Mahayana Bodhisatta and Theravada Stream-Enterer

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Mahayana Bodhisatta and Theravada Stream-Enterer

Postby clw_uk » Mon Jun 29, 2009 9:49 am

Greetings


In Mahayana, as far as i understand, a bodhisatta is someone who holds of nibbana in order to save other beings, however in Theravada and sutta terms wouldnt this mean that a bodhisatta is still quite ignorant, since they would be below the level of Stream-Enterer because if they reached that level then they would be destined for nibbana and wouldnt have a choice to hold it off


Im not trying to put down Mahayana but just thought this was a contradiction of the pali suttas


metta
“Happy is the man who has broken the chains which hurt the mind, and has given up worrying once and for all.” Ovid
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Re: Mahayana Bodhisatta and Theravada Stream-Enterer

Postby Rhino » Mon Jun 29, 2009 11:46 am

Hello clw_uk,
I've never understand that. The Bodhisatta in Mahayana wants to stay in samsara for liberating all beings. So he must avoid wisdom (which appears firstly with sotapatti) because this will lead to Nibbana. Therefore he doesn't no anything about the Dhamma from direct insight, he is still a putthujjana. And as a putthujjana he cannot teach others to reach Nibbana because he don't know what it is and how to achieve it.

I think there are different understandings of the word 'Bodhisatta' in Theravada and Mahayana. According to Theravada:
The word can therefore be used in reference to all those who seek Nibbāna, including Buddhas, Pacceka Buddhas, and the disciples of Buddhas (Buddha-paccekabuddha-buddha-sāvakā), but is commonly used only of those beings who seek to become Buddhas. The word may have been used originally only in connection with the last life of a Buddha, in such contexts as "in the days before my Enlightenment, when as yet I was only a Bodhisatta”. E.g., M.i.17, 114, 163; so also in the Mahāpadāna Sutta (D.ii.13) and the Acchariyaabbhutadhamma Sutta (M.iii.119).

Source: http://www.palikanon.de/english/pali_names/b/bodhisatta.htm

In the suttas there is imho no word that the Buddha wanted to attain Nibbana to liberate all beings. Far from it. After his awakening he hadn't any intention to teach the dhamma at first.
Last edited by Rhino on Mon Jun 29, 2009 3:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
With best wishes

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Re: Mahayana Bodhisatta and Theravada Stream-Enterer

Postby thornbush » Mon Jun 29, 2009 1:00 pm

Hi clw_uk,

This old cat's attempt at answering this: (and no I am not an expert on anything except fumbling around life)
Firstly, the ideals of a Bodhisatta as defined by the Theravada and the ideals of a Bodhisattva in the Mahayana are different.
In the Mahayana, a Bodhisattva can range from one who has just started on the Path to realized Buddhas who manifest in the Sambhogakaya (Reward body) to actuate their vows made when They first started out on the causal ground for the sake of the deliverance and leading sentient beings to the Dharma. Examples like Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, Vajrapani and so forth are such to exemplify that point. Even Sakyamuni Buddha, has this to say in the Lotus Sutra:
http://yzzj.fodian.net/World/0262_16.html
"The Thus Come One's power of spiritual penetrations is acknowledged by all gods, humans, and asuras in the world.

They say that Shakyamuni Buddha, having left the palace of the Shakyan clan and having gone to a place not far from the city of Gaya to sit in the Bodhimanda, has now attained anuttarasamyaksambodhi.

"However, good men, I actually realized Buddhahood limitless, boundless, hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of eons ago.

"From that time on, I have always remained in the Saha World, speaking the Dharma to teach and transform beings.

Also, in other places, in hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of lands, I have guided and benefited living beings.

"Good men, in that interval, I spoke of the Buddha Dipankara and others, and I further spoke of them as entering Nirvana, but those were just discriminations made expediently.

"Good men, if a living being comes before me, I observe with my Buddha eye his faith and other qualities, as well as the keenness or dullness of his faculties, and I take him across in an appropriate manner.

"In all places, although the names by which I refer to myself are different and I may be older or younger, I also appear and announce that I am about to enter Nirvana. I also employ various expedient devices, speaking the subtle and wonderful Dharma and enabling living beings to bring forth happiness in their minds.

"Good men, the Thus Come One, seeing living beings delighting in lesser dharmas, beings of scanty virtue and heavy defilements, speaks for these people, saying, 'When young, I left the home-life and attained anuttarasamyaksambodhi.'

In truth, however, I became a Buddha a long time before that. I speak in this way merely as an expedient to teach and transform living beings and to cause them to enter the Buddha Way."

