Aspiration, Vows and Choice

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Aspiration, Vows and Choice

Postby Dhammakid » Thu Jan 29, 2009 2:01 am

Hello All,
This has been mentioned in ES recently, but as I understand it, one has no choice in what level of Buddhahood they will eventually obtain. So, one cannot choose to become a Sammasambuddha, but rather can make the vow in front of a Sammasambuddha and only hope the Buddha has the prophecy ready for them. I read on ES there is nothing in the suttas supporting choice.

If this is the case, what is it determining the path of a Buddha? Is it their kamma that leads them to whatever specific Buddhahood they will obtain? If that's true, then it does suggest choice - because our actions determine our kamma, right? (But then it's also the other way around - our kamma affects our actions. You can't avoid the circle!)

Surely it isn't some secret random process.

:shrug:

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Re: Aspiration, Vows and Choice

Postby kc2dpt » Thu Jan 29, 2009 2:13 am

Dhammakid wrote:(But then it's also the other way around - our kamma affects our actions. You can't avoid the circle!)

Kamma may affect our actions but it doesn't determine them.
If you believe you can't avoid the circle then doesn't that mean you also necessarily believe there is no escape from samsara?
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Re: Aspiration, Vows and Choice

Postby Dhammakid » Thu Jan 29, 2009 2:26 am

Peter wrote:Kamma may affect our actions but it doesn't determine them.


Sure, which is why I was careful to use "affect" instead of "determine". I have an idea of where you're going with that, but just to make sure, do you mind elaborating a bit more?

Peter wrote:If you believe you can't avoid the circle then doesn't that mean you also necessarily believe there is no escape from samsara?


I didn't really mean that literally. It was more of a smirky end comment. Yes, I do believe there is escape.

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Re: Aspiration, Vows and Choice

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Thu Jan 29, 2009 2:59 am

Dhammakid wrote:Hello All,
This has been mentioned in ES recently, but as I understand it, one has no choice in what level of Buddhahood they will eventually obtain. So, one cannot choose to become a Sammasambuddha, but rather can make the vow in front of a Sammasambuddha and only hope the Buddha has the prophecy ready for them. I read on ES there is nothing in the suttas supporting choice.

If this is the case, what is it determining the path of a Buddha? Is it their kamma that leads them to whatever specific Buddhahood they will obtain? If that's true, then it does suggest choice - because our actions determine our kamma, right? (But then it's also the other way around - our kamma affects our actions. You can't avoid the circle!)

Surely it isn't some secret random process.

:shrug:

:namaste:
Dhammakid


Hi Dhammakid!

I don't think it's the case that past karma determines our actions. Think of it this way: If you plant an apple seed in your yard and an apple tree grows there after a while, will you then have a choice to chop it down or nourish it? The tree is the result of the seed you planted before, then you have the choice of what to do with it. Eating the fruit would be your current action (karma).

So past karma [action] does not determine current karma [action]. Past karma can bear different kinds of fruit, and it's often mental affliction.

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Re: Aspiration, Vows and Choice

Postby Dhammakid » Thu Jan 29, 2009 3:26 am

Drolma wrote:I don't think it's the case that past karma determines our actions. Think of it this way: If you plant an apple seed in your yard and an apple tree grows there after a while, will you then have a choice to chop it down or nourish it? The tree is the result of the seed you planted before, then you have the choice of what to do with it. Eating the fruit would be your current action (karma).

So past karma [action] does not determine current karma [action]. Past karma can bear different kinds of fruit, and it's often mental affliction.

Best,
Drolma


I understand this. Thanks for explaining. But I guess my question is: what is it that determines the path of a Buddha? Or is there nothing - it's just a waiting game lead by chance, and one just has to wait and see what kind of Buddha they will become? Because if we have no choice which we will become, what is the point of the vows and aspiration in the first place?

