Is a buddhist arhat equal to an abrahamic saint?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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SDC
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Re: Is a buddhist arhat equal to an abrahamic saint?

Post by SDC »

Bundokji wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 1:23 pm
SDC wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 1:16 pm Definitely not. Only that individual would know it is impossible for them. Another person could never know it for sure.
I thought of it as external in the sense that it makes the ariya conduct in body and speech predictable, testable and observable. It indeed lacks certainty in terms of being testable ad infinitum, but it is testable once at a time such as leaving some money unguarded, or sending a sexy woman to seduce ...etc
The other would have to know the individual very well to know that it is consistent. In the Catholic faith, the parishioners have relatively little access to the priest, cardinal, bishop or pope, so they’re unqualified to make any assessment. Their colleagues have a bit more access, but what is to say what happens behind closed doors?

For the ariya, it would be the same for the other doing the observation. The other would have to be around them quite often, but even then it is hard to say what the basis is for that behavior. I think it is extremely easy to emulate good conduct around others. Especially in the case of a monastic or lay Buddhist who is bent on recognition from others, there is no telling how far they can push the emulation. We’ve all heard stories of the serene Ajahn with the auras behind them —— what’s to say that isn’t pure fabrication? For the other person doing the observing of the alleged ariya, it is impossible for them to know why that conduct is so pure. That Ajahn might be completely miserable and confused when they put their head down at night. The praise may be all they have to motivate them to keep up the good conduct around others. The view and knowledge is the real test, but that requires all parties to be qualified to make use of the knowledge. Otherwise it falls on the faith/hope/view of the observer to determine the status, and that is all but a meaningless assessment imo.
“Old age falls like a curse; it's the same body, but it seems like someone else's. I remember myself as if I were someone else, but I'm still the same, I haven't been away.” Thag 1.118
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Re: Is a buddhist arhat equal to an abrahamic saint?

Post by Coëmgenu »

As a counterpoint, sainthood is always internal and exists in the hearts, minds, or noetic faculties of the saints, in any religion that has them. In Christianity, saints are recognized in part due to outward/external manifestations of spiritual attainments (St. Francis by his inquiry makes the almond tree bloom in the winter, St. Kevin makes the willow tree bear apples, St. John flies, etc.), but there are also the unrecognized saints, bereft of noted hagiographical miracles, honoured on the Feast of All Saints. In the Catholic Church specifically, there is a formalized process of canonization. Detective-like people look for certain miraculous signs that allegedly manifest as a result of these attainments. The attainments themselves are believed to be internal and to be accompanied by a transformation of the heart.

This is accompanied by a scholastic framework dictating the transformative effects of salvation in this very life. Now, maybe they're fake or maybe the believers are mistaken and maybe the scholasticism is wrong, but still.

Also, in theistic religions, spiritual attainments are achieved through synergy with the energies of the deity. They can be quite differently-framed in Dharmic religions with yogic practices and in non-Abrahamic faiths in general. Also, at the Gnostic fringes of Abrahamism, they are framed differently.

Even in Buddhism there is an institution for recognizing āryans: tradition. Furthermore, there is a scholastic requirement: that they've touched Nirvāṇa. If we disbelieve in the received Buddhist tradition in question, maybe we don't think that someone like Venerable Śāriputra touched Nirvāṇa, just like maybe we don't believe that the transformative powers of Christ fundamentally reformed a sinner and that they "walked with God" and "saw God face-to-face" in this life like Adam and Moses are said to have.

Leaving Christianity, the Dàoist Saints are very similar. They're associated with miracles of longevity, health, power, and purity of heart, but these flow from an inward transformation. The Thrice-Males of the Sethian Gnostics were celibate female renunicants and they were likewise, as were the any-gendered Perfecti of the Cathars and Manichaeans.
This Buddha has always known what all Buddhas always realize.
Unhindered, like space, his light is unobstructed.
His light pervades the countless lokas.
He sits amidst the Saṃghas, adorning and purifying them.

This Buddha's field of merit cannot be measured.
It fills the lokas of the ten directions.
He sits under every Bodhi tree,
and all mahāsattvas surround (him) like clouds.

This Buddha has such godly powers
that he manifests infinite emanated bodies simultaneously.
The realm of the Tathāgata is limitless.
Individuals witness it according to their individuality.

(Buddhāvataṃsakasūtra)
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Re: Is a buddhist arhat equal to an abrahamic saint?

