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Problems for enlightened people nowadays

With so many different schools of Buddhism nowadays, if an Enlightened being were to proclaim that this is true and everything else is false, it seems like he/she would run into a problem with the majority of Buddhists if he/she was to point out true Dhamma. Taking a categorical stance on what is right, he/she would probably not fit in with the community of Buddhists in general.

Is this inevitable?

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It happened to the Buddha, so it is not surprising it would happen now. It is more about whether people trust you (and have faith in you), than categorical proclamations of the Truth, which few would believe.

with metta

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It does not seem like there is much of an opening for propagation to people outside of the tradition that he/she already belongs to. With most Buddhist seemingly lacking depth of understanding and relying on teachers who are probably not all that interested in changing their views. Seems like a gloomy situation all-around.

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Hello All,

As it’s only quite recently that we updated our community guidelines, I just wanted to give a little reminder that we’re quite keen to keep true to the original intention behind the Watercooler category to create an area for easy-going, friendly exchange.

As put in the guidelines:

The Watercooler Category

If posting to the Watercooler category please take particular care to make sure your post belongs there. As noted above, this forum is about Early Buddhist Texts. We do, nevertheless, have a Watercooler category for more informal, relaxed, light-hearted exchange. We still encourage that posts to this category are related to the Dhamma, but this is not a fixed rule and an amount of leeway is allowed for other topics. However, there is no leeway with regards to the guideline that all posts to the Watercooler must be of a friendly, light-hearted and harmony-promoting nature. The Watercooler is a place to support each other and make connections, not to prove a point or for heated debate.

We’re now trying to get quite serious about being light-hearted! :wink:

Much advance thanks for steering this conversation in such a way that sticks to the purpose of this category. :anjal:


Added following a re-categorisation to ‘Discussion’:

As a further friendly reminder of another part of our guidelines:

The Main Theme of this Site is Early Buddhism

We are interested in discussing early Buddhist texts, their meaning and historical context, how these teachings evolve and relate to later traditions, and how they may be applied in the present day. If you’re interested in more general Buddhist discussion, there are plenty of other great forums out there.

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If something is ‘inevitable’ then how can it be a problem since what is ‘inevitable’ in Buddhism is called ‘tathata’, which means ‘suchness’ & ‘thusness’, which is the enlightened state.

If what you are suggesting was actually true, it should not be a problem. In other words, the very definition of an enlightened being is a being without any problems. Therefore, how can there ever be ‘problems’ for enlightened people? Buddhism instructs in many places (MN 22; MN 37; etc) the True-Dhamma is for liberation rather than to be clung to.

Why? An enlightened being can start their own school & attract their own followers.

I imagine enlightened beings are beyond ‘gloomy’. This appears why they are called ‘enlightened’?

Regards :innocent:

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Well it is only a problem if they were to try proclaiming what is the truth and most people not believing them, in that sense . However i agree that it is probably not a problem for them as much as it is for people who don’t believe them.

In regards to enlightened beings beyond gloomy, to me the decline of Dhamma is a gloomy situation. I am not sure what you mean beyond gloomy but i don’t think that is a fair statement. The daughter of Anathapindika, Sumanā, stopped eating because she could not find a husband (DhA.i.128f), seems like single life seemed quite gloomy.

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I think Deeele may have been taking about experience from the arahant’s perspective, and in that way, my reading is that his comment is pretty fair.

By way of one teeny-tiny example:

“Having performed these things,
Nowhere can they be conquered—
They are secure wherever they go.
This is their greatest good fortune.”

(Snp2.4)

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That certainly makes sense.

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As long as the Pali suttas exist, I think the Dhamma cannot decline. The sincere inquirer will find the right path because the Dhamma was ‘well-spoken’ by the Buddha. The Pali suttas contain core messages. When the core teachings are practised & realised, I think everything will become clear (despite the different schools, traditions & interpretations). The Pali suttas state the realised understanding of the stream-enterer is ‘independent’ of a teacher. MN 117 states there are two sorts of Dhamma, which is what can result in what appears to be differences but, in reality, is simply two different teachings.

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Certainly there is an obvious decline… Where are the Ceto-Vimutti Arahants? After The Tathagata’s Parinibbana there were thousands of Arahants, nowadays we only speculate of their existence. Attainments disappear first, then the texts.

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I would speculate the arising of (celibate) arahants drained the gene-pool of arahant genes. Therefore, naturally, arahants may possibly decline over time.

The texts say this but, personally, I do not believe it. I believe it is just religious propaganda.

For me, the Pali texts are loaded with religious propaganda, which is why I emphasised the “core messages” (rather than the peripheral supernatural things).

The Pali texts have remained in tact, despite the decline of Buddhism in history, such as in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), where Buddhism was close to extinction when the British colonialists arrived.

Unconventional teachers have arisen from their personal studies of the Pali texts.

As I suggested, as long as the texts remain, the core messages in them are both unambiguous & verifiable, at least to me.

While I can empathize with your view that some may not fit in with the community of Buddhists, any “problem” can be overcome with enlightenment (‘letting go’; ‘non-attachment’; ‘egolessness’).

