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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2009 2:00 am
by pink_trike
retrofuturist wrote: I don't know if it's the wording, but this sounds disturbingly like some variety of macro-soul theory.
Hi Retro,

Nope, no macro-soul soup. :smile:

The perspective of samsara is conditioned by, among other perceptual mistakes, the defended delusion of separateness/solidity which gives rise to self-obsession. Self-obsession concretizes a continuous mind pattern of "becoming" (reacting) in order to protect this delusion of separateness/solidity.

A Maha perspective erodes and help breaks open this contracted, reified perspective that's based on the delusion of separate/solid by revealing and placing emphasis on the universality of suffering, and by replacing our defending obsession of "self" with the committed, practiced care of other living beings. Nothing to do with a macro-soul - rather just methods for the dissolving of delusions of divisions between "self" and "other" in the service of understanding and recognizing the Dharma. The cultivation of a Maha perspective cracks open the ego's protective, reactive bubbling of "me, me, me". Its a turn of the mind that erodes the conditioning that gives rise to the reified Samsaric view that gives birth to endless "becoming" (reactivity).
retrofuturist wrote:]All these notions of 'separateness' and 'inclusivity' seems like tangential mana to me, which infer some "thing" which could be separate, or included which respect to some other "thing".
The conceit takes place with mind's mistaken material view that sees everything as uniquely separate and solid. Maha works to melt that hard, protected mind knot, in part by emphasizing and practicing an antidote...the recognition that all living beings suffer as we do, and the practiced care of others which takes us outside of that tight fenced off conceit of "self" by inclusively expanding our view to include "other". This has the effect of lessening the reactive continuous becoming (rebirthing) of the delusional "self" in any number of lower mind-states.
retrofuturist wrote:From my perspective, there is samsaric existence/becoming which is conditioned, and there is nibbana which is unconditioned.
The same view with Maha. The emphasized compassion practices in Maha serve to erode conditioned egoic fencing that draws a tight boundary around "self" separate from "other" - the same fencing that forms/perpetuats the perspective of samsara. By eroding this corner of the fencing, the compassion practices expands our view of the self/other continuum/space, contributing to the unconditioned perspective known as Nirvana.

Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2009 2:42 am
by tiltbillings
pinktrike wrote:Having studied/practiced and accepted teachings in all three traditions for 3 decades (ten in just Theravada, 20 in all three vehicles) its my experience that it is a small group of aging Theravada practitioners that love to beat this bush, based on the anger/resentment exhibited by some early traditional teachers who brought this sectarian poison to the West.

Having studied/practiced in all three traditions for 4 decades, I find this assessment wanting. The fact that Acharya Ray felt compelled to make the above statement I quoted points to the fact that this is still an issue very much alive, and that it is a problem coming from the Mahayana side.

The reality is - as had been displayed graphically and repeatedly on E-Sangha by the senior Tibetan practitioners there as well by many other Mahayanist practitioners of other schools - that the Theravada not only got called hinayana, but the very negative polemical baggage developed by the Mahayana that characterize what the supposed hinayana is gets applied uncritically to the Theravada and this is seen as appropriate to the Theravada. And this not just a failing of the E-Sangha Mahayanist hardliners. It is out there in the modern Western Mahayana world.

Here is something I posted on E-Sangha sometime back:
Are we really going for refuge in the same Buddha? Let me give you an example of this problem at it worst. Famed Tibetan Buddhist practitioner and scholar, J. Hopkins, wrote a book called A TANTRIC DISTINCTION, published by Wisdom (1984).

On page 123 Hopkins states: ”The Buddha described by the Low Vehicle tenet systems is not a Buddha at all according to the Consequence school, for he is depicted as cognizing a very coarse type of emptiness. Such a being has not even attained liberation from cyclic existence. . . .”

And to be clear about who belongs to the Low Vehicle he states that it is possible to fall from the Great Vehicle by being born in Sri Lanka ”where Low Vehicle Buddhism is widespread,” page 90.

