Abhidharmakośa, Longevity and Mantras.

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Abhidharmakośa, Longevity and Mantras.

Postby Indrajala » Sun May 08, 2011 4:20 pm

Some months ago I wrote the following piece for my blog which I'm going to post here for the sake of discussion as I never really got the chance to discuss the contents of it with anyone. I'll ask a few questions below. Hopefully this can initiate some quality discussion and help me clarify whether my ideas are valid or not.

Arhats and Longevity
http://huayanzang.blogspot.com/2010/10/ ... ty_04.html

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As of late I have been reading part of Vasubandhu's Abhidharmakośa-bhāṣya in detail utilizing the original Sanskrit as well as the Classical Chinese translations by Paramārtha 真諦 and Xuanzang 玄奘. In addition, I have made great use of Leo M. Pruden's English translation of Louis De La Vallee Poussin's French translation and study of the Abhidharmakośa-bhāṣya. There is also a Classical Tibetan version, but unfortunately I cannot read Tibetan.


In the following section I will outline a process elaborated on in the text under the chapter on indriya which details how an Arhat increases or decreases his or her lifespan. The key thing to note here is the process first requires entry into the fourth dhyāna or meditative absorption which indeed entails that only those already quite advanced in samadhi have this ability. Furthermore, the process is one where a voluntary decline in enjoyment is exchanged for an extension in lifespan and a decline in lifespan is exchanged for an increase of enjoyment. The former is undertaken when an Arhat feels they would be of further benefit to sentient beings or to preserve the Dharma. The latter is undertaken when one sees oneself as being of little benefit to others and desires cessation.


I will provide here the Sanskrit followed by the two Classical Chinese translations penned by Paramārtha and Xuangzang respectively and finally the English translation by Poussin / Pruden.


The first paragraph explains how an Arhat transforms unripen karma, which was originally to become resultant joy, into an extension of his lifespan.



śāstre uktam ——“kathamāyuḥsaṃskārān sthāpayati ? arhan bhikṣuḥ ṛddhimāṃścetovaśitvaṃ prāptaḥ saṅghāya vā pudgalāya vā pātraṃ vā cīvaraṃ vā anyatamānyatamaṃ vā śrāmaṇakaṃ jīvitapariṣkāraṃ vā dattvā tat praṇidhāya prāntakoṭikaṃ caturthaṃ dhyānaṃ samāpadyate|sa tasmāt vyutthāya cittamutpādayati vācaṃ ca bhāṣate ——‘yanme bhogavipākaṃ karma tadāyurvipākaṃ bhavatu ’ iti tasya yad bhogavipākaṃ tadāyurvipākaṃ bhavati| yeṣāṃ punarayamabhiprāyaḥ ——vipākoccheṣa vipacyata iti|



【真】《阿毘達磨俱舍釋論》卷2〈2 分別根品〉:「於阿毘達磨藏中說。云何引命行。令住阿羅漢比丘。有聖如意成通慧。至得心自在位。或於大眾。或於一人。捨施若鉢若袈裟。或隨一沙門命資糧。因此發願。入第四定遠際三摩提觀。從此定起。作如是心。說如是言。凡是我業應熟感。富樂願此業熟生我壽命。是時此阿羅漢業。應感富樂。轉生壽命。」(CBETA, T29, no. 1559, p. 174, c16-22)



【玄】《阿毘達磨俱舍論》卷3〈2 分別根品〉:「云何苾芻留多壽行。謂阿羅漢成就神通得心自在。若於僧眾若於別人以諸命緣衣鉢等物隨分布施。施已發願。即入第四邊際靜慮。從定起已心念口言。諸我能感富異熟業。願皆轉招壽異熟果。時彼能感富異熟業。則皆轉招壽異熟果。」(CBETA, T29, no. 1558, p. 15, b11-16)


The Mūlaśāstra says: “How does a Bhikṣu stabilize the vital energies? An Arhat in possession of supernormal power (ŗddhimān-prāptābhijñāḥ), in possession of mastery of mind, i.e., one who is asamayavimukta, gives, either to the Sangha or to a person, things useful to life, clothing, pots, etc.: after having given these things, he applies this thought to his life; he then enters into the Fourth or prāntakoṭika Dhyāna; coming out of the absorption, he produces the thought and pronounces the words: 'May this action which should produce a retribution-in-joy [bhogavipāka] be transformed and produce a retribution-in-life [āyurvipāka]!' Then the action (the gift and the absorption) which should produce a retribution-in-joy produces a retribution-in-life.”(1)




The term “retribution-in-joy” or bhogavipāka is a combination of the terms bhoga and vipāka. The former is derived from the root verb √bhuj which has a number of meanings not limited to but including to enjoy food or carnal pleasures, to use, to possess and so on. The term bhoga itself can also mean experiencing, feeling or perception of pleasure or pain.(2) Paramārtha translated the term as fùlè 富樂. Xuanzang only uses the character fù 富. The term vipāka is perhaps better known in the expression karmavipāka where karma is volitional action and vipāka is the retribution or result of it. Hence the term bhogavipāka is interpreted as retribution as joy or pleasure. Incidentally, in the Mahāyāna the word sambhogakāya, otherwise known as the “enjoyment body” of the Buddha, also includes the term bhoga.