:slightly_smiling_face:

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I think you’re probably right, and indeed, that likelihood is predicted by the Buddha’s teaching itself: everything is impermanent. I think Ajahn Brhamali may have eloquently handled the probability of the eventual disappearance of the Buddha’s teaching in a talk last year on The Future of Buddhism (apologies if I’ve misremembered which talk the relevant comments were in).

Your thread title mentions ‘nowadays’, and nowadays we still have the texts (obviously it’s a personal preference thing, but I myself am inclined to focus on that). Further, sites such as SuttaCentral and a number of others popping up indicate to me that the opportunity to directly access the teachings in this particular moment in history is probably a lot greater than it has been in many other points in history. This isn’t to take away from your basic contention, but just to help observe as many details pertinent to assessing things as possible.

Nowadays there are probably more ordained monks than ever before, 100’s of thousands if not millions. Discounting for those who may not live up to, or practice up to standards, as some people like to point out, it’s still more than likely that that there are a significant number of them fully awakened. There’s no census of them, however, and you won’t find them on Facebook.:smirk:

From my own very limited experience (sphere of contacts, and not in a Buddhist society), I’ve had personal contact with a few (at least 3, maybe 4 or 5) who I’m convinced (as much as I can be, from the outside but relatively well-informed) embody some stage of ‘ariya’ mind, and even one who’s very likely ‘arahant’.

Perhaps some of the compilers of the texts, in their zeal to extol the power of the Buddha’s personal influence, offered overly optimistic views about just how many arahants there were, and how easy it was to become one? Some of the stories, which occasionally describe a gap of only a couple of weeks between taking refuge and complete liberation, are a bit hard to swallow, as are those texts which describe many people achieving perfect liberation after hearing a single good dhamma talk.

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Take a look at Adhashanti. He teaches quite differently than the Zen tradition he comes from. But he reaches a lot of people and his audience have an unusually high proportion of spiritually ripe people. They seem to be attracted to him because his teachings are so suited to such ripe people, people ready for awakening.

I think enlightened people tend to teach to those around them, and suit their teachings to those people’s needs. It might take not only being enlightened to do that - it might take some skilfull character traits or natural ability to adapt and communicate. But that’s my take on this anyway.

I think with the advent of the www the teachings are available to a larger group of people than at any point previously in history. Yes it will attract a smaller group of people but the quality of those people will be high.

With metta

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I don’t think an Arahat is there to trumpet “the truth” but rather to be a testimony of what liberation from Dukkha is all about.

Also I see him/her being able to give the Dhamma to others using the knowledges, concepts and terminology of our era in similar way the Buddha was doing in his era.

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I don’t think an “enlightened” person would make a statement like that in the first place.

[Questioner:]
“What some say is the truth,
Others say is empty and false.
Arguing like this, they quarrel.
Why don’t renunciants say one [and the same thing]?”

[Buddha:]
"'There is only one truth;
There exists no other [truth] by which a person can dispute with others.'
Because [in this way] they proclaim their own different truths.
Renunciants do not say one [and the same thing]."

Culabyaha sutta
Snp 4.12
Translation Fronsdal

Note: The stanza:
'There is only one truth;
There exists no other [truth] by which a person can dispute with others.'
is a rhetorical statement. It’s the Buddha quoting what a quarreling person says, not a renunciant. In other words, a renunciant doesn’t say things like this, doesn’t proclaim “there is only one truth, no other truth exists.”

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What i meant and assumed to be obvious is that if he/she was to say this is right view, this wrong view, this has been proclaimed, this has not been proclaimed, this is wrong interpretation, this is right interpretation, this is misrepresentation, this ought not to be said [etc] and backing it up.

In AN 10.93 Anathapindika debates people about the views of the Blesssed one, at the end of the Sutta, the Tathagata says this:
[The Blessed One said:] “Well done, householder. Well done. That is how you should periodically refute those foolish men with the Dhamma.” Then he instructed, urged, roused, and encouraged Anathapindika the householder with a talk on Dhamma. When Anathapindika the householder had been instructed, urged, roused and encouraged by the Blessed One with a talk on Dhamma, he got up from his seat and, having bowed down to the Blessed One, left, keeping the Blessed One on his right side. Not long afterward, the Blessed One addressed the monks: “Monks, even a monk who has long penetrated the Dhamma in this Doctrine and Discipline would do well to refute the wanderers of other persuasions with the Dhamma periodically in just the way Anathapindika the householder has done.”

I think it is obvious that taking a categorical stance on what is right would be effectively saying that everything else [contraditing what is right] is wrong. In example if there are three different teachers who hold contradicting views and one of them was proclaimed to be right, that would make the other two wrong.

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Given it has been said that it’s impossible to know if someone is an Arhat or not, let alone grasping the nature of an Arhat’s mind, why would one trouble oneself with this line of enquiry?

We could then ask, if we cannot know for sure if one is an Arhat or not, how can we know if one is communicating Buddha Dhamma or something that lies outside of Buddha dhamma?

Well, why not consider the clear instructions given by the Buddha for that: Saṅkhitta gotamiyovāda sutta AN 8.53?