The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

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mikenz66
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Oct 19, 2009 8:26 am

Hmm, OK, I'll let Individual explain himself in future.
Paññāsikhara wrote: If you see any "degradation" here, please let me know, I would interested to see where.
The "degradation" I was thinking of was the idea that an Arahant is missing something and has more work to do, which the Theravada clearly would not accept.

Since I am no expert on Mahayana I'll leave it to you an other to explain which groups think what...

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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Post by Paññāsikhara » Mon Oct 19, 2009 8:48 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hmm, OK, I'll let Individual explain himself in future.
Paññāsikhara wrote: If you see any "degradation" here, please let me know, I would interested to see where.
The "degradation" I was thinking of was the idea that an Arahant is missing something and has more work to do, which the Theravada clearly would not accept.

Since I am no expert on Mahayana I'll leave it to you an other to explain which groups think what...

Metta
Mike
And again, a lot of Mahayana sutras will state that an arhat has "done what was to be done" (kṛta-kṛtya).

Example:
"...all of whom were arhats, who had exhausted the influxes, who were like trained elephant kings (nāgarāja), who had done what was to be done, who had abandoned the heavy burden, who had reached their own benefit, who had eliminated the bonds of existence, who were well released in mind by right gnosis, whose minds had attained freedom ..."

Could somebody please point out the denigration in this passage? The sutra does not at any other point indicate that they are "missing something" or "have more work to do". They are done. Finished. Completed.
Now, other sutras may indicate that they are "missing something", and "have more work to do".

But, this is not a universal Mahayana position by any means.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Oct 19, 2009 8:55 am

Hi Paññāsikhara,
Paññāsikhara wrote: Could somebody please point out the denigration in this passage? The sutra does not at any other point indicate that they are "missing something" or "have more work to do". They are done. Finished. Completed.
Now, other sutras may indicate that they are "missing something", and "have more work to do".
Yes, I guess that's what I was getting confused about. Some seem to put a lot of weight on those...
Thanks for the clarification (as always :))
Paññāsikhara wrote: But, this is not a universal Mahayana position by any means.
Metta and Welcome... :anjali:
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Oct 19, 2009 9:12 am

OK, I have a question...
Paññāsikhara wrote:
Now, other sutras may indicate that they are "missing something", and "have more work to do".

But, this is not a universal Mahayana position by any means.
So would those schools consider the Bodhisattva approach a more skilful means to the same end?

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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Post by Paññāsikhara » Mon Oct 19, 2009 9:40 am

mikenz66 wrote:OK, I have a question...
Paññāsikhara wrote:
Now, other sutras may indicate that they are "missing something", and "have more work to do".

But, this is not a universal Mahayana position by any means.
So would those schools consider the Bodhisattva approach a more skilful means to the same end?

Mike
They consider it a means to an end which is the same in some regards, and different in other regards.
The same part is complete elimination of all mental defilements, realization of nirvana.
The different part includes various attributes such as the buddha's "unshared dhammas", eg. the four types of intrepidity, etc.

The conditions for the latter must be well developed before attainment of the former, as the latter take an incredible amount of time to develop.
If one realizes nirvana before these latter qualities are fully developed, then they become an arhat, but perhaps one who has some qualities which although not at the same level as the buddhas, but are still possibly stronger than some (but not all) other arhats. eg. depth in the first five abhinnas.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Post by Individual » Mon Oct 19, 2009 10:46 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
Individual wrote: The difference between Bodhisattva and Arahant in Theravada and Mahayana is mostly semantics, not one of ideals. If you described an Arahant's traits to a Mahayana Buddhist, he could just as easily be called a Bodhisattva, and vice-versa.
Not at all. Although there are a variety of different perspectives amongst Mahayana schools (eg. Madhyamaka, Yogacara, Tathagatagarbha, hybrids of these three, Tantra), the vast majority consider that although there are common or shared qualities that both possess, in addition bodhisattvas have certain un-shared qualities that arhats do not have.
Could you give a concrete example?
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Post by Paññāsikhara » Mon Oct 19, 2009 11:07 am

