Can an arahant or sotapanna become a Buddha?

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    • #14952
      firewns
      Participant

      I have queries about Buddhism which I wonder if anyone would know the answer to.

      One pressing concern of mine is whether a sotapanna would be able to become a Buddha. As a sotapanna is bound to attain nibbana within seven lifetimes at most, it does not seem very likely that he can cultivate the conditions necessary to become a Buddha in such a short time. Buddhahood would presumably take incalculable aeons to achieve.

      Perhaps it may seem amusing, but I am torn between a desire to escape samsara as soon as possible by becoming an arahant, and another desire to become a fully-enlightened teaching Buddha who teaches the Dhamma to alleviate the sufferings of sentient beings in an age when the laws of Dhamma are unknown. Must I choose one path at the sacrifice and exclusion of the other?

      Someone who desires to become a Buddha but does not have the necessary conditions or perfections may wander around samsara for an infinite period of time, in no way being assured of becoming a Buddha. Furthermore, could a bodhisattva embarking on bodhisattvahood eventually end up becoming an arahant? (Does the Tipitakka mention anything about Bodhisattvas and bodhicitta, as it seems to be more of a Mahāyāna concept?)

      As well, what happens to an arahant upon his passing away? Does his mental continnum get extinguished completely, leaving no chance to cultivate himself to become a Buddha? (I just remembered this question had been discussed in another topic, but any one else who has things to add are welcome to share it with me too).

      The answers to these questions are very important to me, and I would appreciate it if anyone could provide me some insights on the matter, no matter how little.

      Thank you so much in advance for your help.

      Anonymous

    • #14954
      SengKiat
      Moderator

      @firewns – Striaght answer to the question is you either end up an Arahant or a Buddha. There is no half way change from a Sotapanna to a Buddha. As a Buddha needs to perfect the ten paramitas, which takes 100,000+ eons to perfect them.

      You may want to read the Arhat and Bodhisattva: Roles and Aspirations with Reference to the Stages of Path for a better understanding of the training of both paths.

      Hope this helps.

      With metta, Seng Kiat

      • #14955
        Embodied
        Spectator

        Hello,

        • “Sakkaya ditthi, the delusion of self or soul” this is a delicate matter. Doesn’t the Buddha made it clear that one shouldn’t worry (let’s say it so…) with such dual-non dual speculations ?
          Putting it in very pragmatical terms : if one replaces self or soul by ego then one has something concrete to work upon. Something effective.
        • “Silabhata paramasa,dependence upon rites” : This reminds me that my meditation corner might be considered a rite…however it’s not because i enjoy it that i’m dependent on it

        Metta

    • #14958
      Lal
      Keymaster

      @firewns: Welcome to the discussion forum!

      #1. There are two ways to attain Nibbana (which means stopping the rebirth process):

      • In both, one MUST realize the unfruitfulness and danger (because of the unavoidable future suffering in the lower realms) in staying in the rebirth process.
      • For that, one needs to understand the real nature of this world of 31 realms. That real nature is expressed in Tilakkhana (anicca, dukkha, anatta).

      #2. Now, if one figures out the true nature by oneself, then one is a Samma Sambuddha, like Buddha Gotama or Buddha Kassapa before him.
      -It is much easier to LEARN the true nature of this world FROM such a Buddha or a true disciple of a Buddha. These are Arahants.
      – Of course, a Buddha or an Arahant attain the same Nibbana.

      #3. Attaining the Buddhahood is not an easy process; see, “Paramita and Niyata Vivarana – Myths or Realities?
      – Since a Sotapanna has learned (and comprehended) Tilakkhana to some extent FROM either a Buddha or a true disciple (Ariya) of a Buddha, he/she would NOT become a Buddha.
      – This is why a Bodhisattva will never become a Sotapanna even if he learns Dhamma from a Buddha. One who is making paramita to become a Buddha will not able to learn (and comprehend) Tilakkhana from anyone else.
      – Furthermore, an Arahant has already stopped the rebirth process, and is also called a Buddha sometimes (Buddha means “bhava” + “uddha“, or someone who has stopped future bhava, and thus future rebirths). But an Arahant is not a Samma Sambuddha; that title is reserved for one who attains Nibbana via his own efforts, like Buddha Gotama.

      #4. Your other question has been discussed here:
      What happens to an arahant after death
      P.S. I just added another comment to that topic.

    • #14974
      Akvan
      Participant

      Further to Lal’s explanation;

      There are 2 ways to attain nibbana.
      1. By learning the dhamma by oneself. This is done by a Samma Sambuddha or a Pacceka Buddha

      1. By learning the Dhamma from a Buddha or a disciple of his. This done by an arahanth or sometimes referred to as a Shrawaka Buddha.

      So these two methods are separate and will not overlap. The Buddha said that the Dhamma he learnt was something he had not heard or seen before. So even though he was ordained in previous Buddha Sasana’s he had not really understood this Dhamma.

      Firewns said: but I am torn between a desire to escape samsara as soon as possible by becoming an arahant, and another desire to become a fully-enlightened teaching Buddha who teaches the Dhamma to alleviate the sufferings of sentient beings in an age when the laws of Dhamma are unknown.

