Why did Buddha emphasize ideal of 'arhant' and not that of 'Bodhisattva' in early buddhism?

We are all actually living the dream of which we don’t have any control. Now this dream one day ends and we are forced to have another dream, characteristics of which are based on what we did in our last dream. Changing dreams is like dying and taking rebirth according to karma. Now in this dream itself there is appearance of tathagata the supreme one who shows the way of awakening from this dream. This tathagata is everything which we have never thought of and he embodies supreme bliss of permanance and awakening. He is just supreme and best of the best. Now person x follows his teachings in lucky dream(lucky rebirth during presence of tathagata) and this x tastes this supreme bliss of infinity, of permanence. This person x means arhat who is now aware that he is actually sleeping and all the pain and suffering of old age, sickness & death(changing dreams) is not real. Still he has not opened his eyes. He can open his eyes only when he enters nirvana in dream. Now he enters nirvana and open his eyes in reality of permanence, in the world of dharmakaya which is permanence(still he cannot see dharmakaya of Buddha). He enjoys this permanence for infinity. At one time while enjoying this permanence he sees in that permanent world the bodies of people sleeping in those dreams(people like us who are not awake yet and are dreaming while sleeping). And now he feels immense compassion that these poor beings are suffering unknowingly in igorance of believing dreams to be real. So when he is filled with compassion then only they can see the supreme dharmakaya of Buddha, which is same as the tathagata who showed him path of awakening in dream. Now he asks this dharmakaya how can I make all of them awake and free of suffering due to ignorance? How can I in dream world be like one who caused me to awake who is same as you? How can I be tathagata?how can I be like you?This dharmakaya answers him that he is infact one who showed him lath of awakening in dream and instructs him the supreme path which is to be walked in dream…so now this person x also goes to sleep(again) to help them in dreams and walks that path considered hard…but now he knows everything is just dream and not real so he does hardest activities of Bodhisattva like they are piece of cake and becomes supreme tathagata(in dream world), and when he becomes supreme tathagata and same as the dharmakaya(which he saw before in reality) and now there is no difference in him and dharmakaya he saw(in past when he awoke for the first time) in permanent world. Now he realizes that all those people he saw as suffering are actually those who went to sleep again just like he went to sleep again and there is noone to wake up(he realized non self of everything now and not just himself). Now he causes infinitude of beings to awake(by teaching dhamma) from dream world after requested by Brahma(in dream world only). And then there comes time of his mahaparinirvana because if he stays there forever(even though he can) that will not be possible(because impermanence is characteristic of dream world) and also because of karma of surrounding beings(is not worthy of his staying)…and final teaching of impermanence is that he passes into mahaparinirvana. When he closes his eyes there, he opens his eyes as dharmakaya of Supreme tathagata means now there is no distinction…and now he won’t go back to sleep because there is no need. And he abides there in the world of nirvana, the world of permanence, world of infinite bliss forever instructing those(just as he was in infinite past) who want to be like him after being awake.

So now Buddha knew non self of everything as he said he doesn’t have thought in his mind that, “I will liberate others”. Because he knows there is noone to awake. Now those people(condemning themselves Bodhisattvas)(not everyone though but many of them) who think this Theraveda ideal of ‘arhant’ is selfish thing actually are suffering from ignorance. And thinking of themselves as of higher vehicle means they are fueling their igorance. They don’t know the goal is awakening they cling to finger (tathagata) which points to the moon(nirvana).

Tathagata taught dhamma first of all because aim is to become awake from this dream(which is characterized by impermanence only) we think of as reality. And trying to be Bodhisattva(as many mahayanist do) is like just believing(and not knowing) we are in dream and belittling arhats as selfish people. But even though Buddha taught awakening still many were there who wanted to know Mahayana so he gave techings of Mahayana only at the end of his life…because these people failed to be arhat, he imparted teachings of Mahayana to fulfill their wishes. So main goal is to be awake and then it’s upto us to walk that path or abide in nirvana forever. Because in nirvana there is no distinction based on which vehicle is used to reach there. This is the reason early buddhism says ‘nirvana’ is the actual goal.