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Re: Aspiration, Vows and Choice

Postby kc2dpt » Thu Jan 29, 2009 3:33 am

Dhammakid wrote:what is the point of the vows and aspiration in the first place?

I'm not sure if this addresses your question... well it's a good sutta anyway.
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Re: Aspiration, Vows and Choice

Postby jcsuperstar » Thu Jan 29, 2009 4:01 am

the problem with trying to understand past karma, is if you try to go too far back youre really just playing a game of sorts.

but if we just take our present life, and our kamma made in this life we can see how it plays out in our daily lives.

i chose to drop out of uni years ago, i though i had the rest of my life to play around, my wife had a good job and i was pretty well taken care of (physically, emotionaly i was in a very abusive and crappy situation)
this was my choice. my kamma. it hasnt been the best of choices for me. my marrage ended, which has been great for me in many ways, but i have to take crappy jobs cause i'm considered uneducated, i used to work with scientists and be consided somewhat of an intelectual, now i get no respect, and people assume i'm some lazy idiot.
thats my karma. does it determine my actions? yes, very much so. i'm presently getting ready to go back to uni. i hate the life i made for myself, i hate that i'm not in a position to just buy whatever i want for the girl i love, or just go to thailand with her to visit her parents etc. my past life, plays out everyday in my present one. it doesnt determine what i do, or who i will be. but it has an effect.
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Re: Aspiration, Vows and Choice

Postby Dhammakid » Thu Jan 29, 2009 5:47 am

Peter wrote:
Dhammakid wrote:what is the point of the vows and aspiration in the first place?

I'm not sure if this addresses your question... well it's a good sutta anyway.


Thanks Peter. Very good sutta indeed. No matter the aspiration or vow, right practice must be kept to see any results whatsoever. And when right practice is kept, the results will come regardless of vow or aspiration.

So is this suggesting one doesn't really have any control over the results? If so, what is the point of making the vow in front of a teaching Buddha? And what is it that sends one being down the path towards teaching Buddahood, and another down the path to simple Nibbana?

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Re: Aspiration, Vows and Choice

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:38 am

Greetings Dhammakid,

The way I see it, if the Buddha wanted us to strive for Buddhahood he would have said so. If the Buddha wanted us to strive for Arahantship he would have said so. That's all that matters to me - what he said. What do you believe he said? ;)

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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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Aspiration, Vows and Choice

Postby Will » Thu Jan 29, 2009 3:57 pm

I keep pushing this work by Ledi Sayadaw, so again, study the first chapter, after the listing of the paramis and there are the many factors of vows & qualities needed for Solitary buddhahood, Arahanthood and Full buddhahood.

http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Ledi/Uttam ... onsDefined

There is a "cart before the horse" element, I think, in the Kid's view. It is not that one has to make the bodhisatta vow/aspiration (or any other noble vow) for the first time in front of a Buddha for the vow to become effective. After eons of so aspiring and working to become that bodhisatta, kammic effect would naturally lead one to appear before some Buddha. That Buddha would simply give assurance that you will be successful. If you are not ready yet, you would not appear before a Buddha.
This noble eightfold path is the ancient path traveled by all the Buddhas of eons past. Nagara Sutta
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Re: Aspiration, Vows and Choice

Postby Dhammakid » Thu Jan 29, 2009 10:23 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Dhammakid,

The way I see it, if the Buddha wanted us to strive for Buddhahood he would have said so. If the Buddha wanted us to strive for Arahantship he would have said so. That's all that matters to me - what he said. What do you believe he said? ;)

Metta,
Retro. :)


Hi Retro.
Yes, you make a great point. Although, I'm a bit confused now...I guess the Buddha didn't teach us to strive for Buddhahood or Arahantship, right? Instead, he taught us to rid our suffering through the Path.

So what does this mean for the aspiration and vows? If the Buddha didn't teach it, how do we even know? I mean, obviously there are records of monks making the vow in front of a Buddha, as was mentioned in the women's thread...

