Is the idea of multiple "degrees" of Arhat a later development?

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
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TheSynergist
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Is the idea of multiple "degrees" of Arhat a later development?

Post by TheSynergist » Sun Feb 04, 2018 11:30 pm

Hi, everyone,

I just wanted to draw attention to a 2013 article by Tse-Fu Kuan, The Pavāraṇā Sutta and “liberation in both ways” as against “liberation by wisdom” (Link: https://www.academia.edu/11788537/The_ ... by_wisdom_). It's a very good article, so I'm a bit surprised I haven't seen more discussion of it.

Basically, he analyzes the Pavāranā Sutta, which talks about "500 Arhats" being present, although the Arhats have different attainments. This Sutta is often used to argue that there are multiple types of Arhats, the most common of which become enlightened purely by insight and without the Three/6 Knowledges, formless attainments, etc. Tse-Fu points out that there are various parallels in the Agamas, with mostly minor discrepancies (e.g., some say there was 1 non-Arhat present). Importantly, however, the Ekottarika Agama version of the text (EA 32.5) has no mention of the list of different types of Arhats, but just says that the 500 people present were at least stream-winners. He concludes that the references to multiple types of Arhat are interpolations.

He also scavenges the Pali Suttas and Agamas for various references to Arhats between divided between those "liberated both ways" and ones "liberated by wisdom." He says all these references have a shaky textual foundation --- that is, if it's mentioned in the Pali, it's missing in some Agama collection, or if it's in an Agama collection, it's missing in the Pali (the only example of the latter is SN 55.24, about the drinker Sarakaani). He also says the EA has no references to Arhats "liberated both ways" at all. He comes to a conclusion the the notion of "multiple degrees of arhatship" is a later development, one that resulted when the definition of "Arhat" was expanded to include more people.

Anyway, I do encourage people to read the article and not just my summary. I'm curious what other people think of his argument.

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Re: Is the idea of multiple "degrees" of Arhat a later development?

Post by thomaslaw » Wed Feb 07, 2018 11:45 pm

TheSynergist wrote:
Sun Feb 04, 2018 11:30 pm
Hi, everyone,

I just wanted to draw attention to a 2013 article by Tse-Fu Kuan, The Pavāraṇā Sutta and “liberation in both ways” as against “liberation by wisdom” (Link: https://www.academia.edu/11788537/The_ ... by_wisdom_). It's a very good article, so I'm a bit surprised I haven't seen more discussion of it.

Basically, he analyzes the Pavāranā Sutta, which talks about "500 Arhats" being present, although the Arhats have different attainments. This Sutta is often used to argue that there are multiple types of Arhats, the most common of which become enlightened purely by insight and without the Three/6 Knowledges, formless attainments, etc. Tse-Fu points out that there are various parallels in the Agamas, with mostly minor discrepancies (e.g., some say there was 1 non-Arhat present). Importantly, however, the Ekottarika Agama version of the text (EA 32.5) has no mention of the list of different types of Arhats, but just says that the 500 people present were at least stream-winners. He concludes that the references to multiple types of Arhat are interpolations.

He also scavenges the Pali Suttas and Agamas for various references to Arhats between divided between those "liberated both ways" and ones "liberated by wisdom." He says all these references have a shaky textual foundation --- that is, if it's mentioned in the Pali, it's missing in some Agama collection, or if it's in an Agama collection, it's missing in the Pali (the only example of the latter is SN 55.24, about the drinker Sarakaani). He also says the EA has no references to Arhats "liberated both ways" at all. He comes to a conclusion the the notion of "multiple degrees of arhatship" is a later development, one that resulted when the definition of "Arhat" was expanded to include more people.