The other term “retribution-in-life” or āyurvipāka is derived from the terms āyus and vipāka. The word āyus is defined as life, vital power, vigour, health, duration of life or long life.(3) Thus it is clear how āyurvipāka is understood as a retribution or result of life or an extension in one's lifespan. Paramārtha appropriately rendered the term as shòumìng 壽命 and Xuanzang likewise used the character shòu 壽, which is normally rendered into English as longevity.

Having provided the opinion of the Mūlaśāstra, Vasubandhu then presents the opinion of another school.



ta āhuḥ ——“pūrvajātikṛtasya karmaṇo vipākoccheṣam| sa bhāvanābalenākṛṣya pratisaṃvedayate ” iti|


【真】《阿毘達磨俱舍釋論》卷2〈2 分別根品〉:「復有餘師執。殘業果報轉熟。彼說宿生所作業。有殘果報。由修習力。引取受用。」(CBETA, T29, no. 1559, p. 174, c22-24)

【玄】《阿毘達磨俱舍論》卷3〈2 分別根品〉:「復有欲令引取宿業殘異熟果。彼說前生曾所受業有殘異熟。由今所修邊際定力引取受用。」(CBETA, T29, no. 1558, p. 15, b16-19)


According to other masters, the prolonged life of an Arhat is the result of the retribution of a previous action. According to them, there is a remnant of the result of retribution-in-life which should have ripened in a previous life, but which was interrupted by death before its time. And it is the force of the absorption of the Fourth Dhyāna that attracts this remnant and makes this remnant ripen now.





It seems here the alternate opinion is that it is not the willed thought coupled with the fourth dhyāna that enables prolonged life, but simply the dhyāna itself mechanically producing that result. Poussin and Pruden state “Arhat” here, but the term does not appear in the Sanskrit or Chinese. It is perhaps that the implied reference is to an Arhat. Nevertheless, one problem that arises from such argument is that it would mean anyone, or perhaps more specifically any Arhat, attaining the fourth dhyāna or deepest of meditative absorptions, would, whether willingly or unwillingly, prolong their lifespan as a rather mechanical resultant process. The Mūlaśāstra actually is more reasonable as it specifically states the Arhat must attain the fourth dhyāna and then will the transformation of vipāka for the desired result to occur.


Vasubandhu then continues his quotation of the Mūlaśāstra.



kathamāyuḥsaṃskārānutsṛjati ? tathaiva dānaṃ dattvā praṇidhāya prāntakoṭikaṃ caturthaṃ dhyānaṃ samāpadyate ——‘yanme āyurvipākaṃ tad bhogavipākaṃ bhavatu ’ iti|tasya tathā bhavati|


【真】《阿毘達磨俱舍釋論》卷2〈2 分別根品〉:「云何棄捨命行。如此捨施發願。入第四定遠際三摩提觀。從此定起。作如是心。說如是言。凡是我業應熟感壽命。願此業熟生我富樂。如彼欲樂。如此轉熟。」(CBETA, T29, no. 1559, p. 174, c24-28)



【玄】《阿毘達磨俱舍論》卷3〈2 分別根品〉:「云何苾芻捨多壽行。謂阿羅漢成就神通得心自在。於僧眾等如前布施。施已發願。即入第四邊際靜慮。從定起已心念口言。諸我能感壽異熟業。願皆轉招富異熟果。時彼能感壽異熟業。則皆轉招富異熟果。」(CBETA, T29, no. 1558, p. 15, b19-23)


[The Mūlaśāstra continues] “How does a Bhikṣu cast off the vital energies? An Arhat in possession of supernormal powers ... enters into the Fourth Dhyāna ... ; coming out of this absorption, he produces the thought and pronounces these words: 'May the actions that should produce a retribution-in-life be transformed and produce a retribution-in-joy!' Then the action that should produce a retribution-in-life produces a retribution-in-joy.”





The term here “vital energies” is āyuḥsaṃskāra. The word saṃskāra itself is usually translated as karmic formation and is the fourth of the five skandhas or aggregates (the others being form, sensations, perceptions and consciousnesses) which conventionally make up a person. The term āyuḥsaṃskāra, like āyurvipāka, contains the word āyus which as stated above means life or longevity. Hence the term means the karmic formation of longevity, or as Poussin has translated “vital energies”.


