From Mahayana to Theravada

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Aloka
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Aloka »

Taro wrote: Thu Aug 06, 2020 7:33 am 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
Welcome Taro,

Here's a link from the Buddhanet Worldwide Search facility to some Theravada centres in South Africa:

https://www.buddhanet.info/wbd/search.p ... vince_id=0

Yes you can practice in the Theravada tradition alone. I was a Vajrayana practioner for a long time and then decided to change over to the Theravada Thai Forest Tradition. I do visit a monastery occasionally, but there are plenty of videos on Youtube of Theravada teachers giving Dhamma talks and there are many suttas of the Buddha's teachings to be read in the Pali Canon.

Feel free to send me a PM if you need to chat about the change-over.

With metta,

Aloka :anjali:
Taro
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Taro »

Thank you for this information and for your reply in general. I appreciate it :smile:

:namaste:
befriend
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by befriend »

Really cool book by Ajahn amaro called small boat great mountain worth reading if your interested in theravadan and vajrayana amaro Bhikkhu talks about the similarities between dzogchen and theravadan meditation great quotes from Ajahn chah in it like "when there is resting in the knowing, nothing can touch the heart." And sumedho quotes like don't try to become enlightened, be enlightened"
Take care of mindfulness and mindfulness will take care of you.
befriend
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by befriend »

Take care of mindfulness and mindfulness will take care of you.
simsapa
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by simsapa »

All the best with your practice. May you find liberation from suffering in this life.
tamdrin
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by tamdrin »

Your problem may not be in Theravada vs. Mahayana vs. Vajrayana per se. For any Buddhist practice to be effective you need to be grounded in the 3 trainings of sila (ethics), samadhi (meditation) and panna (wisdom). Most people who practice Mahayana and Vajrayana don't have enough shamatha practice to make it really effective and it can become really weird. Also a lot of the Gurus these days are not qualified etc. I suggest you listen to some of the Dharma talks from Ajahn Achalo. He is a Theravada monk who has some connection with the Dalai Lama. He also says he has been a Mahayana practitioner in a past life. I have some experience with Vajrayana too so if you want to contact me feel free and best wishes...
lostitude
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by lostitude »

simsapa wrote: Thu Aug 06, 2020 11:09 amAnd I'll just tell you upfront: there are some texts in the Pali Canon that portray the Buddha as having great supernatural powers.
Only Theravada doesn’t require you to act on it. You can read about those superpowers and simply think "ok cool, whatever", it’s presumably not going to affect your practice in any way. Vajrayana seems to be a lot more prescriptive about what to believe and how to put those beliefs into practice.
Taro wrote: Thu Aug 06, 2020 6:15 pm
SteRo wrote: Thu Aug 06, 2020 9:59 am
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 🙏🏻
Funny, I had never realized the ressemblance with :
And whoever sees Me sees the One who sent Me. John 12:45
The one who has seen me has seen the Father. John 14:09
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Goofaholix
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Goofaholix »

Looking at Theravada, Insight/Vipassana meditation centres in SA there appear to be quite a few http://www.buddhanet.info/wbd/search.ph ... -sectarian
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah
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Dharmasherab
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Dharmasherab »

Welcome!

As someone who went in the opposite gradient (from Theravada to Vajrayana), I became more aware of some important differences during my transition.

One of the most important differences is the teacher - student relationship. Theravada does not require the level of teacher devotion that is required in Vajrayana Buddhism. Showing reverence and respect to teachers in the lineages have its importance in certain monastic lineages. For example, I am an Anagarika in a Thai Forest monastery. We refer to the teachings of Ajahn Chah as well as other Kruber Ajahns (such as Ajahn Mun, Ajahn Maha Boowa etc). We show respect and reverence to the example that they left behind. However, it is not a the type of reverence like in Vajrayana where you have to keep special commitments (you may be familiar with Samaya). Similarly in monasteries that descend from Burma, they may show reverence to their important figures that are thought to be accomplished monastics usually from the recent past such as Mahasi and Ledi Sayadaw.

In any form of Buddhism it is important to have guidance from a teacher. Ajahn Chah mentioned that in meditation one encounters experiences that they dont experience in the world. So because of this a teacher is important if one is determined to progress in meditation (which is an essential aspect of Buddhism, especially given that the Buddha became enlightened in a meditative state).

I couldnt help but notice that Vajrayanans that I came across, a significant number of them, tend to depend on the teacher, even for Sutric teachings. Some dont do any independent learning of the Dharma other than what their teacher gives them. So this has made some quite passive in terms of their own learning.

In Theravada you ll find that you can do your own independent learning. Given that the corpus of teachings in Theravada is exoteric (as in it does not require compulsory transmission of teachings from a teacher to student), you can learn from a variety of resources, some of which are available online, even the Suttas on websites like Sutta Central and Access to Insight.

Lineages is a common term in Vajrayana. In Theravada this applies usually to monasticism and for lay people its mostly irrelevant. As a lay Theravada Buddhist you are free to take teachings from any Theravada teacher while feeling some sort of 'commitment' to one.

I noticed that Vajrayanans have a preference to taking teachings live and less keen on looking at recorded teachings. In Theravada this does not matter.

In Vajrayana, it is expected to be careful before taking one as a teacher, because the stakes are too high if commitments are broken. You wont get this with Theravada. It is important to be careful before looking at teachings from a Theravada lineage, but if you are not satisfied then it is a lot easier to look at another lineage of Theravada Buddhism. For example, there was a Buddhist I knew who used to be involved in Vipassana descending from Ledi Sayadaw of the Burmese tradition. She later went to Burma and ordained there. But later she re-ordained in the Thai tradition. There was no problem at all and its acceptable.

