Theravada

  • Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Arahants Paid Member

    Who better than the Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi to discuss the competing Buddhist ideals of the arahant and the bodhisattva? Bhikkhu Bodhi has been trained in both the Mahayana and Theravada traditions and is one of the most respected and, um, thorough Buddhist scholars around. His paper "Arahants, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas" appears on Access to Insight. The introduction is reproduced below, but it's worth reading in full on ATI. Among other interesting points, he discusses what distinguishes the Buddha from other arahants, and describes the emergence of the Mahayana from a proto bodhisattva-yana. The arahant ideal and the bodhisattva ideal are often considered the respective guiding ideals of Theravāda Buddhism and Mahāyāna Buddhism. This assumption is not entirely correct, for the Theravāda tradition has absorbed the bodhisattva ideal into its framework and thus recognizes the validity of both arahantship and Buddhahood as objects of aspiration. It would therefore be more accurate to say that the arahant ideal and the bodhisattva ideal are the respective guiding ideals of Early Buddhism and Mahāyāna Buddhism. By "Early Buddhism" I do not mean the same thing as Theravāda Buddhism that exists in the countries of southern Asia. I mean the type of Buddhism embodied in the archaic Nikāyas of Theravāda Buddhism and in the corresponding texts of other schools of Indian Buddhism that did not survive the general destruction of Buddhism in India. It is important to recognize that these ideals, in the forms that they have come down to us, originate from different bodies of literature stemming from different periods in the historical development of Buddhism. If we don't take this fact into account and simply compare these two ideals as described in Buddhist canonical texts, we might assume that the two were originally expounded by the historical Buddha himself, and we might then suppose that the Buddha — living and teaching in the Ganges plain in the 5th century B.C. — offered his followers a choice between them, as if to say: "This is the arahant ideal, which has such and such features; and that is the bodhisattva ideal, which has such and such features. Choose whichever one you like." The Mahāyāna sūtras, such as the Mahāprajñā-pāramitā Sūtra and the Saddharmapuṇḍarīka Sūtra (the Lotus Sūtra), give the impression that the Buddha did teach both ideals. Such sūtras, however, certainly are not archaic. To the contrary, they are relatively late attempts to schematize the different types of Buddhist practice that had evolved over a period of roughly four hundred years after the Buddha's parinirvāṇa. More »
  • Female Monks Ordained in California Paid Member

    Last Wednesday marked a historic occasion in the Thai Theravadan Buddhism. For the first time in the Western hemisphere, women were fully ordained as bhikkhunis (Buddhist nuns) in the Thai Forest tradition. Sylvia Boorstein, founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center and Tricycle contributor, attended the ordination and later reported on the events on her Huffingtonpost blog. Boorstein explains the history of female ordination: More »
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    Lessons from the Alms Round - Daily Dharma Paid Member

    The alms round itself is a gift that goes both ways. Daily contact with lay donors reminds the monastics that their practice is not just an individual matter. They are indebted to others for the opportunity to practice, and should do their best to practice diligently as a way of repaying that debt. Furthermore, walking through a village early in the morning, passing by the houses of the rich and poor, the happy and unhappy, gives plenty of opportunities to reflect on the human condition and the need to find a way out of the grinding cycle. For the donors, the alms round is a reminder that the monetary economy is not the only way to happiness. It helps keep a society sane when there are monastics infiltrating the towns every morning, embodying an ethos very different from the dominant monetary economy. More »
  • On What is Heard Paid Member

    This weekend there was a little too much honesty or plainspokenness going on in my family and feelings were hurt and there are negative reverberations still coming down the rails. It was all avoidable, and it was all done with the best of intentions. I saw it coming and reverted to my usual, cowardly strategy of keeping quiet if in doubt. My reasons for not speaking up were not noble. The following is from—or rather, is—the brief and confusingly named Suta Sutta in the Anguttara Nikaya (AN 4.183) as presented on Access to Insight, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu: More »
  • Amid turmoil, Pakistan reaches out to Buddhist tourists Paid Member

    The Guardian's Riazat Butt calls it a case of fiddling while Rome burns: Pakistan reaches out to Buddhists amid allegations that its intelligence service is actively aiding the Taliban while putatively aiding US/Coalition forces in Afghanistan. (The war is of course taking place on Pakistani soil as well, the border region being so nebulous and porous.) UPDATE: A plane crashed in Pakistan today, killing 152 people.) More »