Bodhisattva Path: Historical Aspects In Theravāda

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Re: Bodhisattva Path: Historical Aspects In Theravāda

Postby Hanzze » Tue Dec 21, 2010 8:53 am

Excellent! Excellent! Excellent!

_/\_
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: Bodhisattva Path: Historical Aspects In Theravāda

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Dec 21, 2010 9:25 am

dhammapal wrote:Hi,

Check out: Arahants, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas by Bhikkhu Bodhi

With metta / dhammapal.
It is a disappointing essay.

In the final analysis, I have to confess my inability to provide a perfectly cogent solution to this problem. In view of the fact that in later times so many Buddhists, in Theravāda lands as well as in the Mahāyāna world, have been inspired by the bodhisattva ideal, it is perplexing that no teachings about a bodhisattva path or bodhisattva practices are included in the discourses regarded as coming down from the most archaic period of Buddhist literary history.
After the death of the Buddha, Buddhists (before the arising of the Mahayana) became focused on the person of the Buddha in a way that the Buddha himself at most discouraged and at least did not indulge in. From this we get a life story - a hagiography - of the Buddha not found in the suttas and interesting artifact of that is the name Siddhattha that is not found in the suttas, and we also get “life stories” of the other Buddhas.

Two things were also happening at this time. The first was a valorization of the idea of the Buddha, and a diminishment of the idea of the arahant. This happened in all schools to one degree or other, and many of the ideas around the valorization of the Buddha are catalogued in the Kathavatthu. The notions range from the Buddha being so pure that his poop smelled like sandalwood to the docetic notion of the Buddha being an emanation of a previously awakened being. It is this split from the radical position found in the suttas of the natures of the Buddha and the arahant that gave the idea of a bodhisatta path a place to germinate.

It would not be unexpected that some early Buddhists would, after the death of the Buddha, look at the Buddha as being the template of practice once there was a divide between the idea of the Buddha and that of the arahant. From the life story of the Buddha, which includes the story of his meeting with the Buddha Dipankara (probably further back in time than the earth is old), came a template for a path to do what the Buddha did, since all Buddhas supposedly follow the same pattern, teaching the same Dhamma. Again, this is something that is seemingly pan-Buddhist. Within the Theravada where this path gets drawn out is in the commentarial literature.

Within the Buddhist community as a whole, where this idea of a bodhisatta path gets drawn out is among those find the idea of becoming a Buddha more appealing than becoming an arahant. Though the history on this is sketchy, I would suspect that happened most within the pre-Mahayana schools of Buddhism that held a more highly valorized Buddha notion. Within these schools were smaller groups who focused upon the idea of becoming a Buddha, not unlike within mainstream American Christian denominations there are small groups of Charismatics focusing within the broader context of their denominations on their particular style of practice and experience.

It is from these “Charismatics” monks living side by side with their more traditional brothers within the various ordination lineages that the Mahayana arose. And the Mahayana was not a singular thing, but loose grouping of those who held to the idea of the bodhisattva idea as being prime. Mahayana, seemingly, in its earliest guise was not an oppositional movement. It was not in opposition to the Mainstream schools that did not put their focus on the path of the bodhisatta. And in looking at the very early Mahayana/bodhisattva sutras there was no oppositional use of the term hinayana to describe that who did not practice the developing bodhisattva path.

To the contrary, the path of the arhat was seen as a legitimate path to be taught and the bodhisattva path was for the very few who could follow the great way, Mahayana, and we see that bodhisattva path looked a lot like the path that developed out of the Buddha hagiographies.

Obviously, however, something changes, which was likely that the followers of the Mainstream schools did not accept and likely criticized the newly emerging ideas of an alternate path of practice and of certain philosophical ideas that found a home with within the emerging Mahayana movements.

And the Mahayanists struck back. Here in chapter 2 of the Lotus Sutra is an expression of the dissatisfaction, put into the Buddha’s mouth, by the Mahayana monks with those who would not listen to the Mahayana teachings. These non-believers are called arrogant and “twigs and leaves,” which is an idiom for trash.

Then Śāriputra again addressed the Buddha: “O Bhagavat! Please explain it [emptiness]! I entreat you to explain it, because in this assembly there are innumerable hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of incalculable sentient beings, sharp in faculties and possessed of wisdom, who have previously encountered the buddhas. When they hear the teaching of the Buddha they will trust, believe, and accept it.”

. . .

