Author Topic: Is Buddha an Arhat or a Bodhisattva?  (Read 7611 times)

KhedrubGyatso

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Is Buddha an Arhat or a Bodhisattva?
« on: January 12, 2012, 05:11:58 AM »
According to the sutras,after Sakyamuni attained enlightenment, he did not wish to teach the Dharma. He later changed his mind due to requests from the god Brahma Samapati and gathered his first group of 5 disciples.

Many scholars have debated that this 'proved' that he was only interested in self liberation as saving others was only a second thought upon the urging and insistence of the god Brahma.They argued that if he was indeed trained in bodhicitta, he would have immediately gone out to turn the wheel.They further backed this up by saying that he was trained fundamentally in the 8 fold path by which he attained arahanthood and freedom from karma. They asserted that he never trained in the paramitas leading to bodhisattvahood, such methods coming much later after his passing into parinirvana.
His famous contemplations during the 3 watches of the night accepted by all Buddhist schools appear to reinforce the above.

yontenjamyang

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Re: Is Buddha an Arhat or a Bodhisattva?
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2012, 05:31:34 PM »
Being an Arhat and Boddisattva are levels of the paths leading to Buddhahood. There are Sutras that tells us Buddha attained Pure Perfect Enlightenment long time ago and stayed in Tushita heaven before he was born as Prince Siddharta.
He was raised as a prince, even got married, have a son, later became an ascetic before adopting the middle way; "attaining" nirvana, liberation and Buddhahood whatever we choose to look at. Buddha lived a life to show us an example of the correct way ie the middle way, by first living the extremes wrong ways of both the have and the have not, the prince and the opposite life of the ascetic.
His turnings of the Dharma Wheels are also to suit the different mental dispositions of beings. The different scopes of self liberation and bodhisattva are the potential results of these scopes.
So, Buddha is both an Arhat and not an Arhat, a bodhisattva and not a bodhisattva. He is a Budhha.

dondrup

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Re: Is Buddha an Arhat or a Bodhisattva?
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2012, 08:22:02 PM »
A Buddha can be an animate or inanimate object.  Hence a Buddha can be an arhat or a bodhisattva.  It is from the side of the sentient beings to perceive Buddha differently as animate, inanimate, arhat or bodhisattva.  A Buddha is a Buddha - its nature remains the same.

All the Buddhas that appear will perform the enlightened deeds of a Buddha over and over again to show the examples of the path to liberation and enlightenment.  It is not that the Buddha does not want to turn the wheel of Dharma, it is the sentient beings' lack of merit to receive teachings from the Buddha.  Hence, sentient beings must request before the Buddha will teach Dharma. 

Midakpa

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Re: Is Buddha an Arhat or a Bodhisattva?
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2012, 12:53:58 PM »
First, after Buddha Shakyamuni attained Buddhahood, he did not want to teach the Dharma because he was worried people might not understand the teachings. Later, after having been requested, he agreed to teach. This shows that in Buddhism, the teachings are not forced upon the people. The Buddha or guru will teach only if there is someone who sincerely wishes to receive the Dharma.

In my opinion, the Buddha, being an enlightened being, has all the qualities of an arhat. In fact "arhat" is one of the epithets used for the Buddha. An arhat is person who has overcome all kleshas and will not be reborn in samsara again. This is also true for one who achieves Buddhahood. But what's the difference?

It is relatively easy to become an arhat than to become a Buddha. Some dhutanga monks in the Theravadan tradition prefer to go for arhatship and leave samsara quickly instead of training further to become a Buddha. For example Acariya Mun of Thailand decided become an arhat because he couldn't bear to be reborn again. In his meditations, he would see both Buddhas and arhats. Thus, after death, the arhats become the disciples of Buddhas. As long as they have not achieved Buddhahood, arhats need to train under Buddhas.

In fact, as pointed out by YontenJamyang, the Buddha had already attained Buddhahood eons ago but took rebirth for the last time in order to benefit sentient beings. Most of the Buddha's disciples became arhats or stream enterers just from listening to his teachings for the first time. But have they become Buddhas?

What the Buddha experienced during the three watches appear to be what arhats go through also in order to attain nirvana. I think Dhutanga monks try to emulate the Buddha and follow the same methods used by the Buddha. The difference is whether one is motivated by bodhicitta or not. It is not that arhats do not practice compassion and want only liberation for themselves. It has to do with their goal, which is merely to leave samsara. You don't have to be a Buddha to leave samsara.  For some it's just too long.

