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Thread: What does "Mahayana" mean to you?

  1. #1

    What does "Mahayana" mean to you?

    My understanding is this (speaking as a student)... The word MAHA can mean great, vast, or open, The word YANA means vehicle, way, or path. MAHAYANA is the great open way. This great way emerged from the heart of compassion, the realization that ending suffering means ending suffering for all beings, not just 'me'. I believe this was implicit in the earliest teachings and bound to unfold with time (according to tradition it was intended to, but that is another topic). The meaning of "saving all beings" has been finessed many ways over the centuries and can mean different things to different people.

    My question is: What does Mahayana mean to you? I'm not looking for opinion on the reading of Sutra and so forth, but what it means in your own heart and mind. Thank you.

    Gassho
    Daizan

    Sat today
    Last edited by RichardH; 08-23-2015 at 03:55 PM.

  2. #2
    Hi Daizan,

    I am not good with words. Having said that, it's only a word just like any other.

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

  3. #3
    Hi Daizan

    Ryōkan says it better than me:

    "When I think about the sadness of the people in this world, their sadness becomes mine.
    O that my priest's robe were wide enough to gather up all the suffering people in this floating world."

    Historically, Mahayana obviously refers to a branch of Buddhism that arose in early first millennium India with sutras that focussed on Bodhisattva motivation, emptiness of all dharmas and a more wide-ranging Buddhist cosmology in which enlightened beings were not subject to usual physical laws. The schools that arose from these sutras were collectively known as Mahayana and the single most important theme, for me, is the Bodhisattva vow of not leaving any being behind.

    However, as several teachers have said to me, this bodhisattva motivation is not dependent on the tradition you practice and you can be a Theravadin practitioner with Mahayana motivation or Mahayana practitioner only motivated to free yourself from suffering. What is important is what is in your heart rather than your sutra texts.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    Last edited by Kokuu; 08-23-2015 at 09:09 PM.
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  4. #4
    Hi Daizan

    For me, Mayahana is a great universal kesa that embraces all of that exists. Within it, everything has it's place and purpose and is interconnected.

    Sure, there are sutras, rules and millennia of history. But deep inside me, that's what it means.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    #SatToday
    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  5. #5
    The great open way is very personal. As Kokuu said it's from the heart. As Kyonin said it embraces all. With awareness and being present you are actually open to everyone and everything. This openness is itself love and compassion so that's how you respond.

    SAT today
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

  6. #6
    A wonderful question, Daizan.

    The great way that leads to nowhere (or actually doesn't lead at all)... To me it's like standing small on the top of a mountain with unlimited view all around, taking deep breaths, breathe in - everything, breathe out - everything. All beings already liberated.

    Gassho,


    Ongen
    Sat Today
    Ongen (音源) - Sound Source

  7. #7
    Thank you Daizan and everyone for such great answers ... I feel the same, that Mahayana means, "everything". It means you, me, the birds, flowers, sunny days, storming winters ... including everything and lacking nothing. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen

    #satoday

  8. #8
    Mahayana = For all beings.

  9. #9
    What does "Mahayana" mean to you?

    Hello,

    'An unsinkable raft.'


    Gassho
    Myosha sat today
    "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

  10. #10
    The Mahayana.
    Saving all sentient beings.
    The bodhisattva path, in awareness of interdependent coarising, realizing we are not many, not two and not one. This Is Thusness, beyond happy and beyond sad.
    It all comes from letting go, from zazen.
    It comes from the end of my skin that can't be found.
    "Know that the practice of zazen is the complete path of buddha-dharma and nothing can be compared to it....it is not the practice of one or two buddhas but all the buddha ancestors practice this way."
    Dogen zenji in Bendowa






  11. #11
    Member Getchi's Avatar
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    Hi Daizan,

    Thought about this alot. To me Mahayana means "the whole thing is so vast, so infinitely huge, you may as well just give yourself over to the process and live in the Now. Save the others;- Why? Well, why not?".

    Just a little riff.

    Gassho,
    Geoff.
    SatToday.
    Nothing to do? Why not Sit?

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Getchi View Post
    ...Just a little riff....

    I love little riffs.

