Ariyan aspirations and the lay follower

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Ariyan aspirations and the lay follower

Postby phil » Wed Apr 01, 2009 7:16 am

Hi all

Could it be said that it is a modern phenomenon for lay followers to have Ariyan aspirations, to have an interest in what constitutes being sotappanna for example? And could this essentially be a Western phenomenon, rooted in the tendency of Westerners to seek achievment in this one lifetime, to be the best, to do things other people don't or can't do, to compete, to strive for goals?

Of course I'm not saying that striving for goals is absent from the Buddha's teaching, there's a lot of it, and many clear admonitions to strive for improvement, but it seems to me that when I read suttas involving lay followers, there is an interest in behaving in a way that leads to favourable rebirth, and the Buddha teaches in a way that aims at "favourable destinations" and it is only after the person in question has gone forth into the homeless life that there is any reference to Ariyan attainments. Of course there are cases where lay followers have Ariyan attainments, I'm not denying that, but did a householder ever address the Buddha expressing a desire to achieve stream entry, for example?

I guess I feel deficient sometimes because the notion of becoming an Ariyan with the grossly defiled mind that I know I have (so to speak) seems a little absurd, but aiming for rebirth in the human or deva realms is not out of the question. Perhaps you can inspire me (and others like me, if they are here) to be a little more ambitious. :smile:

Metta,

Phil
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Re: Ariyan aspirations and the lay follower

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed Apr 01, 2009 7:34 am

Check out the Bodhipakkhiya Dīpanī by the late Venerable Ledi Sayādaw, especially the section on the Four Iddhipādas, and The Simile of the Wealthy Man.
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Re: Ariyan aspirations and the lay follower

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Apr 01, 2009 7:37 am

Greetings Phil,

There are many records in the suttas of lay followers attaining ariyan status, even if opportunities for arahantship are extremely rare.... hence that's the first major milestone I hope to come across in my travels. Why not, what is there to lose from such a goal, even if you fail?

If attempts to attain stream-entry in this lifetime fail, yet deliver some modicum of wisdom, would we have been better off instead doing meritorious deeds which lead to heavenly realms, but are devoid of wisdom of the way things are? Personally I don't think so, but it makes for an interesting question.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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Re: Ariyan aspirations and the lay follower

Postby nathan » Wed Apr 01, 2009 7:57 am

Here is a hypothetical answer to your question. It is natural in our times to question everything, this is the nature of modernity, post modernity and post post modernity. This questioning has an upside and a downside and I think it is beneficial to see that about it and apply whatever wisdom one can to that aspect of things because that is living in the present. So, globally, presently, it is natural to call everything into question, try to nail down answers, question those answers, find better questions, etc.. In traditional terms, this is trying to reinvent the wheel. Which is not going to happen in this case if the Buddha-sāsana is alive. I, for one, am convinced beyond questioning that it is.

So, if one were to hypothetically suggest that the east is actually producing sotāpannassa angāni by the gross tons on a regular basis and has been doing so for two and a half millennia, then we should all be on our knees in gratitude for this inestimable field of merit that has been sown in the world. That is one way of looking at it. Not where everyone is at I'm sure, but it is a fully integrated part of how I see things. We could suggest all kinds of further hypothetical things on this basis. Such as that there would be those out there in the world who would naturally be drawn back to Buddhadhamma because of past kamma and given the resources available today even those who would otherwise be entirely unable to make a meaningful connection with the Dhamma now can do so with ease. We live in very interesting times this way.
:smile:
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Re: Ariyan aspirations and the lay follower

Postby nathan » Wed Apr 01, 2009 8:08 am

One small thing came to mind upon further reflection. Pretty much every other worldview I know of still provides the means for a person to fall in love with themselves or stay in love with themselves somehow. Dhamma/Dharma is the only antidote I know of for this, so if it introduces even a hint of something more liberating and desirable than that kind of condition to anyone it is in itself purely beneficial for all people.
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Re: Ariyan aspirations and the lay follower

Postby phil » Wed Apr 01, 2009 9:49 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Phil,

There are many records in the suttas of lay followers attaining ariyan status, even if opportunities for arahantship are extremely rare.... hence that's the first major milestone I hope to come across in my travels. Why not, what is there to lose from such a goal, even if you fail?

If attempts to attain stream-entry in this lifetime fail, yet deliver some modicum of wisdom, would we have been better off instead doing meritorious deeds which lead to heavenly realms, but are devoid of wisdom of the way things are? Personally I don't think so, but it makes for an interesting question.

Metta,
Retro. :)


Yes, I was thinking this afterwards as well, Retro. There is no downside to any kind of striving with respect to the Dhamma. I know some people who say "I would rather have never come across the Dhamma than to practice the wrong way" but I think they are severely misguided on that point.