Anyway, I do encourage people to read the article and not just my summary. I'm curious what other people think of his argument.
If the Pavarana sutta is SN 8.7, it has two Chinese counterparts: SA 1212 and ASA 228 (= T2, no. 100), according to Choong Mun-keat. In his article "A comparison of the Pali and Chinese Versions of the Vangisa-thera Samyutta, a Collection of Early Buddhist Discourses on the Venerable Vangisa" in Buddhist Studies Review 24(1) 2007, pp. 35-45, Choong states thus (p. 40):

"The Buddha ... says he does not disapprove of any conduct of the five hundred bhikṣus, and declares thus:

SA: Ninety bhikṣus have the three knowledges (sanming三明), ninety are both ways liberated (jujietuo俱解脫), and the others are wisdom-liberated (huijietuo慧解脫) (CSA iii, p. 201; FSA 4, p. 1976; T 2, p. 330b).

ASA: Ninety bhikṣus have the three knowledges, one-hundred-and-eighty are both ways liberated, and the others are wisdom-liberated (T 2, p. 457c).

SN: Sixty have the three knowledges (tevijjā), sixty have the six supernormal knowledges/psychic powers (chaḷabhiññā), sixty are both ways liberated (ubhatobhāga-vimuttā), and the rest are wisdom-liberated (paññā-vimuttā) (SN I, 1998: 412; 1884: 191).

Thus, in the SA and ASA versions the Arhant is classified into three levels/kinds, whereas in the SN version four levels of Arhant are recognised. One item more, the six supernormal knowledges, is recorded in the Pāli version. "

"So, respectively, these have the following numbers in their categories: 90 + 90 + others, 90 + 180 + others, and 60 + 60 + 60 + others."

:thinking:

Thomas

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Re: Is the idea of multiple "degrees" of Arhat a later development?

Post by thomaslaw » Thu Feb 08, 2018 3:34 am

thomaslaw wrote:
Wed Feb 07, 2018 11:45 pm
TheSynergist wrote:
Sun Feb 04, 2018 11:30 pm
Hi, everyone,

I just wanted to draw attention to a 2013 article by Tse-Fu Kuan, The Pavāraṇā Sutta and “liberation in both ways” as against “liberation by wisdom” (Link: https://www.academia.edu/11788537/The_ ... by_wisdom_). It's a very good article, so I'm a bit surprised I haven't seen more discussion of it.

Basically, he analyzes the Pavāranā Sutta, which talks about "500 Arhats" being present, although the Arhats have different attainments. This Sutta is often used to argue that there are multiple types of Arhats, the most common of which become enlightened purely by insight and without the Three/6 Knowledges, formless attainments, etc. Tse-Fu points out that there are various parallels in the Agamas, with mostly minor discrepancies (e.g., some say there was 1 non-Arhat present). Importantly, however, the Ekottarika Agama version of the text (EA 32.5) has no mention of the list of different types of Arhats, but just says that the 500 people present were at least stream-winners. He concludes that the references to multiple types of Arhat are interpolations.

He also scavenges the Pali Suttas and Agamas for various references to Arhats between divided between those "liberated both ways" and ones "liberated by wisdom." He says all these references have a shaky textual foundation --- that is, if it's mentioned in the Pali, it's missing in some Agama collection, or if it's in an Agama collection, it's missing in the Pali (the only example of the latter is SN 55.24, about the drinker Sarakaani). He also says the EA has no references to Arhats "liberated both ways" at all. He comes to a conclusion the the notion of "multiple degrees of arhatship" is a later development, one that resulted when the definition of "Arhat" was expanded to include more people.

Anyway, I do encourage people to read the article and not just my summary. I'm curious what other people think of his argument.
If the Pavarana sutta is SN 8.7, it has two Chinese counterparts: SA 1212 and ASA 228 (= T2, no. 100), according to Choong Mun-keat. In his article "A comparison of the Pali and Chinese Versions of the Vangisa-thera Samyutta, a Collection of Early Buddhist Discourses on the Venerable Vangisa" in Buddhist Studies Review 24(1) 2007, pp. 35-45, Choong states thus (p. 40):

"The Buddha ... says he does not disapprove of any conduct of the five hundred bhikṣus, and declares thus:

SA: Ninety bhikṣus have the three knowledges (sanming三明), ninety are both ways liberated (jujietuo俱解脫), and the others are wisdom-liberated (huijietuo慧解脫) (CSA iii, p. 201; FSA 4, p. 1976; T 2, p. 330b).

