Author Topic: Why are there so many different traditions?  (Read 2935 times)

Offline Quiet Heart

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Why are there so many different traditions?
« on: December 04, 2009, 08:36:19 pm »
Sometimes beginners ask why there are so many Buddhist traditions?
Here's a story to help explain.

A rich man had to leave his home and go on a long journey. He left his trusted servant in charge.
He was gone for quite some time. When he was returning, and still some distance from his home, he saw his servant running toward him.
"Master",the servant cried,"A terrible thing has happened while you were gone."
"Tell me what has happened?", the rich man asked.
"A illness has overcome your family.", the servant replied, "I fear your family has gone insane. Your wife spends all day trying on new dresses and looking at herself in the mirror. Your oldest daughter does nothing but dream of Romance, and spends all day thinking of parties and dancing. Your children dream of being superheros, and play they are heros"
"But is there no medicine to treat this disease?", the rich man asked.
The servant replied,"Certainly there is. The doctor has been to the house, and the medicine is available for them. But because of their illness they will not take the medicine. I just don't know what to do."
"Don't worry,",said the rich man,"I'll take care of this."
So the rich man returned to his house. He told his wife that the medicine would make her more beautiful and would complement her beautiful clothes. So she took the medicine.
Then he told his daughter that the medicine would bring her the Romantic love she imagined. And his  daughter took the medicine.
Then he told his children that the medicine would make them fly through the air...and they took the medicine.
So all of them took the medicine..each for thrier own reason and purpose. And when they took the medicine they were cured of their delusions.

And the point of the story is....is that like the many traditions of the Buddhist Dharma...which however they are interpretated all have but one real purpose...to eliminate the fever of delusion, so that everyone may be cured...each in their own way and so that each person will take the medicine he/she needs.


thornbush

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Re: Why are there so many different traditions?
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2009, 11:29:17 pm »
I was reflecting on this topic...

In the ultimate sense...
"Shariputra, you and the others should with a single mind believe and accept the words of the Buddha.
The words of the Buddhas, the Thus Come Ones, are not empty or false.
There is no other vehicle, there is only the one Buddha vehicle.

"Shariputra, the Thus Come Ones have only a single Buddha vehicle which they employ in order to preach the Law to living beings.
They do not have any other vehicle a second one or a third one.
Shariputra, the Law preached by all the Buddhas of the ten directions is the same as this.

http://lotus.nichirenshu.org/lotus/sutra/english/watson/lsw_chap02.htm

He teaches a Dhamma that is good in the beginning, good in the middle and good in the end with (the right) meaning and phrasing, he affirms a holy life that is utterly perfect and pure.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.041.nymo.html

In the provisional sense:
"Shariputra, ever since I attained Buddhahood I have through various causes and various similes widely expounded my teachings and have used countless expedient means to guide living beings and cause them to renounce attachments. Why is this? Because the Thus Come One is fully possessed by both expedient means and the paramita of wisdom.

"Shariputra, the Buddhas of the past used countless numbers of expedient means, various causes and conditions, and words of simile and parable in order to expound the doctrines for the sake of living beings. These doctrines are all for the sake of the one Buddha vehicle. These living beings, by listening to the doctrines of the Buddhas, are all eventually able to attain wisdom embracing all species.

Shariputra, when the Buddhas of the future make their appearance in the world, they too will use countless numbers of expedient means, various causes and conditions, and words of simile and parable in order to expound the doctrines for the sake of living beings. These doctrines will all be for the sake of the one Buddha vehicle. And these living beings, by listening to the doctrines of the Buddhas, will all eventually be able to attain wisdom embracing all species.

"Shariputra, the Buddhas, the World-Honored Ones, who exist at present in the countless hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, and millions of Buddha lands in the ten directions, benefit and bring peace and happiness to living beings in large measure, these Buddhas too use countless numbers of expedient means, various causes and conditions, and words of simile and parable in order to expound the doctrines for the sake of living beings. These doctrines are all for the sake of the one Buddha vehicle. And these living beings, by listening to the doctrines of the Buddhas, are all eventually able to attain wisdom embracing all species.

