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what are the difference between mahayana and theravada?
what are the difference between mahayana and theravada? and are there any concept of bodhisattva and multiple buddhas in theravada? and who were the bodhisattvas such as manjushri, avalokitesvara, vajrapani, and etc. where were they come from? were they unseeable by normal people?
The Buddhas in theravada are very rare.
There were 27 Buddhas before Siddharta.
I would recommend studying theravada before mahayana.
Otherwise, you will be totally confused.
the Mahayana concept of the bodhisattva does not exist in Theravada. the old Pali suttas do use the term for the many lives prior to Siddhartha's awakening, but there is no special system or significance as in the Mahayana. In fact for those who switch from Mahayana to Theravada it is advised to disavow the bodisattva vows so they can strive for enlightenment.
as far as the rest, being a Theravadin I'm unqualified to talk of such things .
Of course it lists the similarities, not the differences. But knowing the similarities I think helps when it comes to understanding the differences too.
Look to the similarities rather than the differences.
Mahayana practitioners aren't all vegetarians. I am not.
I don't agree that you need to study theravada first. I started with mahayana and I did just fine.
Personally I find the pali sutras harder to understand than modern books designed for a reader of this age. There are more mahayana books selection than theravada, but some theravada do exist such as ajah chahn. Bhante Gunaratana also wrote a good theravadan book called Mindfulness in Plain English. Also there is accesstoinsight website.
But yeah a big reason I was exposed to Mahayana teachings was because there are a lot of authors. Just go to Barnes and Noble and see for yourself.
Theraveda is a tradition/lineage much like Kagyu, and Zen are. Kagyu and Zen are a part of the Mahayana "What" might be a more appropriate question. These Bodhisattvas may or may not be real beings, but in practical terms it may be better to view them as representative of qualities of "enlightened being".
yes, they are mentioned in various suttras as if they were real. And Lamas such as the Dalai Lama and Karmapa are said to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara. But you have to consider what "real" means in the context of Mahayana teaching. And this: They'll say yes. Bodhisattvas, such as Avalokiteshvara, are said to be emanations in the Sambogakaya, which is unseen but beings such as ourselves.
If you're just getting started, I wouldn't worry about this stuff. There are more important things for you to study and practice right now.
In Mahayana, the precepts are not hard-and-fast rules to adhere to. There's something called the "greater good" principle, whereby one can break a precept if a greater good is being served in so doing. (Classic example: lying to the Nazis about hiding Jews in one's basement, thereby saving lives.) This "greater good" principle doesn't exist in Theravada.
Mahayana has the concept of "Buddhanature" that is believed to be inherent in everyone. Buddhanature is believed to be a seed in everyone that, with proper care, can blossom into Buddhahood. This goes hand-in-hand with the concept of the "True Self", i.e. Buddhahood or bodhisattvahood, the realization of Buddhanature. These ideas come from sutras said to be the Buddha's final teachings before death. They're not part of the Theravada canon.
I disagree that Mahayana is vegetarian-that is a choice.
I also disagree that hinayana should be studied first. That is nonsensical to me.
The lesser vehicle doesn't lead into the greater. Start with either one. A good book to start with is The Avatamsaka Sutra around 100 BC. Also called The Flower Ornament Scripture. This is Mahajana for beginners and promotes becoming an enlightening being. That concept is the major difference between the two vehicles. In Mahayana
anyone can become a Bodhi as we all have Buddha nature which is our basic awareness.
Good fortune to you.
Also, I don't think one needs to start with Theravada. Lots of people start with Mahayana and do just fine.
Interpretation of their meaning is where the apparent difference lies and that is down to what the individual interprets.
"Just fine" is a very vague term. The key question by which any of these paths should be assessed is the extent to which they foster the cessation of suffering. The Theravada focus on concentration as the foundational tool towards this goal has been extremely useful to me.
The Pāli Canon falls into three general categories, called pitaka (from Pali piṭaka, meaning "basket", referring to the receptacles in which the scrolls were kept). Because of this, the canon is traditionally known as the Tipiṭaka (Sanskrit: Tripiṭaka; "three baskets"). The three pitakas are as follows:
Vinaya Pitaka ("Discipline Basket"), dealing with rules for monks and nuns
Sutta Pitaka (Sutra/Sayings Basket), discourses, mostly ascribed to the Buddha, but some to disciples
Abhidhamma Pitaka, variously described as philosophy, psychology, metaphysics, etc.
The Vinaya Pitaka and the Sutta Pitaka are remarkably similar to the works of other early Buddhist schools. The Abhidhamma Pitaka however is a strictly Theravada collection, and has little in common with the Abhidhamma works recognized by other Buddhist schools.
Mahāyāna sutras are a broad genre of Buddhist scriptures that various traditions of Mahāyāna Buddhism accept as canonical. They are largely preserved in the Chinese Buddhist canon, the Tibetan Buddhist canon, and in extant Sanskrit manuscripts. Around one hundred Mahāyāna sutras survive in Sanskrit, or in Chinese and Tibetan translations.
