Arhats and Bodhisattvas

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Arhats and Bodhisattvas

Postby Mkoll » Thu May 29, 2014 8:38 am

I was listening to Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi's second talk on the Sutta Nipata and towards the end, he makes a comment about arhats and bodhisattvas that I found very memorable. Here is a word for word transcript.

There’s a tendency sometimes amongst Buddhists of different followings to oppose arhats and bodhisattvas and to see which one is superior to which. And then it leads to conflict, friction, between followers of different vehicles.

Followers of Mahayana say bodhisattvas are superior to arhats. Arhats are narrow, selfish, small-minded. Followers of the Theravada say followers of the bodhisattva vehicle are deluded or taking too much time following an impossible course, something to difficult, that one should just aim quickly for one’s own liberation. And so this leads to certain conflicts, quarrels, frictions.

The way I see it, both sides, followers of both paths, have to respect each other. First of all, if there were no bodhisattvas, there could be no Buddhas because Buddhas arise from bodhisattvas. Every Buddha is the end product of one who has followed the bodhisattva course.

But also, if there were no arhats, there could be no Buddhas. Because what is the task of a Buddha? A Buddha is one who aspires to achieve Buddhahood in order to liberate many, many sentient beings. And those beings who are liberated by the Buddha are liberated by attaining arhatship. If nobody followed the Buddha’s instructions and attained arhatship, then the Buddha could not be a Buddha. He would just be teaching pointlessly.


Opinions? Thoughts?
Peace,
James
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Re: Arhats and Bodhisattvas

Postby tiltbillings » Thu May 29, 2014 8:52 am

Mkoll wrote:I was listening to Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi's second talk on the Sutta Nipata and towards the end, he makes a comment about arhats and bodhisattvas that I found very memorable. Here is a word for word transcript.

There’s a tendency sometimes amongst Buddhists of different followings to oppose arhats and bodhisattvas and to see which one is superior to which. And then it leads to conflict, friction, between followers of different vehicles.

Followers of Mahayana say bodhisattvas are superior to arhats. Arhats are narrow, selfish, small-minded. Followers of the Theravada say followers of the bodhisattva vehicle are deluded or taking too much time following an impossible course, something to difficult, that one should just aim quickly for one’s own liberation. And so this leads to certain conflicts, quarrels, frictions.

The way I see it, both sides, followers of both paths, have to respect each other. First of all, if there were no bodhisattvas, there could be no Buddhas because Buddhas arise from bodhisattvas. Every Buddha is the end product of one who has followed the bodhisattva course.

But also, if there were no arhats, there could be no Buddhas. Because what is the task of a Buddha? A Buddha is one who aspires to achieve Buddhahood in order to liberate many, many sentient beings. And those beings who are liberated by the Buddha are liberated by attaining arhatship. If nobody followed the Buddha’s instructions and attained arhatship, then the Buddha could not be a Buddha. He would just be teaching pointlessly.


Opinions? Thoughts?
This ignores so much. There is a very marked difference between the fully developed Mahayana bodhisattva doctrine and idea of what a Buddha is and what an arhat is in contrast to the notions of what an arahant, a Buddha, and sambodhi are and the bodhisatta doctrine the Theravada (and other Mainstream Buddhists) developed before the rise of the Mahayana. While Ven Bodhi is trying to make nice, it does not work so well. The fully developed Mahayana bodhisattva doctrine is a doctrine that was developed in opposition and has no actual bearing on the reality of the arahant, the Buddha, and of sambodhi as found in the Pali texts, but it is presented as defining the reality of the hinayana, of which the Theravada is a part, which makes for a huge problem.

The point is that a dialogue between the Theravada and the Mahayana has to hash through these issues. I do think that there are clearly places of congruence to be found between the two, but is not as easily obtained as Ven Bodhi would suggest.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Arhats and Bodhisattvas

Postby Denisa » Thu May 29, 2014 9:52 am

Mkoll wrote:Opinions? Thoughts?

May be Bhikkhu Bodhi also following the bodhisattva path. I found something interesting and also surprising here on page # 32 (http://www.scribd.com/doc/64780914/The- ... ning-Robes). I think, the writer has a point, especially when the Buddha claimed he taught only two things, which are suffering and end of suffering. I don't know whether the Buddha actually encouraged to postpone the Nibbana for several aeons which would be creating more suffering.

Added to this is when the ideal of bodhisattva—a doctrine developed in Mahayana—almost overran the arahant in Theravada. A striking proof of this fact is found in Visuddhimagga [I, 33] where it states: 'The sīla (virtue) pāramī practised for the emancipation of all beings is superior.' Surely, the more worthy and superior task of 'saving all beings' would not be hindered by petty conventional rules of Vinaya merely for 'saving one being.' One can find birth stories (Jātaka) of bodhisattva as wheel-turning monarchs, yet The Buddha said that it is not worth a sixteenth part of being a stream enterer [Saṃyutta Nikāya 55.1, Cakkavattirāja Sutta].

