Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu May 07, 2009 3:59 am

Greetings,

FYI... a related thread at Dharma Wheel.

How has Theravada benefited your practice?
http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=36&t=130

Metta,
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Mexicali » Thu May 07, 2009 4:53 am

Really?


Yes.

Where?


Many and various places.

Are you a Western Zen practitioner?


Was.

I'm not


Your skeptical tone seems ill-advised to me, then.

I lived around the corner from the San Francisco Zen Center for many years, sat there regularly, attended ceremonies, and socialized extensively with the sangha.


That's cool.

A drier, more serious bunch of practitioners would be very difficult to find anywhere.


Which logically means it's like that everywhere else, of course.

I'd be very interested in hearing from you examples of where this crazy wisdom is manifesting, and what your definition of "crazy wisdom" is in the context of this Western Zen "crazy wisdom clearinghouse" that you apparently have personal experience of.


Not that I have anything to prove to you, but one of the things that turned me off to Zen was that groups I sat with, in several American cities, Scotland, and Norway it was incredibly common for people to develop an obnoxious "zen" persona that was all about speaking cryptically, justifying the unjustifiable as the actions of awakened beings, using the example of people like Ikkyu rather than any kind of actual Buddhist teaching as a template for their practice, etc. Sorry that doesn't accord with your own experience, but I hope I met the standards of evidence you required.
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Sun Jun 07, 2009 9:41 am

Fede wrote:I first encountered Buddhism via the Mahayana/Tibetan Buddhism route.
Much of the preliminary literature I read, was presented from a Mahayana Tibetan/Zen perspective.
had it not been for these, my travels would not have been so fruitful.
It took me a long time for me to decide where to pitch my tent and hoist my pennant.
In the end, after much deliberation and confusion (as many here will attest to) I swerved towards Theravada.
Why? Simply because there were some notions and ideologies in Mahayana I could not easily digest or accept.
This is not to say I considered them wrong, or bad, or even inaccurate.
It is merely to say that they did not sit well with me specifically.


Me too, very similar. FWBO initially ( 30 years ago - :rolleye: ) then NKT, then Rigpa, then Tich Naht Han, Therevadin in recent years. All very useful experience, particularly in terms of comparing similarities and differences and getting the big picture, like looking at something from a number of different directions. Actually I wouldn't describe myself as a Therevadin Buddhist, just as a Buddhist who is currently practising in the Therevadin tradition. But to answer the question, yes, a Mahayana perspective is very useful for Therevadins, almost "required reading" in my opinion.

Rick

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby jcsuperstar » Sun Jun 07, 2009 8:07 pm

Mexicali wrote:
Not that I have anything to prove to you, but one of the things that turned me off to Zen was that groups I sat with, in several American cities, Scotland, and Norway it was incredibly common for people to develop an obnoxious "zen" persona that was all about speaking cryptically, justifying the unjustifiable as the actions of awakened beings, using the example of people like Ikkyu rather than any kind of actual Buddhist teaching as a template for their practice, etc. Sorry that doesn't accord with your own experience, but I hope I met the standards of evidence you required.

i never saw this in real life only on the internets
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jun 07, 2009 9:06 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:
Mexicali wrote:
Not that I have anything to prove to you, but one of the things that turned me off to Zen was that groups I sat with, in several American cities, Scotland, and Norway it was incredibly common for people to develop an obnoxious "zen" persona that was all about speaking cryptically, justifying the unjustifiable as the actions of awakened beings, using the example of people like Ikkyu rather than any kind of actual Buddhist teaching as a template for their practice, etc. Sorry that doesn't accord with your own experience, but I hope I met the standards of evidence you required.

i never saw this in real life only on the internets

And it really is annoying.
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Tue Jun 09, 2009 12:27 pm

Rick O'Shez wrote: But to answer the question, yes, a Mahayana perspective is very useful for Therevadins, almost "required reading" in my opinion.


I just wanted to add that IMO the reverse is also true, in other words Mahayanist Buddhists would benefit greatly from an understanding of the Therevadin approach. In my experience over the years some Mahayanists are very vague about the "basic" teachings, eg the Four Noble Truths and Noble Eight Fold Path.

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Sanghamitta » Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:39 am

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.


