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Buddhadharma : Summer 2008
21 summer 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly Views from the North, Views from the South Nowadays these two traditions often have occasion to meet. A wide spectrum of Buddhist teachings is available, and many people have been inspired by masters of different lineages. We read a book that encourages us to be free from greed, hatred, and delusion, to escape from the endless cycles of rebirth, and we feel, “Yes, that’s it!” Then we read about those compassionate ones whose chief concern is to stay in the world to relieve the suffering of others, and again the heart leaps—“That’s wonderful!” So do these two paths conflict, or are they compatible? Do they lead to different goals, or maybe the same goal? Are they actually the same track known by different names? Over time, both traditions have developed critiques of each other and then passed these on as received knowledge. When all we have to go by is the established outlook, these critiques seem to be reasonable judgments. Some of the points of view from the South argue, “The Mahayana schools are not real Buddhism; they wrote their own scriptures and have wandered from the Buddha’s true path, namely realizing nib- bana and ending rebirth.” Voices from the North, on the other hand, say, “The Theravadans are the small vehicle; they only follow the Buddha’s most preliminary instructions. The Buddha gave far superior teachings, those of the Great and Supreme Vehicles, and it is those we hold in highest esteem.” This said, both kinds of practitioners also wrestle with such doubts as, “Am I holding an obstructive view if I look down on arahats?” Or, “Am I adhering to an inferior ideal if I dismiss the bodhisattva vows?” In addition to such personal dilemmas, the plot thickens when we look at the scriptures themselves. On examina- tion we find some curious and significant anomalies in both the teachings of the Northern and Southern schools. When studying with a spiritual teacher, it is the most natural thing in the world to want to emulate that person and the path that he or she has followed. However, in the Pali Canon, the subject of the Buddha’s bodhisattva training never comes up. At no time does anyone even ask about it. No one enquires, “What made you choose to become a Buddha?” or “Could an ordinary person like me undertake that path too?” or “Should I aim for buddhahood or for the more accessible goal of arahantship?” richArdYAski