Author Topic: Finding Common Ground Between the Theravada and Mahayana  (Read 23103 times)

Dharmakara

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Finding Common Ground Between the Theravada and Mahayana
« on: January 17, 2010, 12:06:03 pm »
Through the years there have been several statements in regard to the fundamental beliefs shared in common by all Buddhists, Theravada and Mahayana alike, beginning with Col. Henry Steel Olcott toward the end of the 19th century:

1. Buddhists are taught to show the same tolerance, forbearance, and brotherly love to all men, without distinction; and an unswerving kindness towards the members of the animal kingdom.

2. The universe was evolved, not created; and it functions according to law, not according to the caprice of any God.

3. The truths upon which Buddhism is founded are natural. They have, we believe, been taught in successive world-periods, by certain illuminated beings called Buddhas, the name Buddha meaning "Enlightened".

4. The fourth teacher in the present world-period was Gautama Buddha, who was born to a royal family in India about 2600 years ago. He is an historical personage and his name was Siddhartha Guatama.

5. Gautama Buddha taught that ignorance produces desire, unsatisfied desire is the cause of rebirth, and rebirth, the cause of sorrow. To get rid of sorrow therefore, it is necessary to escape rebirth; to escape rebirth, it is necessary to extinguish desire; and to extinguish desire, it is necessary to destroy ignorance.

6. Ignorance fosters the belief that rebirth is a necessary thing. When ignorance is destroyed the worthlessness of every such rebirth, considered as an end to itself, is perceived, as well as the paramount need of adopting a course of life by which the necessity for such repeated rebirths can be abolished. Ignorance also begets the illusive and illogical idea that there is only one existence for men, and the other illusion that this one life is followed by states of unchangeable pleasure or torment.

7. The dispersion of all this ignorance can be attained by the persevering practice of an all embracing altruism in conduct, development of intelligence, wisdom in thought, and destruction of desire for the lower personal pleasures.

8. The desire to live is the cause of rebirth, when that is extinguished rebirths cease and the perfected individual attains by meditation the highest state of peace called Nirvana.

9. Gautama Buddha taught that ignorance can be dispelled and sorrow removed by the knowledge of the four noble truths, which are:
 
(1) The miseries of existence;

(2) The cause productive of misery, which is the desire ever renewed of satisfying oneself without being able ever to secure that end;

(3) The destruction of that desire, or the estranging of oneself from it;

(4) The means of obtaining this destruction of desire. The means which he pointed out is called the Noble Eightfold Path: Right Belief; Right Thought; Right Speech; Right Action; Right Means of Livelihood; Right Exertion; Right Remembrance; Right Meditation.

10. Right Meditation leads to spiritual enlightenment, or the development of a Buddha-like faculty which is latent in every man.

11. The essence of Buddhism, as summed up by the Buddha himself, is:

To cease from all error,
To get virtue,
And to purify the heart.

12. The universe is subject to a natural causation known as Karma. The merits and demerits of a being in past existences determine his condition in the present one. Each man, therefore, has prepared the causes of the effects which he now experiences.

13. The obstacles to the attainment of good karma may be removed by the observance of the following precepts, which are embraced in the moral code of Buddhism: (1) Kill not; (2) Steal not; (3) Indulge not in sexual misconduct; (4) Lie not; (5) Take no intoxication or stupefying drug or liquor. Five other precepts which need not be here enumerated should be observed by those who would attain, more quickly than the average layman, the release from misery and rebirth.

14. Buddhism discourages superstitious practices. The Buddha taught it to be the duty of parents to have their children educated in science and literature. He also taught that no one should believe what is spoken by any sage, written in any book, or affirmed by tradition, unless it accords with reason.



Clearly having an influence on all the attempts that followed, it was later espounded upon by the Ven. Walpola Rahula as the Basic Points Unifying the Theravada and the Mahayana at the the World Buddhist Sangha Council, first convened in Sri Lanka in 1966 with the hope of bridging differences and working together:

1. The Buddha is our only Master.

2. We take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha.

3. We do not believe that this world is created and ruled by a God.

4. Following the example of the Buddha, who is the embodiment of Great Compassion (mahaa-karu.naa) and Great Wisdom (mahaa- praj~naa), we consider that the purpose of life is to develop compassion for all living beings without discrimination and to work for their good, happiness, and peace; and to develop wisdom leading to the realization of Ultimate Truth.