”This means that according to the Consequence School the Low Vehicle schools do not even know how to present a path of liberation because the Low Vehicle tenet systems incorrectly describe the method for becoming a Foe Destroyer [arhat],” page 111.

If he were simply presenting the Gelug point of view in his book as he does in scholarly book EMPTINESS, that would be one thing, but in this book, which is a popular work meant for Joe and Jane Dharma at the local Tibetan Dharma center, Hopkins steps far beyond what he did in his scholarly work with what is a marked sectarian editorializing about the Theravada school of Buddhism. And nowhere does he offer as a corrective in the footnotes or in the text anything that would reflect an actual Theravadin point of view.

If we take Hopkins’ presentation as being true or normative of Mahayana in general (not just one school), to use Hopkins’ own words, why would anyone be a Low Vehicle practitioner,” page 161?

Fortunately, this hard-line sectarianism is not what characterizes all Mahayanists any more than the Theravadin flip side of this characterizes all Theravadins.
While this extreme point of view may not characterize all Mahayanists, it is out there to a significant extent that many Western Mahayanist students buy into it with the usual results of a distorted view of the Theravada.
I've never heard a Maha or Vajra teacher use the term in a belittling manner, - all of them when encountering a student with such a view would set them straight in a fat hurry.
It is not always that simple, given that hinayana is a complex term with a number of meanings. While a Tibetan teacher may not think that calling Theravada hinayana is belittling, when what he said is unpacked as to what is actually meant by the term hinayana, then some fairly serious problems with the use of that term may be exposed.

Here is a quote from E-Sangha, which also illustrates the problem with how some teachers use hinayana vis a vis Theravada:
I personally DON'T think that we call Hinayana is disrespectful. I hope you wouldn't take it too personally.

Theravadin is a tradition basic grass root of Buddha teaching where by one see the world suffering, one wants to practice buddha-dharma to attain arahat and save oneself lives from suffering.

Buddha taught that Mahayana is a Bodhisattva way where they have compassion toward living beings. Not only rescue themselves from suffering but also all others. And this is where "compassion" is coming from in Mahayana tradition.

So Smaller Vehicle can only carry a few or individual toward liberation. But Greater vehicle can contain more people and carry more toward liberation. That's all it means. It doesn't mean insulting or calling Theravada low or negative thing.
And this well meaning individual truly is not trying to be offensive, but there is a very serious problem with what he is saying, which he does not see, and I think there is not a problem with taking a look at that problem. And that does not make me some sort of old crusty Theravadin hardliner fundaloonie.
The only places I've witnessed this pot being stirred is in the presence of a few senior Theravada practitioners, and in one case by an elderly traditional Theravada teacher who rightfully could be described as a sectarian fundamentalist.
The E-Sangha experience shows that the use of hinayana to characterize the Theravada comes from a wide variety of Mahayanists, but it is hardly limited to the presently dead E-Sangha.
Most ghosts "out there" have their origin "in here
Well, hinayana is a sectarian term that has its place within the confines of the Mahayana, but has no real place outside it. It is not an appropriate term of characterization of the Theravada in any way.

Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2009 4:01 am
by jcsuperstar

Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2009 4:09 am
by LauraJ
tiltbillings wrote:When used totally within the Mahayana to refer to motivation, it has it place. When applied outside the Mahayana to the Theravada or anyother school, it sectariam at its naming calling worst.
I've seen/heard the word used in this manner. Initially I was surprised, but there does seem to be a context in which the word can be used as Tilt said. I haven't read through the entire thread so apologies if this remark is out of place.


Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2009 4:28 am
by A Medic
After reading over this Ive decided that the simplest thing to do is to avoid the term, and deny the debate for myself.

I thank everyone for the replies, and I have learn a bit here today.

Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2009 4:47 am
by tiltbillings
A Medic wrote:After reading over this Ive decided that the simplest thing to do is to avoid the term, and deny the debate for myself.

I thank everyone for the replies, and I have learn a bit here today.
The use of the term hinayana can be confusing.

Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2009 4:54 am
by A Medic
I agree that's why I'm just going to avoid using it. Some people find it offensive others don't. I don't think it is a term that needs to be used to describe any practice so I don't see the point of using it.

Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2009 5:45 am
by tiltbillings
Historically, the term Hinayana was pejorative, and did not refer to the Theravada. Modern usages to the contrary are based upon either misunderstanding or misinformation.

"In fact, as we shall see presently, “Hinayana” refers to a critical but strictly limited set of views, practices, and results. The pre-Mahayana historical traditions such as the Theravada are far richer, more complex, and more profound than the definition of ‚Hinayana” would allow ... The term ‘Hinayana’ is thus a stereotype that is useful in talking about a particular stage on the Tibetan Buddhist path, but it is really not appropriate to assume that the Tibetan definition of Hinayana identifies a venerable living tradition as the Theravada or any other historical school..."
Reginald Ray, Indestructible Truth

“There is a widespread belief, particularly in the West, that the ideal of the Theravada, which they conveniently identify with Hinayana, is to become an Arahant while that of the Mahayana is to become a Bodhisattva and finally to attain the state of a Buddha. It must be categorically stated that this is incorrect. Some early Orientalists spread this idea at a time when Buddhist studies were beginning in the West, and the others who followed them accepted it without taking the trouble to go into the problem by examining the texts and living traditions in Buddhist countries. Nevertheless, the fact is that both the Theravada and the Mahayana unanimously accept the Bodhisattva ideal as the highest.”
Ven. Dr. W. Rahula, Bodhisattva Ideal in Buddhism

Edits from “The Myth of Hinayana” by Kare A. Lie

Hinayana, or, more correctly, hiinayaana, is a highly derogatory term. It does not simply mean “Lesser vehicle” as one often can see stated. The second element of hiina-yaana – that is yaana – means vehicle. However, hiina very seldom has the simple meaning of “lesser” or “small.” If that had been the case, the Pali (or Sanskrit) texts would have used it in other connections as an opposite of mahaa – big. However, they do not. The opposite of mahaa is, and this is the normative word for “small.”

The term Hinayana is an echo of a debate long dead – or rather a debate where the one party is dead and the other one is shouting to the winds.

Who were the opponents who were labeled Hinayana? Theravada? Probably not. At the time when Mahayana was born, Theravada had mainly emigrated to Sri Lanka, and could hardly be counted among the dominating schools on the Indian mainland – where the Mahayana/Hinayana debate took place. The most influential of the old schools at that time, was Sarvastivada, so they were the most probable – but hardly the only – targets for the “Hinayana” invectives.

The Sarvastivada and most of the other early schools of India at that time are long dead, except Theravada and the Mahasamghika, but the debate and the arguments found their way into the Mahayana and Vajrayana teaching.

Today there is confusion, for the Mahayanists/Vajrayanists use the term Hinayana in three different ways:
1) In the historical sense: Pre-Mahayanist schools are called Hinayana.
2) Modern Theravada is confused with Hinayana.
3) The term Hinayana is used for an internal part of the Mahayana/Vajrayana teaching.

Let us have a closer look on these three usages.
1) Some assert that the word Hinayana as a term for the earlier schools is a usage that belongs to the distant past only. This is not correct. It can be found in several modern reference works, and in more specialist literature it can for instance be found in H.V. Guenther, Buddhist Philosophy in Theory and Practice, citing Tibetan works from the 18th and the 20th century.

2) As an example of confusing Hinayana with Theravada, I will quote from the Bibliography of Jane Hope (Jane Hope studied with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche), Buddha for beginners, printed in 1995 (I only have the Norwegian version available, so I hope my retranslation back into English will not be too inaccurate): “Hinayana Buddhism. A good introduction to the traditional Hinayana Buddhism is What the Buddha Taught, Walpola Rahula ... From a present point of view and written by two Westerners trained in the Theravada tradition, is ... Seeking the Heart of Wisdom, by Joseph Goldstein & Jack Kornfield ...”

