How to Understand the Mahayana in Light of the Pali Canon

A place to compare and contrast Dharmic traditions, debates allowed, but be polite.
TexasBuddhist
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Re: How to Understand the Mahayana in Light of the Pali Canon

Post by TexasBuddhist »

I was banned or locked out of my account at the other Dharma Wheel.
Iconodule
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Re: How to Understand the Mahayana in Light of the Pali Canon

Post by Iconodule »

TexasBuddhist wrote:
Iconodule wrote:
TexasBuddhist wrote:

Mahayana Buddhism
Are you from Fort Worth area by any chance?
Yes, Granbury on Hwy 377 connects you to Ft. Worth
WPM from OC.net?
The ladder that leads to the Kingdom is hidden within you, and is found in your soul. Dive into yourself, and in your soul you will discover the rungs by which you are to ascend. - St. Isaac of Syria
TexasBuddhist
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Re: How to Understand the Mahayana in Light of the Pali Canon

Post by TexasBuddhist »

Yes, this is Wesley Males.
Iconodule
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Re: How to Understand the Mahayana in Light of the Pali Canon

Post by Iconodule »

You might get banned or moderated less often if you communicated with people by actually reading and responding to what they say. This is also a good idea in real life.
The ladder that leads to the Kingdom is hidden within you, and is found in your soul. Dive into yourself, and in your soul you will discover the rungs by which you are to ascend. - St. Isaac of Syria
TexasBuddhist
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Re: How to Understand the Mahayana in Light of the Pali Canon

Post by TexasBuddhist »

Maybe this type of forum allows more room for people like me to be able to post.
TexasBuddhist
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Re: How to Understand the Mahayana in Light of the Pali Canon

Post by TexasBuddhist »

TexasBuddhist wrote:Maybe this type of forum allows more room for people like me.
Iconodule
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Re: How to Understand the Mahayana in Light of the Pali Canon

Post by Iconodule »

Okay, but don't be surprised if people respond to you like this:
johnny dangerous wrote:
TexasBuddhist wrote:Yes, that would be a Mahayana class led by a Bhikshu or Experienced Buddhist.

Huh?
The ladder that leads to the Kingdom is hidden within you, and is found in your soul. Dive into yourself, and in your soul you will discover the rungs by which you are to ascend. - St. Isaac of Syria
TexasBuddhist
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Re: How to Understand the Mahayana in Light of the Pali Canon

Post by TexasBuddhist »

Iconodule wrote:You might get banned or moderated less often if you communicated with people by actually reading and responding to what they say. This is also a good idea in real life.
The following post is supposed to be a reply to the OP? ...
TexasBuddhist
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Re: How to Understand the Mahayana in Light of the Pali Canon

Post by TexasBuddhist »

Iconodule wrote:You might get banned or moderated less often if you communicated with people by actually reading and responding to what they say. This is also a good idea in real life.
Would you happen to know why there is no individual or group to meet or do anything with? ... Thanks
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Khalil Bodhi
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Re: How to Understand the Mahayana in Light of the Pali Canon

Post by Khalil Bodhi »

Gentle reminder: Off topic posts and meta discussion will be culled without notice.
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

My Practice Blog:
http://khalilbodhi.wordpress.com
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Losal Samten
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Re: How to Understand the Mahayana in Light of the Pali Canon

Post by Losal Samten »

Khalil Bodhi wrote: :goodpost: Thanks for that. Do you have any recommendations for a good resource on the three bodies?
This is a good commentary on a praise to the Buddha's qualities as understood in Mahayana.

http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=41&t=22873


One of the main things to note is that, in the Sravakayana, arhats, pratyekabuddhas and buddhas have the same level of realisation, whereas in Mahayana, each has a differing level of realisation. This can be broadly divided into two categories of obscuration (and their removal), namely, afflictive obscuration and cognitive obscuration. So in Mahayana:

Arhats: Removal of all afflictive obscurations, yet cognitive obscurations are still present, namely, with regard to subject and object.
Pratyekabuddhas: Removal of all afflictive obscurations, yet cognitive obscurations are still present, namely, with regard to subject.
Samyaksambuddhas: Removal of all afflictive and cognitive obscurations.

