Of Buddhas and Arahants

Someone asked a question in facebook

Can someone enlighten me? Arhat in Theravada achieved almost to Buddhahood while in Mahayana they still need to take the route of the Boddhisatva to attain Buddhahood. Does attaining arhat in Mahayana be able for the arhat to have the option of not taking rebirth or reincarnation.

My reply below (corrected for grammar)

Buddhas and Arahants realises the same Truth and attains the same Nibbana, but they differ in terms of their ability.

Consider a swimmer and a swimming coach. Both a swimmer and a swimming coach can swim, but a coach also has the ability to teach others how to swim.

However, knowing that a person is a swimmer speaks nothing about his intention or ability to teach others to swim. A swimmer might well be a swimming coach as well!

An arahant is no longer subject to the cycle of birth and deaths driven by greed, hatred and delusion. This is true regardless of the “yana” or tradition.

Should a person such as an arahant be moved by compassion to guide and teach others, then such an arahant may take on whatever forms needed to teach. On the surface, it may appear like the arahant has taken rebirth like everyone else, but it differs in that, such reappearance is not driven by defilements but motivated by compassion!

Consider a prison with inmates. They are not there by choice, although in a way, they are there due to choices they have made. Then there are those who go to do prison counseling. They are there by choice and not through their misdeeds; they are there out of compassion to help counsel the inmates.

The inmates cannot choose when to leave while the counselors are free to move around the blocks and when their sessions are over, they leave the prison until there is opportunity to counsel again.

Samsara is like the prison, unenlightened ones the inmates, arahants are those who are free of the prison. Like the counselors, there are arahants who voluntarily go back to the prison to provide counsel.

In the Mahayana tradition, we honour these Arahants as Bodhisattvas (Awaken / Enlighten Sentient beings) for they themselves having awakened 覺(自)有情, are taking that step to 覺(他)有情 awaken others by teaching the Dhamma!

Truly, they 自利利他 are of welfare and benefit to themselves and others! They are indeed 大人 Mahasattvas Great Beings! _/|\_

 


So would you like to be totally free of stress, worry and suffering? Are ready to love and care for others with no strings attached?

Do something worthwhile in life, be a Buddha! 😀

  • Liquid Snake

    why can’t arhats be coaches too…? They are also teaching the dhamma before they enter nibbana…

    • “knowing that a person is a swimmer speaks nothing about his intention or ability to teach others to swim. A swimmer might well be a swimming coach
      as well!” => Knowing that a person is an arahant speaks nothing
      about his intention or ability to teach others the Dharma.

      Many think that arahats cannot be coaches … my article / reply to the facebook question is pointing out how it is exactly not that.

  • Liquid Snake

    why can’t arhats be coaches too…? They are also teaching the dhamma before they enter nibbana…

  • MH

    I think the idea that arhants are not motivated to help others is a misunderstanding. Arahants and even theravadin Buddhists who are not yet enlighten actively help promote e buddha’s teachings too. That is recorded in the pali canon and an observable fact we see today.

    The main different I see is that Theravada teachings to put a stronger emphasis on self help because we really need to work hard for our own enlightenment. That may be taken to be ‘selfish’ by some

    There is also a doctrinal diff here. In Theravada teachings once a Buddha or arahant passes away, they can’t choose to be reborn in samsara again. So there is no way to perfect their skillful means.

    • Exactly! That’s why “knowing that a person is a swimmer speaks nothing about his intention or
      ability to teach others to swim. A swimmer might well be a swimming
      coach as well!” => Knowing that a person is an arahant speaks nothing about his intention or ability to teach others the Dharma.

  • Liquid Snake

    Thanks MH for the reply.
    Amituofo

  • Koh Seah Poh

    Amitabha