"Early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.

"Early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jan 02, 2010 7:04 pm

The following msgs were split of from the Do you find Hinayana offensive? thread.


I did not see this when it was posted:

5heaps wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote: "Small vehicle" is no compliment, but they don't think that it is a nasty insult, either.
If we always think that when modern Anglophone Mahayanists use the word "hinayana" they mean it as "inferior / despicable vehicle", then we are probably misrepresenting them.
But misrepresentation seems par for the course in a lot of things in this area. :sigh:

when Mahayanists assume that their understandings of notions such as what a Buddha is, arahant, nibbana, bodhi are all appropriately applied without question to the Theravada.

Do you have an example Tilt?

For example, in general, the mahayana tenets are based on first understanding and mastering the non-mahayana tenets. It's literally impossible to have a mahayana realization without having non-mahayana realizations. So an implication is that any mahayana scholar is by definition very knowledgeable in non-mahayana. (/hides from retro)
He or she may be knowledgable in the "non-Mahayana," but that does not mean that they are knowledgable in the Theravada.

Reginald Ray in his INDESTRUCTABLE TRUTH, pg 240 wrote: 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."
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby 5heaps » Sat Jan 02, 2010 7:20 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Reginald Ray in his INDESTRUCTABLE TRUTH, pg 240 wrote: 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."

I wonder if that's true. For example, one of the characteristics of a non-mahayana school is that they assert physical and mental ultimates (ie. indivisible physical particles and moments of awareness). As long as Theravada asserts that, they must be considered non-mahayana, simply from the pov of tenet systems.
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jan 02, 2010 9:16 pm

5heaps wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Reginald Ray in his INDESTRUCTABLE TRUTH, pg 240 wrote: 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."

I wonder if that's true. For example, one of the characteristics of a non-mahayana school is that they assert physical and mental ultimates (ie. indivisible physical particles and moments of awareness). As long as Theravada asserts that, they must be considered non-mahayana, simply from the pov of tenet systems.

As I have pointed elsewhere in the Abhidhamma Pitaka, the Theravada does not assert that about dhammas. The tenet system is an artifical construct for didactic purposes based upon actual but long dead schools. If one wants to learn about Yogachara, the last place to look is with the tenets system writings. Actually, the Mahayana has no objective basis for defining other schools.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby 5heaps » Sun Jan 03, 2010 1:33 am

tiltbillings wrote:As I have pointed elsewhere in the Abhidhamma Pitaka, the Theravada does not assert that about dhammas.

What is the ultimate truth of an apple then, if it is not its base physical parts?

If one wants to learn about Yogachara, the last place to look is with the tenets system writings.

Why is that?
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Jan 03, 2010 2:25 am

5heaps wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:As I have pointed elsewhere in the Abhidhamma Pitaka, the Theravada does not assert that about dhammas.

What is the ultimate truth of an apple then, if it is not its base physical parts?


The very idea of "ultimate truth" suffers a lot from it's choice of translation term in English.
It probably derives from "paramattha": not much problem with the first part - "highest", etc. but the "attha" part causes much confusion.
In the earlier teachings, "paramattha" is the "ultimate goal", the "ultimate good", sort of like latin summum bonum. This is the earlier meaning of "attha".
Later, when the "dhamma theory" (dhammavada) kicks in, the term "attha" is co-opted to mean dhammas as factors of existence, the final irreducible particles of the world (physical, mental and unconditioned).
And later on, particularly if one gets a bit of a whiff from Madhyamaka, then "paramartha" blurs into "paramasatya", and get's read as "ultimate truth".

If one asks the Buddha, he seems to say that "paramattha" is nibbana.
I dont' think he had much to say about any "ultimate truths" of apples or anything else.

If one wants to learn about Yogachara, the last place to look is with the tenets system writings.

Why is that?


