Do you find Hinayana offensive?

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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Dan74 » Thu Dec 17, 2009 10:53 pm

:goodpost: tilt!

If you could use the same clarity to disentangle the myth of hinayana from actual Theravada practice that would fantastic!

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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Cafael Dust » Fri Dec 18, 2009 12:35 am

The mind likes to keep itself - remember that cover by Johnny Cash 'if I could start again, a million miles away, I would keep myself, I would find a way´?

I think that's worth bringing to this debate.

Hinayana, as we have heard, can be used as a description of an attitude of wanting to keep oneself, of practicing nothing but ritual, of small minded religiosity without actual realisation. Of selfishness and practicing with the desire to gain something temporal. Using Buddhism to avoid Dharma, perhaps. That's one use people make of the word, not always a negative one.

Another use is to denigrate those of another tradition. Except no one is interested truly in denigrating anyone; those who use the word for the Theravada aren't interested in attacking the Theravada itself - they don't even know what it is, nor care enough to find out. No, they're doing it for the self, to aggrandise their path and therefore them. The poor man's vehicle is merely a shadow to throw the Great Vehicle in sharp relief. I am I am I am...

So it's offensive, yes, but if we get offended, hurt by this, then maybe we are also using the word, the issue, to avoid the path. Because it's not about us, it's about the person using the word, it's self, his or her useless but cherished crutch. So are we are playing the part of the righteously indignant? Is it our crutch too, our Great, Most Wonderful and Holier-Than-Thine Vehicle? Maybe not; only you and I can know what this issue is to us. I think that's what we need to ask ourselves, though.

As a sidenote, I came to my understanding of Buddhism, heavily influenced by Theravada and Zen, in many ways BECAUSE of the word Hinayana. I read hundreds of these introductions to Buddhism, these Mahayana texts, and I found a great deal of wisdom there, but there were also things that didn't sit well with me. The attacks on x vehicle and assertions that y vehicle was the best, the highest, most luminous etc etc, made me think 'someone here is missing the point´. They seemed to contradict the words of the Buddha, and contradict Buddhist practice. Theravada and Zen have less of this, in my admittedly limited experience.

The idea that there is a further path beyond Buddhahood also, seemed so very monkey-minded, so caught up with achievements and accolades, of hierarchies and who can swing highest from the tree of enlightenment. For me, it was difficult to understand how Buddhists, like those of other religions, are so keen on compartmentalising their ideas, learning deep wisdom and yet at the same time keeping a store of idiocy and egotism at hand to cling to. But I guess that's why we practice, because we aren't perfect, because life is painfully sharp and this kind of madness seems like a shield against its arrows. Years ago I spent a long time asking myself 'but what if this isn't the best Buddhism, what if Mahayana is the best and I'm settling for second best? A mustard seed's worth...!'.

The mind plays these tricks, and many others. Practice is better than self, better than anything the monkey dreams of.

And no, one shouldn't really use the word 'Hinayana' to describe the Theravada. It's idiotic.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Monkey Mind » Fri Dec 18, 2009 12:57 am

It was a similar process that brought me to the Theravada. Buddhism 101 class at the University of XX. I heard the argument that the monks trained by Buddha were not intellectually advanced enough to receive the Mahayana message, so those teachings went to latter-day monks. I read the Dhammapada, and it revolutionized my life. I read the Lotus Sutra and and the teachings of Dogen. they made no sense to me. Decided I must be one of those intellectually challenged people. Now I'm a little bit better read all the way around; I'm still following teachers of the Pali cannon, and don't really feel any inferiority complex about it.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby acinteyyo » Sat Dec 19, 2009 10:15 am

tiltbillings wrote:
acinteyyo wrote:
Imho it would be much better to watch one's own reaction closely when it comes to the term "hinayana" instead of trying to disabuse others what "hinayana" really means or what one suppose to mean "hinayana".

Of course; however, if there is a teachable moment maybe one can teach.
[...]
The problem with this is, of course, that it cuts one off from a viable, deep expression of the Dhamma, also setting up an un-versus-them mindset, even if it is subtle. I am NOT advocating going out there and whacking everyone over the head who, for whatever reason, might use the word hinayana in reference to the Theravada, and I agree that we need to be aware of our own reactions to the word, but if there is a teachable moment around the term hinayana and its baggage, it might be useful

certainly!
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby BlackBird » Sat Dec 19, 2009 6:30 pm

Interesting that most of the Mahayana/Vajrayana practitioners I have been fortunate enough to meet in real life, don't have a sectarian bone in their body. Quite the opposite in fact.