I want to know mistakes in this thinking of mine. I want to be correct so please correct me if anyone thinks I am wrong somewhere in thinking like this. Or if above thinking is wrong entirely. Thank you for your time good people.:pray::pray::pray:

“Arahants, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas”—Bikkhu Bodhi



Yes I read that sir. And I feel it’s true completely. I hope I am right.

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There was 1250 disciples not 500 :woozy_face:

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To my knowledge, there is no evidence of this.

The Orthodox Mahayana view is that the Tathagata gave Mahayana Sutras throughout his dispensation, but they were hidden away in other non-human realms until mankind was ready.

The Orthodox Theravada view is that the Thathagata gave sparse teachings on the Bodhisattva path throughout his dispensation, and that the whole Bodhisattva path is rather simple, consisting of making a vow in front of a living Buddha, a lot of Samsara, life in Tusita, and then a final birth as a human where you, for the first time, become enlightened. The special teachings of Mahayana, Bumi’s and whatnot, are simply later inventions.

The secular scholarly view is similar to the Orthodox Theravada view, in concluding that Mahayana Sutras are later original works.

But I am not aware of any evidence that the Buddha specifically taught the Mahayana at the end of his life.


I’m wondering when I’m reading that suttanipata Rishi is used and Muni and there is others. For me that’s the original teaching. Just simple. I don’t know how that it came to use Buddha so much. For me it has been changed after his death. Because in 1 generation things changing so fast? So the idea of Bodhisatta is similar to choosing to use Buddha or Arahant which is just replacement to be different than the other sects. Although Buddha and Tathāgata they used also.

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Personally, I think that the bodhisattva path began as a way to explain how the Buddha perfected himself and was born to become a Buddha in his final life. So, at first, it developed out of the biographical mythology that was created about the Buddha and his disciples. This resulted in collections of avadāna stories abounding with tales of the bodhisattva’s spiritual development in samsara and collections like the Mahāvastu and Abhiniṣkramaṇa.

After these legends and theories were well developed, then Mahayana sutras began to appear. There are stories about people advocating for these sutras as canonical based on claims like the story about Mahākāśyapa interring himself to re-emerge when the Buddha Maitreya arises in the future. Well, apparently, someone claimed that a Mahayana sutra was transmitted by an arhat who had survived for several centuries in samadhi. Thus, they claimed that the sutra came directly from the Buddha via this miraculous arhat. We do get little snippets and stories like this in the few historical accounts that still exist.

It seems fairly clear to me that Mahayana sutras and teachings for practitioners to replicate the story of the Buddha-as-a-Bodhisattva are later developments. They made claims of being canonical, but it wasn’t clear to anyone what was true, and people naturally believe what scriptures claim. So, it was a sort of propaganda to gain acceptance.

Still, before it reached that stage, there were early Buddhists who had laid the groundwork with many of the basic philosophical ideas that would form the core of Mahayana teachings. Philosophical emptiness (i.e., the world is empty and illusory), altruistic morality (through avadāna stories of self-sacrifice), and the transcendental concept of the Buddha that’s practically a deification into a universal principle. These ideas seems to have gradually formed among early Buddhists, especially the Mahāsāṃghikas and Dharmaguptakas.

This leaves me with some uncertainty about just how far back these ideas go. Buddhist history suffers from a long period of no textual evidence. It’s not until around the 1st c. BC that we have actual evidence of what was circulating, and it’s fragmentary. So, I’m personally left a bit agnostic about just how old “Mahayana” ideas were. They may have been a minority tradition that goes back to the first couple centuries of Buddhism.

Still, I generally agree with the academic consensus that during the Buddha’s life the idea of a bodhisattva was limited to explaining how the lineage of Buddhas happened. And that may have been a later development by his disciples.