Because they are usually histories written by the winners of the debates, centuries later. They not only show the very later scheme of things, which may have changed much over centuries (esp. true for the Yogacara), but they also sometimes mis-represent them, deliberately or otherwise.

If you want to learn about a system, then read and study that system, and it's own texts. Don't read what some other school has to say about them. (Sounds like the student years ago who wrote an essay about the Buddha and Buddhism based on the writings of Hare Krishna founder Swami Prabhubad, I think I gave him a C-, the essay was just so confused!!)
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Jan 03, 2010 2:28 am

5heaps wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Reginald Ray in his INDESTRUCTABLE TRUTH, pg 240 wrote: 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."

I wonder if that's true. For example, one of the characteristics of a non-mahayana school is that they assert physical and mental ultimates (ie. indivisible physical particles and moments of awareness). As long as Theravada asserts that, they must be considered non-mahayana, simply from the pov of tenet systems.


No. Not all non-mahayana schools make such assertions. You've been fooled by the later rhetoric, my friend!
ie. conflating everything in the dharmavada as "hinayana", and thus everything non-mahayana.

No, it's not like that at all. See if you can get a copy of Bareau's 1955 Sects of the Small Vehicle, there are many, many more non-mahayana ideas than just this, that is for sure!
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby 5heaps » Sun Jan 03, 2010 2:57 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:Because they are usually histories written by the winners of the debates, centuries later. They not only show the very later scheme of things, which may have changed much over centuries (esp. true for the Yogacara), but they also sometimes mis-represent them, deliberately or otherwise.

That's true of general discourse in the world, but the logic textbooks in the monastic institutions are unique in that they rely on correctly asserting the opponent's position and thrashing out subtle points after subtle points using logic.

Furthermore what's even the use of hearing the opponent's position? Because one's future higher realization is based on trying to perfectly understand the opponent's position.

No. Not all non-mahayana schools make such assertions. You've been fooled by the later rhetoric, my friend!

Who doesn't? I would be amazed if you could list just one school with a differing idea.
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Jan 03, 2010 3:26 am

5heaps wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:Because they are usually histories written by the winners of the debates, centuries later. They not only show the very later scheme of things, which may have changed much over centuries (esp. true for the Yogacara), but they also sometimes mis-represent them, deliberately or otherwise.

That's true of general discourse in the world, but the logic textbooks in the monastic institutions are unique in that they rely on correctly asserting the opponent's position and thrashing out subtle points after subtle points using logic.


For the case of the Yogacara, they take Cittamatra post Dharmapala, and then assert that this position is all Yogacara. It is not.
Check out whether the Yogacarabhumi has the same kind of definition of alaya as that given in these monastic institution textbooks or not.
Have you studied your Schmithausen well?

Furthermore what's even the use of hearing the opponent's position? Because one's future higher realization is based on trying to perfectly understand the opponent's position.


This is just systems building. Fun if one likes philosophy, but not necessarily that useful. Of course, the textbooks won't say that, because they need you to buy into it. If one hasn't made the various mistakes in the first place, there is no need to go through the various breakdowns of them. It's just taking somebody else's medicine for a disease that we may not have.

No. Not all non-mahayana schools make such assertions. You've been fooled by the later rhetoric, my friend!

Who doesn't? I would be amazed if you could list just one school with a differing idea.


Your assertion was: "one of the characteristics of a non-mahayana school is that they assert physical and mental ultimates (ie. indivisible physical particles and moments of awareness)."

Try the Ekavyavaharikas and Prajnaptivadins. Also the Satyasiddhisastra of Harivarman. And there are probably a few earlier Sautrantika types, like the Darstantikas, who would fall into the same category.

However, if you are relying on 10th cty and later Tibetan monastic text books, chances are that you won't even find anything about these schools. Rather, they'll try to lump everything together into the standard four types: Sarvastivada / Vaibhasika, Sammitiya, Yogacara and Madhyamaka. A gross simplification, even for that time, and just quite useless for understanding the first 1000 yrs of the sasana.

