From Mahayana to Theravada

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
Taro
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From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Taro »

Hi all,

I’m very new to Theravada, I’ve been a Buddhist for almost a decade in the Mahayana tradition, mainly the Tibetan Vajrayana lineage. Here in South Africa there are no Theravada centres or temples or any presence that I know of. There are many Mahayana centres, mainly Zen and Tibetan. I took refuge vows in the Tibetan Nyingma tradition and also received a few tantric initiations however I have become just as weary of the theistic type worship and promises of help and blessings from deities and bodhisattvas as I did of god, angels and saints intercession when I was still a Christian. My question is; if there’s no Sangha in my home country, is practice in the Theravada tradition something which can be done alone?

Thank you 🙏🏻
Taro
SteRo
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by SteRo »

Taro wrote: Thu Aug 06, 2020 7:33 am if there’s no Sangha in my home country, is practice in the Theravada tradition something which can be done alone?
Sure. Of course you have to rely on teachings and interpretations which originate from others, but there are e.g. a lot of online resources. There isn't that living teacher/guru cult that is known in most of the Mahayana traditions and which may be obstructive.
"Monks, be islands unto yourselves,[1] be your own refuge, having no other; let the Dhamma be an island and a refuge to you, having no other. Those who are islands unto themselves... should investigate to the very heart of things
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .wlsh.html
He who sees Dhamma, Vakkali, sees me; he who sees me sees Dhamma. Truly seeing Dhamma, one sees me; seeing me one sees Dhamma."
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .wlsh.html
Exhaling अ and inhaling धीः amounts to བྷྲཱུཾ་བི་ཤྭ་བི་ཤུད་དྷེ . (This is the esoteric essence of the yoga of continuous flow which is no different from the universal flux of materiality. Therefore exoteric natural science provides vital guidelines.) अञ्जलि वागीश्वर
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Ceisiwr
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Ceisiwr »

Yes it is.
“Aṅgulimāla, I have forever stopped"

MN 86
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Kim OHara
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Kim OHara »

Welcome, Taro :hello:
A lot of DW members are here (at least partly) because we/they are in your position - isolated from other practitioners IRL.
The forum isn't as good as a real community in some ways but it's a lot better than nothing.

:namaste:
Kim
simsapa
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by simsapa »

Here in South Africa there are no Theravada centres or temples or any presence that I know of.
http://www.peaceforafrica.org/the-temple/
I took refuge vows in the Tibetan Nyingma tradition and also received a few tantric initiations however I have become just as weary of the theistic type worship and promises of help and blessings from deities and bodhisattvas as I did of god, angels and saints intercession when I was still a Christian.
I'm not sure what you mean by "theistic type worship". There is no creator god in any school of Buddhism. Deity practice is much more profound than "theistic type worship". The bigger issue here is why you would make vows and take on responsibilities, only to then "become weary" of the fundamentals of what you took on. Tantric deities (in the Vajrayana) and the existence of bodhisattvas (in the Mahayana) are fundamental to the Nyingma worldview. It seems to me you don't like aspects of your previous faith. Well, that's understandable, but it's not a good basis for making important decisions. If it were, any time you encounter anything that smacks of your old tradition you would develop strong aversion to even beneficial things. And I'll just tell you upfront: there are some texts in the Pali Canon that portray the Buddha as having great supernatural powers. I can't guarantee everything you find in Theravada will conform to a materialistic, scientific worldview. Please reflect on how the Buddha's teachings could apply to your previous tradition. Is your attitude toward it based on harmlessness, non-ill will, right speech, compassion? More than anything, I think you'd really benefit from that.
if there’s no Sangha in my home country, is practice in the Theravada tradition something which can be done alone?
Yes, it can be done alone. But the Buddha encouraged the development of virtue in community before going off alone. So what you can do for now is learn about the Theravada path, as much as you can. If you can find a guide (monk or experienced lay teacher), that would help a lot. Keep in mind that both in terms of meditation and in terms of doctrine you can make mistakes that add up over time to obstacles on the path, so it's best to have spiritual friends to check your efforts.
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Nicolas
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Nicolas »

There is also Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat.
"Dharmagiri is a Buddhist inspired retreat centre founded in 2000 by meditation teachers Kittisaro and Thanissara, who trained as monastics, for 15 and 12 years respectively, in the Thai Forest Tradition of Ajahn Chah."
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DooDoot
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by DooDoot »

Taro wrote: Thu Aug 06, 2020 7:33 am My question is; if there’s no Sangha in my home country, is practice in the Theravada tradition something which can be done alone?
Welcome Taro. In Theravada, the scriptures describe the Buddha as a spiritual friend, thus his teaching is to be relied upon (refer to SN 45.2). Yet, once the teaching is learned, solitary practice was certainly something common and possibly even the norm. Thus, the word 'solitude/seclusion' ('viveka') is often found in the Theravada scriptures (such as in SN 46.21 & MN 118) .

Kind regards. :)
A monk develops the awakening factors of mindfulness, investigation of principles, energy, rapture, tranquility, concentration and equanimity, which rely on seclusion/solitude, dispassion and cessation [of suffering], and mature as letting go.

SN 46.21
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

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cappuccino
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by cappuccino »

Taro wrote: … is practice in the Theravada tradition something which can be done alone?
"Theravada is like a motorcycle.

Mahayana is like a bus."

