September 8, 2009

Old School Buddhism

The Dharma Mirror blog presents a snapshot contrast between Theravada and Mahayana. There is one particular sentence that stands out for me, and which I deeply appreciate:
It is often thought that Mahayana developed out of the Theravada tradition, but this view is not quite accurate, as both traditions have developed over history.
The reader is then pointed to an article by Ron Epstein, “Clearing Up Some Misconceptions about Buddhism.” I’ve generally considered myself a non-denominational Buddhist, but I realize that this term has loaded connotations. As a result of both historical/cultural accident and personal affinities, I’ve mostly grounded myself in the Theravada tradition. I like to translate Theravada as “Old School Buddhism.” Far from the most appropriate translation, but it definitely appeals to my local English dialect and also to an age-old Theravada tradition, where we like to see ourselves as upholding the timeless customs of the Enlightened One. The truth behind this sentiment is very much open to debate. Sometimes “being traditional” is itself a practice of reinterpretation.

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