Author Topic: Are the Mahayana Sutras historically genuine?  (Read 1270 times)

Offline Namaste253

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Are the Mahayana Sutras historically genuine?
« on: July 16, 2015, 11:00:43 am »
Let's assume for a moment that the Mahayana sutras were not spoken by the historical Buddha. Though there might be serious reasons for believing otherwise, let's just consider for a moment the implications.

What distinguished Mahayana Buddhism was its belief that the Buddha lives today as an experiential reality, and he's therefore available to help adapt Buddhist teachings to the situations faced by the sangha over time.

If you look at the Mahayana sutras, all the essential teachings of the Buddha are there, but explained differently than in the preceding texts.

There's nothing wrong with this if you understand the Buddha to be a living reality and Buddhism a living faith. Though D.T. Suzuki is regarded as the man who brought Zen to the West, he was a Jodo Shinshu believer as well. His perspective on the sutras is worth hearing:

http://theendlessfurther.com/is-mahayana-the-genuine-teaching-of-the-buddha/

The most important development in the history of Mahayana Buddhism is perhaps the doctrine of expedient means. How could the Mahayanists present the teachings of the Buddha in a different form than what appeared before? The Mahayanists recognized that as the sangha changes over time, the presentation of the Dharma must change as well, in order to meet the specific needs of the people who will be reached by it. This desire to extend Enlightenment to as many people as possible is why it's called The Great Vehicle.

It's the living Buddha who guides this process of continued revelation. The historical Buddha, after all, didn't speak Pali.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2015, 12:20:34 pm by Namaste253 »

Offline Namaste253

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Re: Are the Mahayana Sutras historically genuine?
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2015, 10:59:46 pm »
IMO,
Mahayana believes in changing themselves according to the world and time and situation, while Theravada Buddhists focus on the typical Buddhist teachings and practices. In one article I read that Theravada Buddhist monks believes old teachings and sutras and live a typical life i.e. wearing old sack robes, sleeping in sack and they didn't have healthy diets in present situation. While Mahayana Buddhist have changed to meet the change of the time and situation. That's why they believed in changing the sutras to meet the changing time and morality of people.
 :namaste:

I agree with what you are saying, and I think the prime motivator for this willingness to adapt the teaching has been compassion through expedient means.

Offline Namaste253

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Re: Are the Mahayana Sutras historically genuine?
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2015, 12:49:59 pm »
There is a tendency of some Mahayana Buddhists, especially on the internet, to insist on the literal historicity of the sutras, and that anyone who disagrees with this must be a spiritual materialist. This sadly ignores the fact that Theravada Buddhists have never accepted the Mahayana sutras as historical, and that one school of Mahayana Buddhism may not accept another Mahayana school's sutras either. What matters, then, when we read the sutras is to allow the living Buddha to speak through them to us.

Offline Namaste253

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Re: Are the Mahayana Sutras historically genuine?
« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2015, 01:16:04 am »
I'm sorry if I've given a wrong impression. I don't intend on saying that the Pali scriptures are more authentic than the Mahayana scriptures:
Quote
So, Mahayana and Pure Land sutras existed and were transmitted in the same time with the sutras of the Pali cannon, just some monks recognized only the latter while others considered the first as being genuine, too. Each group put into written form their own basket (pitaka) of recognized sutras, some earlier and some later.
But no one can prove by means of archaeological evidence that his school’s basket of sutras were actually preached by Shakyamuni while the other’s not, and the earliest creation of a writing canon is not a proof for authenticity. If a group didn’t write its sutras in the same time with the others or earlier, this doesn’t mean its transmission is not authentic and did not continue in parallel from Master to Master.
http://amida-ji-retreat-temple-romania.blogspot.com/2011/08/against-view-that-pure-land-sutras-are.html

Offline dharmarefuge

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Re: Are the Mahayana Sutras historically genuine?
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2017, 02:09:20 am »
We don't have to debate that, simply see what the results speak.

However, in modern times there are far fewer people getting enlightened in the Mahayana school, and worse for the Theravadan schools. In the ancient times, there were MANY people who were enlightened, especially in the prospering days when Buddhism first spread into China, particularly the Hinayana school. Then as Bodhidharma brought the doctrine of Chan over, there were problems that split people into thinking that 'Hinayana' was inferior, when it was the 'foundation'.

As Nan Huai Jin says, "What Bodhisattva fruit can you get if you cannot even get the Arahant's fruit? Do you think it is that easy to cultivate?" We're talking about a modern-day Zen master who is also considered a master in Vajrayana and Taoism here, so he's someone you should listen to.

He emphasizes that people try to develop the mind (as in Mahayana) and completely neglect the basics of developing the body which are actually instructions inside Hinayana sutras/the Agamas. If you look at the Maha-saccaka Sutta, then you obviously see how the Buddha condemns outright the specific cultivation of only "mind" while neglecting body, and that the two should be cultivated together.