There isn’t any, for the same reason there’s 0 evidence that the Buddha taught the Abhidhamma in the Tusita heaven. These mythological stories were created to grant credence to later developments as “Scripture”.

Not saying that makes it “invalid”, tho.Buddhism as it is today as in all its forms is the result of 2000 years of organic development as people tried to live the Bhuddhavacana in the context of their circumstances.


This is based on myths that developed hundreds of years after the time of the historical Buddha. There is no evidence that any Mahayana teachings existed historically during that time, or even in the several hundred years after that. There was a lengthy period in which the EBT’s were compiled and used, in which a bodhisattva ideal did not make its way into the agamas/nikayas in a significant way.

Some myths about Mahayana actually do reference the time in which the Mahayana sutras were uncovered, revealed, accepted, etc. Those usually say something like 500 years after the time of the Buddha, which corresponds roughly with the earliest Mahayana manuscript found, dated to the 1st century CE.

Mahayana Buddhism does have deep roots in Indian Buddhism, but we also need to be clear about the historical aspect so people don’t conflate history and myth.

In some ways, Mahayana Buddhism is a further development of different streams of thought that came out of early Buddhism. Those earliest ideas are found in the EBT’s, Jatakas, etc.


Another thing to keep in mind is that, the earliest forms of the bodhisattva ideal seem to have been based on the idea that it was not for everyone, but for an elite few, kind of like the SAS or the Navy Seals of Buddhism. If this idea is indeed as early as other EBT doctrines (I’m also agnostic about this), then maybe it was not being taught to everyone (since this was seen as being an elite few).


I feel that saying I am Bodhisattva and believing oneself to be Bodhisattva is entirely different from actually being Bodhisattva because I think parmitas (perfections) of many of people who wish to be Bodhisattva and call themselves Bodhisattva are not even equal to the parmitas required to be stream enterers (by not being something) (I might be wrong here ok). And Lord Buddha’s compassion is so great that he wanted first of all for us to be free of suffering. Bodhisattva’s journey is actually taking on suffering which Buddha …I suppose would not recommend by himself although he would definitely praise and encourage anyone on the path. Because being free from suffering is actually the ultimate goal. And I guess it’s upto us to walk that path af greatest difficulty which actually leads to fulfilling of all the wishes and supreme enlightenment…which I suppose will be the best feeling ever(I know word feeling is utterly wrong but I feel that it conveys the meaning).

And one more thing I think is that…if someone really understands what is the true meaning of terms ‘bodhisattva’ and ‘mahayana’ is…he/or she will never belittle Theraveda if they do they are actually great ignorant ones calling themselves Bodhisattva. Because Theraveda is the true dhamma which was given by Buddha first and NOT mahayana. And also yes scriptures and all these things should be considered but if someone believes in greatness and majesty of Buddha and has true faith in that historical person named Gautama…that person should believe that these metaphysical things (pure land, Buddha realms) can be reality.


I feel this Theraveda elders knew all this Mahayana things but they were actually wise enough to know how teaching should be revealed and how should be passed to next generation. They were not bunch of people trying to do some things but were actually perfectly aware of what they are doing. So I feel they revealed Mahayana teachings later on purpose…off course because they were the ones always nearest and closest to Buddha in all the sutras even in Mahayana sutras. I believe closest people to Lord Buddha were actually greater and wiser 100000 times than we think of them. We present age people are like children believing that we are smarter than the elder people. So this mahayana also came from elders…as we don’t know about all the arhats I beleive arhats were the originators and revealers of Mahayana.

And this present age people (us) think that we are smarter and advanced generation. I think we are ignorant thinking like this and actually we lag behind greatly to those great Theraveda elders in I believe all the respects.