I guess the only possible downfall would be if people became discouraged and fell off the path completely because it became clear to them that they will never practice in the very demanding ways required by those who really take the plunge. For example, because of the great emphasis placed on meditation by lay followers in the west (safe to say more than in Asia, for better or worse, probably better) I can imagine a person who cannot meditate in the ways he or she is taught and therefore gives up, thinks that he or she cannot live by Dhamma without meditating, who strictly equates the Dhamma with meditation, for example. And who therefore drops Dhamma along with the meditation and suffers for it.

Metta,

Phil
Kammalakkhano , bhikkhave, bālo, kammalakkhano pandito, apadānasobhanī paññāti
(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
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Re: Ariyan aspirations and the lay follower

Postby phil » Wed Apr 01, 2009 9:51 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Check out the Bodhipakkhiya Dīpanī by the late Venerable Ledi Sayādaw, especially the section on the Four Iddhipādas, and The Simile of the Wealthy Man.


Thank you kindly, Bhante.

Metta,

Phil
Kammalakkhano , bhikkhave, bālo, kammalakkhano pandito, apadānasobhanī paññāti
(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
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Re: Ariyan aspirations and the lay follower

Postby Ben » Wed Apr 01, 2009 12:27 pm

Hi Phil

I don;t think it was an aspiration peculiar to western practitioners who wanted to achieve sotapanna in this life. U Ba Khin exhorted his students to achieve sotapatti in this life.
My advice to you is to concentrate on getting your daily practice together, be more perfect in your sila, ensure your meditation is regular, attend retreats more frequently, and I think the results will just look after themselves.
Metta

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Re: Ariyan aspirations and the lay follower

Postby Rui Sousa » Wed Apr 01, 2009 3:20 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Check out the Bodhipakkhiya Dīpanī by the late Venerable Ledi Sayādaw, especially the section on the Four Iddhipādas, and The Simile of the Wealthy Man.


Thank you Venerable.

The wealthy man simile was most helpful and inspiring.
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Re: Ariyan aspirations and the lay follower

Postby kc2dpt » Wed Apr 01, 2009 3:33 pm

phil wrote:I guess I feel deficient sometimes because the notion of becoming an Ariyan with the grossly defiled mind that I know I have (so to speak) seems a little absurd, but aiming for rebirth in the human or deva realms is not out of the question.

If this is how you feel then aim for a good rebirth. Clearly this is something the Buddha approved of.

And could this essentially be a Western phenomenon, rooted in the tendency of Westerners to seek achievment in this one lifetime, to be the best, to do things other people don't or can't do, to compete, to strive for goals?

I would focus on your own motivations and not worry so much about the motivations of others. Just as the Buddha clearly approved of striving for a good rebirth, he also clearly approved of striving for arahantship.
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Re: Ariyan aspirations and the lay follower

Postby Rui Sousa » Wed Apr 01, 2009 3:46 pm

Phill,

One of the first Theravada texts I have read was one from Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw ( Satipatthana Vipassana ) from which I got the impression that the goal of realizing Nibbana was not supposed to be some long-distance objective, in fact I understood that the objective of becoming an Aryian shouldn't be second to any worldly objectives, and that efforts on that direction were the most worthy objectives one can have.

I can't see a reason why we should hold back on that and say that removing the lower fetters is a superhuman task. Sure it is not an easy task, but it doesn't get much easier than on this human realm, were suffering is more visible and wisdom can be developed faster.

Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw, on the above mentioned text, says something I have remembered many times since I read it for the first time:

Impermanence, suffering and non-self will be realized through direct personal experience, and with the full development of these knowledges, Nibbana will be realized. It will not take long to achieve the objective, possibly one month, or twenty days, or fifteen days, or, on rare occasions, even in seven days for those select few with extraordinary parami.

Yogis should therefore proceed with the practice of contemplation in great earnestness and with full confidence, trusting that it will surely lead to the development of the noble path and fruit and to the realization of Nibbana. They will then be free from the wrong view of self and from spiritual doubt, and they will no longer be subject to the round of rebirth in the miserable realms of the hells, the animal world, and the sphere of petas.

May yogis meet with every success in their noble endeavor.
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Re: Ariyan aspirations and the lay follower

Postby phil » Thu Apr 02, 2009 12:14 pm

Peter wrote:
phil wrote:I guess I feel deficient sometimes because the notion of becoming an Ariyan with the grossly defiled mind that I know I have (so to speak) seems a little absurd, but aiming for rebirth in the human or deva realms is not out of the question.

If this is how you feel then aim for a good rebirth. Clearly this is something the Buddha approved of.

