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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tiltbillings
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by tiltbillings »

A number of posts have been split off to the "early Buddhist schools" vs Mahayana ideas of them thread so as to not come into conflict with the purpose of the "Discovering Theravada" forum.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by Sanghamitta »

I think this is spot on. I dont think that we should allow a commendable wish for Buddhist unity to obscure some real differences. My attention was drawn recently to a thread on a Zen site which on the surface appeared to support the idea that Zen and the Vajrayana teach the same thing. However a little beneath the surface a little more digging revealed that what was actually happening was that the Zen commentator was removing most of what is distinctive about the Vajrayana and labelling what was left as being the same as Zen. . . .
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by 5heaps »

Cafael Dust wrote: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.
Maybe its not like that. Maybe what you're looking at are fine distinctions. That the distinctions are made solely within an environment of robust logic goes a long way toward establishing that its the latter. Of course, this doesn't negate instances where someone will, due to disturbing emotions, merely spit out assertion after assertion without any reasoning and detailed clarification.
Sanghamitta wrote:In other words we cannot arrive at a clear view of a Buddhist tradition the lens of another tradition and then airily dismiss the differences are merely cultural.
That's the same as asserting that no-one is honest. It also implies that logic doesn't exist and cannot be followed.

Furthermore, there is possibly not even a serious need to understand every conceivable and slight variation of tenets. We may need to only know general characteristics, in which case it is not hard to examine which are better than others.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by Sanghamitta »

I dont follow the point you are making vis a vis what you have quoted from my post. I think it is self evidently the case that a proportion of Mahayana Buddhists think that other schools can only be explained in terms of their school, and that they held the master key. It doesnt take much internet surfing through Buddhist websites to see that demonstrated on a daily basis. A proportion of Zen teachers and of Vajrayana teachers see the Theravada as incomplete Zen or inadequate Vajrayana.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by tiltbillings »

Sanghamitta wrote:I dont follow the point you are making vis a vis what you have quoted from my post. I think it is self evidently the case that a proportion of Mahayana Buddhists think that other schools can only be explained in terms of their school, and that they held the master key. It doesnt take much internet surfing through Buddhist websites to see that demonstrated on a daily basis. A proportion of Zen teachers and of Vajrayana teachers see the Theravada as incomplete Zen or inadequate Vajrayana.
What I did here is meaning his the reply button, I hit the edit and proceeded to mess with your msg, thenking I was in the reply mode. What this did, of course, put my reply to your edited msg under your name. Big ooops and very sorry for doing that.

If you can reconstruct your original either using the edit function in your msg that I messed or repost it, I massage everything back intop shape.
>> 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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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by Sanghamitta »

Just to complicate things further Tilt, I was actually referring to Sheaps quoting from my post..help! :tongue:
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by Anders »

I'd like to add some considerations that the question of whether it is offensive (or whether we find it so) is also embedded in the linguistic philosophy we bring to bear in our interpretation.

With apologies to Kåre, I'd like to use a post of his to demonstrate:
Kare wrote:
pink_trike wrote:
I've never heard a Maha or Vajra teacher use the term in a belittling manner, -
Is the "manner" really important? If someone should call your way of practice "the despicable way", "the lousy practice", or something in that vein in plain English - would you call that right speech?

Now, if you don't understand English, you would probably not react to these words. But you understand the language, you understand the meaning of the words, and no matter how "unbelittling manner" they might be said, you would not deem this right speech.
And say yes, I think manner is important. Personally, I follow the later Wittgenstein's lead in this regard and perceive the meaning of a word to be in its usage. And furthermore that such meanings aren't static, even in a language such as sanskrit.

One might be able to provide a compelling argument that the Mahayana sutras imputed a distinctly derogatory connotation into the word, and I'm inclined to think that is not wrong. But in the case above where pink says he has never heard a maha a vajra teacher use the term in a belittling manner and Kåre questions whether it matters, I would have to say yes it matters. Because it is obviously used differently.

In the interest of precision, we should have a more sharply delineated terminology that distinguishes the differences in choice of path from whatever ethical inferences one might make of it (though imo, if not always so in the mahayana sutras, the word 'shravaka does effectively serve such a purpose) and other words altogether for delineating doctrinal issues of various early schools that are being critisised. Instead, hinayana has served as pretty much the catchall phrase for all of these things.

Add to that the usage that has developed later of referring to preliminary stages of the mahayana path and the fact that the sting of word in India became rather meaningless in east-asia and tibet where no early Buddhist schools flourished for long and we have a word with a multitude of uses.

At any rate, the only point I wish to make in this is that with this being so, I think it is mistaken to insist on an interpretation that anyone who uses the word hinayana uses a word with a distinct connotation and baggage going all the way back to ancient India. This is to my mind a much too platonistic understanding of language and meaning and doesn't reflect the malleable nature of language and its development.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by Kare »

Anders Honore wrote:I'd like to add some considerations that the question of whether it is offensive (or whether we find it so) is also embedded in the linguistic philosophy we bring to bear in our interpretation.

With apologies to Kåre, I'd like to use a post of his to demonstrate:
Kare wrote:
pink_trike wrote:
I've never heard a Maha or Vajra teacher use the term in a belittling manner, -
Is the "manner" really important? If someone should call your way of practice "the despicable way", "the lousy practice", or something in that vein in plain English - would you call that right speech?

Now, if you don't understand English, you would probably not react to these words. But you understand the language, you understand the meaning of the words, and no matter how "unbelittling manner" they might be said, you would not deem this right speech.
And say yes, I think manner is important. Personally, I follow the later Wittgenstein's lead in this regard and perceive the meaning of a word to be in its usage. And furthermore that such meanings aren't static, even in a language such as sanskrit.