The idea of "ultimates" is pulling from the Vaibhasikas and Sammitiya (who are related via the Pudgalavadins), and also the Yogacara which are their later Mahayana cousins. It totally misses all the other Sthavira schools, and the entirety of the Mahasamghikas.

Amazed?
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jan 03, 2010 4:58 am

And now we have as to why the Mahayana is not at all a good basis for understanding the Theravada, which is what this section of the forum is about.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Jan 03, 2010 7:07 am

tiltbillings wrote:And now we have as to why the Mahayana is not at all a good basis for understanding the Theravada, which is what this section of the forum is about.


Well, if we are using the monastic institution textbooks that are referred to above, that is true. There is fortunately more to Mahayana than that, though. Unfortunately, it seems seldom mentioned in our present English sources on the subject.

I wonder if anybody has thought about translating all the great stuff from Paramartha (the one in China) and Xuanzang (& disciples, Kuiji, Puguang, etc,) on this subject. They have a huge amount of material, and a fair amount of it seems quite accurate from what I can see, at least for many of the mainland schools.

This used to be old time Chinese style monastic textbook material (kind of), but I think most in the West barely know of it's existence, let alone have an understanding of it.

:lamenting, wailing and gnashing of teeth:
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jan 03, 2010 8:20 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
:lamenting, wailing and gnashing of teeth:

You Mahayanists do have a hard time of it. Part of the problem with Western Mahayana it that it is either Zen or Tibetan Buddhism, each of which have serious problem when it comes to the Mahayana as a whole and to the Theravada in particular. Gawd only knows when some important of the Chinese stuff will get translated, either Agama or Mahayana.
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby Ben » Sun Jan 03, 2010 8:24 am

Hi Venerable and Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:
:lamenting, wailing and gnashing of teeth:

You Mahayanists do have a hard time of it. Part of the problem with Western Mahayana it that it is either Zen or Tibetan Buddhism, each of which have serious problem when it comes to the Mahayana as a whole and to the Theravada in particular. Gawd only knows when some important of the Chinese stuff will get translated, either Agama or Mahayana.


To be honest with you, after reading Ven Analayo's article on 'Ancient Roots of U Ba Khin's meditation method', I'm quite excited by the vast raft of wisdom captured within the Chinese Agamas and commentaries. I'm hoping those translations will be sooner rather than later.
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Jan 03, 2010 9:56 am

Ben wrote:Hi Venerable and Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:
:lamenting, wailing and gnashing of teeth:

You Mahayanists do have a hard time of it. Part of the problem with Western Mahayana it that it is either Zen or Tibetan Buddhism, each of which have serious problem when it comes to the Mahayana as a whole and to the Theravada in particular. Gawd only knows when some important of the Chinese stuff will get translated, either Agama or Mahayana.


To be honest with you, after reading Ven Analayo's article on 'Ancient Roots of U Ba Khin's meditation method', I'm quite excited by the vast raft of wisdom captured within the Chinese Agamas and commentaries. I'm hoping those translations will be sooner rather than later.
metta

Ben


Caution: Fictional story based on a few facts approaching:

:soap:

The most common texts used by Chinese Buddhism, maybe about a dozen of them, have already been translated scores of times each.

Every Chinese monk or nun who goes West seems to set up a groups calling themselves something like the "international buddhist translation institute" or something similar. Then, with the dear venerable in charge (who only speaks Chinese), their group of immigrant Chinese disciples will wrestle the text into English, or a close approximation. This is how the Central Asians did it in China for the first few centuries, too.

They give these to the local people who come to their temples. They read them, and sometimes try to chant them. But, due to the often times Chinglish translation, they tend to get confused, and think that Chinese Buddhism is kind of, well, weird.