Just as outlined above but here abbreviated, the Arhat commits a charitable act and upon returning from the fourth dhyāna, wills in his mind and verbally announces that whatever previous actions that would produce an extension in his life (āyurvipāka) be transformed and produce additional joy (bhogavipāka). Essentially what this entails is a sacrifice of longevity in exchange for additional enjoyment. However, this does not mean the Arhat is addicted to sensory pleasures and would rather have those than live longer. This is merely a mechanical process whereby one's life is shortened by willingly transforming and diverting one's unripe karma from longevity into enjoyment.


From here the question arises how this process works. Vasubandhu presents two opinions on the matter.



bhadantaghoṣakastvāha——“tasminneva āśraye rūpāvacarāṇi mahābhūtāni dhyānabalena sammukhīkarotyāyuṣo ’nukūlāni vairodhikāni ca|evamāyuḥsaṃskārān sthāpayati, evamutsṛjati ”iti|


【真】《阿毘達磨俱舍釋論》卷2〈2 分別根品〉:「大德瞿沙說。於自依止中。由定力。引色界四大令現前。能隨順壽命。或相違四大。由如此方便。引命行令住。及以棄捨。」(CBETA, T29, no. 1559, p. 174, c28-p. 175, a1)


【玄】《阿毘達磨俱舍論》卷3〈2 分別根品〉:「尊者妙音作如是說。彼起第四邊際定力引色界大種令身中現前。而彼大種或順壽行或違壽行。由此因緣或留壽行或捨壽行。」(CBETA, T29, no. 1558, p. 15, b23-27)


The Bhadantaghoṣaka said: By the force of the prāntakoṭika Dhyāna that this Arhat has produced, the primary elements of Rūpadhātu are attracted and introduced into his body. These primary elements are favorable to, or contrary to, the vital energies [āyuḥsaṃskāra]. It is in this manner that the Arhat prolongs or casts off his life.






The opinion of the Sauntrāntika is then presented:



evaṃ tu bhavitavyam——samādhiprabhāva eva sa teṣāṃ tādṛśo yena pūrvakarmajaṃ sthitikālāvedhamindriyamahābhūtānāṃ vyāvarttayanti, apūrvaṃ ca samādhijamāvedhamākṣipanti|tasmānna tajjīvitendriyaṃ vipākam, tato ’nyat tu vipākaḥ|


《阿毘達磨俱舍釋論》卷2〈2 分別根品〉:「應如此成。諸阿羅漢。有如此定自在力。由此力宿業所生。諸根四大。引住時量。皆悉迴轉。先未曾有三摩提引住時量。今則引接。是故如此壽命非果報。異此名果報。」(CBETA, T29, no. 1559, p. 175, a2-5)


《阿毘達磨俱舍論》卷3〈2 分別根品〉:「應如是說。彼阿羅漢由此自在三摩地力轉去曾得宿業所生諸根大種住時勢分。引取未曾定力所起諸根大種住時勢分。故此命根非是異熟。所餘一切皆是異熟。」(CBETA, T29, no. 1558, p. 15, b27-c1)


Along with the Sauntrāntikas, we say that the Arhats, through their mastery in absorption, cause the projection of the constitutive primary elements of the organs for a certain period of duration, a projection due to previous actions, to cease; inversely, they produce a new projection, born of absorption. Thus the vital organ, in the case of the prolonged life of an Arhat, is not retribution. But in other cases, it is retribution.






Finally, it begs to ask why would an Arhat shorten or extend their lifespan?


Kimarthamāyuḥsaṃskārānadhitiṣṭhanti? parahitārtham, śāsanasthityarthaṃ ca|te hyātmanaḥ kṣīṇamāyuḥ paśyanti, na ca tatrānyaṃ śaktaṃ paśyanti| atha kimarthamutsṛjanti? alpaṃ ca parahitaṃ jīvite paśyanti rogādibhūtaṃ cātmabhavam|


【真】《阿毘達磨俱舍釋論》卷2〈2 分別根品〉:「阿羅漢人。何因發願引命行令住。或為利益他。或為令正法久住。是諸阿羅漢。已見自身壽命將盡。於此二中不見他有此能復以何因棄捨壽命。於有命時。見利益他事少。自身疾苦所逼如偈言。修梵行已竟 聖道已善修 由捨命歡喜 如人病得差」(CBETA, T29, no. 1559, p. 175, a6-12)


