Why the Buddha's Enlightenment seems higher than Arahan's?

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Why the Buddha's Enlightenment seems higher than Arahan's?

Postby Dugu » Mon Nov 09, 2009 4:31 am

When I read the Sutras, I get the impression Buddha's Enlightenment is somehow higher in the sense he can see everything in completion as compare to Arahans. Why is that?
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Re: Why the Buddha's Enlightenment seems higher than Arahan's?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Nov 09, 2009 4:47 am

Hi Dugu,
Dugu wrote:When I read the Sutras, I get the impression Buddha's Enlightenment is somehow higher in the sense he can see everything in completion as compare to Arahans. Why is that?

The simple answer is that a Bhuddha has to perfect the paramis and so on enlightenment has various powers perfected. It appears that Arahants may or may not have many of these powers (e.g. psychic powers), depending on their background. According to Theravada the liberation is the same. To invent a simile: they all get to the summit of the mountain, but the Buddha spent a long time practising on each face of the mountain and so has skill in all aspects of mountain climbing (climbing on ice, snow, rock, using ropes, pitons, etc...), whereas the Arahants went straight for the summit, so did not develop all of those skills during their climb.

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Re: Why the Buddha's Enlightenment seems higher than Arahan's?

Postby pilgrim » Mon Nov 09, 2009 5:54 am

My understanding is that the Buddha is a Samma-sambudha, a thoroughly perfected being whose achievement cannot be surpassed. In the process of becoming a Buddha , he destroys the 10 fetters that bind one to samsara.

An arahant has destroyed the 10 fetters only. That achievement is enough to stop rebirth in samsara, but an arahant does not have the other qualities of a samma-sambuddha.
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Re: Why the Buddha's Enlightenment seems higher than Arahan's?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Nov 09, 2009 5:57 am

pilgrim wrote:My understanding is that the Buddha is a Samma-sambudha, a thoroughly perfected being whose achievement cannot be surpassed. In the process of becoming a Buddha , he destroys the 10 fetters that bind one to samsara.

An arahant has destroyed the 10 fetters only. That achievement is enough to stop rebirth in samsara, but an arahant does not have the other qualities of a samma-sambuddha.

The bodhi of a Buddha and of an arahant are the same.
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: Why the Buddha's Enlightenment seems higher than Arahan's?

Postby Dugu » Mon Nov 09, 2009 6:18 am

What's the meaning behind the word "Arahan"? I noticed the Buddha refers to all his followers who attain liberation as Arahan, while he would distinguish himself with a different title.
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Re: Why the Buddha's Enlightenment seems higher than Arahan'

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Nov 09, 2009 6:41 am

The following is something I posted elsewhere in response to a Mahayanist named Savant, who strongly disareed with the idea that the bodhi of the Buddha and of the arahant are the same.

CAVEAT LECTOR, reader beware. If you do not like ‘high and mighty "greater than thou" undertone of the hairsplitting, jargon and transparent veneer of intellectual superiority [ego dressed up for night on the town]’ do not read any further. If you do read further and get annoyed, that is your fault, so please do not share that with us. It is your fault, you were warned, so deal it.

-- Also, just a note, what is being present here concerns only the Pali suttas/Theravadin notion of the arahant. The idea of a arhathood as being sort of rest stop, of lesser attainment, on the way to being a bodhisattva/Buddhahood is not a Pali sutta/ Theravadin doctrine. It is a Mahayana doctrine, which I am not talking about.

Savant: 1) As I have stated in my earlier posts, traditional Theravada do teach that the Arhat, except for release from samsara, is lesser than the Buddha in many aspects.

And the Pali suttas make it quite clear that “release from samsara” is sambodhi, full awakening, a term used by the Buddha for himself and for arahants. And as the Buddha states:

'Through heedfulness have I won sambodhi, … 'If you, O monks, will struggle unremittingly and resolve … -- then you, too, O monks, will soon realize here and now, through your own direct knowledge, that unequaled goal of the holy life."' -- AN II ii 5.

In terms of awakening in the Pali suttas, the Buddha did not make a distinction.

Savant lectures:

When we talk about Theravada, it necessitates talking about the teachings of the tradition as a whole, including the commentaries written by great Theravadin elders of long past. Separating the teachings of the Theravadin Sangha from the Pali Canon, one would be branching off from the mainstream teachings of Theravada. Of course, everyone has the freedom to their own views, but one should not present the teachings of Theravada as such, since it is different. One is still Theravadin, but are such views coherent with the Pali Canon?