On the other hand, some very clever university professors will take the same text, spend 30 years, and knock out a translation too. With the huge amount of critical footnotes, the sutra will become 5 times the size, and have a very nice introduction which gives you the whole gist that it is all made up, and the Chinese got it wrong.

The local people who got weirded out by the Chinese group's translation buys the scholar's book, and tries to read it. They are crushed - what, the Mahayana wasn't taught by the Buddha?!?! How could it be so?!?! They take both books to the second hand book store, and get $5.50 for them. They either continue by leaving the Chinese temple and going to Zen, because they won't be expected to read anything. Or, they go to the Tibetans, or the Theravadins.

-----------

That's kind of a joke, but also not really.

Some sneaking suspicion at the back of my mind, something which both delights and terrifies me at the same time, is that one day they won't be Chinese groups from Taiwan or Hong Kong or Malaysia, but the Buddhist Association of China will make some grandiose decision to "translate the entire tripitaka into English". Wow! We say, ain't dat wonderfool?!! Then, they'll do exactly the same, after finding some monastics in China with vaguely fluent English, and a bunch of loyal devotees, in the way that only China can - ie. centralized control of mass numbers of people - they'll knock out the whole Chinese tripitaka in a decade.

And not a single native English speaker will be able to make any sense out of it.

------------------

It needs western monastics and laity who are fluent in the languages and culture, and a lot of other resources, too.

:soap:

Actually, much of the link which is missing to connect the two sides together, is not so much the Agamas or Mahayana, but all that "bodhisattva literature" of the early non-Mahayana schools. The Theravada has a lot of it too, but many seem to overlook it (deliberately or otherwise).
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby Darren_86 » Sun Jan 03, 2010 10:16 am

Sorry Pannasikhara,

I dont really get what u wanna express about here.

Any simplified version of it?

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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Jan 03, 2010 10:34 am

Darren_86 wrote:Sorry Pannasikhara,

I dont really get what u wanna express about here.

Any simplified version of it?

- Darren -


In one sentence: The choices and style of translations from Chinese sources are part of the reason behind the ongoing "hinayana" problem in a Western context.
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby Darren_86 » Sun Jan 03, 2010 10:49 am

Oh.. alright, thanks.. much easier now.

:stirthepot:
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby Kare » Sun Jan 03, 2010 12:57 pm

Paññāsikhara wrote:
Darren_86 wrote:Sorry Pannasikhara,

I dont really get what u wanna express about here.

Any simplified version of it?

- Darren -


In one sentence: The choices and style of translations from Chinese sources are part of the reason behind the ongoing "hinayana" problem in a Western context.


In another sentence: The First Commandment for Translators: Thou shalt translate into thy native language.
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby 5heaps » Sun Jan 03, 2010 2:42 pm

Paññāsikhara wrote:However, if you are relying on 10th cty and later Tibetan monastic text books, chances are that you won't even find anything about these schools. Rather, they'll try to lump everything together into the standard four types: Sarvastivada / Vaibhasika, Sammitiya, Yogacara and Madhyamaka. A gross simplification, even for that time, and just quite useless for understanding the first 1000 yrs of the sasana.

They lump for example the Ekavyavaharikas and Prajnaptivadins as subschools of Vaibhashika for good reason. Namely that although they each assert meaningful distinctions between one another they still follow the same general presentation.

Amazed?

Well what do they assert about physical objects exist then? It's not really a good thing to not assert physical ultimates.


tiltbillings wrote:And now we have as to why the Mahayana is not at all a good basis for understanding the Theravada, which is what this section of the forum is about.

