Pre-sectarian Buddhism and Theravada

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Pre-sectarian Buddhism and Theravada

Postby SamKR » Sat Sep 26, 2009 11:42 pm

What are the major differences between pre-sectarian Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism?

If you need to choose any one of them which would you choose and why?
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Re: Pre-sectarian Buddhism and Theravada

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Sep 26, 2009 11:49 pm

SamKR wrote:What are the major differences between pre-sectarian Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism?
If you need to choose any one of them which would you choose and why?


What do you mean by pre-sectarian Buddhism? If you mean the early Buddhist schools around the time of the Third Council and the Vibhajjavada, it is only the Theravada that stayed firm on anatta, while the other schools diverged from that in varying degrees and then died out and then around the Common Era, the Mahayana developed. Thus, the Theravada preserved the original teachings as taught by the Buddha, as best as I can tell from the texts and scholarly information.
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Re: Pre-sectarian Buddhism and Theravada

Postby SamKR » Sun Sep 27, 2009 12:03 am

What do you mean by pre-sectarian Buddhism?


I also knew this term recently. Please see this wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-sectarian_Buddhism
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Re: Pre-sectarian Buddhism and Theravada

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Sep 27, 2009 12:29 am

Okay, that is what I thought you meant by pre-sectarian Buddhism. Then yes, the type of Buddhism before all of the schisms would definitely be the best form of Buddhism without anything added or removed. That would be the type of Buddhism that was recited at the First Council.

As Theravadins, we would of course like to think that the Theravada matches that or is at least the closest we have to that of all the forms of Buddhism around. Certainly, it was the Theravada of the early schools that stayed firm to the anatta teachings of the Buddha.

Certainly, the first four Nikayas, the Patimokkha, and at least half of the Khuddaka Nikaya were recited at the First Council. Beyond that, see some of the discussion in the Abhidhamma thread in the Dhammic-free for all sub-forum.
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Re: Pre-sectarian Buddhism and Theravada

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Sep 27, 2009 12:31 am

Greetings Sam,

This is the related topic TheDhamma is talking about...

The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=2169

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)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Pre-sectarian Buddhism and Theravada

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Sep 27, 2009 2:58 am

TheDhamma wrote:As Theravadins, we would of course like to think that the Theravada matches that or is at least the closest we have to that of all the forms of Buddhism around. Certainly, it was the Theravada of the early schools that stayed firm to the anatta teachings of the Buddha.

I thought it was just the the one school: Pudgalavāda.
I've not heard of this being the case for the Sarvastivadins, whose Abhidarma forms the basis of many Mahayana Abhidhammas. There are some other differences for them and Theravada (mostly in the Abhidhamma as I recall).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Buddhist_schools

I have found some of Venerable Huifeng's discussions on E-Sangha on some of these matters very informative:

Here's a particularly interesting thread:
http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index. ... opic=71353
Ven Huifeng: Don't assume that Theravada is early Buddhism. It is one small school that appeared in the Nikaya period.


Here are various others:
http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index. ... &p=1237085
http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index. ... &p=1073436
http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index. ... &p=1223601

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Re: Pre-sectarian Buddhism and Theravada

Postby Dmytro » Sun Sep 27, 2009 7:04 am

Hi Sam,

What are the major differences between pre-sectarian Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism?

If you need to choose any one of them which would you choose and why?


Nowadays such terms are mostly used as brand names, to legitimize this or that approach.

People say or imply: here you'll have true Theravada, or I've got the most pure Zen, or I've discovered the original pre-sectarian Buddhism, or I'm a best monk ever. Others are small schools not worth attention. It's like a market talk.

Your question sounds to me like "Which is better, Nike or Adidas?"

I wouldn't recommend you to go by brand names written on the surface. The actual 'products', when deeply studied, often turn out to be faulty cheap copies, and have very little in common with the teachings of the wise people.

I would recommend you to deeply study the teachings of the wise people and follow them.

Good luck,
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Re: Pre-sectarian Buddhism and Theravada

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Sep 27, 2009 7:59 am

Dmytro wrote:I would recommend you to deeply study the teachings of the wise people and follow them.

These are sensible words.

While it is interesting to have discussions about the various ancient sects, and what preceded them, as far as I can tell there are neither any great teachers of "pre-sectarian Buddhism" nor good resources for guidance of how to practise it. No-one can really be sure what it was like. It seems clear that it differs in some details from the Pali Canon and the other early sect Canons, otherwise there would not have been sects in the first place...

On the other hand, there are excellent teachers and resources preserved by the Theravada, and various Mahayana schools.

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Re: Pre-sectarian Buddhism and Theravada

Postby Ben » Sun Sep 27, 2009 10:09 am

Good post, Mike!
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

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Re: Pre-sectarian Buddhism and Theravada

Postby Individual » Sun Sep 27, 2009 4:20 pm

SamKR wrote:What are the major differences between pre-sectarian Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism?

If you need to choose any one of them which would you choose and why?

