Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Dan74 » Fri Apr 17, 2009 8:35 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Dan,

And not to shoo you away of course, but don't forget...

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Thanks, Retro, but for the moment I am all forumed out.. :coffee: :computerproblem:

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Mexicali » Thu Apr 23, 2009 11:13 pm

Spaking strictly for myself;

I didn't switch from Mahayana practice because I thought it was useless; Zuochan and to a lesser extent Pure Land practice were helpful to me, as were the ethics I learned which were essentially the same. But I came to the conclusion that the method that the Buddha layed out was clear and precise enough and did not need things added or subtracted, and Mahayana adds and subtracts rather haphazardly. It's hard to deny, say, Shinran's compassion when he says that he wants to be reborn in hell to help the suffering, but it doesn't change that many of Shinran's "reforms" were directly contrary to the Buddha's teachings. It's hard for me to deny the legitimate insights of many Chan teachers, but that doesn't change that it comes with a lot of shift in emphasis that often dismisses the very foundations of the dharma and the sangha. So I would never call Mahayana useless, but I think the Buddhadhamma as preserved by the Theravada is where real practice and insight await.
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Avery » Fri May 01, 2009 6:39 am

Personally, I have felt studying Mahayana in Japan was the most detrimental possible thing that could happen to me religiously, and rereading Smith & Novak (an ecumenical and materialist introduction to Buddhism) was the antidote. Yes, even Zen was a terrible experience. I cannot honestly recommend any form of Mahayana to someone who is seeking not a religion but the truth about human nature. But I will not deny that everything works differently for different people, and I learned from the best American teachers of Japanese Mahayana who explained very clearly why those paths were useful for them. So, there is no reason to disparage it as a form of religion.

Mexicali wrote:It's hard to deny, say, Shinran's compassion when he says that he wants to be reborn in hell to help the suffering, but it doesn't change that many of Shinran's "reforms" were directly contrary to the Buddha's teachings.

When considering a religion I think about who you are required to place your faith in. In Theravada we understand that the Buddha is our refuge and teacher, but he is not still around granting wishes. In Mahayana Buddha's cosmic body is emphasized which usually translates into magical thinking for the confused laity. I think what Shinran came up with, despite his years of careful study, was based quite firmly in that magical thinking. As my teacher explained it to me, Shinran asked the laity to be a vessel for Amida's work, just as for a Christian the opposite of living selfishly is being a vessel of Jesus or God. Now that we live in a materialist society this is very confusing language and I don't think it is useful for everyone--not just my own conclusion, but also reflecting the historical facts in Japan.
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Mexicali » Fri May 01, 2009 6:15 pm

Well, Shin Buddhism is a very extreme case, in that they've jettisoned most of the identifying characteristics of Buddhism entirely. Most Mahayana schools haven't gone as far out there. I personally think that Japanese Buddhism in general has historically speaking become the least recognizable, largely because of historical and political factors unique to Japan.

I guess what I was trying to say earlier; I think what the Buddha taught is profoundly and fundamentally different from what everyone before had taught, though of course there are areas of overlap that will allow well-meaning perennialists and new agers to claim that the Buddha and Jesus and Muhammad were teaching the exact same thing from now til doomsday. I honestly think that to some extent even a misunderstood, watered down version of that teaching is better than the rest of what's out there in terms of giving us a method to gain awareness and end suffering. I view vajrayana as mostly unnecessary and potentially dangerous, but most vajrayana Buddhism still has at root the noble truths, noble path, dependent arising, anatta, and self-effort.

If we're just talking comparative religion and the role it serves in society, Theravada isn't especially distinguished; the Theravada portion of Southeast Asia doesn't seem especially moral or contented these days as compared to the rest. But I don't really care that much about that.
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Dan74 » Fri May 01, 2009 9:46 pm

I view vajrayana as mostly unnecessary and potentially dangerous, but most vajrayana Buddhism still has at root the noble truths, noble path, dependent arising, anatta, and self-effort.


This is going to take the thread off-corse, but the quote above would have some justification if you have crossed to the other shore and have helped others do likewise without vajrayana methods. Have you?

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Mexicali » Sat May 02, 2009 3:43 am

Hmm, I really seriously doubt that you're one of those people who never find any reason to criticize any method, and since I'm pretty sure you're not a Buddha either, maybe you should avoid passive-aggressive rhetorical questions as to why I don't hypocritically pretend that I think every method is of equal value in my eyes. Thanks!