Interesting question. Some (rhetorical) interesting questions:

Is Ajahn Mun a Theravadin (assuming that the accounting of his awakening is how he actually experienced it), given that his awakening as described in the biography (hagiography) of him runs counter to the great Theravadin commentators of the past?

Is the late Bhikkhu Buddhadasa no longer to be considered Theravadin, given that he has questioned some significant Theravadin commentarial doctrines, including rebirth?

The Mahasi Sayadaw tradition of Burma differs in important ways from the Thai forest tradition, so which one is Theravadin and which is not?

Are the early Theravadin commentators to be rejected in favor of the later Theravadin commentators, given that they do not always see eye-to-eye on things, or do we favor the early commentators or the later ones?

Must the Pali suttas be read solely in light of the commentators to be Theravadin, and if so which commentators?

Must the commentarial tradition be adhered without question to be Theravadin?

Since when has the Theravada become a creedal religion?

Did the commentators always get it right?

Tilt has ignored a great deal of suttas that factually state the over-all attainment of an Arhat is lesser than the Buddha, except for liberation from Samsara.

Tilt certainly has not ignored anything. Again, “liberation from samsara” is sambodhi, full awakening, as the texts very clearly state. Let us not assume, however, later definitions of (sam)bodhi, awakening, are what the early texts are talking about.

Let me requote Bhikkhu Bodhi:

Later forms of Buddhism draw extreme distinctions between the Buddhas and the arahants, but in the Nikayas this distinction is not as sharp as one might expect if one takes the later texts as the benchmark of interpretation.

On the one hand, the Buddha is an arahant, as is evident from the standard verse of homage to the Blessed One; on the other, arahants are buddhas, in the sense that they have attainted full enlightenment, sambodhi, by awakening to the same truths that the Buddha himself realized.

A Buddha has the function of discovering and expounding the path, and he also possesses a unique familiarity with the intricacies of the path not shared by his disciples. His disciples follow the path he reveals and attain enlightenment afterward, under his guidance.
IN THE BUDDHA’S WORDS, trans by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Page 382.

I agree with this picture and what I have quoted supports it.

Savant: In the words of the Buddha, in terms of vision, insight, knowledge, virtue and wisdom, none of the Arhats are his equal.

Except in terms of sambodhi, full awakening. Now, there is an interesting text in this light:

I [the Buddha], monks dwell, having actualized here and now the higher knowledges [abinna], freed through the heart/mind [cetovimutti] and freed through wisdom [pa~n~navimutti]. Kassapa, too, monks, dwells having actualized here and now the higher knowledges, freed through the heart/mind and freed through wisdom. - SN II, 214

Now, the Buddha does not say his attainments are greater or that Kassapa’s are lesser. The exact same language is being used, and this is not unique in the Pali suttas. If anything, it indicates equality in terms of what is listed.

What is of interest in this text is what precedes this passage. There are 15 items listed, with the above quoted item being the very last one listed, and it is the only one that is indicative of awakening. The first 9 have to do with the attainment of jhana meditation, the remaining six are the abhiññás (which are not exclusive to the Buddha). See:

http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/a/abhinna.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

• (1) magical powers (iddhi-vidha),
• (2) divine ear (dibba-sota),
• (3) penetration of the minds of others (ceto-pariya-ñána),
• (4) remembrance of former existences (pubbe-nivásánussati),
• (5) divine eye (dibba-cakkhu),
• (6) extinction of all cankers (ásavakkhaya).

Number six (#15 in the Kassapa list); however, is not worded in terms of the extinction of the cankers (asavas), in this list, but in terms of attainment of knowledge, liberation and wisdom. What the Buddha knows, Kassapa, too, knows (in terms of the destruction of the asavas and the Four Noble Truths).

The preceding 14 items are worded in this way:

"Bhikkhus, to whatever extent I [the Buddha] wish" to attain this jhana or know "with divine eye which is purified and surpasses human" the death and rebirth of being born into this or that state, I can. "Kassapa, too, to whatever extent he wishes" to attain this jhana or know "with divine eye which is purified and surpasses human" the death and rebirth of beings born into this or that state, he can. Sn II 210-14.

Again, a statement of equality.

Now, savant quotes the Gopakamoggallaana Sutta MN 108:

’Did we not tell you, brahmin, "there is no single bhikkhu, brahmin, who possesses in each & every way all those qualities that were possesses by Blessed One, accomplished and fully enlightened."’

What savant does not quote is the very next two sentences:

For the Blessed One was the arouser of the unarisen path, the begetter of the unbegotten path, the expounder of the unexpounded path, the knower of the path, the expert with regard to the path, adept at the path. And now his disciples follow the path and become endowed with it after him."