ASA: Ninety bhikṣus have the three knowledges, one-hundred-and-eighty are both ways liberated, and the others are wisdom-liberated (T 2, p. 457c).

SN: Sixty have the three knowledges (tevijjā), sixty have the six supernormal knowledges/psychic powers (chaḷabhiññā), sixty are both ways liberated (ubhatobhāga-vimuttā), and the rest are wisdom-liberated (paññā-vimuttā) (SN I, 1998: 412; 1884: 191).

Thus, in the SA and ASA versions the Arhant is classified into three levels/kinds, whereas in the SN version four levels of Arhant are recognised. One item more, the six supernormal knowledges, is recorded in the Pāli version. "

"So, respectively, these have the following numbers in their categories: 90 + 90 + others, 90 + 180 + others, and 60 + 60 + 60 + others."

:thinking:

Thomas
Also, Choong comments about the three/four levels of Arhant thus (p. 41):

"The three knowledges of an Arhant are the first item stated in all three versions. The three are indeed part of the six supernormal knowledges (the last three items of the six), which are not mentioned in the two Chinese versions. The three traditions here indicate that the three knowledges constitute the highest level of achieving the status of Arhant, whether or not they are accompanied by the extra knowledges included in the chaḷabhiññā.

"The six supernormal knowledges (including the three knowledges) are closely associated with cultivation of the meditative state of concentration (samādhi); for example, the practice of the four bases of supernormal power (cattāro iddhipādā, si ruyizu 四如意足). The six supernormal knowledges are therefore naturally linked to the both ways liberated, though they involve additional concentration-based knowledges. The wisdom-liberated, listed as the last category of Arhant, denotes the most basic and common level of attaining liberation shown in the three versions. Accordingly, the three levels (in SA and ASA) or the four levels (in SN) of an Arhant can be simply classified into just two: the wisdom-liberated and the both ways liberated."

Regards, :meditate:

Thomas

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Re: Is the idea of multiple "degrees" of Arhat a later development?

Post by Zom » Thu Feb 08, 2018 2:05 pm

He also says the EA has no references to Arhats "liberated both ways" at all. He comes to a conclusion the the notion of "multiple degrees of arhatship" is a later development, one that resulted when the definition of "Arhat" was expanded to include more people.
He says this:

After this concept was redefined insuch a way that the criterion for liberation was lowered in terms of attainments in concentrative meditation there arose polemical exchanges which brought about the use of the term there arose polemical exchanges which brought about the use of the term liberated in both ways to designate fully-fledged arhats with experience of all the nine attainments in concentrative meditation.



The very idea is interesting and I'd say intriguing. And there are certain arguments (apart from those listed) for and against this theory. However, if he is correct and "true" arahants must have all 9 meditative attainments, then we come to a conclusion that ancient Sangha (that one which was before 2nd council and all "splits") made a grievous textual sabotage. Quite gross supposition with rather unpleasant further inferences .)

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Re: Is the idea of multiple "degrees" of Arhat a later development?

Post by Circle5 » Thu Feb 08, 2018 10:58 pm

I too have noticed this problem, but did not give too much attention to it. There are many suttas that say or imply that an arahat has achieved all 8 jhanas and only then can such a thing as nibbana pe experienced. I knew that for some reason it is considered that only 4 jhanas are needed for arahantship, though I've never seen any suggestion for that in the suttas and it would not make any sense. I thought it's something from the commentaries and never gave a second thought about it. If we stop to think about the technicalities of jhana, it is difficult to see how could such a thing as nibbana be reached without all 8 jhanas.

About liberated by wisdom vs liberated in both ways, I never knew about this problem. I thought all arahants are said to have jhanas but that some have supernormal powers while others do not, which makes perfect sense in a technical sense. But I didn't know the distinction was about having formless jhanas or not.