Then the Buddha again tried to dissuade Śāriputra, saying: “If I explain it, the devas, humans, and asuras in all the worlds will be astounded, and arrogant monks will certainly go to their downfall.” At that time the Bhagavat again spoke in verse:
Enough, enough! Speak no more!
The Dharma that I have attained
Is excellent and incomprehensible.
Though the arrogant hear it,
They will never accept it.

. . .

Therefore listen carefully and pay close attention! I will now illuminate and explain it.”
When he said this, five thousand monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen in the assembly immediately got up from their seats, bowed to the Buddha, and left. What was the reason for this? Because the roots of error among this group had been deeply planted and they were arrogant, thinking they had attained what they had not attained and had realized what they had not realized. Because of such defects they did not stay. And the Bhagavat remained silent and did not stop them.

Then the Buddha addressed Śāriputra: “My assembly here is free of useless twigs and leaves; only the pure essence remains.

“O Śāriputra! Let the arrogant ones go! Listen carefully and I will explain it to you.”
Then Śāriputra replied: “Indeed, O Bhagavat, I greatly desire to hear it.”
Then the Buddha addressed Śāriputra: “Only very rarely do the Buddha
Tathāgatas teach such a True Dharma as this, as rarely as the uḍumbara flower blooms.
“O Śāriputra! Trust and accept what the Buddha teaches! My words are never false.
“O Śāriputra! The real intention of all the buddhas in adapting their explanations to what is appropriate is difficult to understand. Why is this? Because I have expounded the teachings with innumerable skillful means and various kinds of explanations and illustrations. Yet this Dharma is beyond reason and discernment. Only the buddhas can understand it. Why is this? Because the Buddha Bhagavats appear in this world for one great purpose alone. O Śāriputra! Now I will explain why I said that the Buddha Bhagavats appear in this world for only one great purpose.


It is probably with this text, the Lotus Sutra, that the word hinayana first gets used. It is a very strongly negative word. In Sanskrit and Pali, hina, however, comes from the root ha: to abandon, to forsake, to avoid, to leave behind which gives us hina: inferior, low, poor, miserable, vile, base, abject, contemptible, despicable, rejected, thrown away, scorned. In idiomatic English hinayana would be the "piss-poor vehicle" or the "garbage vehicle." In and of itself, the word hinayana is an ugly derogatory, divisive, derisive epithet. It is a put down term, which is then coupled with a nasty us-versus-them polemic.

The term Mahayana gets coupled with the term hinayana, moving away from its original meaning. In other words, the Mahayana becomes an oppositional movement, developing their ideas in opposition to what they see as, to understate it, lesser. The bodhisattva becomes more and more valorized, more and more “compassionate” and more and more unrealistic in terms of what we find in the earliest texts.

It is not that the bodhisattva notion in the Mahayana cannot be inspiring, and certainly in as much as the practice leads to insight into anicca, dukkha, anatta and paticcasamuppada, it is of value, but I see no value in trying to, as Ven Bodhi states, “integrate of the vehicles.” There is no reason why, as Theravadins, we cannot extend respect to the Mahayanists, finding value in their teachings and insights, but the Theravada is not a vehicle. It is a magga, a path of practice, that is, in itself, complete.
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: Bodhisattva Path: Historical Aspects In Theravāda

Postby saltspring » Tue Dec 21, 2010 4:56 pm

Great post Tilt, thanks
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Re: Bodhisattva Path: Historical Aspects In Theravāda

Postby clw_uk » Tue Dec 21, 2010 5:23 pm

Thanks Tilt very insightful :goodpost:
Open your mind and see, open your mind and rise. Shine the light of wisdom and see, don't wait till the end of time.
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Re: Bodhisattva Path: Historical Aspects In Theravāda

Postby Hoo » Tue Dec 21, 2010 6:01 pm

I'm glad this discussion hasn't fallen to the level of name-calling. In my experience in other forums, it usually does when this topic arises. IMHO, after reading 4 pages of this stuff, however, it strikes me as no more important than arguments about which team is best. "I like the Packers...I like the Colts" and it could stop right there without all the wasted words.

I once commented to someone that the Vajrayana is not the measure of Buddhism, nor is it the superior model to be followed by all. To me, threads like this tell me that neither is Mahayana, nor is Threavada. All three are just positions, ways to build a raft, statements of view, beliefs of people and words of people talking about the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Wouldn't it be better to talk about the joy and liberation of living the Dhamma? If we all just lived our understanding of the Dhamma, there would be little time for arguing about Dhamma.