-Ajahn Sona
"All men's souls are immortal, but the souls of the righteous are immortal and divine." -Socrates
Good for Your Soul
Taro
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Taro »

@simsapa
I'm not sure what you mean by "theistic type worship". There is no creator god in any school of Buddhism. Deity practice is much more profound than "theistic type worship". The bigger issue here is why you would make vows and take on responsibilities, only to then "become weary" of the fundamentals of what you took on. Tantric deities (in the Vajrayana) and the existence of bodhisattvas (in the Mahayana) are fundamental to the Nyingma worldview. It seems to me you don't like aspects of your previous faith. Well, that's understandable, but it's not a good basis for making important decisions. If it were, any time you encounter anything that smacks of your old tradition you would develop strong aversion to even beneficial things. And I'll just tell you upfront: there are some texts in the Pali Canon that portray the Buddha as having great supernatural powers. I can't guarantee everything you find in Theravada will conform to a materialistic, scientific worldview. Please reflect on how the Buddha's teachings could apply to your previous tradition. Is your attitude toward it based on harmlessness, non-ill will, right speech, compassion? More than anything, I think you'd really benefit from that.

Peace for Africa is not active and Dharmagiri is in KwaZulu Natal, I’m 800km inland and they’re not strictly Theravada either. It is very clear when you study the Vajrayana that it has been heavily influenced by Shaivism and Shaktism, Lama Tsultrim Allione mentions this in her talks in the Study Buddhism channel on YouTube. The guru cult in the Vajrayana is another highly problematic aspect. As far as theistic type worship is concerned, if you’ve ever done a puja you know exactly what I mean. Deities and spirits are propitiated and there is a level of superstition that is simply not in line with what the Buddha taught. One of the biggest schisms in the Tibetan Buddhist community currently came about as a result of Vajrayana practitioners disagreeing on whether a particular spirit is an enlightened protector or a worldly protector. My view is not materialistic at all, I am quite sure the Buddha had supernatural abilities given his attainments but nowhere did he teach the kind of deity yoga and guru devotion that is practiced in the Vajrayana. Anyway, I have my reasons, rooted in personal experience and reason, not blind faith.

The deity principle in Vajrayana from a high lama: “So what is deity? According to the dictionary [reads definition from phone], “Any supernatural being, worshipped as controlling some part of the world or some aspect of life, or who is the personification of a force.” English words are so strange. I think the latter resonates a bit, "personification of a force." I think that is probably the closest to what we mean by deva.”

“When you are down there following the Tibetan tradition, reciting again and again, what I want you to do is supplicate. Supplication, prayer, is important. Prayer is meditation. Prayer is shamatha. Prayer is vipassana. Prayer is so important.“

If you really look at what is instead of follow the words of a lama or guru then you will clearly see that prayer and puja and all the rituals and superstitions do not work. Tibet was annexed despite all the prayers and petitions and pujas. Suffering pervades the world despite all the prayers and pujas etc...

Luckily I never took any commitment vows in the tantric initiations that I received otherwise it would have been very difficult to get away.
Taro
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Taro »

SteRo wrote: Thu Aug 06, 2020 9:59 am
Taro wrote: Thu Aug 06, 2020 7:33 am if there’s no Sangha in my home country, is practice in the Theravada tradition something which can be done alone?
Sure. Of course you have to rely on teachings and interpretations which originate from others, but there are e.g. a lot of online resources. There isn't that living teacher/guru cult that is known in most of the Mahayana traditions and which may be obstructive.
"Monks, be islands unto yourselves,[1] be your own refuge, having no other; let the Dhamma be an island and a refuge to you, having no other. Those who are islands unto themselves... should investigate to the very heart of things
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .wlsh.html
He who sees Dhamma, Vakkali, sees me; he who sees me sees Dhamma. Truly seeing Dhamma, one sees me; seeing me one sees Dhamma."
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .wlsh.html
Brilliant! Thank you very much 🙏🏻
Taro
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Taro »

Kim OHara wrote: Thu Aug 06, 2020 10:59 am Welcome, Taro :hello:
A lot of DW members are here (at least partly) because we/they are in your position - isolated from other practitioners IRL.
The forum isn't as good as a real community in some ways but it's a lot better than nothing.

:namaste:
Kim
Thank you! Well an e-sangha is still a Sangha at least 😊
Taro
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Taro »

cappuccino wrote: Thu Aug 06, 2020 3:49 pm
Taro wrote: … is practice in the Theravada tradition something which can be done alone?
"Theravada is like a motorcycle.

Mahayana is like a bus."

-Ajahn Sona
Very interesting quote!
simsapa
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by simsapa »

My view is not materialistic at all, I am quite sure the Buddha had supernatural abilities given his attainments but nowhere did he teach the kind of deity yoga and guru devotion that is practiced in the Vajrayana. Anyway, I have my reasons, rooted in personal experience and reason, not blind faith.
I just don't want to you to dedicate yourself to Theravada, then find something you don't like in it, and then leave. Good luck with your practice.
Taro
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Taro »

Thank you for your concern and well wishes 🙏🏻
sentinel
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by sentinel »

My understanding is Mahayana & Vajrayana has Theravada as it basis in practicing before one could really start practicing the Mahayana or even Vajrayana path . It is a most difficult path to follow (assuming three paths are equally valids) . Of course this is entirely different topics .
Once you get to learn Theravada path (or according to tradition the Elders so to speak) and well developed in it then you may re-investigate or explore all their differences if you want to . If not that is fine also . You gains and has nothing to lose .
You always gain by giving
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