Question about Theravada tradition

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
dude
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Re: Question about Theravada tradition

Postby dude » Thu Dec 13, 2012 3:26 pm

Wesley1982 wrote:How did Theravada tradition become distinct from Mahayana & Vajrayana tradtions? . .thanks


Probably a good while after the Buddha's death, when the Theras (elders), decided they were cooler than the lay believers.

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Dan74
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Re: Question about Theravada tradition

Postby Dan74 » Thu Dec 13, 2012 5:38 pm

_/|\_

ubeysekaramapa
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Re: Question about Theravada tradition

Postby ubeysekaramapa » Tue Dec 22, 2015 8:55 am

I like to pause two questions:

1) can suicide solve the problem of dukka?

If not, how did Buddha declare Ven. Channa who committed suicide , as an arahant? He committed suicide due to unbearable pain as explained by him to Ven Sariputta (See Cannovada Sutta -114 in MN). That means, he was not an arahant when he committed suicide; but in the process of death by suicide he became an arahant!

2) Why is DUKKA not found in Girimananda Sutta? It is a sutta related by the Buddha to Ven. Ananda to be conveyed to Ven.Girmananda who was sick.

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Javi
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Re: Question about Theravada tradition

Postby Javi » Sun Dec 27, 2015 4:33 pm

Geography, culture and time, lots of time.
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Tārakā timiraṃ dīpo māyāvaśyāya budbudaḥ supinaṃ vidyud abhraṃ ca evaṃ draṣṭavya saṃskṛtam — A shooting star, a clouding of the sight, a lamp, An illusion, a drop of dew, a bubble, A dream, a lightning’s flash, a thunder cloud — This is the way one should see the conditioned — Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

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Coëmgenu
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Re: Question about Theravada tradition

Postby Coëmgenu » Tue Jul 26, 2016 10:05 pm

Both of the traditions contain elements of the undivided school of Buddhism which could be called the "original teaching".

Both traditions also contain innovations, or teachings that were "revealed later", whichever way you want to put it. The Mahayana has a great diversity of innovative later sutras that come into the written canon of history considerably after the Pali Canon, the most famous of which, perhaps, is the Lotus Sutra.

It should be noted that the Mahayana teachings outrightly identify themselves as new, revelatory teachings, whereas Theravada are less likely to consider their teachings "new" in the same way. In Mahayana thought, the Lotus Sutra was taught by Gautama-Buddha toward the end of his life to a select number of apostles (a lot of which seem to be supernatural entities), possibly in a spiritual symbolic Pure Land wherein is found a 'perfect' prototype of Gṛdhrakūṭa, or in English, the Holy Eagle Peak.

(My own maybe-slightly-less-than-orthodox Buddhism is coming out here, instead of an objective approach, because as a dubious Mahayanist I believe the Lotus Sutra, and later Mahayana sutras, to be largely symbolic and mythic expoundings of the Dharma, versus the 'core' Pali teachings, which are more direct. I will try to return to being objective though in the interest of accurately disseminating information as best I can in regards to the theme of this thread.)

The Lotus Sutra was believed to have then been subsumed into the realm of the Nagas (divine snakes: it is pertinent here to remember that snakes have always been symbolically associated with wisdom, secret-teachings, and knowledge, in both Eastern Indic traditions and Western Mesopotamian and Abrahamic traditions). The Lotus Sutra claims to be the revealed teachings of the Buddha, revealed from behind the veil of "wisdom" (i.e. the nagas), to the Northerly Buddhist schools that would become the later Mahayana movement.

Similarly, the Southern School has a belief about the Buddhadharma of specifically the Abhidhamma being preached in the trāyastriṃśa heaven by the Buddha, and later revealed to the earthly realms as the Abhidhamma via direct revelation through the apostle Śāriputra. Alas I do not know enough about the Abhidhamma and the background of it to elaborate on it as much as I did the Lotus Sutra.

Both traditions do share a general "core teaching", and both canons (Mahayana and Pali) have this core teaching preserved, one way or another, through "original Buddhist" teachings that reference the same body of knowledge that the Pali Canon is a harmonization of. Mahayana Buddhists, if they are worth their salt at all, also revere the wisdom-teachings of the Pali Canon because they are the foundation upon which all later innovation rests.

For an example of this, I would like to quote the user "Dhamma_Basti" from the thread "the pali texts are incoherent?":

Dhamma_Basti wrote:Another nice example of contradiction in the Pali texts are the references to anattā, here pointed out by Alexander Wynne: http://ocbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2015 ... atijbs.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


The book in the link he provided gives us examples of parallel passages from a Northern-School tripitaka (specifically from the canon of the Mūlasarvāstivāda school (who used Sanskrit as its language of Dharma-transmission, and who committed their inherited Buddhadharma to text quite a bit later than the Pali Canon) and the Pali Canon (who used Pali, as we all know).

