Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Monkey Mind
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by Monkey Mind »

I am not as book-learned as most here, so here's my practical question: I attend some non-denominational or multi-denominational groups. (Read denominational= sectarian.) If the word hinayana should come up in "polite" conversation, what is the best way to respond? My gratitude in advance for responses.
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

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tiltbillings
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by tiltbillings »

Monkey Mind wrote:I am not as book-learned as most here, so here's my practical question: I attend some non-denominational or multi-denominational groups. (Read denominational= sectarian.) If the word hinayana should come up in "polite" conversation, what is the best way to respond? My gratitude in advance for responses.
Slap the person and then shake your finger at him or her telling them that they are remarkably stupid. Actually, if you do not want to do that, it depends upon how it is used. If the situation comes up you might point out that hinayana and the baggage that goes with it is not something accepted by Theravadins and that Theravadins see things a bit diffeently. Or you might simply ignore it, or you might say: "Thank gawd the Theravada is not hinayana." You could call the offender a HINAWEENIE: A Mahayana practitioner who refers to Theravadin Buddhists with the pejorative term Hinayana. Hinayana is a technical term used in Mahayana Buddhism to describe someone, usually within the tradition, who has a lesser motivation along the path. Someone who practices only for the benefit of themselves would be considered to have Hinayana motivation.

Seriously, it depends upon how it is used and the nature of the conversation as to what you might say. Some Mahayanists take the word and its baggage very seriously as being what the Buddha really taught; again the circumstance should dictate the response or the non-response.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723
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acinteyyo
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by acinteyyo »

Hi all,

I'm quite sure that there will be at least someone, who's going to come up with any good reason why the term "hinayana" should be used like this or like that or that it means this or that or why this discussion may be more or less benificial or is just responding to my post or ...whatever.
In the end there is no "hinayana" nor "mahayana" nor "theravada"! There isn't even "buddhism"!
Everything what seems to be there, are some people, who are giving those "nonsense" terms some relative meaning, attaching much importance to it. Just because some more people may give a term a particular meaning, doesn't make it "right", "real" or even "important". Why should one pay it that much attention?
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".
All this doesn't mean anything! (this post included) You are the one giving this any meaning!
I'm not saying that this issue shouldn't be discussed at all. But it shouldn't be paid too much attention to terms.
Btw it reminds me of a quote of Ajahn Chah:
A clever person watches others, but he watches with wisdom, not with ignorance. If one watches with wisdom, one can learn much. But if one watches with ignorance one can only find faults.
This can nearly be applied to all of us.

best wishes, acinteyyo
Thag 1.20. Ajita - I do not fear death; nor do I long for life. I’ll lay down this body, aware and mindful.
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tiltbillings
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by tiltbillings »

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.

When I first started reading Buddhist books and started considering myself a Buddhist, one of the books that was most influential was Philip Kaleau's THREE PILLARS OF ZEN. It put Buddhism in terms of actual practice and actual realization. Looking in this book's index: "Theravada, see hinayana" And Theravada/hinayana was characterized by the usual stuff of being monkish, conservative, looking out for oen's own liberation in contrast to the great, liberal open compassionate Mahayana. Who wants to be Theravada/hinayana?

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.

When I got into long drawn debates on e-sandbox over the word and its inappropriaeness when applied to the Theravada, it was not to change the minds of the true believers, though I would hope for an increase in sensitivity to the problems entailed by such sectarian terminology. It was, rather, for others who were reading along, and judging from the fair number PMs I got in response to such efforts, I would say that it was worth the effort, in that people who were likely to look at the Theravada through Mahayana eyes only saw that when looking at the Theravada from a Theravada point of view that there was something there that was far richer, far deeper than the polemical picture of it presented by the sectarian characterization of all things hinayana.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723
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Kokoro
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by Kokoro »

tiltbillings wrote:You could call the offender a HINAWEENIE: A Mahayana practitioner who refers to Theravadin Buddhists with the pejorative term Hinayana.
Hinaweenie!! :rofl:
I don't know why but that made me laugh so hard I almost fell out my chair!
Thanks Tiltbillings! I really enjoyed that post.

:anjali:
Dan74
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by Dan74 »

:goodpost: tilt!

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

:anjali:

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Cafael Dust
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by Cafael Dust »

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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Monkey Mind
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by Monkey Mind »

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.
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710
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acinteyyo
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by acinteyyo »

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!
Thag 1.20. Ajita - I do not fear death; nor do I long for life. I’ll lay down this body, aware and mindful.
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BlackBird
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by BlackBird »

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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Karunika
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by Karunika »

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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tiltbillings
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by tiltbillings »

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.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723
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tiltbillings
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by tiltbillings »

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.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723
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BlackBird
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by BlackBird »

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

Path Press - Ñāṇavīra Thera Dhamma Page - Ajahn Nyanamoli's Dhamma talks
Darren_86
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by Darren_86 »

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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