Other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas

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Other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas

Postby theravada_guy » Mon Jul 12, 2010 1:43 am

Greetings all,

This is my first post in awhile. I've been wondering, is there anything the Buddha ever said that would disprove the existence of other contemporary Buddhas, like the Medicine Buddha and Amitabha Buddha? And Bodhisattvas like Chenrezig, etc.? I know there's Maitreya and the Buddha's that preceded Gautama Buddha. For me, it's practically impossible to believe in the Buddhas/Bodhisattvas of Mahayana tradition. I'm in no way trying to put Mahayana down. I'm just stating my personal difficulty in believing that, and curious what the Pali Canon says, if anything.

On a side note, how many Buddhas were there before our Buddha? How many will there be after Maitreya is born and passes into Nibbana?

I'm asking on here because there are folks on this forum with a lot more knowledge of the Pali Canon than I have. And, again, I'm not bashing Mahayana.

Thanks for any help!
With metta,

Justin
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Re: Other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jul 12, 2010 1:53 am

Greetings Theravada Guy,

theravada_guy wrote:...curious what the Pali Canon says, if anything.


There are a list of 6 or 7 previous Buddhas (the list gets expanded somewhat in the commentarial tradition to 100ish?) mentioned in the Pali Canon itself, as well as Metteyya. Those you mention in your post don't get a mention. Combine that with how the Buddha himself defined a Buddha vis-a-vis an Arahant (i.e. rediscovering and following the path) and vis-a-vis a Silent Buddha (i.e. actually teaching the Dhamma and forming a dispensation) and with the fact the Buddha's dispensation is still active, I see many reasons to be sceptical of the Mahayana menagerie of Buddhas and bodhisattvas.

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


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Re: Other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas

Postby theravada_guy » Mon Jul 12, 2010 2:08 am

Greetings retro,

I'm skeptical of them myself, as previously stated. Especially when I looked more into the Vajrayana tradition. I started running into a lot of Hindu influences and I just thought to myself "The Buddha didn't talk about any of this stuff. He never mentioned anything about Tantra and secret things. He laid it all out for everyone to see and decide for themselves. Thanks retro, for your reply.
With metta,

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Re: Other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas

Postby Goedert » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:43 am

Friend,

Tibetan Vajrayana has hindu practice with buddhist principles.

The dhyana (MEDITATIONAL) buddhas of Vajrayana:

Varjrasattva;
Akshobya;
Amitaba;
Amoghasiddhi;
Ratnasambhava.

Everyone one of this buddhas represent a quality of the Buddha mind.

So when the vajrayanas pratice it, they Visualize the Buddha or the Bodhisattva (Manjushri, Cherenzig, etc.) and read the saddhana liturgy and repeat mantras.

Thats theyre way to develop concentration and the mental qualitys without the need of analyzing anything abstract as our Theravada. Thats why it is the indestructible vehicle.

Padmasambhava was a Shivaist before becoming a buddhist, there is many similaratis with the rites, but the essence of them is buddhism, for sure. It is impossible to know if Gautama Sakyamuni really gave those teachings, but there is nothing like it described in Pali Canon and among the monks. Actually this teaching really work.

If you want to know more about the the mental qualities that this buddhas bring up for the practioner see:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Dhyani_Buddhas
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Re: Other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas

Postby cooran » Mon Jul 12, 2010 8:03 am

Hello theravada_guy,

This is a little complicated:

1. Buddha
A generic name, an appellative - but not a proper name - given to one who has attained Enlightenment (na mātarā katam, na pitarā katam – vimokkhantikam etam buddhānam bhagavantānam bodhiyā mūle ... paññatti, MNid.458; Ps.i.174) a man superior to all other beings, human and divine, by his knowledge of the Truth (Dhamma).

The texts mention two kinds of Buddha: viz.,
Pacceka Buddhas - i.e., Buddhas who also attain to complete Enlightenment but do not preach the way of deliverance to the world; and
Sammāsambuddhas, who are omniscient and are teachers of Nibbāna (Satthāro).