Here is the section entitled Saṅghabhedavastu from the Northern canon, in Sanskrit:

Kiṃ manyadhve bhikṣavo: rūpaṃ nityam vā ? Anityam idaṃ bhadanta. Yat punar anityaṃ duḥkham vā tan na vā duḥkham? Duḥkham idaṃ bhadanta. Yat punar anityaṃ duḥkhaṃ vipariṇāmadharmi, api nu tac chrutavān āryaśrāvaka ātmata upagacched etan mama, eso ’ham asmy, eṣa me ātmeti?


It is quite close to the Pali Canon's Mahāvagga, the citation for which is given as "Vin I.14.5":

Taṃ kiṃ maññatha bhikkhave: rūpaṃ niccaṃ vā aniccaṃ vā ti? Aniccaṃ bhante. Yaṃ panāniccaṃ dukkhaṃ vā taṃ sukhaṃ vā ti? Dukkhaṃ bhante. Yaṃ panāniccaṃ dukkhaṃ vipariṇāmadhammaṃ, kallan nu taṃ samanupassituṃ: etaṃ mama, eso ’haṃ asmi, eso me attā ti?


As you can see, the two are very close, but there are still material discrepancies, small and large, between the two inherited traditions of Buddhadharma, in how they are communicated. Sometimes there are even outright contradictions between the Northern and Southern canons. The kinds of discrepancies you have between between the texts of the Northern and Southern schools (excluding, of course, the later Mahayana innovations) are generally the same sort of inconsistencies one encounters in different Gospel accounts in the Bible, in one Jesus says this, in the other Jesus says something slightly different, but generally the same. Or names of people and places things happened with switch around, but the lessons and teachings will be the same (or not).

Who inherited the "truer" tradition? Who can say. Although I will hand it to the Southern Schools/modern-day Theravada that they committed their canon to immutable text much before the Northern Schools did.
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Wed Jul 27, 2016 3:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
Bhagavā arahaṃ sammasāmbuddho:
Svākkhāto yena bhagavatā dhammo / Supaṭipanno yassa bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho
Tammayaṃ bhagavantaṃ sadhammaṃ sasaṅghaṃ / Imehi sakkārehi yathārahaṃ āropitehi abhipūjayāma.
(Dedication of Offerings)
All these dharmāṇi are the status of dharma, the standing of dharma, the suchness of dharma; the dharma neither departs from things-as-they-are, nor differs from things-as-they-are; it is the truth, reality, without distortion. (SA 296, 因緣法)
揭諦揭諦,波羅揭諦,波羅僧揭諦,菩提薩婆訶

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cappuccino
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Re: Question about Theravada tradition

Postby cappuccino » Wed Jul 27, 2016 1:53 am

ubeysekaramapa wrote:1) can suicide solve the problem of dukka?


No.
If you're at a low, you must live for the high.
The standard description of nibbana after death is,
"All that is sensed, not being relished, will grow cold right here."

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Dhamma_Basti
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Re: Question about Theravada tradition

Postby Dhamma_Basti » Wed Jul 27, 2016 6:50 am

To the question of Wesley1982:
We have a split between the Sthaviravādins and the Mahāsāṃghikas not long after the Buddha died, and as the legend goes the Mahāsāṃghikas, who went to the east, we more inclined to magic and worship than the Sthaviravādins, who went to the west and focussed more on meditation.

If you read what the japanese scholars usually write you get the impression that Mahāyāna must have started with the earliest days of the Mahāsāṃghikas. This is not entirely impossible, I personally believe that many of the elements that later developed into Mahāyāna are there in the Mahāsāmghika-sources. Especially if one reads the Mahāvastu, the focus of magic, supernatural powers, worship of the Buddha as a deity etc. seems to have it's echo there.
However what we today call Mahāyāna is usually something different. In order to get to the gist of this movement we need some more ingredients, for example the tathāgatagarbha-doctrine. So probably the full development of Mahāyāna-concepts was not complete until the Tathāgatagarbha-Sūtra, the Mahāparinirvāṇa-mahāsūtra and some related texts. The Mahāyāna-traditions themselves seem to have their difficulties in labeling stuff as Mahāyāna, as this was only done at a later point of time. So we end up with the Vaitulya/Vaipulya-confusion and the question what actually is early Mahāyāna, who composed it, why it was done and where it started is until today very much unsolved.
And also the attempt to associate Mahāyāna with one certain school or group seems rather unfruitful to me. I have the impression that Mahāyāna is something that went on across boundaries of certain sects, similar to the anti-war movement in the USA in the 60s (which might was generally associated with the left-winged political parties, but in no way limited to one group or one party) or the nationalistic movement that we have nowadays in Europe. They do generally share a common goal (or at least a direction) but there can be very different when one looks into the details.

