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 [Dhamma Talk]


An Essay about Arahats

With Daniel Ingram
MD MSPH, Arahat



Here is one declaration of Arahantship according to the Pali:

Khīṇā jāti,||
vusitaɱ brahmacariyaɱ,||
kataɱ karaṇīyaɱ,||
nāparaɱ itthattāyāti pajānāmi' ti.|| ||

"Birth: left behind,
carrying on as Brahma: finished,
duty's doing: done,
no further it'n-n-at'n is to be known for me, say I."

Here is another:

Ñāṇañ ca pana me dassanaɱ udapādi||
akuppā me ceto-vimutti
aya¸ antimā jāti
n'atthi dāni punabbhavo|| ||

Knowledge and then seeing arose in me:
unshakable is the release of my heart,
this is my last birth,
there is now no further becoming.

Such a one is described as follows:

A being without corruptions [without lust, being, blindness or views],
duty's doing done,
laid down the load,
his own best interest brought forth,
the yokes to becoming [the belief in one truth, doubt concerning the awakening of the Buddha, belief in the effectiveness of ethics for ending pain, wishing for pleasure, anger, lust, desire for immaterial things, pride, fear, and blindness to the paticca samuppada], thoroughly destroyed,
by highest answer-knowledge [the ability to know whatever one wants to know whenever one wants to know it] liberated.



"There is much lore, dogma, heresay, speculation, and really wild, complex thought and theory that gets tossed around about arahats. Some of it comes from the texts of the Pali Canon, some from the commentaries, some from the other strains of Buddhism (such as the Mahayana), some from tradition, and some people just seem to make up. These sources, like all sources, are of mixed quality, with a wide range of truth and junk mixed all together. I will do my best to sort out what is true, being as I am now in a position to do this from my own experience."

But where is it he describes his own experience? We need to know what he thinks he has experienced that places his judgment over even 'some people who just make up [sic] the lore, dogma, heresay, speculation, and really wild, complex thought and theory that gets tossed around about arahats.

I do this because the false dogmas hinder and obscure the development of wisdom that comes from seeing life directly as it is. Realization comes from seeing things as they actually are now, not trying to imitate some bizarre behavioral or emotional ideal. Further, when people are trying to identify or evaluate the claims of those who claim realization, it is helpful to have an accurate set of criteria. Interestingly enough, as I have had a reasonable amount of experience in being subjected to the criteria that are out there, most of them have to do with very arbitrary and restrictive rules of behavior and speech, which have nothing to do with realization. Thus, in an attempt to focus the discussion where it should be, which is on direct perception of reality, I submit the following:

Here he tells us that we must have an accurate set of criteria to evaluate the claims of those who claim realization, but he neither provides us with such a set of criteria nor allows the criteria of other sources that is not of his selecting.

When he speaks of 'the criteria that are out there' he speaks of 'arbitrary and restrictive rules of behavior and speech, which have nothing to do with realization.'

There are a number of statements made in the Suttas about what an Arahant could not do.[1] These are not rules, they are statements about what an individual who had the experience of the arahant could not do in the same way as it can be understood of a person who has had their hand burned in a fire could not willingly stick their hand into a fire.

In this paragraph also, he describes what he believes is a set of criteria for defining the arahant, but he does not state that what he describes is his experience.

Additionally, his criteria are of such a nature as to be saying essentially: Realization is what I say it is. Saying that wisdom comes from seeing life directly as it is is defining wisdom but not what seeing life directly as it is is. He makes the same statement with regard to Realization.

If we grant that 'wisdom' and 'realization' (neither term being used in the Pali for awakening and both terms too vague) are synonyms for Nibbana, awakening, detachment, freedom, living outside time, what these terms cannot stand for is seeing life directly as it is or seeing things as they actually are now. What!? That's right. Supposing these sloppy stock statements from the Enlightenment Crew were actually saying: seeing that 'this is pain', 'this is the origin of pain' 'this is the ending of pain' and 'this is the way to the end of pain', which they are not, Awakening does not simply consist of seeing these things. Awakening requires seeing these things and then freeing one's self from the situation and then further than that realizing that in this freedom is the freedom called Awakening, Nibbana, etc.