I dont see how anyone could rightly judge that who was not an Arahant, unless you are saying......?
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jul 29, 2009 10:38 am

Sanghamitta wrote:
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.


I dont see how anyone could rightly judge that who was not an Arahant, unless you are saying......?


I think FA is referring to one of Ajahn Chah's many iconoclastic statements from "No Ajahn Chah":
"Do not be a bodhisattva, do not be an arahant, do not be anything at all. If you are a bodhisattva, you will suffer, if you are an arahant, you will suffer, if you are anything at all, you will suffer."

Which, in my view, is not really a statement about arahants in particular. It is saying that trying to be anything will cause suffering...

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Sanghamitta » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:37 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Sanghamitta wrote:
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.


I dont see how anyone could rightly judge that who was not an Arahant, unless you are saying......?


I think FA is referring to one of Ajahn Chah's many iconoclastic statements from "No Ajahn Chah":
"Do not be a bodhisattva, do not be an arahant, do not be anything at all. If you are a bodhisattva, you will suffer, if you are an arahant, you will suffer, if you are anything at all, you will suffer."

Which, in my view, is not really a statement about arahants in particular. It is saying that trying to be anything will cause suffering...

Metta
Mike


Which is , may I suggest, an example of the Internet curse of selective quoting, and still does not address the " no big deal " issue. Its ok for Ajahn Chah to take a view from his position. I think the rest of us need to be cautious.
:smile:
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Pannapetar » Thu Jul 30, 2009 9:15 am

To answer the question of the thread starter: For myself, being "locked" into Theravada by living in Thailand, the Mahayana perspective has certainly been useful. I can say it has enhanced my understanding. My favourites are the Heart Sutra, the Lotus Sutra, the Diamond Sutra, the Mahaparinirvana Sutra and the Platform Sutra. I also found several books quite helpful, such as the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche.

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Jul 31, 2009 7:37 am

Many things may be useful, anything can be useful if approached correctly. However the Way Of The Elders is complete in itself. As a very experienced Forest Tradition monk once said to me after reading Sogyal Rinpoche's BOTD. " Its very good, but as far as I am concerned all of the mahayana is gilding the lily. "

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

Postby Dan74 » Mon Aug 03, 2009 12:57 am

Sanghamitta wrote:Many things may be useful, anything can be useful if approached correctly. However the Way Of The Elders is complete in itself. As a very experienced Forest Tradition monk once said to me after reading Sogyal Rinpoche's BOTD. " Its very good, but as far as I am concerned all of the mahayana is gilding the lily. "

:anjali:


Well, he may have been an excellent Forest Monk, but he had precious little understanding of Mahayana, I think.

Mahayana is not an unnecessary growth on the Pali Canon, it is a system in itself, with its methods, tenets, iconography, literature, etc. This system has a great deal in common with Theravada at its core (it is Buddhism!) but in other respects it can be very different (depending on the school). That's why 'gilding the lilly' does not fit. You can criticise it in other ways of course.

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Sanghamitta » Mon Aug 03, 2009 7:09 am

The forest monk in question is one of the most famous and known to be an excellent forest monk. I will not name him because the conversation was private and off the record. Western forest monks and increasingly Asian ones too are almost always aquainted with whole gamut of Buddhist views before committing to the Theravada Sangha. They do not make that commitment because they prefer the colour of the robes. Many of them, and this can be easily verified, like the one I have quoted make that choice precisely because of the absence of concepts like " Buddha Nature" and the " Bodhisattva vow ". I dont think that is a controversial statement, particularly in the context of a Theravada website.
:smile:

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

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Aug 03, 2009 7:16 am

To some degree there are things within the Mahayana that are of interest and value to Theravadins, but being a complete and full path to the same awakening acheived by the Buddha, there is nothing that the Theravada needs from the Mahayana.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Sanghamitta » Mon Aug 03, 2009 7:31 am

tiltbillings wrote:To some degree there are things within the Mahayana that are of interest and value to Theravadins, but being a complete and full path to the same awakening acheived by the Buddha, there is nothing that the Theravada needs from the Mahayana.


Very well put. For anyone not aquanted with the expression " gilding the lily " it means taking something already perfect and then elaborating on it so that its perfection is obscured. Like taking a beautiful white lily and spraying it with gold paint.

