The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Postby Individual » Mon Oct 19, 2009 10:46 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
Individual wrote:The difference between Bodhisattva and Arahant in Theravada and Mahayana is mostly semantics, not one of ideals. If you described an Arahant's traits to a Mahayana Buddhist, he could just as easily be called a Bodhisattva, and vice-versa.


Not at all. Although there are a variety of different perspectives amongst Mahayana schools (eg. Madhyamaka, Yogacara, Tathagatagarbha, hybrids of these three, Tantra), the vast majority consider that although there are common or shared qualities that both possess, in addition bodhisattvas have certain un-shared qualities that arhats do not have.

Could you give a concrete example?
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Postby Paññāsikhara » Mon Oct 19, 2009 11:07 am

Individual wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:
Individual wrote:The difference between Bodhisattva and Arahant in Theravada and Mahayana is mostly semantics, not one of ideals. If you described an Arahant's traits to a Mahayana Buddhist, he could just as easily be called a Bodhisattva, and vice-versa.


Not at all. Although there are a variety of different perspectives amongst Mahayana schools (eg. Madhyamaka, Yogacara, Tathagatagarbha, hybrids of these three, Tantra), the vast majority consider that although there are common or shared qualities that both possess, in addition bodhisattvas have certain un-shared qualities that arhats do not have.

Could you give a concrete example?


I was thinking of things like the ten powers of a buddha, and the eighteen unshared dharmas, as mentioned above. (Or even the 32 marks and 80 secondary features, though though cakkavattin kings have these too. - I think that Nanda and Ananda had 31 and 30, or something - close, but no cigar!)
I haven't seen these attributed to arhats in the Nikayas, but I may have missed something in there somewhere, so I definitely open to new perspectives here, too.

There are also other qualities which are not so much "have / have not", but are more of a sliding scale.
For instance, various forms of abhinna, and even jhana. Now, for these, as we see in the SN 16, Mahakassapa has these to the same extent as the Buddha. But, in a sense, I don't we can take Mahakassapa as a "standard issue arhat" by any means. He would have been a paccekabuddha had the Bhagavan not appeared.

Now, that is just for items that we can look at in terms of the Theravada or most early schools.

If one takes the perspectives of the Mahayana schools, then there is a lot more material, and it gets complex. One could simply point out a variety of Samadhis and so forth, and other items like sarvajna, sarvarthajna and sarvakarajna. Now, the Theravada doesn't really have this whole system, or has quite different meaning to the terms, though it has sabbanu, so it starts to get a bit like comparing apples with oranges across different systems. But in Mahayana terms, for many schools, the differences here are quite explicit.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 19, 2009 11:22 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:I think that Nanda and Ananda had 31 and 30, or something - close, but no cigar!)
I haven't seen these attributed to arhats in the Nikayas, but I may have missed something in there somewhere, so I definitely open to new perspectives here, too.


According to what texts?
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Postby Paññāsikhara » Mon Oct 19, 2009 11:44 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:I think that Nanda and Ananda had 31 and 30, or something - close, but no cigar!)
I haven't seen these attributed to arhats in the Nikayas, but I may have missed something in there somewhere, so I definitely open to new perspectives here, too.


According to what texts?


Hi Tilt!

Sorry, I was quoting from memory, so had to track it down. It's basically northern Sthaviravada stuff.
They have, for instance, an equivalent to the part on Nanda at Vin 4:173, but mention him having 30 marks, whereas the Pali doesn't.
This is in the Sarvastivada Vinaya, and also in the Mahasamghika Vinaya, too.
The Mahisasakas say 32.
(That total correspondence lends weight in my eyes, but your mileage may vary.)

And also Devadatta with 30, too. I must have just confused Ananda with Nanda, sorry!
(I wonder if all these Sakkas looked that much alike? Hmm, all that Sakka and Koliya blood, I wonder ...)
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Postby Individual » Mon Oct 19, 2009 12:05 pm

The distinction seems to have arisen, or was at least encouraged by, sectarian tensions.