5. We accept the Four Noble Truths, nameley Dukkha, the Arising of Dukkha, the Cessation of Dukkha, and the Path leading to the Cessation of Dukkha; and the universal law of cause and effect as taught in the pratiitya-samutpaada (Conditioned Genesis or Dependent Origination).

6. We understand, according to the teaching of the Buddha, that all conditioned things (sa.mskaara) are impermanent (anitya) and dukkha, and that all conditioned and unconditioned things (dharma) are without self (anaatma).

7. We accept the Thirty-seven Qualities conducive to Enlightenment (bodhipak.sa-dharma) as different aspects of the Path taught by the Buddha leading to Enlightenment.

8. There are three ways of attaining bodhi or Enlightenment, according to the ability and capacity of each individual: namely as a disciple (sraavaka), as a Pratyeka-Buddha and as a Samyak-sam-Buddha (perfectly and Fully Enlightened Buddha). We accept it as the highest, noblest, and most heroic to follow the career of a Bodhisattva and to become a Samyak-sam-Buddha in order to save others.

9. We admit that in different countries there are differences with regard to the life of Buddhist monks, popular Buddhist beliefs and practices, rites and ceremonies, customs and habits. These external forms and expressions should not be confused with the essential teachings of the Buddha.






Yeshe

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Re: Finding Common Ground Between the Theravada and Mahayana
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2010, 01:36:25 pm »
Hi.

What do you mean by the 'universe evolved'.

Just to clarify:

Do you mean that the universe is timeless (without beginning or end) and continues to evolve, or that there was a starting point from which it evolved?

TMingyur

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Re: Finding Common Ground Between the Theravada and Mahayana
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2010, 01:59:28 pm »
...
5. ...To get rid of sorrow therefore, it is necessary to escape rebirth; ...

6. Ignorance fosters the belief that rebirth is a necessary thing. When ignorance is destroyed the worthlessness of every such rebirth, considered as an end to itself, is perceived,
This is not necessarily a common ground at closer inspection. There are interpretations in Mahayana that rebirth caused by deluded, ignorant actions is to be stopped but not necessarily all "kinds of rebirth". Also the 3 kalpas of practice by a Bodhisattva is to be considered which of course implies rebirths. However there are also several rebirths involved in the path of an arhat.

8. ... the perfected individual attains by meditation the highest state of peace called Nirvana.
A Mahayana-Bodhisattva does not strive for the peace of nirvana. But there are also different usages of the term "nirvana".


1. The Buddha is our only Master.
Not necessarily true in Mahayana. It is also spoken of "the Buddhas" (plural).


Kind regards
« Last Edit: January 17, 2010, 02:08:15 pm by TMingyur »

Dharmakara

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Re: Finding Common Ground Between the Theravada and Mahayana
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2010, 02:15:06 pm »
Not my words guys. You'll need to contact the parties involved or discus it among yourselves... just posted it as a resource. I've even raised questions in regard to some of it :)

Yeshe

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Re: Finding Common Ground Between the Theravada and Mahayana
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2010, 02:21:51 pm »
Now lookie here, buster...I expect a robust and preferably didactic defence of this stuff!

Seriously.... I do find a great deal to applaud in the infant gropings of the early Theosophists as they encountered Buddhism.
 
Blavatsky's works are intellectually stimulating and a work of some genius.

I speak as a TS member, of course. ;)

Dharmakara

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Re: Finding Common Ground Between the Theravada and Mahayana
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2010, 12:46:47 am »
Now lookie here, buster...I expect a robust and preferably didactic defence of this stuff!

Seriously.... I do find a great deal to applaud in the infant gropings of the early Theosophists as they encountered Buddhism.
 
Blavatsky's works are intellectually stimulating and a work of some genius.

I speak as a TS member, of course. ;)

Don't care much for the writings of Blavatsky, too occult orientated, but certainly Olcott is well respected in Sri Lanka... there's even a national holiday in his honor for his contributions to Buddhism.

I can't offer a didactic defence for this stuff, as "didactic" infers that some moral lesson was intended, but with that said, should anyone find fault with the Basic Points endorsed by the World Buddhist Sangha Council, it should be noted that official delegates from Ceylon, Vietnam, Malaysia, Republic of China, Hongkong, Nepal, Cambodia, Korea, Pakistan, India, Singapore, Thailand, and Laos were present, as well as a special delegation representing the interests of the Dalai Lama, and after careful deliberation and exhaustive examination, they not only unanimously adopted the Constitution of the World Buddhist Sangha Council, but also unanimously endorsed the Basic Points Unifying the Theravada and the Mahayana.