    Gassho
    Daizan

    sat today

  13. #13
    Shew - crazy questions. lol

    I think to me it means sacrifice, putting others before myself... remembering that we all go together, or no one goes because we are different, but we are also the same. Even people who we deem "evil" have to be included, which is really difficult. I have to do this practice, no one else can, but so does everyone else, for all of us. It means taking care of each other, and it takes practice because just last night I was calling someone a moron for driving too slow. Then I usually catch myself and laugh that I'm making value judgements about someone's character. hahaha Mahayana shines a light on my self-centered insanity.

    Gassho,

    Risho
    -sattoday

  14. #14
    I've been thinking about this more and more. I also think that we all practice Hinayana (or what is commonly self-liberation, coming in with selfish reasons perhaps - I don't mean this as an attack on any of the Theravedan approaches at all; I simply mean this as another perspective on Buddhism) before we can even think of genuinely practicing for others. I catch myself practicing with goals -- after all self-based concerns brought me to this practice. I don't think one is superior to the other -- I think Hinayana is a gateway to Mahayana and I honestly float between both perspectives just due to my habits of having goals. But zazen allows those to be dropped and just do what you're doing, so the goal just drops and this is all there is, which is all there is anyway. So I don't think, oh those bad Hinayana, look at me the Mahayanist. lol I think these are 2 sides of an infinitely-sided coin.

    It's like Christianity; unfortunately, everyone has an opinion on God, and religions spring up that I think are beside the point. For example, if a person uses religion to separate and to condemn others, or to focus on magic or the end of the world, I just think those are all so insignificant to the heart of the message (well my opinion). Don't worry about heaven or miracles. Turn the other cheek, seek peace, don't judge others but face and conquer/accept your own demons. Be an example, not a billboard or a preacher. I mean even in Judeo Christianity, there is the side of coming into it like I can't handle this, Jesus take the wheel, please don't let me burn in hell. But there's a much deeper level of helping and supporting others, learning about yourself and becoming more acceptant and less judgmental and loving towards humanity. I think there are interesting parallels here as well.

    In any case, enough of my babble; thank you Daizan for this thread!

    Gassho,

    Risho
    -sattoday

  15. #15
    Treeleaf Unsui / Engineer Sekishi's Avatar
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    If the cabin depressurizes and the oxygen masks drop, they tell parents to put their masks on first so they will be able to help their children.

    Some days I have to work on my own sickness (fear, anger and delusion) so I'll be able to help others. But a motivation to ultimately help others seems crucial.

    Gassho,
    Sekishi
    #sattoday - but not at 20,000 feet
    sekishi
    石志

    He/him. As a novice priest-in-training, this is simply an expression of my opinion. Please take it with a grain of salt.

  16. #16
    Thank you for these wonderful responses.

    Personally, what Mahayana means to me is action in the world.

    The Diamond Sutra says...

    All conditioned phenomena are like a dream, an illusion, a bubble, a shadow, Like dew or a flash of lightning...
    .......and yet this brief arc is our only life, there is no other, so it is precious, and because it is empty, we..I.. can transform it into a "Buddha land". This means always deepening practice, being fearless, and "going over" to this world completely .

    In Jundo's translation of A Heart to Heart Chat on Buddhism with Old Master Gudo, Gudo quotes Master Kokugon: “Life is the manifestation of all functions, Death is the manifestation of all functions.”.... then he goes on to say: “The meaning is that, when we are living, there is just life and nothing else. We should live with all our heart and being, we should live as if our very life depended on it! And when we die, there is just death and nothing else. We should die with all our heart and being, dying right to very death".

    This all speaks to what "Mahayana" means to me.
    Please take this ramble with a grain of salt


    Gassho
    Daizan

    sat today
    Last edited by RichardH; 09-10-2015 at 12:45 PM.

  17. #17
    Mahayana is the great vehicle. Everyone is welcome and everyone can attain enlightenment.
    Hinayana is the small vehicle. Only yogis, monks, saints and ascetics are welcome and they are focused on their own enlightenment.
    Mahayana is great love and compassion for everyone, recognizing their Buddha nature, and capacity for enlightenment.

    Tantra and Zen are two of the first Mahayana schools , but Jundo and others know more about the history.


    SAT today
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

  18. #18
    I think in the West, having more emphasis on lay practice across all traditions, the distinction between Mahayana and Hinayana (Theravadan) is not as relevant. Thoughts?

