Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautama?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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clw_uk
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Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautama?

Post by clw_uk » Sun Jul 07, 2013 3:07 am

Why do Buddhists, at least on internet discussion forums, always revert back to the first Arahant in india (siddhartha gautama) instead of referring to modern day arahants?

IMO we can take the core teachings from siddhartha and gain better elaborations from modern ajahans (such as Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Sumedho and Ajhan Buddhadasa) since they communicate via our modern languages and use our modern terms and concepts

After all there was never only one "person" enlightened


Thoughts?
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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Post by chownah » Sun Jul 07, 2013 3:38 am

I think you would understand better why Buddhists on THIS forum stay with Gotamma by studying what Theravada
Buddhism is since this is a forum for discussing Theravada Buddhism. In brief it means that THIS forum is for discussion of the Buddha's teachings as described in the Pali scriptures and how these scriptures were passed down through the ages. If you study this a bit you will find that Theravada Buddhism recognizes ONLY Gotamma as having been a very special kind of arahant with knowledge developed to am extremely much higher level than the typical arahant. The term used for his status is thatagata so go read about the meaning of this.

Your post is a bit like walking into a Mosque and asking "why are there so many Muslims here?" :smile:
chownah
P.S. There is another forum called Dharma Wheel where people discuss Buddhism in very much more the same way that you suggest. You might go check it out.
chownah

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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Post by clw_uk » Sun Jul 07, 2013 3:42 am

chownah wrote:I think you would understand better why Buddhists on THIS forum stay with Gotamma by studying what Theravada
Buddhism is since this is a forum for discussing Theravada Buddhism. In brief it means that THIS forum is for discussion of the Buddha's teachings as described in the Pali scriptures and how these scriptures were passed down through the ages. If you study this a bit you will find that Theravada Buddhism recognizes ONLY Gotamma as having been a very special kind of arahant with knowledge developed to am extremely much higher level than the typical arahant. The term used for his status is thatagata so go read about the meaning of this.

Your post is a bit like walking into a Mosque and asking "why are there so many Muslims here?" :smile:
chownah

Yet all arahants experience the same realisation, all walked the same path and all are equal to the Buddha, except he got
There on his own and they got their by his instruction.

Oh and we aren't Muslims
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clw_uk
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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Post by clw_uk » Sun Jul 07, 2013 4:00 am

Also people in Buddhas time didn't just go to him but also to the other arahants

So if Theravada just means listening to one arahant, that doesn't seem to keep in line with how dhamma was taught :shrug:
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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Jul 07, 2013 4:09 am

Hi Craig,
clw_uk wrote:Why do Buddhists, at least on internet discussion forums, always revert back to the first Arahant in india (siddhartha gautama) instead of referring to modern day arahants?

IMO we can take the core teachings from siddhartha and gain better elaborations from modern ajahans (such as Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Sumedho and Ajhan Buddhadasa) since they communicate via our modern languages and use our modern terms and concepts
I think that's actually what most people do. They just put different weights on the interpretations of the Buddha-Dhamma by:
  • The teachers they know personally;
  • Their own experience;
  • Ancients such as Acharia Buddhaghosa and the unnamed commentators that he quotes;
  • Modern teachers such as Ajahn Buddhadasa, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Bhikkhu Nanananda, Bhikkhu Nanavira, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Maha Boowa, Ajahn Brahm, ... [Who are by no means consistent...];
  • Interpretations of the Suttas that they thought of themselves, independent of any of the above...
I think that covers the possibilities. It seems to me to be a matter of different mixtures rather than rigid categories.

:anjali:
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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Post by tiltbillings » Sun Jul 07, 2013 4:11 am

clw_uk wrote:

Yet all arahants experience the same realisation, all walked the same path and all are equal to the Buddha, except he got
There on his own and they got their by his instruction.
How do you know who is and is not an arahant?
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Post by DNS » Sun Jul 07, 2013 4:39 am

Good posts above; I think it is a mix of approach most people use. And as tilt suggests, how do we know which modern teachers are arahants? But we do accept the enlightenment of the historical Buddha (Buddhists anyway) and have the Pali Canon for reference in that regard. I guess you could say it is the common denominator among Buddhists that all can agree on that and it might be an 'appeal to authority' except that it is the primary reference for Buddhists who prefer something along the lines of "original Buddhism" or "early Buddhism".

For example, if you have 2 modern teachers and they have very different views on some matter, how would you check to settle to see which one is more in line with the teachings of Buddhism / the Dhamma? You might check with the 4 great standards, which is from the Pali Canon, which is based on the teachings of . . . well, Buddha.

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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Post by cooran » Sun Jul 07, 2013 5:10 am

clw_uk wrote:Why do Buddhists, at least on internet discussion forums, always revert back to the first Arahant in india (siddhartha gautama) instead of referring to modern day arahants?

