Pratyekabuddhas and Previous Buddhas

It just so happened I found a used copy of the Rhinoceros Sutra from Gāndhāra and in that I was already reading about the Pratimokṣa of the Mahāsāṃghikas I saw the texts were linked to the Pratyekabuddhas and previous buddhas respectively. I noted both were identified as early Buddhist Texts.

Were they in any way contemporary or harmonious in perspective?

And to be clear, it was the last 8 verses of the Pratimokṣa which each was spoken by one of the last 7 Buddhas that was alleged to be an original form of Pratimokṣa and old.


[Gāndhārī: Khargaviṣaṇa-sutra: A Gandhari Version of the Rhinoceros Sutra: British Library]

[Pribish, Charles S., Buddhist Monastic Discipline, 1996, Motilal Banarsidass, India.]

Paccekabuddhas and Buddhas do not exist concurrently. They attain awakening through personal insight characteristically triggered by an external event, such as a leaf falling due to impermanence, which is different to the Buddhas’ discovering of the universal dhamma, meaning they cannot be teachers. The practical lesson here is that if conventional reality is conceived correctly related to ultimate, then externals can be indicators of it.

The Rhinoceros sutta’s (Sutta Nipata 1.3) first nine verses deal with the layperson’s perspective, the remainder the monk’s. It encompasses the Paccekabuddha ideal and not that of a Buddha, who engaged in teaching cannot be solitary. This ideal was later developed more in Chinese Chan.

“The Rhinoceros Sutra also known as The Rhino Sutra (Pali: Khaggavisāṇa-sutta ; Sanskrit: Khaḍgaviṣāṇa-gāthā ; Gāndhārī: Khargaviṣaṇa-sutra or Khargaviṣaṇa-gasa[1]) is a very early Buddhist text advocating the merit of solitary asceticism for pursuing enlightenment as opposed to practicing as a householder or in a community of monastics. The goal of this was to become a pratyekabuddha, who wandered alone through the forest like a rhinoceros. In fact, it is possible this sutra is one identified in the Chinese translation of the Mahāsāṃghika vinaya and thus was also referred to with a Gāndhārī name similar to Pracegabudha-sutra.[1]


After writing this I went out to a rural area and happened to see a procession composed of monks, ascetics (representing the Paccekabuddha class) and laypeople. These are the ascetics: