View Full Version : The concept of bodhicitta

16 Jul 10, 15:30

In Mahayana, the concept of relative bodhicitta is described as follows :

"Compassion characterised by the aspiration to liberate all sentient beings from suffering".

I was looking at "Differences between Theravada and Mahayana " at Buddhanet and in particular at no 5 on the list :

"Concept of Bodhicitta ....

Theravada =Main emphasis is self liberation.
There is total reliance on oneself to eradicate all defilements.

Mahayana =Besides self liberation, it is important for Mahayana followers to help other sentient beings. "


Surely the welfare of others is important to Theravadins too, is it not?

How can a person 'liberate all sentient beings from suffering' or even imagine that its possible to do that? Is this simply a means for generating compassion towards others?

I'd be interested in hearing different views about this (whilst being mindful of showing respect towards other traditions)

16 Jul 10, 15:43
It's a false distinction. It is designed to cast Theravada as inferior and selfish. Developing compassion, sympathetic joy, the idea of kalyana mitta, "spiritual friends", and "bowing in the six directions"
-- which dre metaphorical for ones family, friends, co-workers, bosses, underlings, etc., are all social aspiriatinos to be found in Theravada and in the Buddha's teachings.

"Saving all 'setient beings'" is pie-in-the-sky evangelistic idealism. The Buddha knew you can't save 'em all.

16 Jul 10, 16:29
One does suspect that this particular piece was not written by a Theravadin (;D). As far as helping sentient beings towards cessation of suffering goes, anyone who is not a Buddha had better restrict themselves to pointing out the Dhamma that the Buddha himself uncovered, rather than thinking they are wise enough to try to formulate their own. This is what I do with my own children, who are not active followers of the Dhamma; just hint at the fact that certain activities do not lead to the highest form of happiness, and other concepts drawn from my understanding of the Dhamma. This I generally do in what I hope is quite a subtle manner, as they have quite pronounced ideas about what is desirable in life themselves (;D).

16 Jul 10, 18:24

A persuasive article "The Mahayana Motivation" - in which the term "Hinayana" occurs.("Lesser/small vehicle")


16 Jul 10, 20:29
When it's read and considered carefully, does the article in the previous post make sense to anyone ? If so, please explain. :hands:

16 Jul 10, 21:22
"Because of the students' capacity the Buddha mostly taught Hinayana-and very sensibly so, because people were suffering-but he also asked, "Do you just want a release from suffering, or do you want to understand the truth?""

So, there is no Sutta wherein the Buddha says "Cessation of suffering is nice, but there's more to do!" Quite to the contrary, the Buddha says that he teaches ONLY suffering and the cessation of suffering. The contradiction here is obvious.

This is the point of departure: the Mahayanist will contend that their sutras/vows/etc. are fuller, more complete, or some other thing (whence "maha"), but there is no reason to make this claim. In fact, the evidence points to the opposite conclusion, that Mahayana sutras are temporally later than (at least the bulk of) the Nikayas.

In fact, a reconstructed Salistamba Sutra is evidence that what was to become the Mahayana view was a slow development around the turn of the common era, rather than a fully-formed dispensation extracted from this Heaven or that Pure Land or this Buddha or any such thing. It showcases the historicity of Mahayana, and it is therefore necessary to conclude that Mahayana is a later development.

This isn't a sectarian debate, by the way, but rather a textual one. Which texts do we accept as being authentic Dhamma, and which must we reject? By all measures the most accurate presentation of the Dhamma must come from the earliest texts (else the Buddha was someone who needed another person to later help him explain the Dhamma better, an impossible conclusion). Therefore, it is very unlikely - if not impossible - to have a later text explain the Dhamma more authentically than an earlier text. Thus, all Mahayana sutras are simply inferior Dhamma sources than earlier Suttas.

Or, do it the simple way: if the Dalai Lama can reincarnate with precision such that for centuries he was able to snag a Tibetan boy-form, why did not the Buddha, of infinite bodhisattva compassion, do the same, and thereby ensure his dispensation? It's because the whole structure of reincarnating bodhisattvas is not of the Dhamma.