Post by Coëmgenu »

Coëmgenu wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 2:20 pmDetective-like people look for certain miraculous signs that allegedly manifest as a result of these attainments.
As a not-so-serious trivium, I feel the need to share the existence of a very silly, very far-fetched, and very frivolous anime called "Vatican Miracle Examiner" (バチカン奇跡調査官 Bachikan Kiseki Chōsakan). Why? Because Japan, because anime.

The series follows the careers of two clerks working on behalf of the fictionalized "Seat of the Saints," which is based on the real-world "Dicastery for the Causes of Saints," a jury formed from members of the Roman Curia.

The tone of the series has an "X-Files" feel to it that I found charmingly eccentric when I watched it as a teenager.
This Buddha has always known what all Buddhas always realize.
Unhindered, like space, his light is unobstructed.
His light pervades the countless lokas.
He sits amidst the Saṃghas, adorning and purifying them.

This Buddha's field of merit cannot be measured.
It fills the lokas of the ten directions.
He sits under every Bodhi tree,
and all mahāsattvas surround (him) like clouds.

This Buddha has such godly powers
that he manifests infinite emanated bodies simultaneously.
The realm of the Tathāgata is limitless.
Individuals witness it according to their individuality.

(Buddhāvataṃsakasūtra)
Bundokji
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Re: Is a buddhist arhat equal to an abrahamic saint?

Post by Bundokji »

SDC wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 2:04 pm The other would have to know the individual very well to know that it is consistent. In the Catholic faith, the parishioners have relatively little access to the priest, cardinal, bishop or pope, so they’re unqualified to make any assessment. Their colleagues have a bit more access, but what is to say what happens behind closed doors?
I am not sure if knowing the individual, or having enough access guarantees outcome. Consistence and impossibility are two different criteria, the later has to do with reliability regardless of conditions, influences, themes and time. For example, one could demonstrate consistent moral conduct until something happen, such as mental illness, or influence of drug ...etc.
For the ariya, it would be the same for the other doing the observation. The other would have to be around them quite often, but even then it is hard to say what the basis is for that behavior. I think it is extremely easy to emulate good conduct around others. Especially in the case of a monastic or lay Buddhist who is bent on recognition from others, there is no telling how far they can push the emulation. We’ve all heard stories of the serene Ajahn with the auras behind them —— what’s to say that isn’t pure fabrication? For the other person doing the observing of the alleged ariya, it is impossible for them to know why that conduct is so pure. That Ajahn might be completely miserable and confused when they put their head down at night. The praise may be all they have to motivate them to keep up the good conduct around others. The view and knowledge is the real test, but that requires all parties to be qualified to make use of the knowledge. Otherwise it falls on the faith/hope/view of the observer to determine the status, and that is all but a meaningless assessment imo.
Knowledge of impossibility might lie within the individual or the few who are qualified, but testability is a different matter altogether in my opinion in the sense it belongs to the public domain (hence external). Sila or moral conduct are manifested through the physical body (the basis of identity view) with all its limitations, of which death is one. Impossibility cannot be established because testability depends on life faculty and the ability to break the precepts. From that perspective, maintaining lifelong moral conduct is no assurance of one being an ariya or saint, but simply strengthens the faith in the likelihood. Breaking them, however, would falsify any claims of attainments according to this criteria.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.
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Re: Is a buddhist arhat equal to an abrahamic saint?

Post by DNS »

Coëmgenu wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 3:39 pm
Coëmgenu wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 2:20 pmDetective-like people look for certain miraculous signs that allegedly manifest as a result of these attainments.
As a not-so-serious trivium, I feel the need to share the existence of a very silly, very far-fetched, and very frivolous anime called "Vatican Miracle Examiner" (バチカン奇跡調査官 Bachikan Kiseki Chōsakan). Why? Because Japan, because anime.
Many years ago, I watched a documentary about a young girl who was severely handicapped, I think quadriplegic. Her parents claimed she could do miracles, healing people. They reported an oily substance that would appear on the statue of Mary (or maybe Jesus) next to her. According to the claim, this oil would appear every morning. The Vatican came to investigate. They did a chemical analysis and found it to be mostly olive oil. Then they set up cameras to make sure no one was adding the oil there in the middle of the night. All of a sudden, the oil stopped appearing. :lol:
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Re: Is a buddhist arhat equal to an abrahamic saint?