“Carpenter, when a man possesses ten qualities I describe him as accomplished and perfected in what is wholesome, attained to the supreme attainment, an ascetic invincible. What ten qualities? Here a bhikkhu, possesses the Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Samadhi, Right Knowledge, and Right Liberation of one beyond training (i.e. an arahant).”

[Majjhima Nikāya 78, Samaṇamuṇḍika Sutta]


The Buddhavaṃsa, althoughTheravada bodhisattvas are fond of this manual, as pointed out by E.W. Adikāraṁ, PhD*, the changes done in Buddhavaṃsa in Sri Lanka are so enormous that it is very difficult to restore the original one. The differences between the current Buddhavaṃsa and its commentary, Madhuratthavilāsinī, written in 5th
century C.E. might make one wonders: 'It seems that the commentary have been written based on some other text.' There are a large number of stanzas in the current Buddhavaṃsa whose existence was unknown to the commentator, while the commentary contains a huge number of stanzas not found in the current Buddhavaṃsa.

All the ancient Buddhist schools are unanimous about the arahant's Path—Noble Eightfold Path—yet greatly variant about bodhisattva and his path. Also, in the first four Nikāyas, the future Maitreya Buddha is mentioned only once in Cakkavatti Sutta [Dīgha Nikāya 26], but a bodhisattva path of collecting pāramīhas never been mentioned. One can accumulate much merit—as well as unwholesome karma—and wonder through the samsara by clinging to whatever perception, claiming: “This is the highest!” Yet, it is simply craving for existence (bhavataṇha), and that person is still only a common worldling. Indeed, for most of the bhikkhus, samsara is, “Home sweet home.” If this modern pāramī-collecting bodhisattva path is truly a teaching by The Buddha, then is it unquestionably fulfilling the qualities of the Dhamma as: 'visible here and now (sandiṭṭhiko),' 'immediately effective (akāliko),' or 'inviting inspection: “Come and see (ehipassiko)”'? Is their any truth about what Thai Ajāhns say about modern bodhisattvas?

* Early History of Buddhism in Ceylon


Also, can anyone help me to understand what this means at the end of the above quote: "Thai Ajāhns say about modern bodhisattvas." Does Thai Ajans have a different idea about the bodhisattva path?
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Re: Arhats and Bodhisattvas

Postby Aloka » Thu May 29, 2014 11:33 am

This article from Buddhadharma magazine January 2008, is from Ajahn Amaro, abbot of Amaravati Theravada Thai Forest Tradition Monastery in the UK:

"Between Arhat and Bodhisattva -Finding the perfect balance"

http://www.thebuddhadharma.com/web-archive/2008/6/1/between-arhat-and-bodhisattva.html


:anjali:
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Re: Arhats and Bodhisattvas

Postby Denisa » Thu May 29, 2014 12:42 pm

Aloka wrote:This article from Buddhadharma magazine January 2008, is from Ajahn Amaro, abbot of Amaravati Theravada Thai Forest Tradition Monastery in the UK:

"Between Arhat and Bodhisattva -Finding the perfect balance"

http://www.thebuddhadharma.com/web-archive/2008/6/1/between-arhat-and-bodhisattva.html


:anjali:


Thanks Aloka. I don't know about Ajahn Amaro, but I think he was very wrong saying: "The bodhisattva principle is hardly ever spoken of, apart from its mention in the Jataka Tales, stories of the past lives of Gotama Buddha." As per my quote in the previous post, it seems, the Buddhavaṃsa is a part of the Canon. And a friend told me there is another book called Cariyapitaka in the Canon also talk about bodhisattva principle.
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Re: Arhats and Bodhisattvas

Postby Aloka » Thu May 29, 2014 2:39 pm

Denisa wrote:
Thanks Aloka. I don't know about Ajahn Amaro, but I think he was very wrong saying: "The bodhisattva principle is hardly ever spoken of, apart from its mention in the Jataka Tales, stories of the past lives of Gotama Buddha." As per my quote in the previous post, it seems, the Buddhavaṃsa is a part of the Canon. And a friend told me there is another book called Cariyapitaka in the Canon also talk about bodhisattva principle.


Hi Denisa,

Can you quote some actual text of the Bodhisattva doctrine which you say is mentioned in the Pali Canon, please? Additionally is this text spoken by the Buddha, or is it part of later commentaries?

Many thanks,

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Re: Arhats and Bodhisattvas

Postby Denisa » Thu May 29, 2014 4:54 pm

Hi Aloka,

Oh! I'm in trouble. I'm not a pali scholar therefore can't quote. That's why I wrote "As per my quote in the previous post, it seems, the Buddhavaṃsa is a part of the Canon." My whole quote above is from that scribd book, and it says Buddhavaṃsa has a commentary, so I thought it must be from Theravada Canon. Yes it is in Canon (5th nikaya) according to ATI (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/index.html):

10. Jataka — Birth Stories
547 tales that recount some of the Buddha's former lives during his long journey as a Bodhisatta aspiring to Awakening.

13. Apadana — Stories
Biographies, in verse, of the Buddha, 41 Paccekabuddhas ("silent" Buddhas), 549 arahant bhikkhus and 40 arahant bhikkhunis. Many of these stories are characterized by flowery paeans celebrating the glory, wonder, magnificence, etc. of the Buddha. The Apadana is believed to be a late addition to the Canon, added at the Second and Third Buddhist Councils.

14. Buddhavamsa — History of the Buddhas
Biographical accounts of Gotama Buddha and of the 24 Buddhas who preceded him.

15. Cariyapitaka — Basket of Conduct
Stories, in verse, of 35 of the Buddha's previous lives. These stories, purportedly retold by the Buddha at Ven. Sariputta's request, illustrate the Bodhisatta's practice of seven of the ten paramis (perfections).


Yes, from what I read in the scribd book, it seems this text along with a bigger portion of the 5th Nikaya not spoken by the Buddha, and it is late addition to the Canon. I'm new to this "late addition" idea, but from my limited knowledge on Suttas, it is difficult for me to imagine Buddha recommending another path where one has to extend the Samsara for aeons. I think Buddha said he consider even a slightest moment in Samsara as excrement!

This is from a foot note in the same page of the scridb book which mentioned earlier:
The scholars who do comparative studies on Theravada Canon and Āgamas of all different ancient Buddhist schools', found out that the first four Nikāyas—Dīgha, Majjhima, Saṃyutta, and Aṅguttara—are almost the same among all schools, with minor differences. They also found out that the fifth Khuddaka Nikāya to be largely differ—including Buddhavaṃsa—as well as the whole Abhidhamma Piṭaka.
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Re: Arhats and Bodhisattvas

Postby culaavuso » Thu May 29, 2014 7:48 pm

Mkoll wrote:Opinions? Thoughts?


Much interesting information about this subject can be found in the book The Bodhisattva Ideal: Essays on the Emergence of Mahayana published by the Buddhist Publication Society. Some of the essays can be found online, including:

Bodhi and Arahattaphala: From Early Buddhism to Early Mahāyāna by Karel Werner

Orality, Writing and Authority in South Asian Buddhism: Visionary Literature and the Struggle for Legitimacy in the Mahayana by David McMahan

The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravāda Buddhist Theory and Practice - A Reevaluation of the Bodhisattva-Śrāvaka Opposition by Jeffrey Samuels

Arahants, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

The essay The Evolution of the Bodhisattva Concept in Early Buddhist Canonical Literature by Ven. Bhikkhu Anālayo is based on extracts from the larger work The Genesis of the Bodhisattva Ideal
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Re: Arhats and Bodhisattvas

Postby SarathW » Fri May 30, 2014 1:53 am

"Followers of Mahayana say bodhisattvas are superior to arhats."

This statement contradict the teaching of Diamond Sutta.

http://www.diamond-sutra.com/diamond_su ... page1.html

:thinking:
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Re: Arhats and Bodhisattvas

Postby Denisa » Fri May 30, 2014 4:23 am

culaavuso wrote:///...///
The essay The Evolution of the Bodhisattva Concept in Early Buddhist Canonical Literature by Ven. Bhikkhu Anālayo is based on extracts from the larger work The Genesis of the Bodhisattva Ideal

Valued culaavuso,

Thanks a bunch for all those links. I'm going to read more treatises from Bhikkhu Anālayo about later additions.

SarathW wrote:"Followers of Mahayana say bodhisattvas are superior to arhats."

This statement contradict the teaching of Diamond Sutta.

http://www.diamond-sutra.com/diamond_su ... page1.html

:thinking:


I think, Theravada, Mahayana... all have evolution and additions which deviate from the original. That's why we find contradictions even within the Canon. I think that's "anicca".
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Re: Arhats and Bodhisattvas

Postby Denisa » Fri May 30, 2014 9:56 pm

This too may be of relevance: viewtopic.php?f=29&t=19303&p=292727

They also have a text called "Buddhavamtasaka".
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