Reply To: The Bodhisattva Problem and questions regarding.


Thank you for the speedy response Lal!

I agree with everything you have said here. I also agree that translation is most likely the biggest source of hindrance in understanding the dhamma correctly. I do think though that there is something to be said about the difference between the earliest translations of the Canon we have received, in both Chinese (agamas) and Pali (different early schools), and what they illuminate regarding what the original buddha gotama most likely taught. In my readings, I’ve found most of it to be consistent, except for the bodhisattva ideal, the past buddhas, the prediction maitreya, and the jatakas etc. Which shows a lot of inconsistency with the very earliest texts. This can usually be evidence of later developments and both the sources I provide give a much better argument for that than I could here. That being said, this question of bodhisattvahood is not really one that is necessary to be clarified for awakening or the culmination of arahantship. I understand this, it’s a worthwhile question for me as with its clarification I believe it could provide an even stronger incentive for others to strive in this very life.

Analayo provides the overarching argument from page 71-93 for the idea that the stories of the Buddha’s past meetings with previous Buddhas, and in this case Buddha Kassapa as the potter’s friend Jotipala, are probably later additions. A lot of this evidence for this comes from textual comparisons between the different surviving early translations we have of the Canon, including the Chinese Agamas and others. He uses a comparative study to show how in some versions the Bodhisattva connection was not even mentioned, nor the idea of Jotipala being identified as the previous Buddha. He also notes on page 81 regarding Jotipala (previous Buddhas) ordination under the buddha Kassapa

Ps III 282,18 presents this as a general pattern for any bodhisattva, in that they learn the three baskets of the Buddha’s word and cause insight to increase until they remain at the brink of conformity knowledge, tepitakaṃ Buddhavacanaṃ uggaṇhitvā … vipassanaṃ vaḍḍhetvā yāva anulomaṃ ñāṇaṃ āhacca tiṭṭhanti.

(which means in my original statement I misspoke and meant to state that the Buddha in his previous life had studied insight up until the brink of stream-entry (not attaining it)
also ghattikara-sutta was not the source for that claim as that was a mistake as well.

Sujato’s work also tends to lend credence to this idea. As they make it a focus on how the early Theravadins who were compiling the canon were incredibly devoted to maintaining the integrity and accuracy of the canon even if it would be less convenient for the religion as a whole. He goes on to note and describe on page 92 how the term bodhisatta was used in the very earliest buddhist texts and how they tend to contradict the descriptions given in the later texts like the Jatakas and Buddhavamsa.

Which is the real question that arises. If with that correction 1 is now correct, and if 2 and 3 are also correct. How can the Buddha have been without instruction or a teacher, if he had the capability to remember his past life as a monk under Buddha Kassapa before his awakening?

Which is more likely/consistent that the Buddha in fact did remember his past life and as such was able to use those lessons to rediscover the path in his life and teach many others? This would conflict with the many suttas describing the Buddha as a teacher without equal and his very specific powers that only a buddha possesses. As ultimately if this was the case the division between Buddhahood and Arahantship would be much closer in accomplishment, with the only difference being when it occurred relative to the current state of the world. There is some evidence to suggest this, especially regarding how the bodhisattva is referred to in the very earliest texts. In addition, to the fact that the buddha focused on exclusively the path to arahantship and not buddhahood or paccekkabuddhahood, would support this idea of there not being a large difference between them.

Or is it more likely that the bodhisattva path, and the accompanying literature were later developments meant to fill the void caused by the bodhisattva path never being approached or taught by the Buddha himself, even though the Buddha himself has alluded to rediscovering the path and not originating it. There does seem to be a lot more textual evidence for this aspect of the canon being later developments. But it does bring up the question of why the buddha would have felt the bodhisattva path was not worth mentioning.

As I stated in my first entry, I have the conclusion I am leaning towards,but would like to see what others think. Where I may have made errors, or if there is perhaps another solution.