Was this the type of defense you were expecting on my part?  :lmfao:

As for your earlier question, it might be best to cite the Ven. Sayadaw U Thittila on this matter, as he dealt with it nicely:

According to Buddhism the universe evolved, but it did not evolve out of nothingness, it evolved out of the dispersed matter of a previous universe; and when this universe is dissolved. its dispersed matter, or its residual energy which is continually renewing itself, will in time give rise to another universe in the same way. The process is therefore cyclic and continuous, and the universe itself is composed of millions of world systems, each with its various planes of existence.


« Last Edit: January 18, 2010, 12:57:01 am by Dharmakara, Reason: cited source »

TMingyur

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Re: Finding Common Ground Between the Theravada and Mahayana
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2010, 01:13:33 am »
... the Basic Points endorsed by the World Buddhist Sangha Council, it should be noted that official delegates from Ceylon, Vietnam, Malaysia, Republic of China, Hongkong, Nepal, Cambodia, Korea, Pakistan, India, Singapore, Thailand, and Laos were present, as well as a special delegation representing the interests of the Dalai Lama, and after careful deliberation and exhaustive examination, they not only unanimously adopted the Constitution of the World Buddhist Sangha Council, but also unanimously endorsed the Basic Points Unifying the Theravada and the Mahayana.
A "World Buddhist Sangha Council" that would not be able to agree on a convention of this kind would be a shame.
But those who do not have to be so "globally representative" may - quite inofficially and confidentially, probing a little "deeper", i.e. the meanings/interpretations - come to the conclusion that the "Basic Points Unifying the Theravada and the Mahayana" are the 1st and the 3rd noble truths. Or is this too daring?

Dharmakara

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Re: Finding Common Ground Between the Theravada and Mahayana
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2010, 01:28:10 am »
TM, there's an extended version of the Basic Points, but I don't recall if those even addressed the issues you have raised. If I'm able to find it I'll post it as well.

PS: No, it's not too daring to suggest such... bringing all these various traditions together certainly included some give and take by all parties.

Dharmakara

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Re: Finding Common Ground Between the Theravada and Mahayana
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2010, 01:43:00 am »
Here's the later extended version that was offered as an alternative... I grabbed it from Wiki, but I've ran accross it on other sites associated with WBSC:

- Whatever our sects, denominations or systems, as Buddhists we all accept the Buddha as our Master who gave us the Teaching.

- We all take refuge in the Triple Jewel: the Buddha, our Teacher; the Dhamma, his teaching; and the Sangha, the Community of holy ones. In other words, we take refuge in the Teacher, the Teaching and the Taught.

- Whether Theravāda or Mahāyāna, we do not believe that this world is created and ruled by a god at his will.

- Following the example of the Buddha, our Teacher, who is embodiment of Great Compassion (mahākaruṇa) and Great Wisdom (mahāprajñā), we consider that the purpose of life is to develop compassion for all living beings without discrimination and to work for their good, happiness and peace; and to develop wisdom leading to the realization of Ultimate Truth.

- We accept the Four Noble Truths taught by the Buddha, namely, Dukkha, the fact that our existence in this world is in predicament, is impermanent, imperfect, unsatisfactory, full of conflict; Samudaya, the fact that this state of affairs is due to our egoistic selfishness based on the false idea of self; Nirodha, the fact that there is definitely the possibility of deliverance, liberation, freedom from this predicament by the total eradication of the egoistic selfishness; and Magga, the fact that this liberation can be achieved through the Middle Path which is eight-fold, leading to the perfection of ethical conduct (sila), mental discipline (samadhi) and wisdom (panna).

- We accept the universal law of cause and effect taught in the Paṭiccasamuppada (Skt. pratītyasamutpada; Conditioned Genesis or Dependent Origination), and accordingly we accept that everything is relative, interdependent and interrelated and nothing is absolute, permanent and everlasting in this universe.

- We understand, according to the teaching of the Buddha, that all conditioned things (samkhara) are impermanent (anicca) and imperfect and unsatisfactory (dukkha), and all conditioned and unconditioned things (dhamma) are without self (anatta).

