Anders Honore wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:If this two path business is a bottom line for the Mahayanist upon which everything is judged, then there is no basis mutual discussion.
I think that's a hasty conclusion.
Hasty? Not at all. I said “if,”
which is supported by your comment: The answer to that issue that I have come to so far is that for such two parties to discuss liberation in a meaningful way, the mahayanin must either disregard the premise of the Bodhisattva path in doing so, or the Theravadin must accept the mahayana conception of a bodhisattva career. I think the former is preferable in such situations as the latter opens up a host of different issues to iron out.
I wrote:But the Mahayana does differ - variously - in regards to what the arahant is, never referring to the arahant as tathagata, as do the Pali suttas
Surely the question of titulation - in particular one (being the Buddha's personal epitaph) that Theravada is itself fairly reluctant to apply to arahants in general - is a most secondary matter.
It is clearly evident in the suttas and in the commentaries.
I wrote:Must it view things in terms of two paths? If so, it then is a serious failing of the Mahayana.
What makes this a failure, and a serious one at that? Is it any more serious than how Buddhism in general distinguishes between worldly paths and the path of liberation?
It is a failing if the Mahayanist insists that the Theravada path has to fit into the Mahayana two path construct.
you wrote: . . . (the ugra presenting this as a very much optional choice, the ratnakuta characterising shravakas as akin to jackals) and then it becomes a question of which viewpoint to address, subscribe to or refute.
The liberal Ugra position essentially lost out to a more divided two path (one path being superior, the other lesser and provisional, etc) system.
I wrote:Given that once the hinayana distinction, which is an us-versus-them distinction, was introduced into the Mahayana, the bodhisattva doctrine became a doctrine as a basis for defining one's opposition to the dreaded "them."
I don't think sectarian triumphalism is the driving force for the idea of a hinayana.
Now that is ironically amusing. So, the Mahayanists who coined hinayana - the scorned vehicle, the discarded vehicle, which is at best a derisive and divisive word to characterize those who did not agree with them is not triumphalist - these Mahayanists did not view themselves as being superior. Not convincing.
I have posited before that when you study the earlier sutras, prior to the Mahayana becoming an established and stable presence, the image of the Bodhisattva career was a very precarious one. We have analogies of how the Bodhisattva needs to don the great armour of courage to support his vows, the dangers that may cause a bodhisattva to abandon his vows and so forth - the lends itself to the image that most bodhisattvas never actually make it all the way to Buddhahood before opting for cessation (an opinion that is in fact made explicit by Nagarjuna).
And as this sort of language was adopted along with the us-versus-them term of hinayana, you get a downplaying of the “lesser” path to the point that really no right thinking individual would really tread it.
I would argue that if we are to understand this divide, we need to understand its purpose. And in this regard, I think it needs to be recognised that, whatever sectarian ambitions the hinayana/mahayana dichotomy may and has been used for, both later on and concurrent with its earliest origins, it is an idea that serves a purpose quite besides any sectarian consequences of it - Namely to deter and discourage Bodhisattvas from opting for the path of cessation, something that was considering a strong risc for any would-be-buddha.
And now you are making my point. Along with this was the significant redefining of arhat, Buddha, bodhi, nirvana. So the supposed bodhisattva was presented with a sharply drawn contrast between what was noble, the best, the most compassionate, the truly true way and wisdom versus the (strawman) hina-yana, self centered, lacking true compassion and true wisdom, at best provisional. The deluded arhats think they have attained the final goal, but not really, etc, etc.
So, the Mahayana does not really mean it when they say hinayana; rather, it is just a skilful to fool the would-be-buddha into a particular course of action.
It is unfortunate of course, that this ploy has such obvious sectarian application (though given the nature and atmosphere of Buddhist sects in India in general, I doubt it would have stuck in their noses the same way it does to modern Buddhists).
What?!?! The Mainstream Buddhists pretty much ignored their odd brethren as long as they kept the lineage patimoksha, though that is not say there were not sharp criticism directed at the Mahayana. The Mahayanist, on the other hand, resorted to childish name calling, sustained criticism of the Mainstream schools and the construction of an edifice of increasing grandeur showing what a grand and glorious path they were on compared to their benighted brothers. Now, you used the word ploy
, which says a great deal.
I don't mean to trivialise the sectarian elements of the hinayana/mahayana dichotomy with this, but I do wish to argue that the issue is more nuanced and complex than the onesided malignant intentions you ascribe to it above.
I do not think t he intentions were malignant; rather, it is the sort of thing that happens when a minority, who is convinced they have the real truth, is not listened and is ignored by the majority. I have no doubt that the Mahayanists were well meaning in their construction of their point of view, feeling it necessary to draw as sharp a contrast between themselves and those who they felt just did not get it.