In any case, it is not a surprise at all. There are quite a lot of suttas that make it clear arahants have all 8 jhanas, nothing except that sutta discussed in the article says or implies anything different.
The very idea is interesting and I'd say intriguing. And there are certain arguments (apart from those listed) for and against this theory. However, if he is correct and "true" arahants must have all 9 meditative attainments, then we come to a conclusion that ancient Sangha (that one which was before 2nd council and all "splits") made a grievous textual sabotage. Quite gross supposition with rather unpleasant further inferences .)
On the contrary, I say this only proves the extreme conservativeness they had in preserving the suttas. Even this small attempt of change was done in a very conservative way. They dared to suggest the idea only in the commnetaries, and didn't dare to state it out right even there. They didn't touch the suttas except for maybe that one about liberated in both ways. Any person reading the suttas can observe just like me that there is no such idea about only 4 jhanas required inside them, and tons of suttas saying all 8 are required.

As for the 500 people all of the arahants at the assembly, was there really anyone who believed such a thing to begin with ?

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Re: Is the idea of multiple "degrees" of Arhat a later development?

Post by Circle5 » Thu Feb 08, 2018 11:11 pm

What is to be discussed more here is the motivation these people had. I know that in one extant school of early buddhism, they greatly changed the deffinition of arahantship, removing the idea of no desire for sensual pleasure. And it's considered that this was done probably because of some guys around there wanting to pass off as arahants but not meeting the requirements.

Could such a thing have been at play here too ? Or, another theory might be that problematic claim about "All of them arahants" at the first Buddhist council. It's easy to see why they would seriously wana add that up. And, after a while, they needed to do some changed for the deffinition of arahantship due to some other textual problems that bringed. But I am not informed and have not thought too much about this. I just posted this as a possible motivation.

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Re: Is the idea of multiple "degrees" of Arhat a later development?

Post by thomaslaw » Fri Feb 09, 2018 12:02 am

I think the wisdom-liberated arhat is possibly without the need of all 9 jhanas. See SN 12.70 https://suttacentral.net/en/sn12.70
I've got this information from the book The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism p. 201-2, 128 (by Choong Mun-keat).

Thomas

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Re: Is the idea of multiple "degrees" of Arhat a later development?

Post by TheSynergist » Fri Feb 09, 2018 1:21 am

Thanks, ya'll, for your comments.
thomaslaw wrote: I think the wisdom-liberated arhat is possibly without the need of all 9 jhanas
The article does discuss the issue of the necessity of the formless attainments a bit, too, although I was a bit confused about the author's conclusion.
Zom wrote:
Thu Feb 08, 2018 2:05 pm
The very idea is interesting and I'd say intriguing. And there are certain arguments (apart from those listed) for and against this theory. However, if he is correct and "true" arahants must have all 9 meditative attainments, then we come to a conclusion that ancient Sangha (that one which was before 2nd council and all "splits") made a grievous textual sabotage. Quite gross supposition with rather unpleasant further inferences .)
Circle5 wrote: What is to be discussed more here is the motivation these people had. I know that in one extant school of early buddhism, they greatly changed the deffinition of arahantship, removing the idea of no desire for sensual pleasure. And it's considered that this was done probably because of some guys around there wanting to pass off as arahants but not meeting the requirements.

Could such a thing have been at play here too ? Or, another theory might be that problematic claim about "All of them arahants" at the first Buddhist council. It's easy to see why they would seriously wana add that up. And, after a while, they needed to do some changed for the deffinition of arahantship due to some other textual problems that bringed. But I am not informed and have not thought too much about this. I just posted this as a possible motivation.
I think it makes a lot of sense of the Mahayana/"Hinayana" split, really. I was always bothered by the way that later Mahayanists depreciated Arhats, claiming they were capable of lacking wisdom, still possessing desire, lacking compassion, not being fully enlightened, still being able to fall away, etc. This stereotype of badly flawed Arhats really contrasts with their portrayal in the Suttas. However, it's possible that the proto-Mahayanists weren't reacting against the Arhats of Buddha's day, but rather people (likely inaccurately?) claiming to be Arhats generations after Buddha's parinirvana. Ven. Analayo suggested something like this in his discussion of the Bakkula Sutta.