Coëmgenu: Yep it is a difficult question. There is also a lot of pre-mahāyāna stuff transmitted in the northern tradition, yet this material has not been widely studied yet. This is partly due to the fact those people who are able to deal with the earliest chinese translations (such as Seishi Karashima) usually have a mahāyāna-background and are not much interested in the study of the non-mahāyāna-material. The few people who do engage in the studies of chinese pre-mahāyāna-material usually are not deeply trained in dealing with chinese sources, so there is some room to improve here. :)

To give an example the last month I was doing a comparison of the different transmissions of a small portion of the Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra. The MPS is not a bad Sūtra to start with since it is quite long, has been well transmitted in a lot of different languages and contains some passages which are of importance for the later doctrinal developments.
My impression is that in order to gain an impression of what the original text might have looked like we usually have to go through comparative study.
In the case of the MPS the northern and southern transmission complement each other quite well, so by comparison it is possible to puzzle together what the original might have been once. The northern transmission seems to be generally the older one in this case, at least concerning the fragment that I went through. This one can see in the fact that the Pāli-Version sometimes has a tendency to simplify, cut down, harmonize and 'arrange' stuff more readily than the sanskrit fragments. This gives the Pāli version a rather dry appearance. the Sanskrit version however suffers from the fact that some of the passages appear to have been written with a sort of 'creative genius' attitude, not always strictly focussed on telling what exactly happened. This is especially true if one looks at the earliest chinese translations (Taishō No. 5 and No. 6, probably 200-250CE).
In general I do however hold the view that the Pāli-canon is preferable to the Mūlasarvāstivāda-material when it comes to antiquity, but in order to get the oldest layer comparison is unavoidable.

By the way, as the master Karashima himself discovered, the term 'mahāyāna' is propably a wrong retranslation of a middle word that once was 'mahājñāna' 'the great knowledge'.
It does make a lot of sense since the southern transmission (and early indian sources in general) don't talk much of vehicles, but are focussed on knowledge and the ways to achieve it. :)
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Coëmgenu
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Re: Question about Theravada tradition

Postby Coëmgenu » Sat Aug 13, 2016 8:56 pm

Dhamma_Basti wrote:This one can see in the fact that the Pāli-Version sometimes has a tendency to simplify, cut down, harmonize and 'arrange' stuff more readily than the sanskrit fragments. This gives the Pāli version a rather dry appearance. the Sanskrit version however suffers from the fact that some of the passages appear to have been written with a sort of 'creative genius' attitude, not always strictly focussed on telling what exactly happened.


The "creative genius" thing made me LOL.

That seems to be the most jarring and evident surface-level difference between the Mahayana literary style and the Theravada style: the Mahayana accounts of everything have a tendency toward extreme and obvious hyperbole.

Take for instance The Immeasurable Meanings Sutra:
They maintained this state unmoving for a million hundred thousand kalpas. Immeasurable doctrines were all manifest before them. They had acquired great wisdom, had fully understood all phenomena, perceived and distinguished the truth regarding natures and characteristics, and displayed absolute clarity concerning being and nonbeing, long and short.


Surely no one in there right mind would believed that the Buddha preached atop the Holy Eagle Peak for a million hundred thousand kalpas, there simply isn't the time.

There seems to be this tendency toward fantastical, mythic, overlarge, presentations of the subject material. Some people discount the Mahayana traditions because of this. I just think it is a sign that these sutras were never meant to be read "literally as history". Perhaps this could be also said of the Sutta Nikaya? Whose primary purpose seems to be more-so to preserve the teaching, not codify 'every exact word' spoken and give a historical-materialist account of the reality of what happened. Certainly I have had encounters with other practitioners who have such a literalist reading of the Sutta Nikaya that when there appears to be a contradiction in it, they excise one of the two suttas as "inauthentic" because it didn't produce a coherent materialist historical vision of the past to them.

Dhamma_Basti wrote:By the way, as the master Karashima himself discovered, the term 'mahāyāna' is propably a wrong retranslation of a middle word that once was 'mahājñāna' 'the great knowledge'.
It does make a lot of sense since the southern transmission (and early indian sources in general) don't talk much of vehicles, but are focussed on knowledge and the ways to achieve it. :)


This is very interesting, it certainly complicates the Parable of the Burning House in the Lotus Sūtra, do you have any links that elaborate on Karashima's findings vis-a-vis "mahājñāna/mahāyāna"?

