Mahayanized Theravada / Abhayagiri Incident / Outside influences on "Classical Theravada"

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Mahayanized Theravada / Abhayagiri Incident / Outside influences on "Classical Theravada"

Post by Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta »

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Just one of ... Heterodox Buddhisms

Heterodox Buddhism: The School of Abhayagiri
(Rangama Chandawimala)


  • ... a detailed examination of how the Abhayagiri School adopted heterodoxy of other Buddhist traditions.

    ... The Mahåvihåra and the Abhayagiri both accepted the Påli Tipiaka as authoritative texts, but the Abhayagiri went further step by accepting some non-Theravāda teachings including Vetullavāda or Vaitulyavāda (Mahāyāna) and Vājiriyavāda (Vajrayāna), in marked contrast to the Mahāvihāra ideology.

    ... I will discuss non-Theravāda influence on ancient Sri Lankan Buddhist literature, and ...

    ... The practice of the Bodhisattva ideal in the early phase of Sri Lankan Buddhism, and its considerable development after the arrival of Mahāyāna Buddhism, are also discussed here. Based on some inscriptions, a new ideal of Bodhisattva practice, the universally applicable bodhicitta, which is completely related to Mahāyāna practice, is explored as a new trend of Abhayagiri Fraternity.

    ... The foreign relations of the Abhayagiri, with special reference to Tantric Buddhism and the impact of Tantric Buddhism on Sri Lankan paritta chanting and its culture, are also considered at this point.

    ... The Abhayagiri fraternity was always ready to welcome new ideas, and adjusted its monastic system in accordance with time and socio-religious
    needs, whereas the Mahāvihāra considered this as an unwelcome and unacceptable transformation. In other words we can say that the Abhayagiri was radical and innovative whereas the Mahāvihāra was traditional and conservative.

    ... There is enough evidence to prove that several sectarian Buddhist schools dwelt together at the Abhayagiri in total harmony. As a result of this friendly atmosphere, new concepts and practices penetrated into Sri Lankan Buddhism, and some non Theravāda practices spread throughout the Island. Archaeological findings prove the authenticity of those records and show us how Mahāyāna and Tantric Buddhism played a dynamic and vital role in ancient Sri Lanka.

    ... The Mahāvihāra treated the Abhayagirivāsīns as heretics, since they presented some views on the Dhammavinaya that were different from the Mahāvihāra point of view.

    ... I have discussed some new trends introduced by the Abhayagiri fraternity to Sri Lankan Buddhism. Many new practices, rites and rituals were used for the popularity and the development of their own school, and also perhaps for the promotion of a close relationship between the monks and the lay
    followers in terms of the stabilization of the Sāsana. The following new trends introduced by the Abhayagiri fraternity to Sri Lankan Buddhism have
    been discussed in this chapter ...
    ...
    It is quite obvious that the Mahāvihāra and the Abhayagiri unanimously accepted the Pāli Tipiṭaka as authoritative texts. Yet the latter further
    enlarged its ambit by accepting some non-Theravāda teachings, including Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna, showing a completely different attitude from the ideological stance of the Mahāvihāra.
    ...
    The Visuddhimagga, perhaps the greatest work of Mahāvihāra, was composed after the Vimuttimagga of the Abhayagiri and the former was structured following structure of the latter. An important point we have to
    consider here is that the Visuddhimagga is not a work of Mahāvihāra monks, but by Buddhaghosa Thera who came from South India. The Vimuttimagga is attributed to Upatissa Thera who was a member of the Abhayagiri fraternity.
    ...



"The Mahayana Theravada School"
A History of Indian Buddhism (From Sakyamuni to Early Mahayana)
Hirakawa Akira Translated and Edited by Paul Groner

  • Short quote:
    The surviving commentaries (Atthakatha) of the Mahavihara sect, when closely examined, include a number of positions that agree with Mahayana teachings. Consequently, Hsiian-tsang referred to the Sri Lankan Theravada School as " the Mahayana Theravada School."



    Long quote:
    It is unclear whether Mahayanists referred to the whole of Nikaya Buddhism as Hinayana or only to a specific group. The arguments of the Ta-chih-tu lun (T 1509, MahapraJiiiipiiramitopadefa) are primarily directed against the Vaibha~ikas of the Sarvastivadin School. The Sarvastivadins were viewed as Hinayanists in this and many other Mahayana texts. Unfortunately, it is not known whether the term " Hinayana" in Mahayana scriptures also referred to the Theravadins and Mahasarighikas.

    In his travel diary, the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Fa-hsien (d. 423?) divided the areas where Indian Buddhism was practiced into three categories (Fo-kuo ch!~ T 2085, Record ofBuddhist Lands): Mahayana, Hinayana, and mixed (Hinayana and Mahayana practiced together in the same area). A comparison of Fa-hsien's travel diary to that of another Chinese pilgrim, Hsiian-tsang (600-664), Hsi-yu chi (T2087, A Record of Travels to Western Regions), clearly indicates that Fa-hsien used the term " Hinayana" to refer to all of the schools of Nikaya Buddhism. Hsiian-tsang understood Indian Buddhism in approximately the same manner. Hsiian-tsang placed the epithet " Hinayana" in front of the names of certain schools, such as the Sarvastivadin, Sammatiya, and Lokottaravadin. In other cases, he noted that the people of an area were Hinayana Buddhists or that they followed Hinayana teachings, but he did not designate the name of their school. When he discussed the two areas where he found Theravadins and the three places where he found Mahasanghikas, he used only the name of the school without the epithet " Hinayana." l This difference is probably not significant. However, when he discussed the five areas where he found groups associated with the Sri Lankan Theravada School, he referred to them as " Mahayana Theravadins." 2 The Abhayagiri sect of the Theravada School that was influential in Sri Lanka at this time seems to have adopted many Mahayana teachings. Later, it was expelled from Sri Lanka by the Mahavihara sect, which dominates Sri Lankan Buddhism today. The surviving commentaries (A.t.thakathii) of the Mahavihara sect, when closely examined, include a number of positions that agree with Mahayana teachings. Consequently, Hsiian-tsang referred to the Sri Lankan Theravada School as " the Mahayana Theravada School." Thus, Hsiian-tsang did not regard all sects of Nikaya Buddhism as Hinayana. However, he regarded the Lokottaravadin sect, which is of Mahasanghika lineage, as Hinayana despite the many Mahayana elements found in the Lokottaravadin biography of the Buddha, the Mahiivastu.

    Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism are not so clearly distinguished in I-ching's (6.3?:::.?J~) travel diary, the Nan-hai chi-kuei neija chuan (T 2125, A Record of Buddhism in India and the Malay Archipelago). I-ching observed no significant differences in the life styles of Hinayana and Mahayana monks. Both followed the vinaya, were expected to uSe three robes and a begging bowl, and based their practice on the Four Noble Truths. I-ching noted that " those who paid homage to bodhisattvas and read Mahayana sutras" were Mahayana practitioners, while those who did not do so were Hinayana. Only the Madhyamika and Yogacara schools were consistently referred to as Mahayana. 3 I-ching spent most of his time at the large monastery at NaIanda in central India. His use of the terms " Hinayana" and " Mahayana" may indicate that the divisions between the two types of Buddhism were not very clearly observed at NaIanda in the seventh century.

    Hsiian-tsang and I-ching traveled in India when Mahayana Buddhism was in its middle period. Their writings, consequently, do not describe Early Mahayana Buddhism. However, in general, the term " Hinayana" was most often applied to the Sarvastivadin School. The terms " Sravakayana" (vehicle of the listener) and " Bodhisattvayana" (vehicle of the bodhisattva) are even older than the terms " Hlnayana" and " Mahayana." Hlnayana was eventually substituted for Sravakayana and Mahayana for Bodhisattvayana. Sravakayana was probably used to refer to Nikaya Buddhism in general.
  • Here, Hsiian-tsang might want to mean "the Mahayana Theravada School" as a compliment to that Theravada sect; however, I think it would quite definitely be more of a distorted one ... as evident by "heterodox buddhism" mentioned above.



Outside influences on "Classical Theravada"

It is quite probable that even Vissudhimagga might have been hijacked to some extent by (outside influences) especially Mahayana or some indian sects by way of contextual manner; however, it is a little bit too conspiracy-minded to say:
  • Just as the Theravāda monks were cautious in welcoming Buddhaghosa, so Buddhaghosa was careful in introducing any new ideas into the Mahāvihāra tradition in a way that was too obvious. There seems to be no doubt that the Visuddhimagga and the commentaries are a testimony to the abilities of a great harmonizer who blended old and new ideas without arousing suspicion in the minds of those who were scrutinizing his work.
Kalupahana, David J. (1994), A history of Buddhist philosophy






A little reminder for those who might want to question on classical theravada:
  • The unanimously accepted the Pāli Tipiṭaka as authoritative texts for both (original) the Mahåvihåra and the Abhayagiri were the Påli Tipiaka, (not the Tripitaka, not the chinese agamas, nor Pali Bi-pitaka), it's Pali Tipitaka. :smile:


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  • "an entirely and perfectly foolish idea" :D ~ MN22
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Re: Mahayanized Theravada / Abhayagiri Incident / Outside influences on "Classical Theravada"

Post by DNS »

I assume this is referring to the Abhayagiri vihāra? It's interesting that the Mahayana and Vajrayana had such a stronghold in Sri Lanka. When we think of Sri Lanka, the tendency is to think it's always been Theravada.

And it dates back to 2nd century BCE, not too long after the Third Council.
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Re: Mahayanized Theravada / Abhayagiri Incident / Outside influences on "Classical Theravada"

Post by Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta »

DNS wrote: Sat Nov 21, 2020 5:05 pm I assume this is referring to the Abhayagiri vihāra? It's interesting that the Mahayana and Vajrayana had such a stronghold in Sri Lanka. When we think of Sri Lanka, the tendency is to think it's always been Theravada.

And it dates back to 2nd century BCE, not too long after the Third Council.

Yes, David. Abhayagiri vihāra.

It is quite pleasing to know that Mahaviharavasins are referred to as traditionalists & conservatives in some of these books; that labeling is a thing to be valued of, regarding Buddha's teachings, imo.


The links: :heart:
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Re: Mahayanized Theravada / Abhayagiri Incident / Outside influences on "Classical Theravada"

Post by robertk »

Just as the Theravāda monks were cautious in welcoming Buddhaghosa, so Buddhaghosa was careful in introducing any new ideas into the Mahāvihāra tradition in a way that was too obvious. There seems to be no doubt that the Visuddhimagga and the commentaries are a testimony to the abilities of a great harmonizer who blended old and new ideas without arousing suspicion in the minds of those who were scrutinizing his wor
k.
Kalupahana, David J. (1994), A history of Buddhist philosophy

We are "lucky" that these moderns like Kalupahana are able to detect these 'new ideas".
Those ancient Bhikkus were so gullible he thinks . And imagine, Buddhaghosa's Commentaries were so valued as to be kept as part of Theravada all these millenia.

Would it be harsh to say I think he is a ... (ediited out )
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Re: Mahayanized Theravada / Abhayagiri Incident / Outside influences on "Classical Theravada"

Post by Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta »

um ... (edited in):
  • a little bit too conspiracy minded
or,
  • simply paranoid

:jumping:


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