Individual wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:
Individual wrote: The difference between Bodhisattva and Arahant in Theravada and Mahayana is mostly semantics, not one of ideals. If you described an Arahant's traits to a Mahayana Buddhist, he could just as easily be called a Bodhisattva, and vice-versa.
Not at all. Although there are a variety of different perspectives amongst Mahayana schools (eg. Madhyamaka, Yogacara, Tathagatagarbha, hybrids of these three, Tantra), the vast majority consider that although there are common or shared qualities that both possess, in addition bodhisattvas have certain un-shared qualities that arhats do not have.
Could you give a concrete example?
I was thinking of things like the ten powers of a buddha, and the eighteen unshared dharmas, as mentioned above. (Or even the 32 marks and 80 secondary features, though though cakkavattin kings have these too. - I think that Nanda and Ananda had 31 and 30, or something - close, but no cigar!)
I haven't seen these attributed to arhats in the Nikayas, but I may have missed something in there somewhere, so I definitely open to new perspectives here, too.

There are also other qualities which are not so much "have / have not", but are more of a sliding scale.
For instance, various forms of abhinna, and even jhana. Now, for these, as we see in the SN 16, Mahakassapa has these to the same extent as the Buddha. But, in a sense, I don't we can take Mahakassapa as a "standard issue arhat" by any means. He would have been a paccekabuddha had the Bhagavan not appeared.

Now, that is just for items that we can look at in terms of the Theravada or most early schools.

If one takes the perspectives of the Mahayana schools, then there is a lot more material, and it gets complex. One could simply point out a variety of Samadhis and so forth, and other items like sarvajna, sarvarthajna and sarvakarajna. Now, the Theravada doesn't really have this whole system, or has quite different meaning to the terms, though it has sabbanu, so it starts to get a bit like comparing apples with oranges across different systems. But in Mahayana terms, for many schools, the differences here are quite explicit.
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Post by tiltbillings » Mon Oct 19, 2009 11:22 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:I think that Nanda and Ananda had 31 and 30, or something - close, but no cigar!)
I haven't seen these attributed to arhats in the Nikayas, but I may have missed something in there somewhere, so I definitely open to new perspectives here, too.
According to what texts?
>> 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.

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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Post by Paññāsikhara » Mon Oct 19, 2009 11:44 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:I think that Nanda and Ananda had 31 and 30, or something - close, but no cigar!)
I haven't seen these attributed to arhats in the Nikayas, but I may have missed something in there somewhere, so I definitely open to new perspectives here, too.
According to what texts?
Hi Tilt!

Sorry, I was quoting from memory, so had to track it down. It's basically northern Sthaviravada stuff.
They have, for instance, an equivalent to the part on Nanda at Vin 4:173, but mention him having 30 marks, whereas the Pali doesn't.
This is in the Sarvastivada Vinaya, and also in the Mahasamghika Vinaya, too.
The Mahisasakas say 32.
(That total correspondence lends weight in my eyes, but your mileage may vary.)

And also Devadatta with 30, too. I must have just confused Ananda with Nanda, sorry!
(I wonder if all these Sakkas looked that much alike? Hmm, all that Sakka and Koliya blood, I wonder ...)
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Post by Individual » Mon Oct 19, 2009 12:05 pm

The distinction seems to have arisen, or was at least encouraged by, sectarian tensions.

To clarify any ambiguity: If you describe the Arahant, as defined by Theravada, to a Mahayana Buddhist, without using the term or explicitly distinguishing it from a Bodhisattva, what you would have is a bodhisattva. And if you describe the Bodhisattva, as defined by Mahayana, to a Theravada Buddhist, without the specific sectarian semantics, what you would have is an Arahant.

