Friday Chat, Last week on Differences Between Theravada & Mahayana @ 10pm EDT
- Buddhism Basics and Beyond ChatFridays at 10pm EasternThe Buddhist CatechismIn 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
Conditions.""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 SutraDO THESE TRADITIONS CONTRADICT?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama noted the following in the book 'The
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
teachings."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
sources.Differences Between Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism
http://www.buddhane t.net/e-learning /snapshot02. htmDifferences Between Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism
http://www.religion facts.com/ buddhism/ fastfacts/ differences_ theravad
a_mahayana.htmTheravada Vs Mahayana
http://www.suanie. net/2003/ 10/10/theravada- vs-mahayana/TOPIC
T = THERAVADA BUDDHISM INTERPRETATION
M = MAHAYANA BUDDHISM INTERPRETATIONThe BuddhaT: 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 DisciplesT: Basically historical disciples, whether arahats or commoners.M: A lot of bodhisattvas are introduced by Shâkyamuni Buddha.
Most of these are not historical figures.
BodhisattvasT: 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 BodhicittaT: 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 NatureT: Absent from the teachings of Theravâda tradition.M: Heavily stressed, particularly by school's inclined practices.
Doctrinal EmphasisT: 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 LevelsT: Shrâvaka bhûmis are listed as eightM: There are ten bhûmis of bodhisattvas.
Rituals And LiturgyT: There are some rituals but not heavily emphasized as in Mahâyâna
schools.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 MudrasT: 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
Stupa WorshipT: Honoring the Historical BuddhaM: The cult of stûpas becomes prominent as the expression of the
Dying And Death AspectsT: 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
BardoT: 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 TempleT: Simple layout with the image of Sâkyamuni Buddha the focus of
worship.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 TrainingT: 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
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 ConceptT: 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 ScripturesT: 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 TeachingT: 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 RouteT: 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 TraditionT: 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
VegetarianismT: 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 PracticeT: 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 InfluencesT: 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.