【玄】《阿毘達磨俱舍論》卷3〈2 分別根品〉:「彼阿羅漢有何因緣留多壽行。謂為利益安樂他故。或為聖教久住世故。觀知自身壽行將盡。觀他無此二種堪能。復何因緣捨多壽行。彼阿羅漢自觀住世於他利益安樂事少。或為病等苦逼自身。如有頌言。梵行妙成立 聖道已善修 壽盡時歡喜 猶如捨眾病」(CBETA, T29, no. 1558, p. 15, c2-9)


Why does the Arhat prolong his vital energies? For two reasons: with a view to the good of others, and with a view to the longer duration of the Dharma. He sees that his life is going to end; he sees that others are incapable of assuring these two ends. Why does the Arhat cast off his vital energies? For two reasons: he sees that his dwelling in the world has only a small utility for the good of others, and so sees himself tormented by sickness, etc. As the stanza says: “If the religious life has been well practiced, and the Way well cultivated, at the end of his life, he is happy, as at the disappearance of sickness.”





We should be mindful that the Abhidharmakośa-bhāṣya is a Śrāvakayāna and not Mahāyāna text. That being said, this particular section in a sense helps to explain the causal process behind mantras. In the aforementioned case, the Arhat, with fine and well developed mental stamina, summons a thought directed towards a certain effect and verbally states it. Likewise with a mantra one cultivates single pointed concentration, summons a thought directed towards a certain effect and verbally recites a short verse which represents it. The process seems to be identical. One thing to be stressed here is the emphasis placed on mental stamina or fitness. In the case of the Arhat, he must have mastery of the fourth dhyāna to successfully manipulate his lifespan. Likewise, it is my understanding of mantras that concentration of the practitioner affects their efficacy. Again, both processes work on the same principle.


I imagine some readers might ask what bearing all this has in reality. What is the practical aspect of all this? I suppose the only appropriate answer is that one must attain mastery of the fourth dhyāna and only then is one in an actual position to verify the worth of such claims. Failing that, deferring to the testimony of a valid authority is possible, but will probably be unsatisfactory to most. We must keep in mind that this is not science, but by definition religion. The only way to verify whether it is really possible to extend or shorten one's lifespan through meditative absorption and willed thought is by attaining the state of an Arhat. In simpler terms we might see some hint of validity in such claims when we consider how the mental state of an individual can affect quite visibly their ageing process. Those who are weary and full of stress quickly turn grey and rapidly suffer the degeneration of mind and body. In contrast we see that those individuals who are calm, without stress and maintain good mental hygiene age slower and on the surface appear healthier. In any case, the effects of long and hard meditation are slowly being documented in the scientific community. If you are interested in the seemingly supernormal effects of meditation, I recommend the following article in the Harvard Gazette which outlines the documented effects of Tum Mo meditation (04.08.2002):


Meditation changes temperatures: Mind controls body in extreme experiments

Foot Notes:
1Abhidharma-kośa-bhāṣya. Trans. Louis De La Vallee Poussin. English trans. Leo M. Pruden. Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 1991. See v. 1, p. 165.
2See Monier-Williams p.767.
3Ibid., p. 149.

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Does the Fourth Dhyāna automatically entail the ripening of past life karma that results in an extension of one's lifespan or does one have to volitionally will it as the Mūlaśāstra suggests? If the former, then by virtue of just doing meditation and attaining the fourth dhyāna one would prolong their lifespan.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this or alternative opinions from scriptures?

Also, this is something I concluded after reading through the passages above.

We should be mindful that the Abhidharmakośa-bhāṣya is a Śrāvakayāna and not Mahāyāna text. That being said, this particular section in a sense helps to explain the causal process behind mantras. In the aforementioned case, the Arhat, with fine and well developed mental stamina, summons a thought directed towards a certain effect and verbally states it. Likewise with a mantra one cultivates single pointed concentration, summons a thought directed towards a certain effect and verbally recites a short verse which represents it. The process seems to be identical.


What do you think? In your understanding of mantras is the process identical?

I think this is significant if the process behind mantras is identical because one has a kind of basis for mantra theory in earlier Śrāvakayāna theories. One can also defend the use of mantras, to either opponents of mantrayāna or outsiders claiming it as a merely Hindu influence in Buddhism, on this basis by saying it is just a development on ideas which already existed before the appearance of mantras in Buddhist traditions. You can't dismiss the use of mantras if you accept it is possible, as described above, for a yogi to will, both verbally and mentally, an extension of their lifespan by manipulating vipāka.
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Re: Abhidharmakośa, Longevity and Mantras.

Postby pueraeternus » Sun May 08, 2011 6:39 pm

Hi Huseng,

Thanks for the excellent translations.