One might be able to provide a compelling argument that the Mahayana sutras imputed a distinctly derogatory connotation into the word, and I'm inclined to think that is not wrong. But in the case above where pink says he has never heard a maha a vajra teacher use the term in a belittling manner and Kåre questions whether it matters, I would have to say yes it matters. Because it is obviously used differently.

In the interest of precision, we should have a more sharply delineated terminology that distinguishes the differences in choice of path from whatever ethical inferences one might make of it (though imo, if not always so in the mahayana sutras, the word 'shravaka does effectively serve such a purpose) and other words altogether for delineating doctrinal issues of various early schools that are being critisised. Instead, hinayana has served as pretty much the catchall phrase for all of these things.

Add to that the usage that has developed later of referring to preliminary stages of the mahayana path and the fact that the sting of word in India became rather meaningless in east-asia and tibet where no early Buddhist schools flourished for long and we have a word with a multitude of uses.

At any rate, the only point I wish to make in this is that with this being so, I think it is mistaken to insist on an interpretation that anyone who uses the word hinayana uses a word with a distinct connotation and baggage going all the way back to ancient India. This is to my mind a much too platonistic understanding of language and meaning and doesn't reflect the malleable nature of language and its development.
Yes, this way of thinking of course works nicely for linguistical ignorants, who only regard "hinayana" as a random collection of letters or sounds.

But we have seen here that there are people whose native language is one of the modern Indian languages where "hina" has kept its original negative meaning. And as for anyone else - as soon as you start studying pali or sanskrit, the nasty smell of stale sectarian propaganda hits your nose in a rather unpleasant manner. No wittgensteinian acrobatics can change reality. ;)
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by Sanghamitta »

No indeed Wittgensteinian acrobatics cannot.. :smile:

I think the key here is how Theravadins feel about the term "Hinayana" (if anything ) rather than how Mahayanists think that Theravadins should feel.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by Anders »

It is not a matter of linguistic ignorance, but on the contrary of linguistic philosophy, ie what is the meaning of words. If we don't have meaning, then any word is indeed little more than 'a random collection of letters or sounds'.

Language isn't owned by any particular nationality, (although it is certainly used by such), so that there are modern languages who has preserved that meaning locally has no necessary bearing on how that word is used in Buddhist language. In Wittgenstein's terminology, 'hina' has one meaning and usage in the 'language-game' employed by modern Indian languages (which abides by one 'family' of rules for that language), another in ancient India, which we can constitute, very broadly, as another language game, and another in modern Buddhism.

Its usage, and hence its meaning, is entirely dependent on whatever 'language-game' it is used in.

Or to put it another way - there is no such thing as a word which has a universal meaning (except perhaps in the most extreme of coincidences, but that is hard to imagine and easily changed). The meaning of words is entirely contextual and determined by usage in any given context.

My point is that one might critisise the ancient Indians for their usage of the word. And that has some relevance to the extent that we still read their texts. But it does matter in what manner modern teachers use the word because that very manner gives the word a different meaning (I will anticipate tilt and say that such usage might of course still not be very appealing to theravadins for other reasons).
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by tiltbillings »

Sanghamitta wrote:No indeed Wittgensteinian acrobatics cannot.. :smile:

I think the key here is how Theravadins feel about the term "Hinayana" (if anything ) rather than how Mahayanists think that Theravadins should feel.
It is not so much the word, itself, but the baggage carried by the word, and none of it is appropriate to 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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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by Sanghamitta »

One day I am going to start frequenting Roman Catholic sites in order to convince them concerning my understanding of transubstantiation. I think the world needs that.

I will of course use a sig proclaiming myself to be a proud unbeliever. If and when I find the time for such activity that is. :smile:
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by Anders »

Sanghamitta wrote:No indeed Wittgensteinian acrobatics cannot.. :smile:

I think the key here is how Theravadins feel about the term "Hinayana" (if anything ) rather than how Mahayanists think that Theravadins should feel.
I am not arguing for the blanket acceptance of the word Hinayana, but rather for recognising contexts in which to ask where it is appropriate.

As for my particular opinion based on this, in dialoguing with Theravadins, I quite agree. That is a context that gives the word an undesirable meaning that is not easy to ferret out, even with the best of intentions. Especially so, if one were talking to someone who does attribute 'piss poor vehicle as the meaning of the word.

I don't agree that it is universally so. If mahayanins today were quite literally using the word amongst themselves as Kåre attributes to the ancient Indians, that might be the case. But in my experience, few do. It is not used like that and hence, it does not have that general meaning among mahayanins.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by Sanghamitta »

My meaning is far less sophisticated than that Mr Honore, it is to do with the fact that this is a Theravada Website, and this is a forum called " Discovering Theravada" Which is a subforum of a wider forum called " Modern Theravada". But its a free world.
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Re: Do you find Hinayana offensive?

Post by Anders »

Sanghamitta wrote:My meaning is far less sophisticated than that Mr Honore, it is to do with the fact that this is a Theravada Website, and this is a forum called " Discovering Theravada" Which is a subforum of a wider forum called " Modern Theravada". But its a free world.
Well, you are right then, our purposes differ. In regards to a Theravada website, its usage is inappropriate. But that is in itself also rather uncontroversial. I look at the larger question of intersectarian dynamics beyond dedicated theravada fora because that is where the issue gets more complicated and the answer less likely to be as categorical.
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