      Think of all the people who have not been exposed to the true Dhamma or have not understood it properly even when the Dhamma is there in the world like in the present time. So, becoming a Buddha is not the only way to teach Dhamma and help people from suffering. For example take the work Lal has been doing through this site, and many other theros and lay people are doing to spread the Dhamma. How many people would have benefited by work like this and reduced suffering.

      Aspiring to become a Buddha is not some fleeting thought one may have during a period of time in samsara. It is not like the aspirations we may have had some time in our lives to become an astronaut or an Olympian or the President. The aspiration to become a Buddha is something much more deeper and deeply ingrained in such a person. Also a person aspiring to become a Buddha may not even know that he is aspiring for “Buddhahood” as he might be just wanting to learn the true nature of the world and teach it to others.

      The term Bodhisatta is used to refer to the past lives of a Buddha after he has got “niyatha vivarana” to become a Buddha. It is a term or title given in retrospect. So a Bodhisatta, during that past life may not even know that he is destined to become a Buddha. Take the times that the Bodhisatta was born an animal even after getting niyatha vivarana.

      I guess someone who is aspiring to become a Buddha can become an arahanth if he has not got “niyatha vivarana”.

    • #14985
      firewns
      Participant

      Thanks to Seng Kiat, Lal and Akvan for your very helpful replies. No offence meant to Embodied, but your comments seem more confusing than helpful, so I am not sure if it would be appropriate, meaningful or wise to thank you for your comment. So instead I would just thank you for any sincere, kind intentions you may have for helping me.

      I have gained a deeper understanding. It is probably far more helpful to devote oneself more to dana, sila and bhavana. There is always merit to be cultivated somewhere. Perhaps one should not worry too much about which path one is on, or whether one is even on any path at all, since probably only a fully enlightened Buddha will know.

      Thanks again to Lal, for welcoming me to this forum, and generally making this such a conducive place for discussions and learning.

      • #14987
        Embodied
        Spectator

        @firewns, my comment has very little to do with your quest, i commented on SengKiat info about “Arhat and Boddhisattva….” article/link.If you open the referred link you’ll finally get that my comment is pretty clear.

    • #29346
      Lal
      Keymaster

      The following post is from oetb.
      Welcome to the Forum!
      I am sorry that you could not post it yourself. That is an intermittent problem. Others run into it sometimes too.

      I read about kusala-mula paticca samuppada, and I have some doubts. Paticca samuppada starts with “avijja paccaya sankhara, …”. That paticca samuppada is the akusala-mula paticca samuppada, then:

      1. Why kusala-mula paticca samuppada starts with “kusala-mula paccaya sankhara, …” and not with “pañña paccaya sankhara, …”?

      If the characteristic of that kusala-mula is the desire to attain Nibbana:

      1. Why is only the desire to attain Nibbana for oneself that characteristic, and not too the desire for others to attain Nibbana? (or the desire to help others to attain Nibbana)

      Bodhisattvas has the desire to reach Buddhahood to help others reach Nibbana. We are said that in all this stuff of kamma, sansara, etc. there is no entity deciding what is good or bad kamma, or which is the next bhava/jati of a sentient being; all that works based on natural laws. Then:

      1. What prevents a bodhisattva to learn Dhamma? The article SengKiat posted says that for an aspirant to become a Bodhisattva he, among other qualities, should be able to become an Arahant in that very life (hetu) and should be able to see a live Buddha (satthara dassana). How could anyone with those qualities not be able to grasp Dhamma?
      2. Could be the case that there is no real prevention, just that if a Bodhisattva that has not received yet the niyata vivarana learns Dhamma and becomes a Sotapanna, Sakadagami, Anagami or Arahant, he loses his Bodhisattva condition?

      As I understand now, the Buddha taught about suffering and its end. For that purpose, he taught tilakkhana and paticca samuppada among other teachings.

      One who fully realizes tilakkhana becomes an Arahant. An Arahant has no avijja, then paticca samuppada does not cycle for him. Then he will not grasp new existences in this world of 31 realms.

      1. Have I made any bad assumptions at this point?
      2. Could be that not cycling for him paticca samuppada really means that he will not grasp new bhavas via akusala-mula paticca samuppada, but to say nothing about cycling for him kusala-mula paticca samuppada, that not begins with avijja? I mean, he will not grasp new bhavas motivated by any kind of hope in mundane happiness in any of the 31 realms, as he knows the tilakkhana nature of this world. In other words, with no avijja, there will be neither akusala abhisankhara nor kusala abhisankhara rooted in avijja (then also rooted neither in lobha/raga nor dosa/patigha). But:
      3. What prevents him to do abhisankhara rooted in pañña? Or, similarly, what prevents him to grasp a new bhava, not motivated in any future happiness (as he knows tilakkhana) but motivated to help others to reach Nibbana (motivated by compassion)?
      4. Is doing abhisankhara rooted in pañña an oxymoron?
      5. If the answer to 8 is yes, then what is puññabhisankhara?
      6. Why puñña kriya are not puññabhisankhara?
    • #29348
      Lal
      Keymaster

      In the following, I will try to address oetb’s questions.