3) Now, for a persistent confusion that has its basis in Tibetan Buddhism. Some say that Hinayana and Mahayana from very early on are two terms used to describe two different spiritual attitudes, and quote from the 7th chapter (“Loving Kindness and Compassion”) of the Tibetan classic The Jewel Ornament of Liberation written in the 10th century, where the author, Jé Gampopa refers to Hinayana as “lower capacity” (theg pa dman pa). The paragraph reads as follows:

“Clinging to the well-being of mere peace (1) signifies the lower capacity attitude (2) wherein the longing to transcend suffering is focused on oneself alone. This precludes the cherishing of others and hence there is little development of altruism. [...] When loving kindness and compassion become part of one, there is so much care for other conscious beings, that one could not bear to liberate oneself alone. [...] Master Manjushriikiirti has said: ‘A Mahaayaana follower should not be without loving kindness and compassion for even a single moment,’ and ‘It is not anger and hatred but loving kindness and compassion that vouchsafe the welfare of others.’”

The footnotes to this passage read as follows: (1) The Tibetan means “peace.” It is translated as “mere peace” in this section of the book, since it is used by Gampopa to denote the relatively compassionless peace that results from developing only concentration meditation. (2) Hinayana: “lesser capacity” often translated as “lesser vehicle.” The term implies the ability to carry a burden. In this case, the burden is oneself since one’s commitment is to bring oneself to liberation, not everyone (as is the case in the Mahayana, the “greater capacity”).

The problem and confusion here is of course that this analysis does not refer directly to the Pali/Sanskrit word hiinayaana, but to its Tibetan translation “theg pa dman pa.” This is a key issue.

The word Hinayana is not Tibetan, not Chinese, English, or Bantu. It is Sanskrit. Therefore, the only sensible approach for finding the meaning of the word is to study how the word hiinayaana is used in the Pali and Sanskrit texts.

The second element, -yaana, means vehicle. There is no dissent about this.

How then is “hiina” used in the canonical Pali texts?

Every Buddhist knows the first recorded sermon of the Buddha, the Dhammacakkappavattanasutta spoken to the five ascetics who became the first five bhikkhus. There the Buddha says: “These two extremes, monks, are not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the world. What are the two? That conjoined with the passions and luxury, low (hiina), coarse, vulgar, ignoble and harmful ...”

Knowing that the sutra style often use strings of synonyms this way, so that they strengthen and define each other, one can regard “coarse, vulgar, ignoble and harmful” as auxiliary definitions of “hiina” in this case.

Here the Buddha clearly denotes the path not to be practiced, as hiina.

In other Pali texts and commentaries, hiina often occurs in the combination hiina-majjhima-pa.niita, that is: bad - medium - good. In the context of hiina - majjhima - pa.niita (or sometimes only hiina - pa.niita) the word hiina is always used as a term for undesirable qualities, like for instance hatred, greed and ignorance. It obviously means “low, undesirable, despicable” – and not “small” or “lesser.”

The commentary Mahaniddesa-atthakatha, one of the texts where this triad occurs, defines the word thus: hiinattike hiinaati laamakaa (In the hiina-triad “hiina” is “laamakaa”). Now the PTS Dictionary in this way defines laamaka: “insignificant, poor, inferior, bad, sinful. The usual synonym is paapa.” And paapa means “bad, evil.” Therefore, it seems the definitions go from bad to worse here. The commentary then gives examples, and explains that desires that cause rebirth in niraya (hell, purgatory) are hiina.

Now for Sanskrit texts.

In Lalitavistara, we find a version of the Dhammacakkappavattanasutta, where the word “hiina” is used exactly as in the above citation from the Pali-version of that sutra.

In Mahayanasutralankara by Asanga, which is a very representative Mahayana text, we find something of interest for our quest. Asanga says: “There are three groups of people: hiina-madhyama-vishishta ... (bad – medium – excellent).” This expression is parallel to the Pali: hiina-majjhima-pa.niita, and goes to show that the Mahayanists who coined the term “hiinayaana”, regarded “hiina” as a derogatory term, with the same meaning as in the Pali texts.

