Reply To: The Bodhisattva Problem and questions regarding.


After further thought and consternation, I felt it would be useful to be a bit more direct and specific.

Lal said
“attaining anariya jhana (or recalling past lives) is NOT a big deal. It does not guarantee any magga phala let alone a Buddhahood.
– Even any animal living today would have been a Brahma many times over in the past. That means it would have attained jhanas many times over in its previous lives.
– Rebirth process has no discernible beginning. We all (meaning ALL living beings, not just humans) have been born in good and bad realms many times over.
– This is why I am saying that one cannot think about these in simple terms.”

I must have been unclear. I am in agreement with you, I never meant to state that anaiya Jhana must equate to any magga phala. The point was about how recalling past lives would allow a bodhisatta to access the true dhamma that they were exposed to in their previous lives prior to them discovering it for themselves. In addition, my point was that there is nothing stopping a monk who did not gain awakening under a buddha but heard his teachings from being reborn a human in a time past the buddha’s sasana. If that monk were to develop the fourth jhana and the ability to see into his past lives, nothing would stop him from using his previous exposure to pure dhamma to gain awakening for himself.

Lal said
“– Many people think that a Bodhisatta knows at any time that he is going to become a Buddha. That is not so. Until Buddha Kassapa told him about it, he probably had no idea. Remember that in the Ghatikara Sutta, Jotipala even did not want to meet Buddha Kassapa at first.”

I do not disagree with any of this. I was more raising the question of whether that may have been a later addition. If it is not, it raises the question of surely upon gaining the power to see into his past lives prior to his awakening he would be able to see he was destined to become a buddha from the confirmations by at least the previous two in that age. Hence there would be nothing stopping him from drawing upon the teachings of those previous buddhas to aid in his awakening. Which would effectively make him an arahant. It also causes conflicts with the fact that the buddha is depicted as being unaware that he was going to gain awakening in his last life, which he should surely known he was destined for after achieving the mundane fourth jhana and cultivating the abhinna power to see into his past lives. If he acquired this ability under Uddaka Ramaputta why engage in the ascetic practices for so long if he already knew the path?

Lal said
“A Bodhisatta is supposed to comprehend the way to Nibbana by himself.”

This is the exact aspect I have been pointing to. If the bodhisatta can remember the true dhamma from his previous lives. He is not comprehending the way to nibanna by himself anymore than the arahant does upon instruction. Sure they both walk the path, but they both have instruction, or at the very least access to the true dhamma.

This is a fundamental issue I apologize for repeating it so many times and understand it may be annoying, it is truly not my intention. It is simply something I am very much so struggling with at the moment.

This is why I referenced the idea that the jatakas, and the buddhavamsa, due to their role in originating and fleshing out much of the buddha’s biographical life and the bodhisatta’s ideal are worth re-evaluating as they directly contribute to this inconsistency. Especially considering many historians and scholars have agreed these are most likely later due to inconsistencies with the rest of the main Sutta Piṭaka.(1)(2) In addition, mention of Maitreya is not included in the parallel translation of the Cakkavatti(sīhanāda)sutta in the Madhyama Agama. If it’s possible that there are later developments within the Pali Tipitaka than we have to be careful about which suttas we reference as authoritative to dismiss these criticisms, as they may belong to the same body that is being critiqued.

To provide more evidence I also offer the following regarding the jatakas.

– In past lives he had no notion of being a bodhisatta(MN 81/MĀ 63/ P 1030, MN 83/MĀ 67/EĀ 50.4/P 1030, AN 3:15), vs. taking the bodhisatta vow under the mythological Buddha Dīpaṅkara an incalculable long time ago (JN 17–18). (this ones iffy)

– He left home while his parents were crying (MN 26.14/MĀ 204), vs. leaving in the middle of the night while his family was asleep (JN 82–84).

– Struggled in meditation (MN 128/MĀ 72,MN 19/MĀ 102,MN 4/EĀ
31.1), vs. smooth progress (JN 90).

– Practised austerities due to wrong view (MN 85.10), vs. practiced
them to show the world his perseverance and endeavor (JN 89)

– No mention of compassion as motivation until after Awakening (compare pre-Awakening MN 26.13/MĀ 204 with post-Awakening MN 26.21), vs. compassion being the motivation for becoming a bodhisatta (JN 17–18) [1, 179–181]. (also iffy, the reason for his initial vow can be different than his reasons during his last life)

– The Buddha walked from Bodhgaya to Benares to start teaching (MN 26.25), vs. going to Benares in half a day, implying the use of psychic powers (JN 109).

– Sakya being a small republic subject to Kosala (MN 89.19/MĀ 213/ EĀ 38.10/T 1451/P 1035),33 vs. Sakya being a kingdom with the bodhisatta’s father as king and Kapilavatthu as the enormous and magnificent capital (JN 69, 76–77).

– The Buddha attained awakening (sammāsambodhi,SN 56:11),vs.the Buddha attained omniscience (sabbaññutā) (JN 99).

It is my belief that there is a sound point to be made here, and urge you to please point out where I may be wrong or why this criticism should be dismissed. I still stand by much of the Buddha dhamma as espoused by Lal at Puredhamma.

It’s also worth considering, the buddha himself very specifically did not teach the bodhisattva path to others nor urge others to walk it. The understanding of it as a viable path was an understanding that arose within the Theravadan tradition. I urge anyone with suttas contradicting this to please link them. I am not denying that past Buddhas must have existed, rather raising the possibility that the Buddha himself and the delineation of such was more a question of rediscovering the path in a new age (which is incredible in its own right) bringing him closer to the Arahant ideal and doing away with much of the doctrine on paramis and endless eons of cultivation. This would also explain why he exclusively taught the arahant path, and none other. As well as clarifying the difficulties that I outlined above. Ultimately though, as stated before I do not know for sure, as there are alot of issues with this theory as well.

Thank you again for the time taken,

With metta,

1. A textual and Historical Analysis of the Khuddaka Nikāya – Oliver Abeynayake Ph. D. , Colombo, First Edition – 1984, p. 113.

2.Sujato, Bhante (2012), Sects & Sectarianism: The Origins of Buddhist Schools, Santipada, p. 51, ISBN 9781921842085

3. Warder, A.K. Indian Buddhism. 2000. pp. 332-333