Note that the Pali Canon apart from from the Abhidhamma Pitaka is highly similar to the Mahayahist's Agamas.
Read this for the reason for the Second Buddhist Council - largely due to differences in the practice of the monks (Vinaya) rules.
And yes there is agitation in this post, to err is human after all haha.
I'm familiar with the kind of people you are talking about though. They remind me of a child at school who is told to never touch the fire alarm thing. Because it's against the rules to touch it. And then one day a fire breaks out and he just sits there, because it against the rules to touch the fire alarm thing.
Training not to do those things.
I would think all Buddhism teaches that concentration is a support for insight. My teacher doesn't teach us to contemplate anything. Nonetheless everyone contemplates (perhaps not in particular states).
I think shamata and vipashna (sic) arise interdependently. In Tibetan Buddhism concentration is more a raft to get to insight. But insight is not contemplating some test question, rather it is in the present of the meditation.
Indeed my teacher doesn't teach to contemplate anything. Her teaching has four points: awake, heart (citta - or 'there is a reason I am meditating'), present, space (a sense of the freedom and openness of the awareness that is in the present, awake, and permeated by heart.
Thanks for your thoughts @fivebells. I know I can learn a lot from your experience.
I heard the Mahayana is called thus because of the idea of being an enlightening being.
Thereby it is a vehicle which can carry more sentient creatures to the other side.
That is a relative term and hinayana is only lesser because it does not so actively promote enlightening activities. Doctrinally they should all extend from enlightened disposition and be edifying. I may have hurt some Theravedan feelings but it is certainly not from any disrespect of the enlightenment which issues from the Pali or other writings. What unites us should be greater than any separation. The Buddha's teachings and our desire for enlightenment for self and others are the important aspects.
Maybe I'll just go visit the Unitarians for a bit of orthodox peace and quiet enlightenment . . .
Sharing important information is kind. Although I agree there are some things that can hurt others and that is a different question. I would never teach the ways to attain siddhis. Those things are developed through enlightened compassionate practice and selflessness. Wisdom, like the perfection of wisdom sutra, is for everyone. That is why the Buddha gave it to us-to share.
The historical origin of the 'big split' is a pretty complicated topic going all the way back to about a hundred years or so after the Buddha's death, especially when trying to sift through all the available historical evidence and minutia of what technically constitutes a schism. But according what's most likely the earliest account, the Sariputrapariprccha, the first major schism after the Buddha's death resulting in the creation of the Sthaviravada and Mahasanghika schools (which Theravada and Mahayana eventually evolved from, respectively), centered around a dispute over vinaya or discipline.
The Mahasanghikas, in their account, accuse the Sthaviras of trying to add rules to the Vinaya. Later texts suggest that either the ten lax practices (e.g., handling money, eating after midday, etc.) of a group of monks identified with the future Mahasanghika or disagreements over five doctrinal issues about the nature of the Buddha and that of arahantship were responsible (the Dipavamsa and the Samayabhedoparacanacakra and Nikdyabhedavibhangavydkhydna, respectively).
For more on this interesting subject, I recommend Bhikkhu Sujato's Sects & Sectarianism and Charles Prebish and Janice J. Nattier's Mahasamghika Origins: The Beginnings of Buddhist Sectarianism.
Textually speaking, the teachings of Theravada were transmitted in Pali, but the teachings of Mahayana were primarily transmitted in Sanskrit. I'm certainly not an expert on the subject, so take whatever I say with a grain of salt; but from what I understand, it's mainly due to the combination of when and where each set of texts were initially composed, and when and where they were eventually transmitted.
Pali, an early form of Prakrit related to Hindi and Sanskrit, is thought to be a composite of several dialectal forms and expressions most likely based on the language the Buddha himself taught in, which is generally held to be a dialect of Magadhi Prakrit; although there's still a great deal of debate among scholars as to the exact dates and place of origin of Pali itself.
The commentarial tradition of Theravada holds that Pali is identical to Magadhi; but as the introduction to A New Course in Reading Pali: Entering the Word of the Buddha notes, it doesn't share many of the distinctive characteristics found in Magadhan inscriptions, primarily from the time of Asoka (approximately 300–232 BCE). Nevertheless, it's considered by many scholars, such as Wilhelm Geiger and Walpola Rahula, to at least be closely related to Magadhi, especially in the sense of being a type of popular speech.
Whatever the case, it's believe that at the time of the Buddha (approximately 400 BCE), many of the great wandering ascetics (samana) in the northern area of India known as Magadha, like the Buddha and his contemporary Mahavira (Nigantha Nataputta), taught in the popular vernacular of the people used for general communication and commerce, as opposed to Vedic Sanskrit, the sacred language of Vedas used by brahmins. This was not only done because they rejected the authority of the Vedas, but because they wanted to make their teachings more widely available. The use of Vedic Sanskrit also appears to be in decline by this time.