A very interesting text is an edition of the Catushparishatsutra where the text is presented in four parallel columns: Sanskrit, Pali (Mahavagga), Tibetan and a German translation from a Chinese version. Here, again, we find the Dhammacakkappavattanasutta. We have already looked into the Sanskrit and Pali. The German version from the Chinese says: „Erstens: Gefallen zu finden an und anzunehmen die niedrigen und üblen Sitten der gewöhnliche Personen ...” It is a little unclear whether it here is “niedrigen” (despicable) or “üblen” (evil, bad) that corresponds to “hiina.” However, it at least is clear that the strongly negative connotation of “hiina” was carried over into the Chinese translation. So far, nothing had changed from the Pali and Sanskrit meanings.

In the Tibetan column, we find that the Tibetan word “dman-pa” takes the place corresponding to the Sanskrit “hiina,” matching the above quote from Jé Gampopa. Here we have the cause of later confusions and misunderstandings of the term hiinayaana. Let us see what Tibetan-English dictionaries say about “dman-pa”: Sarat Chandra Das’ Dictionary says: “dman-pa: low, in reference to quantity or quality, little”. Jäschke’s Dictionary is even more enlightening: “dman-pa: 1. low, in reference to quantity, little. 2. in reference to quality: indifferent, inferior (Skt: hiina).”

It thus seems that the Sanskrit word hiina, which without any reasonable doubt means “of low quality,” came to be translated by the Tibetan word dman-pa, which has the double meaning “low quality” and “low quantity.” Moreover, the above quote from Jé Gampopa seems to indicate that many Tibetans henceforth read only the latter of those two meanings into it, as “lesser capacity,” “lower capacity,” so that the meaning was distorted from “low quality” to “low quantity.”

Thus we see that the confusion arose from the fact that dman-pa has two meanings in Tibetan. Hinayana – originally meaning “vehicle of despicable quality” – thus acquired the new meaning “vehicle of lower capacity.” Nevertheless, this is a result of a wrong method. It is of course wrong to project the new Tibetan meaning backwards in time as a “whitewash” onto the Sanskrit/Pali word, and say that “this is the meaning of Hinayana, because this is how the Tibetan masters explain it.” What the Tibetan masters explain, is the Tibetan word dman-pa, not the Sanskrit word hiina.

Therefore, it is clear that one cannot assert that Hinayana has the “mild” meaning that the Tibetan tradition has given it, via the Tibetan word dman-pa. Hinayana is not Tibetan, it is Sanskrit/Pali, and its harsh, derogatory meaning is unchanged by any attempts of mitigation.

What then, is Hinayana?

Is it Theravada Buddhism? No, that is both insulting and historically wrong.
Is it a spiritual attitude inside the Mahayana and Vajrayana system? No, that is the Tibetan “theg pa dman pa,” the lower capacity attitude, and not the Sanskrit Hinayana, “the inferior vehicle.”

Therefore, there is no Hinayana.

Hinayana is nothing but a myth, although a confused and disruptive one and wise Buddhists ought to lay that word to rest on the shelves of the Museum of Schisms, where it rightly belongs, and find other words to denote those spiritual attitudes that they wish to define. - Jiun ... 5&start=20" onclick=";return false;

Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2009 6:04 am
by cooran
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Check out the meaning of Hina in the PTS dictionary.

Hello all,

As Bhikkhu Pesala says - checking out the actual meaning clarifies the intent behind its use:

