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Friday Chat, Last week on Differences Between Theravada & Mahayana @ 10pm EDT

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  • rayh12@aol.com
    Buddhism Basics and Beyond Chat Fridays at 10pm Eastern The Buddhist Catechism In the past weeks we have been talking about the common teachings between
    Message 1 of 1 , May 6, 2010
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      Buddhism Basics and Beyond Chat
      Fridays at 10pm Eastern
      The Buddhist Catechism
         In the past weeks we have been talking about the common teachings between Theravada and Mahayana schools.  This week we will begin to talk about the differences.  This is not an attempt to say one is better than the other, but a way of understanding how some of the teachings differ.  I want to thank Robes for putting this material together, great job!  I am going to bold the section by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, it is a great introduction to how we will be proceeding with this comparison  Scroll down past His Holiness's comments for the actual comparisons. This will be our last week on this text, this week we will be starting with Transmission Route  Looking forward to hearing yours! 
      Join us in our peer led discussion, in  the Buddhism, Basics and Beyond chat room,  Buddhism Basics and Beyond   (clickable link).  Our chat starts at 10pm Eastern. 
      Here's a rough comparison of the distinctions between the "Two
      Vehicles" of the Theravâda (Skt. Sthavîra-vâda) & Mahâyâna-vâda.
           "Ven Gunaratana presented a short description of Theravada
            Buddhism. The word "Thera" means "firm". It comes from the
            Buddha's words, "I am firm in what I speak". After the Buddha
            died, a group of senior monks took over the running of the
            Sangha .... were known as the Firm ones, or the Theras. They
            include Maha-kassapa, Ananda and Upali."
           "In accord with the affinities of sentient beings,
            I have bestowed the teachings of the two vehicles."
            — The Immaculate Space Sutra
           "The Buddha's 'Great Vehicle' teachings are those that encourage
            not only self-realization, but also the cultivation of compassion to
            help all suffering beings.The Buddha also expounded some 'Small
            Vehicle' teachings, which 'carry' fewer people to Buddhahood
            because they solely stress self-realization. "
            — Master Chin Kung, Pure Land commentary, "The Three
           "Teaching how to tame the kleshas, the gates
            Of Dharma are said to be eighty-four thousand,
            But the true intent of the Buddhas
            Is the one inseparable essence.
            That I have taught three vehicles is explained
            By different capacities of sentient beings."
            — The White Lotus Sutra
      His Holiness the Dalai Lama noted the following in the book 'The
      Heart Sutra':
      http://www.viewonbu ddhism.org/ vehicles. html
          "It is very important to understand that the core teachings of the
          Theravada tradition embodied in the Pali scriptures are the
          foundation of the Buddha's teachings. Beginning with these
          teachings, one can then draw on the insights contained in the
          detailed explanations of the Sanskrit Mahayana tradition. Finally,
          integrating techniques and perspectives from the Vajrayana texts
          can further enhance one's understanding. But without a foundation
          in the core teachings embodied in the Pali tradition, simply
          proclaiming oneself a follower of the Mahayana is meaningless.
          If one has this kind of deeper understanding of various scriptures
          and their interpretation, one is spared from harboring mis-taken
          notions of  conflicts between the "Greater" versus the "Lesser"
          Vehicle (Hinayana). Sometimes there is a regrettable tendency on
          the part of certain followers of the Mahayana to disparage the
          teachings of the Theravada, claiming that they are the teachings of
          the Lesser Vehicle, and thereby not suited to one's own personal
          practice. Similarly, on the part of followers of the Pali tradition,
          there is sometimes a tendency to reject the validity of the
          Mahayana teachings, claiming they are not actually the Buddha's
          "As we move into our examination of the Heart Sutra, what is
          important is to understand deeply how these traditions complement
          each other and to see how, at the individual level, each of us can
          integrate all these core teachings into our personal practice."