The cognitive obscuration of arhats can be seen in their taking mental events and matter to be really existent, and their realisation is seeing there is no self to be found in them.
The cognitive obscuration of pratyekabuddhas can be seen in their taking mental events to be really existent, and their realisation is seeing there is no self to be found in them.
Buddhas see that everything is empty, both self and other, and have no obscurations whatsoever.


Additionally in the Sravakayana, bodhisattvas have no realisation until they reach buddhahood, whereas in Mayahana, they do have the realisation of emptiness of self and other at the 1st stage (bhumi), yet afflictive obscurations remain until the 8th stage, and cognitive obscurations still exist until reaching buddhahood, past the 10th stage. http://www.lotsawahouse.org/tibetan-mas ... s-and-path
Lacking mindfulness, we commit every wrong. - Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔
Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabharāja
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Khalil Bodhi
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Re: How to Understand the Mahayana in Light of the Pali Canon

Post by Khalil Bodhi »

Losal Samten wrote:
Khalil Bodhi wrote: :goodpost: Thanks for that. Do you have any recommendations for a good resource on the three bodies?
This is a good commentary on a praise to the Buddha's qualities as understood in Mahayana.

http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=41&t=22873


One of the main things to note is that, in the Sravakayana, arhats, pratyekabuddhas and buddhas have the same level of realisation, whereas in Mahayana, each has a differing level of realisation. This can be broadly divided into two categories of obscuration (and their removal), namely, afflictive obscuration and cognitive obscuration. So in Mahayana:

Arhats: Removal of all afflictive obscurations, yet cognitive obscurations are still present, namely, with regard to subject and object.
Pratyekabuddhas: Removal of all afflictive obscurations, yet cognitive obscurations are still present, namely, with regard to subject.
Samyaksambuddhas: Removal of all afflictive and cognitive obscurations.

The cognitive obscuration of arhats can be seen in their taking mental events and matter to be really existent, and their realisation is seeing there is no self to be found in them.
The cognitive obscuration of pratyekabuddhas can be seen in their taking mental events to be really existent, and their realisation is seeing there is no self to be found in them.
Buddhas see that everything is empty, both self and other, and have no obscurations whatsoever.


Additionally in the Sravakayana, bodhisattvas have no realisation until they reach buddhahood, whereas in Mayahana, they do have the realisation of emptiness of self and other at the 1st stage (bhumi), yet afflictive obscurations remain until the 8th stage, and cognitive obscurations still exist until reaching buddhahood, past the 10th stage. http://www.lotsawahouse.org/tibetan-mas ... s-and-path
Thanks for this. I'm going to have to take some time to digest this.
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

My Practice Blog:
http://khalilbodhi.wordpress.com
caodemarte
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Re: How to Understand the Mahayana in Light of the Pali Canon

Post by caodemarte »

Getting back to the original posting, not all Mahayanists (Vajrayanists being a subset) share such beliefs or take a literal reading of texts which are clearly not meant to be read literally. Mahayana teachers I studied take such beings (Bodhisattvas through pretas) as being important only as metaphors or as mythological, a form of skillful means. Belief or not in their conventional existence is not to the point. If pressed, most students and teachers in my personal experience would class belief in such things (as concrete entities) mere superstitions. As the ancient worthy Zhiyi noted, many people "see" demons in long meditation sessions, but no demon has physically interfered with anyone so why worry about it? It is just another distraction, akin to seeing spots before your eyes when tired.