With respect to all, I ask if you think the comments made in this thread were of any use or help to anyone but the ones who spoke them? I didn't see any illumninating words that lead me toward the Mahayana, but my "team" tends to be Theravada.

Typically, though, I don't look for words with which to be impressed. I look for the qualities of the person as an indicator of whether that team is worth considering. If the members don't evidence the impact of the teachings, I have little interest.

But that's just my take on it and views are like noses - everybody has one. So feel free to ignore mine, and I wish you joy in the practice of yours.

With Metta,
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Re: Bodhisattva Path: Historical Aspects In Theravāda

Postby Hoo » Tue Dec 21, 2010 7:01 pm

Hanzze wrote:....There is simply no motivation to spread Theravada (without a Bodhisattva motivation) except the save the existing (keeping an tradition and its follower alive). Would a "real" theravada travel to other countries to proclaim "his" dhamma?....

....Those people protecting the simple teachings given by the Budhha making it sure that many can make there vehicle (raft) depending on there conciseness and the environment they live. I guess it is good to speed over those teachings....


There is equal usefullness, Hanzee, in the traditions that glorify intellectualization and mental proliferation, superiority/inferiority, and other forms of feeding the ego. Personally, I find nothing noble or compassionate in arrogance or proselytizing, regardless of tradition. They are, however, good examples of what we are not supposed to be doing.

I no longer spend much time on discussions such as this thread. They simply don't yield anything but idle chatter, 99% of the time.

My contribution to this discussion should probably be....

Never believe what one tradition says about another - they don't know enough to be authorities.
Never believe that you have the answers - all one usually has is the words of other people and faulty logic and metaphysics.
Never try to concinve another team that they are wrong and you are right - ain't the Buddhist thing to do ;)
Never try to argue your way through beliefs - wrong venue, it isn't about facts.
Never assume your argument is "bullet-proof" - someone is just waiting to prove you wrong, and he may have very good tools to do it with.
Believe that the Theravada will all one day become Mahayana if you wish - just be prepared to believe that the Mahayana will not be equipped to achieve their great goals without becoming Theravada first :jawdrop:
Just be aware that what you believe and espouse makes not one iota's difference to anything. - But beware of the 8 worldly concerns when you are espousing what you believe.

Hoo - who was living and practicing compassion before some of you had even read your first tradition-propoganda ;)

Comments are welcome, just be aware of who you are serving in making them :)
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Re: Bodhisattva Path: Historical Aspects In Theravāda

Postby Nyana » Tue Dec 21, 2010 8:23 pm

Hoo wrote:With respect to all, I ask if you think the comments made in this thread were of any use or help to anyone but the ones who spoke them?

Hi Hoo,

The thread was created in the interest of sharing some resources on the history of the Theravāda interaction with Mahāyāna ideas, as well as the Pāḷi Yogāvacara teachings (which aren't directly related to the bodhisattvayāna or Mahāyāna). If you don't consider history to be important, that's fine. But having some appreciation of the rich history of the greater Pāḷi tradition can certainly be helpful in this pluralistic day and age. Once again, there is no need to suspect anyone of proselytizing, and the "us vs. them" rhetoric isn't helpful or necessary at all.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Bodhisattva Path: Historical Aspects In Theravāda

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Dec 21, 2010 8:55 pm

Hoo wrote: Personally, I find nothing noble or compassionate in arrogance or proselytizing, regardless of tradition.
And is anyone doing that in this thread?

I no longer spend much time on discussions such as this thread. They simply don't yield anything but idle chatter, 99% of the time.
If this is idle chatter, you are adding to it why?

Never believe what one tradition says about another - they don't know enough to be authorities.
That depends, but my above long msg is drawn from the latest scholarship by the best and the brightest. It is worth looking at the history of Buddhist ideas as it plays itself out, which helps put things into a broader context.

Never try to concinve another team that they are wrong and you are right - ain't the Buddhist thing to do
Really. Goodness. The Buddhist history of ideas is full incidences of one group trying to show the inadequacy of another. It seems to be the Buddhist thing to do. It is a Buddhist sport, but at least Buddhists did very little bodily harm to those with whom they disagreed.

Believe that the Theravada will all one day become Mahayana if you wish - just be prepared to believe that the Mahayana will not be equipped to achieve their great goals without becoming Theravada first
Why would anyone want to believe that? I welcome the diversity, but that does not mean I welcome supersessionism or procrusteanism without comment.