The Commentaries, however (e.g., SA.i.20; AA.i.65) make mention of four classes of Buddha:
Sabaññu-Buddhā
Pacceka Buddhā
Catusacca Buddhā
Suta Buddhā

All arahants (khīnāsavā) are called Catusacca Buddhā and all learned men Bahussuta Buddhā. A Pacceka Buddha practises the ten perfections (pāramitā) for two asankheyyas and one hundred thousand kappas, a Sabbañu Buddha practises it for one hundred thousand kappas and four or eight or sixteen asankheyyas, as the case may be (see below).
VERY LONG ARTICLE (See Link immediately below)
http://www.palikanon.com/english/pali_n ... buddha.htm

with metta
Chris
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Re: Other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas

Postby PeterB » Mon Jul 12, 2010 12:14 pm

I think that it is inescapable fact that most of the Buddhas spoken about in the Mahayana are adaptations of Vedic deities. The link between Padmasambhava and Shiva is clear. Tara and Ganesha are identical in both Vajrayana and " Hinduism" ...Vajrayana students deny this and come up with elaborate explanations ...for example the "real" Buddhist Ganesha replaced the Hindu one by an act of subterfuge..The fact that both have the same Bija mantram is a little harder for them to to explain.
All of the Avalokiteshvara variations clearly have their origin in Visnu. The same iconography and many of the same mantras are used.
The commonalities are few but crucial. They are Shakyamuni Buddha and Maitreya.
The rest of the Mahayana pantheon has its origin in Hinduism and preBuddhist nature religions like Bon and Shinto.
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Re: Other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas

Postby theravada_guy » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:36 pm

Greetings Peter,

I never studied the Vajrayana deities close enough to notice any similarities to Hindu deities, other than the fact I know there's lots of iconography. I never knew where to study any of Vajrayana's deities in more detail. Other, than of course, the fact I know Ganesha and Saraswati are used in their practice.

I was wondering, in Vajrayana, do they consider their deities to be real, like Gautama Buddha was real, or are they just tools for gaining enlightenment? Or, to put it this way, do they use the deities until they gain enlightenment, and then dispense with them? Or something similar? Is it the same thing with things like prayer wheels and water bowl offerings? These are things I've just wondered over the course of time, as I do have a few books on Tibetan Buddhism, but I don't really read them. And, these are beginner books, so I doubt they'd have such information.
With metta,

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Re: Other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas

Postby PeterB » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:54 pm

There is a bit of a spectrum of views Theravada Guy. Some teachers see the Deities as aspects of "Mind" and/or symbolic. Others definitely see them as having real if relative existence. One well known teacher that I asked replied "Tara is as real as you are."
In order to fully understand the Vajrayana position it would be necessary to go into the Trikaya Doctrine, which is another set of concepts not found in the Pali Canon.
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Re: Other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas

Postby Goedert » Mon Jul 12, 2010 4:16 pm

theravada_guy wrote:Greetings Peter,

I never studied the Vajrayana deities close enough to notice any similarities to Hindu deities, other than the fact I know there's lots of iconography. I never knew where to study any of Vajrayana's deities in more detail. Other, than of course, the fact I know Ganesha and Saraswati are used in their practice.

I was wondering, in Vajrayana, do they consider their deities to be real, like Gautama Buddha was real, or are they just tools for gaining enlightenment? Or, to put it this way, do they use the deities until they gain enlightenment, and then dispense with them? Or something similar? Is it the same thing with things like prayer wheels and water bowl offerings? These are things I've just wondered over the course of time, as I do have a few books on Tibetan Buddhism, but I don't really read them. And, these are beginner books, so I doubt they'd have such information.


Isabelle Onians explains:

“Tantric Buddhism” . . . is not the transcription of a native term, but a rather modern coinage, if not totally occidental. For the equivalent Sanskrit tāntrika is found, but not in Buddhist texts. Tāntrika is a term denoting someone who follows the teachings of scriptures known as Tantras, but only in Saivism, not Buddhism (although cf. the single known occurrence in a copper-plate inscription from Nālandā made in the name of the Javanese king Devapāla in the ninth century AD:, tāntrikabodhisattvaganasya; SIRCAR 1983:II .37-38; ref. provided by Sanderson). Indeed, Alexis Sanderson has noted that it is usually used of followers of another tradition, by proponents of the Trika of practitioners of the Bhairava tantras, for example, and thus with a slightly pejorative tone, unlike the simple noun tantra (personal communication). Tantric Buddhism is a name for a phenomenon which calls itself, in Sanskrit, Mantranaya, Vajrayāna, Mantrayāna or Mantramahāyāna (and apparently never Tantrayāna). Its practitioners are known as mantrins, yogis, or sādhakas. Thus, our use of the anglicised adjective “Tantric” for the Buddhist religion taught in Tantras is not native to the tradition, but is a borrowed term which serves its purpose.


Difficulties in analytical study of Vajrayana:

Serious academic study of Vajrayana is still in its early stages, because of a number of problems that make research difficult:

1. Although a large number of Tantric scriptures are extant, they have not been formally ordered or systematized.
2. Because Vajrayana was influenced by Hinduism, further research into Hinduism is necessary.
3. Ritual as well as doctrine need to be investigated.

