Theravāda and Suttavādins

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and scriptures.
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Ceisiwr
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Theravāda and Suttavādins

Post by Ceisiwr »

As is well known the Sautrāntikas of old grew out of that other great Sthavira and Abhidhamma tradition, Sarvāstivāda. As far as I'm aware no such sub-school developed within Theravāda until very recently. What could be the reason for this?
“The mental and material are really here,
But here there is no human being to be found,
For it is void and merely fashioned like a doll—
Just suffering piled up like grass and sticks.”


Visuddhimagga
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robertk
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Re: Theravāda and Suttavādins

Post by robertk »

Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Jun 03, 2021 7:54 pm As is well known the Sautrāntikas of old grew out of that other great Sthavira and Abhidhamma tradition, Sarvāstivāda. As far as I'm aware no such sub-school developed within Theravāda until very recently. What could be the reason for this?
What is a Sthavira?
mabw
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Re: Theravāda and Suttavādins

Post by mabw »

How about the Mahāvihāra, Abhayagiri and Jetavana division? While there were divisions, I remember reading somewhere they were all still considered Theravada, but differing in their openness to new doctrines. But who knows what could have happened if they existed for longer. I suppose part of the reason is the Mahavihara was bolstered by subsequent royal patronage.

Since most of the divisions happened in the north, I'm just guessing that there were more doctrinal debates going on, not only among traditions but also with Brahmanic thought.

I also recall reading that debates and divisions in Theravada centred mainly around interpretations of certain Vinaya rules.
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Coëmgenu
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Re: Theravāda and Suttavādins

Post by Coëmgenu »

robertk wrote: Thu Jun 03, 2021 11:36 pm
Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Jun 03, 2021 7:54 pm As is well known the Sautrāntikas of old grew out of that other great Sthavira and Abhidhamma tradition, Sarvāstivāda. As far as I'm aware no such sub-school developed within Theravāda until very recently. What could be the reason for this?
What is a Sthavira?
I think he means "Sthaviravādin" in the sense of the unschismed "Theravāda" sect before Sarvāstivādins etc. came to be independent "Sthaviravāda-derived sects." Modern Theravāda, indeed Medieval Theravāda too, identifies with the Sthaviravādins by way of their name being that same name in Pāli. "Sthavira" is Sanskrit for "Thera."
The spotless mind,
the most highly pure, the tranquil,
all unspoiled phenomena supporting,
this name applying to the consciousness of the Tathāgata.

A bodhisattva, one of two vehicles, an ordinary person:
these are thrones which hold seeds subject to germination.
In acquiring the virtuous pure mind of a Buddha,
which is resolute suchness, the sūtra says:

The Tathāgata's spotless mind
is a pure place without outflows.
It is liberation from all bondage.
It is like a spherical mirror.
It is consciousness always in internal agreement.

(T1585.13a19 Vijñaptimātratāsiddhiśāstra)
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Dhammavamsa
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Re: Theravāda and Suttavādins

Post by Dhammavamsa »

From what I briefly read from Kathavathu and Visuddhimagga, it seems there are many branches of sthavira school in India and Sri Lanka too.

But I remember somewhere in commentaries, Ven. Moggaliputta Tissa Arahant said only Vibhajjavadin tradition contains the true Dhamma unbroken from the first council. The rest like the Pudgalavadin or Sarvastivada are fallen into wrong views. Yet, nowadays the term "Vibhajjavadin" is rarely used in Buddhism.

I need to spend some time to read Kathavathu: Point of Controversy again.
Dhammapada (78)
Na bhaje pāpake mitte, na bhaje purisādhame.
bhajetha mitte kalyāṇe, bhajetha purisuttame.
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retrofuturist
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Re: Theravāda and Suttavādins

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings,
Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Jun 03, 2021 7:54 pm As is well known the Sautrāntikas of old grew out of that other great Sthavira and Abhidhamma tradition, Sarvāstivāda. As far as I'm aware no such sub-school developed within Theravāda until very recently. What could be the reason for this?
Well, a lot of it seems to be about definition. You're talking about a formal school that pre-dates the development of Abhidhammas, or perhaps more precisely, didn't want to participate in the development of an Abhidhamma so they went it alone.

The one "early school" that survived was Theravada and it had an Abhidhamma - thus three baskets rather than two. It would also go on to develop its own elaborate commentarial tradition which retrofitted its Abhidhammic world-view into its interpretations of the Sutta.

Just as you had people in the past who thought, "no, we don't need to further develop the Buddha's teaching", you similarly now have people who think "no, we really didn't need these further developments of the Buddha's teaching" who prefer to rely on materials which pre-date the Abhidhamma project. Perhaps the reason it took so long for there to be "such sub-school developed within Theravāda" is likely because any practitioners who knew the timelines of the origination of texts simply personally ignored the extraneous elements, rather than feeling any need to collectively rebel, reject and move apart from the 3 basket view.