A few things came to mind after reading your post:

1) As you opined, being that most Arhats live lives of normal lifespans (as recorded in the scriptures), it is more probable that the extensions of lifespans should be a willed action, rather than an automated process upon attaining the fourth dhyana.

2) Can Arhats still gather the fruits of karma upon attaining Arhatship? I thought they are no longer subject to further accumulations, and only have to content with what their karmic situation is (for weal or woe) up to the point they became asaika?

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Re: Abhidharmakośa, Longevity and Mantras.

Postby Indrajala » Sun May 08, 2011 7:03 pm

Hello pueraeternus,

pueraeternus wrote:1) As you opined, being that most Arhats live lives of normal lifespans (as recorded in the scriptures), it is more probable that the extensions of lifespans should be a willed action, rather than an automated process upon attaining the fourth dhyana.


This is a good point. I think it would have to be a willed action, otherwise one would live indefinitely just by extending one's lifespan through entering the fourth dhyāna. The other theory Vasubandhu cites is this:

According to other masters, the prolonged life of an Arhat is the result of the retribution of a previous action. According to them, there is a remnant of the result of retribution-in-life which should have ripened in a previous life, but which was interrupted by death before its time. And it is the force of the absorption of the Fourth Dhyāna that attracts this remnant and makes this remnant ripen now.



Given infinite time, presumably there would be no end to remnants of ayurvipāka ripening because of the force of the fourth dhyāna.



2) Can Arhats still gather the fruits of karma upon attaining Arhatship? I thought they are no longer subject to further accumulations, and only have to content with what their karmic situation is (for weal or woe) up to the point they became asaika?


This would be a point with many opinions on it.

The Arhat while alive functions with sopadhiśeṣa-nirvāṇa or nirvāṇa with residue before entering nirupadhiśeṣa-nirvāṇa or nirvāṇa without residue at death.

He or she is already destined for the latter and, as I understand it, it is irreversible.

That being said, as Vasubandhu notes, they can manipulate vipāka in such a way as to extend or shorten their lifespan for various reasons. In this sense the process of karma-vipāka, limited to this life, is possible though nirupadhiśeṣa-nirvāṇa at death remains certain. Their karma-vipāka would not extend to future lives because the causes for their future lives have been entirely cut off.
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Re: Abhidharmakośa, Longevity and Mantras.

Postby pueraeternus » Sun May 08, 2011 8:01 pm

Huseng wrote:
Given infinite time, presumably there would be no end to remnants of ayurvipāka ripening because of the force of the fourth dhyāna.


Brings to mind the legend of the four Arhats (Pindola, et al) who were tasked to remain on earth with their retinue until the complete disappearance of the Dharma. One wonders if they relied on their past store of karma or generated new accumulations. If the latter (and if the legend is true), then it means there are thousands of Arhats still actively interacting with us, probably disguised or out of sight.
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Re: Abhidharmakośa, Longevity and Mantras.

Postby Indrajala » Mon May 09, 2011 3:56 am

pueraeternus wrote:
Huseng wrote:
Given infinite time, presumably there would be no end to remnants of ayurvipāka ripening because of the force of the fourth dhyāna.


Brings to mind the legend of the four Arhats (Pindola, et al) who were tasked to remain on earth with their retinue until the complete disappearance of the Dharma. One wonders if they relied on their past store of karma or generated new accumulations. If the latter (and if the legend is true), then it means there are thousands of Arhats still actively interacting with us, probably disguised or out of sight.


I have read here and there that Arhats are said to be able to, by their own will, live indefinitely if they so chose.

I don't know if that is true or not. In recent history those who were thought to be Arhats died at ripe old ages.
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Re: Abhidharmakośa, Longevity and Mantras.

Postby Will » Mon May 09, 2011 4:28 am

Will have to think some more about mantra action-effect.

But those passages (vol. 1, 165-66 of Pruden) remind me of setting motive before practice and affirming motive after practice. On our much feebler scale we, for example, dedicate all our merit from an action or practice to full buddhahood for all and after such practice or action we repeat that dedication.

It sounds as if one could do many things besides extend life with that formula, providing the 4th Dhyana is a snap for us.

Also, I thought there were 16 Arhats that Buddha asked to stay until Maitreya comes?
Last edited by Will on Mon May 09, 2011 6:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Abhidharmakośa, Longevity and Mantras.

Postby Indrajala » Mon May 09, 2011 5:11 am

Will wrote:Also, I thought there were 16 Arhats that Buddha asked to stay until Maitreya comes?


Did it really happen, or is it legend or folktales?

Even with the early canon there are cases where in most likelihood hearsay and legends got mixed in with historical accounts of the Buddha's career.
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Re: Abhidharmakośa, Longevity and Mantras.