    -satToday
    Thanks,
    Kaishin (開心, Open Heart)
    Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Kaishin View Post
    I think in the West, having more emphasis on lay practice across all traditions, the distinction between Mahayana and Hinayana (Theravadan) is not as relevant. Thoughts?

    -satToday
    Yes, thoughts.

    However, let me say a couple of things.

    First, the term "Hinayana" (Lesser Vehicle) as referring to Theravada and other South Asian flavors of Buddhism is not so favored today. It is a pejorative term started centuries and centuries ago by followers of the Mahayana in North India and North Asia to contrast their own way as "Great" compared to the "Lesser" of South Asia. One typical way in which the expression is used is to compare Mahayana Sutras with the "lesser "Hinayana" Suttas, stating that the Hinayana was preached by the Buddha to people who could not handle or were not spiritually ready to handle the Buddha's "true" message of the Mahayana. For example, here from the Mahayana Lotus Sutra, a follower who attained "Hinayana" enlightenment regrets his wasted effort:

    [W]hy does the Thus Come One [the Buddha] use the Law of the Lesser Vehicle to bring us salvation?

    "But the fault is ours, not that of the World-Honored One [the Buddha]. Why do I say this? If he had been willing to wait until the true means for attaining anuttara-samyak-sambodhi [Suprement Perfect Enlightenment] was preached, then we would surely have obtained release through the Great Vehicle. But we failed to understand that the Buddha was employing expedient means and preaching what was appropriate to the circumstances. So when we first heard the Law of the Buddha, we immediately believed and accepted it, supposing that we had gained understanding.

    I avoid the term when referring to Theravada and other schools of Burma, Thailand and the like, preferring "South Asian" Buddhism. (Perhaps it is okay to use "Hinayana" to refer to some general "self-centered" practice focused on one's own enlightenment, without regard to north or south, but I feel it should not be used to refer to Theravada. I believe that Theravada folks are just as focused on helping all sentient beings as those on the so-called Mahayana "Bodhisattva" path.)

    Second, there is much truth in what you say, I feel, that "in the West, having more emphasis on lay practice across all traditions, the distinction between Mahayana and [Theravadan] is not as relevant." First, as recently mentioned on another thread, even modern "Theravada" as presently encountered in Asia is a rather later development ...

    There are so many flavors of Buddhism. Some believe that the South Asian "Theravadan" tradition is closest to "the Buddha's original teachings", but most of their scriptures were can only be traced to about 1500 years ago ... sometimes even later than Mahayana Sutras! Also, that tradition has changed so much, and what is being taught in the West as "mindfulness/Theravada" is really a 19th century invention! ...

    And, of course, Mahayana Buddhist Sutras are largely the work of the religious imaginations of inspired individuals long after the time of the historical Buddha ... Zen/Chan is an amalgamation of Indian Buddhism, Chinese culture and Daoism through a Japanese lens ... and now all has come West!

    More here ...
    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...ury#post160577
    Of course, what is practiced in the West generally as "Insight Meditation" or "Mindfulness" are even further removed from Theravada traditions as encountered in places like Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand. As Jack Kornfeld says, the IMS teachers, "wanted to offer the powerful practices of insight meditation, as many of our teachers did, as simply as possible without the complications of rituals, robes, chanting and the whole religious tradition."

    https://books.google.co.jp/books?id=...ition.&f=false

    However, the simple fact that something is a later development does not necessarily mean it is lesser (or "greater") by that alone. Some later developments may be seen as loss, some as improvements! (We honor the Wright Brothers as founders, but fly a 777). Many of the changes as Buddhism comes West and into modern times may simply be seen as adjustments to fit different cultures and times, some are truly revolutionary, while others may not prove to have been good. Only time will tell. I came across this paragraph yesterday which summarizes some of the changes in modern Buddhism. The author argues that Buddhist historians should not take modern Buddhism as "less authentic" than older Buddhism, just a new expression.