In general, Buddhist tantric practice is categorized as secret practice, this is to avoid misuse of the practices by misinformed people. One of the methods to keep this secrecy is that tantric initiation is required from a Master before any instructions can be received about the actual practice. During the initiation procedure in the highest class of tantra (such as the Kalachakra), students must take the tantric vows which commit them to such secrecy. "Explaining general tantra theory in a scholarly manner, not sufficient for practice, is likewise not a root downfall. Nevertheless, it weakens the effectiveness of our tantric practice."


Deity yoga

Deity yoga (Tibetan: lha'i rnal 'byor; Sanskrit: Devata) is the fundamental Vajrayana practice, often involving a sadhana liturgy and form, in which practitioners visualize themselves as the meditation Buddha or yidam. The purpose of Deity yoga is to bring the meditator to the realization that the deity and the practitioner are in essence the same, and non-dual. By visualizing oneself and one's environment entirely as a projection of mind, it helps the practitioner to become familiar with the mind's ability and habit of projecting conceptual layers over all experience. This experience undermines a habitual belief that views of reality and self are solid and fixed. Deity yoga enables the practitioner to release, or 'purify' him or herself from spiritual obscurations (Sanskrit: klesha) and to practice compassion and wisdom simultaneously.

Beer (2004: p. 142) states:

Deity Yoga employs highly refined techniques of creative imagination, visualisation, and photism in order to self-identify with the divine form and qualities of a particular deity as the union of method or skilful means and wisdom. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, "In brief, the body of a Buddha is attained through meditating on it".

The realization of Deity yoga is attained as a result of pure concentration on bringing the three bodies into the path, in which the practitioner mentally generates themselves as a Tantric Deity (Sanskrit: Yidam) and their surroundings as the Deity's mandala. The purpose of doing this is to overcome ordinary appearances and conceptions which, according to Vajrayana, are the obstructions to nirvana and omniscience. Recent studies indicate that Deity yoga yields quantifiable improvements in the practitioner's ability to process visuospatial information, specifically those involved in working visuospatial memory.

Four complete purities

Four Purities (Tibetan: yongs su dag pa bzhi; yongs dag bzhi)[46] In defining Vajrayana, Yuthok et al. identify the "Four Purities" which define the principal Tantric methodology of Deity Yoga that distinguishes it from the rest of Buddhism:

Vajrayana...is a subdivision of Mahayana, which may be divided into Sutrayana and Vajrayana (or Tantrayana). Vajrayana is regarded as a swifter path and is considered superior to Sutrayana. Whereas Sutrayana focuses on the causal method, Vajrayana teaches the Resultant method [sic] because it includes the 'four purities': (1) purity of environment (2) purity of body (3) purity of resources and (4) purity of deeds.

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso explains:

Tantra is defined as an inner realization that functions to prevent ordinary appearances and conceptions and to accomplish the four complete purities... The four complete purities are the pure environment, body, enjoyments and activities of a Buddha.

Kalachakranet identifies and defines the "Four Purities" in a complementary though different fashion:

The main tantric practices can be summarised in the "Four Purities":

1. Seeing one's body as the body of the deity
2. Seeing one's environment as the pure land or mandala of the deity
3. Perceiving one's enjoyments as bliss of the deity, free from attachment
4. Performing one's actions only for the benefit of others (bodhichitta motivation, altruism)

Imagery and ritual in deity yoga: representations of the deity, such as a statues (murti), paintings (thangka), or mandala, are often employed as an aid to visualization, in Deity yoga. Mandalas are sacred enclosures, sacred architecture that house and contain the uncontainable essence of a yidam. In the book The World of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama describes mandalas thus: "This is the celestial mansion, the pure residence of the deity."

In the same context, all ritual in Vajrayana practice can be seen as aiding in this process of visualization and identification. The practitioner can use various hand implements such as a vajra, bell, hand-drum (damaru) or a ritual dagger (phurba), but also ritual hand gestures (mudras) can be made, special chanting techniques can be used, and in elaborate offering rituals or initiations, many more ritual implements and tools are used, each with an elaborate symbolic meaning to create a special environment for practice. Vajrayana has thus become a major inspiration in traditional Tibetan art.