Hīna [pp. of jahati] 1. inferior, low; poor, miserable; vile, base, abject, contemptible, despicable Vin i.10; D i.82, 98; S ii.154 (hīnaŋ dhātuŋ paṭicca uppajjati hīnā saññā); iii.47; iv.88, 309 (citta h. duggata); D iii.106, 111 sq., 215 (dhātu); A ii.154; iii.349 sq.; v.59 sq.; Sn 799, 903 sq.; Nd1 48, 103, 107, 146; J ii.6; Pv iv.127 (opp. paṇīta); Vv 2413 (=lāmaka VvA 116); Dhs 1025; DhsA 45; Miln 288; Vism 13; DhA iii.163. -- Often opposed to ukkaṭṭha (exalted, decent, noble), e. g. Vin iv.6; J i.20, 22; iii.218; VbhA 410; or in graduated sequence hīna (>majjhima)>paṇīta (i. e. low, medium, excellent), e. g. Vism 11, 85 sq., 424, 473. See majjhima. -- 2. deprived of, wanting, lacking Sn 725= It 106 (ceto -- vimutti˚); Pug 35. -- hīnāya āvattati to turn to the lower, to give up orders, return to secular life Vin i.17; S ii.231; iv.191; Ud 21; A iii.393 sq.; M i.460; Sn p. 92; Pug 66; hīnāya vattati id. J i.276; hīnāy'āvatta one who returns to the world M i.460, 462; S ii.50; iv.103; Nd1 147.
-- âdhimutta having low inclinations J iii.87; Pug 26; ˚ika id. S ii.157; It 70. -- kāya inferior assembly VvA 298 (here meaning Yamaloka); PvA 5. -- jacca low-born, low -- caste J ii.5; iii.452; v.19, 257. -- vāda one whose doctrine is defective Sn 827; Nd1 167. -- viriya lacking in energy It 116; DhA i.75; ii.260. ... 1:683.pali" onclick=";return false;


Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2009 6:08 am
by pink_trike
Keeping this pot stirred over running decades benefits practitioners of Buddhism exactly how?

Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2009 6:16 am
by cooran
The same way constantly bringing to mind people's racist idioms helps them to see the damage they do. Excusing the word 'nigger' as something that has been around for so long that people don't really mean it "that" way, and anyone taking offense is keeping the pot stirred over decades wouldn't be accepted. The person using the term would simply be expected to 'shut up" and not try to shut up those who are offended by it.

Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2009 6:18 am
by A Medic
Thank you for that post tiltbillings. ZFI is what prompted me to post this here. I wanted to get the opinion of what the word meant from those who it is ascribed to.

Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2009 7:13 am
by tiltbillings
pink_trike wrote:Keeping this pot stirred over running decades benefits practitioners of Buddhism exactly how?
So, a well meaning individual innocently uses the word to refer to the Theravada thinking it (and it attendant baggage are appropriate) and no one should take the time to try give that individual a little information, to show him or her that the Theravada really does not fit into that pigeonhole?

The pot is not stirred by the Theravadins. Hinayana is an unfortunate polemical epithet given to us by the Mahayana at their sectarian worst. We are stuck with it and there are those who, not knowing better, use it, and there are those who should know better who use it in its full sectarian flower. While the word hinayana is ugly, what is the real problem is the baggage that it carries. Either in person or online, I have run into numerous people who assume that the word and the baggage fits the Theravada.

So, we Theravadin are not supposed say anything about this? If we do we are, to use your words, sectarian fundamentalists stirring the pot?

Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2009 7:14 am
by tiltbillings
A Medic wrote:Thank you for that post tiltbillings. ZFI is what prompted me to post this here. I wanted to get the opinion of what the word meant from those who it is ascribed to.
You are welcome.

Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2009 8:19 am
by Kare
pink_trike wrote:
Kare wrote:
pink_trike wrote:
I've never heard a Maha or Vajra teacher use the term in a belittling manner, -
So if you know Pali or Sanskrit, you would react to the word "hinayana", and see that no matter in what way it might be said - the word in itself carries a very unpleasant meaning.
Hinayana means "the teachings are about hina".

It does not mean "the teachings are hina", which is an incorrect translation, to the best of my knowledge.

There's a big difference there.
Sorry, but you are mistaken. Yana does not mean "teaching". It is derived from a verb which means "to go", so it may be taken in two different, but equally correct, meanings: the way upon which you go, or the vehicle by which you go. Therefore yana can be translated as "way" or "vehicle". From the similes in the Lotus sutra it seems that "vehicle" is the intended meaning.

Therefore, Hinayana has never been understood as the teachings about hina, as you indicate, but as the vehicle/teaching/way that is hina. The guy who first coined that word was a brilliant propagandist. But so was Goebbels ...