Post by dharmacorps »

Yes, some abrahamic saints may have been truly impressive people, but they could also be frauds, or something in between. A arahant could never be a fraud, but is also unidentifiable with certainty to anyone but a Buddha, least of all clerical institutions.
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Re: Is a buddhist arhat equal to an abrahamic saint?

Post by Motova »

No.
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Re: Is a buddhist arhat equal to an abrahamic saint?

Post by SteRo »

confusedsoso wrote: Tue Sep 20, 2022 7:44 pm Is a buddhist arhat equal to an abrahamic saint?
There is no "abrahamic saint". You have to look into the doctrine of each and every abrahamic religion to know what their "saint" is. In this sense your question totally ignores that the meaning of "saint" of course is laid down in each and every particular doctrine.
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Re: Is a buddhist arhat equal to an abrahamic saint?

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Bundokji wrote: Thu Sep 22, 2022 3:58 pmImpossibility cannot be established because testability depends on life faculty and the ability to break the precepts. From that perspective, maintaining lifelong moral conduct is no assurance of one being an ariya or saint, but simply strengthens the faith in the likelihood. Breaking them, however, would falsify any claims of attainments according to this criteria.
Yes, agree, testability accounts for the external measure, which in this case is adherence to precepts, but that only applies to an assessment of conduct, not to one of the view that was established on account of the significance of that right conduct. So, while I agree that we could come to a consensus regarding someone’s conduct, and how closely it emulates the precepts, that in no way guarantees any access to the view, i.e. adherence to precepts doesn’t imply ariya. (I think we agree here) There is, of course, the whole other matter of the set of actions an ariya is said to be incapable of performing, but ironically enough, those actions do not cover all five precepts, so it would be inconclusive and unreliable to use behavior as the measure of development. (Let me know if you want to see that sutta and I will go dig it up)

As much as it would strengthen faith in others to see such impeccable conduct, at best that can be inspiring for those not capable of determining whether or not right view is present at all within the confines of that conduct. Just goes to show how absolutely detrimental it is for others when a monastic takes on the reputation of being an ariya. Not only does it present the premise that others are allowed to acknowledge it, it presents the ordinary person with the idea that such a report is acceptable. It presents the ordinary person - who has just about zero criteria for what the right view is in their own experience - with the option of being capable to accept or reject that view in another. Right there on the spot, the wrong view is given priority. Priority over the reasonable doubt that every ordinary person must possess if they ever hope to get close to picking up the right view for themselves. Report of an ariya is not dangerous in and of itself, but the premise for the ordinary person must always be, “I can’t know for sure, so this report is not a confirmation. It is not permission for me to assume outside of my own range.”

The only external criteria for ariya would be speech that describes the right view, which would require a listener who is receptive to the descriptions and designations: another ariya. So, it cannot be compared to sainthood imo. The premise of the Abrahamic view is that the source of God’s power does not originate on account of one’s efforts. At best, one can access that eternal almighty as a result of their faith and conduct. Mere relinquishment. Full stop. The Dhamma does not account for development in the same way. Discernment of the right things is a requirement. The right view is developed on account of knowledge of relinquishment and its relationship to what the experience already was from the start. In a sense, sainthood is all about what you can show to the people around you, because what is around you is all a product of God. Or so the view implies. God comes from or through everything and is something all things partake in. Right view takes full account of “all things”, which puts it in a deeper place than God. So, when it comes to evaluation of development, these two views don’t point in the same direction and cannot even be setup for a proper comparison without misunderstanding at least of them.

Please let me know if I’m misunderstanding anything you have said. At points, it seems we are agreeing, but I’m not really sure.
“Old age falls like a curse; it's the same body, but it seems like someone else's. I remember myself as if I were someone else, but I'm still the same, I haven't been away.” Thag 1.118
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Re: Is a buddhist arhat equal to an abrahamic saint?