And could this essentially be a Western phenomenon, rooted in the tendency of Westerners to seek achievment in this one lifetime, to be the best, to do things other people don't or can't do, to compete, to strive for goals?

I would focus on your own motivations and not worry so much about the motivations of others. Just as the Buddha clearly approved of striving for a good rebirth, he also clearly approved of striving for arahantship.


Well said, Peter. Thanks. You have a good way of cutting things down to the quick.


Metta,

Phil
Kammalakkhano , bhikkhave, bālo, kammalakkhano pandito, apadānasobhanī paññāti
(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
(AN 3.2 Lakkhana Sutta)
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Re: Ariyan aspirations and the lay follower

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Apr 02, 2009 10:45 pm

Greetings,

Peter wrote:
phil wrote:I guess I feel deficient sometimes because the notion of becoming an Ariyan with the grossly defiled mind that I know I have (so to speak) seems a little absurd, but aiming for rebirth in the human or deva realms is not out of the question.

If this is how you feel then aim for a good rebirth. Clearly this is something the Buddha approved of.

Yes, this is true... though it does also call to mind the rebuke the Buddha gave to Sariputta when he gave guidance to a dying man to achieve a destination lower than his potential.

Let me know if you want me to chase down a reference, I think it's somewhere in...

The Life Of Sariputta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el090.html

Apologies for the slightly rushed response.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Ariyan aspirations and the lay follower

Postby Nadi » Thu Apr 02, 2009 11:07 pm

Rui Sousa wrote:
One of the first Theravada texts I have read was one from Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw ( Satipatthana Vipassana ) from which I got the impression that the goal of realizing Nibbana was not supposed to be some long-distance objective, in fact I understood that the objective of becoming an Aryian shouldn't be second to any worldly objectives, and that efforts on that direction were the most worthy objectives one can have.


I agree with this. I think the Buddha said in some sutta (sorry I don't remember which) that he does not recommend hanging around in samsara for even a second longer. As far as I can remember, it was said to a monk who had attained anagami, and was thinking of becoming an arahant in his next life (in the realm of the non-returners). The Buddha encouraged him to continue his practice in this very life. Maybe the venerable Bhikkus can point out what sutta this is from?

So I think it's better to have an aspiration to become a sotapanna in this life. It's sort of a win-win situation. If u get there, that's great. If not, you will get a favourable rebirth, and get to continue your practice.
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Re: Ariyan aspirations and the lay follower

Postby pink_trike » Thu Apr 02, 2009 11:08 pm

Ben wrote:Hi Phil
My advice to you is to concentrate on getting your daily practice together, be more perfect in your sila, ensure your meditation is regular, attend retreats more frequently, and I think the results will just look after themselves.


Excellent advise.
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Re: Ariyan aspirations and the lay follower

Postby kc2dpt » Fri Apr 03, 2009 12:40 am

retrofuturist wrote:though it does also call to mind the rebuke the Buddha gave to Sariputta when he gave guidance to a dying man to achieve a destination lower than his potential.

I wonder if Sariputta knew the man's potential, or could have known if he thought to investigate. Otherwise why the rebuke?
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Re: Ariyan aspirations and the lay follower

Postby sukhamanveti » Fri Apr 03, 2009 2:20 am

phil wrote:Hi all

Could it be said that it is a modern phenomenon for lay followers to have Ariyan aspirations, to have an interest in what constitutes being sotappanna for example? And could this essentially be a Western phenomenon, rooted in the tendency of Westerners to seek achievment in this one lifetime, to be the best, to do things other people don't or can't do, to compete, to strive for goals?

Of course I'm not saying that striving for goals is absent from the Buddha's teaching, there's a lot of it, and many clear admonitions to strive for improvement, but it seems to me that when I read suttas involving lay followers, there is an interest in behaving in a way that leads to favourable rebirth, and the Buddha teaches in a way that aims at "favourable destinations" and it is only after the person in question has gone forth into the homeless life that there is any reference to Ariyan attainments. Of course there are cases where lay followers have Ariyan attainments, I'm not denying that, but did a householder ever address the Buddha expressing a desire to achieve stream entry, for example?

I guess I feel deficient sometimes because the notion of becoming an Ariyan with the grossly defiled mind that I know I have (so to speak) seems a little absurd, but aiming for rebirth in the human or deva realms is not out of the question. Perhaps you can inspire me (and others like me, if they are here) to be a little more ambitious. :smile:

Metta,

Phil


Hi Phil,

If you want some inspiration to aim for the highest goal, you might read about Ugga of Vesali. This amazing lay follower overcame doubt by penetrating the Dhamma, he broke the five lower fetters, attaining the state of anagami or non-returner, he often taught monks (!), and he was praised in 8 ways by the Buddha himself. See AN 8.21 (in Bhikkhu Bodhi's AN anthology, this is #158). We all have defilements on the journey, but we also all have the potential to attain supreme happiness and total peace.