"Thus since I realized Buddhahood in the very remote past, my life span has been limitless asamkhyeyas of eons, eternal and never extinguished.

Good men, the life span I realized when formerly practicing the Bodhisattva path has not yet been exhausted and is twice that of the above number.

In a summarised verse:
From the time I attained Buddhahood,
The eons that have passed
Are limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads
Of kotis of asamkhyeyas in number.
I always speak the Dharma to teach and transform
Countless millions of living beings,
So they enter the Buddha Way.
And throughout these limitless eons,
In order to save living beings,
I expediently manifest Nirvana.
But in truth I do not pass into quiescence.
I remain here, always speaking the Dharma.
I always stay right here...

I speak various Dharmas for their sakes
To save them in an appropriate manner.
I am always thinking,
"How can I cause living beings
To enter the Unsurpassed Way
And to quickly perfect the body of a Buddha?"

Secondly, the 4 stages of Sainthood are also found in the Mahayana, only that more is added to that discipline. So let's concede that this is where the 2 Paths will differ. I will share with you what some of my conversations with certain Monastics and learned laity have yielded:
1. It is not true that one can 'delay' Nirvana. One meaning is that what is construed as the 'attainment of Nirvana' in one school may not be so in the other but merely a high level of attainment for the latter. For one example of what the attainment of Nirvana is to Mahayanists, read it in the Lankavatara Sutra's CHAPTER TWO: COLLECTION OF ALL THE DHARMAS: XXXVIII. On Nirvana
And a simple link on what constitutes an Arhat: http://www.drba.org/dharma/btts/9xxentr ... .asp?wid=9

2. From the very beginning, based on point 1, on the causal ground, the Mahayana Path is to be practiced with this in mind: for the benefit of all sentient beings and this is known as the Bodhicitta in its most simplistic term. Now that does not mean that one neglects oneself in that pursuit but rather 'for all sentient beings' includes oneself in that 'benefiting for all'. So one still has to practice the perfections as taught in the 4 Stages of Sainthood and more. After all, how can a mere rookie hope to deliver others when him/herself is not free of that very bond?

3. So, on another level, in the Mahayana when one speaks of 'attainment' and 'non-attainment', it is spoken with a non-duality concept and coupled with the understanding of Sunyata (another subject by itself). So read on one view of what the Mahayana regards as non-duality:The Dharma-Door of Nonduality and also this excerpt:
http://www.ymba.org/BWF/bwf32.htm#misreading
...most cultivators are still attached to "duality," and have not reconciled essence and marks, existence and non-existence, noumenon and phenomena.
That is why they embrace essence to reject marks, noumenon to reject phenomena, Emptiness to reject Existence, and vice versa -- thus creating disputes, doubts and perplexity.

Little do they suspect that there is mutual identity between noumenon and phenomena -- phenomena are noumenon, noumenon is phenomena.
If we divide them and consider them separately, phenomena are not true phenomena, noumenon is not true noumenon. This is true also of essence and marks, existence and non-existence and other dualistic dharmas.

For this reason, the Vimalakirti Sutra speaks of the non-dual method to destroy this attachment.
Non-dual means reconciling all things, penetrating into their very nature; it does not mean "one." This is the true realm of "Mind-Only."

Any other doctrine based on the Dharma Doors of Existence or Emptiness is merely an expedient for teaching purposes.

The Theravada POV on Dhamma and Non-duality

Thirdly, one illustration used in a talk I once attended:
From the Mahayana POV:
The chilli sauce bottle:
At this stage, sauce and smell are eliminated and finally even the bottle is gone. This is where the level of a Samyak Sambuddha is 'attained'.
The smell of chilli sauce:
At this stage, when the 'sauce is gone', the Bodhisattva goes through the 'higher practices' like the Ten Grounds of Bodhisattvahood (see simple link here: http://www.drba.org/dharma/btts/9xxentr ... sp?wid=221 ) and also this short summary:
http://www.purifymind.com/glossaryT.htm
Ten Stages of Bodhisattva
These are the ten stages of development of Bodhisattva depending on their merits and virtues:
1.Pramudita (joy) - job at having overcome the difficulties and sufferings, now entering on the path to Buddhahood
2.Vimala (purity) - freedom from all possible defilement
3.Prabhakari (enlightenment) - stage of further enlightenment
4.Arcismati (wisdom) - stage of glowing wisdom
5.Sudurjaya (no difficulty) - stage of mastering the utmost difficulties
6.Abhimukhi (open way) - the open way of wisdom above definitions of impurity and purity
7.Duramgama (proceeding afar) - getting above ideas of self in order to save others
8.Acala (unperturbed) - attainment of being unperturbed
9.Sadhumati (discriminatory wisdom) - the finest discriminatory wisdom, knowing where and how to save, and possessing the Ten Powers
10.Dharma megha (law cloud) - attainment of the fertilizing powers of law cloud