      “1. Why kusala-mula paticca samuppada starts with “kusala-mula paccaya sankhara, …” and not with “pañña paccaya sankhara, …”?

      One CULTIVATES pañña by cultivating the Eightfold Path. When one attains the Arahanthood, then pañña is complete.
      – If we go in a sequential way, one MAY first start at the “moha” stage, where one may have one or more of the ten types of miccha ditthi.
      – After that, one is able to comprehend Tialkkhana (anicca, dukkha, anatta) and START on the Noble Eightfold Path as a Sotapanna Anugami.
      – Only then one will be able to cultivate the “kusala-mula paticca samuppada” that starts with “kusala-mula paccaya sankhara.
      – However, UNTIL one gets to the Arahant stage, all those below that stage may also be engaged in the “akusala-mula paticca samuppada” depending on the situation.
      The following section could be helpful:
      Living Dhamma

      “2. Why is only the desire to attain Nibbana for oneself that characteristic, and not too the desire for others to attain Nibbana? (or the desire to help others to attain Nibbana)”

      I am not sure where you got that idea. I have not attained Nibbana (Arahanthood) but I am spending a lot of time on this website trying to help others understand what I have understood.
      – Others at this forum do the same.
      – Most bhikkhus allocate a significant fraction of their time to teach others.
      – However, we must also keep in mind that only one can cleanse one’s own mind and attain Nibbana. Others (even a Buddha) can only teach the way to do it.

      “3. What prevents a bodhisattva to learn Dhamma?”

      I think that is the wrong way to look at it.
      A bodhisattva spends an uncountable number of lives fulfilling “the requirements” (or paramita) to become a Buddha.
      – But he cannot even attain the Sotapanna stage because then he would have learned Dhamma from someone else. A Buddha discovers the true nature of this world by himself WHEN a Buddha Sasana (Ministry of a Buddha) is ABSENT in the world. That way, he will be able to reveal Dhamma to many. That is why Buddha is a very special person.
      – Two Buddhas DO NOT appear in this world at the same time. That would defeat the purpose of having a Buddha who spends so much time and effort to become a Buddha.
      See, for example, “Pāramitā and Niyata Vivarana – Myths or Realities?

      I think if you go through the above-suggested posts, you may find answers to the other questions in them too.

      If not, or if you run into other questions, please feel free to ask.

    • #29371
      Lal
      Keymaster

      Oetb asked another question via email:

      If the characteristic of that kusala-mula is the desire to attain Nibbana:

      Why is only the desire to attain Nibbana for oneself that characteristic, and not too the desire for others to attain Nibbana? (or the desire to help others to attain Nibbana)

      Was motivated by the point number 5 of https://puredhamma.net/paticca-samuppada/kusala-mula-paticca-samuppada/

      That says:

      5. With puññābhi saṅkhāra as condition, a puññābhi viññāṇa arises. This puññābhi viññāṇa is accumulated as kamma bhava and could lead to corresponding “good” nāmarupa in pavutti Paṭicca Samuppāda or a new “good birth” in uppatti Paṭicca Samuppāda.

      Because the saṅkhāra was generated with a kusala-mula deed, only a kusala-mula viññāṇa arises: “pati +ichcha sama uppada“. The characteristic of this kusala-mula viññāṇa is the desire (chanda, not kāmachanda) for Nibbāna.
      I think maybe when I read “desire for Nibbana” I implicitly add “for oneself” as “desire for Nibbana [for oneself]”.

      That statement marked in bold also makes me wonder what kind of paticca samuppada cycles for beings not seeking for Nibbana, but doing good deeds and grasping deva or Brahma bhava. Good deeds do not fit in the akusala-mula paticca samuppada, but not seeking Nibbana does not fit in kusala-mula paticca samuppada.

      Following was my answer:

      You asked: “That statement marked in bold also makes me wonder what kind of paticca samuppada cycles for beings not seeking for Nibbana, but doing good deeds and grasping deva or Brahma bhava.”

      For such a person it is the akusala-mula paticca samuppada cycle that comes into play. But the word “akusala” there is at different levels. The worst is when one does dasa akusala (like killing, stealing, etc). That will lead to births in the apayas.

      – When one does “good deeds” WITHOUT comprehension of Tilakkhana (anicca, dukkha, anatta) that is also a type of “mild akusala” because one does not realize that even births in the “good realms” will not lead to permanent removal of suffering since, after that good birth, one could still be born in the apayas in the long-run.

      That is explained in: “Kusala and Akusala Kamma, Puñña and Pāpa Kamma

      Basically those “good deeds” are done with punna kamma. They are good but not as good as kusala kamma. And, punna kamma automatically becomes kusala kamma after one comprehends Tilakkhana. It is a matter of having a better comprehension of the true nature of this world.

      It may take some effort to understand this point. But that is the difference between the “mundane eightfold path” and the “Noble Eightfold Path.”

      Also see, “Transition to Noble Eightfold Path

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