Postby Will » Mon May 09, 2011 6:38 am

Huseng wrote:
Will wrote:Also, I thought there were 16 Arhats that Buddha asked to stay until Maitreya comes?


Did it really happen, or is it legend or folktales?

Even with the early canon there are cases where in most likelihood hearsay and legends got mixed in with historical accounts of the Buddha's career.


If there is no evidence against these Arhats, only modern suspicions, and there are many sadhanas, texts, statues etc. that do support their existence and function, I will support the tradition. Where there is smoke, there once was fire. Perhaps the names and/or numbers of Arhats and the length of time Buddha asked them to watch over his Dharma are off. It seems more odd to me that Buddha would have no competent Arhat disciples to carry on his Dharma for many eons in the future - only the "Dhamma-Vinaya" to rely on. The Mahayana also mentions Ksitigarbha Mahasattva as the guardian of the Dharma until Maitreya.
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Re: Abhidharmakośa, Longevity and Mantras.

Postby Astus » Mon May 09, 2011 9:38 am

Will wrote:If there is no evidence against these Arhats, only modern suspicions, and there are many sadhanas, texts, statues etc. that do support their existence and function, I will support the tradition. Where there is smoke, there once was fire. Perhaps the names and/or numbers of Arhats and the length of time Buddha asked them to watch over his Dharma are off. It seems more odd to me that Buddha would have no competent Arhat disciples to carry on his Dharma for many eons in the future - only the "Dhamma-Vinaya" to rely on. The Mahayana also mentions Ksitigarbha Mahasattva as the guardian of the Dharma until Maitreya.


If there were such Dharma heirs to live infinitely Buddhism would look very differently with a hierarchy and such. Since that's not what the Buddha has established we can correctly assume that there are no Dharma heirs, especially not virtually immortal ones.
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Re: Abhidharmakośa, Longevity and Mantras.

Postby pueraeternus » Mon May 09, 2011 9:04 pm

Huseng wrote:
Will wrote:Also, I thought there were 16 Arhats that Buddha asked to stay until Maitreya comes?


Did it really happen, or is it legend or folktales?

Even with the early canon there are cases where in most likelihood hearsay and legends got mixed in with historical accounts of the Buddha's career.


The Four Arhats were the original version of the story, recorded in the Sariputra-Pariprccha-Sutra (a Mahasamghika text) - Mahakasyapa, Kundopadhaniya, Pindola and Rahula were to remain in Samsara to guard the Dharma. With each iteration the numbers of Arhats increase, as is rather common in the evolution of Buddhist texts.

Not sure how canonical can we consider this legend. But if I remember what I read before correctly, the practice of inviting Pindola during offerings to the sangha lasted quite a long time. According to certain tradition, his remaining in Samsara was also a "punishment" meted by the Buddha, when Pindola openly displayed his supernatural powers to the laity to win over a sandalwood alms bowl, which also prompted the Buddha to enact the Vinaya rules not to:

1) Openly display your abhijnas to the laity
2) Use sandalwood alms bowls :D
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Re: Abhidharmakośa, Longevity and Mantras.

Postby pueraeternus » Mon May 09, 2011 9:16 pm

Astus wrote:
If there were such Dharma heirs to live infinitely Buddhism would look very differently with a hierarchy and such. Since that's not what the Buddha has established we can correctly assume that there are no Dharma heirs, especially not virtually immortal ones.


The impression I get when reading the accounts of long-lasting Arhats, is that the Buddha meant them to guard the Dharma from behind the scenes, rather than outwardly as lineage holders. The role of the Four Arhats were mentioned in the same vein as tasking Indra and the four Devarajas to guard the Dharma. The four Arhats were supposed to reside in some mountains or realms with their retinue of hundreds/thousands of followers (all Arhats), each taking a cardinal direction.

Also, if the account of the (Sravakayana) Mahaparinirvana-sutra were to be believed, the Buddha also hinted to Ananda to ask him to remain in Samsara to continue to the turn the wheel, but alas, it went past his head. If that were to happen, then there would be a good chance that the other Arhats would remain to continue to serve the Master.
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Re: Abhidharmakośa, Longevity and Mantras.

Postby Astus » Mon May 09, 2011 10:06 pm

pueraeternus wrote:The impression I get when reading the accounts of long-lasting Arhats, is that the Buddha meant them to guard the Dharma from behind the scenes, rather than outwardly as lineage holders.


Quite a conspiracy theory I say. It's like Anne Rice's children of the millennia and the Theosophist's ascended masters. There are also the so called Taoist immortals and Zen stories about Bodhidharma returning to India after his death. Not to mention Manjushri living on Wutai Mountain.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Abhidharmakośa, Longevity and Mantras.