Like I said before, it doesn't seem like the selection of individuals towards the Sammasambuddha path is random and mysterious. There's gotta be a reason why a certain individual becomes a Buddha.

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Re: Aspiration, Vows and Choice

Postby Dhammakid » Thu Jan 29, 2009 10:25 pm

Will wrote:I keep pushing this work by Ledi Sayadaw, so again, study the first chapter, after the listing of the paramis and there are the many factors of vows & qualities needed for Solitary buddhahood, Arahanthood and Full buddhahood.

http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Ledi/Uttam ... onsDefined

There is a "cart before the horse" element, I think, in the Kid's view. It is not that one has to make the bodhisatta vow/aspiration (or any other noble vow) for the first time in front of a Buddha for the vow to become effective. After eons of so aspiring and working to become that bodhisatta, kammic effect would naturally lead one to appear before some Buddha. That Buddha would simply give assurance that you will be successful. If you are not ready yet, you would not appear before a Buddha.


Hi Will.
Thanks for the great link.

It seems to be describing how one attains the perfections, and the level of perfections attained determines what level of Buddhahood one reaches. But like I mentioned before, I've heard it said that one has no choice in the matter, because choice isn't found in the suttas in regard to this idea. So what should we believe?

And is it safe to assume many monks in the past have tried adhering to those guidelines and still have not attained the level of perfection they were aspiring to? Or is that impossible to know? I suspect the latter.

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Re: Aspiration, Vows and Choice

Postby Will » Thu Jan 29, 2009 11:03 pm

Dhammakid: I've heard it said that one has no choice in the matter, because choice isn't found in the suttas in regard to this idea
.

I missed your post where you gave the sutta passage about "choice". Nor am I clear what "choice" you are talking about? Please repeat a little.

Yes, it is safe to assume it takes a great deal of time, kalpas and more, to lay a solid foundation. But near the end it speeds up, thus the 7 lives to go Streamwinner; one more lifetime etc.
This noble eightfold path is the ancient path traveled by all the Buddhas of eons past. Nagara Sutta
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Re: Aspiration, Vows and Choice

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Jan 29, 2009 11:47 pm

Greetings,

Dhammakid wrote:Although, I'm a bit confused now...I guess the Buddha didn't teach us to strive for Buddhahood or Arahantship, right?


In the Pali Canon he teaches to strive for Arahantship, not Buddhahood.

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: Aspiration, Vows and Choice

Postby Will » Fri Jan 30, 2009 12:40 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Dhammakid wrote:Although, I'm a bit confused now...I guess the Buddha didn't teach us to strive for Buddhahood or Arahantship, right?


In the Pali Canon he teaches to strive for Arahantship, not Buddhahood.

Metta,
Retro. :)


So Retro, when Ledi Sayadaw quotes some ancient Dhamma on Buddhahoood being a goal, he is using extra-canonical texts that have no authority - or just no authority with you?
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Re: Aspiration, Vows and Choice

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jan 30, 2009 12:49 am

Greetings Will,

Will wrote:So Retro, when Ledi Sayadaw quotes some ancient Dhamma on Buddhahoood being a goal, he is using extra-canonical texts that have no authority - or just no authority with you?


I understand there are texts within the wider Theravada tradition that talk about the Buddha's vow, his previous lives and so on, but I don't recall seeing anything in the Sutta Pitaka or Vinaya Pitaka about this Bodhisatta Vow, and they are the two sources that I consider most definitive. I certainly don't recall him extolling others to become Buddhas in any Theravadin text inside or outside of the Pali Canon, either.

Even if you believe the hagiographical accounts there's not much practical point in discussing it as an actual path of practice because of the condition that the vow must be made at the foot of the previous Buddha.

Unless that person were you or I, of course...

P.S. It wasn't me. :smile:

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: Aspiration, Vows and Choice

Postby kc2dpt » Fri Jan 30, 2009 12:53 am

Dhammakid wrote:I guess the Buddha didn't teach us to strive for ... Arahantship, right? Instead, he taught us to rid our suffering through the Path.

