The Buddha on Ecumenical Discourse

These words of the Buddha are relevant for today’s discourse between various sects and schools of Buddhism:

Whereas some brahmans and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, are addicted to debates such as these — ‘You understand this doctrine and discipline? I’m the one who understands this doctrine and discipline. How could you understand this doctrine and discipline? You’re practicing wrongly. I’m practicing rightly. I’m being consistent. You’re not. What should be said first you said last. What should be said last you said first. What you took so long to think out has been refuted. Your doctrine has been overthrown. You’re defeated. Go and try to salvage your doctrine; extricate yourself if you can!’ — he abstains from debates such as these. This, too, is part of his virtue.


Then the Buddha said to the mendicants: “Mendicants, do you understand my teachings as Ariṭṭha does, when he misrepresents me by his wrong grasp, harms himself, and makes much bad karma?”

“Good, good, mendicants! It’s good that you understand my teaching like this. For in many ways I have said that…

Though I speak and explain like this, certain ascetics and brahmins misrepresent me with the false, baseless, lying, untruthful claim: ‘The ascetic Gotama is an eradicator. He advocates the annihilation, eradication, and extermination of an existing being.’ I have been falsely misrepresented as being what I am not, and saying what I do not say. In the past, as today, all I describe is suffering and the cessation of suffering. This being so, if others abuse, attack, harass, and trouble the Realized One, he doesn’t get resentful, bitter, and emotionally exasperated.
MN 22

In other words, it is possible to misrepresent the Right VIew as taught by the Buddha (for the details on the Right View see MN9), and the Buddha would point it out (cf. also DN1). In the paragraph you have cited, the most important word is certainly ‘addicted’ - something which I, for the record, was guilty of a couple of times.

However, there is a huge difference between pointing out what one believes to be a misrepresentation of the Right View and doubtful teaching of a later origin, and obsessed debates used for letting off steam and boosting self-esteem. Saying that the early Pali texts teach some form of Mahayana or even Vajrayana is I think a prime example of misrepresenting the Right View.


I don’t claim that the Pali suttas, which are equivalent to the Chinese Agamas of the Mahayana canon, endorse any specific school or sect of Buddhism:

The Basic Points Unifying the Theravāda and the Mahāyāna is an important Buddhist ecumenical statement created in 1967 during the First Congress of the World Buddhist Sangha Council (WBSC), where its founder Secretary-General, the late Venerable Pandita Pimbure Sorata Thera, requested the Ven. Walpola Rahula to present a concise formula for the unification of all the different Buddhist traditions. This text was then unanimously approved by the Council…
Basic points unifying Theravāda and Mahāyāna - Wikipedia

Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu!