Answers of questions given by Ven. Pa-Auk Tawya Sayadaw (taken from the Dhamma-Dana book “Knowing and Seeing” distributed by budaedu.org)
Question 4.1: Is a bodhisatta, including Arimetteyya Bodhisatta, a worldling (puthjjana)? If Arimetteya Bodhisatta is a worldling like us, then at the time for him to come down to become Metteyya Buddha, what is the difference between the conditions for him to become a Buddha and for us?
Answer 4.1: The difference is that his paramis have matured, as they had for our Sakyamuni Buddha as the bodhisatta Prince Siddhattha. Such bodhisattas will for many lives have been cultivating their paramis. There are then paramis:
1. Generosity (dana)
2. Virtue (sila)
3. Renunciation (nekkhamma)
4. Wisdom (panna)
5. Energy (viriya)
6. Patience ((khanti)
7. Truthfulness (sacca)
8. Resolution (adhitthana)
9. Lovingkindess (metta)
10. Equanimity (upekkha)
When these ten paramis are mature, they push the bodhisatta to renounce the world, even though he is enjoying sensual pleasures. In this last life, a bodhisatta marries and has a son; this is a law of nature. We forget the names of Metteyya Bodhisatta’s wife and son. According to the Theravada Tipataka, it is his last life, because no arahant, including The Buddha, is reborn after his Parinibbana. His Parinibbana is the end of his round of rebirths. He will not be reborn anywhere.
Take our Sakyamuni Bodhisatta: in his last life, before his enlightenment, he was a worldling. How? When he was sixteen years old, he became Siddhattha and married princess Yasodhara. They had a son. He enjoyed sensual pleasure for more than thirteen years. He did not have five hundred female deities on his left, and five hundred femals deities on his right, but was surrounded by twenty thousand princesses. This is kamasukkallikanyogo: enjoyment of sensual pleasure, indulgence in sensual pleasures.
After he had renounced those sensual pleasures, he practiced self-mortification in the Uruvela forest. After six years of that futile practice, he abandoned it, practiced the middle way, and before long attained enlightenment. After His enlightenment, in His first sermon, the “Dhammacakkapavattana”, He declared:
Hino, gammo, puthjjaniko, anariyo, anatthasamhito.
(this enjoyment of sensual pleasure is inferior (hino),
The practice of villagers (gammo), the practice of worldlings (puthjjaniko).
It is the practice of unenlightened ones (anariyo).
It is unbeneficial (anatthasamhito)
This means that the enjoyment of sensual pleasure is not the practice of enlightened ones. An sensual pleasures are unbeneficial because although they provide mundane benefit such as human happiness, deva happiness and brahma happiness, they do not provide the supramundane benefit that is Nibbana happiness, which can be enjoyed only by Path- and Fruition Knowledge.
So, in His first sermon The Buddha declared that anyone who enjoys sensual pleasure is a worldling. When he was still a bodhisatta, he too had enjoyed sensual pleasure, that is, with Yasodhara in the palace. At that time, he too was a worldling, because enjoyment of sensual pleasures is the practice of a worldling.
This is not only for our bodhisatta, but for every bodhisatta.
There may be many bodhisattas here among the present audience.
You should consider this carefully: are the bodhisattas here worldlings (puthujjana) or noble ones (ariya)? We think you may know the answer.
Question 5.4: (The following questions are all covered by the same answer.)
• Was there a bodhisatta during The Buddha’s time? If so, did he attain a path or was he just a worldling (puthujjana)?
• Why can a noble one (ariya) not become a bodhisatta?
• Can a disciple (savaka) change to become a bodhisatta? If not, why not?
• When by following the Sayadaw’s teaching one is able to attain the Path and Fruitation Knowledge of Stream-Entry (sota magganana and sotapatti phalanana), con one choose to not do so, because of a desire and vow to practice the bodhisatta path?
Answer 5.4: One can change one’s mind before attaining a path or fruitation, but not afterwards. In many suttas, The Buddha taught that the path occurs to the law of nature (sammatta niyama).