KhedrubGyatso

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Re: Is Buddha an Arhat or a Bodhisattva?
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2012, 04:44:07 AM »
Dear Midakpa,
TQVM for good writeup which concurs with my own thoughts re: above.
Sakyamuni appeared in this fortunate aeon to teach us how to practice and attain liberation and enlightenment.
According to the Lamrim, arhatship is the goal of a medium scope being who practices the three higher trainings of morality, concentration and wisdom to become free from the 3 poisons of ignorance, desire and hatred.
For those who have the highest motivation of compassion,  they develop bodhicitta so that they attain Buddhahood in order to be most effective in benefitting all living beings.
When Buddha hesitated to teach, it was from his wisdom mind understanding most will not absorb the profound knowledge and he did not wish to add to their confusion. When the gods requested him to give teachings to liberate sentient beings, he agreed out of compassion.

During his 40 years of expounding the dharma his extraordinary skilful means powered by compassion and wisdom brought many to liberation and enlightnment according to their level of motivation.
Hence, buddha is both arhat and bodhisattva .
For those who seek him only wishing to be free from all suffering, he is an arhat . For those wishing to help all living beings , and receive training in the paramitas he is a bodhisattva.

Ensapa

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Re: Is Buddha an Arhat or a Bodhisattva?
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2012, 09:58:11 AM »
The Buddha can manifest simultaneously as both an arahat and a bodhisattva at the same time to appeal and appease to different kind of people at the same time. In some traditions, he is given the title arahat and also fully enlightened Buddha.

The Buddha has attained the peaceful state of an arahat, thus he can be equated to one but he also performs the full deeds of a Bodhisattva, so he is one too. They are not exclusive nor contradictory. We shouldnt see these designations as containers, but rather as words that describe certain qualities a certain being has.

hope rainbow

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Re: Is Buddha an Arhat or a Bodhisattva?
« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2012, 05:01:06 AM »
The Buddha thaught for his whole life after gaining enlightenemnt.
He could have simply vanished if He was only motivated by arhatship.
He did not vanish, he stayed and taught extensively.

Why did the Budddha await to be asked 3 times before he taught?
Not for any other reason than to ensure the proper mindset for the students.
How? This is how:
I ask one time, and maybe I hope the answer will be no, but I ask, because it looks good on me.
I ask again, this time perhaps with a better motivation and I am told no, will I be upset? Possibly  :o
I ask a third time, and there are pretty good chances that on the 3rd time my motivation is much more sincere.

If I want to look good, if I am looking for praises, if I am not sincere, my mind is not in the best shape to listen to Dharma.
What if I listen and then do the opposite, what kind of karma is that?

The request for teaching is done 3 times, not as a matter of proticol (even though...) or because the Teacher needs to be reminded of bodhicitta (???). It is so that the listeners have a better mindset to receive the holy Dharma.

A Buddha is a bodhisattva.
A bodhisattava is an arhat.
And an arhat is an arhat.

RedLantern

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Re: Is Buddha an Arhat or a Bodhisattva?
« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2012, 04:13:59 PM »
The Buddha was a unique human being who was self enlightened.He practise to perfection the ten supreme qualities of generosity,discipline,renunciation,wisdom,energy,endurance,truthfulness,determination,goodwill and equanimity.The Buddha was born to dispel the darkness of ignorance and to show the world how to be free from suffering.No one can attain Buddhahood without devoting many lifetime practising the ten perfections or paramitas.The Buddha's teachings and message have had their effect on all for thousands of years whether they believe in religion or not.To me he is the BUDDHA.

ratanasutra

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Re: Is Buddha an Arhat or a Bodhisattva?
« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2012, 08:17:26 AM »
Arhat means a person who practices until reaches liberation. People who practise in order to reach personal liberation are called savakas, when they attain liberation they're called Arhats.

For Bodhisattvas, they practise not just to liberate themselves but also other sentient beings, when they attain enlightenment, they're Buddhas.

But if we look at the earliest records of the words of the Buddhas and his disciples we'll find that at his time, the Buddha was also called Arhat as in invocations such as the P?li formula ‘Namo tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samm?sambuddhassa’ (Homage to the Lord, the Worthy One, the Perfectly Awakened One).

So we can say that Arhat and Bodhisattva stand for two different things, but they're not two different levels in the same way.

Ensapa

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Re: Is Buddha an Arhat or a Bodhisattva?
« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2012, 11:13:46 AM »
In the theravardan tradition, we find:

Quote
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammaasambuddhassa
Homage to the Blessed, Noble and Perfectly Enlightened One.

In context, arahat also has the same meaning as noble and the Buddha is also refereed to as an arahat by theravardan scriptures. Arahats have a certain quality about them, that they are noble and pure as they are free of karma and its fetters, but not free from mental habituations. I am unable to find the original source, but there is this story where a group of monks were very disturbed when one of the arahats used rough language on them and they asked the Buddha why so. The Buddha explained that this arahat used to be a brahman before he became an arahat, he means no harm at all but his mental habituations still remain, therefore he uses haughty and rough language when communicating even if he has no intention to harm at all. Another bhikhuni which has attained arahatship would also love to gaze at the mirror and of course other bhikunis who saw this behavior enquired the Buddha. The Buddha said that this was because she was a courtesan before and she is unable to let go of her previous habits.