- We accept the Thirty-seven Qualities conducive to Enlightenment (bodhipakkhiyadhamma) as different aspects of the Path taught by the Buddha leading to Enlightenment, namely:

Four Forms of Presence of Mindfulness (Pali: satipatthana; Skt. smrtyupasthana);
Four Right Efforts (Pali. sammappadhana; Skt. samyakpradhana);
Four Bases of Supernatural Powers (Pali. iddhipada; Skt. rddhipada);
Five Faculties (indriya: Pali. saddha, viriya, sati, samadhi, panna; Skt. sraddha, virya, smrti, samadhi, prajna);
Five Powers (bala, same five qualities as above);
Seven Factors of Enlightenment (Pali. bojjhanga; Skt. bobhyanga);
Eight-fold Noble Path (Pali. ariyamagga; Skt. aryamarga).

- There are three ways of attaining Bodhi or Enlightenment according to the ability and capacity of each individual: namely, as a Sravaka (disciple), as a Pratyekabuddha (Individual Buddha) and as a Samyaksambuddha (Perfectly and Fully Enlightened Buddha). We accept it as the highest, noblest and most heroic to follow the career of a Boddhisattva and to become a Samyksambuddha in order to save others. But these three states are on the same Path, not on different paths. In fact, the Sandhinirmocana-sutra, a well-known important Mahayana sutra, clearly and emphatically says that those who follow the line of Śrāvakayāna (Vehicle of Disciples) or the line of Pratyekabuddha-yana (Vehicle of Individual Buddhas) or the line of Tathagatas (Mahayana) attain the supreme Nirvana by the same Path, and that for all of them there is only one Path of Purification (visuddhi-marga) and only one Purification (visuddhi) and no second one, and that they are not different paths and different purifications, and that Sravakayana and Mahayana constitute One Vehicle One Yana (ekayana) and not distinct and different vehicles or yanas.

- We admit that in different countries there are differences with regard to the ways of life of Buddhist monks, popular Buddhist beliefs and practices, rites and rituals, ceremonies, customs and habits. These external forms and expressions should not be confused with the essential teachings of the Buddha.

Yeshe

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Re: Finding Common Ground Between the Theravada and Mahayana
« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2010, 04:31:22 am »

The process is therefore cyclic and continuous, and the universe itself is composed of millions of world systems, each with its various planes of existence.[/i]


That is a neat encapsulation of it.  Thanks. ;)

I also like this point:

'9. We admit that in different countries there are differences with regard to the life of Buddhist monks, popular Buddhist beliefs and practices, rites and ceremonies, customs and habits. These external forms and expressions should not be confused with the essential teachings of the Buddha.'


One path, different shoes, LOL :)

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Finding Common Ground Between the Theravada and Mahayana
« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2010, 05:50:27 am »
Hi, DK.  Excellent composition and summary.

A few questions:

1.  Is this an original composition and/or compilation on your part?

2.  If not original, would you please cite a resource for further examination and research?

3.  My understanding regarding the current traditions which associate themselves with The Mahayana are in order of total population:

a.  Chan
b.  Zen
c.  Nichiren
d.  Tibettan
e. Vajrayana

4. You mentioned which countries were represented:

Quote
...the World Buddhist Sangha Council, it should be noted that official delegates from Ceylon, Vietnam, Malaysia, Republic of China, Hongkong, Nepal, Cambodia, Korea, Pakistan, India, Singapore, Thailand, and Laos were present, as well as a special delegation representing the interests of the Dalai Lama,...   

5.  Is/was there a reason why The Western Countries were excluded?


IMHO the fruits of this work or yours will no doubt be very beneficial and of great social utility as a result of its focus upon the practices and beliefs in agreement between The Sangha of The Elders (Theravadans) and The diverse cultural expressions and manifestations which comprise The Mahayana.

Thank you for your efforts and for any additional work done to respond to my queries.  _/\_ Ron
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Offline Anders Honore

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Re: Finding Common Ground Between the Theravada and Mahayana
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2010, 10:43:23 am »
- There are three ways of attaining Bodhi or Enlightenment according to the ability and capacity of each individual: namely, as a Sravaka (disciple), as a Pratyekabuddha (Individual Buddha) and as a Samyaksambuddha (Perfectly and Fully Enlightened Buddha). We accept it as the highest, noblest and most heroic to follow the career of a Boddhisattva and to become a Samyksambuddha in order to save others. But these three states are on the same Path, not on different paths. In fact, the Sandhinirmocana-sutra, a well-known important Mahayana sutra, clearly and emphatically says that those who follow the line of Śrāvakayāna (Vehicle of Disciples) or the line of Pratyekabuddha-yana (Vehicle of Individual Buddhas) or the line of Tathagatas (Mahayana) attain the supreme Nirvana by the same Path, and that for all of them there is only one Path of Purification (visuddhi-marga) and only one Purification (visuddhi) and no second one, and that they are not different paths and different purifications, and that Sravakayana and Mahayana constitute One Vehicle One Yana (ekayana) and not distinct and different vehicles or yanas.