Even when I asked to become an Angarika and told the abbot of this Theravada monastery that I hope to get vinaya training in Theravada and then later transition to a Vajrayana monastery. He was happy to support me on that. So if that is acceptable, then transitioning in between Theravada lineages is acceptable and even that is relevant to monastics.

Even though it is not entirely necessary to go a monastery, I will say try to visit a Theravada monastery a few times and then you will get more used to how things work from a community aspect. You will get more into the Theravada mindset.

Best wishes on your journey.
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Coëmgenu
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Coëmgenu »

Dharmasherab wrote: Wed Oct 07, 2020 3:20 pmAs someone who went in the opposite gradient (from Theravada to Vajrayana), I became more aware of some important differences during my transition.
Out of curiosity, was your shift inspired by anyone at Amaravati? I understand Venerable Amaro does double-duty as a Theravadin bhikkhu and a Dzogchenpa (a kind of Tantrika).
Vairocana Mahākāruṇika manifested the ākāśasamādhi that illuminates the Svābhāvika, that illuminates the root source of Buddhatva, manifested the samādhi that illuminates the Dharmakāya. To the assembled many he revealed this samādhi.

He then spoke:

"I have cultivated for endless aeons these dharmas and, with this as condition, I first abandoned the way of the worldlings and attained that gnosis which is consummate, which is highest, taking on the name of Vairocana and dwelling here in the Lotus Vault, in the Womb of the World-Systems, in the Ocean."

(T1484.997b12)
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samseva
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by samseva »

Taro wrote: Thu Aug 06, 2020 7:33 amMy question is; if there’s no Sangha in my home country, is practice in the Theravada tradition something which can be done alone?
Yes, definately...

Read/study the Suttas, and meditate (and even study the Pāḷi language).

Meditation especially, and the resulting progress on the path—which is purely "internal," and mostly has nothing to do with "externals"—will be your most important source of motivation and faith/saddhā.
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Aloka
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Aloka »

Coëmgenu wrote: Wed Oct 07, 2020 5:33 pm I understand Venerable Amaro does double-duty as a Theravadin bhikkhu and a Dzogchenpa (a kind of Tantrika).
Where on earth did you get that idea from ? I used to be very involved with Vajrayana and I've been to a lot of Ajahn Amaro's talks in the last few years as well as discussed my practice with him and have never heard him doing "double duty" as a Dzogchenpa!

Perhaps you're thinking of his book "Small Boat Great Mountain"(published in 2012) in which he reflects about a teaching retreat he shared with Tsoknyi Rinpoche. (I think its already been mentioned earlier in the topic).

https://www.amaravati.org/dhamma-books/ ... -mountain/


:anjali:
Last edited by Aloka on Wed Oct 07, 2020 8:08 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Coëmgenu
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Coëmgenu »

Aloka wrote: Wed Oct 07, 2020 8:03 pm
Coëmgenu wrote: Wed Oct 07, 2020 5:33 pm I understand Venerable Amaro does double-duty as a Theravadin bhikkhu and a Dzogchenpa (a kind of Tantrika).
Where on earth did you get that idea from ? I used to be very involved with Vajrayana and I've been to a lot of Ajahn Amaro's talks in the last few years as well as discussed my practice with him and have never heard him doing "double duty" as a Dzogchenpa!

Perhaps you're thinking of his book "Small Boat Great Mountain"(published in 2012) in which he reflects about a teaching retreat he shared with Tsoknyi Rinpoche. (I think its already been mentioned earlier in the topic).

https://www.amaravati.org/dhamma-books/ ... -mountain/


:anjali:
On DharmaWheel, he is often mentioned as being an ordained Dzogchenpa, with empowerments and everything, in addition to observing Theravada vinaya. This could be a huge misconception over there, but it is treated by the British Tantrika members of DharmaWheel as common knowledge. If you search "amaro dzogchen" in the DharmaWheel search box, you will get people talking about it.

Maybe it's wrong. I'll see if I can look into it. Tbh though, I doubt I will be able to. Would I just write to Ven Amaro and ask him if he practices Dzogchen or not?
Vairocana Mahākāruṇika manifested the ākāśasamādhi that illuminates the Svābhāvika, that illuminates the root source of Buddhatva, manifested the samādhi that illuminates the Dharmakāya. To the assembled many he revealed this samādhi.

He then spoke:

"I have cultivated for endless aeons these dharmas and, with this as condition, I first abandoned the way of the worldlings and attained that gnosis which is consummate, which is highest, taking on the name of Vairocana and dwelling here in the Lotus Vault, in the Womb of the World-Systems, in the Ocean."

(T1484.997b12)
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Aloka
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Aloka »

Coëmgenu wrote:Would I just write to Ven Amaro and ask him if he practices Dzogchen or not?
There's no harm in giving it a try.

I just had a look at the comment you mentioned at Dharma Wheel and I'm baffled. I can only assume it must be connected to the occasion quite a number of years ago before he became Abbot of Amaravati, when he shared the teaching of a retreat with a Dzogchen teacher at the Spirit Rock Centre in the USA. (which I think I've already mentioned).

.
Last edited by Aloka on Thu Oct 08, 2020 6:23 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Dharmasherab
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Dharmasherab »

Coëmgenu wrote: Wed Oct 07, 2020 5:33 pm Out of curiosity, was your shift inspired by anyone at Amaravati? I understand Venerable Amaro does double-duty as a Theravadin bhikkhu and a Dzogchenpa (a kind of Tantrika).
No. even though I have been to Amaravati several times, my interest in Mahayana started before then. I have not read any of Ajahn Amaro's texts. On the different occasions I was in Amaravati it did not occur to me that he was doing any kind of double duty. At some point I may get sent there for some months or perhaps a year, and maybe I could look more deeply.
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