Scholarship, textual studies and the Internet have helped to make the timing and authorship of texts more widely known. Even now I don't think there's any existence or need for a specifically defined "sub-school", but there should be honesty within Theravada about the origination of various texts so that people can make their own informed individual decisions regarding what they place emphasis in, and whether they grant significance to two baskets, three baskets, or the entire Pali tradition. If you're serious about the use of the term "school", then that's precisely how it should be anyway. It seems too fine a distinction to try to create sub-schools etc. amongst those options when many Theravada monks will never even comprehensively read the traditional scriptures themselves, and nobody intends to create a new bhikkhu ordination lineage.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"Why now do you assume 'a being'? Mara, have you grasped a view?" (SN 5.10)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
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Re: Theravāda and Suttavādins

Post by Dhammanando »

Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Jun 03, 2021 7:54 pm As is well known the Sautrāntikas of old grew out of that other great Sthavira and Abhidhamma tradition, Sarvāstivāda. As far as I'm aware no such sub-school developed within Theravāda until very recently. What could be the reason for this?
We know from Buddhaghosa's introduction to the Atthasālinī that there were individual bhikkhus who didn't admit the Abhidhamma Piṭaka to be buddhavacana. Though he doesn't identify them, it seems likely that he is talking about bhikkhus of Theravada Vinaya lineage, for it is specifically the Theravada Abhidhamma Piṭaka that they were rejecting. I can think of three possible reasons why they might not have wished to form a breakaway school:

1. There may have been too few of them.
2. It may have been politically inexpedient. That is, the Mahāvihāra could have called upon royal power to suppress them, just as it did with the Abhayagiri and Jetavana Viharas.
3. They had other fish to fry. That is, their desire to just get on with their own practice may have weighed more heavily with them than any missionary zeal to persuade Ceylonese Buddhists to revert to what they imagined to have been the proto-Canon.
Anabhirati kho, āvuso, imasmiṃ dhammavinaye dukkhā, abhirati sukhā.

“To not delight in this dhammavinaya, friend, is painful; to delight in it is bliss.”
(Sukhasutta, AN 10:66)
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robertk
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Re: Theravāda and Suttavādins

Post by robertk »

Coëmgenu wrote: Fri Jun 04, 2021 2:29 am
robertk wrote: Thu Jun 03, 2021 11:36 pm
Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Jun 03, 2021 7:54 pm As is well known the Sautrāntikas of old grew out of that other great Sthavira and Abhidhamma tradition, Sarvāstivāda. As far as I'm aware no such sub-school developed within Theravāda until very recently. What could be the reason for this?
What is a Sthavira?
I think he means "Sthaviravādin" in the sense of the unschismed "Theravāda" sect before Sarvāstivādins etc. came to be independent "Sthaviravāda-derived sects." Modern Theravāda, indeed Medieval Theravāda too, identifies with the Sthaviravādins by way of their name being that same name in Pāli. "Sthavira" is Sanskrit for "Thera."
Thanks. I have moved this thread to Early Buddhism where it seems more suited.
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Coëmgenu
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Re: Theravāda and Suttavādins

Post by Coëmgenu »

Because it mentions too many other sects, one wonders? I'll not dispute the moving, but it does seem the topic is more about specifically Theravāda and less about "early Buddhism" and that the only thing that would make it seem unTheravādin or like it was not addressing Theravāda is one or two foreign words (specifically "Sautrāntika" and "Sthavira") too many.

Related to the OP, I think the historical Theravādin Suttavādins to the extent that they actually existed might have never formed their own school because Sri Lanka is a tiny island and not extremely heavily populated. If Sri Lanka had been populated like modern Japan, then there would have been a Theravādin history of "Suttavāda" Buddhism. My unsubstantiated two cents.
The spotless mind,
the most highly pure, the tranquil,
all unspoiled phenomena supporting,
this name applying to the consciousness of the Tathāgata.

A bodhisattva, one of two vehicles, an ordinary person:
these are thrones which hold seeds subject to germination.
In acquiring the virtuous pure mind of a Buddha,
which is resolute suchness, the sūtra says:

The Tathāgata's spotless mind
is a pure place without outflows.
It is liberation from all bondage.
It is like a spherical mirror.
It is consciousness always in internal agreement.

(T1585.13a19 Vijñaptimātratāsiddhiśāstra)
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Coëmgenu
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Re: Theravāda and Suttavādins

Post by Coëmgenu »

Something that I forgot to mention but is ubiquitous for these conversations: the dearth of manuscripts. Southern India, especially Sri Lanka, is not conducive to the surviving of manuscripts like, say, the Near East or areas of China and Tibet are. That we have lost "most Buddhist history" is a somewhat sad truth. We have also lost "most of the Buddha's sutras," but only in a technical sense. We have lost most of the ancient schools' recensions and just have a few left. Luckily, the Pali Canon seems quite well preserved and is actually complete, unlike the extant Sarvastivadin et al. scriptures.

There could have been entire "Suttavadin" libraries that did not survive the ages. We would not know, but we do know for certain that many Sri Lankan manuscripts, many many, have deteriorated due to age and not getting copied before their deterioration, and that even more of these from ancient Laos, Cambodia, Siam, and Burma are by now similarly gone.
The spotless mind,
the most highly pure, the tranquil,
all unspoiled phenomena supporting,
this name applying to the consciousness of the Tathāgata.

A bodhisattva, one of two vehicles, an ordinary person:
these are thrones which hold seeds subject to germination.
In acquiring the virtuous pure mind of a Buddha,
which is resolute suchness, the sūtra says:

The Tathāgata's spotless mind
is a pure place without outflows.
It is liberation from all bondage.
It is like a spherical mirror.
It is consciousness always in internal agreement.

(T1585.13a19 Vijñaptimātratāsiddhiśāstra)
48vows
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Re: Theravāda and Suttavādins

Post by 48vows »

Coëmgenu wrote: Fri Jun 04, 2021 3:13 pm Because it mentions too many other sects, one wonders? I'll not dispute the moving, but it does seem the topic is more about specifically Theravāda and less about "early Buddhism"
:goodpost:
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