What we have here is a man who while claiming Arahantship has declared that he is not even a Streamwinner.

This is the man we are being asked to trust in debunking all the false information out there about Arahants.

A few First Principles to frame, underpin, clarify and define the discussion:

1. The first and most essential point is that realization, awakening, enlightenment, or whatever you want to call it comes from one's own practice and direct perception of the Truth of Things, Ultimate Reality, or whatever you wish to call it.

The Buddhism of the Pali suttas declares no such thing as 'The Truth of Things' or 'Ultimate Reality'. What we have is 'Samma Ditthi' — 'High View' First: high or highest, but not ultimate because it is not a declaration of the one true view, it is the declaration of a view that solves the problem of pain. It is made very clear, as with the simile of the raft, that this 'view' is to be let go. Second: as above, it is not simply seeing high view as it is, or the truth of it, but it is acting on the implications and achieving the implied goal that constitutes Awakening. The use and condoning of sloppy terminology is good cover for somene who does not know what they are talking about. Makes everyone feel they know what he is saying. Makes everyone feel they should agree with his opinion of his own awakening because it confirms their inner beliefs that they too are already awake.

2. All of the well-established meditation traditions as well as the non-aligned teachers may or may not be a support to this process.

I dislike sarcasm, so I will not note how profound this statement is. On the one hand, we have the other hand.

3. Realization is not the exclusive property of any tradtion, lineage, religion or teacher, but instead is something inherent in all of reality that we may come to know.

4. Persons across times, places, cultures and traditions continue to discover the same inherent wisdom and may develop it to the highest levels possible, though they may use different techniques and use different language to describe what happened.

5. Some of the language used to describe realization is more to the point and accurate than others.

Numbers 4 and 5 here are an argument I have heard over and over: "All religions point to the same truth." No, they do not. They may all be reacting to the same truth, but even that is to put onto what they say they are doing what we would like to think they were doing. The goal in Buddhism is the same as the goal of several Hindu beliefs of the time: that life was an unending cycle with pain as the one 'inherent' constant and that Awakening constituted some way to bring the cycle to a close and end birth or kamma. This is a long way from the stated goals of Christianity or Mohamadism or Taoism. But within those few that share a similar idea of what the goal should be, Gotama's solution is unique: that by doing no identified-with act of thought, word, or deed intended to create personal experience, there is no resultant identified-with consequence.

This is not something that tolerates sloppy terminology!

6. Realization is not bound up in specific conditions, and that means any specific conditions.

7. In perfect contrast to this, the mind and body of the being that has realized the Truth of Things is completely bound up in the same conditions and causality as before.

So the point of making the effort is?

The individualized consciousness (or the mind of the individual) and his body are subject to the results of kamma as they were prior to his awakening. The mind of the arahant is not identified with either the individualized consciousness or it's named shape.

If Daniel knew and saw, as he claims, he would know the difference.

8. The Truth of Things that is discovered in realization is something that was always true, not just true after realization.

There is no one truth of things that is realized. Even Samma Ditthi is a work of the individualized mind. A work of the imagination. Even seeing 'change, pain and not-self' is only seeing something imagined. Samma ditthi, or the paticca samuppada just hapens to be the flaw in the diamond that allows escape. They are an imagined theory that exactly corresponds with a way of escape from consciousness identified with shapes that is the trap of being a living being identified with his senses.

9. Thus, all the dogmatic notions about how causality and the standard laws of Nature and humanity are different after realization are all patently false by definition.

Again the temptation to be sarcastic. This is a (I will use the correct term this time) straw man. People say that how they see the world is different even after using weed, let alone after having achieved awakening. They are not saying that the world is different. On the one hand they are not saying what he says they are saying (maybe somebody did, but that is not the common experience that this 'debunking list' is supposed to be addressing) and on the other hand they are experiencing a profound difference.

10. Mastery of the understanding of the Truth of Things does not imply or necessarily bestow mastery of any other aspect of skillful living.

Including the ability to achieve Awakening.

