Reply To: The Bodhisattva Problem and questions regarding.


Lal said
“– Recalling a past life means exactly recalling his OWN experiences. He was not recalling what Buddha Kassapa said, but what he heard.
…– If bhikkhu Jotipala was unable to comprehend what Buddha Kassapa was saying at that time, as ascetic Siddhatta he would have just recalled the same things”

But couldn’t the recalling of such things still be considered teaching or instruction?
You later in the passage seem to suggest that very same idea.

Lal said
“There is no difference between that and him again learning the same stuff from another teacher.
– Even in that latter life, he may or may not be able to make progress, using either approach (recalling or learning from a new teacher.)”

My point standing that if an arahant requires a teacher or at least to have heard the true dhamma from a noble ariya. It would follow that a bodhisattva remembering such instruction from a previous life would still be considered as such. Even when one hears dhamma, it is not always the case one comprehends it instantly but rather after repeated reflection. The ascetic gotama could have easily remembered hearing about, for example, the three marks in a previous life, and not comprehending it in that life, he could have revisited and reflected being able to comprehend it preceding his awakening. In addition, he would have had confirmation he was to become a Buddha, so there would be nothing stopping him from believing he could comprehend the dhamma in now his predicted last life.

Lal said
:– There is a BIG difference between those two.”

I think I understand but I don’t believe I was stating that the bodhisatta as Jotipala understood the full dhamma when taught by Kassapa. Rather because he had listened to his many discourses and was an ordained monk he would be able to revisit the “recordings” and memories of such event from his experience and use them as a basis for achieving his own awakening. In the same way an arahant does.

If this is the case the common conception of Buddhahood has some inaccuracies, unless it really is closer to the case that an individual volunteers to carry the message forward from the time of a previous buddha when his teaching disappears. But it would be more akin to remembering and using that as a basis for awakening, rather than discovering it entirely by one’s own observations. Such that the buddha could more likely be classified as an incredibly compassionate arahant rather than superlatives that are bestowed upon in the suttas. I don’t know if that is the case, but it is one way to resolve this tension.

Lal said

“The bottom line is that ascetic Siddhatta was not able to gain any NEW knowledge by recalling his interactions with Buddha Kassapa. If he was unable to make progress with what he heard then, he would not be able to make progress by recalling the same things.”

I don’t believe this has been established. It his next life, what would be stopping him from being able to make progress using that information. Especially is it is much more like a recording of what he had heard from the Buddha Jotipala. Unless you are stating that he was unable to hear the pure dhamma correctly in his previous lives and therefore could not remember it correctly. Which would then be arguing that the past lives power is not much like a “recording” and would contradict how it is depicted n the suttas. You stress him comprehending in his previous lives, as you stated later in your passage

Lal said
“– It is not the words that matter. That is the bottom line. Learning (memorizing) and comprehension are two different things.”

Right, but hearing words and true dhamma are how one begins the path. The buddha had to speak words in order to teach and for followers to eventually comprehend and learn how to progress. If words truly did not matter, the buddha would have psychically transferred his comprehension, he didn’t because the suttas treat that as impossible. Words and communication from a true ariya precede full comprehension of these concepts, at least in the case of arahants. In addition, the buddha very specifically did not, as you know, teach his former teachers in the formless realms because they lacked the sense objects to hear him. My point is that he had access to the teaching from his previous life, which he could have used as a framework to begin comprehending, culminating in his awakening. In the very same way that any arahant does.

In addition one only look here at Puredhamma, many people do not comprehend the three marks initially, but upon revisiting the same posts and reflecting on them those then begin to do so and comprehend. How would this be any different in the case of an ascetic Gotama revisiting the recordings and “words” of what Buddha Kassapa taught to eventually comprehend. Especially considering his dhamma and Kassapa’s dhamma is considered to be one and the same. In his last life as ascetic Gotama he was fully capable of understanding it, as by evidenced by the fact that he eventually did. In addition, he would be aware that he was destined for awakening by his previous confirmation which may have encouraged him to look more closely at Kassapa’s teaching.

Lastly, as their is another angle to approach this

Lal said
“The bottom line is that ascetic Siddhatta was not able to gain any NEW knowledge by recalling his interactions with Buddha Kassapa. If he was unable to make progress with what he heard then, he would not be able to make progress by recalling the same things.”

If the argument is as the suttas suggest, that the buddha was unable to make progress in his previous lives due to his bodhisatta vows and accompanying buddha gathi. It would not be a question of the knowledge he received from Buddha Kassapa being inadequate. That does not stop him from being able to make progress with that same knowledge in his last life as ascetic gotama. Unless the argument is that a buddha must comprehend it for himself, so that is knowledge is useless to him. Which is really the crux of the issue. So i will use a metaphor to help illustrate the issues with this.

First example:
Let us say there is a young explorer, who is seeking a great treasure in a faraway land.
Now let us say he is given a map by a previous explorer that is accurate and complete
He has very good reason to believe in the accuracy and details of this map even though he has not traveled along its route.
It would follow that in order to find this treasure he would follow the map given to him.
It would be a bit bizarre if after seeing the map he had ignored it, and ventured out, only to follow the exact same route outlined in that map.
Would not one say he followed the directions as outlined? Moreover that it would have been possible to not be even influenced by them if you went down the very same route. Is it not impossible for an arahant to claim independent awakening (buddhahood) when the buddha’s dhamma still exists in the human realm?

The explorer is the ascetic gotama, the treasure is nibbanna, the map is the Noble eightfold path or the Dhamma.

Now the explanation that he would not be able to comprehend these words as ascetic gotama looking at his past life is problematic as it would be the equivalent of claiming that the explorer for some reason could not read the map. Nothing suggests this is the case, as arahants follow this path all the time. Unless you’re specifying that the buddha gathi served as a mental block, which would mean it would cause him to not gain any of the noble attainments. It in no way suggests that his memory of the Buddha Kassapa’s discourses would be distorted,

More importantly, there is an appeal here to the bodhisatta vow that keeps the buddha from awakening before “comprehending the way to nibanna by himself”. IE he can not comprehend unless it is by himself. But that does not invalidate the argument. An arahant who hears the dhamma still has to comprehend the way by himself as he has to gain insight and truly understand. How can the buddha independently formulate the way when he has already heard the way from Kassapa. How is this any different than if an arahant claimed he was an independent buddha, even though he had the framework the buddha outlined? We must keep in mind the dhamma does not differ between buddhas

We also have to be careful to not simply dismiss this by saying this is how the Bodhisatta way works. This concept is what I am critiquing here and raising the possibility of aspects of it being a later development so treating it’s maxim as authoritative without evaluating whether it is consistent/makes sense with the rest of the dhamma is worth being aware of.

I will await your new article as perhaps their is a vital difference here that I am not seeing. Apologies for the repetition, I wanted to ensure I was representing my position accurately.

With metta,