The Bodhisattva path

[ Follow Ups ] [ Post Followup ] [ Buddha's Village Forum ] [ FAQ ]

Posted by Zolla ( on November 07, 2000 at 15:16:03:

As I posted before I believe there are some misconceptions about the Arhat path and people still tend to think an Arhat is somehow "lower" than a Bodhisattva.

I wouldn't say that this is a serious problem but I believe people simply get this idea from the traditions they follow. It is generally suggested that if we follow one tradition, it'll be better for us to stick with it. Looking around is no harm but it doesn't help with our practices. So all those misunderstandings continue to grow.

However, recently, as I can see it, there is a movement of trying to look at the three yanas as a whole, this particulary means that some Mahayana Buddhists have started to look back at the earliest records of the Buddha's teachings and discover several things.

One of the common misunderstandings is that Arhat is "lower" than Bodhisattva. Now we come to know that Arhat simply means a person who finally reaches liberation. But a Buddha is also an Arhat. Those who practise in order to reach personal liberation are called savakas, their goal is comparatively simple, when they finally attain liberation they're called Arhats while in the case of Bodhisattvas, they practise not just to liberate themselves but also other sentient beings, when they finally attain enlightenment, they're Buddhas, but if we look at the earliest records of the words of the Buddhas and his disciples we'll find that at his time, the Buddha was also called Arhat. So we can almost say that Arhat and Bodhisattva stand for two different things, but they're not two different levels in the same way. To make it clearer, most of us tend to say that an Arhat is like a degree holder and a Bodhisattva is a master degree holder.

Due to the fact that Bodhisattvas need to accumulate Paramittas, no matter how high their realizations are, they cannot reach the four "fruit" stages, a savaka skips all other things so they go ahead to ahead the four "fruits" more directly. It's not appropriate to say who's "higher" because the differences between the All-Knowing Ones and Arhats who have reached their as savakas only exist on the dualistic, or convention level, once they're there, it's all the same. That's what I've understood so far. We can take two travellers as examples: one only want to reach the destination, the other one also wants to reach the destination, but he spends more time on the way to learn more things. As the result both enjoy a great time at the destination but the one who spends more time on the way can also be a tourist guide who can show others several ways to get there, and they know more clearly about the place.

There are also many other confusions like this. I think there are a lot of meaningful communications between different schools that are taking places. If someone asks me what's the use of such communications in terms of reaching the goal, I would say no, it might not help much with reaching the destination, but just to know more about the ways to get there. But I suppose a Bodhisattva should also spend a little bit more time looking at different teachings--especially those of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha himself.

One of the benefit to spend sometime on the classical teachings is that if we look into it, we'll discover that even the so called "three yanas" may look very different from the outside, deep inside there is a kind of unity or consistence, then we'll know better what are the basic principles of the teachings of the Buddha and shall not get confused by certain inaccurate presentation or interpretation of the Dharma.

If we rush for the experiences without spending some time studying the doctrinal teachings from different standpoints, there'll be chances that we have misunderstandings of the teachings and be easily misled by our egos.

Just my viewpoints afterall.

Follow Ups:

Post a Followup




Optional Link URL:
Link Title:
Optional Image URL:

[ Follow Ups ] [ Post Followup ] [ Buddha's Village Forum ] [ FAQ ]