"Shariputra, these Buddhas simply teach and convert the Bodhisattvas. They do it because they wish to show the Buddha wisdom to living beings. They do it because they wish to use the Buddha wisdom to enlighten living beings. They do it because they wish to cause living beings to enter the path of Buddha wisdom.

http://lotus.nichirenshu.org/lotus/sutra/english/watson/lsw_chap02.htm

"Good men, if there are living beings who come to me, I employ my Buddha eye to observe their faith and to see if their other faculties are keen or dull, and then depending upon how receptive they are to salvation, I appear in different places and preach to them under different names, and describe the length of time during which my teachings will be effective. Sometimes when I make my appearance I say that I am about to enter nirvana, and also employ different expedient means to preach the subtle and wonderful Law, thus causing living beings to awaken joyful minds.

"Good men, the Thus Come One observes how among living beings there are those who delight in a little Law, meager in virtue and heavy with defilement. For such persons I describe how in my youth I left my household and attained anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. But in truth the time since I attained Buddhahood is extremely long, as I have told you. It is simply that I use this expedient means to teach and convert living beings and cause them to enter the Buddha way. That is why I speak in this manner.

"Good men, the scriptures expounded by the Thus Come One are all for the purpose of saving and emancipating living beings. Sometimes I speak of myself, sometimes of others: sometimes I present myself, sometimes others; sometimes I show my own actions, sometimes those of others. All that I preach is true and not false.

"Because living beings have different natures, different desires, different actions, and different ways of thinking and making distinctions, and because I want to enable them to put down good roots, I employ a variety of causes and conditions, similes, parables, and phrases and preach different doctrines. This, the Buddha's work, I have never for a moment neglected.

http://lotus.nichirenshu.org/lotus/sutra/english/watson/lsw_chap16.htm
« Last Edit: December 04, 2009, 11:33:11 pm by thornbush »

Offline retrofuturist

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Re: Why are there so many different traditions?
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2009, 09:24:21 pm »
Greetings,

I generally answer such a question by saying there are different understandings of what the Buddha actually said, and different understandings of what he actually meant.

Metta,
Retro. :)

Offline humanitas

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Re: Why are there so many different traditions?
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2009, 11:09:58 am »
We all have different ways our minds are "bent" from our backgrounds, cultures, etc.  As the dharma spread over time there wasn't necessarily one "head" of the Buddhist ORDER.  I always explain it simply by saying, different strokes for different folks, but the premise stays the same:  curing ourselves of our ignorance and finding liberation from our suffering.  However manner we find to DO this, is valuable to us, be it zen, tibetan, thai forest, etc.

My two cents.
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Offline vinasp

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Re: Why are there so many different traditions?
« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2010, 02:43:36 pm »
Hi Quiet Heart,

 Thank you for the story. Is it not really saying that you can sometimes help people by telling them things which are not strictly true? Do all Buddhist teachings contain things which are not true, but which are intended to be beneficial to those who believe them?

 Best wishes, Vincent.

TMingyur

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Re: Why are there so many different traditions?
« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2010, 11:59:07 pm »
Is it not really saying that you can sometimes help people by telling them things which are not strictly true? Do all Buddhist teachings contain things which are not true, but which are intended to be beneficial to those who believe them?
To say what is not true is not right speech as taught by the Buddha. Definitely not. But what means "strictly true"? If phenomena can be looked at from different perspectives and they appear differently form those different perspectives what is "strictly true" in this context?

Kind regards

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Why are there so many different traditions?
« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2010, 05:09:15 am »
Reason for schisms which led to more than one school of Buddhism:

Attachment to Views,"Control", and "Power."....which, like all attachments, causes suffering, stress, and disatisfaction.
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Karma Sonam

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Re: Why are there so many different traditions?
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2010, 10:15:01 am »
Two more possible explanations.  Buddhism has been described as being like water that is still water but changes it's shape to fit the vessel it is in, therefore, as it has travelled trhough time and space it has "changed shape" depending on where it is.

I have also heard that Buddha said there were so many different approaches to Buddhism (the number 84 000 springs to mind but that might be accurate) becasue people are all so different...
Om Tare Tutare Ture Soha

Don't forget to stop and smell the daisies.

and then the monkey pushed the button

Offline retrofuturist

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Re: Why are there so many different traditions?
« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2010, 03:24:41 pm »
Greetings,

In many instances, differences in tradition reflect the isolation of distance.