To clarify any ambiguity: If you describe the Arahant, as defined by Theravada, to a Mahayana Buddhist, without using the term or explicitly distinguishing it from a Bodhisattva, what you would have is a bodhisattva. And if you describe the Bodhisattva, as defined by Mahayana, to a Theravada Buddhist, without the specific sectarian semantics, what you would have is an Arahant.

The examples used to distinguish the two aren't concerete, because they're abstract descriptions of mystical abilities, which I don't doubt the existence of but consider pretty irrelevant any meaningful discussion, outside of "what traditional Theravada\Mahayana Buddhists believe". But if you break it down to something simple and concrete, like great compassion, great wisdom, great morality, etc., there are no significant differences.

To demonstrate this point more clearly: Buddhist schools pretty much agree what a Buddha is.

Well, in Theravada, Arahants are in some ways regarded as equal with "Buddha" (the Buddha himself is called an Arahant), but in other ways below it (the Buddha's knowledge and power is apparently greater than the other Arahants, the simsapa leaves metaphor demonstrates this, I think, and the ten powers of the Tathagatha too). And in Mahayana, Bodhisattva is in some ways regarded as equal to a Buddha (the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, as celestial bodhisattvas are referred to as Buddhas) but also lesser (since a bodhisattva is technically regarded as one striving to become a Buddha).
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Postby Aloka » Mon Oct 19, 2009 2:18 pm

There's an article here called 'The Bodhisattva idea in Buddhism' which might be of interest in this thread.


http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/ebdha126.htm


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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Postby Doctor Who » Mon Oct 19, 2009 5:05 pm

TheDhamma wrote:In Theravada, bodhisattva is bodhisatta in Pali and refers to a being on the way to buddha-hood. The Buddha of our time, Gotama (or Shakyamuni as he is sometimes called in Mahayana) was perfecting the paramitas over countless lifetimes, literally tens of thousands of lifetimes.



Where did Our Lord introduce this " was perfecting the paramitas over countless lifetime"?

I always thought it was introduced for the first time in the Lotus Sutra, A Mahayana dharmakaya sutra.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Oct 19, 2009 8:12 pm

Doctor Who wrote:Where did Our Lord introduce this " was perfecting the paramitas over countless lifetime"?
I always thought it was introduced for the first time in the Lotus Sutra, A Mahayana dharmakaya sutra.


I don't have the exact quote / reference but it might be in the Jataka or Buddhavamsa. I definitely remember reading it in one of Radhika Abeysekera's books, probably the, Practicising the Dhamma with a View to Nibbana.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Oct 19, 2009 8:20 pm

Paññāsikhara wrote:Hmm, in a Theravada Forum that could quite easily double as a Bhikkhu Bodhi Fan Club, I'm surprised that nobody has posted this link yet:


And the problem is . . . . ?? :tongue:

Image

:clap: Excellent photo and sign!

Seriously, Bhikkhu Bodhi is #1. I know most people are partial to their own teacher and I am probably no exception, cough did someone say Bhante Madawela Punnaji, cough, but Bhikkhu Bodhi's works, translations, and writings are in a class by itself.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Postby Dhammakid » Mon Oct 19, 2009 8:57 pm

Good discussion folks.

The link Dazzlebling posted is the one I've read regarding the idea of bodhisattva in Theravada. It's a very good explanation.

It seems that although when we leave the actual terms out of the discussion and a Mahayana and Theravada practitioner are describing the characteristics to each other they will appear to be talking about the same thing, there are still some other points to consider. For one, Mahayana has the idea of "bhumis", ten of them to be exact, a sort of progression of perfections that a bodhisattva undergoes before becoming a Buddha. I'm not too well-versed on the idea, but it seems to me that it negates the whole "I vow to save all sentient beings" idea because the bhumis signifies a sort of end point of the path of a bodhisattva which surely is far before all sentient beings are saved...

I've participated in numerous discussions on ES about the differences between the two schools, and it seems a common belief is that Arahants in the Theravada are lacking in some amount of universal compassion. They say that bodhisattvas in the Mahayana are developing a high level of "bodhicitta" and that it sets them apart from those merely looking to escape samsara.