I am not sure all mahayanists would agree to that particular statement...
Deaf, he hears his own nature.
Blind, he sees his Original Mind.
The empty, clear moon
In the water rises
Where heart and mind are forgotten.


- Jungkwan Ilson (1533-1608)

Dharmakara

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Re: Finding Common Ground Between the Theravada and Mahayana
« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2010, 10:57:36 am »
1. No, not my composition, just brought all the material together in one thread.

2. The Fourteen Propositions authored by Olcott is contained most editions of The Buddhist Catechism, a work originally intended to re-educate the children of Sri Lanka of their Buddhist heritage and was also sanctioned by Hikkaduwe Sumangala and Ministry of Cultural Affairs.

You can download a free copy of the book here:

http://www.archive.org/details/abuddhistcatechi0000olcouoft

As for the Basic Points Unifying the Theravada and Mahayana, it can be found in the book "The Heritage of the Bhikkhu" by the Ven. Walpola Sri Rahula Mahat (Grove Press 1974). You can also visit the website of the World Buddhist Sangha Council here:

http://www.wbsc886.org/

3. Yes, correct order I believe, though some Vajrayana practitioners might consider their tradition unique to the Mahayana. The world population of Buddhists is said to be 6% and only 6% of that base population is Tibetan in practice.

4-5. Representatives from England were also present at the First Congress of the WBSC, just didn't include them in the reply. Today you'll find representatives from all countries in the WBSC.




Dharmakara

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Re: Finding Common Ground Between the Theravada and Mahayana
« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2010, 11:05:15 am »
- There are three ways of attaining Bodhi or Enlightenment according to the ability and capacity of each individual: namely, as a Sravaka (disciple), as a Pratyekabuddha (Individual Buddha) and as a Samyaksambuddha (Perfectly and Fully Enlightened Buddha). We accept it as the highest, noblest and most heroic to follow the career of a Boddhisattva and to become a Samyksambuddha in order to save others. But these three states are on the same Path, not on different paths. In fact, the Sandhinirmocana-sutra, a well-known important Mahayana sutra, clearly and emphatically says that those who follow the line of Śrāvakayāna (Vehicle of Disciples) or the line of Pratyekabuddha-yana (Vehicle of Individual Buddhas) or the line of Tathagatas (Mahayana) attain the supreme Nirvana by the same Path, and that for all of them there is only one Path of Purification (visuddhi-marga) and only one Purification (visuddhi) and no second one, and that they are not different paths and different purifications, and that Sravakayana and Mahayana constitute One Vehicle One Yana (ekayana) and not distinct and different vehicles or yanas.

I am not sure all mahayanists would agree to that particular statement...

Neither would some Theravada practitioners, but on the other hand most practitioners on either side can't seem to grasp the idea that one does not forsake the Mahayana, no sooner than one forsakes the Theravada, for such distinctions are contrary to the equanimity of the Bodhisattva spirit and the unity of the greater Buddhist community at large.

Offline Shi Hong Yang

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Re: Finding Common Ground Between the Theravada and Mahayana
« Reply #14 on: January 22, 2010, 08:01:30 pm »
Sadhu! Sadhu! Ven. Dharmakara, I've only been saying that for years on various forums for many years.

Quote
Neither would some Theravada practitioners, but on the other hand most practitioners on either side can't seem to grasp the idea that one does not forsake the Mahayana, no sooner than one forsakes the Theravada, for such distinctions are contrary to the equanimity of the Bodhisattva spirit and the unity of the greater Buddhist community at large.
Chinese Buddhism is the oldest form of Buddhism in the USA, in 2013 it is 161 years old.  The first Buddhist temples were built in California in 1952 & 1854. Second oldest is Korean in 1900 and Japanese in 1902 both in Hawaii.

 


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