This combination of selective emphasis and conservative, narrow or simplistic interpretation has
made Theravada what it is. By highlighting different material from the Pali Tipitaka and
interpreting it in different but equally or perhaps in even more valid ways, one could have quite a
different type of Buddhism. And in fact this did happen. The Sravastavadians, Dharmaguptakas,
Sautantikas, the Abhayagirivasins, etc, were different schools with a different ‘feel’ despite basing
themselves on a Sutta and Vinaya Pitaka that were the same or substantially the same as the Pail
ones. Unfortunately, all these schools disappeared leaving Theravadians holding the field as the sole
‘orthodox’ interpreters of the Buddha’s teaching in its earliest form. Of course a Theravadin would
say that it is dangerous or unnecessary to interpret or elaborate on the Buddha’s words. But drawing
deeper or broader meanings from the Buddha’s words was being done even during his own lifetime.
See for example how Maha Kacchyana very creatively reinterpreted one of the Buddha’s sayings
from the Sutta Nipata (S.III,9). It seems that when it comes to something negative or theoretical
Theravadin are able to be remarkably creative. It is only with the practical, the positive or anything
outside the narrow orbit in which they have chosen to operate that they seem to be lost for words. It
should come as no surprise that in its two thousand year history Theravada has produced no great
religious thinkers – no Augustine, Aquinas or Erasmus, no Nagarjuna, Tsong Khapa or Dogen.
http://www.buddhistische-gesellschaft-b ... dhanew.pdf
Anyone else feel this is a bit unfair?