These 2 stories show that arahats, although they have severed the root of creating karma, are unable to sever their habits and thus not as attained as the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The Buddha has the qualities of an arahat, but at the same time he is much more than that, which is why in some supplications, he is praised as an arahat as well.

Dondrup Shugden

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Re: Is Buddha an Arhat or a Bodhisattva?
« Reply #10 on: May 30, 2015, 07:04:05 AM »
Being an Arhat and Boddisattva are levels of the paths leading to Buddhahood. There are Sutras that tells us Buddha attained Pure Perfect Enlightenment long time ago and stayed in Tushita heaven before he was born as Prince Siddharta.
He was raised as a prince, even got married, have a son, later became an ascetic before adopting the middle way; "attaining" nirvana, liberation and Buddhahood whatever we choose to look at. Buddha lived a life to show us an example of the correct way ie the middle way, by first living the extremes wrong ways of both the have and the have not, the prince and the opposite life of the ascetic.
His turnings of the Dharma Wheels are also to suit the different mental dispositions of beings. The different scopes of self liberation and bodhisattva are the potential results of these scopes.
So, Buddha is both an Arhat and not an Arhat, a bodhisattva and not a bodhisattva. He is a Budhha.


What a beautiful article and the wonderful comments here.  I chose the above as the perfect meaning for me for now!

cookie

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Re: Is Buddha an Arhat or a Bodhisattva?
« Reply #11 on: May 30, 2015, 10:12:14 AM »
If we see Buddha as an Arhat, then we get the blessings of an Arhat. If we see the Buddha as a Bodhisattva then we get the blessings of a Boddhisattva. If we see the Buddha as a Buddha, then we receive the ultimate blessings of a Buddha.
At the end of the day the Buddhas manifests in the form most suitable for our karmic disposition, to assists us to transform and suceed in our spiritual goals. Amongst them there are no differences.

MoMo

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Re: Is Buddha an Arhat or a Bodhisattva?
« Reply #12 on: May 31, 2015, 01:52:19 PM »
Kyedrubgyatso ‘s view of understanding of Buddhism  on this topic was truly questionable ! Your statement sounds pretty of typical Mahayanist  disparaging the Theravadan . If we ask ourselves this question, “what is the quality of an enlightened being?” Two important factors that embodied by a Buddha was compassion and wisdom, how could anyone who attained that state only be thinking of himself ! If you read the text carefully , you will noticed Buddha doubts that  if he teaches, sentient beings will not be able to understand. Remember the first yogi that he encountered and declared the three seals of dharma the yogi just shook his shoulder and walked away. In samsara , all things have to have the causes for it to happen, hence the dharma had to be request for it to be turned . Brahma Samapati’s request just fulfilled the cause for Buddha to turn the wheel of dharma. Therefore, here we are today receiving it. Whether a Buddha was an Arhat   or a Bodhisattva  does not matter for us run-of-a-mill person . The important thing was for us to strive hard in achieving the same qualities that he embodied.

fruven

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Re: Is Buddha an Arhat or a Bodhisattva?
« Reply #13 on: May 31, 2015, 04:12:15 PM »
It is too bad if a person want to see the Buddha as a an arhat. Buddhas have many students with different level of attainments. It is rather narrow minded to think that the level a student could develop would be the maximum attainment Buddha could achieve. A Buddha could teach so many level of students while the capability of arhat is not as great. If there is no difference why the results we see around us are so different?

eyesoftara

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Re: Is Buddha an Arhat or a Bodhisattva?
« Reply #14 on: June 01, 2015, 09:23:07 AM »
A Buddha has attained all that is to be attained ie both Liberation and Omniscience. On the level of Liberation he is an Arhat and the level of Omniscience he is a Buddha. The Boddhisattvas are levels to achieving Buddhahood of which there are 10 levels. One is a Boddhisattva when one has achieved Boddhicitta; that is the spontaneous desire to achieve Buddhahood to benefit all sentient beings knowing that all beings suffers and the best way to help is to become a Buddha and has achieved the Wisdom of direct perception of Emptiness.

Moreover, since a Buddha achieved Buddhahood based on the wish to benefit sentient beings, it follows that the nature of a Buddha is activity of the Boddhisattva. In that sense, the Buddha is a Boddhisattva, but technically he is more powerful than a Boddhisattva as Boddhisattva has not achieved Omniscience even thought depending on thier levels they are close to achieving it.