    Buddhist modernists are described in the Buddhist Studies literature as possessing an orientation that encompasses a number of often interrelated features said to derive from the influence of the West. These include:
    the extolling of reason and rationality; a rejection of ritual, “superstition,” and cosmology; an understanding of doctrine and text as more authentically Buddhist than practices such as relic veneration or
    Buddha-name recitation; laicization and democratization; a valorization of meditation and an optimistic view of nirvana, culminating in the hitherto unprecedented widespread practice of meditation among the laity; an ecumenical attitude toward other Buddhist sects; increased status of women; interest in social engagement; the tendency to define Buddhism as a philosophy rather than a religion ...
    I believe that most of those changes are positive developments. One person's "Greater" may be another person's "Lesser".

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    Last edited by Jundo; 09-11-2015 at 02:30 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  20. #20
    There is a reason I am here and not with my old sangha. On the one hand there is a Mahayana sprit across traditions. The only difference between Theravadin friends and Zen friends in terms of compassionate social responsibility is that Zen friends say they are Bodhisattvas. On the other hand I think there is a bit of mushiness on the subject. There ARE differences that had a big impact on me and lead to a big life change. It might sound like an arcane matter , but Theravadin Buddhism does not see samsara and nirvana as two sides of one (coinless) coin. "Cessation" transforms perception of the world into that described above in the Diamond sutra , but the next step in not taken. There is a goal in Theravada that is clear...... Uproot "defilements" and burn off the fuel of becoming. That is very different than our vows here and I have felt it deeply and painfully. So it is all good and beautiful, but differences should also be respected.

    Gassho
    Daizan

    Sat today.

    And please do take with a grain of salt.

  21. #21
    Member Getchi's Avatar
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    Like Daizan I experienced a different attitude in my old Theravadan group. It was a Thai group, and they are very strict about all the precepts and enforcment of rules. I left on good terms because i thought it was a distraction to actual practice, following the rules was actually held slightly higher then anything else.

    I was told more then once it was more the Thai way rather than the Buddha way that influenced this, but I think its just the human way. The Treeleaf way im learning is spot on so far though, I personally rely more on the inner feeling then the need for outside rules. Form being emptiness, or so ive heard

    Having said that though, I have met some beautiful boddhisatva's throughout the hinayana world, truly working for the collective betterment rather then there own salvation. Most dont even realise what they've truly achieved.


    But im new here, so take it all with a cup of salt


    Geoff.
    SatToday.
    Nothing to do? Why not Sit?

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Getchi View Post
    Like Daizan I experienced a different attitude in my old Theravadan group. It was a Thai group, and they are very strict about all the precepts and enforcment of rules. I left on good terms because i thought it was a distraction to actual practice, following the rules was actually held slightly higher then anything else.

    I was told more then once it was more the Thai way rather than the Buddha way that influenced this, but I think its just the human way. The Treeleaf way im learning is spot on so far though, I personally rely more on the inner feeling then the need for outside rules. Form being emptiness, or so ive heard
    Different strokes for different folks. Different medicines in varying measures for different patients.

    What is wrong practice for one person is just right for another. I have some Hasidic Jewish friends who also follow hundreds of detailed rules to be close to their God, and they thrive and find freedom there.

    Only in Emptiness might I say "One Size fits All."

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  23. #23
    Joyo
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Only in Emptiness might I say "One Size fits All."

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    That is so true!!

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today

  24. #24
    I regret that last post. It sounds divisive and dividing, when really the Forest sangha folks are dear friends and always will be. It is just that at a certain point choices have to be made whether to continue within a tradition. In that tradition the next step would be to ordain as a Bhikkhu, as other friends have done, but different choices were made...marriage, family, handling money... engaging the world in a different way.

    Anyway, feeling message board fatigue... sticking with sewing for a while.

    Gassho
    Daizan

    sat today

  25. #25
    Member Getchi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Different strokes for different folks. Different medicines in varying measures for different patients.

    What is wrong practice for one person is just right for another. I have some Hasidic Jewish friends who also follow hundreds of detailed rules to be close to their God, and they thrive and find freedom there.

    Only in Emptiness might I say "One Size fits All."

    Gassho, J

    SatToday


    Sorry, I absolutly agree with this. For them, there was comfort and a deeper meaning in those rules, to me personally they did not add to my practice. Maybe if I followed them longer? My friend ordained and he is very happy, so who knows?

    I also was'nt trying to sound divisive at all, its just my own experience. I still have many dear friends following that particular path and do try to follow Ajahn Brahms talks when there available still.

    Gassho,
    Humbly
    Geoff.
    Nothing to do? Why not Sit?

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