Reply To: The Bodhisattva Problem and questions regarding.


I think I see the issue here. It mainly falls on me as I have been imprecise and frankly been doing a bad job characterizing the view I was presenting. I do not disagree with either of you regarding listening and comprehending, and the difference therein. We are on the same page. Hopefully, the rest of this post illustrates this. If not that is okay, I understand the desire to not want to discuss endlessly if there is no answer to be reasonably found.

ynot you said:

“There are not a few instances in the suttas where people, even kings, when asked whether sons and daughters, wives and dear ones in general bring happiness replied with an emphatic yes, and with an implied undertone (it seems to me) of ‘ What? Are you mad? ‘(to be thinking otherwise). Only when one has seen the reality for oneself through life experiences does a statement become true(to oneself). It has now become an observation. Real – not just words quoted from a book, ascribed to whoever at all it may be.”

“For that constant MINDFULLNESS is necessary (precisely of one’s experiences, both as one is going through them and also later on reflection), not constantly REMINDING oneself of the statement.”

I completely agree with everything you have said here, and what you expand upon later on in your post. The difference between simply hearing and understanding is vast. I believe there is even a line in the Dhammapadha about how if a fool is exposed to the truth he will no more understand it than the spoon would taste the soup. In addition, I apologize I have said anything grating in these posts, its quite difficult to expresss tone in text. I appreciate you offering a differing perspective, it is very much so appreciated. I suspect as stated above that we are mostly in agreement regarding this point.

My gripe was regarding how the definitions and conception of how these two yanas (arhantship and buddhahood) conflict regarding the Pali Tipitaka.

Simply put, the characteristic feature of arhants that differentiates them from buddhas is that arahants are exposed to the true dhamma preceding their awakening. The instruction, perhaps even small verses, is what they use to gain awakening through themself by either walking the eightfold path outlined or following the thread, which necessitates mindfulness and cultivation of insight, not endless repetition.

If the buddha has knowledge of his past lives, which the canon acknowledges he gains during the night of his enlightenment/preceding his actual awakening. (I can provide suttas if requested) He would have had exposure to the true dhamma through the countless desanas he undoubtedly heard the Buddha Kassapa give as a monk underneath him. It doesn’t matter that he didn’t understand or comprehend. It would be equivalent to an arhant preceding his awakening hearing a desana.

In the same way that it doesn’t matter if an arhant before his awakening didn’t comprehend the teachings he was given. Just that it was present in his life. If we can surmise based on the fact presented in the Pali Tipitaka, that the life in which the ascetic Gotama gained awakening he was exposed to true dhamma through his past life regression. This would make him an arhant, not a buddha. Based at least on the common conception.

As a side note, if everything is as the Pali Tipitaka outlines, the ascetic gotama would know he was destined for awakening upon looking into his past lives, as he would see his confirmation. Therefore he would know the buddha Kassapa’s teaching were worth listening to and comparing to his own experience.

Now this can be solved in two ways.

1. The common conception of buddhahood is false, and in reality he simply is an individual who rediscovers the dhamma in an age in which it has been lost, without specification of whether he rebuilds it entirely from his own observations or if he draws upon his exposure to dhamma in a previous life. This means an arhant can be just as accomplished as a buddha, and the difference lies in the order in which they awaken only relative to world with/without buddha dhamma.
– This would be supported as well by the fact that the buddha did not urge his followers to walk the bodhisattva path, nor spend a significant amount of time expanding upon it. Instead, he held up Sariputra and Moggallana as the ideals to emulate.
– It would be also supported by the fact that the Buddha stressed his role as a rediscoverer of the path. Which would not conflict with this formulation.

2. The canon regarding his past lives and being confirmed by countless buddhas and ordaining under them is false (ie a later development), as well as the Maitreya prediction and the eons of cultivating paramis. This would preserve most of what the main Sutta Piṭaka has to say about the Buddha’s pre-eminence in the world and superiority to the Arhant in accomplishment.
– There is evidence to suggest this is the case through comparative analysis between different translations of the canon passed down from separate early Buddhist lineages. There is quite a bit of scholarly work to at least suggest it’s a possibility, a few of which I linked above. It is up to you to decide if it’s sound, with the same rigor we should treat everything here at Pure Dhamma.
– I also linked specific suttas up above that conflict with the Jatakas. So it is not like this idea is out of the left field.

From a different perspective,

The big sticking point is that the Pali Tipitaka’s definition of an arhant is one who gains awakening with exposure to the true dhamma. It’s definition of a buddha is one who gains it without exposure to the true dhamma. Exposure does not mean understanding. This can be through a living teacher who is an ariya, or through texts that can be attributed to one.

Arahants do not gain awakening by reciting these texts, they use them as guideposts to conduct their own investigations and cultivate insight.

The normal understanding is that the buddha worked out awakening for himself, independently, and rediscovered the path.

It cannot be that he had exposure (not comprehending) to the true dhamma, through for example, remembering his past lives. And it still simultaneously hold true that he was buddha based on the conception just outlined. Because the rule is that one is an Arhant if they are exposed (not comprehending) to true dhamma preceding their awakening

In other words, both arhants and buddhas have to comprehend the path and dhamma by themselves. Words and true dhamma only point the way per se. If the argument is that the buddhas have to realize the way based off their own observations without aid. Than the asctic gotama would not be a buddha because having access to the desanas of a past buddha is considered aid in the exact same way that an arhant is given.

@Lal, you’ll have to understand why I cannot speak directly to the paramita description of how this works, or what a bodhisattva is by definition, or what was said about and regarding Jotipala. It is part of the body of work I am critiquing as not as authoritative. In addition, I read all the articles linked and they do not tackle this issue. As I assume the posting was not necessarily meant for me but those who may come across this thread, there is no need to respond, simply trying to express that I am reading everything you both are providing and trying to take the time to adequately reflect on it and treat it with the consideration it deserves.

We must also be careful to not throw the baby out with the bathwater, even if we take the new translations of anicca, anatta, and dukkha as the most accurate. That does not mean other scholars do not have anything worth considering or worthwhile to say simply because they got that wrong. It is all about consistency after all. :)

With metta