Question about Theravada tradition

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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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Re: Question about Theravada tradition

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


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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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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.
- These were the last words for the Tathāgata.

Non qui parum habet sed qui plus cupit pauper est.
It's not he who has little, but he who craves more, that is poor. - Seneca

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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: ... atijbs.pdf" onclick=";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.
As always, I encourage you to correct me if you see an error in my thinking.

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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?

If you're at a low, you must live for the high.

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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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