Postby pueraeternus » Mon May 09, 2011 10:23 pm

Astus wrote:
pueraeternus wrote:The impression I get when reading the accounts of long-lasting Arhats, is that the Buddha meant them to guard the Dharma from behind the scenes, rather than outwardly as lineage holders.


Quite a conspiracy theory I say. It's like Anne Rice's children of the millennia and the Theosophist's ascended masters. There are also the so called Taoist immortals and Zen stories about Bodhidharma returning to India after his death. Not to mention Manjushri living on Wutai Mountain.


Well, being that traditions and rituals tied to the legends of these Arhats were part of the rubric of rather early Buddhist practice, I would say that the context are quite different from the examples you described. Perhaps it is a fruit of people's need to believe in an tangible, living link to the time of the Buddha himself. But if we were to accept what the Buddha taught when he said a Bhiksu, who have mastered the mula-dhyanas, could live to a kalpa or more, then perhaps such an idea is not so ludicrous.
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Re: Abhidharmakośa, Longevity and Mantras.

Postby Indrajala » Tue May 10, 2011 3:23 am

Astus wrote:Quite a conspiracy theory I say. It's like Anne Rice's children of the millennia and the Theosophist's ascended masters. There are also the so called Taoist immortals and Zen stories about Bodhidharma returning to India after his death. Not to mention Manjushri living on Wutai Mountain.


There are some Vedic ideas, too, about fallen dynasties living out the kaliyuga in the Himalayas with the intent to return at the satyayuga.

pueraeternus wrote:Well, being that traditions and rituals tied to the legends of these Arhats were part of the rubric of rather early Buddhist practice, I would say that the context are quite different from the examples you described. Perhaps it is a fruit of people's need to believe in an tangible, living link to the time of the Buddha himself. But if we were to accept what the Buddha taught when he said a Bhiksu, who have mastered the mula-dhyanas, could live to a kalpa or more, then perhaps such an idea is not so ludicrous.


Sure, but like I said the holy Buddhist sages in our modern age still live to ripe old ages and die. Arthats and Bodhisattvas alike.

I met a monk in India who said he was on some mountain in the Himalayas meditating and, in his words, he described encountering the most beautiful goddesses who had been present when the Buddha taught the dharma. He didn't say much beyond that, but I thought his experience was interesting.
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Re: Abhidharmakośa, Longevity and Mantras.

Postby pueraeternus » Tue May 10, 2011 4:37 am

Huseng wrote:Sure, but like I said the holy Buddhist sages in our modern age still live to ripe old ages and die. Arthats and Bodhisattvas alike.



But that does not necessarily mean all holy Buddhist sages in present time live out normal lifespans. Those we heard or read about are those who are famous enough to be known. There are probably many reclusive ones who vanish into seclusion. Most of the original Arhat disciples of the Buddha lived to a ripe old age and died as well - eg, Ananda, Upali, Aniruddha and most of the others. So the example of modern day famous masters are not an indication of the plausibility (or not) of dhyana-induced longevity.

Furthermore, according to the Abhidharmakosa, the Prāntakoṭika is the highest category within the Fourth Dhyana, which means before an Arhat can make use of this power, he/she has to have complete mastery over the mula-dhyanas. A lot of modern masters don't put a lot of emphasis on dhyana cultivation. I can also imagine why famous masters wouldn't want to extend their lives this way, especially in this media-permeated, cynical age where unusual phenomena will be subject to a lot of medical scrutiny. Not openly anyway.

Of course, all of the above are just my conjecture.
When I set out to lead humanity along my Golden Path I promised a lesson their bones would remember. I know a profound pattern humans deny with words even while their actions affirm it. They say they seek security and quiet, conditions they call peace. Even as they speak, they create seeds of turmoil and violence.

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Re: Abhidharmakośa, Longevity and Mantras.

Postby Astus » Tue May 10, 2011 8:19 am

The two favourite disciples of the Buddha, Shariputra (Sariputta) and Maudgalyayana (Moggalana), who had superb attainments, died before Gautama. Maudgalyayana's death is especially noteworthy here because he died a violent death as a result of previous karma. And he was not the only arhat who died like that.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Abhidharmakośa, Longevity and Mantras.

Postby pueraeternus » Tue May 10, 2011 1:21 pm

Astus wrote:The two favourite disciples of the Buddha, Shariputra (Sariputta) and Maudgalyayana (Moggalana), who had superb attainments, died before Gautama. Maudgalyayana's death is especially noteworthy here because he died a violent death as a result of previous karma. And he was not the only arhat who died like that.


True, true. For Maudgalyayana, the force of his previous karma of matricide and patricide would probably preclude any possibility of him extending his life.