Perhaps they are practicing what they preach...
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Karunika » Sun Dec 20, 2009 7:00 pm

It is beneficial for practitioners of the Mahayana to remember some relevant downfalls of their bodhisattva vows:

Root Downfalls ("A root downfall means a loss of the entire set of bodhisattva vows. It is a 'downfall' in the sense that it leads to a decline in spiritual development and hinders the growth of positive qualities.")*:

(1) Praising ourselves and/or belittling others
(14) Belittling the shravaka vehicle

Bodhisattva Secondary Vows:

( 27) Forsaking the shravaka (listener) vehicle


*Alexander Berzin
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Dec 20, 2009 7:05 pm

Karunika wrote:It is beneficial for practitioners of the Mahayana to remember some relevant downfalls of their bodhisattva vows:

Root Downfalls ("A root downfall means a loss of the entire set of bodhisattva vows. It is a 'downfall' in the sense that it leads to a decline in spiritual development and hinders the growth of positive qualities.")*:

(1) Praising ourselves and/or belittling others
(14) Belittling the shravaka vehicle

Bodhisattva Secondary Vows:

( 27) Forsaking the shravaka (listener) vehicle


*Alexander Berzin

Do keep in mind, however, that how the Mahayana understands the supposed "shravaka vehicle" is a Mahayana construction that has nothing to do with the Theravada.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Dec 21, 2009 6:40 am

BlackBird wrote:Interesting that most of the Mahayana/Vajrayana practitioners I have been fortunate enough to meet in real life, don't have a sectarian bone in their body. Quite the opposite in fact.

Perhaps they are practicing what they preach...
Which is very likely the case as they see it; however, don't be surprised, when questioned, that they may hold, as is common among Mahayana/Vajrayana practitioners, that the Theravada represents the necessary priminary practices and therefore deserves respect and honor as Karunika's msg suggests, but their Mahayana/Vajrayana way holds the complete path to to full awakening - buddhahood.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby BlackBird » Mon Dec 21, 2009 8:30 am

No doubt that you're right Tilt, but all the same that's a little more palatable.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Darren_86 » Sun Jan 03, 2010 9:21 am

Yes,

Hina-yana.. In Malaysia, where the local language of "Malay" was partially derived from sanskrit (due to the old Hindu-Buddha religion there earlier).

Hina, was a word derived from the old language (Sanskrit) and not the new form of Malay language.

Hina was a degratory remark, which has a few meanings : dishonouring, bad attitude, embarressment, low level, bad attitude and such sorts. But Hina was originally mean for something not good.

Sorry, I always thought that Hinayana was Theravada. Wasn't them?

All these while, I'm quite sensative with ppl calling Theravada as Hinayana. However, after going through some earliest post here, I seemed to settle down.

This was because, for us Theravadians, we could also take Hinayana as : a yana that sees the impermanence of things, the dirtiness of things, dukkha and its sorts, and cultivate from there. Means, a path that contemplate "Hina" as a method to further our cultivation.

- Darren -

We should'nt really start bashing Mahayana as it was not a Buddhist way to do this. Understanding would lead to a longer path for the Dhamma to continue florishing here. Also, being a Theravadian + Mahayanist, I can say that both ways leads to the same place and are equally beautiful.

As Dhamma is beautiful in the beginning, middle and end. :buddha2:
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jan 04, 2010 8:32 am

A number of posts have been split off to the "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them thread so as to not come into conflict with the purpose of the "Discovering Theravada" forum.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Sanghamitta » Mon Jan 04, 2010 12:53 pm

I think this is spot on. I dont think that we should allow a commendable wish for Buddhist unity to obscure some real differences. My attention was drawn recently to a thread on a Zen site which on the surface appeared to support the idea that Zen and the Vajrayana teach the same thing. However a little beneath the surface a little more digging revealed that what was actually happening was that the Zen commentator was removing most of what is distinctive about the Vajrayana and labelling what was left as being the same as Zen. . . .
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby 5heaps » Mon Jan 04, 2010 2:51 pm

Cafael Dust wrote:The idea that there is a further path beyond Buddhahood also, seemed so very monkey-minded, so caught up with achievements and accolades, of hierarchies and who can swing highest from the tree of enlightenment. For me, it was difficult to understand how Buddhists, like those of other religions, are so keen on compartmentalising their ideas, learning deep wisdom and yet at the same time keeping a store of idiocy and egotism at hand to cling to.