Theravada in SE Asian popular practice is full of ghosts and magical beings. You don't have to share such beliefs to practice Theravada either.
Last edited by caodemarte on Mon Jul 11, 2016 9:03 pm, edited 3 times in total.
AlexMcLeod
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Re: How to Understand the Mahayana in Light of the Pali Canon

Post by AlexMcLeod »

^If you practice enough, you realize first hand the reality of the Chinese saying, "lift head three feet, divine beings."
There is no Emotion, there is Peace;
There is no Ignorance, there is Knowledge;
There is no Passion, there is Serenity;
There is no Death, there is the Force.
TexasBuddhist
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Re: How to Understand the Mahayana in Light of the Pali Canon

Post by TexasBuddhist »

Chinese Mahayana Culture? ...
TexasBuddhist
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Re: How to Understand the Mahayana in Light of the Pali Canon

Post by TexasBuddhist »

caodemarte wrote:Getting back to the original posting, not all Mahayanists (Vajrayanists being a subset) share such beliefs or take a literal reading of texts which are clearly not meant to be read literally. Mahayana teachers I studied take such beings (Bodhisattvas through pretas) as being important only as metaphors or as mythological, a form of skillful means. Belief or not in their conventional existence is not to the point. If pressed, most students and teachers in my personal experience would class belief in such things (as concrete entities) mere superstitions. As the ancient worthy Zhiyi noted, many people "see" demons in long meditation sessions, but no demon has physically interfered with anyone so why worry about it? It is just another distraction, akin to seeing spots before your eyes when tired.

Theravada in SE Asian popular practice is full of ghosts and magical beings. You don't have to share such beliefs to practice Theravada either.
Sounds more like imaginary fantasy or the human imagination.
PorkChop
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Re: How to Understand the Mahayana in Light of the Pali Canon

Post by PorkChop »

Khalil Bodhi wrote:I figured that the reasoning had to do with questioning the Pali Canon. The problem is that even if you look at the Chinese Agamas and Tibetan Kangyur (sp?) they make no mention of these figures either.
Not looking to pick a fight, but this isn't 100% accurate. According to Ven Guang Xing, the idea of contemporaneous Buddhas was accepted by various "early" schools and even appears in some Agamas:
'The Concept of the Buddha' by Guang Xing' wrote:The origin of the idea of contemporaneous Buddhas
The belief in the simultaneous existence of many Buddhas albeit in different
Buddha lands (buddhakQetra) was a subject of contention among the
early Buddhist schools because it is said in the early sutras that no two
Buddhas arise concurrently in one world system.43 It is most probably the
Mahasanghikas who first thought that other Buddhas also exist apart from
Shakyamuni in the present era, since they believed that the Buddha could
manifest himself in numerous forms and worlds in the ten directions.
Some Japanese scholars have already studied this question in an attempt
to establish from which school the ideas about ‘contemporaneous Buddhas’
originated. Mochizuki Shinko and others assert that this idea is Mahayanistic,
and therefore would have come into being with Mahayana Buddhism.44
But Kyoyu Nishio suggests that the idea of ‘contemporaneous Buddhas’
originated with the Mahasanghikas.45 In a study of the question of ‘contemporaneous
Buddhas’ as expounded in both the *SamyuktAgama of the
Kaxyapiyas and the *EkottarAgama of the Mahasanghikas, he argues that
the concept of the Buddha in the *EkottarAgama is different from that
found in early Buddhism, and that it leaves room for the idea of ‘contemporaneous
Buddhas’ to develop. However, there are many strata of
development in the *EkottarAgama, which even embraces Mahayana ideas,
as we have already discussed in Chapter 2 above. This Fgama also mentions
a Tathagata named Qiguang (Special Light) who Nishio Kyoyu thinks is
apocryphal and was inserted into the text accidentally. Hence, there is every
possibility that even in the *EkottarAgama, the idea of ‘contemporaneous
Buddhas’ may have been inserted by the Mahayanists. After a comparative
study of the relevant sEtras in the Chinese Agamas and the Pali NikAyas,
Fujita Kotatsu maintains that there is no actual mention of ‘contemporaneous
Buddhas’ in the early sEtras, only some remote implications.46 All the
above studies were made more than forty years ago, and with the advancement
of Buddhist studies, new evidence has been brought to light that
supports Kyoyu Nishio’s suggestion.