17 Jul 10, 00:23
"Saving all 'sentient beings'" is pie-in-the-sky evangelistic idealism.

Absolutely stuka dear,

In my experience as a Soto Zen student, the way we approach practice of Dharma and the skills developed though zazen makes me feel we are more much closer to Hinayana than that of Mahayana... And what is more... the practice of Soto Zen is more related to the Arahat ideal than that of the Bodhisattva.


17 Jul 10, 00:57
When it's read and considered carefully, does the article in the previous post make sense to anyone ? If so, please explain.

I didn't like the aproach of the article... it has a very bad taste like the one told by stuka:

"Saving all 'setient beings'" is pie-in-the-sky evangelistic idealism.

Quoted from the article:

The Hinayana practitioner feels the pain of samsara and says, "I can't take it anymore. What can I do about it?" And having understood what samsara is, we can all sympathize with the Hinayana practitioner. It is a worthy approach. We are not belittling it.

But the Mahayana practitioner takes a much more radical approach. The Mahayana practitioner wakes up one morning and realizes, "Sentient beings from endless time have been roaming in samsara."

And the Zen practitoner, as ilustrated in the Ten Bulls, and very much like the Arhat ideal, when the tenth bull is reached, she/he "must return to the World":

"Barefooted and naked of breast, I mingle with the pople of the world. My clothes are ragged and dust-laden, and I am ever blissful. I use no magic to extend my life; Now before me, the dead trees become alive".

Here, the idea depicted is about the development of Right View about life facts and not the development of a deluded mind that see evilness all arround so the need to become the savior of the world, what is nonsense at the spirit of Zen practice.

This idea comes from the devotion about the Lotto Sutta which is not important in our practice and is against the aim of zazen and shikantaza.

The idea of the Boddhisatva or the intention of becomeing a saviour of the world, from the Zen perspective, is against our core practice of Dana Paramita when this has to be done "just because" so the practice itself is done also, "just because too..." once this is mastered the rest will happen by it self. Behind the idea of a "Boddhisatva" there is some sort of a solid self, a huge one, that experience separation.


17 Jul 10, 01:15
It's because the whole structure of reincarnating bodhisattvas is not of the Dhamma.

Absolutly true... thanks Sobeh... :hands:

17 Jul 10, 02:03
From my point of view, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche's statements lead inevitably to the conclusion that the Buddha himself was Hinayana since, or so I believe, most academics in this area agree that the mouth of the Buddha never uttered anything even vaguely resembling what the Rinpoche himself seems to believe. I believe the academics, because I respect their methods. I cannot respect the Rinpoche's methods, because they are faith-based, and this puts his beliefs (except for their tiny core of truth) in the same class of such belief systems as, for example, the Abrahamic religions, Hinduism, and Norse mythology during the times when it too was a religion. But I think at this point I must stick to my earlier statements elsewhere that it is such vast, complex, decorative additions to the Dhamma that attract many people to Buddhism in the first place (particularly those whose nations are not predominantly Buddhist). It is then to be hoped that such people will eventually see through what is ultimately -- to be blunt -- cultural baggage, and become followers of the Dhamma instead of Buddhists. Stephen Batchelor is an example of someone who seems to have done it, apparently shucking the labour and learning of many years as a Tibetan monk in the process. Unless we come up with some way of making the Dhamma go viral on the Internet, as Stuka has said, or some other way of demonstrating its value to great numbers of people, I can still only foresee a tiny minority of Earth's population seeing the truth, let alone valuing it as committedly as it deserves.

17 Jul 10, 03:27
the conclusion that the Buddha himself was Hinayana

This make sense, I agree with this conclusion...


17 Jul 10, 04:43

It's worth remembering that the word "Hinayana" is a pejorative term for Theravadins and implies 'inferior' .

17 Jul 10, 05:42
It's worth remembering that the word "Hinayana" is a pejorative term for Theravadins and implies 'inferior'.

Yes. I was surprised to find when I looked it up again that the definition seems to have become even more insulting: Wikipedia now includes "deficient" and "defective" in its definitions.

17 Jul 10, 05:44
I just took another peek and found this:

The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary (1921-25) defines hīna in even stronger terms, with a semantic field that includes "poor, miserable; vile, base, abject, contemptible," and "despicable."