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby floating_abu » Sat May 02, 2009 4:18 am

That's a harsh answer to a fair question. I find it odd how people not subsumed or genuinely versed in the methods and teachings of another tradition, can be so certain about their judgements. There is nothing that is not dangerous, and there is nothing that is not capable of immense boon. Religion for example comes to mind for both facets. Perhaps more dangerous when the edge of certainty becomes more and more ingrained in those whom believe. I don't think Buddha's intention was just to create another group of "Buddhists".
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Mexicali » Sat May 02, 2009 4:35 am

It's a "fair question" to ask rhetorically if I'm an Arahant? Are you serious?

So I guess those comments about the NKT in another thread were out of line, yes? Oh no, silly me, that's a group it's okay to say you find suspect.

The Buddha was pretty clear that he wasn't big on a lot of practices. Was the Buddha a sectarian? Should he have been more tolerant and said 'it's cool, Hinduism is just as good as what I'm teaching'? Hey, I guess all the mainstream Vajrayana teachers who have said that one can only reach enlightenment through Vajrayana are equally subject to criticism, right?

In my experience, tantric Buddhism seems to screw a lot of people up. Mainstream Tibetan Buddhism often has cult like aspects including severe guru-worship, crazy lineage politics, and threats of hell to people who break complex ritual vows. Agree or disagree, fine. Telling me that I have no right to an opinion because I haven't reached enlightenment? Different story entirely.
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby floating_abu » Sat May 02, 2009 8:05 am

Being an Arahant is no big deal, but do heed Luang Por Chah's advice on the matter. :) Best wishes in all.
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Mexicali » Sat May 02, 2009 5:07 pm

floating_abu wrote:Being an Arahant is no big deal, but do heed Luang Por Chah's advice on the matter. :) Best wishes in all.


:anjali:

Best wishes to you as well.

And I hold Ajhan Chah in the highest esteem. However, I have to disagree at least provisionally with teachings by himself and Buddhadasa that I've read as essentially saying that all paths are the same. It's contrary to the basic teachings of the Buddha and my own experience. As for my own admittedly generally dim view of vajrayana, I don't expect anyone to agree with me. We all have our opinions and if we see a method as bad or dangerous, I see no reason we should pretend that we don't. As I pointed out, mainline Tibetan Buddhists have no problem expressing such sentiments regarding Shugden practitioners, followers of Trinlay Thaye Dorje, etc. Saying "you can't criticize anything until you're a Buddha/Arahant" is not only silly, its hypocritical. Let us say what we mean and mean what we say.
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Sat May 02, 2009 5:34 pm

A vajrayana practitioner is in the position of a snake in a bamboo tube. It's a quick path up or down and it's easier to fall into the lower realms. Take that as you will. Perhaps it's dangerous, but students are normally guided through a fair amount of preparation for it.

As for the rest of these comments about vajrayana, I don't know what to say :shrug:
Certainly it sounds like it's not Mexicali's personal path.
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Dan74 » Sun May 03, 2009 1:06 pm

Certainly it sounds like it's not Mexicali's personal path.


Yes.

But saying it is not my path is not the same as confidently dismissing it as unnecessary and potentially dangerous without even giving any justification.

That was all I was trying to say, but I guess it fell on deaf ears.

It is sad to see people continue to harm themselves by this kind of speech.

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Sun May 03, 2009 3:52 pm

I know what you're saying Dan :smile:
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Sun May 03, 2009 5:31 pm

As I understand it, passive aggressive means showing aggression via lack of activity. Like procrastination.

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Mexicali » Sun May 03, 2009 5:39 pm

That's technically correct, but in its day to day, commonly understood meaning, it can also refer to sublimating one's aggression to smarminess. It's reallllllly common on Buddhist message boards, where someone clearly wants to engage you, but needs to hide it behind a veneer of phony wisdom and/or compassion so nobody thinks they're subject to such simple human frailties as, say, disagreement.
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Sun May 03, 2009 6:36 pm

:offtopic: :oops:
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Sun May 03, 2009 6:42 pm

Content, it might have been a violation of TOS although it wasn't my intent.