The question of ‘contemporaneous Buddhas’ is a controversial one which
was discussed in at least eight ancient texts, of which the MPPw is the
earliest. It is stated: ‘The Buddha did not say whether there are or are not
other Buddhas present in the ten directions, in the SrAvaka Dharma.’47 Here,
the author of the MPPw uses the term ‘SrAvaka Dharma’ in contrast with
terms such as ‘bodhisattva Dharma’ and ‘Mahayana Dharma’, an indication
of the early Buddhist teachings contained in the sEtras of the NikAyas
and the Agamas.48 So according to this statement, there is no mention of
‘contemporaneous Buddhas’ in the early sutras or even in the surviving Pali
NikAyas. However, ‘contemporaneous Buddhas’ are mentioned many times
in the extant Chinese translations of the Agamas such as the Dirgha, the
SaNyukta and the Ekottara.49 The only explanation for this inconsistency is
that these were probably inserted into the Agamas by the transmitters,
following the teachings of the schools they belonged to. Scholars have already
attempted to ascertain to which schools the Agamas belong, but they are far
from reaching a consensus. It is therefore difficult to decide in which school
the idea of ‘contemporaneous Buddhas’ originated.50
The author of the MPPw argued for the existence of ‘contemporaneous
Buddhas’ in two places.51 In the summary of his arguments, he gave two main
reasons. First, he quoted a verse from the *DirghAgama in which Vaixravaoa
praised the Buddha, saying: ‘Homage to the Buddhas of the past, present
and future, and I also take refuge in Buddha Sakyamuni as long as my life
endures.’52 The author argued that there must be many Buddhas at present
since Vaixravaoa paid homage to the Buddhas of the present era.
Second,
although the sutras state that there are no two Buddhas in one great trisAhasra
universe, since there are many great trisAhasra universes, there could be many
Buddhas at any given time. With regard to the first reason, Lamotte located
the verse in the *FRAnARikasEtra. 53 This sEtra is not found in the Chinese
translation of the *DirghAgama, however, but an independent translation of
it was made by Fatian in 960–1127.54 This sutra is also found in the Pali
DirghanikAya, entitled the FRAnARiyasuttanta, but it does not contain the verse
recited by Vaixravaoa in praise of the Buddha. Lamotte thinks that the sEtra
from which the author of the MPPw quoted the above verse belonged to the
Sarvastivada school. He has given two reasons for his assertion.

1 The Sarvastivada had ‘eighteen great sEtras’ and according to the
*DaXAdhyAyavinaya of this school, one of them is entitled A zha na jian
(Lamotte: A tch’a na kien) meaning ‘SEtra of Conciliation of the Spirits
and Demons’.55 Lamotte thinks that this refers to the *FRAnARikasEtra.

2 Four of the ‘eighteen great sEtras’ have been found in Chotscho in
Central Asia and published by Waldschmidt. Therefore the sEtra from
which the author of the MPPw quoted the verse must belong to the
Sarvastivada.

This inference made by Lamotte may not be correct for, according to the
MPPw, the Sarvastivadins state: ‘There are no [contemporaneous] Buddhas
of the ten directions in our Dharma. There are one hundred past Buddhas
such as wakyamuni and Ju chen ruo [Krakucchanda?] and five hundred
future Buddhas such as Maitreya.’56 The well-known Sarvastivada texts
such as the *Abhidharma-nyAyAnusAra-XAstra and the KoXa all confirm this
position.57 The KoXa states:
Sariputra said, ‘I have heard from the World Honoured One with
my own ears that there is neither place nor time, neither precedent
nor afterwards, two Tathagatas, fully enlightened, appear in the
world. There is only one Tathagata in one place at a time.’58