      The initial source for this "comparison" is from the Buddhanet link,
      with additional information added from the other "Links" and other
      Differences Between Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism
      http://www.buddhane t.net/e-learning /snapshot02. htm
      Differences Between Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism
      http://www.religion facts.com/ buddhism/ fastfacts/ differences_ theravad
      The Buddha
      T:  Only the historical Gautama (Sâkyamuni) Buddha and past human
      Buddhas are accepted.
      M:  Besides accepting the historical Shâkyamuni Buddha, Buddha is
      considered a supermundane (World-transcending ) spiritual principle.
      Thus it's personified as Supreme Celestial Buddhas of other
      contemporary Buddhas, like Amitâbha and Medicine Buddha are

      Sâkyamuni Buddha's Disciples
      T:  Basically historical disciples, whether arahats or commoners.
      M:  A lot of bodhisattvas are introduced by Shâkyamuni Buddha.
      Most of these are not historical figures.

      T:  Only Maitreya bodhisattva is accepted.
      M:  Besides Maitreya, Avalokiteshvara, Manjûrshrî, KSitigarbha and
      Samanthabadra are four very well known bodhisattvas. The ideal of
      a Bodhisattva is glorified.

      Concept Of Bodhicitta
      T:  Main emphasis is self liberation. There is total self-reliance on one-
      self to eradicate all defilements.
      M:  Besides self liberation, it is important for Mahayana followers to
      help other sentient beings.

      Buddha Nature
      T:  Absent from the teachings of Theravâda tradition.
      M:  Heavily stressed, particularly by school's inclined practices.

      Doctrinal Emphasis
      T:  Stresses 4 Noble Truths, the 3 Trainings, the 12 Links of
      Dependent Arising, Noble 8 Fold Path, and Mindfulness Meditation.
      M:  Stresses generating Bodhicitta, practicing the 6 Perfections, and
      realizing Shûnyatâ. In it's Vajrayâna form, the stress is upon emulating
      the Enlightened State's realization, goal, results, and activity.

      Spiritual Levels
      T:  Shrâvaka bhûmis are listed as eight
      M:  There are ten bhûmis of bodhisattvas.

      Rituals And Liturgy
      T:  There are some rituals but not heavily emphasized as in Mahâyâna
      M:  Owing to local cultural influences, there is much more emphais on
      the use of rituals; e.g. Rituals for the deceased, feeding of Petas,
      tantric formalities (in Vajrayâna). Devotion and Buddha-worship play
      an important role

      Use Of Mantras And Mudras
      T:  Some equivalent in the use  of Parittas.
      M:  Heavily practised in the Vajrâyana school of Mahâyâna
      Buddhism. Other schools also have included some mantras in their
      daily lithurgy.

      Stupa Worship
      T:  Honoring the Historical Buddha
      M:  The cult of stûpas becomes prominent as the expression of the
      Enlightened Mind.

      Dying And Death Aspects
      T:  Very little research and knowledge  on the process of dying and
      death. Usually, the dying persons are advised to meditate on
      impermanence, suffering and emptiness. Rebirth is to be dreaded.
      M:  The Vajrâyâna school is particularly meticulous in these areas.
      There are many inner and external signs manifested by people before
      they die. There is heavy stress in doing transference of merit practices
      in the immediate few weeks following death to assist in the deceased's
      next rebirth. Contemplating on rebirth becomes a salient feature of the
      works. Pure Land rebirth was sought and eulogised. The Bodhisattva
      is reborn voluntarily in order to aid all living beings to become

      T:  This in-between stage after death and before rebirth is ignored in
      Theravâda school.
      M:  All Mahâyâna schools teach this after death aspect.

      Focus Of Worship In The Temple
      T:  Simple layout with the image of Sâkyamuni Buddha the focus of
      M:  Can be quite elaborate; with a chamber/hall for Shâkyamuni
      Buddha and two disciples, one hall for the 3 Buddhas (including
      Amitâbha and Medicine Buddha) and one hall for the 3 key
      bodhisattvas; besides the protectors, etc.

      Goal Of Training
      T:  Arhat or Pacceka-buddha. Believes that while attaining
      Buddhahood is ideal, it is extremely difficult and beyond most
      people’s capabilities. Only those who practice the meditative
      monastic life (i.e., the monks) can attain spiritual perfection.
      Enlightenment is not thought possible for those living the secular life.
      M:  Buddhahood (via Bodhisattva path). Believes that restricting
      oneself to attaining Arhat Ideal is too limiting. Mahâyâna school says
      anyone, including laity, can attain enlightenment by practicing the
      Bodhisattva values. The Mahâyâna tradition thus includes numerous
      Bodhisattva saviors.