Guru yoga

Guru yoga (or teacher practice) (Tibetan: bla ma'i rnal 'byor) is a practice that has many variations, but may be understood as a tantric devotional process whereby the practitioners unite their mindstream with the mindstream of the guru. The guru is engaged as yidam, as a nirmanakaya manifestation of a Buddha. The process of guru yoga might entail visualization of an entire lineage of masters (refuge tree) as an invocation of the lineage. It usually involves visualization of the guru above or in front of the practitioner. Guru yoga may entail a liturgy or mantra such as the Prayer in Seven Lines. (Tibetan: tshig bdun gsol 'debs)

The Guru or spiritual teacher is essential as a guide during tantric practice, as without their example, blessings and grace, genuine progress is held to be impossible for all but the most keen and gifted. Many tantric texts qualify the Three Jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha thus: "The Guru is Buddha, the Guru is Dharma, the Guru is also Sangha" to reflect their importance for the disciple. The guru is considered even more compassionate and more potent than the Buddha because we can have a direct relationship with the guru. The guru therefore appears with the yidam and dakini in the Three Roots refuge formulation of the three factors essential for tantric attainments.

Death yoga

Death yoga (or "bringing the three bodies into the path of death, intermediate state (bardo) and rebirth") is another important aspect of Tantra techniques. Although it is sometimes called "death yoga," it is mainly practiced during life, in meditation. It can be practiced first according to generation stage, and then according to completion stage. The accumulation of meditative practice helps to prepare the practitioner for what they need to do at the time of death. At the time of death the mind is in a subtle state (clear light) that can open the mind to enlightenment if it is skilfully used to meditate on emptiness (shunyata). During completion stage meditation it is possible to manifest a similar clear light mind and to use it to meditate on emptiness. This meditation causes dualistic appearances to subside into emptiness and enables the practitioner to destroy their ignorance and the imprints of ignorance that are the obstructions to omniscience. It is said that masters like Lama Tsong Khapa used these techniques to achieve enlightenment during the death process. Actually, there are three stages at which it is possible to do this: at the end of the death process, during the bardo (or 'in between period') and during the process of rebirth. During these stages, the mind is in a very subtle state, and an advanced practitioner can use these natural states to make significant progress on the spiritual path. The Tibetan Book of the Dead is an important commentary for this kind of traditional practice.

This death yoga should not be confused with the non-Tantric meditation on impermanence and death, which is a common practice within Buddhist traditions used to overcome desirous attachment.

Another Tibetan ritual practice related to death is phowa (transference of one's consciousness), which can be done by oneself at the moment of death or by ritual specialists, phowa-lamas, on behalf of the dead. For the Anuttarayoga Tantras (Tib. rnal-’byor bla-med-kyi-rgyud), transfering one’s consciousness constitutes one of the two ways to separate the coarse and subtle bodies through meditation. Daniel Cozort explains that ’pho-ba (phowa) merely separates the coarse and subtle bodies without leading to the attainment of an “illusory body” (Tib. sgyu-lus). On the other hand, during the perfection type meditation, known as the “final mental isolation” (Tibetan: sems-dben) because it necessitates the presence of an “actual consort” (Tib. las-rgya), “the winds are totally dissolved in the indestructible drop” and “the fundamental wind naturally rises into an illusory body”

Generation and completion stage practice in the annutarayoga tantras


In the highest class of tantra, two stages of practice are distinguished. In the first stage of generation, one practices oneself in the identification with the meditational Buddha (yidam), generally until one can meditate single-pointedly on 'being' the deity (see above, deity yoga). In the next stage of completion, one engages in practices with the subtle energy system of the body (chakras and energy channels etc.) to actualize the physical and mental transformation into the meditation Buddha. (Similar practices are also found in Hindu tantra and yoga.) In some Buddhist tantras, both stages can be practiced simultaneously, whereas in others, one first actualizes the generation stage before continuing with the completion stage practices.

Details of these practices are normally only explained to practitioners by their teachers after receiving an initiation or 'permission to practice'.




For better understanding read Padmasambhava Gardland of Views

He describes the ways of buddhahood accordily with the Shaivism-Buddhism (Vajrayana)

You can also see Benzinarchives about Advanced Meditation – Tantra Teachings


In Pali Canon there is nothing about it. Buddha possible never gave that teachings, but they have buddhist principles and goals.


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Re: Other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas

Postby PeterB » Mon Jul 12, 2010 4:54 pm

I dont accept that they have " Buddhist principles and goals ".
I think they have little to do with Buddhism at all.
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Re: Other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas

Postby Goedert » Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:27 pm

PeterB wrote:I dont accept that they have " Buddhist principles and goals ".
I think they have little to do with Buddhism at all.


Maybe it was too extremist, the correct statement maybe be "SOME buddhist principles and goals, but not all".
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Re: Other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas

Postby ground » Tue Jul 13, 2010 3:04 am

theravada_guy wrote:I was wondering, in Vajrayana, do they consider their deities to be real, like Gautama Buddha was real, or are they just tools for gaining enlightenment?