:oops:
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Mexicali » Sun May 03, 2009 7:28 pm

Zen has many of the same problems that Tibetan Buddhism does, in terms of encouraging unethical behavior and promoting teachings the Buddha specifically spoke against, in the name of an esoteric doctrine. Seung Sahn's "beyond lust" excuse for his behavior sits comfortably with the excuses for keeping sacred concubines in Tibet. Zen's support for Japanese nationalism and warfare finds an analogue in Tibet's support of the landed gentry's right to keep slaves. The 'crazy wisdom' commonly found in both has encouraged a lot of people to reject ubaya in favor of seeking some kind of "higher wisdom". People like Osel Tendzin and Richard Baker aren't representative of some kind of fringe cult, they were very mainstream figures working from very orthodox teachings.
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby retrofuturist » Sun May 03, 2009 11:06 pm

Greetings,

Please be mindful of the following from the...

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Members are expected to self-moderate, being mindful of the adage that 'behaviour breeds behaviour'. Mutual respect and friendliness should be the basis of all interactions. For the Buddha's teaching on this see the Saleyyaka Sutta.


Surely this topic can be discussed without personal attacks.

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)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Dan74 » Mon May 04, 2009 10:29 am

Mexicali wrote:Zen has many of the same problems that Tibetan Buddhism does, in terms of encouraging unethical behavior and promoting teachings the Buddha specifically spoke against, in the name of an esoteric doctrine.


Zen Buddhism is Buddhism and therefore morality (sila) is essential. It is present in the vows, in the teachings and in the practice. See for example:

Stating from 2008, Chan (Zen) Master Sheng Yen's compassion for humanity was further revealed in "the Six Ethics of the Mind Campaign". They are Workplace Ethics, School Ethics, Family Ethics, Living Ethics, Environmental Ethics and Ethics between Ethnic Groups.

He believed that in today's society, chaos in all its manifestations springs from a lack of ethical and moral standards in interpersonal relationships among all walks of life. Thus, everyone scrambles for their rights while forgetting their obligations and duties. "Ethics" means doing one's duties and observing one's role and "morality" means respecting and caring for each other in interpersonal relationships.



Mexicali wrote:Seung Sahn's "beyond lust" excuse for his behavior sits comfortably with the excuses for keeping sacred concubines in Tibet. Zen's support for Japanese nationalism and warfare finds an analogue in Tibet's support of the landed gentry's right to keep slaves.


Yes, Zen (Seon) teachers are human beings and all that that entails. It is unfortunate but I suspect probably not confined to the Zen tradition. What is not correct is to paint everyone with the same brush. The Buddha's immediate disciples had their failings too.

Mexicali wrote: The 'crazy wisdom' commonly found in both has encouraged a lot of people to reject ubaya in favor of seeking some kind of "higher wisdom".


I have no idea what you are talking about here. This is not my experience of Zen, nor something I found in reading classical Zen stories. No crazy wisdom there. Only compassion coupled with deep insight.

Mexicali wrote:People like Osel Tendzin and Richard Baker aren't representative of some kind of fringe cult, they were very mainstream figures working from very orthodox teachings.


I don't know about Osel, but Baker was expelled by his sangha and more recently said the following (in a 1994 interview with Sugata Schneider):

I don't think that the gossipy or official versions of what happened are right, but I feel definitely that if I were back in the situation again as the person I am now, it wouldn't have happened. Which means it's basically my fault. I had a kind of insecurity and self-importance, which I didn't see for a long time, that was a bad dynamic in the community.


Suzuki Roshi had to choose an heir to continue with the Centre. He chose Baker. And Baker screwed up. Does it follow that there is something inherently wrong with Zen? I don't think so.

Mexicali wrote:Dan

You're sanctimonious and passive aggressive. I'm not sure if those are considered "wrong speech" per se, but I find it obnoxious. Someone disagreeing with you doesn't mean they're "harming themselves" or that your oh-so-noble words "fell on deaf ears". You want to address what I specifically said, feel free, but get over yourself.


My attitude to posting is not to be rude but try to stay constructive. Your response above was to me addressing Drolma, who was also a witness to other ill-informed Vajrayana bashing posts, which I find very sad. Simply because people dismiss a venerable tradition which have produced wonderful enlightened teachers whose compassion exceeds anything you or I can imagine. This attitude hurts the person him/herself. You can see or choose not to see. Your business entirely. But sect-bashing and ad hominems are against Terms of Service so please refrain in the future for community's sake. If you need to, you can PM me.

This is not to say that you can't constructively criticise. I responded to your critical comments about Zen, which had some factual support. But when people dismiss entire traditions, it just sounds like extreme hubris and serves no one.

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