to get rid of the fine traces of Samsara and Delusion that are still at the 4th Stage of Sainthood.
The chilli sauce:
At this stage, on the causal ground, a Bodhisattva learns to transcend this, i.e via the 4 Stages of Sainthood.
Now there are some Mahayana schools that combines both of the first two: 'chilli sauce and its smell' as one stage of training. So, it's as if they are saying that one does not have to go through the 4 Stages but straightaway, start off on the stages of Bodhisattvahood. But again, that's another topic by itself.

In summary see this sample commentary on Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva by the late Ven Master Hsuan Hua:
http://www.buddhistdoor.com/OldWeb/bdoo ... sutra1.htm
Long ago in the distant past Earth Store Bodhisattva vowed,
"If the hells are not empty I will not become a Buddha; only when living beings have all been saved, then I will attain Bodhi."

The hells cannot cease to exist until the karma and the afflictions of living beings have come to an end, and that can never happen because of the nature of living beings.

In the view of everyday science and philosophy, isn't Earth Store Bodhisattva's behavior irrational?

Doesn't it mean that Earth Store Bodhisattva will never have the opportunity to become a Buddha?

No, it does not mean that he cannot become a Buddha, and his vow is by no means irrational. His behavior is in fact a manifestation of great compassion.

Since he made the vow, "Only when all the hells are emptied will I become a Buddha; only when living beings have all been saved will I attain to Bodhi,"
Earth Store has used his awesome spirit to subdue living beings who have accumulated bad karma.

He thus has passed through an un-thinkably long time yet still has not realized Buddhahood, because after one being has been taken across, there is yet another ready to go, and after that one, still another.

There is no one-to-one correlation between the number of beings born and those entering nirvana, since those who are born outnumber those who attain nirvana by tens of hundred of millions.

The same relationship exists in the realm of birth and death; the number of births in any given period is greater than the deaths in the same time.

Those who are to die have to grow old and pass through an entire life before that happens, but those who are waiting to be born only have to spend nine months in the womb.

Since birth is such a rapid process, the persons born greatly outnumber the dying at any given moment.

For this reason Earth Store Bodhisattva has not yet become a Buddha.

He does not, however have any regrets about his vow, and the more living beings there are to rescue, the more he has to do.

And the Ven Master continues here...
Sutra:
"Hear me now in the palace of the Trayastrimsa Heaven as I praise Earth Store Bodhisattva's beneficial and inconceivable deeds among men and gods, his rapid progress in the causes of wisdom, his certification on the Tenth Ground, and his ultimate irreversibility from Anuttarasamyaksambodhi."

Commentary:
In the above passage of text the Buddha praised Earth Store Bodhisattva's irreversibility from Anuttarasamyaksambodhi, the Utmost, Right, and Equal Enlightenment.

Although Earth Store Bodhisattva has not yet become a Buddha, the degree of his enlightenment is equal to that of the Buddhas.

There are varying degrees of enlightenment.
Those of the Two Vehicles- Sound-Hearers and those enlightened to causation-are surpassed by the enlightenment of the Bodhisattvas.
The enlightenment of the Bodhisattvas is said to be right and equal, since it can be said to be equal to that of the Buddhas.
Such enlightenment, however, is still not the highest degree, since it is surpassed by that of the Buddha.
Thus only Buddhas are said to have the Unsurpassed, Right, and Equal Enlightenment.


The term "irreversibility" refers to the Three Types of Non-retreat.
The first of these is Irreversibility of Position, so called because there is no retreat to the practices of the Two Vehicles.
The second is Irreversibility of Practice: there is no retreat to the non-cultivating behavior of common people.
The third is Irreversibility of Thought, so called because the thought is firmly fixed on the practice of the Great-Vehicle Dharmas.

