Can an Arahant improve their understanding after awakening?

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
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Modus.Ponens
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Can an Arahant improve their understanding after awakening?

Post by Modus.Ponens » Sat Aug 04, 2018 10:24 pm

Thank you for your answers.

The topic is quickly shifting to the actual purpose of my question. So I ask the moderators to split this topic between the initial question and what I'm about to ask. I'm trying to understand if an arahat can improve his understanding of the dhamma after his awakening.

There are two levels of possibility here. One is the possibility of an arahat getting better at explaining the dhamma to students. Which means just an improvement in fluency, not necessarily an improvement in understanding.

The other level is about an improvement in understanding, although in a limited sense. Once an arahat is liberated from suffering he will no longer suffer, nor be fooled by delusions. But I can imagine that an arahat could be unexperienced in, say, the four imaterial jhanas. And, after his liberation, it would be easy for him to explore that territory. It wouldn't improve his awakening because awakening is the destruction of delusion. But destroying delusions does not have to automatically entail knowledge of the imaterial jhanas, or of psychic powers, or of other worlds, or of karma.

The analogy I have in mind is this: if you are in jail it's posible to completely destroy the walls of that jail (under the right circumstnces ;) ). But that would not mean that you would know every single thing about the world outside.

What do you think about this, and why?
"He turns his mind away from those phenomena and, having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.' " - Jhana Sutta

SarathW
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Re: Can an Arahant improve their understanding after awakening?

Post by SarathW » Sat Aug 04, 2018 11:10 pm

Once you know Anicca, Dukkha, and Anatta there is no improvement in that understanding.
However, the ability to explain to various people may improve over time.
For instance, the Pacceka Buddha can't teach his realisation to others.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

santa100
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Re: Can an Arahant improve their understanding after awakening?

Post by santa100 » Sun Aug 05, 2018 3:10 am

The Sammasambuddha Gotama is an arahant, but his arahant disciples Moggallana, Sariputa, etc. are not Sammasambuddhas. So while they no longer need to improve in terms of awakening understanding, there're still areas for a non-Sammasambuddha arahant to improve (ex: skills in propagating the Dhamma or formless attainments).

paul
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Re: Can an Arahant improve their understanding after awakening?

Post by paul » Sun Aug 05, 2018 7:19 am

The sutta perspective:

"An arahant should attend in an appropriate way to these five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self. Although, for an arahant, there is nothing further to do, and nothing to add to what has been done, still these things — when developed & pursued — lead both to a pleasant abiding in the here-&-now and to mindfulness & alertness.”—-SN 22:122

“So even though arahants have completed the duties and tasks associated with the four noble truths— and have gained access to an unconditioned awareness outside of the dimensions of the six senses— their attention, when sensitive to the world of the six senses, is still a purposeful activity.”—-“Right Mindfulness”, Thanissaro.

markandeya
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Re: Can an Arahant improve their understanding after awakening?

Post by markandeya » Sun Aug 05, 2018 9:58 am

SarathW wrote:
Sat Aug 04, 2018 11:10 pm
Once you know Anicca, Dukkha, and Anatta there is no improvement in that understanding.
However, the ability to explain to various people may improve over time.
For instance, the Pacceka Buddha can't teach his realisation to others.
Hi SarathW

Is there any reference to anywhere in the suttas to paccekabuddha as a person or is it synonymous with Tathāgata

:anjali:

cookiemonster
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Re: Can an Arahant improve their understanding after awakening?

Post by cookiemonster » Mon Aug 06, 2018 2:22 pm

Modus.Ponens wrote:
Sat Aug 04, 2018 10:24 pm
Thank you for your answers.

The topic is quickly shifting to the actual purpose of my question. So I ask the moderators to split this topic between the initial question and what I'm about to ask. I'm trying to understand if an arahat can improve his understanding of the dhamma after his awakening.

There are two levels of possibility here. One is the possibility of an arahat getting better at explaining the dhamma to students. Which means just an improvement in fluency, not necessarily an improvement in understanding.

The other level is about an improvement in understanding, although in a limited sense. Once an arahat is liberated from suffering he will no longer suffer, nor be fooled by delusions. But I can imagine that an arahat could be unexperienced in, say, the four imaterial jhanas. And, after his liberation, it would be easy for him to explore that territory. It wouldn't improve his awakening because awakening is the destruction of delusion. But destroying delusions does not have to automatically entail knowledge of the imaterial jhanas, or of psychic powers, or of other worlds, or of karma.

The analogy I have in mind is this: if you are in jail it's posible to completely destroy the walls of that jail (under the right circumstnces ;) ). But that would not mean that you would know every single thing about the world outside.