And yeah, it does bring up some troubling implications for the reliability of the "500 Arhats" of the First Buddhist Council.

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Re: Is the idea of multiple "degrees" of Arhat a later development?

Post by Zom » Fri Feb 09, 2018 1:29 pm

On the contrary, I say this only proves the extreme conservativeness they had in preserving the suttas. Even this small attempt of change was done in a very conservative way. They dared to suggest the idea only in the commnetaries, and didn't dare to state it out right even there. They didn't touch the suttas except for maybe that one about liberated in both ways. Any person reading the suttas can observe just like me that there is no such idea about only 4 jhanas required inside them, and tons of suttas saying all 8 are required.
No no no. There are way too many suttas which speak about the way of "4 jhanas only". I'd say, they are even a majority, and "8 jhanas" is a minority here. And so, of course, if this is the case, then there is no "conservativeness", but as a said, a real saborage, because whole suttas are written as a pure lie - like Susima sutta for example -> https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html What is more, if the most ancient & unified Sangha allowed that to happen, then we can draw a conclusion, that many other suttas on any other subjects can be severely corrupted as well, just from the earliest Buddhist period, during some 1-100 years after Buddha's demise. Just up to the level (as some buddhologists suggest) that we don't really know anything about what Buddha actually taught.

But I think, this is going too far, and so I think that Sangha was not that bad, there was no such terrible corruption, and 4 jhanas are enough for arahantship (while 1 or 3 jhanas are not enough), simply because all additional 4 arupa jhanas do not really change much in the major (according to Buddha's personal view) jhana factor, which is, guess what..? Right, feeling (vedana). All jhanic formulas highlight different vedanas happening, appearing, or completely and totally disappearing. But from the 4th jhana nothing really changes in this sense, until the very nibbanic attainment of nirodha-samapatti (sannya-vedaita-nirodha). Both 4th jhana and 1st arupajhana (5th jhana) has this same "neutral mental feeling" - which must be overcome in order to get into nibbana. If you reach 2nd arupajhana, you don't overcome it. If you reach 3rd... and even 4th... it is still there. Only object changes, but not the state itself. I think this is why there is no really big difference between getting into nibbanic state from the 4th jhana or from the 8th jhana. The difference may be just in naming of state, where, nibbanic attainment from 4th jhana (may be, just theory) is called "animitta cetosamadhi", and nibbanic attainment from 8th jhana is "sannya-vedaita-nirodha". But both are the same. For example, in SN 40 (9th sutta) animitta cetosamadhi stands in a place where one should expect sannya-vedaita-nirodha. All this is very speculative ofc, but there is sense. Again, this is only 1 argument, but there are more.

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Re: Is the idea of multiple "degrees" of Arhat a later development?

Post by Circle5 » Fri Feb 09, 2018 6:10 pm

I'm not really an expert on tecnicalities of jhanas and haven't even read the 4 nikays, just one of them (SN) so I will leave this duscussion to others. Maybe this should have a topic on STC too.

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Re: Is the idea of multiple "degrees" of Arhat a later development?

Post by Coëmgenu » Tue Feb 13, 2018 7:04 pm

TheSynergist wrote:
Sun Feb 04, 2018 11:30 pm
He also says the EA has no references to Arhats "liberated both ways" at all. He comes to a conclusion the the notion of "multiple degrees of arhatship" is a later development, one that resulted when the definition of "Arhat" was expanded to include more people.

Anyway, I do encourage people to read the article and not just my summary. I'm curious what other people think of his argument.
Thank you for suggesting this paper.

One note of caution!: EA is a very eccentric āgama. It has many very late features & many features at odds with other āgamāḥ. I myself would be cautious about trying to use EA extensively in study of parallels. One can use it, but one has to be cautious.

For instance, it has a few passages in it that teach early bodhisattvayāna, but they are pretty easy to spot. Other eccentric features of it are not as easy.
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः

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Re: Is the idea of multiple "degrees" of Arhat a later development?

