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Thread: Arhat Vs Buddha

  1. #1

    Arhat Vs Buddha

    Just curious as to what is the difference between An Arhat and a Buddha. A Bodhisattva and a Mahasattva.
    Or just generally what are they in realtionship to each other, or just by themselves.

    Just wondering...

  2. #2

    Re: Arhat Vs Buddha

    Heya!
    Well this is definitely a Jundo question
    That disclaimer out there...I will still step out a bit and say what I believe it is, so take it for what its worth!
    My limited understanding is that Arhat is one who has attained an enlightened understanding but is still subject to regular ol' human error.

    Mahayana teaching believes that this is not a place to rest on your laurels but to move out of that enlightened self-saving spot and put your hands (of Kannon) where your enlightened being is, and help others to that place tada thus the emphasis is on the the role of the Bodhisattva as the "next step" lower to get higher lol.

    So an arhat is also Buddha, just like the rest of us, Bodhisattva, even hungry ghosts.

    Gassho
    Shohei

  3. #3
    Senior Member Nindo's Avatar
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    Re: Arhat Vs Buddha

    My understanding is that an arhat has the "same enlightenment" as a buddha, but got it after hearing the teaching. A buddha finds the dharma and enlightenment out of own effort and insight during a time when teaching is not available in the world.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samyaksambuddha

  4. #4

    Re: Arhat Vs Buddha

    In the back of Nearman's translation of Shobogenzo there's a little "glossary", which says:

    Arhat: In Zen, one whose heart is cleansed of all greed, hatred, and delusion but who has not yet fully realized wise discernment or compassion.
    Mah?sattva: An outstanding bodhisattva

    Soooo... a Mahasattva is a bodhisattva who's more awesome than usual, and an Arhat is a somewhat unfinished Buddha, but one that's on the right track? Hmm.

  5. #5

    Re: Arhat Vs Buddha

    Your question prompted some searching and I found an interesting article http://mingkok.buddhistdoor.com/en/news/d/2474, which among other things describes a history of the term buddha and that during the life of Shakyamuni Buddha he wasn't even referred to as the Buddha. This article also touches upon such concepts as Arhats and Bodhisattvas. What was also interesting about this article, it's that all those terms are human created and probably were supposed to mean something else than what they mean today. For example, later in Mahayana Buddhism I think it was viewed that an Arhat is somehow an "inferior" state comparing to a Bodhisattva or that a Hinayana Buddhism was missing something in its teachings. I'd love to hear what our teachers think on the subject.

  6. #6

    Re: Arhat Vs Buddha

    Hi,

    Oh, a wonderful, BIG question!

    Perhaps any answer depends on how one looks at these things, what one means and who is answering! However, let me try ... although what I say must be quite inadequate to the subject.

    BUDDHA:

    First, in the Mahayana ("Great Vehicle" ... the tradition of Buddhism that developed in India some centuries after the time of the historical Buddha, and which is dominant in China, Japan and Korea, and of which the Zen traditions are part) way of looking at things, everyone is "Buddha", even if that is not realized! We are all Buddha from the startless start. Hard to put into words what that means (as, after all, something beyond words and categories! :shock: ), but lets just say it is that Wondrous, Whole, Complete, Peaceful, Suchness, Beautiful, Goodness that is found when the human mind stops cutting and smashing all the world into broken pieces, categories, conflicts, good and bad, beautiful and ugly. Through Zen practice, if we simply realize said Wondrous Suchness ... and live with peace and gentleness ... Buddha realizes Buddha here and now.

    However, we simultaneously also have to work at being Buddha too ... at realizing we are Buddha ("realize", meaning "to make real"). So, in that way, Buddha is a symbol for a person who has perfectly realized how to get totally past the anger, greed, ignorance that smashes the world into ugly pieces (and all the subcategories of the same such as jealousy, dishonesty, baseless fear and regret, bigotry, lust and excess attachments ... and all other harmful thoughts and emotions). It may take lifetimes to get there (if we ever get there), but we take the Buddha as the target for which we aim. (Whether such a "Perfect Buddha" is a real fellow who once lived in India or some realm ... or, as I tend to feel, just an ideal symbol for the "best and wisest" aspects of human nature that are possible in our imaginations of the ideal ... we aspire to realize that "best and wisest" in human beings). Once doing so, traditionally, one would no longer need to be reborn in this dusty world we call "Samsara". However, in the Zen Practice view, even now, as imperfect as we are, when we can bring a little freedom from "greed, anger and ignorance" into life, we are manifesting Buddha right here and now! We can find the "nirvana" that is even this "samsara" here and now, and have escaped "birth and death" even amid this dusty world of birth and death.