The one is synonymous with the other. Arahantship is nothing other than ending suffering.

So what does this mean for the aspiration and vows? If the Buddha didn't teach it, how do we even know?

The Buddha spoke of his own vow in front of a previous Buddha. But he did not ever teach "You should make a vow in front of me." In other words, he didn't teach "This is what you should do to become a Buddha". Rather he taught how he himself became a Buddha.

There's gotta be a reason why a certain individual becomes a Buddha.

Because that individual has cultivated the necessary qualities.

Dhammakid wrote:It seems to be describing how one attains the perfections, and the level of perfections attained determines what level of Buddhahood one reaches. But like I mentioned before, I've heard it said that one has no choice in the matter, because choice isn't found in the suttas in regard to this idea. So what should we believe?

These two are not contradictory. So believe them both. Can you choose which qualities you will have? If I could choose then I would have chosen to have patience long ago. But I can't choose to have patience. I can only strive to cultivate patience and if a number of factors are present, including but not limited to the desire to cultivate it, then patience will be cultivated.
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Re: Aspiration, Vows and Choice

Postby kc2dpt » Fri Jan 30, 2009 12:56 am

Will wrote:So when Ledi Sayadaw quotes some ancient Dhamma on Buddhahoood being a goal, he is using extra-canonical texts that have no authority - or just no authority with you?

He is quoting canonical texts. The paramis come from the Buddha describing his own path to Buddhahood. But as Retro said, the Buddha never exhorted his followers to take that path.
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Re: Aspiration, Vows and Choice

Postby Will » Fri Jan 30, 2009 6:00 am

retrofuturist wrote:Even if you believe the hagiographical accounts there's not much practical point in discussing it as an actual path of practice because of the condition that the vow must be made at the foot of the previous Buddha.

Metta,
Retro. :)


As I wrote above:

There is a "cart before the horse" element, I think, in Retro's view. It is not that one has to make the bodhisatta vow/aspiration (or any other noble vow) for the first time in front of a Buddha for the vow to become effective. After eons of so aspiring and working to become that bodhisatta, kammic effect would naturally lead one to appear before some Buddha. That Buddha would simply give assurance that you will be successful. If you are not ready yet, you would not appear before a Buddha.

Since we cannot recall our past lives, why assume a Buddha (one previous to Gotama, maybe) did not assure us that our aspiration would be fulfilled?

As for Buddha "extolling" buddhahood - consider this excerpt from the Khuddakapatha #8:

So, prudent, you should make merit, the fund that will follow you along. This is the fund that gives all they want to beings human, divine.

Whatever devas aspire to, all that is gained by this. A fine complexion, fine voice, a body well-built, well-formed, lordship, a following: all that is gained by this. Earthly kingship, supremacy, the bliss of an emperor, kingship over devas in the heavens: all that is gained by this. The attainment of the human state, any delight in heaven, the attainment of Nibbana: all that is gained by this. Excellent friends, appropriate application, mastery of clear knowing & release: all that is gained by this. Acumen, emancipation, the perfection of disciple-hood: all that is gained by this. Private Awakening, Buddha-hood: all that is gained by this.
So powerful is this, the accomplishment of merit. Thus the wise, the prudent, praise the fund of merit already made.


My bold text. So Buddhahood is given as the highest result of gathering merit. If such a goal were beyond reaching, Buddha would not have listed it at all.
This noble eightfold path is the ancient path traveled by all the Buddhas of eons past. Nagara Sutta
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Re: Aspiration, Vows and Choice

Postby clw_uk » Fri Jan 30, 2009 9:34 pm

I believe that one should strive for arahantship.

The Buddha wanted people to reach nibbana here and now, not aeons from now.

The Buddha has pointed the way to the deathless, we should strive for it without delay.
“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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