On top of that, the Buddha himself cultivated his own body, purifying it, if you read that sutta - described by the tormentous pains that wrecked his body. However, by exposing himself to bliss and joy after that purification, he was only AFTER then able to enter the four dhyanas and beyond.

Only AFTER attaining the four dhyanas and opening the Dharma Eye to the Dharmakaya, then we go one more step into the Bodhisattva Bhumi levels, the stage of Great Enlightenment, which are steps towards Buddhahood.

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Are the Mahayana Sutras historically genuine?
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2017, 04:07:56 am »
What does 'living reality' mean in this context? Does it mean actually living, say when Christ was said to have arisen from the dead, or does it mean that we are in his Buddha-field, where his influence still exists?
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: Are the Mahayana Sutras historically genuine?
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2017, 04:25:07 am »
What does 'living reality' mean in this context? Does it mean actually living, say when Christ was said to have arisen from the dead, or does it mean that we are in his Buddha-field, where his influence still exists?

While a flesh and blood Buddha lives and dies, the Dharma-body is without beginning or end.

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: Are the Mahayana Sutras historically genuine?
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2017, 04:26:44 am »
This is D. T. Suzuki on the Mahayana sutras:

Quote
If we take it to mean the lifeless preservation of the original, we should say that Mahayanism is not the genuine teaching of the Buddha, and we may add that Mahayanists would be proud of the tact, because being a living religious force it would never condescend to be the corpse of a by-gone faith. The fossils, however faithfully preserved, are nothing but rigid inorganic substances from which life is forever departed.

Mahayanism is far from this; it is an ever-growing faith and ready in all times to cast off its old garments as soon as they are worn out. But its spirit originally inspired by the [the Buddha] is most jealously guarded against pollution and degeneration. Therefore, as far as its spirit is concerned, there is no room left to doubt its genuineness ; and those who desire to have a complete survey of Buddhism cannot ignore the significance of Mahayanism.

It is naught but an idle talk to question the historical value of an organism, which is now full of vitality and active in all its functions, and to treat it like an archeological object, dug out from the depths of the earth, or like a piece of bric-&-brac, discovered in the ruins of an ancient royal palace.

Mahayanism is not an object of historical curiosity. Its vitality and activity concern us in our daily life. It is a great spiritual organism; its moral and religious forces are still exercising an enormous power over millions of souls; and its further development is sure to be a very valuable contribution to the world-progress of the religious consciousness. What does it matter, then, whether or not Mahayanism is the genuine teaching of the Buddha?
http://theendlessfurther.com/is-mahayana-the-genuine-teaching-of-the-buddha/

Offline The Artis Magistra

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Re: Are the Mahayana Sutras historically genuine?
« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2017, 02:22:04 pm »
Hi! Whether the Buddha said it or did not say it, whether the Buddha lived or did not live, whether history happened as we imagine or did not happen at all, we are present and have available to us things which we can try to use for our benefit.

I will give you an example. What if one found out that the Buddha said all sorts of things that are recorded in the Pali Canon but discovered more things which were said afterwards, or after all that the Buddha said "Just Kidding" or "I recant". Would all that had been said instantly lose all meaning and value?

What if the Buddha did not say any of it, and furthermore was not even present at all, but there it is, whoever said it. The question shouldn't be who said 1+1=2 but how such can be used well.

Anything which the Buddha said which we can find no good use for, then we should move to those things which we can find a good use for.

The Buddha, as troublesome as this may sound to many, is for us in this world an imaginary figure. That is not to deny he existed however he did, but right now we just imagine things about places and times and looks and gestures. Does the Buddha being an imaginary figment of our simulations make all the words attributed to him and imagined coming from him without any use?

All historical figures are generally expected to be dead, and all they are now are guesses and dreams. What we have now are things, even those things are right now, we are not accessing them in Ancient China or India or Medieval Japan, but still, a katana retains a shape and if sharpened can cut, and a gun can be involved in the Enlightenment in a current tale.

So I think it is best not to be concerned at all who said it, what it "really meant", or anything which is not really accessible, but instead to deal with real things like how we can use it and where we can take it and what we can do with it. This would ideally end disputation and bring people to a present sort of mind set to say "this is what there is here, it can be used in this way as far as I am aware, I use it for this or that which has this or that effect for me".

Its the snottiness of people that makes them require the source of things be from some golden mouth piece rather than to hear even what a toothless vagabond, drug dealer, or humdrum accountant might have to say.

In the meditative mindset, insight can come from even the silliest seeming things we take for granted. Shampoo bottle labels. Did the Buddha say it? Is it there that we may make use of it for our benefit?

 


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