Does Theravada exist?
My teacher in the Sangha told when I asked about Theravada and Mahayana that there is no such thing as Theravada. It is the only true remaining school of Buddhism and that all others who claim to be Buddhism are merely preaching false Buddha Dhamma. Are all Buddhist schools other than Theravada counterfeit Buddhism?
Of course, I don't take his word for it simply out of faith and nor would he want me to. I looked into it and see that many of the Mahayana schools go against what the Buddha taught. The Buddha was opposed to rites and rituals while many Mahayana schools are steeped in rituals. That is just the beginning of what I think the Buddha would be opposed to if he were here today. What do you make of it?
Please, if you don't have any idea about Buddhism, don't bother answering.
Your teacher sounds very similar to those Christians who try to say that anybody outside of their own sect are not "true Christians", but just false heathens claiming to be Christians.
In other words, your teacher is biased and full of crap. The reality is that there are Buddhist who identify themselves as "Theravada", and practice something different from Mahayana.
I would recommend reading some peer reviewed textbooks that provide an overview of Buddhism's history and development rather than going by the proponents of a particular group or lineage has to say. Now here is my articles on this development based on my reading of such textbooks (which are listed at the end of the article):
My understanding is that the Theravada or School of the Elders is the last of 18 or more different lineages differentiated from one another in ancient India by the version of Abhidharma they used and the particular precept tradition or Vinaya they used. Your teacher is basically claiming that only the Theravadin Vinaya and Abidharma is true and all those other lineages were false and saying that Theravada simply equals "True Buddhism." But there is no hard evidence to back up his claim as there are other recensions of the Vinaya, Abhidharma, and Sutras (or discourses) other than the Pali with equal claim as what the Buddha originally taught. It just so happens that the PalI Canon is the most complete canon left after all the other schools disappeared from India.
As for the Mahayana they descend from the ancient precept lineage of the Dharmaguptakas (in East Asia) and the Abhidharma teachings of the Sarvastivada and Sautrantika, but they did indeed develop materials that went beyond those and became the Mahayana. The value of that additional material must be weighed on its own merits insofar as does it make sense, does it lead beings to selfless compassion or not?
BTW, others have tried to make these kind of sectarian claims. In the Shobogenzo, Dogen railed against the use of the term "Zen" and also against the labeling of the "five houses of Zen" and argued that what he was teaching was simply the real Buddha Dharma. Despite that, Dogen was in fact representing the teachings of a specific School of Buddhism, Zen, and a specific lineage within that school, Soto. I think it is okay to have a particular take on the Buddha's teachings and to have the conviction that one is doing one's best to follow the Buddha's true intention, but it is arrogant to say that one's own take is just Buddhism or "True Buddhism" and everyone else should be dismissed. That is just polemic, and it is not a reasonable way to talk about the Dharma in my view and long experience (and yes, I know Nichiren was as or more prone to this then Dogen, but his critiques are more nuanced and well thought out than he is given credit for).
Namu Myoho Renge Kyo,
Buddhism is Buddhism.
In Buddha's period there was no such thing as Theravada or Mahayana or whatever.
In other words, if we see any prefix to Buddhism, we are facing more or less deviation from true Buddhism.
Thanks for the question and that is very important.
Good afternoon, OrangeRanger
A while past someone posted a "fun" link at http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Quizzes/BeliefOMatic.aspx which asks a series of questions. Your answers are scored and it determines which religion you practice. Well, I took the quiz on a lark and my score indicated I practice Theravada Buddhism (100%) and Mahayana Buddhism (83%). I was rather surprised since I practice a tradition of Mahayana Buddhism.
But then I remembered a teaching I heard in my tradition. The encapsulated lesson of the teaching was that all Mahayana Buddhists are supposed to study the suttas of the Pali Canon as well as the Mahayana sutras. The lama stated that Theravada Buddhists seek self enlightenment while Mahayana seeks Nibbana for all other sentient beings before entering Nibbana oneself. The last statement of the lama was; how can one bring others to enlightenment unless on is first enlightened themselves?
To answer your initial question, yes, Theravada exists. It is the bulwark of all other traditions and is well respected and honored by Mahayana traditions. Are other forms of Buddhism counterfeit Buddhism? I don't believe so. I view Mahayana as merely an outgrowth of Theravada. Neither is better or more auspicious than the other