I do hope I am not too off-topic.

Suffice to say, another difference between the Mahayana and Theravada traditions is their main texts have a very different literary style.

I am not an Abhidhammic scholar, but I have read that the Theravada Adhidhamma describes reality as being reducable to "prime dhammas". Does anyone have any idea if that is correct, and if so, what that means?

I say this because I have a book on Nagarjuna that argues that he spent a lot of his life trying to refute the Abhidhammic teachings, saying there are no "prime dhammas".

That would be another difference between the traditions to look into, if a highly scholastic one that might not have any substantial effects on day-to-day practice.
Bhagavā arahaṃ sammasāmbuddho:
Svākkhāto yena bhagavatā dhammo / Supaṭipanno yassa bhagavato sāvakasaṅgho
Tammayaṃ bhagavantaṃ sadhammaṃ sasaṅghaṃ / Imehi sakkārehi yathārahaṃ āropitehi abhipūjayāma.
(Dedication of Offerings)
All these dharmāṇi are the status of dharma, the standing of dharma, the suchness of dharma; the dharma neither departs from things-as-they-are, nor differs from things-as-they-are; it is the truth, reality, without distortion. (SA 296, 因緣法)
揭諦揭諦,波羅揭諦,波羅僧揭諦,菩提薩婆訶

justindesilva
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Re: Question about Theravada tradition

Postby justindesilva » Mon Aug 22, 2016 3:51 am

To inquisitive Wesley 82
Good question and In my knowledge a Prince from South india in the 5th century by the name of Bodhidharma travelled to China . After a spiritual confrontation with a then king of China he travelled in China Japan and closet territories.
He established the zen (Chan) schools of Buddhism in China and Japan. He established a buddhist practise of martial arts in order to protect the villagers from robbers and set up schools in a similar manner.
The zen buddhist monks protected the villagers within the precepts of buddhism. Finally mixed with various cultures other patterns of martial arts were established.
How ever zen buddhism if well followed with meditation will carry one to liberation of the mind. But it is my view it is a more domesticated pattern of buddhism created within buddhist principles not to be treated lightly.
In comparison may I indicate that " thera" means a priest.
(This may be verified by going in to webs introducing Bodhidharma)

Caodemarte
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Re: Question about Theravada tradition

Postby Caodemarte » Mon Aug 22, 2016 2:00 pm

Sorry, but the story of Bodhidharma and Zen in the comment seems to be entirely made up and completely fanciful without even a legendary basis. If you are interested in this topic, please check any standard source.

It is probably a mistake to think of early Theravada and Mahayana (of which Vajrayana is a subset) as distinct ideological movements rather than as broad tendencies, slowly jelling into fairly distinct groupings. In SE Asia Theravada was an alternative "reform" movement that came after and replaced Vajrayana so it clearly developed there after Vajrayana. I suspect the same is true in India as well, that Theravada was a reform movement that developed in reaction to Vajrayana and possibly proto- Mahayanist schools. What seems clear is that Theravada looked back to the 3rd Council for inspiration (so did not start as an identifiable movement until at least a century later). So using that date as a rough guide and depending on when you decide Mahayana started (from the first mention of the bodhisattva ideal?) there is a strong case that Mahayana predates Theravada or developed at roughly the same time.

However, this is interesting only from the historical point of view. From the religious point of view, it matters less "what Buddha historically said" or "what document is older than which" than what results from practice (or so I believe the Buddha said :smile: ). So the primary question becomes " Is it true and is it useful?"

justindesilva
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Re: Question about Theravada tradition

Postby justindesilva » Mon Aug 22, 2016 5:44 pm

Re the former comment please see www.patheos.com
The fact that a Prince from Pallava (south india) who was named Bodhi Dharma is a well known fact. The fact that The shaolin temple is started by Bodhi Dharma is also written in zen texts. Shaolin temple is the place where martial arts of kungfu nature started.
It is at the Shaolin temples a training of using our body and limbs as weapons in combat started.
Heavy emphasis of meditation and discipline is maintained at the Shaolin temples. Unlike in Theravada tradition such emphasis on sutra by Lord Buddha is not heavily emphasised in zen buddhism.
Zen which also extended from China to Japan were used in war fare too. Zen as dhyana is domesticated by applying it in to drawing art, sculpture còoking and many household works .
Therefore we have to accept the fact that Zen schools started in China and Japan with a view to liberate people from suffering in a different manner from traditional Theravada style. Of course There are certain sutra in zen buddhism too.
Something very interesting with zen masters is using riddles to explain buddhist principles.Any person interested in such riddles can find them in zen literature.
The Americans who went to Japan brought martial arts to the west leaving its spiritual value . Hence the real value of zen buddhism cannot be embraced by the modern western world who take martial arts as only a form of combat.
I conclude this with metta thoughts.