I found this nice quote:
http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index. ... &p=1113435
For someone on the path for arhatship, mahayana is not necesarilly better, and vice versa.
and
We practice as best we can in order to develop wisdom and compassion. That's the case in all Buddhist traditions.
and
So, in short, neither is better, neither is worse, they are merely different courses for different horses.
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Re: Mahayana Bodhisatta and Theravada Stream-Enterer

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jun 29, 2009 2:29 pm

thornbush wrote:

I found this nice quote:
http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index. ... &p=1113435
For someone on the path for arhatship, mahayana is not necesarilly better, and vice versa.
and
We practice as best we can in order to develop wisdom and compassion. That's the case in all Buddhist traditions.
and
So, in short, neither is better, neither is worse, they are merely different courses for different horses.


From an interesting thread on the grey forum, which is highly instructive as to the problematics with the Mahayana bodhisattva position.
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: Mahayana Bodhisatta and Theravada Stream-Enterer

Postby Individual » Mon Jun 29, 2009 7:37 pm

clw_uk wrote:Greetings


In Mahayana, as far as i understand, a bodhisatta is someone who holds of nibbana in order to save other beings, however in Theravada and sutta terms wouldnt this mean that a bodhisatta is still quite ignorant, since they would be below the level of Stream-Enterer because if they reached that level then they would be destined for nibbana and wouldnt have a choice to hold it off


Im not trying to put down Mahayana but just thought this was a contradiction of the pali suttas


metta

It's not necessarily contradictory, only a different interpretation. Theravadins treat Nibbana with negative theology (only describing it in terms of what it isn't) while Mahayanists treat Nibbana positively, like a kind of alternate dimension of bliss, a heaven above all others. Because of this, Theravadins and Mahayanists teach largely the same practices, but with different technical terms: The Theravadin's ideal is the Arahat (follower of the Buddha) to reach Nirvana (something great only described in negative terms), while the range of Arahants and Buddhas is regarded as the same. The Mahayanist's ideal is the Bodhisattva (one training to become a Buddha) for the benefit of all others and to reach the highest, most perfect state of enlightenment, of nirvana, contrasting this with the ideal of seeking enlightenment selfishly, out of a desire to enter a realm of bliss without a regard for others, and the range of Arahants is considered inferior to that of Buddhas or even powerful bodhisattvas. Mahayana texts add a lot of new ideas and people to Buddhist mythology, but the core ideas do not contradict the Pali suttas. If they did, why even include the Pali suttas in the Chinese Buddhist canon?

If we chuck aside these technical terms -- Arhat, Buddhas, Bodhisattva, Nibbana, etc. -- look at what they are doing and thinking and in most cases, there isn't a meaningful distinction.
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Mahayana Bodhisatta and Theravada Stream-Enterer

Postby Jechbi » Mon Jun 29, 2009 11:14 pm

clw_uk wrote:In Mahayana, as far as i understand, a bodhisatta is someone who holds of nibbana in order to save other beings, however in Theravada and sutta terms wouldnt this mean that a bodhisatta is still quite ignorant, since they would be below the level of Stream-Enterer because if they reached that level then they would be destined for nibbana and wouldnt have a choice to hold it off

In Mahayana, the Buddha is a Bodhisattva.

Every time this discussion comes up, it reminds me of Sebastian Dimwitty trying to figure out who's on first:

We spend so much time getting tangled up in terms and labels.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: Mahayana Bodhisatta and Theravada Stream-Enterer

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jun 29, 2009 11:22 pm

In Mahayana, the Buddha is a Bodhisattva.



That, of course, was something recently said on the gray forum by Mahayana apologists, but that is a position, not universally held by Mahayanist that came after centuries of development of the idea of the bodhisattva.
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: Mahayana Bodhisatta and Theravada Stream-Enterer

Postby Jechbi » Mon Jun 29, 2009 11:33 pm

good point
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: Mahayana Bodhisatta and Theravada Stream-Enterer

Postby rowyourboat » Fri Jul 03, 2009 3:26 pm

clw_uk wrote:Greetings


In Mahayana, as far as i understand, a bodhisatta is someone who holds of nibbana in order to save other beings, however in Theravada and sutta terms wouldnt this mean that a bodhisatta is still quite ignorant, since they would be below the level of Stream-Enterer because if they reached that level then they would be destined for nibbana and wouldnt have a choice to hold it off


Im not trying to put down Mahayana but just thought this was a contradiction of the pali suttas


metta


I agree with this- even their meditation methods simply offer glimpses of something like nibbana- tibetan monks do years of study as they will only have sutamaya and cintamaya panna (wisdom from hearing and contemplating/debating), not bhavanamana panna (insight from meditation). I have heard of one theravada monk who apparently came very close to stream entry but a wish to become a buddha so could not progress any further. I think bodhisattvas have a lot to learn from ariyas including stream entrants, to complete their perfection of wisdom.
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