Topic of Discussion: Bodhisattva or Arahat

This discussion began with our meeting on Sunday, February 26, 2012. I (BC) suggested the topic of Bodhisattva and Arahat, often considered definitive of the highest attainments of Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism respectively. I was interested in exploring exactly what the differences are, and whether they are more real or more imagined. I suggested we start with the early discourses, in which Arahats are mentioned all over the place, but bodhisattvas rarely, then look at the motivation for the historical growth of the bodhisattva ideal, which influenced Theravada as well as Mahayana, but became definitive for Mahayana.

The difference between these two goals is often defined in transcendent terms, that is in delaying or not delaying final liberation, the escape from the round of birth and death, in order to save or not save all beings. This suggests a related alternative, something like:

Topic of Discussion: The Highest Attainment

We can see where this leads us. Corey suggested we read the following text together:

The Island: An Anthology of the Buddha’s Teachings on Nibbana, Ajahn Pasanno, Ajahn Amaro, Abhayagiri.

We will try to procure a few printed books. Let me add some other references:

Mind Like Fire Unbound: An Image in the Early Buddhist Discourses, Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Between Arhat and Bodhisattva, Ajahn Amaro

Arahants, Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas, Bhikkhu Bodhi

Also the last chapters of this series, the “Destiny” section, I ran on my blog a couple of years ago is relevant:

From Thought to Destiny (pdf)

And maybe also the Jataka stories.

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