This is the basic message of many Mahayana sutras, which I’ve studied and valued quite a bit before I began reading and translating early Buddhist suttas. Truth be told, I think the reason Mahayana Buddhism was more popular in China was because their texts described the same type of non-self-conscious spirituality that already existed in Daoism. The basic attitude described in Prajnaparamita sutras, which say that a bodhisattva doesn’t actually think there’s really something called a bodhisattva, is very similar to the concept of wu-wei in Chinese Daoism. A true master doesn’t think about mastering anything or become self-conscious about it. They just naturally become a master through wanting to master something. It’s a subtle concept; simple yet difficult to really pin down with words. As a result, Chinese converts seriously considered Buddhism to be an offshoot of Daoism.

Also, many Mahayana texts like Kumarajiva’s commentary on the Prajnaparamita sutra specifically say that a bodhisattva practices the teachings in early Buddhism as well as what’s in Mahayana texts. Early Mahayana Buddhists were holistic and didn’t try to warn people away from early Buddhism. It was much later in history when that dogmatic split happened because of texts like the Lotus Sutra that belittled arhats.


Yea I also think the same. I once asked Theraveda monk (who I feel was very advanced) about this, he said it depends on what you believe if you believe in Bodhisattva way then it’s reality, if you believe in Buddha and arhats to be the only truth then yes it will the reality for you. It completely depends on what we believe personally. Because Buddha is of Supreme compassion he teaches only what we are capable to learn and in a way which will be best for us.


Yes i believe in your words completely sir. Because person who can’t even understand Theraveda, whose virtue can’t match steam-enterer(which I believe is very supremely great and hard achievement) cannot be true Bodhisattva! Because off course it’s like to be able to serve country with millions of people…first you should be able to serve your parents who are the ones becuase of whom we exist and to those we owe the most!! And how can one liberate others from suffering if he/she can’t can’t even liberate himself and his parents from suffering. So Theraveda is the core of buddhism! And rest comes after that. Atleast that what I think.

Well, Kumarajiva also translated the Lotus and Vimalakirti, both of which criticize sravakas a bit.

Yes. He translated a few dozen sutras and treatises of various backgrounds, many of which are still not in English. The man himself was a Sarvâstivāda convert to Madhyamika Buddhism. In the commentary to the Prajnaparamita Sutra, I personally think we are getting his own commentary on many of the subjects taken up because it sticks to orthodox Sarvâstivāda Agamas and Vinaya stories when not discussing Mahayana topics (which is quite often).

I guess the more nuanced thing to say is that there was “mainstream Mahayana” (written from within early Buddhist traditions) and “alternative Mahayana” (I’d say “heretical” but people take words like that too seriously) that was written outside of the early Buddhist traditions. It’s a complex mix of literature written over the course of - what? - a thousand years? There’s a whole spectrum of ideas. As many scholars try to explain, “Mahayana” isn’t a Buddhist tradition. It’s a genre of texts that share a set of Buddhist ideas. Some of are barely discernible as Buddhist if compared to early Buddhism as a litmus test.


As far as I know, the Mahayana sutras that criticize sravakas, and be more pointed about it, tend to be those associated with the Mahasamghika. Downplaying arhats and promoting buddhas and bodhisattvas was one of the distinguishing features of all Mahasamghika branches, according to the list of theses in the Samayabhedoparacanacakra.

Many of the “problems” with Mahayana vs. conservative Buddhism simply go away if we simply presume that the Mahasamghika, etc., were coming from a completely different angle.

Maybe at some point we will be able to map each Indian Mahayana sutra to either a specific monastic sect, or at least a general milieu (e.g. South, Northwest).


Wow sir you have openness of mind which is indeed rarely found. I feel joyful in tasting the wisdom shared by all the people here! This suttacentral feels almost like community established by Buddha!

I read somewhere that not all schools accepted all rebirth stories. I think the ones that accepted most was influenced to imitate the rebirth stories carreer. I don’t believe Theravada had all the current rebirth stories in the beginning. It probably got later accepted more because Mahayana influence was on Sri Lanka.