Generally, I think there is scant reason for Arhats to remain for long in Samsara, since their primary goal is to win Nirvana, not turn the wheel. If the legends (and these legends are deep-seated in the beliefs and practices of early to middle period Buddhism) are to be believed, they usually only do so at the behest of the Buddha or some task they have to perform themselves. For example, Mahakasyapa is supposed to pass on the Buddha's robes to Maitreya (the Buddha exchanged robes with Mahakasyapa, as a recognition of his pre-eminence), hence he sealed himself within the Kukkutapada mountain in nirodhasamapatti (so the question is why didn't any disciple from the previous Buddha passed on anything to Sakyamuni?). For Pindola, he was tasked to remain as a punishment and also to guard the dharma. Curiously, Pindola seems to have been recorded to appear every now and then. He appeared during Asoka's reign, and also taught Asanga the Sravakayana's understanding of emptiness. Later, he is said to appear to Taoxuan, the Chinese Vinaya master.
When I set out to lead humanity along my Golden Path I promised a lesson their bones would remember. I know a profound pattern humans deny with words even while their actions affirm it. They say they seek security and quiet, conditions they call peace. Even as they speak, they create seeds of turmoil and violence.

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Re: Abhidharmakośa, Longevity and Mantras.

Postby Mr. G » Tue May 10, 2011 1:55 pm

Huseng wrote:
What do you think? In your understanding of mantras is the process identical?


If the practitioner is able to reach the 4th Dhyana with mantra recitation then it seems so. I can see the relationship in Tibetan Buddhist wealth and long life practices.
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Re: Abhidharmakośa, Longevity and Mantras.

Postby Indrajala » Tue May 10, 2011 6:48 pm

pueraeternus wrote:But that does not necessarily mean all holy Buddhist sages in present time live out normal lifespans. Those we heard or read about are those who are famous enough to be known. There are probably many reclusive ones who vanish into seclusion. Most of the original Arhat disciples of the Buddha lived to a ripe old age and died as well - eg, Ananda, Upali, Aniruddha and most of the others. So the example of modern day famous masters are not an indication of the plausibility (or not) of dhyana-induced longevity.



I don't deny the possibility. I am just saying we don't have any verifiable accounts in recent history of Arhats living unnaturally long lives. Even in the case of Bodhisattvas where it would be beneficial for them to live extended lifespans, they also die. The 13th Dalai Lama remarked it was his intention to die when he did so he would be a proper age to deal with the problems he foresaw coming to Tibet and the Tibetan people.



A lot of modern masters don't put a lot of emphasis on dhyana cultivation. I can also imagine why famous masters wouldn't want to extend their lives this way, especially in this media-permeated, cynical age where unusual phenomena will be subject to a lot of medical scrutiny. Not openly anyway.



In Theravada traditions there are mixed feelings. Some monks say we're too far away from Buddha's age, so don't try too hard. Some, like Ajahn Brahm for example, actively encourage cultivation of the jhānas as a key practice. Ajahn Brahm also has no problems talking about the reality of abhijñā. He testifies to their reality.
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Re: Abhidharmakośa, Longevity and Mantras.

Postby pueraeternus » Wed May 11, 2011 12:36 am

Huseng wrote:I don't deny the possibility. I am just saying we don't have any verifiable accounts in recent history of Arhats living unnaturally long lives. Even in the case of Bodhisattvas where it would be beneficial for them to live extended lifespans, they also die. The 13th Dalai Lama remarked it was his intention to die when he did so he would be a proper age to deal with the problems he foresaw coming to Tibet and the Tibetan people.


True. For one thing, it's tough enough to verify if there are actually any Arhats in recent history, much less long-living ones. Either for Arhats or Bodhisattvas, I think it's not good policy to publicly and openly demonstrate to the world such powers - among other difficulties, it will only distract others from proper practice, and incite them to obsess about attaining immortality to continue their samsaric ways. Dharma masters already have difficulty in dissuading their disciples not hanker after abhijnas - imagine how much more difficult that would be when they can say, "But look at you, Master. Aren't you setting an example for us to follow?". Teaching impermanence would be exceeding difficult if you inhabit a seemingly adamantine body. For these and other reasons, if you are advanced enough to possess such powers and famous enough to attract large followings, it is more suitable to just die normally.

In Theravada traditions there are mixed feelings. Some monks say we're too far away from Buddha's age, so don't try too hard. Some, like Ajahn Brahm for example, actively encourage cultivation of the jhānas as a key practice. Ajahn Brahm also has no problems talking about the reality of abhijñā. He testifies to their reality.


Another famous Theravadin teacher who excel at teaching the jhanas is Pa Auk Sayadaw. However, he follows the Visuddhimagga model very closely, which is a difficult regimen.
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