Many Mahayana points when it comes to this are seemingly contradictory. But I don't claim to be highly knowledgeable on Mahayana, so these are just some basic observations.

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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Oct 19, 2009 9:15 pm

could this be the paper you were thinking of?
http://www.attan.com/BODHISATTVA%20IDEA ... AVAADA.htm

couldn't find any direct links to other versions though
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Postby Doctor Who » Tue Oct 20, 2009 6:31 am

TheDhamma wrote:
Doctor Who wrote:Where did Our Lord introduce this " was perfecting the paramitas over countless lifetime"?
I always thought it was introduced for the first time in the Lotus Sutra, A Mahayana dharmakaya sutra.


I don't have the exact quote / reference but it might be in the Jataka or Buddhavamsa. I definitely remember reading it in one of Radhika Abeysekera's books, probably the, Practicising the Dhamma with a View to Nibbana.


I don't think the Buddha discussed this, perfecting the paramitas over countless lifetimes.
I think it's one of those made up from Dharam kaya mahayana things.

I wonder how much Mahayan has blurred into theravadian thought
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Postby Paññāsikhara » Tue Oct 20, 2009 8:53 am

Doctor Who wrote:
TheDhamma wrote:
Doctor Who wrote:Where did Our Lord introduce this " was perfecting the paramitas over countless lifetime"?
I always thought it was introduced for the first time in the Lotus Sutra, A Mahayana dharmakaya sutra.


I don't have the exact quote / reference but it might be in the Jataka or Buddhavamsa. I definitely remember reading it in one of Radhika Abeysekera's books, probably the, Practicising the Dhamma with a View to Nibbana.


I don't think the Buddha discussed this, perfecting the paramitas over countless lifetimes.
I think it's one of those made up from Dharam kaya mahayana things.

I wonder how much Mahayan has blurred into theravadian thought


Several centuries after the Buddha, before the appearance of the Mahayana, almost every school of Buddhist thought was discussing the issue of the Buddha and how he became a Buddha. This is clear in literature such as the Jatakas, the Apadanas, the Nidanas, the Buddhavamsa, the Cariyapitaka, and so on.

In fact, it is this line of thought that develops into the basic Mahayana idea of becoming a Buddha, and not the other way around.

The line of thinking that runs "EITHER Theravada suttas / vinaya OR Mahayana" is causing so much confusion. The idea that if it isn't in the Suttas or Vinaya, then it must be Mahayana or Mahayana influence, is very problematic. Things are just not that simple, and this overlooks maybe 75% of Buddhist thought of this period.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Postby Dmytro » Tue Oct 20, 2009 10:02 am

Hi,

Regarding the origin of Bodhisatta ideal in Theravada a lot has been said in the thread:
viewtopic.php?f=24&t=1979&p=26124

As for the Mahayana sutras, there's a passage from Lotus sutra:

adhimānīnna seveta vinaye cāgame sthitān|
arhantasaṁmatān bhikṣūn duḥśīlāṁścaiva varjayet||4||

One should avoid those arrogant, who follow the Vinaya and adhere to Agama,
Monks with dubious virtue who consider the Arahantship to be topmost.

http://www.buddhistdoor.com/oldweb/reso ... otus14.htm
http://www.mit.edu/~stclair/Lotus14.html
http://lotus.nichirenshu.org/lotus/sutr ... chap14.htm
http://www.uwest.edu/sanskritcanon/dp/i ... ae511dfef6

Best wishes, Dmytro
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Postby Dhammakid » Tue Oct 20, 2009 2:31 pm

Manapa,
Ah yes, the Samuels piece is the one I've read. Very good essay. I first saw it on ES, along with a great article about the use of the term "Hinayana".

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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Postby Dhammakid » Tue Oct 20, 2009 3:30 pm

You know, a fundamental question we could ask is: Does Theravada allow for the possibility that any Buddhist practitioner can and should work towards Buddhahood?