Post by Bundokji »

SDC wrote: Fri Sep 23, 2022 5:30 pm Yes, agree, testability accounts for the external measure, which in this case is adherence to precepts, but that only applies to an assessment of conduct, not to one of the view that was established on account of the significance of that right conduct. So, while I agree that we could come to a consensus regarding someone’s conduct, and how closely it emulates the precepts, that in no way guarantees any access to the view, i.e. adherence to precepts doesn’t imply ariya. (I think we agree here) There is, of course, the whole other matter of the set of actions an ariya is said to be incapable of performing, but ironically enough, those actions do not cover all five precepts, so it would be inconclusive and unreliable to use behavior as the measure of development. (Let me know if you want to see that sutta and I will go dig it up)
There are three types of actions: mental, verbal and physical. I emphasized that the verbal and physical are testable, not the mental (mind reading is a supramundane ability that is outside the domain of testability). Mental action cannot be recorded in real time using the available instruments for testing. They can be only inferred from verbal and physical actions. The "view" would be pure subjectivity in that context. A verbal claim of attainment would be used to infer insight or right view, where observations of verbal and physical conduct can be used to falsify the claim if breaking the precepts is proved to be possible. Absence any sufficient criteria/condition to identify an ariya (considering that an ariya is untraceable by Mara), the precepts provide a reliable measure in light of the existing limitations. As long as the precepts are not broken, the possibility of an ariya being tested stands via negativa.
As much as it would strengthen faith in others to see such impeccable conduct, at best that can be inspiring for those not capable of determining whether or not right view is present at all within the confines of that conduct. Just goes to show how absolutely detrimental it is for others when a monastic takes on the reputation of being an ariya. Not only does it present the premise that others are allowed to acknowledge it, it presents the ordinary person with the idea that such a report is acceptable. It presents the ordinary person - who has just about zero criteria for what the right view is in their own experience - with the option of being capable to accept or reject that view in another. Right there on the spot, the wrong view is given priority. Priority over the reasonable doubt that every ordinary person must possess if they ever hope to get close to picking up the right view for themselves. Report of an ariya is not dangerous in and of itself, but the premise for the ordinary person must always be, “I can’t know for sure, so this report is not a confirmation. It is not permission for me to assume outside of my own range.”
I agree, but for the ordinary person, the suttas provide an objective criteria for what could possibly exist in the world. It is said that ariyas do not disappear altogether from the realm of the senses upon attainment. Impeccable conduct would strengthen faith as you mentioned. What would you suggest for the ordinary person except imitating the ariya with the hope of getting there? Acknowledging uncertainty is a slippery slope when the ordinary person is equally motivated by breaking the precepts no less than keeping them.
The only external criteria for ariya would be speech that describes the right view, which would require a listener who is receptive to the descriptions and designations: another ariya. So, it cannot be compared to sainthood imo. The premise of the Abrahamic view is that the source of God’s power does not originate on account of one’s efforts. At best, one can access that eternal almighty as a result of their faith and conduct. Mere relinquishment. Full stop. The Dhamma does not account for development in the same way. Discernment of the right things is a requirement. The right view is developed on account of knowledge of relinquishment and its relationship to what the experience already was from the start. In a sense, sainthood is all about what you can show to the people around you, because what is around you is all a product of God. Or so the view implies. God comes from or through everything and is something all things partake in. Right view takes full account of “all things”, which puts it in a deeper place than God. So, when it comes to evaluation of development, these two views don’t point in the same direction and cannot even be setup for a proper comparison without misunderstanding at least of them.

Please let me know if I’m misunderstanding anything you have said. At points, it seems we are agreeing, but I’m not really sure.
Maybe this is the only point where we might disagree. Buddhism also has a source, which is the one Buddha that appears in a solar system, re-discovers the ancient path and then teach it to people. If a solar system provides an underlying theme for a Buddha to appear in the world, so is a universe created by god. Breaking away from kamma loka is not so different from the reopening the kingdom of heaven for people of faith after descent. Discernment of the right things begins with "thus have i heard" where relinquishment is a gradual process of developing insight that should eventually match the sacred text as an objective criteria. It is also unclear what is the difference between the unifying effect of god on all things, and the right view account of "all things", when "things" can be confined into one basket and viewed in a certain way.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.
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Re: Is a buddhist arhat equal to an abrahamic saint?

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Bundokji wrote: Fri Sep 23, 2022 9:02 pm
Sorry for leaving you hanging, Bundokji. I’ll have some time later tonight. :anjali:
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Re: Is a buddhist arhat equal to an abrahamic saint?

Post by Bundokji »

SDC wrote: Sun Sep 25, 2022 11:33 pm
Sorry for leaving you hanging, Bundokji. I’ll have some time later tonight. :anjali:
Thank you for being nice SDC. I never thought of replying on the forum as an obligation, but your kind gesture is appreciated. :anjali:
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.
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