I am a Theravadin

Thanks Alex for pointing out that my Wikipedia page has been updated to prominently feature me saying “I’m not a Theravadin”. Kind of weird, TBH.

FWIW, it says “recently”, but I’ve been saying that for at least twenty years, so I guess in a historical sense that’s “recent”?

Here’s the thing. I cordially dislike any form of identarianism, and don’t really think of myself or anyone else as belonging to a group. It seems an odd way to think about people. Sad, reductive even. People are quirky, weird, and individual, that’s what makes them interesting.

Around the late 90s I started reading a little about different parallels and schools of Buddhism, etc. Before that I never really thought too much about it, Buddhism was just what I found myself in. Obviously I ordained in a Theravada sangha, so in terms of my ordination lineage and Vinaya training I am Theravadin.

But as I found out, that is mostly a nominal reality. The differences between the actual Vinayas is small, and the differences in practices of monastics is large, even within the same “school”. I gradually began to realize the awful truth. Don’t tell anyone, but the main purpose of lineage is real estate. It’s about who gets to control and inherit land and property.

Early noughts I read an excellent book by David Kalupahana, A History of Buddhist Philosophy:

He departed from the usual approach of looking at different texts and authors as exponents of a school. He identified various texts from different sources—Kathāvatthu, Diamond Sutra, Nagarjuna, Dignanga, probably some others if my memory serves—and looked at them as clarifying and explaining different aspects of the Dhamma from different perspectives. This was the first time when I felt that the discussions in ancient Buddhist history came alive for me. I could never relate to just belonging to a school and thinking therefore that defined who I am and what I believe.

The Kathāvatthu is an interesting case. It basically defines “Theravada” doctrine against the interpretations of other Buddhist schools. Kalupahana was mostly interested in its methods and logic, rather than the individual issues. But if I look at the issues, I find that I agree with some and disagree with others. I agree that there is no absolute “person”. On the other hand, I disagree with the assertion that there is no in-between state, as that is attested in the suttas, as well as in many personal accounts. So in that regard I disagree with the received Theravadin view, something that I have spoken about many times. Of course, most Theravadins have never even heard of the Kathāvatthu, much less studied it, still less ensured that all their view conformed to it! Just casually, it seems to me that most Theravadins, or at least certainly many of them, actually do in effect accept an in-between state. We are not a religion that punishes its heretics.

Another issue is that of the role of jhana. I believe that it is essential as part of the eightfold path for all stages of awakening. Many modern Theravadins disagree with this, and they claim support from the commentaries, although it is not as clear-cut as you might imagine.

Anyway, point being, I make up my own damn mind, thank you very much. If I have an identity, it is as a student of the Buddha who has always found nourishment and wisdom in the Buddha’s teachings, and tries to understand that and apply it in my life. Call me a follower of early Buddhism if you like, but that doesn’t solve the problem, because in much of east Asia, theravada is called early Buddhism. :person_shrugging:

Theravada is fine. It’s a tradition, and like any tradition, it accumulates lots of things that are good and some things that are bad. But it exists in dialogue with its own history and reinvents itself through its actions. I just think it’s a bit sad when we stop thinking of people as people and starting looking for boxes to put them in.


Bhante we appreciate you so much ! hehe

How else are we going to tick the boxes in order to fit into neoliberal hacker hyper bureaucracy? xD

EDIT: I thought the hallmark of Theravada being “way of the elders” a good “theravadin” is asking just this question “what did the buddha really do?” Would you think it’s fair to say this dynamic of “not being theravada but early buddhist” is like the most theravada of moves.


I’m Dhamma Vehicle Fluid.


Incidentally, anyone know a good lineage with a mountain monastery having a sea view?


I like this expression very much. :pray:

I said not tell anybody! Imagine what would happen if word got out!

Excellent point!



I was checking something on wikipedia this morning re: Ajahn Chah and noticed that ‘Ajahn Sujato’ is listed in the sidebar for Thai Forest Tradition > Mahanikaya where it seems like you are the last lineage holder in the TFT in Mahanikaya. (They are all westerners)
This sidebar seems to appear both on your Bhante Sujato page and on pages of all the other monastics listed in this sidebar.
Made me :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


My sister lives in Nova Scotia, where all that nasty Shambala business is going on, and I was just talking to her on the phone about it, because apparently, they have property in Cape Breton and someone there was just arrested because, whoever it was, s/he put cameras in the washrooms. My sister was ranting to me about how it’s a cult and “they get all these people to do all this free labour and contribute everything they have to them, AND THEY BUY PROPERTY WITH IT.” She’s a doctor, and she said to me, “I never did tell you this, but all those Buddhists here are in medicine you know.” I was like, OK, professional standards, not talking to you about this anymore, big sis. You’re safe with me. So, I don’t know what the heck that was about :thinking:


You already did that. :confused:

But anyway, isn’t it like a monastery which belongs to the Saṅgha can actually be used by all the saṅgha? Say if there’s too many monasteries, and some are empty, then we can just go to an empty one and just use them as our base. Of course, need to inquire if there’s anyone who lay claim on it or help to pay the taxes, bills of that place first.

