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A Comparison of Concepts of Buddhahood

October 20, 2009 in Meditations The Buddha attained enlightenment and preached his first sermon in India, where the orthodox Theravada, or peech of the !lders, began" #s the $indu and Islamic religions became more prevalent in India, Buddhism spread throughout #sia, dispersing Theravada throughout" #s isolated communities reinterpreted their limited stoc% of memori&ed and orall' disseminated sutras, differing ideas and eventuall' schools of thought began to emerge, and these are collectivel' %nown as Maha'ana, or the (reater )ehicle" The %e' differences are summari&ed within the labels themselves, and largel' relate to each tradition*s concept of Buddha+hood" In Theravada Buddhism, the Buddha is recogni&ed as a self+enlightened being, while in Maha'ana Buddhism the Buddha is transcendental, non+conceptual, and all+ pervasive ground of being" Before a discussion of the contrasts occurs, it will be useful to briefl' expound the similarities of the ideas of Buddha+hood between the two traditions of interest" In both traditions, man' of the same techni,ues are followed to help attain -although a distinction will be made below regarding the connotation of .attain/0 enlightenment, and thus Buddha+hood" #lthough there is a difference between a Buddha and an arhat -to be mentioned later0 in Theravada, both reach the stage of enlightenment, which is an aspect of Buddha+hood" In Maha'ana and Theravada, bhi%%us, or mon%s, will reali&e the truth of the ha%'amuni Buddha*s teachings, such as the 1our 2oble Truths, the 2oble !ightfold 3ath, The 1ive #ggregates, etc" The' will both perform samatha and vipassana meditation" 1or the most part, the path is the same, but the goal is different" The similarities ma' become more evident b' explaining the differences between the concepts of Buddha in the two traditions" " Theravada ma%es a uni,ue distinction between iddhartha (autama the Buddha, and the arahants" # Buddha is an individual, who eventuall' attains enlightenment through mechanisms and strategies of his or her own, thusl' rediscovering the dharma, which had been lost since the time of the previous Buddha" #n arhat is an enlightened being, who became such through an encounter with and practice of the dharma, not of his or her own accord" In this realm of thought, there is onl' one Buddha at a time" The Buddha, and arhats, through the cultivation of wisdom, experience nirvana, attain enlightenment, die, and experience parinirvana" There is an emphasis on the attainment of enlightenment" Maha'ana groups have a different concept of what it means to be a Buddha" In Maha'ana, one does not attain enlightenment, and thus the Buddha+nature, but reali&es that which is alread' inherent within herself, himself, and all things" The path to enlightenment is less of a growth process, and more of a shedding of conception and the Three 1ires" This process is performed through the cultivation of pra4na, or wisdom, which is seeing realit' as it trul' is" But Maha'ana does not place the final emphasis on this point" It believes that, while the Buddha did in fact teach this much, this was onl' his use of upa'a, or s%illful means, meant to simpl' instigate the practice within people with the desire for the cessation of suffering" One is to practice the pra4naparamita, or the perfection of 5isdom, but even after this, one should then cultivate the bodhicitta" The bodhicitta, the mind and heart of enlightenment, is the first step on the path of the Bodhisattva" # Bodhisattva is one who vows, after reali&ing enlightenment, to remain within

amsara to help others until all are free of the bonds of the c'cle of rebirth and death" This person will attain the ten perfections, instead of arhat*s six" $ere, the emphasis is additionall' placed on compassion" #nd even pra4na is understood differentl', not as wisdom, but 5isdom, the personification of the source of the Buddha" This combination of wisdom and compassion is wh' the Maha'ana tradition is named so" It is the greater of the two traditions" There is a condescending label sometimes used to refer to Theravada which is $ina'ana, meaning .lesser vehicle"/ In Maha'ana, there is not a distinction made between Buddha and arhat" !ver'one alread' has, and eventuall' will reali&e, their Buddha+nature" This also is the reason wh' there is believed to be more than one Buddha at a time" 1or an infinitel' large realm of existence, there surel' must be other Buddha*s teaching in their own Buddha+fields in their en4o'ment bodies, or even here in their transformation bodies" #mong these Buddhas are #valo%itesvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion, #mitabha, the Bodhisattva of boundless light, Maitre'a, the coming Buddha, and more" #mong these sub+schools of Maha'ana, there are even more particular lines of thought, with differing ideas of how one ma' reali&e the Buddha+nature" 1or example, there is the 3ure 6and school, who, li%e man' Theravadans believe that it is impossible to attain enlightenment in this life and time" 5hile the Theravadans ma' hope for a positive rebirth in the time of Maitre'a, the 3ure 6andists hope to ta%e advantage of #mitabha*s vows" $e vowed to use his merit toward the creation of a land that is purel' conducive to the process of enlightenment" This is called the su%%havati, or 3ure 6and" Through the recitation of his name, one ma' be reborn in his land and easil' reali&e their true nature" #nother sub+school is 7h*an, more commonl' %nown in the 5est as 8en" The founder, The Bearded Bodhidhama, %nown as the 1irst 3atriarch, traveled from India to 7hina along the trade route %nown as the il% 9oad" $e spo%e of a direct transmission from guru to student, outside of all conceptual %nowledge, to help one reali&e their true inner nature" It is said that this school began when iddhartha gave a sermon, where he simpl' held up a flower" #mong the thousands in attendance, one bhi%%u smiled, and had received the direct transmission" To brea% this conceptual %nowledge, bhi%%us are assigned %oans to meditate upon, which are paradoxical and contradictor' statements or stories, in an effort to shoc% the mind" One ma' even be struc% with a cane, as a person would stri%e one who is sleeping to wa%e them up" #ll of these schools arise from one of the fundamental ideas, and probabl' the most notable difference between the ideas of Buddha+hood between Theravada and Maha'ana" This idea can be found in man' places, for example, .The 5hole :niverse 7ontained in a utra/ sutra" This sutra states that the Tathagata*s 5isdom is within all beings" There is a sutra contained in ever' spec% of dust" This is where the emphasis on reali&ation, and not attainment, comes from" It is also where the idea of sun'ata, or emptiness, originates" un'ata can be thought of as the idea of anatman spread to all things, which is ver' similar to the teaching of dependent arising" The Buddha is in all things, and all things are in the Buddha" The Buddha is not the person of the historical Buddha, but the :ltimate Bod'" It is the dharma%a'a" It is" To even sa' as much as the previous sentence is too much" Much li%e as%ing where a fire goes after it is extinguished, an' and all ,uestions, statements, and conceptions do not appl'"

Theravada Buddhism, as the Buddha suggested, does not concern itself with metaph'sical concepts" Maha'ana ma' appear to, but does not" It is definitel' more philosophical in its view of what Buddha+hood is, but its definition -or disregard of a definition0 insinuates that realit' is co+mingled with the transcendental" There is no metaph'sics" There onl' is an all+ containing, and 'et empt', realit'" The historical Buddha, as emphasi&ed b' the Theravadans, was simpl' a manifestation of this Maha'anan non+concept"