Dharma Questions: Arhatship, Bodhisattvas and Buddhahood

This irregular “Dharma Questions” series deals with “dharma” meaning both the truth of the nature of reality and some Buddhist teachings. Please see this post on the intensions for questioning and not questioning. Amongst other things these questions can be, but not necessarily:

  • thought experiments
  • borderline musings not meant to be answered
  • from laziness of not contemplating or researching them yet

The following questions explore Arhatship, the way of Bodhisattvas and Buddhahood from a limited innerstanding in order to gain clear, right, true knowledge for the highest good and well-being of all, without preferences. Even if based on proper premises some of these questions may be unanswerable and/or may be better left unanswered for now. Please see this post on why and why not to question for over-arching reasoning behind these types of inquiries.

  1. Is there a Theravada equivalent to purelands/Buddha-fields and if so, do Arhats and Bodhisattvas apply? How?
  2. At Paranirvana what happens to any and all abandoned karma on a mundane level especially if collectivity (ie., collective consciousness and interconnectivity) is involved? Do others then bear it? If so that would make entering Parinirvana kind of irresponsible unless being a great inspiration and benefit by doing so, right?
  3. Could somebody desiring Buddhahood have no opportunity to do so (after becoming enlightened/attaining Arhatship) by hearing teachings from a Buddha (because then one would not be self-awakened)?
  4. Where are passed(paranibbna) Arhats now?
  5. Can arhats obtain Buddhahood (in current life)?
  6. Can (the) arhatship (path) be a step on the Bodhisattva(hood) path and/or vice versa? If not, why?
  7. If the historical Buddha was in previous lives an unenlightened Bodhisattva how/why did he become a Buddha? Wasn’t he supposed to forego enlightenment? (If the term bodhisattva here means something different than the current Bodhisattva vows could this term bodhisattva be misleading?)
  8. Where did the notion of saving all beings originate? Do beings need saved in the first place? How did it get like this? Why can’t beings save themselves? And if on an ultimate level there are no beings who/what is saving who/what?
  9. If not completely liberated how can choosing to be reborn again and again until all beings are liberated best help completely liberate others without the knowledge of complete, total and full liberation? In other words, how can we best help others to the fullest capacity, and on/from the highest level if not fully enlightened? The paradox being once completely liberated, there’s no coming back (into a human life) to help liberate others right?
  10. Could Bodhisattvas (attempting the) saving (of) beings interfere with the learning, growth and journey of some?
  11. [Note: if changing the language of “vowing to save all beings” to something more like, “upon request, helping and instructing beings,” it puts to rest many of the “saving all beings” questions]
  12. Could some bodhisattvas be under Mara’s control since choosing to forego full liberation and remain here where Mara is in charge? And could some only be a bodhisattva so as to achieve Buddhahood for themselves?
  13. What if all beings became Bodhisattvas except a few or one?
  14. If/when all but bodhisattvas have realized buddhahood/full enlightenment then how will/is realizing full enlightenment for bodhisattvas happen/gone about?
  15. What happens if buddhahood happens spontaneously while a bodhisattva? Is that breaking the bodhisattva vow?
  16. Could those vowing the Bodhisattva path be tempted with (unskillful, unwise, unwholesome) worldly power feeling they may need worldly power to accomplish vows?
  17. Could more powerful beings lure others on to the Bodhisattva path as a reincarnational trap?
  18. Can bodhisattva vows shy beings away from heavenly realms? If so don’t the heavens also need liberating?
  19. Are there bodhisattvas in the animal realm? If so, who? If not, why not?
  20. Can’t passed Arhats and Buddhas assist in liberating beings without being human here (like from a pureland or Buddha-field)? How could beings yet to realize enlightenment know a Buddha would provide more benefit while in the world?
  21. Is a type of hybrid Bodhisattva/Arhat(/Buddha) possible?
  22. Can Buddhas have been Buddhas in the past before, rejoined samsara, then reestablished Buddhahood?
  23. It is said if one kills an Arhat, realizing enlightenment is impossible in that lifetime. Hypothetical thought experiments follow surround this: what if an Arhat worked as a doctor? What if this doctor had patients who did not comply with certain orders from this doctor that then lead, however directly, or indirectly to this doctor’s death? If say 20 people where involved at varying degrees of complicity, would they all then loose their chances for realizing enlightenment in the current lifetime? Why or why not, and how would this play out? Conversely perhaps, what if hospital administration and/or other authority figures in a way forced the hand of this doctor to not save someone when they could have; and then this was then found out followed by seeking and carrying out revenge; but while resulting only in serious injury to the government and/or authority figures, the death of this doctor Arthat was incurred? Or something else like: what if this doctor was in a coma and other healthcare providers for this doctor decided to pull the plug? And how about if the waters on this coma scenario were further muddied by multiple parties involved at varying degrees of mal-intent?
  24. Could putting off enlightenment in Amitābha pureland due to strict requirements be a condition for dragging on rebirth after rebirth? What about those there being under outside influences to drag on rebirths for their own gain especially if stuck and/or maintain power? Could this happen? Why or why not?

Potentially related info, questions and answers from elsewhere:

Does Mahayana Buddhism discourage attaining enlightenment under the Gautama Buddha Sasana?

Buddhas vs bodhisattvas vs arhats vs devas vs brahmas

What is the difference between an arhat, bodhisattva and a buddha?

Bodhisattva wisdom vs. Arhat Wisdom

Published by josh dippold


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