11. Despite perennial assertions to the contrary, there are no new restrictions arising from relization on what thoughts, words and deeds a realized being might manifest that were not in place before their realization, by extension of those principles stated above.

First off, usually a newly arrived Arahant did not get there from scratch. The step before he got there he was already a highly evolved individual whose thoughts, words, and deeds were very different from those of the common man. In the case of one who somehow attained to instant Awakening, (as in the case of one who heard a sutta that hit home) then the thoughts, words, and deeds of this no longer identified-with being would would be very different in the same way that a man who has a near-death experience undergoes a change in his thoughts, words and deeds.

But, of course, for a person who defines awakening as being the same as not being awake there is no expectation of change in thoughts words or deeds.

12.Said another way and speaking in generalities, realized beings are capable of doing, saying, feeling and thinking anything that non-realized beings are capable of.

This is a categorical statement we are required to take on faith. There is no logical conclusion like this to be drawn from the previous statements and there is no basis for the previous statements in anything other than the statement that he is making that he knows best because he has experienced the truth. I say: no.

According to the definition of the Arahant above, (and this is something that can be seen and understood without being one's self an Arahant), the Arahant has laid down the load and birth has been left behind. The yokes to birth include lust. The need to have let go lust is confirmed in one who sees the second of the four truths: that thirst (desire, wanting, lust) of any sort (for the eye and sights, eye-consciousness, thoughts about eye-consciousness; the ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind) being the source of pain must be ended to end pain. The goal is the ending of pain. This same thing is found in the Paticca Samuppada. One who has laid down the load is not capable of sexual intercourse, etc. ... anything that required intent to experience experience, period.

13. For this last point to be untrue, realization would have to be dependent on specific contitions and something created and rather than something discovered, both of which would notv qualify as realization but mere transient states of things.

This is Daniel's attempt to sneek into the 'Is Nibbana Conditioned' debate. It is just not true. A 'Realized Being' is not that nama/rupa+consciousness there at all, let alone 'the same'. Holding this view in fact contradicts the very statement itself in that for it to be the case Awakening would be dependent on the being being that nama/rupa+consciousness. And also, isn't this getting into some tossing around of 'really wild, complex thought and theory' so dispised by him in others?

The basics about arahats:

1. Arahat is a Pali word that gets spelled a lot of ways and translated a lot of ways, such as Saint, Conquerer, Holy One, etc.

2. Arahatship is the goal of Theravada Buddhism, which some people call Hinayana Buddhism.

3. Arahatship designates the perfection of mastery of training in Wisdom, the Third Training in Buddhism, with the other two trainings being Morality and Concentration.

No. The perfection in training is only just the perfection in training. There is attainment to go.

4. Saying one his an arahat is the same as saying that one has directly and completely realized the Truth of Things that is beyond conditions.

No. There is no Truth of Things there to have been made real, if that is the intent of the use of 'realized' here. If it simply means having seen or been understood, then this is not sufficient to say one has 'laid down the load'. The goal must be 'realized', made real by having followed it to the point of utter detachment from everything whatsoever, including Truths, and then having realized that this is freedom.

5. Another way of saying it is that the process of falsely imputing a "self" from the sensations that make up the body, mind, and world has stopped because these sensations have been directly perceived as they are.

Below Daniel will claim that the Arahant can think the thought "I am an Arahant". And, further, the perception of self does not stop simply because one has perceived the sensations as changeable, painful, not-self. There is the habit of identification to cope with, and there is the need to see that it is this identification that is the source of the problem of pain.

6. Theravada Buddhism defines 5 basic stages of awakening, called the Four Paths and Buddhahood, with some subcategories noted on occasion.

7. The Four Paths are increasingly complete perceptions of Ultimate Reality.

Again: no Ultimate Reality! That is simply 'self' in disguise.

8. The Four Paths are, in order of increasing understanding, and with Pali names in parenthesis:

1. Stream Entry, a.k.a First Path (Sotapanna)
2. Once Returner, a.k.a Second Path (Sakadagami)
3. Never Returner, a.k.a Third Path (Anagami)
4. Pick your favorite traslation as above, a.k.a Fourth Path (Arahat).

