Wisdom from Mahayānā?

In the spirit of unity, I would offer us to discuss what are somethings to take away from Mahayānā that you think is admirable, worthy and fruitful to the practice?

As my user name suggests, I began my journey with Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō and still have an infatuation with his writings, even if I am critical of it at times. Zazen (and Zen) are quirky at times, and the crazy wisdom can be source of a lot of confusion, but regardless, the humility of “just sitting”, both as a practice & attainment itself, the steadfast importance of meditation is still a source of inspiration for me.

I think Mahayānā schools’ willingness to incorporate the local customs into their vernacular is also a source of inspiration. After all, we see Buddha do the same in Pāli suttas - he “culturally appropirates” for example, kamma, mortification, Brahmin and other such terms, giving them a new meaning to fit in his doctrine. This has allowed Buddhism to seep into Chinese / Japanese / Korean / Turkish cultures seemlessly, focusing on commonalities instead of being an altogether alien religion.

This of course, comes with its drawbacks. In said countries, their local gods have become bodhisattas, objects of prayers and source of blessings, and the message of renunciation and dispassion has been lost, building on symbols and rituals like nothing happened.

All in all, I kind of view Theravada and Mahayana like Sariputta and Mahamoggallana. I think it’s good that we have the rigidity of Theravada, even if some of doctrinal leanings of Theravada and the religious practices have betrayed their own EBT canon; and it’s a good thing to have Mahayana as a source of freedom of personal understanding and expression at the risk of going too far with poetic license and losing the plot.

For me, Theravada emphasises the importance of taking care of personal defilements, the dispassion for experiences. Mahayana brings the focus on harmonious life and karuna . Without dispassion and personal boundaries, love becomes an obsession. Without love, dispassion becomes cruel indifference. Together they’re like pillars of “Harmonious Detachment”, which is how I would explain buddhism to a non-practitioner.


I like that Tzu chi is representing us Buddhist in the field of charity, disaster relief etc.


I like the idea of Buddha nature, it encourages seeing goodness in myself and others. It’s also a positive motivation to practice.

I’ve been reading “Zen mind, Beginner’s mind”, and find the Soto Zen approach to meditation very refreshing. The idea of simply sitting without trying to add anything to the experience sounds like such a pure way of practice.


If we mean by Mahayana - the bodhisattva vehicle - I like that it gave us Shakyamuni. :pray:


I agree with Bhante’s observation that

I’m also inspired by the many acts of faith in the Mahayana: from the three-steps-one-bow pilgrimage to the hand-making of 10,000 Buddha statues or even the meticulous copying of sutras by hand. Enacting such “inefficiencies” is a wonderful antidote to modern hubris and the rush to optimize everything.


The first post-schismatic groups are often stated to be the Sthavira nikāya and the Mahāsāṃghika.[note 4] Eventually, eighteen different schools came into existence.[25] The later Mahayana schools may have preserved ideas which were abandoned by the “orthodox” Theravada,[26] such as the Three Bodies doctrine, the idea of consciousness (vijñāna ) as a continuum, and devotional elements such as the worship of saints.[11][17][note 5]

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The word sthavira (pali: thera) is also one such pre-existing term.

In Atharvaveda (Paippalāda): vaśā sasūva sthaviraṃ vipaścitaṃ
In Gopathabrāhmaṇa: indrasya bāhū sthavirau vṛṣāṇāviti
In Jaiminīyabrāhmaṇa: tato 'nyat sthavira evāyaṃ niṣṭhāvaḥ śete
In Yajurveda Kāṭhakasaṃhitā: yat paraṃ vaya āptā tena sthavirā
In Yajurveda Maitrāyaṇīsaṃhitā: balavijñāyaḥ sthaviraḥ pravīraḥ sahasvān vājī
In Śatapathabrāhmaṇa: aruṇam aupaveśiṃ jñātaya ūcuḥ sthaviro vā asy agnī ādhatsveti
In Śāṅkhāyanāraṇyaka: prāṇo vaṃśa iti ha smāha sthaviraḥ śākalyaḥ
In Ṛgveda Śākalyasaṃhitā: vajriṇe śantamāni vacāṃsy āsā sthavirāya takṣam

But they are not cultural appropriations, because the Buddha belonged to the same culture as the followers of the Vedic religion.