Just be aware that what you believe and espouse makes not one iota's difference to anything.
Another very silly argument. If this were true and if everyone followed this then we would have no knowledge of Buddhism of any sort.

But beware of the 8 worldly concerns when you are espousing what you believe.
And you have done so in this thread?

Hoo - who was living and practicing compassion before some of you had even read your first tradition-propoganda
Goodness, an appeal to age.

Comments are welcome, just be aware of who you are serving in making them
And who are you serving?

Why do you write something like this? You complain about the noise by adding noise to the noise. Not really helpful, it would seem.
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: Bodhisattva Path: Historical Aspects In Theravāda

Postby Hoo » Tue Dec 21, 2010 10:00 pm

And who are you serving?


Myself, and you, Tilt, of course :) My background is philosophy, psychology and related research. I see less than thorough positions taken and presented as 'truth,' and my disagreement helps me to not laugh at times, not feel quite sad at others. I serve you, too, Tilt, in that I give you opportunities to practice kindness and restraint ;) I know that you and I do not agree at times, rare though they are. Your questions to me were most kind and to the point :)

And still, the problem remains that 'us and them' is demonstrable in threads like this one, though this one has less than many I've read. But once again, no one group has the lock on interpreting history or is the measure of what is factual, correct and what is not.

The hoise that I'm contributing is as noisy as any before it, and should thus be no more or less welcome. The particular noise is that these discussions differ little, IMHO, from the crowd noise at sporting events. To those who believe that they are gaining historical benefit, I rejoice if that is so. I'm thankful for that.

Hoo - going back to just not reading threads like this one (hold the applause, please) :) It's good restraint practice for me, too - chuckle.
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Re: Bodhisattva Path: Historical Aspects In Theravāda

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Dec 21, 2010 10:08 pm

It makes no sense to me. Your msg added nothing informative to the discussion and basically told us that we are a bunch of schmucks. Damdifino what your purpose here is, but if you are amused, that is something.

Hoo wrote:
And who are you serving?


Myself, and you, Tilt, of course :) My background is philosophy, psychology and related research. I see less than thorough positions taken and presented as 'truth,' and my disagreement helps me to not laugh at times, not feel quite sad at others. I serve you, too, Tilt, in that I give you opportunities to practice kindness and restraint ;) I know that you and I do not agree at times, rare though they are. Your questions to me were most kind and to the point :)

And still, the problem remains that 'us and them' is demonstrable in threads like this one, though this one has less than many I've read. But once again, no one group has the lock on interpreting history or is the measure of what is factual, correct and what is not.

The hoise that I'm contributing is as noisy as any before it, and should thus be no more or less welcome. The particular noise is that these discussions differ little, IMHO, from the crowd noise at sporting events. To those who believe that they are gaining historical benefit, I rejoice if that is so. I'm thankful for that.

Hoo - going back to just not reading threads like this one (hold the applause, please) :) It's good restraint practice for me, too - chuckle.
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: Bodhisattva Path: Historical Aspects In Theravāda

Postby alan » Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:29 am

Tilt,
Your post at 4:25 am was superb. Thank you. Knowledge and insight at that level makes reading DW a real pleasure.
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A matter of personal practice

Postby Jechbi » Sun Dec 26, 2010 5:59 pm

"Just like the Mahayana, the Theravada holds the Bodhisattva in the highest position." From Ven. Dr. W. Rahula.

In any form of Buddhist practice, the approach we take only is beneficial to the extent that it inclines toward liberation. Each of us uses terms and ideas as part of our particular path at this moment, regardless of whether we label ourselves according to "Theravada" or "Mahayana" or anything else. When the term "Hinayana" is used to refer to Theravada, it's inaccurate. But when it is used in context, and as a pointer to a level of personal spiritual unfolding, the term "Hinayana" has its legitimate place.

The Boddhisattva ideal can be a great reminder of where we still need to work in our practice.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: Bodhisattva Path: Historical Aspects In Theravāda

Postby Wizard in the Forest » Sun Dec 26, 2010 7:25 pm

I've never seen the Bodhisattva ideal used to enhance practice. I've seen it used to say "I don't need to practice, I'm already a buddha with Buddha nature, so what I've got to do is save all the other non-Buddhas I see in front of me". That's not enhancing practice last I have seen. It's only seeing the dirt in someone else's eye when you're caked in mud.
"One is not born a woman, but becomes one."- Simone de Beauvoir
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Re: Bodhisattva Path: Historical Aspects In Theravāda

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Dec 26, 2010 7:39 pm

Hi WITF,
Wizard in the Forest wrote:I've never seen the Bodhisattva ideal used to enhance practice. I've seen it used to say "I don't need to practice, I'm already a buddha with Buddha nature, so what I've got to do is save all the other non-Buddhas I see in front of me". That's not enhancing practice last I have seen. It's only seeing the dirt in someone else's eye when you're caked in mud.

I suspect you are making a huge logical leap here. I'm sure that what you describe happens, because I occasionally have seen it expressed on some Internet forums. However, I have not encountered it in real-life practitioners, or in the majority of Internet contacts.

:anjali:
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Re: Bodhisattva Path: Historical Aspects In Theravāda

Postby Wizard in the Forest » Sun Dec 26, 2010 7:44 pm

I've seen this pattern too many times for it to be assumed as a coincidence. You've seen it too, it seems.
"One is not born a woman, but becomes one."- Simone de Beauvoir
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Re: Bodhisattva Path: Historical Aspects In Theravāda

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Dec 26, 2010 7:52 pm

Wizard in the Forest wrote:I've seen this pattern too many times for it to be assumed as a coincidence. You've seen it too, it seems.

Not in people I would pay any attention to.

Mike
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Re: Bodhisattva Path: Historical Aspects In Theravāda

Postby Wizard in the Forest » Sun Dec 26, 2010 8:13 pm

I don't curb my awareness of others. That makes things more complicated. I regard them, but I also recognize the patterns with such teachings.
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Re: Bodhisattva Path: Historical Aspects In Theravāda

Postby ground » Mon Dec 27, 2010 6:11 am

Wizard in the Forest wrote:I've never seen the Bodhisattva ideal used to enhance practice. I've seen it used to say "I don't need to practice, I'm already a buddha with Buddha nature, so what I've got to do is save all the other non-Buddhas I see in front of me". That's not enhancing practice last I have seen. It's only seeing the dirt in someone else's eye when you're caked in mud.


You are mixing up different concepts. One is the "Bodhisattva ideal" and the other is "Buddha nature". Whereas the term "nature" refers to a concept of an existing complete status, the term "ideal" refers to a difference - a difference between how it is and how it should be (i.e. "ideal"). Now if "how it should be" is not "how it is" this implies that something has to be done.

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Re: Bodhisattva Path: Historical Aspects In Theravāda

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Dec 27, 2010 9:15 am

Jechbi wrote:"Just like the Mahayana, the Theravada holds the Bodhisattva in the highest position." From Ven. Dr. W. Rahula.
The problem with Ven. Rahula’s analysis is that it really does not acknowledge notions of bodhisattva in the Mahayana and the notion of bodhisatta in the Theravada are very different from each other. Also, it is something of an overstatement to say that the Theravada holds the bodhisatta in the highest position. While there is a “bodhisatta literature” within the Theravada, it is fairly minimal and as a way of practice, it barely registers an appearance.

In any form of Buddhist practice, the approach we take only is beneficial to the extent that it inclines toward liberation. Each of us uses terms and ideas as part of our particular path at this moment, regardless of whether we label ourselves according to "Theravada" or "Mahayana" or anything else. When the term "Hinayana" is used to refer to Theravada, it's inaccurate. But when it is used in context, and as a pointer to a level of personal spiritual unfolding, the term "Hinayana" has its legitimate place.

The Boddhisattva ideal can be a great reminder of where we still need to work in our practice.
From the Theravada standpoint, taking the suttas as the touchstone, this analysis is seriously flawed. It seems to assume, though it is unclearly stated in the above, that a bodhisattva practice is more compassionate, more concerned with others welfare than other. There is no justification for such a claim, and the use of the term hinayana, the discarded/abject vehicle, even as suggested above, really only adds confusion, not clarity, to the issue. Basically, from a Theravadin standpoint there is no need to utilize sectarian polemical terms in talking about one’s practice.

Theravada motivation
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: Bodhisattva Path: Historical Aspects In Theravāda

Postby ground » Mon Dec 27, 2010 9:37 am

Considering the quotes provided by tiltbillings in Theravada motivation, especially AN IV.95, AN VII.64, SN XVI.5 I agree that the heavily conceptually pre-loaded term "bodhisattva" may be misplaced in the context of what the "Theravada ideal" is anyway.


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