What do you think about this, and why?
I understand Buddhism to be like a road-map given by the Buddha. On this map, there are details about the various detours, side streets, etc. (worldly iddhis) along with path to the final destination (nibbana) highlighted.

All arahants have reached the final destination and fully understand it. I imagine most arahants have explored and gained mastery over few of the detours/side streets (ordinary arahants), having taken mostly the direct path to the final goal. Other arahants explore and master more of the detours/side streets (senior disciples, pacceka-Buddhas), and a few other supreme arahants explore and gain mastery all of the detours/side streets (samma-sam-Buddhas).

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pitakele
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Re: Can an Arahant improve their understanding after awakening?

Post by pitakele » Mon Aug 06, 2018 4:12 pm

To my understanding, the knowledge of release is virtually omnipresent for an Arahant. However, this doesn't equate to perfection of all Dhamma qualities. In a couple of suttas (sorry, can't locate references at present), Buddha exhorts individual Arahants to continue practising skilful qualities, day and night. Arahants don't stop growing in Dhamma. Examples would be further cultivation of mettā, karunā, right speech etc., or increasing skilfulness in various meditational abidings etc.
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Re: Can an Arahant improve their understanding after awakening?

Post by Dhammanando » Mon Aug 06, 2018 5:04 pm

markandeya wrote:
Sun Aug 05, 2018 9:58 am
Is there any reference to anywhere in the suttas to paccekabuddha as a person or is it synonymous with Tathāgata
A Tathāgata and a Paccekabuddha are both persons in the suttas but are not synonymous. "Tathāgata" occurs in numerous suttas and is one of the more "numinous" titles of the Buddha.

"Paccekabuddha" is a much rarer term in the suttas and refers to another kind of enlightened person. Like Sammāsambuddhas (such as Gotama) Paccekabuddhas awaken by their own efforts rather than under a Buddha's guidance. Unlike Sammāsambuddhas, Paccekabuddhas don't establish a Buddhasāsanā.


Isigili Sutta - some names of past Paccekabuddhas.
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .piya.html

Khaggavisāṇa Sutta - traditionally held to be a collection of Paccekabuddhas' sayings.
https://legacy.suttacentral.net/en/snp1.3

markandeya
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Re: Can an Arahant improve their understanding after awakening?

Post by markandeya » Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:02 pm

Dhammanando wrote:
Mon Aug 06, 2018 5:04 pm
markandeya wrote:
Sun Aug 05, 2018 9:58 am
Is there any reference to anywhere in the suttas to paccekabuddha as a person or is it synonymous with Tathāgata
A Tathāgata and a Paccekabuddha are both persons in the suttas but are not synonymous. "Tathāgata" occurs in numerous suttas and is one of the more "numinous" titles of the Buddha.

"Paccekabuddha" is a much rarer term in the suttas and refers to another kind of enlightened person. Like Sammāsambuddhas (such as Gotama) Paccekabuddhas awaken by their own efforts rather than under a Buddha's guidance. Unlike Sammāsambuddhas, Paccekabuddhas don't establish a Buddhasāsanā.


Isigili Sutta - some names of past Paccekabuddhas.
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .piya.html

Khaggavisāṇa Sutta - traditionally held to be a collection of Paccekabuddhas' sayings.
https://legacy.suttacentral.net/en/snp1.3

Thank you Dhammanando, I will go through the suttas in due course and try to do some research with limited tools. Although Im struggling to find an exact English equivalent, is there a possibility that there is more meaning than just a person and they can be seen as states, the indivual person seems to be have been left way back in the compound of skandas.

One example of my thinking is that Paccekabuddhas are solitary Buddhas, they cant communicate as you say they dont leave Buddhasāsanā due to Buddha not being able to communicate with the lokas due to having no quality at all of any type of conditions.

Tathāgata is non different to Buddha, as awakened perfectly enlightened state but due to some of the meaning in the compound gata and agata in sanskrit is both here and there, so he somehow is known in the finer cosmos, I am not sure how you would translate tat, in Sanskrit traditions tat it has specific meaning.

I have seen some of your skills in pali and language so would be interested to learn objectively from you perhaps some of the direct etymology and be at peace with our own reflections if possible.

Is there any etymology for Paccekabuddhas

These are genuine questions.

With metta

:anjali:

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Dhammanando
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Re: Can an Arahant improve their understanding after awakening?

Post by Dhammanando » Tue Aug 07, 2018 3:41 am

markandeya wrote:
Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:02 pm
Is there any etymology for Paccekabuddhas
The traditional Theravada nirukti for pacceka (Sanskrit pratyeka; Prakrit patteya) is paṭi + eka (Skt. prati + eka). Hence, “singly”, “individually”. This nirukti seems to be very widely (though not universally) accepted by modern scholarship.

