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Mindless quotes

Jan 10, 1999 03:59 PM
by Richard Taylor

In a message dated 1/10/99 9:19:20 PM, Paul quotes:

<<> Pratyekabuddhas are considered higher than Arhats,

Or, by reverse logic, Arhats are considered lower than Pratyeka Buddhas.
Yes?  Well, no.  This is complete nonsense.

>From "The Voice of the Silence".

Concerning Pratyeka-Buddha (Glossary to Part II):

"Caring nothing for the woes of mankind or to help it, but only for their
own *bliss*, they enter Nirvana and  - disappear from the sight and hearts
of men. In Northern Buddhism a 'Pratyeka Buddha' is a synonym of spiritual
Selfishness" (Glossary to Part II).
Further, (Glossary to Part III):

"(32).  In the Northern Buddhist phraseology all the great Arhats, Adepts
and Saints are called Buddhas.

(33). A *Bodhisattva* is, in the hierarchy, less than a "perfect Buddha."
In the exoteric parlance these two are very much confused.  Yet the innate
and right popular perception, owing to that self-sacrifice, has placed a
Bodhisattva higher in its reverence than a Buddha."

(34).  This same popular reverence calls "Buddhas of Compassion" those
*Bodhisattvas* who, having reached the rank of an Arhat (i.e., have
completed the *fourth* or *seventh* Path), refuse to pass into the Nirvanic
state or 'don the *Dharmakaya* robe and cross to the other shore,' as it
would then become beyond their power to assist men even so little as Karma
permits. . . . . .>>

Paul!  You can quote well, but you have really confused all the above terms.
And your quotes, out of context, actually confuse matters more, because you
haven't read any Buddhism, you only have HPB's scattered definitions.  You are
content to parrot HPB word-for-word, and then throw down the gauntlet as if
you've proven your point.  Quotes from HPB, however, really only prove that
you own her books and can read them.

Here's a different, "overview" method, and you will see both the skill and the
idiosyncrasy of HPB.  This is my paraphrasing of Buddhist definitions, and I
invite other students of Buddhism to back me up or show that I am wrong:

(1) Arhats are graduates of the Hinayana (small vehicle) path.  They are
considered "freed from impurities" and thus freed from the wheel of rebirth.
They are free to go on to Nirvana.  "Arhat" literally means "one who has slain
the enemies."  Arhats are NOT enlightened, not omniscient, only "free."

(2) Pratyekabuddhas *are* considered higher adepts, by *BUDDHISM* (which is
what I wrote, if you bothered to check).  These beings are considered
enlightened (meaning far-seeing and wise) as well as free from bondage
karmically.  Their name means literally "prati-eka" (by oneself) "buddha"
(enlightened).  But they did not put in the lifetimes of compassion to develop
the higher virtues of skill-in-means and compassion to be able to help others.
Thus, in a spiritual sense, they are wise but selfish.  Not in the sense of
selfish as in "hurting others" but in the sense of "leaving them to their
fate" and proceeding on to Nirvana.  No one in Buddhism, southern or northern,
worships the Pratyekabuddhas, though both traditions mention them as existing.

(3)  Bodhisattva.  A "wisdom-being," one who has taken a vow to become a
Buddha, and is variously progressed along that path.  Many of us on this list
have taken the vow, but I suspect we are more "embryonic bodhisattvas."
Still, our heart is in the right place.  Certain mythological bodhisattvas are
worshipped by the masses, because they are considered to be *just about* to
become Buddhas (like Maitreya), or because they have been bodhisattvas so long
they have developed tremendous powers, nearly equal to a full Buddha
(Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara).

(4)  A Buddha, a *samyak-sambuddha*, a "fully enlightened Master" is the only
one who, having freed himself, has the ability to free others in whatever
their condition, language, culture, race, or psychological problems.  These
beings are worshipped.  These beings are rare, and are said to incarnate very
seldom, perhaps once a kalpa.  And a kalpa, by anyone's defition, is a long,
long time.  Because they are so precious, their writings are preserved very
carefully, because that may be all we have for a long time to come.  HPB calls
the recent Buddha "the highest adept ever to appear on the planet."

What I have written above is all from BUDDHIST points of view, not
Theosophical.  Now, having gotten some authentic Buddhism, we compare to HPB's
quotes provided by Paul, and see that in some cases she is talking loosely.

When HPB speaks of "the great Arhats," she is not referring to all Arhats,
only the great ones.  These are Buddhas.  But you couldn't know that unless
you had read some Buddhism outside of HPB.

Next quote: HPB first says bodhisattvas are lower than Buddhas, but the
exoteric masses rightly put them above Buddhas.  This is wrong, in theory,
according to HPB, but both beings a masters of compassion and self-sacrifice.
Therefore, in this paragraph, HPB is emphasizing that fact.  She still
believes Buddhas are higher than bodhisattvas.  She says so.

The final quote also shows that Arhats are lower, then those who "pass on" are
bodhisattvas, and those who complete the goal are Buddhas.  It doesn't mention
pratyekabuddhas at all.  So it's not a terribly helpful quote.

I state again that HPB is not making up these terms, she is borrowing them
from source material, which 99% of Theosophists haven't bothered to read for
themselves.  It causes a great deal of confusion, and embarrasses us to
inquirers who have studied other traditions.  Because all we can say is "we
have faith in HPB" and we can't prove why.  One reason we know she's
authentic, however, is because we see HPB time and again using technical terms
"correctly," the way the native traditions use them.  Then she adds more, the
esoteric side.


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