Maybe its not like that. Maybe what you're looking at are fine distinctions. That the distinctions are made solely within an environment of robust logic goes a long way toward establishing that its the latter. Of course, this doesn't negate instances where someone will, due to disturbing emotions, merely spit out assertion after assertion without any reasoning and detailed clarification.

Sanghamitta wrote:In other words we cannot arrive at a clear view of a Buddhist tradition the lens of another tradition and then airily dismiss the differences are merely cultural.

That's the same as asserting that no-one is honest. It also implies that logic doesn't exist and cannot be followed.

Furthermore, there is possibly not even a serious need to understand every conceivable and slight variation of tenets. We may need to only know general characteristics, in which case it is not hard to examine which are better than others.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Sanghamitta » Mon Jan 04, 2010 3:02 pm

I dont follow the point you are making vis a vis what you have quoted from my post. I think it is self evidently the case that a proportion of Mahayana Buddhists think that other schools can only be explained in terms of their school, and that they held the master key. It doesnt take much internet surfing through Buddhist websites to see that demonstrated on a daily basis. A proportion of Zen teachers and of Vajrayana teachers see the Theravada as incomplete Zen or inadequate Vajrayana.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jan 04, 2010 3:26 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:I dont follow the point you are making vis a vis what you have quoted from my post. I think it is self evidently the case that a proportion of Mahayana Buddhists think that other schools can only be explained in terms of their school, and that they held the master key. It doesnt take much internet surfing through Buddhist websites to see that demonstrated on a daily basis. A proportion of Zen teachers and of Vajrayana teachers see the Theravada as incomplete Zen or inadequate Vajrayana.

What I did here is meaning his the reply button, I hit the edit and proceeded to mess with your msg, thenking I was in the reply mode. What this did, of course, put my reply to your edited msg under your name. Big ooops and very sorry for doing that.

If you can reconstruct your original either using the edit function in your msg that I messed or repost it, I massage everything back intop shape.
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.

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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Sanghamitta » Mon Jan 04, 2010 3:48 pm

Just to complicate things further Tilt, I was actually referring to Sheaps quoting from my post..help! :tongue:
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Anders » Tue Jan 05, 2010 12:14 pm

I'd like to add some considerations that the question of whether it is offensive (or whether we find it so) is also embedded in the linguistic philosophy we bring to bear in our interpretation.

With apologies to Kåre, I'd like to use a post of his to demonstrate:

Kare wrote:
pink_trike wrote:
I've never heard a Maha or Vajra teacher use the term in a belittling manner, -


Is the "manner" really important? If someone should call your way of practice "the despicable way", "the lousy practice", or something in that vein in plain English - would you call that right speech?

Now, if you don't understand English, you would probably not react to these words. But you understand the language, you understand the meaning of the words, and no matter how "unbelittling manner" they might be said, you would not deem this right speech.


And say yes, I think manner is important. Personally, I follow the later Wittgenstein's lead in this regard and perceive the meaning of a word to be in its usage. And furthermore that such meanings aren't static, even in a language such as sanskrit.

One might be able to provide a compelling argument that the Mahayana sutras imputed a distinctly derogatory connotation into the word, and I'm inclined to think that is not wrong. But in the case above where pink says he has never heard a maha a vajra teacher use the term in a belittling manner and Kåre questions whether it matters, I would have to say yes it matters. Because it is obviously used differently.

In the interest of precision, we should have a more sharply delineated terminology that distinguishes the differences in choice of path from whatever ethical inferences one might make of it (though imo, if not always so in the mahayana sutras, the word 'shravaka does effectively serve such a purpose) and other words altogether for delineating doctrinal issues of various early schools that are being critisised. Instead, hinayana has served as pretty much the catchall phrase for all of these things.

Add to that the usage that has developed later of referring to preliminary stages of the mahayana path and the fact that the sting of word in India became rather meaningless in east-asia and tibet where no early Buddhist schools flourished for long and we have a word with a multitude of uses.