The examples used to distinguish the two aren't concerete, because they're abstract descriptions of mystical abilities, which I don't doubt the existence of but consider pretty irrelevant any meaningful discussion, outside of "what traditional Theravada\Mahayana Buddhists believe". But if you break it down to something simple and concrete, like great compassion, great wisdom, great morality, etc., there are no significant differences.

To demonstrate this point more clearly: Buddhist schools pretty much agree what a Buddha is.

Well, in Theravada, Arahants are in some ways regarded as equal with "Buddha" (the Buddha himself is called an Arahant), but in other ways below it (the Buddha's knowledge and power is apparently greater than the other Arahants, the simsapa leaves metaphor demonstrates this, I think, and the ten powers of the Tathagatha too). And in Mahayana, Bodhisattva is in some ways regarded as equal to a Buddha (the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, as celestial bodhisattvas are referred to as Buddhas) but also lesser (since a bodhisattva is technically regarded as one striving to become a Buddha).
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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Post by Aloka » Mon Oct 19, 2009 2:18 pm

There's an article here called 'The Bodhisattva idea in Buddhism' which might be of interest in this thread.


http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/ebdha126.htm


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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Post by Doctor Who » Mon Oct 19, 2009 5:05 pm

TheDhamma wrote:In Theravada, bodhisattva is bodhisatta in Pali and refers to a being on the way to buddha-hood. The Buddha of our time, Gotama (or Shakyamuni as he is sometimes called in Mahayana) was perfecting the paramitas over countless lifetimes, literally tens of thousands of lifetimes.
Where did Our Lord introduce this " was perfecting the paramitas over countless lifetime"?

I always thought it was introduced for the first time in the Lotus Sutra, A Mahayana dharmakaya sutra.

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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Post by DNS » Mon Oct 19, 2009 8:12 pm

Doctor Who wrote: Where did Our Lord introduce this " was perfecting the paramitas over countless lifetime"?
I always thought it was introduced for the first time in the Lotus Sutra, A Mahayana dharmakaya sutra.
I don't have the exact quote / reference but it might be in the Jataka or Buddhavamsa. I definitely remember reading it in one of Radhika Abeysekera's books, probably the, Practicising the Dhamma with a View to Nibbana.

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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Post by DNS » Mon Oct 19, 2009 8:20 pm

Paññāsikhara wrote: Hmm, in a Theravada Forum that could quite easily double as a Bhikkhu Bodhi Fan Club, I'm surprised that nobody has posted this link yet:
And the problem is . . . . ?? :tongue:

Image

:clap: Excellent photo and sign!

Seriously, Bhikkhu Bodhi is #1. I know most people are partial to their own teacher and I am probably no exception, cough did someone say Bhante Madawela Punnaji, cough, but Bhikkhu Bodhi's works, translations, and writings are in a class by itself.

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Re: The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravada Buddhism

Post by Dhammakid » Mon Oct 19, 2009 8:57 pm

Good discussion folks.

The link Dazzlebling posted is the one I've read regarding the idea of bodhisattva in Theravada. It's a very good explanation.

It seems that although when we leave the actual terms out of the discussion and a Mahayana and Theravada practitioner are describing the characteristics to each other they will appear to be talking about the same thing, there are still some other points to consider. For one, Mahayana has the idea of "bhumis", ten of them to be exact, a sort of progression of perfections that a bodhisattva undergoes before becoming a Buddha. I'm not too well-versed on the idea, but it seems to me that it negates the whole "I vow to save all sentient beings" idea because the bhumis signifies a sort of end point of the path of a bodhisattva which surely is far before all sentient beings are saved...

I've participated in numerous discussions on ES about the differences between the two schools, and it seems a common belief is that Arahants in the Theravada are lacking in some amount of universal compassion. They say that bodhisattvas in the Mahayana are developing a high level of "bodhicitta" and that it sets them apart from those merely looking to escape samsara.

Many Mahayana points when it comes to this are seemingly contradictory. But I don't claim to be highly knowledgeable on Mahayana, so these are just some basic observations.

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