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The Lotus Sutra is considered an “Ekayana” doctrine which is embraced by many in the Mahayana, just as available in the Theravada and Vajrayana, by which the Buddha explains that there is only one Vehicle, the Buddhayana, whereas He preaches three Vehicles simply as a Skillful Means. In fact the Buddha always dwells in the Single Buddha Vehicle, and never used a lesser Vehicle to convert anyone. So maybe the “All-One” factor does have a meaning in Buddhism. Here is an excerpt from the Expedient Means Chapter of the Lotus Sutra:

In the Buddha lands of the ten directions
there is only the Law of the one vehicle,
there are not two, there are not three,
except when the Buddha preaches so as an expedient means,
merely employing provisional names and terms
in order to conduct and guide living beings
and preach to them the Buddha wisdom.
The Buddhas appear in the world
solely for this one reason, which is true;
the other two are not the truth.
Never do they use a lesser vehicle
to save living beings and ferry them across.

For these reasons, Shariputra,
I have for their sake established expedient means,
preaching the way that ends all suffering.
And showing them nirvana.
But although I preach nirvana,
this is not a true extinction.
All phenomena from the very first
have of themselves constantly borne the marks of
tranquil extinction.
Once the sons of the Buddha have carried out this path,
then in a future existence they will be able to become Buddhas.
I have employed the power of expedient means
to unfold and demonstrate this doctrine of three vehicles,
but the World-Honored Ones, every one of them,
all preach the single vehicle way.
Now before this great assembly
I must clear away all doubts and perplexities.
There is no discrepancy in the words of the Buddhas,
there is only the one vehicle, not two.
For numberless kalpas in the past
countless Buddhas who have now entered extinction,
a hundred, thousand, ten thousand, million types
in numbers incapable of calculation-
such World-Honored Ones,
using different types of causes, similes, and parables,
the power of countless expedient means,
have expounded the characteristics of teachings.
These World-Honored Ones
have all preached the doctrine of the single vehicle,
converting countless living beings
and causing them to enter the Buddha way.

Then here is the most important part of the Lotus Sutra to me which encourages me to live a life like that of Shakyamuni’s. He certainly is strong in His direct commitment for opening up Enlightenment to so many others, and such is the Greatest Gift anyone can give. Here, an excerpt from the Lifespan of the Thus Come One Chapter:

At that time the World-Honored One, seeing that the bodhisattvas repeated their request three times and more, spoke to them, saying: "You must listen carefully and hear of the Thus Come One’s secret and his transcendental powers. In all the worlds the heavenly and human beings and asuras all believe that the present Shakyamuni Buddha, after leaving the palace of the Shakyas, seated himself in the place of practice not far from the city of Gaya and there attained annuttara-samyak-sambodhi. But good men, it has been immeasurable, boundless hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of nayutas of kalpas since I in fact attained Buddhahood.

“Suppose a person were to take five hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, a million nayuta asamkhya thousand-million-fold worlds and grind them to dust. Then, moving eastward, each time he passes five hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, a million nayuta asamkhya worlds he drops a particle of dust. He continues eastward in this way until he has finished dropping all the particles. Good men, what is your opinion? Can the total number of all these worlds be imagined or calculated?”

The bodhisattva Maitreya and the others said to the Buddha: “World-Honored One, these worlds are immeasurable, boundless–one cannot calculate their number, nor does the mind have the power to encompass them. Even all the voice-hearers and pratyekabuddhas with their wisdom free of outflows could not imagine or understand how many there are. Although we abide in the stage of avivartika, we cannot comprehend such a matter. World-Honored One, these worlds are immeasurable and boundless.”

At that time the Buddha said to the multitude of great bodhisattvas: "Good men, now I will state this to you clearly. Suppose all these worlds, whether they received a particle of dust or not, are once more reduced to dust. Let one particle represent one kalpa. The time that has passed since I attained Buddhahood surpasses this by a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, a million nayuta asamkhya kalpas.

