Level of attainment of Buddha's discourse audience

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Level of attainment of Buddha's discourse audience

Postby Rakshasa » Wed Nov 28, 2012 9:20 am

In almost all the Mahayana sutras, the audience of Buddha listening to the discourse consists mostly of Bodhisattvas who appear magically from different lands and even Buddha-lands. For example, in Lankavatara Sutra Buddha explains various Mahayana concepts to those Bodhisattvas. What is the usual level of attainment of these Bodhisattvas? If they are already so advanced as to appear in front of Buddha to listen to discourse, why do they ask amateur questions?

The same applies to Pali canon in which Buddha's audience is almost exclusively comprised of Arhats. If Arhats are already liberated, why do they need any further teachings?

The only exception seems to be the Heart Sutra where a Bodhisattva discourses to an Arhat (Sariputra).
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Re: Level of attainment of Buddha's discourse audience

Postby Indrajala » Wed Nov 28, 2012 9:26 am

That's a good question actually.

I think for the benefit of those who don't understand and perhaps too shy to ask such simple questions. :smile:

Perhaps in these situations they elect an able figure to directly address the Buddha and ask the question on their collective behalf rather than having the newcomer directly speak to the Buddha.
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Re: Level of attainment of Buddha's discourse audience

Postby tomamundsen » Wed Nov 28, 2012 9:30 am

Rakshasa wrote:If they are already so advanced as to appear in front of Buddha to listen to discourse, why do they ask amateur questions?

Sometimes, you need somebody ahead of you to ask questions that you would have wanted to ask if you had as much foresight.
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Re: Level of attainment of Buddha's discourse audience

Postby Huifeng » Wed Nov 28, 2012 9:44 am

Rakshasa wrote:In almost all the Mahayana sutras, the audience of Buddha listening to the discourse consists mostly of Bodhisattvas who appear magically from different lands and even Buddha-lands. For example, in Lankavatara Sutra Buddha explains various Mahayana concepts to those Bodhisattvas. What is the usual level of attainment of these Bodhisattvas? If they are already so advanced as to appear in front of Buddha to listen to discourse, why do they ask amateur questions?

The same applies to Pali canon in which Buddha's audience is almost exclusively comprised of Arhats. If Arhats are already liberated, why do they need any further teachings?

The only exception seems to be the Heart Sutra where a Bodhisattva discourses to an Arhat (Sariputra).


I am not sure that your two basic assumptions are correct, ie. that in most Mahayana sutras, the audience is bodhisattvas (from buddha lands, etc.), and that in the Pali canon the audience is almost exclusively arhats.

In the Samyuktagama, for instance (I take this example as I've just finished reading the whole thing), the over whelming impression is that the target audience is in fact not arhats, but regular people, non-buddhists, or unawakened monks and nuns. Sometimes, some arhat or another may be present, but not very often (even Ananda wasn't an arhat during the Buddha's life).

Mahayana sutras also often contain a very mixed audience, including the human and non-human. It may require more than the single example of the Lanka to argue your case. I can easily find at least a few dozen Mahayana sutras where the target audience are arhats (and others), eg. Taisho 310 Ratnakuta sutras 6, 9, 21, 28, 33; Taisho 320, 331, 339, 341, 347, 357, etc. etc. Just a few off the cuff.

Your counter example of the Heart sutra as "the only exception" just maybe shows that you haven't looked at very many Mahayana sutras at all. In general, the whole basic Prajnaparamita genre (for the first 500 years or so, at least) is also directed at arhats, with only cameos from Maitreya.

So, I'm not sure about your basic assumptions here, which underlie your questions.

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Re: Level of attainment of Buddha's discourse audience

Postby tomamundsen » Wed Nov 28, 2012 10:09 am

Huifeng wrote:Taisho 310 Ratnakuta sutras 6, 9, 21, 28, 33; Taisho 320, 331, 339, 341, 347, 357, etc. etc. Just a few off the cuff.

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