In Vinaya, yes.

I found out an interesting thing on a visit to Sri lanka. If you go to the very oldest viharas, the dedications on them are to the “Sangha of the four directions”, just like the Vinaya. Then a few centuries later, the dedications change. Now they are to “the monks of such and such a nikaya” or something like that. It didn’t take too long.

The reality is that in many cases the Sangha authorities would rather keep a place empty and decaying, or full of corrupt monks, than have well-practicing monks of another lineage stay there.


How unfortunate. Sorry to hear this.

Ven. Pasanna, I have noted this as well. Once, for a client, I recommended that they claim their wikipedia block ASAP because otherwise there’s little control over what it says. It appears Bhante’s is “claimed” so that’s good. Unfortunately, many lay people use Wikipedia to understand monastics’ backgrounds for lack of a better resource… people suffer from much skepticism; there’s a lot snake oil out there (well, over here anyway) …comingling of traditions that espouses a kind of amorphous, monolith Buddhist religion and confuses lay people.

Anyway, for me it’s helpful that Bhante clarified this.

:pray:t2: :elephant:

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Oh wow. This is an approach that was starting to occur to me, actually. I have spent most of my time with the EBTs, especially the Pali, but recently have been reading early Yogācāra work and absolutely love Vasubandhu’s Twenty Verses, but in reading these and other later texts I have felt like a better approach is to not consider them part of a particular school but just one big conversation, or unfolding of the Dhamma over the centuries, and that to box them into schools is to diminish them. I am glad for the circumstances that led me to this post today.


Agree. I am even uncomfortable with labels such as “she/her”. Or listing my academic credentials. When I was running a company, the official title I gave myself was “Junior Janitor.”

For years, I declared myself as a Buddhist in census forms. But lately I am not even comfortable with that. There are many aspects of Buddhism that I don’t agree with or subscribe to. My parents warned me of the dangers of succumbing to the exterior or sociological aspects of a religion, as opposed to pursuing a soteriological goal. I don’t value Buddhist institutions, art, historical places (any more than non-Buddhist manifestations). If I visit a temple or monastery, it will be strictly as a tourist, and I do not participate in any rituals or ceremonies. I even reject the 3 refuges and the precepts. None of these have the slightest relevance to me.

You are one of the few Buddhist monastics that I truly have respect for. I admire your diligence, critical thinking, desire for truth, knowledge, and skills. Your journey has been an extraordinary one, and I value what you have produced. I don’t always agree with you, but I respect your views. I may not bow in your presence, but it doesn’t mean I don’t hold you in high regard compared to those that do.


This issue makes me to compare Master Yin Shun with your unwanted boxes (who is in the Theravada tradition but also a follower of early Buddhism, not just a Theravadin).

When Ven. Yin Shun published his books/articles on Agama or early Buddhism to remark critically on some Chinese Buddhist traditions, some Chinese Buddhists strongly criticised him as a Chinese monk but rejected both Chinese and Mahayana Buddhism. This had given him some levels of stress, although he had responded to them successfully.

Ven. Yin Shun is a Chinese Mahayana monk, but he is also a follower of early Buddhism based on EBTs, particularly Samyukta/Samyutta sutras (相應教 saṃyukta-kathā).

Ven. Yin Shun also comments critically on Pali/Theravada tradition.


15 posts were split to a new topic: Are the precepts essential?

LOL, this was the best :slight_smile: :joy: :pray:


What’s the joke?

(More text so I can post)

Not really meant to be a joke. Just kindly explaining my fluidity in perceiving Dhamma and it’s provisional Vehicles. But maybe there’s more to it than that. Breaking out of the mold, I hope it can be a nice thing to say, and maybe even inspire someone. Namaste. :heart:


You’re definitely following in Kalupahana’s footsteps here, his work, especially later work, is most recommended.

Something we have in common, because I also don’t bow in my presence!

Indeed. I think there are many who feel like this. It is rare, though, to find someone in such a position of respect and seniority as Yin Shun to be suggesting ideas that are so challenging.