Seems some/many scholars such as Dr Berzin agree with you:
"..for instance Theravada (gNas-brtan smra-ba, Skt. Sthaviravada), have their own distinctive set of assertions, they are not counted among the tenet systems."
http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/archives/sutra/level5_analysis_mind_reality/four_indian_buddhist_tenet_systems/major_indian_authors_texts_tenets.html

However in texts such as "Maps of the Profound: Jam-Yang-Shay-Ba's Great Exposition of Buddhist and Non-Buddhist Views" there are long explanations of the 18 subschools of the Great Exposition Schools, and they all seem to include Sarvastivadins, Mahasamghikas, Sammitiyas, Sthavrias as basic schools with further divisions. For example in 1 presentation, according to Vinitadeva's Rendition, Kurukullas, Avantakas, and Vatsiputriyas are divisions of Sammitiyas. There are other such presentations, sometimes with only 3 or 2 main basic schools containing corresponding 18 divisions.
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jan 03, 2010 5:57 pm

Seems some/many scholars such as Dr Berzin agree with you:

It would seems. The Mahayana is not the arbiter of what is what for other schools. It variously in its wildly disparate texts and schools defines the Buddha, bodhi, arahant, tathagata among other things differently than does the Theravada. And, while Nagarjuna is an interesting historical character, he and the schools that popped after him, are unnecessary to the Theravada.
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Re: "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them

Postby Paññāsikhara » Mon Jan 04, 2010 3:12 am

5heaps wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:However, if you are relying on 10th cty and later Tibetan monastic text books, chances are that you won't even find anything about these schools. Rather, they'll try to lump everything together into the standard four types: Sarvastivada / Vaibhasika, Sammitiya, Yogacara and Madhyamaka. A gross simplification, even for that time, and just quite useless for understanding the first 1000 yrs of the sasana.

They lump for example the Ekavyavaharikas and Prajnaptivadins as subschools of Vaibhashika for good reason. Namely that although they each assert meaningful distinctions between one another they still follow the same general presentation.


"They lump for example the Ekavyavaharikas and Prajnaptivadins as subschools of Vaibhashika for good reason."
:rofl:
Then they really seem to not know what they are talking about! It is my turn to be amazed! :P

Amazed?

Well what do they assert about physical objects exist then? It's not really a good thing to not assert physical ultimates.


Go and read Bareau's book:
"they maintained that everything is fictive, the absolute as dependent, which, it seems, was the doctrine of the mother Mahāsāṇghika school prior to the schism. For them, saṃsāra and nirvāna, the laukika dharmas and the lokottara dharmas, were purely provisional (prajñapti), names only, and lacking in real substance."
"puts forth as its own the thesis according to which all dharmas are of purely nominal existence (prajnapti)."

And, as we know, in the lingo of the time, what is a prajnapti is not a paramartha dharma, ie. what is a designation is not an ultimate (phenomena).

tiltbillings wrote:And now we have as to why the Mahayana is not at all a good basis for understanding the Theravada, which is what this section of the forum is about.

Seems some/many scholars such as Dr Berzin agree with you:
"..for instance Theravada (gNas-brtan smra-ba, Skt. Sthaviravada), have their own distinctive set of assertions, they are not counted among the tenet systems."
http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/archives/sutra/level5_analysis_mind_reality/four_indian_buddhist_tenet_systems/major_indian_authors_texts_tenets.html

However in texts such as "Maps of the Profound: Jam-Yang-Shay-Ba's Great Exposition of Buddhist and Non-Buddhist Views" there are long explanations of the 18 subschools of the Great Exposition Schools, and they all seem to include Sarvastivadins, Mahasamghikas, Sammitiyas, Sthavrias as basic schools with further divisions. For example in 1 presentation, according to Vinitadeva's Rendition, Kurukullas, Avantakas, and Vatsiputriyas are divisions of Sammitiyas. There are other such presentations, sometimes with only 3 or 2 main basic schools containing corresponding 18 divisions.


Yes - the Mahaviharin Theras are neither Sarvastivadin, Mahasamghika or Sammitiya, and the Sthaviras that are referred to will be mainland Vibhajyavadins, not the Mahaviharins. A gross simplification of the schools that were around in the first 1000 yrs. Because Jamyang Shayba is much, much later than all of that.
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