IMO we can take the core teachings from siddhartha and gain better elaborations from modern ajahans (such as Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Sumedho and Ajhan Buddhadasa) since they communicate via our modern languages and use our modern terms and concepts

After all there was never only one "person" enlightened


Thoughts?
Hello clw_uk,

It would be extremely difficult (impossible, i believe) to ascertain if someone is an Arahant nowadays. This thread might be of
interest:
Arahants
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=1323

With metta,
Chris
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---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Post by santa100 » Sun Jul 07, 2013 5:24 am

clw_uk wrote:Why do Buddhists, at least on internet discussion forums, always revert back to the first Arahant in india (siddhartha gautama) instead of referring to modern day arahants?
Because most of the time, the Buddha already had an answer to your question... :smile:
Then a bhikkhu might say: ‘In such and such a residence several elder bhikkhus are dwelling who are learned, heirs to the heritage, experts on the Dhamma, experts on the discipline, experts on the outlines. In the presence of those elders I heard this; in their presence I learned this: “This is the Dhamma; this is the discipline; this is the Teacher’s teaching!”’ That bhikkhu’s statement should neither be approved nor rejected. Without approving or rejecting it, you should thoroughly learn those words and phrases and then check for them in the discourses and seek them in the discipline. If, when you check for them in the discourses and seek them in the discipline, [you find that] they are not included among the discourses and are not to be seen in the discipline, you should draw the conclusion: ‘Surely, this is not the word of the Blessed One, the Arahant, the Perfectly Enlightened One. It has been badly learned by those elders.’ Thus you should discard it.

“But … if, when you check for them in the discourses and seek them in the discipline, [you find that] they are included among the discourses and are to be seen in the discipline, you should draw the conclusion: ‘Surely, this is the word of the Blessed One, the Arahant, the Perfectly Enlightened One. It has been learned well by those elders. ~~ AN 4.180 ~~

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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Jul 07, 2013 5:36 am

Hi Santa,

I think there are two questions:
1. What the Buddha taught.
2. What is useful elaboration.
The quote you gave is about the first issue. About the second we have suttas such as:
"As for the individual who has attained neither internal tranquillity of awareness nor insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, he should approach an individual who has attained both internal tranquillity of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment... and ask him, 'How should the mind be steadied? How should it be made to settle down? How should it be unified? How should it be concentrated? How should fabrications be regarded? How should they be investigated? How should they be seen with insight?' The other will answer in line with what he has seen & experienced: ...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
When, on observing that the monk is purified with regard to qualities based on delusion, he places conviction in him. With the arising of conviction, he visits him & grows close to him. Growing close to him, he lends ear. Lending ear, he hears the Dhamma. Hearing the Dhamma, he remembers it. Remembering it, he penetrates the meaning of those dhammas. Penetrating the meaning, he comes to an agreement through pondering those dhammas. There being an agreement through pondering those dhammas, desire arises. With the arising of desire, he becomes willing. Willing, he contemplates (lit: "weighs," "compares"). Contemplating, he makes an exertion. Exerting himself, he both realizes the ultimate meaning of the truth with his body and sees by penetrating it with discernment. ...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying at Savatthi in the Eastern Monastery, the palace of Migara's mother, together with many well-known elder disciples — with Ven. Sariputta, Ven. Maha Moggallana, Ven. Maha Kassapa, Ven. Maha Kaccana, Ven. Maha Kotthita, Ven. Maha Kappina, Ven. Maha Cunda, Ven. Revata, Ven. Ananda, and other well-known elder disciples. On that occasion the elder monks were teaching & instructing. Some elder monks were teaching & instructing ten monks, some were teaching & instructing twenty monks, some were teaching & instructing thirty monks, some were teaching & instructing forty monks. The new monks, being taught & instructed by the elder monks, were discerning grand, successive distinctions.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
It seems that, from the earliest times, elaboration by skilled instructors was important for those who did not have personal instruction from the Buddha.

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Post by Kim OHara » Sun Jul 07, 2013 5:59 am

:goodpost:

One extra comment: the Buddha couldn't refer anyone to printed texts in the absence of a real live teacher or 'admirable friend' but we can and do. And all the arguments for and against the advice of particular people apply, more or less, to the texts.

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Post by BlackBird » Sun Jul 07, 2013 8:31 am

The Buddha is perfectly enlightened. Nobody knows more than the Buddha. Modern teachers IMO, I'm not sure many of them are even they're sotapatti let alone arahants, and even if there are a few arahants out there - The Buddha still had a much better understanding than they do. I have a lot of faith in the Nikayas, I've read a good deal of them, under a very critical and skeptical eye, and to the best of my knowledge - I cannot find a single contradiction. The Buddha has stated his Dhamma is free of patchwork, and so because it is perfect, why do you need to go seeking your Dhamma elsewhere?

That's not to say that modern teachers don't have a lot of value. It's nice to listen to Dhamma talks. The Buddha cannot help you with specific meditation problems you might run into, because he's not here, so it's good for many people to have a bhavana teacher and someone who can give practical life advice in regards to virtue. But to compare these teachers to the Buddha himself - There's no way you can do that. No teacher on Earth can compare to the Buddha.