"Ever since then I have been constantly in this saha world, preaching the Law, teaching and converting, and elsewhere I have led and benefited living beings in hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of nayutas and asamkhyas of lands.

"Good men, during that time I have spoken about the Buddha Burning Torch and others, and described how they entered nirvana. All this I employed as an expedient means to make distinctions.

"Because living beings have different natures, different desires, different actions, and different ways of thinking and making distinctions, and because I want to enable them to put down good roots, I employ a variety of causes and conditions, similes, parables, and phrases and preach different doctrines. This, the Buddha’s work, I have never for a moment neglected.

"Thus, since I attained Buddhahood, an extremely long period of time has passed. My life span is an immeasurable number of asamkhya kalpas, and during that time I have constantly abided here without ever entering extinction. Good men, originally I practiced the bodhisattva way, and the life span that I acquired then has yet to come to an end but will last twice the number of years that have already passed. Now, however, although in fact I do not actually enter extinction, I announce that I am going to adopt the course of extinction. This is an expedient means which the Thus Come One uses to teach and convert living beings.

"Why do I do this? Because if the Buddha remains in the world for a long time, those persons with shallow virtue will fail to plant good roots but, living in poverty and lowliness, will become attached to the five desires and be caught in the net of deluded thoughts and imaginings. If they see that the Thus Come One is constantly in the world and never enters extinction, they will grow arrogant and selfish, or become discouraged and neglectful. They will fail to realize how difficult it is to encounter the Buddha and will not approach him with a respectful and reverent mind.

"Therefore as an expedient means the Thus Come One says: ‘Monks, you should know that it is a rare thing to live at a time when one of the Buddhas appears in the world.’ Why does he do this? Because persons of shallow virtue may pass immeasurable hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of kalpas with some of them chancing to see a Buddha and others never seeing one at all. For this reason I say to them: ‘Monks, the Thus Come One is hard to get to see.’ When living beings hear these words, they are certain to realize how difficult it is to encounter the Buddha. In their minds they will harbor a longing and will thirst to gaze upon the Buddha, and then they will work to plant good roots. Therefore the Thus Come One, though in truth he does not enter extinction, speaks of passing into extinction.


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It’s the usual question, who is the prettiest…

Answer is easy: 1

Art is a divine act and comparings points back to the divider/destroyer. Explain art and watch the destruction

I love Mahayana.

I like the idea of Bodhisattva in the sense of taking myself a bit back and seeing where and when it is appropriate to support another person. To think about the needs of THAT person instead of my own needs. The emphasis being SUPPORT not pushing something on the other person.

I have the uttermost respect for Thich Nhat Hanh and the way he taught Buddhism. He influenced and guided me especially in the beginning of my journey. His words heal my heart when it hurts and always give new perspectives.

I like that (especially) Tibetan Buddhism supports the poor and underprivileged. Yes, Bikkhu Bodhi does “Buddhist Global Relief” but that’s about it within Theravada. Mahayana is much more concerned with soup kitchens, free homeopathic clinics etc
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Dhamma talks, free books etc but Mahayana is just more “out there in the world of suffering”.

Last but not least is there Shantideva.

I enjoy to have Theravada as my main guide but being able to take a bit of this and that out of the “Buddhist buffet” available :slightly_smiling_face:

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Quick reply, first one on this forum. :slightly_smiling_face:

To this person who tends to disregard the (assumed) necessity of rituals and adornments, this has become exceedingly clear through the texts: there is none. I am not sure how successfully teachers end up conveying this, but it’s there: all the names and fancy words and classifications and casts of characters you can think of are both implicitly and explicitly posited as possible, not necessary. All the rituals, all the teachings; possible but not necessary (i.e. practice with and without phenomenal features). Understanding this has removed in this person a great deal of doubts and unnecessary concerns.



Perhaps the most important contribution of Mahayana is maintaining and documenting a living meditation tradition. Without meditation, wisdom has no chance to arise. Experienced meditation teachers are what keep the Dharma alive.


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The beauty and poetry found in much of the Mahayana literature is something I have always enjoyed.

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