Caodemarte
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Re: Question about Theravada tradition

Postby Caodemarte » Mon Aug 22, 2016 7:33 pm

Respectfully I am not aware of even a legend that Bodhidharma travelled to Japan. In any case, that would be highly unlikely. There are many legends concerning his origin with Persia, Central Asia, India being the most common. There are few facts. The legend that he taught martial arts to monks ( not villagers) or was connected to Shaolin seems to have originated well, well after his death and historians generally discount Shaolin claims of a connection to him (so you are free to believe it as possibly true, but not as an established fact). However,none of this is probably germane for a Theravada discussion forum so I will be quiet now. If you are interested in Bodhidharma, what Zen practices actually are, it's history, and what is taught in that school I would again suggest you look at standard sources or visit a Zen center. But that is up to you of course! :namaste:

justindesilva
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Re: Question about Theravada tradition

Postby justindesilva » Tue Aug 23, 2016 4:05 pm

With due respect to the former reply I understand that it is a good remark as still the stand of Bodidarma is being questioned by some schools.
How ever my anxiety in bringing in the story is to highlight that buddhism was taken to China and Japan 500 years after buddhism was estsblished in India.
Close upon Parinibbana of Lord Buddha the first sangayana of buddhism of was held led by Ananda thera and other disciples of lord Buddha.
Lord Buddha also sent his disciples around india and closest countries to liberate the common population.
After 250 years of buddha parinirvana Mihindu maha arahat thera brings in buddhism of Theravada tradition to sri lanka and the then king of Sri lanka embraced Theravada buddhism.
Similarly Theravada buddhism Is established in Burma and Thailand.
It is after 500 years later buddhism is brought in to China and Japan and it appears to be mixed with ancient and Tao traditions of China and was established in shaolin temples.
Hence It is clear in an answer to the original question Theravada is a life form preached by budda and zen and vajrayana (as in Tibet) was established much later outside India or Magada .
With this explanation I too wish to close my debate. With due respect to all.

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Re: Question about Theravada tradition

Postby Dhamma_Basti » Mon Aug 29, 2016 2:27 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
Dhamma_Basti wrote:This one can see in the fact that the Pāli-Version sometimes has a tendency to simplify, cut down, harmonize and 'arrange' stuff more readily than the sanskrit fragments. This gives the Pāli version a rather dry appearance. the Sanskrit version however suffers from the fact that some of the passages appear to have been written with a sort of 'creative genius' attitude, not always strictly focussed on telling what exactly happened.


The "creative genius" thing made me LOL.

We do have two versions of the Mahāparinirvāṇa-Sūtras in sanskrit out there, one is pre-mahāyāna, one is mahāyāna. My comment about the creatuve genius was meant with regard to the non-mahāyāna-version. i am burning to do a comparision of these two texts, to see what the differences really are. but it is true that already the non-mahāyāna-version includes a lot more miracles and strange stuff than the pāli-version does. :)
This is very interesting, it certainly complicates the Parable of the Burning House in the Lotus Sūtra, do you have any links that elaborate on Karashima's findings vis-a-vis "mahājñāna/mahāyāna"?


I fear I have to disappoint you, since this was heard by me in a talk he gave last year at the university of Hamburg, and I assume that he did not yet publish on this issue (or maybe he did so, but only in japanese, who knows...).

Caodemarte wrote:It is probably a mistake to think of early Theravada and Mahayana (of which Vajrayana is a subset) as distinct ideological movements rather than as broad tendencies, slowly jelling into fairly distinct groupings. In SE Asia Theravada was an alternative "reform" movement that came after and replaced Vajrayana so it clearly developed there after Vajrayana. I suspect the same is true in India as well, that Theravada was a reform movement that developed in reaction to Vajrayana and possibly proto- Mahayanist schools. What seems clear is that Theravada looked back to the 3rd Council for inspiration (so did not start as an identifiable movement until at least a century later). So using that date as a rough guide and depending on when you decide Mahayana started (from the first mention of the bodhisattva ideal?) there is a strong case that Mahayana predates Theravada or developed at roughly the same time.

Totally agree. I think that the terms Theravāda/Hīnayāna are label applied only after the term Mahāyāna was widely accepted, in order to address those parties who did not share the new concepts in debate.
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