Not long afterwards, however, Sanskrit seems to have made a serious comeback as a literary and religious language thanks to the great Indian scholar and grammarian, Panini (scholarly dates vary from 500 to 300 BCE), and texts were starting to be written down as well as passed on orally. By the time the early Mahayana sutras were being composed, mostly in the south but also the north, Panini's Sanskrit had already become the standard, most likely starting in Gandhara, his home, and spreading south and east throughout the rest of India.
Early Buddhist texts underwent various degrees of Sanskritization, while newer texts were being composed in what's now termed Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit or even classical Sanskrit itself, so the textual basis of both traditions likely developed at about the same time. Much of the former, making the scriptural basis of Theravada, were transmitted via Asoka to places like Sri Lanka, where they survived the decline of Buddhism in India and Central Asia, while much of the latter, making the scriptural basis of Mahayana, found a safe home in places like China. And the cultural influences of those countries, including influence from indigenous beliefs, helped continue to shape each tradition as they evolved.
In Theravada, a sammasambuddha (perfectly enlightened buddha) is understood to be a person who achieves perfect enlightenment without having heard the Dhamma from others, and is able to effectively teach it to others. Once their natural lifespan is over (which, according to DN 16, a buddha can extend if asked), they pass away and attain total unbinding (parinibbana), a freedom that's characterized by the complete cessation of the five aggregates (khandha).
In Mahayana, however, a buddha isn't just one who achieves perfect enlightenment and teaches the Dhamma to others, but, according to the Mahaparinirvana Sutra and certain Tathagatagarbha sutras, one who also possesses purified (i.e., eternal and unchanging) aggregates that are incomprehensible the unawakened.
As such, from the Mahayana point of view, there's nothing stopping a buddha from 'popping back' into samsara (the cycle of death and rebirth), especially considering that, for them, the distinction between samsara and nirvana is little more than an illusion when viewed from the ultimate standpoint of the dharmakaya or 'truth-body.' Moreover, their conception of causality allows for the continuation of the mindstream after the breakup of the body. As Namdrol from E-Sangha once explained it to me: In other words, not only does bodhicitta act as a cause to help keep the bodhisattva on the path to buddhahood throughout their innumerable lifetimes, it acts as a positive, non-afflictive cause for the continuation of the enlightened being/mindstream as well. And this is perfectly logical and consistent within Mahayana's own understanding of itself, which includes certain terms that Theravada understands differently.
For example, the Theravada standpoint is that the cause of said mindstream (as well as the body) is kamma (literally 'action'), both skillful and unskillful, although I'm not entirely sure if this corresponds to afflictive and non-afflictive in Mahayana. Nevertheless, in the Pali Canon, the noble eightfold path is said to be the kamma that leads to the ending of kamma (AN 4.235).
When it comes to the standard explanation of why the mind and body don't [always] cease with that attainment of nirvana, it's said that as long as the lifespan of the aggregates isn't completely exhausted — which itself depends upon the amount of input remaining from past kamma — the mind and body of an arahant (noble one) will continue. When this input from past kamma is exhausted, there's said to be complete cessation of both mind and body.
A Mahayanist, on the other hand, would probably disagree with this in an ultimate sense, saying that this is only how it appears from the point of view of samsara (think relativity here), but not from the point of view of high-level Bodhisattvas and fully enlightened Buddhas.
Another main difference is Mahayana's understanding of nirvana, which is also understood differently in Mahayana. In Mahayana, those who have attained nirvana still have work to do. This idea originates from certain Mahayana texts such as the Saddharmapundarika Sutra, where the arahant is said not to have reached final nirvana. Essentially, they're seen as being intoxicated with the bliss of the samadhi of cessation, not the nirvana that's attained by a fully enlightened buddha.
Moreover, it's said that buddhas are then able to awaken these individuals from their temporary cessation in order for them to continue towards complete buddhahood (making buddhas extremely important), which is characterized by omniscience. This is said to be due to buddhahood being the result of wisdom and merit accumulation, and not just the eradication of afflictions (which isn't too different from Theravada sans the awakening of arahants bit). As Thubten Chodron explains it: The nature of Shakyamuni in Mahayana is a bit more complicated as well. For one thing, Mahayana isn't homogeneous in a number of areas; but in general, the historical Buddha is seen to be a nirmanakaya (created-body), i.e., a manifestation of the dharmakaya who appears for the benefit of sentient beings.
Of course, all of this contrasts with how the Buddha and nirvana are presented and understood in Theravada, which is why these inter-tradition dialogues often end with everyone talking past each other. Whether or not one agrees with all of this is irrelevant, however, since neither tradition is the arbiter of all things Buddhist. The best we can do is agree to disagree. To steal a phrase from tiltbillings, "The Mahayana does not get to define the Theravada for Theravadins any more than the Theravada gets to define the Mahayana for Mahayanists."
That said, it should be noted that while Mahayana stresses the bodhisattva path, which is commendable and one of the things I admire about it, even Theravada has teachings for those desiring to follow the bodhisattva path via perfecting the ten paramitas (e.g., see the aforementioned Ten Perfections and Manual of the Excellent Man).
My advice is to explore both, practically and intellectually, and see which, if either, speaks to you more.