 'sound better' how about 'sammamahayana'? <shrugs> I don't think I like either names! :)

edit: Isn't 'Northern schools' normally used for mahayana schools and 'Southern schools' used for non-mahayana schools already? I don't know, I give up. This all seems a little pointless anyway :)
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby adeh » Wed Dec 16, 2009 4:18 pm

I think "Theravada" sounds just fine....and we should keep on insisting that the other traditions use it and stop using the term "hinayana".
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby SamKR » Wed Dec 16, 2009 4:24 pm

catmoon wrote:
SamKR wrote: the words "hina" or "hinayana" are so unpleasant to my ear I just don't want to hear them.


well here's an odd thing. I have always found the word "hinayana" to be exceptionally beautiful in sound. It is rhythmic, soft and lofty.

Or is it? Certainly if you feel the way you do, that proves my perception is far from universal. So where is this beauty found? What are it's causes?

In any event, the CONTENT of the word, the thing it refers to, is pretty awful so I'm avoiding it anyhow.


For me it is unpleasant to hear because of its meaning (or "the content of the word, the thing it refers to") not because of any particular sound rhythm it produces.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Dec 16, 2009 4:28 pm

Paññāsikhara wrote:Good points.

The whole "hinayana" vs "mahayana" argument came up at an historical point in time, so I (and quite a few others) thought that "mainstream" was appropriate for the non-Mahayana groups at that time. As you say, that may not work all the time. How are we do deal with this now?

Also, some of those schools are no "earlier" than the Mahayana (eg. a lot of Theravada theory - the "teachings of the Elders" is about co-temporal with the start of the Mahayana), so "early Buddhist schools" won't work either.

So, having rejected "hinayana" (obviously!) and "mainstream" as terms to describe non-Mahayana groups as a whole, do you have any other terms that will work? I think that this is an important question. If we are keen to drop the nasty terms as long gone history, how are we to proceed in the present?


Early Thera Schools (All the schools on this side of the original split plus less likely to be confused with theravada as an existing school) & Mahasanghika (talking about the extinct group from the first split whos teachings line still exists in mahayana but vinaya line is gone) or early buddhist schools (general for all schools before Mahayana & Vajrayana).
the theories of any particular school would need that school to be named specifically so not really a reason not to use early Buddhist schools in a general way.
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"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby LauraJ » Wed Dec 16, 2009 4:55 pm

adeh wrote:I think "Theravada" sounds just fine....and we should keep on insisting that the other traditions use it and stop using the term "hinayana".


If someone has to be repeatedly told, I wonder what's up with that :thinking:
It's a simple thing to avoid a pejorative term. Or so I thought.

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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Dec 16, 2009 8:01 pm

Hi adeh,
adeh wrote:I think "Theravada" sounds just fine....and we should keep on insisting that the other traditions use it and stop using the term "hinayana".

Obviously, if someone is actually talking about Theravada.

However, the key point that Paññāsikhara has made many times is that it is misleading to use the term "Theravada" for pre-Theravada Buddhism, or to use it as a collective label for the numerous (non-Mahayana) schools that existed alongside it. There were significant doctrinal differences, some of which are presented in the Theravada Canon and make interesting reading...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/abhi/index.html
V. Kathavatthu ("Points of Controversy").
Another odd inclusion in the Abhidhamma, this book contains questions and answers that were compiled by Moggaliputta Tissa in the 3rd century BCE, in order to help clarify points of controversy that existed between the various "Hinayana" schools of Buddhism at the time.
English translations:
* Points of Controversy, translated from the Pali by S.Z. Aung and C.A.F. Rhys Davids (Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1915).

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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby adeh » Wed Dec 16, 2009 8:17 pm

I was only talking about Theravada.....if you are talking about the other now non-existent groups then they should be referred to by their particular names....
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Dec 16, 2009 8:27 pm

Hi adeh,
adeh wrote:I was only talking about Theravada.....

In that case "Theravada" is fine. :anjali:

However, "Theravada" often seems to be used as a synonym for all early and/or non-Mahayana Buddhism, or for "Buddhism based on early Suttas/Sutras", etc...

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