I would have thought this would be completely self evident. What are the advantages of not giving the Buddha absolute primacy?
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Post by Kim OHara » Sun Jul 07, 2013 8:43 am

BlackBird wrote:The Buddha is perfectly enlightened. Nobody knows more than the Buddha. Modern teachers IMO, I'm not sure many of them are even they're sotapatti let alone arahants, and even if there are a few arahants out there - The Buddha still had a much better understanding than they do. I have a lot of faith in the Nikayas, I've read a good deal of them, under a very critical and skeptical eye, and to the best of my knowledge - I cannot find a single contradiction.
I would have thought this would be completely self evident.
Agreed.
BlackBird wrote:What are the advantages of not giving the Buddha absolute primacy? I can't think of any.
Something I have been thinking for a long time and may have said once or twice before is relevant here: If you think of Buddhism as "Religion", the Buddha's words, the revelation of the founder, are the be-all and end-all; but if you think of it as "Science", the Buddha's words are more analogous to the writings of someone like Isaac Newton, i.e. immensely important but always subject to improvement and correction.
In reality, Buddhism isn't quite a religion and isn't quite a science, but I for one am reluctant to abandon the possibility of important additions to the original teachings.

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Post by reflection » Sun Jul 07, 2013 8:51 am

First off, I think the 'always' is a bit strong since many people refer to modern day teachers. But, aside from the good replies already given, I think good teachers themselves also refer to the Buddha and the suttas. And they'll say to compare their words by the suttas.

As for this board, most discussions end up about being one view versus another. We could go by our teachers and it'll be like "my teacher is more enlightened than yours". It'll be a battle of faith, because we can only take on faith who is enlightened. And that won't really be very helpful for anybody.
Last edited by reflection on Sun Jul 07, 2013 8:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Post by BlackBird » Sun Jul 07, 2013 8:52 am

Kim OHara wrote:
BlackBird wrote:What are the advantages of not giving the Buddha absolute primacy? I can't think of any.
Something I have been thinking for a long time and may have said once or twice before is relevant here: If you think of Buddhism as "Religion", the Buddha's words, the revelation of the founder, are the be-all and end-all; but if you think of it as "Science", the Buddha's words are more analogous to the writings of someone like Isaac Newton, i.e. immensely important but always subject to improvement and correction.
In reality, Buddhism isn't quite a religion and isn't quite a science, but I for one am reluctant to abandon the possibility of important additions to the original teachings.

:namaste:
Kim
If wish to hold on to the possibility that he didn't teach the Dhamma perfectly like he has said in the Suttas that he has done (The Dhamma is well expounded by the Blessed one), then I think there's still a bit of resistance to give him the positition in your life that he deserves - That of a seer who can guide you, as an ignorant and deluded being to the light of stream entry.

I don't encourage anyone to surrender their skepticism to the Buddha without a proper and thorough reading of the Suttas, but at some point I think it's necessary or further progress becomes impossible and one begins to merely tred water.
There is the case where you recollect the Tathagata: 'Indeed, the Blessed One is worthy and rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge & conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the world, unexcelled as a trainer for those people fit to be tamed, the Teacher of divine & human beings, awakened, blessed.' At any time when a disciple of the noble ones is recollecting the Tathagata, his mind is not overcome with passion, not overcome with aversion, not overcome with delusion. His mind heads straight, based on the Tathagata. And when the mind is headed straight, the disciple of the noble ones gains a sense of the goal, gains a sense of the Dhamma, gains joy connected with the Dhamma. In one who is joyful, rapture arises. In one who is rapturous, the body grows calm. One whose body is calmed experiences ease. In one at ease, the mind becomes concentrated.

...

"Furthermore, there is the case where you recollect the Dhamma: 'The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One, to be seen here & now, timeless, inviting verification, pertinent, to be realized by the wise for themselves.' At any time when a disciple of the noble ones is recollecting the Dhamma, his mind is not overcome with passion, not overcome with aversion, not overcome with delusion. His mind heads straight, based on the Dhamma. And when the mind is headed straight, the disciple of the noble ones gains a sense of the goal, gains a sense of the Dhamma, gains joy connected with the Dhamma. In one who is joyful, rapture arises. In one who is rapturous, the body grows calm. One whose body is calmed experiences ease. In one at ease, the mind becomes concentrated.
- http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

So to cut a long story short: The Buddha has said he has known and seen the Dhamma perfectly, unexcelled by anyone else. He has said he is a perfect teacher, unexcelled by anyone else, and he has said he has taught the Dhamma perfectly, unexcelled by anyone. So to say that there might be aspects of Dhamma out there that he hasn't taught? No. There was plenty of knowledge the Buddha attained to but did not teach and he gave a perfect explanation why: Because they're not connected with the path leading to cessation.

Teachers are good for clarifying the meaning of the Suttas, but if they introduce new concepts foreign to the Dhamma, I am not interested in them beyond my curiosity of the world's diversity.


with metta
Jack
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

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