I have absolutely no problem with this; it mirrors very nicely the SammsambuddhaSutta:

At Saavatthi. "Bhikkhus, the Tathagata, the Arahant, the Perfectly Enlightened One, liberated by nonclinging through revulsion towards form (feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness), through its fading away and cessation is called a perfectly Enlightened One. A bhikkhu liberated by wisdom, liberated by nonclinging through revulsion towards form (feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness), through its fading away and cessation is called one liberated by wisdom.

Here we have an equivalency between the Buddha and the arahants in terms of attainment, and acknowledging this equivalency, the Buddha then asks:

Therein, bhikkhus, what is the distinction, what is the disparity, what is the difference between the Tathaagata, the Arahant, the Perfectly Enlightened One and a bhikkhu liberated by wisdom? ...

The Tathagata, monks, who, being Arahant, is fully awakened, it is he who causes a way to arise which has not arisen before; who proclaims a way not proclaimed before; who is a knower of a way, who understands a way, who is skilled in a way. And now, monks, his disciples are wayfarers who follow after him. That, monks, is the distinction, the specific feature which distinguished the Tathagata who, being arahant, is fully awakened, from the monk who is freed by insight.
-- SN III 66.

Again as Bhikkhu Bodhi states:

On the one hand, the Buddha is an arahant, as is evident from the standard verse of homage to the Blessed One; on the other, arahants are buddhas, in the sense that they have attainted full enlightenment, sambodhi, by awakening to the same truths that the Buddha himself realized.

A Buddha has the function of discovering and expounding the path, and he also possesses a unique familiarity with the intricacies of the path not shared by his disciples. His disciples follow the path he reveals and attain enlightenment afterward, under his guidance.


As I said, I agree with this.

Savant quotes the Sampasadaniya Sutta Digha Nikaya 28, but let us look at it in more detail the little snippet savant gives us:

Sariputta states: All those Arahant Buddhas [arahanto sammasambuddha] of the past attainted to sambodhi by abandoning the five hinderances, defilements of the mind which weaken understanding, having firmly established the four foundations of mindfulness, and realized the seven factors of awakening as they really are. All the Arahant Buddhas of the future will do likewise, and you, Lord, who are now the Arahant, fully-awakened Buddha, have done the same.

First thing worth noting is that the way of attainment of awakening/sambodhi, by Buddhas past present and future, described here is exactly what the Buddha taught as the path of practice to his followers – by abandoning the five hinderances, defilements of the mind which weaken understanding, having firmly established the four foundations of mindfulness, and realized the seven factors of awakening as they really are – none of which are unique to the Buddha, but describes the arahant path.

Secondly, sammasambuddha is used in this quote. The process of abandoning the five hindrances and the establishing the four foundations of mindfulness are the basic practices that the Buddha taught for the attainment of (sam)bodhi. It is obvious it is not the process of abandoning the five hindrances or the establishing the four foundations of mindfulness that distinguishes the Buddha, making him a Sammasambuddha. What makes a Sammasambuddha is, as outlined above, being the one who through his own efforts makes the way known.

And this brings us to:

"If, lord, anyone were to ask me: 'What then, friend Sariputta have there ever been in times gone by other recluses or brahmins greater or wiser as to Enlightenment than the Exalted One?'

I would say 'No.'

'What then, friend Sariputta, will there come in future times any other recluses or brahmins greater or wiser as to Enlightenment than the Exalted One?'

Thus asked, I would say 'No.'

'What then, friend Sariputta, is there Now any other recluse or brahmin greater or wiser as to Enlightenment than the Exalted One?' Thus asked, I would say 'No.'

Again, lord, if I were asked: 'What then, friend Sariputta have there been in times gone by ... will there be in future times other recluses or brahmins exactly the same as the Exalted One, in the matter of Enlightenment?' I would say 'Yes' ... But if I were asked: 'Is there now any recluse or brahmin exactly the same as the Exalted One, in the matter of Enlightenment?' I would say 'No.'

Again, lord, If I were asked: 'Why does the venerable Sariputta thus acknowledge the superiority of one teacher and not that of another?'

Thus asked, I would say: 'In the presence of the Exalted One have I heard him say and from him have received, that whereas in times gone by and in future times, there have been and will be other Supreme Buddhas exactly the same as himself in the matter of Enlightenment, yet that in one and same world system there should arise two Arahant Buddhas Supreme, the one neither before nor after the other: - that is impossible and unprecedented. That cannot be...'


(The underlined is what was quoted savant.)