The law of nature says:
• The Stream-Entry Path (sotapatti magga) produces the Stream-Entry Fruition (sotapatti phala), after which one con progress to the once-returner (sakadagami) stage, but one cannot regress to the worldling (puthujjana) stage.
• A once-returner can progress to the non-returner (anagami) stage, but cannot regress to the stream-enterer or worldling stage.
• A non-returner can progress to arahantship, but cannot regress to the once-returner, stream-enterer or worldling stages.
• An arahant attains Parinibbana at death, and cannot regress to the lower noble stages, the worldling stage, or any other stage.
Arahantship is the end. This is the law of nature (sammatta niyama). Referring to arahantship, The Buddha said many times:
Ayamantima jati, natthidani punabbhavoti
(This is the last rebirth, now there is no new rebirth)
This means that one cannot change one’s mind, and decide to become a bodhisatta after having attained a path fruition.
Moreover, one cannot change one’s mind after having received a definite prophecy from a Buddha or arahant. But one may wish to wait, and become an arahant some time in the future, and then change one’s mind, and attain arahantship in this life.
The Visuddhi Magga gives an example of a Mahathera, the Venerable Mahasangharakkhita, who did this. He was expert in the four foundations of mindfulness, had practiced Samatha-Vipassana up to the knowledge of Equanimity Towards Formations, and had never performed a bodily or verbal action without mindfulness. And ha had developed sufficient Samatha-Vipassana paramis to be able to attain arahantship if he wanted to. But, because he wanted to see Arimetteyya Buddha, he had decided to wait, and become an arahant only in that dispensation. According to the law of nature we just mentioned, he would not be able to see Arimetteyya Buddha, if he attained arahantship now.
But, at the time near his death, a large number of people gathered, because they thought he was an arahant, and thought he was going to attain Parinibbana, although he was in fact still a worldling. When his disciple told him many people had gathered, because they thought he was going to attain Parinibbana, the Mahathera said, “Oh, I had wanted to see Arimetteyya Buddha. But if there is a large assembly, then let me meditate.” And he practiced Vipassana. Now that he had changed his mind, and because he had in his past lives not received a definite prophecy, he very soon attained arahantship.
During The Buddha’s time there was no mention of a definite prophecy to a bodhisatta except for Arimetteyya Bodhisatta, who was a bhikkhu named Ajita. The Tipitaka does not say either when the next Buddha after Arimetteyya Buddha will arise, so we cannot say how many bodhisattas there were during The Buddha’s time.
Question 5.5: Is it possible to practice the path to liberation (vimutti-magga) and the path of bodhisatta [path to Buddhahood] at the same time? If so, what is the method?
Answer 5.5: Liberation (vimutti) means escape from defilements or the round of rebirths. When a bodhisatta becomes a Buddha, he escapes from the round of rebirths at his Parinibbana. If you, as a disciple (savaka), try to attain Arahantship and succeed, you will also escape from the round of rebirths at your Parinibbana. A person cannot become a Buddha as well as a disciple. He must choose either one or the other, but they both escape from the round of rebirth when they attain Arahantship. The way to attain the Arahant path is the final ppath to liberation (vimuttimagga).
Question 5.6: Is this method [of meditation] for liberation only, or is it also for the bodhisatta path?
Answer 5.6: It is for both. In a previous talk, we mentioned that Sakyamuni Buddha was a bhikkhu in nine of his past lives as a bodhisatta. If we look at his practice in those nine lives, we see the three trainings: morality (sila), concentration (Samadhi), and wisdom (panna). The bodhisatta was able to practice the eight attainments, five mundane psychic powers, and Vipassana up to the knowledge of Equanimity toward Formations.
Now you too are developing Samatha-Vipassana meditation based on virtuose conduct. When you have practiced the three trainings up to the knowledge of Equanimity Towards Formations, you can choose either way. If you want liberation you can choose to go to Nibbana; if you want to become a bodhisatta you can choose the bodhisatta way: no problem.