Post by TheSynergist » Tue Feb 13, 2018 7:30 pm

Zom wrote:
Fri Feb 09, 2018 1:29 pm
And so, of course, if this is the case, then there is no "conservativeness", but as a said, a real saborage, because whole suttas are written as a pure lie - like Susima sutta for example -> https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
I believe it was Gombrich who suggested exactly that --- that the Susima Sutta is a forgery. IMHO it's a strange Sutta. From what I can tell, the Susima Sutta doesn't actually say that it's possible for Arhats to lack the formless attainments, as the Buddha never validates the monks claim to Arahatship. Nor does he ever call Susima and Arhat. In fact Buddha doesn't talk about the monks at all, but ends by getting Susima to confess to "theft of the dharma" and accepting his confession. It's almost like two different Suttas on two different topics spliced together.
Coëmgenu wrote:One note of caution!: EA is a very eccentric āgama. It has many very late features & many features at odds with other āgamāḥ. I myself would be cautious about trying to use EA extensively in study of parallels. One can use it, but one has to be cautious.
Yep,the EA is a weird collection, and the paper goes into a discussion about the EA's possible provenance. It should be noted that the paper also goes into discrepancies regarding the Pali and other Agama collections as well, so the thesis doesn't exclusively hinge on the EA.
Circle5 wrote: Maybe this should have a topic on STC too.
Good idea.

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Re: Is the idea of multiple "degrees" of Arhat a later development?

Post by Zom » Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:53 am

I believe it was Gombrich who suggested exactly that --- that the Susima Sutta is a forgery.
It is not only about Susima. There are many more.
From what I can tell, the Susima Sutta doesn't actually say that it's possible for Arhats to lack the formless attainments, as the Buddha never validates the monks claim to Arahatship.
Actually he does, but to Susima personally. Sutta says that he doesn't understand how can these be Arahants, and Buddha just explains him why this is possible.
It's almost like two different Suttas on two different topics spliced together.
90% of suttas are on different topics spliced together.

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Re: Is the idea of multiple "degrees" of Arhat a later development?

Post by TheSynergist » Thu Feb 15, 2018 7:59 pm

Zom wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:53 am

Actually he does, but to Susima personally. Sutta says that he doesn't understand how can these be Arahants, and Buddha just explains him why this is possible.
While that is a *plausible* interpretation, and it does seem to be the most common (it's a natural reading given Sutta is constructed until the end), I'm still left a bit cold. I find the conclusion to the Sutta a bit wonky --- is Susima an Arhat? If not, how can the monks be? But if Susima is an Arhat (which I think is what the commentary suggests), why isn't this acknowledged in the text, but instead Buddha enjoins him to make amends in the future (which seems more appropriate for a learner)? I dunno, I'm a bit hesitant to draw any conclusions from the text, especially given that there are some inconsistencies with the Agamas. You're free to disagree, of course, as you seem to find the text more conclusive. FWIW there is a discussion about the Susima Sutta here: viewtopic.php?f=25&t=12606

I agree, though, that there are lots of examples of texts where only 4 Jhanas are mentioned in relation to enlightenment. As I recall, the formless states aren't even called "Jhanas" anywhere in the Suttas, correct? It sounds like the formless states could just be a way of developing the 4th Jhana.

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Re: Is the idea of multiple "degrees" of Arhat a later development?

Post by Zom » Fri Feb 16, 2018 12:13 am

is Susima an Arhat? If not, how can the monks be? But if Susima is an Arhat (which I think is what the commentary suggests),
He was not even a stream-winner before asking. Only in the process he became one.
I agree, though, that there are lots of examples of texts where only 4 Jhanas are mentioned in relation to enlightenment. As I recall, the formless states aren't even called "Jhanas" anywhere in the Suttas, correct? It sounds like the formless states could just be a way of developing the 4th Jhana.
Yes. There are even nice similes for 4 jhanas. And again yes, arupa-attainments are not jhanas, but arupa-attainments. And still yes again, thrice, as I said above, 4 arupas are based on the 4th jhana and don't differ much from each other (however, they still differ in a way from 4th jhana).

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