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

Postby Pannapetar » Mon Aug 03, 2009 7:54 am

I think that "gilding the lily" expresses at least to some degree the sort of dismissive attitude that the word "hinayana" expresses. It's sort of judgmental. I doubt that there is any final answer to the Threadstarter's question... I mean who wants to be the judge? And why invite problematic generalisation? All we can say is whether Mahayana was helpful to us personally at one point or another, or not. Being landlocked in Theravada, it was occasionally helpful for me, but Theravada is still my "bread and butter".

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Aug 03, 2009 7:57 am

Pannapetar wrote:I think that "gilding the lily" expresses at least to some degree the sort of dismissive attitude that the word "hinayana" expresses. It's sort of judgmental.


Sort of judgmental is a lot better than grossly judgmental, as is the term hinayana, garbage vehicle.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Sanghamitta » Mon Aug 03, 2009 8:35 am

I have no problem with " judgemental ". Its just another word for discrimination, discernment. It is an essential part of discovering The Dhamma.

Its not after all as if any one involved with this discussion is going to a clearly marked Zen Forum and telling them that their lives would be complete if they adopted just a wee pinch of the Theravada. Zen people have I assume exercised their judgement and reached a different conclusion to me. Personally I think we should be green or we should be yellow. Not some shade of greeny-yellowy.
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Ben » Mon Aug 03, 2009 9:26 am

Dear members,

Please keep in mind that although Dhamma Wheel is a forum for the discussion of the Theravada, it is a forum where all those interested in the Theravada, regardless of their affiliation, feel welcome and respected. I would like members to keep that in mind when responding to this and other threads. While we may have found our respective Theravadin practices to be the ekayano maggo for ourselves, be aware that many valued members are sincere practitioners of the Mahayana or Vajrayana. Its also been my observation that humilty is an artefact of genuine spiritual progress.
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Dan74 » Mon Aug 03, 2009 1:01 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Pannapetar wrote:I think that "gilding the lily" expresses at least to some degree the sort of dismissive attitude that the word "hinayana" expresses. It's sort of judgmental.


Sort of judgmental is a lot better than grossly judgmental, as is the term hinayana, garbage vehicle.


It's kind of like saying, "yes, we may have some issues with sectarianism but our sectarianism is not as bad as theirs!" :clap:

As for the term "hinyana", firstly in East Asia it means "smaller vehicle" and i not used to refer to Theravada (at least I've never heard it refer to Theravada) but rather to a practice that is limited to concern for oneself and used as a teaching tool. A good example in Zen is the following story:

There was an old woman in China who had supported a monk for over twenty years. She had built a little hut for him and fed him while he was meditating. Finally she wondered just what progress he had made in all this time.

To find out, she obtained the help of a girl rich in desire. “Go and embrace him,” she told her, “and then ask him suddenly: ‘What now?’”

The girl called upon the monk and without much ado caressed him, asking him what he was going to do about it.

“An old tree grows on a cold rock in winter,” replied the monk somewhat poetically. “Nowhere is there any warmth.”

The girl returned and related what he had said.

“To think I fed that fellow for twenty years!” exclaimed the old woman in anger. “He showed no consideration for your needs, no disposition to explain your condition. He need not have responded to passion, but at least he should have evidenced some compassion.”

She at once went to the hut of the monk and burned it down.


Sanghamitta,

Its not after all as if any one involved with this discussion is going to a clearly marked Zen Forum and telling them that their lives would be complete if they adopted just a wee pinch of the Theravada.


Why do you say that? Do you feel that I am telling you that you need Mahayana? :shrug:

My understanding is that this is a Dhammic Free For All subforum and practitioners of other schools are welcome to post their views. The purpose was not to proselytise but to ask of people's attitude to Mahayana and the role of Mahayana teachings in their practice, if any. The original reason was that I had noticed that the posts by the few Mahayana pracititioners here were mostly not followed up or rejected. So I wanted to find out what the attitude of the members was.

Personally I feel that it is much more about the practitioner than the particular school of Buddhism - there is plenty of wisdom and guidance in each and every one of them. It's like discussing the merits of French cuisine over Italian for a starving man. Just dig in, for crying out loud!

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