Again, the issue here is the question of sammasambuddha, and what makes one a sammasambuddha. Since there can only be one sammasambuddha at a time, and since the process of abandoning the five hindrances and the establishing the four foundations of mindfulness are the basic practices that give rise to sambodhi for both the Buddha and the arahants, it is, as the Sammasambuddha Sutta clearly points out, it is in the attainment, discovery, of awakening first, everyone else follows after, so in that context the Buddha is unequaled.

If the Arhat and Buddha are the same, then there will be no need for Sumedha to take on Bodhisattva path.

But I never said that. What I have said, very clearly and repeatedly, is that, as the Buddha makes clear, there is no distinction in the sambodhi.

There is a very clear distinction, as the texts quoted above illustrate, in the one who first attains sambodhi and the ones who follow after. That has never been an issue for me. It is in the awakening that they stand as equals.

Let me quote Astroboy here:

The fully enlightened Buddha, the Pacceka Buddha and the savakas are all different kinds of arahants. Whether in Theravada or Mahayana a bodhisatta is training to be an arahant, an arahant who discovers the noble path by himself and not a disciple arahant. But before reaching this arahanthship even for the disciple arahants, they have to go through many lives accumulating merits through the practice of generosity etc., thus benefiting others.

According to Theravada only an arahant (whether fully enlightened/silent Buddha or disciple arahant) can truly show the path to liberation. Bodhisattas cannot as they have not reached it themselves yet. So only one who has reached enlightenemnt can really benefit other sentient beings in terms of showing them the way to enlightnement. However a bodhisatta has the greatest potential in benefiting living beings because he will achieve arahantship and teach the dhamma in a time when the Buddhadhamma is non existent and is most in need.


Now, whether or not this is accurate for the Mahayana is irrelevant. The point is that it is accurate for the Theravada.

Also, of interest, savant quotes the Buddhavamsa to support his contention, but if he is going to take that text seriously, it is really only those who are on the very verge of becoming an arahant, as was Sumedha, that can truly become bodhisattas, who have the true wisdom and motivation to do so, but it is not a necessity for all to do so, nor is it reasonably to be expected for all to do so, from the Theravadin point of view.

The bottom line here is that an arhat who has not really attained sambodhi equivalent to the Buddha’s, but is on a lesser level, needing more work to be done, is not what the Pali suttas/Theravada mean when they talk about the arahant. The issue here is that the Theravadin/Pali suttas point of view is correct for the Theravada/Pali suttas, and the later Mahayana notions of the arhat are not a correct way of understanding the Pali suttas’ descriptions of the arahant or Theravadin doctrine.
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: Why the Buddha's Enlightenment seems higher than Arahan's?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Nov 09, 2009 6:42 am

Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote:Thus the Buddha is distinguished from the arahant disciples, not
by some categorical difference in their respective attainments, but by his role: he is the first one in this historical epoch to attain liberation, and he serves as the incomparable guide in making known the way to liberation. He has skills in teaching that even the most capable of his disciples cannot match, but with regard to their world-transcending attainments, both the Buddha and the arahants are ‘buddho’, "enlightened," in that they have comprehended the truths that should be comprehended. They are both ‘nibbuto’, in that they have extinguished the defilements and thereby attained the peace of nirvâna. They are both ‘suvimutto’, fully liberated. They have fully understood the truth of suffering; they have abandoned craving, the origin of suffering; they have realized nirvâna, the cessation of suffering; and they have completed the practice of the noble eightfold path, the way leading to the cessation of suffering.

http://www.bodhimonastery.net/dhamma/bh ... dhasV2.pdf
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: Why the Buddha's Enlightenment seems higher than Arahan's?

Postby PeterB » Mon Nov 09, 2009 7:33 am

Thats what I was taught too. The Buddhas enlightenment does not differ from the Arahants, But a Buddha arises without having association with an Arahant. However no Buddha, no Arahant in any given era. Or is that too simplified ?
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Re: Why the Buddha's Enlightenment seems higher than Arahan's?

Postby Dugu » Mon Nov 09, 2009 8:15 am

Is Enlightenment a form of awareness through direct experience of the mind?
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Re: Why the Buddha's Enlightenment seems higher than Arahan's?

Postby Jechbi » Mon Nov 09, 2009 5:24 pm

pilgrim wrote:My understanding is that the Buddha is a Samma-sambudha, a thoroughly perfected being ...

We need to be careful with that word "being."
Then Ven. Radha went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "'A being,' lord. 'A being,' it's said. To what extent is one said to be 'a being'?"

"Any desire, passion, delight, or craving for form, Radha: when one is caught up (satta) there, tied up (visatta) there, one is said to be 'a being (satta).'

"Any desire, passion, delight, or craving for feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness, Radha: when one is caught up there, tied up there, one is said to be 'a being.'"
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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