Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism

My You Tube videos on this history below, is causing quite a stir! They had tens of thousands of hits within months in 2012 and it’s growing today. Go to You Tube and type in the search engine: What is Wrong with Buddhism. Or, What is Wrong with Mahayana Buddhism at:

Where do Theravada, Tibetan and Zen Buddhism come from? When the Buddha passed away 2500 years ago, the monks agreed upon 84,000 lines of his dhamma teachings in the Pali suttas, at the First Council. 100 years later the sangha convened the Second Council to stamp out heresies within the religion. Again they agreed upon the same 84,000 lines from the Buddha and nothing of importance has been lost to the present day.

About 137 years after the Buddha, there was a serious rift within the sangha, the first major split in views. The rift was led by Mahadeva who was a charismatic leader and he resonated with a cord deep in Buddhist society because many lay people objected to the god-like respect and authority that the enlightened arahants had.

Mahadeva turned against the arahants by putting forth his views that they were not yet fully evolved because of these five shortcomings: allegedly some arahants were prone to seminal emissions in their sleep, had nightmares, were still subject to doubts, they were ignorant of many things, and they owed their salvation to the guidance of others. Also at issue was the belief that the suttas were the ultimate authority in Buddhism. Mahadeva disputed this, holding that it was possible for the Buddha’s revelation to come anywhere at anytime, so people shouldn’t have to cling to the suttas. This remains the big issue today.

Mahadeva won the popular debate and thousands of people followed his lead but the established Theras, the elders, renounced their views as a heresy. Mahadeva’s sangha called themselves the Mahasanghikas- “the great community,” and about 60% of Buddhists today can trace back their lineage to this one man. Two or three centuries after Mahadeva, there were eleven schools of thought similar to the Theravadins and seven schools of the Mahasanghikas.

Within a few of those Mahasanghika groups there arose a new tradition around 50 B.C., called the “Mahayana.” They called the dominant quasi Theravada Buddhist schools of the day, the “Hinayana.” The other Mahasanghikas who didn’t agree to go along with the change were also put down as Hinayanists. The ‘Hinayana’ is translated as ‘lesser wheel’ but really it translates as ‘crummy wheel’ or vile, disgusting, lousy.

In this way the fledgling Mahayanists attempted to assert their superiority over the Theravadins. This process didn’t happen overnight. It began as the bodhisattvayana in several of the seven schools of the Mahasanghikas- all now extinct. By 400 AD the full blown idea of the Mahayana was consummated.

Ajahn Sona says “The way to bring down a religion is by creating a conflicting sect within it.” The Mahayanists set about creating a new cosmology which radically contradicted what the Buddha taught in the Pali suttas. The Mahayanists introduced the new idea of celestial Buddhas and celestial bodhisattvas and the bodhisattva vow, instead of the arahant ideal. They created numerous fictitious celestial bodhisattvas and Buddhas which are supposed to be fully enlightened. In this way they put down the Theravadin devas as unenlightened so the Mahayana claims to have a ‘higher’ cosmology.

The Buddha prophecized “The end of my dispensation will come not from direct oppression, but from counterfeit dharma.” The Mahayanists have done that by creating volumes of ‘pious fabrications’ or counterfeit discourses called ‘sutras’. From 50 BC until 800 AD they created about 10,000 – 15,000 pages of these Mahayana sutras, new and improved discourses of the Buddha, such that Mahayanists do not know which sutras are real and which are counterfeit. This situation is well documented and there is no controversy about this.

The Mahayana still has much of the Buddha’s teachings and this is not a simple situation where one is all right and the other is all wrong but it is very important that you have this inoculation, or heads up, if you investigate different Buddhist groups. Google “Buddhist history” and do your own research to get off on the right foot with Buddhism.

The Buddha only taught one wheel of dhamma. His rule was that teachings should be carefully compared to the suttas and the vinaya (Discipline) and if they are in harmony then you can accept them but if they are not in harmony, you should reject them. Good luck.

Brian Ruhe