It seems to me that pre-sectarian Buddhism was nonchalant towards philosophical concerns or semantic clarity, while Theravada Buddhists were obsessed with it and therefore created Abhidhamma. I base this on the Buddha's overall attitude towards philosophy in various suttas, which seems inconsistent with the attitude of the commentators. Traditional Theravadins are very defensive of their lists, but if you look at MN 59, the Buddha never apparently gave ONE systematic classification of all phenomena. Some other important suttas on his attitude towards philosophy are SN 56.31 and MN 63. This is only a generalization, however: There are definitely Theravada Buddhists that still reflect the same ideals as the early Buddhists.
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Re: Pre-sectarian Buddhism and Theravada

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Sep 27, 2009 6:55 pm

Hi Individual,
Individual wrote:It seems to me that pre-sectarian Buddhism was nonchalant towards philosophical concerns or semantic clarity, ...

Can you share the Pre-Sectarian Commentaries that support this assertion? :reading:

Of course, I can see your point, but your assertions would apply equally to the other early schools, not just Theravada. They all had Abhidhammas, Commentaries, etc. It just happens that the Theravada literatures is the most complete in its original language. And, of course, according to Theravada, much of that commentarial literature pre-dates sectarianism, being the passed-down wisdom of the Arahants...

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Re: Pre-sectarian Buddhism and Theravada

Postby gavesako » Sun Sep 27, 2009 6:57 pm

Acariyavada as defined in the Pali commentaries:

It has already been discussed how the different views of various authorities, like the atthakatha (commentary), the poranas (ancient teachers) and the bhanakas (reciters) have been quoted. There is a passage in the Sumangalavilasini [154] where the relative values of the authorities -- sutta, suttanuloma (in line with Sutta), acariyavada (teaching of the mentors) and attano-mati (own opinion), are discussed. Acariyavada is identified with atthakatha. Of these, sutta is the most authoritative and should not be rejected, for it would be like rejecting the Buddha himself. The other three are to be accepted only if they agree with ’sutta.’ In the Atthasalini, the reader is warned about the reliability of a statement which is not supported by the text or commentary.

http://www.bps.lk/new_wheels_library/wh113-p.html

And:

In his "Tamnan phra phutthachedi" (1926; partially
translated in 1973 as "Monuments of the Buddha in Siam"), Prince
Damrong Rajanubhab (1862-1943), wrote that at the time of Asoka there
were two nikaya, Theravada and Acariyavada, and that Asoka followed
Mogaliputra [Moggaliputta], head of the Theravada and upholder of the
Vibhajjavadi. This reflects Mahavamsa 5.1-3 and 5.271. (Geiger's
notes [1913], p. 26, "Acariyavada stands in contrast to theravada," and
p. 49, "Vibhajjavada is identical with theravada.") Prince Damrong
stated in a later chapter that in Dvaravati (Siam in the first
millennium), the doctrines were Theravada, which Asoka had proclaimed
to various nations.
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

ajahnchah.org - Teachings of Ajahn Chah in many languages
Dhammatube - Videos on Buddhist practice
Ancient Buddhist Texts - Translations and history of Pali texts
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Re: Pre-sectarian Buddhism and Theravada

Postby wtp » Fri Oct 02, 2009 6:50 pm

While it is true there is a lot of uncertainty about the original teachings of the Buddha, I do not think anyone would rationally believe that there was not some re-interpretation of those teachings after the Buddha's death. And most would agree that a number of important Buddhist concepts were not taught by the Buddha. This does not however make them wrong or unimportant. However a discussion about Pre-sectarian or Early Buddhism and the Theravada or other schools is quite valid and useful in my view.

We are all pursuing the Buddhist path and hence our similarities are vastly greater than our differences, nonetheless it is important to be aware of the different ideas and concepts we have and also the origin of those ideas and concepts. I do not think it is wise to dismiss this as a simple branding exercise or a way of achieving market share in the teaching of Buddhism. There is much more to this than that. Nor do I think it wise to dismiss such discussion with the assertion we can simply contemplate the teachings and know the truth - as described in the suttas even very advanced spiritual practitioners have gone wrong doing just this. In my view rational discussion and contemplation are both important.
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Re: Pre-sectarian Buddhism and Theravada

Postby Individual » Sat Oct 03, 2009 6:54 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Individual,
Individual wrote:It seems to me that pre-sectarian Buddhism was nonchalant towards philosophical concerns or semantic clarity, ...

Can you share the Pre-Sectarian Commentaries that support this assertion? :reading:

I cited three suttas that establish the point. If they weren't concerned about philosophy or semantic clarity, then they wouldn't be writing commentaries.

mikenz66 wrote:Of course, I can see your point, but your assertions would apply equally to the other early schools, not just Theravada. They all had Abhidhammas, Commentaries, etc. It just happens that the Theravada literatures is the most complete in its original language. And, of course, according to Theravada, much of that commentarial literature pre-dates sectarianism, being the passed-down wisdom of the Arahants...

I don't know hardly a thing about the early Buddhist schools, you're probably right that it applies to those other schools. But of the schools existing today, it is Theravada that places such a strong emphasis on analytical philosophy and semantics in a way that most other Buddhists do not.
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