THE CONCEPT OF THE BUDDHA
According to the KoXa, the Sarvastivadins maintained that the Tathagata
could observe only the three great trisAhasra universes if he did not make
earnest endeavour ( prayoga). However, infinite universes could be in the
sight of his Buddha eyes if he did make earnest endeavour ( prayoga).
The same was true of the other five kinds of direct knowledge (abhiññA).59
Therefore, the Sarvastivadins asserted that one Tathagata is sufficient for
all universes and there is no need for many contemporary Buddhas to
save sentient beings. Thus, the Sarvastivadins would not have had a sEtra
containing the contradictory teaching that there are many ‘contemporaneous
Buddhas’ because they maintained that there is only one Buddha,
wakyamuni, in the present era, even though he had already attained
parinirvAOa. No contemporaneous Buddhas therefore exist at present. The
author of the MPPw therefore probably quoted the above verse (‘Homage
to the Buddhas . . .’) from another version of the *FRAnARikasEtra transmitted
by another school. Whoever inserted the verse into the sEtra probably
did so to support their teaching about contemporaneous Buddhas. This
is highly possible because, as discussed above, the Theravada also has an
FRAnARiyasuttanta but it does not contain the verse that praises the Buddha.
The school that had the version of the *FRAnARikasEtra containing the above
verse was probably the Mahasanghika, because according to their teaching,
the Buddha can manifest himself in numerous bodies in numerous worlds
at the same time.60 Giving the second justification for belief in ‘contemporaneous Buddhas’,
the author of the MPPw made an inference on the basis of a passage found
in the *SaNyuktAgama. He argued that there are conditions and causes
for Buddhas to arise in the worlds in the ten directions because in the
*SaNyuktAgama it is said that there are numerous worlds in the ten directions
in which numerous sentient beings are suffering. The Buddha also said that
the Tathagata arises in the world where there is old age, sickness and death.61
Therefore there must be other contemporaneous Buddhas in the worlds in
the ten directions since there are suffering beings in them.62
The passage quoted by the author of the MPPw is found in both the
Chinese translations of the *SaNyuktAgama. The first translation was made
by Guoabhadra, and the translator of the second is unknown. Guoabhadra’s
translation runs thus:

Just as the heavy rain that leaves no empty place in the east, in
the west, in the south and in the north, in the same way, there
are numerous worlds in the east, in the west, in the south and in
the north. [Some of them are] in the kalpa of formation while
[others are] in the kalpa of dissolution . . . Thus, the living beings
who are subject to birth and death from beginningless time and
abide in the saNsAra as dark as a long night, know no origin of
suffering.63

The second translation reads thus:
When it rains heavily there is no empty space in the east, in the
west, in the south, in the north and in the four corners. Living
beings in the numerous worlds in the east live happily, while other
numerous worlds with countless beings are in [the kalpa of] dissolution,
still other numerous worlds are empty with no living beings in
them. It is the same with regard to the south, the west, the north,
the four corners, above and beneath, [where living beings] are in the
cycles of birth and death from beginningless time.64

Comparing these two passages, Guoabhadra’s translation mentions the
worlds of the four cardinal directions while the second translation mentions
that of the ten directions. So the author of the MPPw probably quoted the
passage from the Sanskrit version that is closer to the second translation or
is actually the original from which it was made. However, there is no consensus
among scholars regarding which school the *SaNyuktAgama belonged
to. Guoabhadra’s translation is generally attributed to the Sarvastivada
and the second translation to the Melasarvastivada.65 So this suggests that
the idea of the worlds of the ten directions may have originated from
the Melasarvastivada, a sub-sect of the Sarvastivada school. This provides
a basis for the idea of the existence of ‘contemporaneous Buddhas’ of the
ten directions.

With the advance of Buddhist studies, we can perhaps be more confident
in saying that the idea of ‘contemporaneous Buddhas’ originated in the
Mahasanghika school. This seems to be the case because scholars have
come to a general agreement that the *LokAnuvartanasEtra belongs to the
Mahasanghika school, and this sEtra mentions the Buddhas of the ten
directions in several places. For instance, it states: ‘The strength of the
Buddha cannot be resisted and he can shake the Buddha lands of the ten
directions with one finger.’66 ‘The Buddha knows all the dharmas of the
countless Buddhas of the ten directions.’67 ‘The Buddha can manifest himself
in numerous bodies (nirmAOakAya) and appear in countless Buddha
lands, but the body of the Buddha neither increases nor decreases.’68 ‘All
Buddhas have one body, the body of the Dharma.’69 Thus it is evident that
the Mahasanghikas already had the notion of the Buddhas in the worlds
of the ten directions, and they probably regarded them as manifested bodies
of the Buddha.

