Are Paccekabuddhas, Savakabuddhas, and Sammasambuddhas equal

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Wizard in the Forest
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Are Paccekabuddhas, Savakabuddhas, and Sammasambuddhas equal

Post by Wizard in the Forest » Sun Dec 26, 2010 7:35 pm

I've had a few discussions with people about the idea of "degrees of attainment" of a Sammasambuddha, Paccekabuddha, and a Savakabuddha. I personally think they're equal in their realization of Nibbana, but are only perceived as unequal by us. I think that the reason the Savakabuddha is considered unequal in attainment to a Sammasambuddha because a Sammasambuddha had taught them how to get this attainment, and a Paccekabuddha is perceived as unequal in attainment because they cannot instruct people, but I think this has less to do with the Paccekabuddha's ability to instruct, but the state of the minds around him. If the Buddha hadn't been prompted by Brahma Sampati he too would not have taught. This means he would have been a Paccekabuddha. The difference is that Brahma Sampati told him there's people around him who would be able to see and understand the Dhamma, so he could lead these people of lesser defilements to the same realization of Nibbana he attained. This is what makes the differences between the 3. It's got less to do with literal deficiencies, but more to do with how we perceive them as deficient.

I don't know if there's scriptural support for this view, but I don't see how there could be degrees of realization of Nibbana, but just degrees of our perception.
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Re: Are Paccekabuddhas, Savakabuddhas, and Sammasambuddhas equal

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Dec 26, 2010 7:48 pm

Wizard in the Forest wrote: I don't know if there's scriptural support for this view, but I don't see how there could be degrees of realization of Nibbana, but just degrees of our perception.
As I understand it (mostly from Bhikkhu Bodhi's talks and his discussion in "In the Buddhas Words") the standard Theravada view is that there is no difference in the realization of nibbana between an Buddha and and Arahant (as you say). However, in order to rediscover the Path by himself and be able to effectively teach it a Sammasambuddha will have developed various other skills to a higher degree (such as psychic powers, recollection of past lives, and so on). I can probably find some references, given time, but someone may have them at their fingertips...


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Re: Are Paccekabuddhas, Savakabuddhas, and Sammasambuddhas equal

Post by Reductor » Sun Dec 26, 2010 7:56 pm

I do recall that all three levels are equal with one another in terms of Nibbanic attainment. The Buddhas differ between themselves primarily in the function that they play: sammasambuddha forms a dispensation while a paccekabuddha does not. But paccekabuddhas may also have a few direct disciples, I do believe (recalling such a comment from a sutta, the name of which I do not recall) but the path is not explicated by them in as much detail as is done by the sammasambuddha. This is the main distinction that I recall. I also recall a comment by a modern scholar monk (Bodhi?) to the effect that paccekabuddhas have fewer mundane skills which would be necessary for establishing dispensations.

Also, there are those savaka disciples who have all the important skills of the Buddha developed to a very high degree; but still they are not quite to the level of the Buddha (so say the commentators, plus the perfection of those skills are reserved for the Buddha by the suttas themselves). The primary difference between a savaka and the paccekabuddha and sammasambuddha is that they learn the path from the buddhas rather then originate the path.

Sorry I cannot provide sutta references, but that isn't the strong suit of my memory.

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Re: Are Paccekabuddhas, Savakabuddhas, and Sammasambuddhas equal

Post by cooran » Sun Dec 26, 2010 8:21 pm

Hello Wizard,

This might be of interest:

In the early centuries after the Buddha's passing away, as Buddhism became a popular religion, the idea was formalized that there were three paths to awakening to choose from: the path to awakening as a disciple of a Buddha (savaka); the path to awakening as a private Buddha (pacceka-buddha), i.e., one who attained awakening on his own but was not able to teach the path of practice to others; and the path to awakening as a Rightly Self-awakened Buddha (samma sambuddha). Each path was defined as consisting of perfections (paramī) of character, but there was a question as to what those perfections were and how the paths differed from one another. The Theravadins, for instance, specified ten perfections, and organized their Jataka collection so that it culminated in ten tales, each illustrating one of the perfections. The Sarvastivadins, on the other hand, specified six perfections, and organized their Jataka collection accordingly. ... tions.html" onclick=";return false;

The Theravada tradition recognises three types of Buddhas:
Samma Sambuddha is a self-enlightened Buddha. That is, a Buddha who realises the Truth (Nibbana) by himself, without the assistance of a teacher. Furthermore, this Buddha can teach what he has discovered (the Dhamma) for the benefit of other beings. His teachings are known as the Buddha Sasana and last for several thousand years in the world, after which they fall into decline and are finally lost to human understanding. The last Buddha was of this catergory.

Pacceka Buddha also attains Nibbana without the assistance of a teacher, but unlike the Samma Sambuddha he cannot teach the Dhamma.
Savaka Buddha or Arahat attains Nibbana by following the teachings given by a Samma Sambuddha.
In terms of their Enlightenment, all three Buddhas are identical, but they reach this state by different means (with or without a teacher), and may or may not be able to teach. ... buddha.htm" onclick=";return false;

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