Basic Points Unifying the Theravāda and the Mahāyāna

I stumbled upon this and find this unifying point very interesting. Maybe you may like to share your opinion?

Justin Williams's picture

Metta and Karuna

I think the Brahmaviharas are a very good unifying point, and in fact one perhaps often overlooked by the Mahayana who so often seem to view the sravakayana followers as 'selfish' and devoid of compassion. The teachings on karuna and metta in the suttapitaka, not only of Theravada but what can also be seen from the other early schools in the Chinese Agamas, are at times perhaps unifying enough for them to be considered as Mahayana teachings. It may have been Chogyam Trungpa who talked about the attitude of Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana may be help by anyone of any school. Thus a selfish tantric practitioner may in fact be really 'Hinayana', and a compassionate Theravadin 'Mahayana'.

Basic Points Unifying the Theravāda and the Mahāyāna

Dear DWallez,

Agree with you. If we dwell into all branches of buddhism (theravada/mahayana/vajrayana), there is a very strong emphasis on the concept of understanding, and realising the "self". I may be not be accurate in saying this, but the achieving of enlightenment would be the true aim of any buddhist.

Accesstoinsight is a very good site, and there is a ipad/ipod version too, which is something you can download and carry around.



Denis Wallez's picture

Basic Points Unifying the Theravāda and the Mahāyāna

The link is interesting, while hardly surprising...

Mahayana schools departed more or less substantially from early teachings, but they usually see themselves as an evolution, a new (better?) formulation of an old Truth, an adaptation to new forms of society, but they usually accept the Tripitaka as a reference. They may not rely exclusively on it, may not rely on it at all (if you think of Pure Land buddhism, some might even reject mindfulness cultivation as a likely waste of time in our age of decadence... during which there is no hope to reach Enlightenment on this plane of existence on Earth... but by doing so, they still justify why they do not follow particular precepts or sutras of the original Suttapitaka, i.e. they still use the Tripitaka as their reference point).

Basically most Mahayana schools would consider themselves "higher" than Theravada BUT the sense of this is that they're built "on top of" it. Theravada represents the foundation on which the rest of the constructions stands. There is no Mahayana school without reference to the original teachings, and Theravada made it its job to maintain and transmit these as faithfully as they could. As such, there is little contradiction.

The Abhidhamma probably is the part least shared with Mahayana, given the Mahayana schools developed their own interpretations of the suttas. From my perspective, this is the key point: Theravada and Mahayana developed their interpretations of the same suttas. If you consider that the interpretation, rather than the original suttas, is key then you can oppose the schools one to another. If you see the common point (the suttas), then all the schools are pretty unified.
I don't think Buddha taught of excluding other schools while claiming "my" school is the right, legitimate, one. Isn't splitting the sangha one of the worst possible acts for a monk? I know, I know, each split comes with both sides claiming to carry on with the "real" teachings... but it remains important for us to be inclusive. We all rely on the initial understanding of dukkha.

[another useful related reading:]

Gregory Hamilton Schmidt's picture

Refuge unto oneself

It seems that the issue is that during the lifetime of the Buddha there were simply followers of the Buddha, so there would have been no "my" school vs. another. It also seems that the act of splitting the sangha during the life of the Buddha would've meant dividing control and seeking to one-up the Buddha, as Devadatta attempted on occasion.

After the parinibbana and with the absence of a leader to replace the Buddha, there was a need to or a desire on the part of sangha memebers to organize into factions according to the recollection of or interpretation of the Dhamma, beginning with (from the historical record we have in the canon) Purana and continuing through the schisms that began within the Second Council.

Clearly the Buddha instructed his disciples in the Maha-parinibbana Sutta and indirectly all of us to be refuges unto ourselves, having the Dhamma as our refuge.

In this way aren't all followers unified yet at the same time diverse?

Likewise, if we agree that the goals of all the schools are the same in terms of leading all beings to liberation, while individual followers may consider either one "higher", "truer", etc. is the question not more individual about what is appropriate and effective?

Clearly as you state the Theravada Pali canon is foundational, but the is it not reasonable that through practice and insight realized individuals should continue to develop and augment the teachings, based on their insights as well as the needs of their times, their students?

Additionally, it would seem that the Buddha also opened the door on the possibility to develop additional teachings, not taught by the Buddha in the Simsapa Sutta, when he taught that what he had explained to the monks was just a portion of what he had realized.

Clearly we're all in a fortunate position in having access - electronically and physically - to such a wide range of teachings with new translations of untranslated or "lost" works arriving each year.

Hopefully we will all find a school, tradition, teaching that leads us on to our own enlightenment for the benefit of others.

Basic Points Unifying the Theravada and the Mahayana

Dear LC,
I read thru the material sharing by you. That is good reference. Thank you

With metta,
gaik yen