Ed
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Re: Ariyan aspirations and the lay follower

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Apr 03, 2009 2:29 am

Greetings Peter,

Peter wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:though it does also call to mind the rebuke the Buddha gave to Sariputta when he gave guidance to a dying man to achieve a destination lower than his potential.

I wonder if Sariputta knew the man's potential, or could have known if he thought to investigate. Otherwise why the rebuke?


I'm not sure... it is however an example of aiming "too low", whereas I can't think of a counterpoint where anyone is criticised for aiming (or encouraging others to aim) "too high".

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Ariyan aspirations and the lay follower

Postby Dhammanando » Fri Apr 03, 2009 4:53 am

Hi Peter,

Peter wrote:I wonder if Sariputta knew the man's potential,


I don't think so.

    Soon after the venerable Sāriputta had left, the brahmin Dhanañjānī died and reappeared in the Brahmā-world.

    Then the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Bhikkhus, Sāriputta, having established the brahmin Dhanañjānī in the inferior Brahmā-world, rose from his seat and departed while there was still more to be done.”

    Then the venerable Sāriputta went to the Blessed One, and after paying homage to him, he sat down at one side and said: “Venerable sir, the brahmin Dhanañjānī is afflicted, suffering, and gravely ill; he pays homage with his head at the Blessed One’s feet.”

    “Sāriputta, having established the brahmin Dhanañjānī in the inferior Brahmā-world, why did you rise from your seat and leave while there was still more to be done?”

    “Venerable sir, I thought thus: ‘These Brahmins are devoted to the Brahmā-world. Suppose I show the brahmin Dhanañjānī the path to the company of Brahmā.’”

    “Sāriputta, the brahmin Dhanañjānī has died and has reappeared in the Brahmā-world.”
    (Dhanañjānī Sutta, MN. 97)

From: Bhikkhu Bodhi's notes:

    Sati uttarikaraṇīye ("while there was still more to be done"). Ven. Sāriputta had left without giving him a teaching that would have enabled him to arrive at the supramundane path and become fixed in destination for enlightenment. Compared to this even rebirth in the Brahmā-world is described as “inferior” (hīna). This remark has the force of a gentle reproach. The Buddha must have seen that Dhanañjānī had the potential to attain the supramundane path, since elsewhere (e.g., MN 99.24-27) he himself teaches only the way to the Brahma-world when that potential is lacking in his listener.

This episode is briefly alluded to in the Peṭakopadesa (Peṭ. 79; Piṭaka Disclosure 102-3), an early treatise on hermeneutics. It crops up in a discussion of which sayings of the Buddha's disciples should be accepted as Dhamma. Here the Buddha's words to Sāriputta are treated as a "non-congratulation", rather than a rebuke:

    But there is also the kind of hearer (sāvaka) who knows the Ten Powered One's province, either limited or unlimitedly, yet he does not know that power [itself] at all beyond the hearing [of it]. As, for instance, in the case of the brahmin exhorted by the venerable Sāriputta. Now that venerable one lacked [the Tathāgata power of] knowledge of variety in faculties and powers (indriya-bala-vematta-ñāṇa), hence by his not knowing the encompassing of other persons, though the brahmin had more he could still have done [i.e. by attaining the noble path], he was instead made to reappear [after death] in the Brahmā-world, and so the venerable [Sāriputta] was not congratulated by the Blessed One.

The treatise then goes on to cite the Kassapagotta Sutta (SN. i. 199) as an example of a disciple (Mahākassapa) whose lack of the Tathāgata powers results in him giving his nephew a teaching that is too high for his capacity, with a similarly unfruitful outcome.

or could have known if he thought to investigate.


There is a commentarial telling of the story in which Sāriputta does investigate as best he can, but unfortunately his best isn't good enough. I can't locate it at the moment, but it goes something like this: Sāriputta surveys the previous hundred thousand lives of the brahmin and in none of them can he detect any past action that could be a cause for awakening in the present life. And so he teaches him the way to Brahmā instead. But the Buddha —whose psychic powers can go further back than Sāriputta's— sees that in the brahmin's hundred thouand and first previous life he had heard the Dhamma taught by some past Buddha and in that hearing there was a sufficient cause for stream-entry in the present life. Except that it was too late.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
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Re: Ariyan aspirations and the lay follower

Postby fijiNut » Fri Apr 03, 2009 5:10 am

Phil,
It seems self-defeating to accept self-imposed limitations of ones ability. If we never try, we will never find out.

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