There are seven other works in which the idea of ‘contemporaneous Buddhas’
is discussed. They are the *YogAcArabhEmiXAstra, MahAyAnasaNgraha
and its bhAQya, KoXa, *BodhisattvabhEmidharasEtra, *AbhidharmanyAyAnusAraXAstra
of Savghabhadra and *MahAyAnAvatArakaXAstra of Sthiramati.70 All
seven works argue for the existence of ‘contemporaneous Buddhas’ for two
reasons. First, like the MPPw, they hold that there are other contemporaneous
Buddhas in the other great trisAhasra universes and that there are numerous
worlds in the ten directions. Second, there should be many Buddhas because
there are many bodhisattvas who practise for bodhi. Although the bodhisattva
ideal is primarily emphasized in the Mahayana, the concept of ‘many
bodhisattvas’ was already prevalent in Mahasanghika literature. Vasumitra
used plural forms in his treatise when he discussed the teaching of the school
on the concept of bodhisattva.71 So this may also suggest that the idea of
‘contemporaneous Buddhas’ originated with the Mahasanghikas.
The idea of contemporaneous Buddhas in the worlds of the ten directions
must predate the rise of Mahayana Buddhism because the Daoxingboruojing,
the earliest Chinese translation of the *AQRasAhasrikAprajñApAramitAsEtra
(AQRa), treats the idea as established. For instance, it is stated:
wariputra, Mara cannot stop him [the bodhisattva] in the mid-way.
Why? It is because the present Buddhas in innumerable Buddha
lands in the ten directions protect prajñApAramitA. Those who recite,
preach, explain it and those who learn, listen to and write it, are
also protected by the power of Buddhas.72
All the present Tathagatas, Arhats, Sanyaksanbuddhas in innumerable
Buddha lands in the ten directions have attained omniscience
by practising the six pAramitAs.

The Daoxingboruojing was translated into Chinese in the second century
 and Conze thinks the basic PrajñApAramitA probably dates back to
100 .
74 Several scholars have suggested that the PrajñApAramitA probably
developed among the Mahasanghikas in Southern India, in the Andhra
country, on the Kpqoa River.75 This is because the Mahasanghikas had two
famous monasteries near Amaravati and Dhanyakataka, which gave their
names to the schools of the Pervaxailas and of the Aparaxailas. These schools
each had a copy of the PrajñApAramitA in Prakrit.76 Moreover, the concept
of the Buddha in the Daoxingboruojing is based on that of the Mahasanghikas
(this is discussed in Chapter 4 below). The Mahasanghikas must, at least,
have had a close association with the PrajñApAramitA. All this evidence
tends towards the conclusion that the idea of ‘contemporaneous Buddhas’
in the worlds of the ten directions originated in the Mahasanghika school.
Other early Buddhist schools

The Therav1da
The Theravada has basically a similar concept of the Buddha to that of the
Sarvastivada. They are of the opinion that the rEpakAya of the Buddha is
subject to all the physical frailties of a human being; it is the attainment of
THE MAH f S f s GHIKA AND OTHER SCHOOLS
67
bodhi that makes a being a Buddha. Buddhas are above benevolence and
compassion, but they show benevolence and compassion to living beings.77
Buddhas possess the knowledge of all aspects of the dharmas and complete
and detailed knowledge of all things. Arhats can, at most, have only partial
knowledge.78 There is no difference between a Buddha and an arhat in terms
of liberation; Buddhas are only superior to arhats in that they are promulgators
of the Dharma instead of merely being followers of it.79 As
T. Endo has already comprehensively studied the Theravada concept of the
Buddha, we will not deal with it here in detail.