To me, that's the main difference between the two. It seems all of the debates surrounding the legitimacy of certain texts, teachers, teachings, practices, sects, etc all stem from this question - can we all become Buddhas, or not?

But here's the thing: even if Theravada admits that anyone can become a Buddha, that doesn't necessarily mean one has to switch to Mahayana to do so. I mean, if Theravada allows it, then might as well practice with it, make the vows and do all the other prereqs, and also follow the early teachings of the Buddha since they are the closest to his original words. Doesn't seem like switching to Mahayana is necessary, unless Theravada doesn't allow for it and one wants to follow the path towards Buddhahood. Then I guess they would have to switch to Mahayana.

This is just speculation, of course. But I thought I would throw it out there.

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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Oct 20, 2009 3:58 pm

Dhammakid wrote:You know, a fundamental question we could ask is: Does Theravada allow for the possibility that any Buddhist practitioner can and should work towards Buddhahood?


Yes, good points and I believe the Theravada does say this is possible. For example, the Buddha and previous Buddhas making a resolve to be a samma-sam-buddha and the other disciples making resolves to be the "chief monks" of a samma-sam-buddha or the "chief nuns" of a samma-sam-buddha and the fact that Yasodhara followed the Buddha as his wife in so many lifetimes. Thus, there appears to be the case where beings could make such resolutions in the Theravada.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Postby PeterB » Tue Oct 20, 2009 4:18 pm

What seems to be a difference if held to be literal is the idea that a Bodhisattva can somehow postpone their Buddhahood.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Postby Doctor Who » Tue Oct 20, 2009 5:24 pm

Well thanks for helping.
I'm so jaded on the whole thing. hopefully you never end up where i am .Or quite possibily it's where you all will end up.

Since a kid at 15 I took to the path. I'm 54. every sect i joined praised me for my efforts. I always gave 500%. Did the nichiren thing after years of meditation and study of everything available in the early 70's.
Hell bakc then Lobsang Rampa was considered Tibetan Buddhist study material. lol.

When I entered Tibetan Buddhism with a qualified respected Tulku i studied everything i could get me hands on. I have a small fortune invested in books and initiations...lol.
At one point my meditations and practice was 3 hours every morning before work.

I'm not some flake who calls himself Buddhist and has zero expierence.

The Thing is thus. I don't see the Buddhas and the enlightenment pouring out the millions of practioners and monks.
I've been around, maybe i'm so slathered in Dukkha i can't see the forest for the trees.

But add to the fact that a lot of what i thought the Buddha taught was in fact , well you know.....

And then i always get from these questions the whole Buddhist council putting it all together 200 years later.....lol....i mean look at all the sects and schools of thought that are a direct result of waiting for 200 years to put anything in writing.....

I'm starting to think thus.

The buddha knew all this was going to happen. Cringed at the thought of sutras with uber sci fi stories such as the lotus sutra.

Realized it was inevatable due to the nature and ignorance and what suffering and poverty really does to mankind. Add religious hope and voila...

The Buddha did say to question authority. I'm sure of that, even the power mad could not somehow get rid of that.

then he did say "do not look to any god or demon or even me to help you"

With that in mind I asked a Rinpoche "whats with the millions of people burning incence doing all this stuff for luck and long life and giving billions to thousands of temples.
And whats with the heads of these temples allowing this to go on."

He just smiled and shrugged, then nodded to me.


Soooooooo. It's like the Buddha has been turned into a larger than mythological being.He has been replaced as someone greater than any God Creator you can think of.
The be all and end all to everything.

I say he is cringing at this.

I say he purposely told everyone not to write stuff down for his teachings were way simpler than what they have become.
and we will never know exactly what he taught.

jaded beyond belief I is.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Postby Doctor Who » Tue Oct 20, 2009 5:29 pm

add on to abouve diatribe lol...


I say that one had to be in a person to person relationship with Him to actually gain the true result of what he was all about. He prolly knew people would go gaga and like he did not mind if they created a loving kindness attitude from it all.

But enlightenment and what he Knew and was...person to person only.
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