A rival nirukti from the Sanskritic Buddhist schools derives it from pratyaya (= Pali paccaya), meaning causal condition. Here the term is understood as referring to the links in paṭiccasamuppāda. This derivation is what informs the Northern Buddhist notion that Pratyekabuddhas awaken by personal discovery of the twelve paṭiccasamuppāda nidānas.

To avoid talking at cross purposes I'd prefer not to address your other questions as they seem to be premised on a use of the terms "paccekabuddha" and "tathāgata" that's quite alien to both the Theravada and to every other form of Buddhism. Indeed in virtually all of the posts in which you have brought up these terms, your understanding of them seems to be informed by the meanings they bear in Blavatsky's Theosophy and the works of various Vedanta-centric New Age writers. The allegedly "esoteric" meanings assigned to the terms in these works have only a very tenuous connection (if any) with what they mean in Buddhism.

The attached file is Ria Kloppenborg's very thorough study of the Paccekabuddha as he appears in Pali sources.
Kloppenburg, The Paccekabuddha.pdf
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markandeya
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Re: Can an Arahant improve their understanding after awakening?

Post by markandeya » Tue Aug 07, 2018 8:11 am

Dhammanando wrote:
Tue Aug 07, 2018 3:41 am
markandeya wrote:
Mon Aug 06, 2018 10:02 pm
Is there any etymology for Paccekabuddhas
The traditional Theravada nirukti for pacceka (Sanskrit pratyeka; Prakrit patteya) is paṭi + eka (Skt. prati + eka). Hence, “singly”, “individually”. This nirukti seems to be very widely (though not universally) accepted by modern scholarship.

A rival nirukti from the Sanskritic Buddhist schools derives it from pratyaya (= Pali paccaya), meaning causal condition. Here the term is understood as referring to the links in paṭiccasamuppāda. This derivation is what informs the Northern Buddhist notion that Pratyekabuddhas awaken by personal discovery of the twelve paṭiccasamuppāda nidānas.

To avoid talking at cross purposes I'd prefer not to address your other questions as they seem to be premised on a use of the terms "paccekabuddha" and "tathāgata" that's quite alien to both the Theravada and to every other form of Buddhism. Indeed in virtually all of the posts in which you have brought up these terms, your understanding of them seems to be informed by the meanings they bear in Blavatsky's Theosophy and the works of various Vedanta-centric New Age writers. The allegedly "esoteric" meanings assigned to the terms in these works have only a very tenuous connection (if any) with what they mean in Buddhism.

The attached file is Ria Kloppenborg's very thorough study of the Paccekabuddha as he appears in Pali sources.

Kloppenburg, The Paccekabuddha.pdf
:anjali: Dhammanando

Thank you for your reply, very interesting and I will go through the link. Now this is not a challenge and I am hoping for some space between the words, I am not sure of the pali terms by space I mean Chidākāsha chid conscious ākāsha space not limited or confined by nama rupa, its the opening of the middle way, beyond any extreme, nama and rupa giving concepts to forms, so hopefully we can not get stuck in words as final, where the compounds break out of limitation into conscious space. I am in no way challenging, although there may seemingly be some disagreement but the aim is synthesis which leads to unified understanding. So I am asking for some patience to not get stuck in definitions. So it could be called ehipassiko...

Can you give some etymology nirukti, when ni is applied meaning in sanskrit without, as with nirguna and nirvāṇa.
Indeed in virtually all of the posts in which you have brought up these terms, your understanding of them seems to be informed by the meanings they bear in Blavatsky's Theosophy and the works of various Vedanta-centric New Age writers.
I have not read Blavatsky's Theosophy, if I get time I will have a look. To say that Vedanta is New Age would be unusual to me as Vedanta is not what would be considered as New Age, this is not a simple matter of interfaith and being liberal minded. Synthesis is within my mindstream, naturally occurring without effort.

In the suttas from discourses and some reflection there seems to be two lineages of Buddha Sun and Moon, Ven Sāriputta and Maha Moggallāna. Ven Sāriputta had perfect understanding of dhamma, and was pure dhamma vessel, perfect photographic memory, highly skilled but he was hindered by technical understanding even though his understanding of dhamma was spotless and without any fault. Maha Moggallāna was more lucid, with psychic powers, but he had some problems with discipline, not so literal as Ven Sāriputta and Buddha liberated, guided and perfected them both.

I have also do not want to disrupt the thread as this is more suited to connections to others path, but even there there seems to be a tendency to get stuck in nama and rupa where everything has fixed definitions, bringing in distinction and set views rather than expansion into the boundless, unconditioned, unformed. Is there any hope to continue in this way without getting stuck in nama and rupa to gain more understanding of Buddha Ven Sāriputta and Maha Moggallāna, or are they only defined into personality of nama and rupa.

:anjali:

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