At any rate, the only point I wish to make in this is that with this being so, I think it is mistaken to insist on an interpretation that anyone who uses the word hinayana uses a word with a distinct connotation and baggage going all the way back to ancient India. This is to my mind a much too platonistic understanding of language and meaning and doesn't reflect the malleable nature of language and its development.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Kare » Tue Jan 05, 2010 2:54 pm

Anders Honore wrote:I'd like to add some considerations that the question of whether it is offensive (or whether we find it so) is also embedded in the linguistic philosophy we bring to bear in our interpretation.

With apologies to Kåre, I'd like to use a post of his to demonstrate:

Kare wrote:
pink_trike wrote:
I've never heard a Maha or Vajra teacher use the term in a belittling manner, -


Is the "manner" really important? If someone should call your way of practice "the despicable way", "the lousy practice", or something in that vein in plain English - would you call that right speech?

Now, if you don't understand English, you would probably not react to these words. But you understand the language, you understand the meaning of the words, and no matter how "unbelittling manner" they might be said, you would not deem this right speech.


And say yes, I think manner is important. Personally, I follow the later Wittgenstein's lead in this regard and perceive the meaning of a word to be in its usage. And furthermore that such meanings aren't static, even in a language such as sanskrit.

One might be able to provide a compelling argument that the Mahayana sutras imputed a distinctly derogatory connotation into the word, and I'm inclined to think that is not wrong. But in the case above where pink says he has never heard a maha a vajra teacher use the term in a belittling manner and Kåre questions whether it matters, I would have to say yes it matters. Because it is obviously used differently.

In the interest of precision, we should have a more sharply delineated terminology that distinguishes the differences in choice of path from whatever ethical inferences one might make of it (though imo, if not always so in the mahayana sutras, the word 'shravaka does effectively serve such a purpose) and other words altogether for delineating doctrinal issues of various early schools that are being critisised. Instead, hinayana has served as pretty much the catchall phrase for all of these things.

Add to that the usage that has developed later of referring to preliminary stages of the mahayana path and the fact that the sting of word in India became rather meaningless in east-asia and tibet where no early Buddhist schools flourished for long and we have a word with a multitude of uses.

At any rate, the only point I wish to make in this is that with this being so, I think it is mistaken to insist on an interpretation that anyone who uses the word hinayana uses a word with a distinct connotation and baggage going all the way back to ancient India. This is to my mind a much too platonistic understanding of language and meaning and doesn't reflect the malleable nature of language and its development.


Yes, this way of thinking of course works nicely for linguistical ignorants, who only regard "hinayana" as a random collection of letters or sounds.

But we have seen here that there are people whose native language is one of the modern Indian languages where "hina" has kept its original negative meaning. And as for anyone else - as soon as you start studying pali or sanskrit, the nasty smell of stale sectarian propaganda hits your nose in a rather unpleasant manner. No wittgensteinian acrobatics can change reality. ;)
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Jan 05, 2010 3:52 pm

No indeed Wittgensteinian acrobatics cannot.. :smile:

I think the key here is how Theravadins feel about the term "Hinayana" (if anything ) rather than how Mahayanists think that Theravadins should feel.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Postby Anders » Tue Jan 05, 2010 3:56 pm

It is not a matter of linguistic ignorance, but on the contrary of linguistic philosophy, ie what is the meaning of words. If we don't have meaning, then any word is indeed little more than 'a random collection of letters or sounds'.

Language isn't owned by any particular nationality, (although it is certainly used by such), so that there are modern languages who has preserved that meaning locally has no necessary bearing on how that word is used in Buddhist language. In Wittgenstein's terminology, 'hina' has one meaning and usage in the 'language-game' employed by modern Indian languages (which abides by one 'family' of rules for that language), another in ancient India, which we can constitute, very broadly, as another language game, and another in modern Buddhism.

Its usage, and hence its meaning, is entirely dependent on whatever 'language-game' it is used in.

Or to put it another way - there is no such thing as a word which has a universal meaning (except perhaps in the most extreme of coincidences, but that is hard to imagine and easily changed). The meaning of words is entirely contextual and determined by usage in any given context.

My point is that one might critisise the ancient Indians for their usage of the word. And that has some relevance to the extent that we still read their texts. But it does matter in what manner modern teachers use the word because that very manner gives the word a different meaning (I will anticipate tilt and say that such usage might of course still not be very appealing to theravadins for other reasons).
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