Early in the Buddha's dispensation he sent arahants in all directions to teach and proclaim the Dhamma. Interestingly, most of the suttas and vinaya that were recorded in the early Buddhist schools, were spoken by the Buddha after that moment.

On account of geographical isolation, and the inability of these bhikkhus to log onto the Internet and see the current "approved set" of scriptures, they all had their own unique sets of doctrine and discipline, even if virtually all had come from the Buddha himself. Even when there was the First Buddhist Council, legend has it that only arahants were permitted entry, so there's potentially many legitimate and genuine Buddhist teachings that weren't included because those who had heard the teachings were unable to attend the Buddhist Council either because of issues of geography or not being an arahant.

Metta,
Retro. :)

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Why are there so many different traditions?
« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2010, 04:06:00 pm »

Great stuff!

Buddha's teachings had to be adapted to local cultures as reflected in the various versions of The Dhammapada and Buddhist Art.  For example Bodhisatva Vajrapani is no where to be found in early Buddhist literature, although I do remember reading that there is one Theravadin account where Bodhisattva Vajrapani was said to protect The Buddha.

I like that Thervadan search engine.  Could you post it in The Theravadan Forum?

Thanks.


Greetings,

In many instances, differences in tradition reflect the isolation of distance.

Early in the Buddha's dispensation he sent arahants in all directions to teach and proclaim the Dhamma. Interestingly, most of the suttas and vinaya that were recorded in the early Buddhist schools, were spoken by the Buddha after that moment.

On account of geographical isolation, and the inability of these bhikkhus to log onto the Internet and see the current "approved set" of scriptures, they all had their own unique sets of doctrine and discipline, even if virtually all had come from the Buddha himself. Even when there was the First Buddhist Council, legend has it that only arahants were permitted entry, so there's potentially many legitimate and genuine Buddhist teachings that weren't included because those who had heard the teachings were unable to attend the Buddhist Council either because of issues of geography or not being an arahant.

Metta,
Retro. :)
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Monkey Mind

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Re: Why are there so many different traditions?
« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2010, 04:17:31 pm »


I like that Thervadan search engine.  Could you post it in The Theravadan Forum?


I thought someone already had. It is a great resource, please do.

Offline Spiny Norman

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Re: Why are there so many different traditions?
« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2010, 03:11:53 am »
Sometimes beginners ask why there are so many Buddhist traditions?

It's partly that Buddhism has adapted to different cultures and partly that people are people and need to re-invent the wheel on a regular basis. :wink1:

CP

Offline Caz

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Re: Why are there so many different traditions?
« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2010, 05:37:59 am »
There are many different people and so people with different ailments will need different variations of Dharma. :pray:
http://emodernbuddhism.com/

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We would like to request you to please respect this precious Dharma book, which functions to free living beings from suffering permanently. If you continually read and practice the advice in this book, eventually your problems caused by anger, attachment and ignorance will cease.

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Offline Monkey Mind

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Re: Why are there so many different traditions?
« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2010, 08:39:24 am »
When I was a kid growing up, whenever I went to see the doctor he always prescribed antibiotics. No matter what my illness was, the prescription was always the same. Same experience with the barber, no matter what type of haircut I asked for, I always got the exact same haircut. (It is why I shave my head now...)

Seems like Lord Buddha was willing to prescribe exactly what his audience needed in that moment to move them forwards. This person was told to reflect on non-self, this person was told to focus on compassion and loving-kindness. Sometimes the audience was lay people, sometimes the audience was monastic, and sometimes the audience was advanced practitioners of Dhamma, both lay and monastic. If I went to my neighbor's physician, I would not be surprised if I received a different prescription than when my neighbor received.

Offline Spiny Norman

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Re: Why are there so many different traditions?
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2010, 08:52:06 am »
There are many different people and so people with different ailments will need different variations of Dharma. :pray:

Yes, the Buddha taught in different ways, although originally at the Buddha's time there was just one "school".

CP

 


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