Reply To: The Bodhisattva Problem and questions regarding.


I apologize, I should not have led with that. I understand the desire to not get into obscure philosophical discussions about earlier and later texts and I respect that. I assure you my intention is not to critique the dhamma forr useless ends nor cause any sort of division about the buddha’s teaching rather to clarify what the true meaning may be. So I will stick only to the Tipitaka in answering this.

“What is wrong with the Bodhisatta concept? A Bodhisatta is someone who is striving to attain the Buddhahood over many, many lives.”

The issue is not really with the bodhisatta concept as you present. The issue is that the bodhisatta concept also includes the fact that a Buddha is confirmed by 24 preceding buddhas. That his struggle over countless lives due to his initial vow is to cultivate the ability to rediscover the dhamma in a time in which it has disappeared, and thus is without a teacher. That the bodhisatta is understood to cultivate the three higher knowledge directly preceding their awakening. This is all a part of the Pali Tipitaka’s depiction of the bodhisatta concept.

The problem is the same one I outlined above, if the buddha preceding his awakening had gained the ability to see his past lives, which the Tipitaka claims he had, even in a mundane sense, he would have had the ability to remember learning the dhamma underneath the Buddha Kassapa and could have used that to gain awakening for himself. This would undermine the spirit of suttas depicting the Buddha being without a teacher and the idea that he needed to cultivate the paramitas over aeons in order to be able to reach this enlightenment without aid. All of these cannot be correct and accurate without changing our depiction of how we see both the bodhisattva path and Buddhahood itself.

To provide a different angle of viewing this. If it is true that the Buddha predicted the rise of Maitreya in the future as a Buddha,and maitreya was an ordained monk underneath the buddha. It would follow that if in his subsequent rebirth in the human realm, if he were to cultivate the fourth jhana and follow the same path that is outlined of bodhisattas gaining the three knowledges preceding his awakening. Then he would be able to remember the true dhamma as taught by the Buddha Gotama and use that knowledge and instruction to gain awakening for himself.

It could even follow that any individual who had heard the dhamma from a fully enlightned buddha and was reborn as a human in an age in which his sasana declined (granting its within the time limits of mundane jhana to see) could remember the dhamma from that past life and rediscover it, thus becoming a buddha.

The issue is that this undermines the common conception of both buddhahood and the bodhisatta path in other areas of the Pali canon. Making it much more in line with an endless lineage rather than how it is presented. Which is the buddha being without equal, with a teacher, and utterly self reliant.

In addition, it brings buddhahood and arahantship much closer in their nature. There is quite a bit to support this idea, as the buddha very specifically never taught the bodhisattva path and focused exclusively on arahantship. This may be the reason because the only real notable difference being the timing, hence it wasn’t worth teaching as the Buddha had already arisen. Another aspect in support of this is that the Buddha had to be convinced by Brahma to teach initially, which would be more in line with this conception rather than the buddha developing compassion over countless eons. Even the bodhisatta’s words about Buddha Kassapa as Jotipala could support this, as he spoke derisively about him and refused to go visit him. This seems counter to the behaviour one would expect from a bodhisattva close to his very last lives and near perfection of the paramis. To be honest, I don’t know, I can only look at what seems the most consistent.

That’s really my essential question, that I don’t believe has been answered. How does one fix this inconsistency between the buddha having the capability to remember the dhamma from past lives preceding his awakening with the idea that the Buddha was a superior figure who had by his own efforts and without aid singlehandedly rediscovered the path. Without deciding that perhaps some aspects of the Tipitaka, at least regarding the bodhisattva path, jatakas, and maitreya may not be something the buddha taught or said.

[To support that hypothesis I referenced Sujato and Analayo. I should’ve focused mainly on Analayo, as it was his comparison between the different versions of the canon including the agamas that is the most compelling. That showed that Maitreya and some of the buddhas being confirmed by previous buddhas were missing in other versions. Analayo also looks at this from many different angles, beyond just the problem of past lives. Like you, I don’t speak Chinese, so I have to take his word for it.

I can understand not believing any development had occurred within the Pali Tipitaka and there is no such thing as texts within it that weren’t the buddha’s words or teachings. The monks charged with this responsibility were incredibly circumspect. So it is likely your absolutely correct.]

I’d also like to apologize if you have already answered this and I am simply being dense. I fully understand if you would like to leave this discussion here and would find it unfruitful to continue.

Thanks for taking the time to read through it Lal.

With metta