The Source of conflict regarding Theravada and Mahayana concepts of Arahant and Bodhisattva

Dear Kalyanamittas,

Below is an extract from our earlier sharing on the article from Amaravati Buddhist Monastery that discusses the Theravada and Mahayana concepts of Arahant and Bodhisattva for sharing by all.

The Source of conflict

The source of this conflict, along with the other ten thousand woes and struggles to which the human mind is prone, is conceiving the Arahant and the Bodhisattva in terms of self. When we no longer look at the issue through the lens of self-view, the picture changes radically.

‘Bhikkhus, held by two kinds of views, some devas and human beings hold back and some overreach; only those with vision see.

‘And how, bhikkhus, do some hold back? Some devas and humans enjoy being, delight in being, are satisfied with being. When the Dhamma is taught to them for the cessation of being, their minds do not enter into it or acquire confidence in it or settle upon it or become resolved upon it. Thus, bhikkhus, do some hold back.

How, bhikkhus, do some overreach? Now some are troubled, ashamed and disgusted by this very same quality of being and they rejoice in [the idea of] non-being, asserting, “Good sirs, when the body perishes at death, this self is annihilated and destroyed and does not exist anymore – this is true peace, this is excellent, this is reality!” Thus, bhikkhus, do some overreach.

How, bhikkhus, do those with vision see? Herein one sees what has come to be as having come to be. Having seen it thus, one practises the course for turning away, for dispassion, for the cessation of what has come to be. Thus, bhikkhus, do those with vision see.’ [Iti 49]

As long as self-view has not been penetrated in either its coarse form of sakkāya-ditthi (identification with the body and personality) or the more refined asmimāna (the conceit of ‘I am’), the mind will miss the Middle Way.

The ‘no more coming into any state of being’ ideal will thus tend to be co-opted by the nihilist view (uccheda-ditthi), while the ‘endlessly returning for the sake of all beings’ ideal will tend to be pervaded with the eternalist view (sassata-ditthi).

When the two extremes are abandoned and the sense of self is seen through, the Middle Way is realized. Whether we talk in terms of utter emptiness, the arahant of the Pali Canon, or the absolute zero of the Heart Sutra, or in terms of the infinite view of the four bodhisattva vows, there is a direct realization that these expressions are merely modes of speech. They all derive from the same source, the Dhamma. They are simply expedient formulations which guide the heart of the aspirant to attunement with that reality of its own nature. That attunement is the Middle Way.

Bye! and with metta always,


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