    BODHISATTVA:

    Now, a Bodhisattva (in Mahayana tradition) is someone who was well on there way to attaining Buddhahood and getting out of the cycle of "birth and death" and this world of "Samsara", yet instead of saving him/herself, decided to stick around in this world to help other sentient beings realize their "buddhahood" and to be liberated ahead of him/herself. The Bodhisattva does this, by the way, even though realizing that (in the view of "emptiness") there is ultimately nobody in need of saving! He/she saves them nonetheless (because the sentient beings don't realize that nobody needs saving, which is one reason they are still suffering! :shock: ).

    Now, the Great Bodhisattvas (the "Bodhisattva Mahasattvas") are symbols of Compassion, Wisdom, Helping, Rescue, Hope ... all sharing this vow to help the suffering beings ... such as Kannon, Jizo, Manjusri and others. Again, whether such "Perfect Bodhisattvas" are flesh and blood or actual entities watching us from some hidden realm ... or (as I tend to feel) just a symbol for the "best and wisest and most compassionate" aspects of human nature ... we aspire to realize that "best and wisest and most compassionate" in human beings. As I often say, for example, "Kannon" is as real as real can be any time any of us does an act of compassion in this world.

    I just finished a series on the "Great Bodhisattvas", and the qualities of a Bodhisattva, here ...

    viewforum.php?f=22

    Taigu also has some wonderful talks on Kannon in our Beginners series and elsewhere ...

    viewtopic.php?f=20&t=2910

    Now, any of us ... you and me ... are "Bodhisattvas" too when we engage in any compassionate act helping to free from suffering ... even in a small way ... another sentient being.

    ARHAT:

    Now, supposedly (in the opinion of many patriotic Mahayana folks), the difference between the Mahayana and earlier Buddhism (which the Mahayana folks tended to call the Hinayana, the "Small/Lesser Vehicle") was this 'Bodhisattva Vow' ... helping others ahead of oneself. Supposedly, the "Hinayana" folks were too wrapped up in their own personal liberation (and the Buddha's teaching to them was a kind of provisional, "watered down" teaching for those who couldn't "handle" the Mahayana teachings.). I don't think that is true, by the way, as the Buddhist tradition from the start has been about teaching other beings the way to liberation and thus about helping them. However, yes, the Mahayana folks tended to put down anything from the earlier tradition as some kind of 'incomplete' form of liberation.

    Thus, in the Mahayana, the Arhats were the great "Saints" of the earlier "Hinayana" Buddhism who had realized this lesser kind of, less charitable nirvana. Nonetheless, they are still respected for who they are (as their names appear in all the great Mahayana Sutras too as hanging out with the Buddha). It may be a bit like how Protestantism, in the Reformation, had to put down many things associated with the earlier Catholic tradition ... while yet still honoring many of the great saints and figures from that tradition (such as St. Peter or St. Francis). Many Zen temples will have a hall filled with statues of the 16 great Arhats ... often wonderful statues showing the individual character and personality of each one ...




    And that's that ... in a nutshell!

    Gassho, Jundo

  7. #7

    Re: Arhat Vs Buddha

    Thank you Jundo, for pointing to your and Taigu's talks on the topic. Sometimes I feel that Zen in the West is being reduced to "just this moment", however, it has an rich and important historical context going back thousands of years, linking us to something that is timeless in our human nature.

  8. #8
    Friend of Treeleaf Daido's Avatar
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    Re: Arhat Vs Buddha

    Can anyone provide more information on the meaning of the phrase, "Dusty World."

  9. #9

    Re: Arhat Vs Buddha

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike
    Can anyone provide more information on the meaning of the phrase, "Dusty World."
    Dust particles were considered the smallest particles. Everything was made of different quantities of this dust, so there was no difference between a dust particle and, say, a sentient being.

    Also, our samsaric existence was blown hither and thither like dust in the wind. Only the stillness of nirvana could stop the winds and settle the dust.

  10. #10
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    Re: Arhat Vs Buddha

    Thanks Shohei

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