Actually Buddha Gautama is a deity too.
Why?
Due to the characteristics of a deity:
Name, imagined form, assigned (imagined) qualities.

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Re: Other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jul 13, 2010 4:02 am

Greetings TMingyur,
TMingyur wrote:Actually Buddha Gautama is a deity too.

You may deify the Buddha if you like and project imagined qualities onto him, as per your definition of deity.... but please do not infer that this is simply how it is, and that the Buddha is a deity. To me, the Buddha is not a deity.

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


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Re: Other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas

Postby ground » Tue Jul 13, 2010 4:16 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings TMingyur,
TMingyur wrote:Actually Buddha Gautama is a deity too.

You may deify the Buddha if you like and project imagined qualities onto him, as per your definition of deity.... but please do not infer that this is simply how it is, and that the Buddha is a deity. To me, the Buddha is not a deity.

Metta,
Retro. :)


Well sorry, the question was about view in vajrayana practice. I doubt that your preferred view is relevant in this context.

Of course "deity" is imagination. There is nothing substantial about "deity". The correct understanding of emptiness is a prerequisite for deity practice.
Actually it should be called "yidam" practice in order to avoid misunderstanding. "Deities" after all are those that exist in the deity realm which are completely different.

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Re: Other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jul 13, 2010 4:29 am

Greetings TMingyur,

TMingyur wrote:Well sorry, the question was about view in vajrayana practice. I doubt that your preferred view is relevant in this context.

Thanks for clarifying... it was hard to tell from your words that your answer was intended to be as Vajra-specific as the question posed to 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


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Re: Other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas

Postby PeterB » Tue Jul 13, 2010 7:31 am

theravada guy wrote:Greetings all,

This is my first post in awhile. I've been wondering, is there anything the Buddha ever said that would disprove the existence of other contemporary Buddhas, like the Medicine Buddha and Amitabha Buddha? And Bodhisattvas like Chenrezig, etc.? I know there's Maitreya and the Buddha's that preceded Gautama Buddha. For me, it's practically impossible to believe in the Buddhas/Bodhisattvas of Mahayana tradition. I'm in no way trying to put Mahayana down. I'm just stating my personal difficulty in believing that, and curious what the Pali Canon says, if anything.

On a side note, how many Buddhas were there before our Buddha? How many will there be after Maitreya is born and passes into Nibbana?

I'm asking on here because there are folks on this forum with a lot more knowledge of the Pali Canon than I have. And, again, I'm not bashing Mahayana.

Thanks for any help!

This is the OP. The short answer is that the Buddha did not mention Medicine Buddha, Chenrezig , etc at all.
They are clearly a later and fictional addition. Having invented them it was necessary to give them a context or perhaps vice versa. Thus arose the corpus of Mahayana " sutras ".
The result was the chaotic and frequently contradictory papanca of the Mahayana.
Its almost worth giving it a look in order to turn with relief to the calm and consistent waters of the Pali Canon.
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Re: Other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas

Postby Shonin » Tue Jul 13, 2010 8:19 am

Yes, there are more mythical Buddhas in Mahayana than Theravada. But what about Metteyya? Why approve of one mythical Buddha and reject the rest?
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Re: Other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jul 13, 2010 8:45 am

Greetings Shonin,

I don't think it's the name Metteyya that's actually of importance. Rather, the long-scale process of decline in the Buddhasasana, followed by a later restoration much like the one Gotama established. Find the Dhamma, lose the Dhamma, find the Dhamma, lose the Dhamma....

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


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Re: Other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas

Postby PeterB » Tue Jul 13, 2010 8:50 am

Clearly there is literal measurable observable truth and there is poetic truth.
We can I think assume that if a Buddha arose another will eventually arise.
The question is whether the poetic vision of the Mahayana sutras is consistant with that which we find in the Pali Canon.
Now I am far from convinced that every word in every Pali Sutta represents the words of the historical Buddha. I think there are whole passages where a new and different and lesser voice or voices suddenly becomes apparant.
I do suspect though that the Canon captures the gist, the essence, of it.
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Re: Other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas

Postby Shonin » Tue Jul 13, 2010 9:42 am

Hi Retro

retrofuturist wrote:I don't think it's the name Metteyya that's actually of importance. Rather, the long-scale process of decline in the Buddhasasana, followed by a later restoration much like the one Gotama established. Find the Dhamma, lose the Dhamma, find the Dhamma, lose the Dhamma....


OK, but there are such metaphorical/poetic meanings behind the mythical Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of Mahayana too. :)
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