      NirvâNa (Nibbana in Pâli)
      T:  No distinction is made between NirvâNa attained by a buddha
      and that of an arhat or pacceka buddha. Aspire to achieve NirvâNa,
      or to have a better rebirth in the next life.
      M:  Also known as 'liberation from SaMsâra,' there are subtle
      distinctions in the level of attainment for the three situations.
      Emancipation can be attained through grace of a Buddha, a
      Bodhisattva or through practices such as repetition of their names.

      Tri-kâya Concept
      T:  Very limited emphasis on the 2 bodies of a buddha. References
      are mainly on rûpa-kâya (Physical-Form) and dharma-kâya (as the
      Body of Teachings).
      M:  Widely mentioned in Mahâyâna Buddhism. Rûpa-kâya is
      divided up into 2: NirmâNa-kâya (Apparitional Emanation-Body)
      & Samboga-kâya (Reward/Enjoyment- body) and the Dharma-kâya
      is considered as not only the essence of phenomena, but also the self-
      nature of all beings in NirvâNa, completes the Tri-kâya concept.

      Organization Of Buddhist Scriptures
      T:  The Pâli Canon is divided into 3 baskets (Ti-piTaka): Vinaya
      PiTaka of 5 books, Sutta PiTaka of 5 collections (many suttas) and
      Abhidhamma PiTaka of 7 books. The Theravâda school rejects the
      Mahâyâna Sûtras and does not recognize the "expansive" teachings
      of the Mahâyâna about Bodhisattvas and about the Buddhas of the
      other directions.
      M:  The Mahâyâna Buddhist Canon also consists of Tri-piTaka of
      disciplines, discourses (sutras) and dharma analysis. It is usually
      organized in 12 divisions of topics like Cause and Conditions and
      Verses. It contains virtually all the Theravâda Ti-piTata and many
      sutras that the latter does not have. They claimed that their canon of
      scriptures represented the final teachings of Buddha, the "Second" &
      "Third Turnings" of the Wheel of Dharma.

      Language Of Dharma Teaching
      T:  Ti-piTaka is strictly in Pâli. Dharma teaching in Pâli supplemented
      by local language.
      M:  Original language of transmission is Sanskrit. Buddhist canon
      is translated into the local language (except for the 5 untranslatables) ,
      e.g. Tibetan, Chinese and Japanese.

      Transmission Route
      T:  Southern Transmission: Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Laos,
      Cambodia and parts of Southeast  Asia.
      M:  NorthernTransmissio n: Tibet, China, Taiwan, Japan,  Korea,
      Mongolia and parts of Southeast Asia.

      Schools/Sects Of The Tradition
      T:  One surviving major school following years of attrition reducing the
      number from as high as 18.
      M:  Most of the works gave birth to particular cults. Cult of Amitâbha
      is one of them. In China/Japan 8 major schools based on the partial
      doctrines (sûtras, shâstras or vinaya) of the teachings. The four
      schools inclined towards practices like Pure Land/Amitâbha, Ch'an,
      Vajrayâna and Vinaya (not for lay people) are more popular than the
      philosophy based schools like Tien-Tai, Avatamsaka, Yogâcâra and

      T:  This aspect is not necessary. In places like Thailand where daily
      morning rounds are still practised, it is very difficult to insist on the
      type of food to be donated.
      M:  Very well observed in all Mahâyâna schools (except the Tibetans
      due to the geographical circumstances) . However, this aspect is not

      One Meal A Day Practice
      T:  This the norm among Theravâda sanghas.
      M:  This is a highly respected practice but it is left to the disposition of
      each individual in the various sanghas.

      Non Buddhist Influences
      T:  Mainly pre-Buddhism Indian/Brahmin influences. Many terms like
      karma, sangha, etc were prevailing terms during Sâkyamuni Buddha's
      life time. References were made from the Vedas and Upanishads.
      M:  In the course of integration and adoption by the people in other
      civilizations, there were heavy mutual influences. In China, both
      Confucianism and Taoism exerted some influence on Buddhism which
      in turn had an impact on the indigenous beliefs. This scenario was
      repeated in Japan and Tibet.
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