Adopted as Received Knowledge

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Adopted as Received Knowledge

Over the centuries the Southern and Northern lineages have developed critiques of each other’s way of practice which have been passed on and adopted as received knowledge.

When we can only base our own ideas on information from books or the established outlook portrayed by particular lineages, these critiques seem to be reasonable.

Some of the most common Southern points of view argue that the Mahāyāna schools are not real Buddhism; they developed their own scriptures and have wandered from the Buddha’s true way, i.e. practising the Eightfold Path to realize Nibbāna and end rebirth.

The voices from the North argue that the Southern Theravādans are the ‘Small Vehicle’, Hīnayānists who only practise according to the Buddha’s most basic teachings and are narrow-minded and selfishly concerned only with winning the peace of Nirvāna for themselves. The Buddha gave far superior and more refined teachings, those of the Great and Supreme Vehicles, and it is they which should be held in the highest esteem. It is most noble and altruistic to vow to stay in the world as a bodhisattva, developing the pāramitās until full Buddhahood is reached.

Both sets of practitioners often struggle over these apparent differences and wrestle with such issues as whether they’re conceiving a deeply obstructive wrong view by believing the criticisms of arahants or pointlessly tying their hearts to an erroneous ideal if they don’t take the bodhisattva vows.

In addition to this type of issue, which is concerned more with personal dilemmas and one’s gut response to the perceived differences in ideals, the plot thickens when we look at the scriptures on a more scholarly level. On examination, we find some curious and significant anomalies in the teachings of both the Northern and Southern schools.

This reflection by Ajahn Amaro is from the article, “The View from the Centre.”