The Mah871saka
As a Hcnayana school, the Mahcxasaka is much more conservative.80 They
maintain not only that the Buddha is part of the Sangha, but also that
making a separate gift to the Buddha is less meritorious than making one to
the Sangha as a whole. The Buddha has one and the same path (mArga),
and one and the same deliverance (vimukti) as in the pratyekabuddhayAna
and XrAvakayAna.
81 So the Buddha is barely distinguishable from the arhats.

The Dharmaguptaka
The Dharmaguptakas differ from the Mahcxasakas in that though the Buddha
is part of the Sangha, making offerings to the Buddha earns greater merit
than making them to the Sangha. The Buddha has the same emancipation
(vimukti) as in the pratyekabuddhayAna and XrAvakayAna, but he is said to
have followed a different path (mArga).82

The Sautr1ntika
According to the KoXa, the Sautrantikas are of the opinion that there may
be many Buddhas simultaneously.83 They also believe that ordinary people
( pPthagjana) may follow the noble path (AryamArga).84

The Vibhajyav1da
There is a controversy among scholars as to who really constituted the
Vibhajyavada school.85 However, scattered evidence found in the VibhAQA
suggests that they were Mahasanghika-Vibhajyavadins because their views
on the concept of Buddha were similar to those of the Mahasanghikas.
First, both groups believed that the rEpakAya of the Buddha is pure and
without defilement (kleXa) because the sEtras say that the Tathagata was
born in the world and abided in the world, but was not defiled by the
world.86 But the Vibhajyavadins go further, stating that a pure mind can
also cause birth or continuity such as that of the Buddha, as it is said in the
sEtras that a bodhisattva in his final birth enters his mother’s womb, then
abides there and is born with right thought.87 They assert that the Buddha
was pure from the moment he entered his mother’s womb. Second, like the
Mahasanghikas, they assert that the Buddha is always in samAdhi because
he abides in mindfulness and right view (samyagdPQRi); hence the Buddha
neither sleeps nor dreams because he has eliminated all hindrances (nCvaraOa).87
The Vibhajyavadins also assert that all Buddhas attain one and the same
full enlightenment (saNyaksaNbodhi) which is everlasting, and that they
appear in the world at the same time. Although there may be different
Buddhas, enlightenment (bodhi) is the same. Their argument is based on the
sEtra that says: ‘The Buddha told the bhikQus, “I have attained the old
path”, so the divine path (AryamArga), which is the same to all Buddhas, is
asaNskPta.’88 Hence, they are also of the opinion that dependent origination
( pratCtyasamutpAda) is asaNskPta because the sEtras say that regardless of
whether the Buddha appears in the world or not, the Dharma abides in the
world as it is. The Buddha was enlightened by this Dharma and also
expounded it to others.89

In conclusion, this writer is of the opinion that the teaching on the superhuman
aspects of the Buddha developed in early Buddhism is one of the
essential causes for the Mahasanghikas’ belief in a transcendental Buddha.
This belief is founded on their attitude towards the words of the Buddha,
which convinced them that all the words of the Tathagata were the pronouncement
of Dharma. As a result, they took everything that was said in
the NikAyas and the Fgamas as the true words of the Buddha. They arrived
at the conclusion that the actual Buddha could not be an ordinary human
but must be a transcendental being who is omnipotent and eternal. The
historical Buddha was only a body of transformation that appeared in the
world for the benefit and happiness of sentient beings. Such manifestations
appear not only in this world but in other world systems as well. This is
considered great skilful means of the Buddha. It follows therefore that
other contemporaneous Buddhas should also exist in the worlds in the ten
directions. Hence the Mahasanghikas had already conceived of the idea of
nirmAOakAya at a very early stage, although they never used the term. This is
shown in their extant literature. Thus, the Mahasanghikas’ concept of the
Buddha has two distinct aspects: the true Buddha and its manifested forms.
These significant developments laid the doctrinal basis for the Mahayana
concept of the Buddha. In the next chapter, we discuss the concept of the
dharmakAya in Mahayana, which was built upon the concept of the Buddha
of the Mahasanghikas.
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