9. Arahatship is also called the opening of the Wisdom Eye, as differentiated from the Dharma Eye which opens at stream entry. These are simply fine points that poetically restate what those realizations entail.

10. There is a phenomena in which the Wisdom Eye may open, which qualifies one as an arahat, but then close again. These people are arahats, but they are a lesser subcategory of arahats. Full arahats have had the Wisdom Eye open and stay open, meaning that they have obtained the understandings listed below and those have not faded.

This is very convenient. I would like to know if this is some piece of knowledge seen directly or picked up from some book.

11. Arahatship designates an understanding that has the following characteristics:

1. The arahat has seen through the sense that there is a continuous, separate, or special controller, doer, observer, or centerpoint that is "who they are" in a very direct perceptual way that is not merely an intellectual or conceptual understanding.

2. They know the sensations that seemed to imply these to be just more sensations arising and vanishing according to conditions as they always have been.

3. This is not something they have to work to maintain, but instead is something that has stopped.

In the Arahant it is something that has stopped. But this is something that is broken at stream-entry (it is an aspect of the 'one truth' view — "I exist", "I don't exist", etc.) But again, Daniel, below, will have it that the Arahant can have the thought "I am".

4. The arahat knows in real time and directly what is meant by such phrases and concepts as:

1. "in the thinking is only the thought, in the seeing is only the seen, etc."
2. intrinsic luminosity
3. the emptiness of phenomena
4. that Nibbana is found in Samsara
5. and a whole host of other poetic metaphors and attempts as description.

What if he doesn't speak English?

How does he know directly something that is false? For example "Nibbana is found in Samsara". A false statement can only be known indirectly from the truth. Basically what Daniel is saying here is that he knows what all these catchy sayings mean so therefore he is Awakened. But since he apparently doesn't know what all these catchy statements mean he is pointing out the fact that he is not Arahant.

Here are a number of bogus myths and falsehoods about arahats, each of which violates one of more of the First Principles in addition to simply being untrue:

1. Arahats cannot lie.

It's certainly doubtful that an Arahant, if he tried, could fool anyone trying to lie. He would be so ashamed it would show up like a red flag. The lie is considered the worst of all ethical breaches in the way it falsifies reality and therefore makes any other sort of breach meaningless. I have heard that only human's lie. Knowing and seeing the truth of things is the essence of training. How could an Arahant lie? Lies require the continuous recollection of the lie. This is a 'thing' in the world that has 'become'. It is an expression of self that can only be maintained by a self. The very definition of what is not an Arahant. Then again, a lie, the intentional saying of some untrue thing, is based in desire, wanting, thirst, tanha, which is ended by the Arahant who has laid down the load as explained above.

2.Arahats cannot have erections or have sex.

Erections yes, except, of course, for the women Arahants. Except for those using Daniel's system. They could probably own male slaves and then could claim that the erections of the slaves were their erections. Dumb kid, bathroom humor, I've been reading too much W.S. Burroughs. Erections are something that happens under certain conditions in the body not all of which relate to lust. As to having sex it is a laid down the load sort of thing again.[2] ... ahum. Come on! This one is a give away. I want to be an Arahant for the glory, but I still want to get laid. So what to do? Tell a lie. Um. Oh yes, Arahants can lie. ... There are a couple of cases in the suttas where an Arahant, asleep, was mounted by some female and the result was a messed up robe, so ejaculation is also apparently possible. What is different with the Arahant is the identification with the experience and the fact that insofar as he has control of the actions he could not initiate intercourse even by hinting because he has no desire.

See also in this regard: Vinaya Rules, Pākittiya 68: Whatsoever Bhikkhu shall speak thus: 'In this wise do I understand that the Dhamma has been proclaimed by the Blessed One: that to him who cultivates those qualities which have been called "dangerous" by the Blessed One, there is not sufficient danger (to prevent his acquiring spiritual gifts);' then that Bhikkhu should be addressed by the Bhikkhus thus: "Say not so, brother! bear not false witness against the Blessed One! For neither is it seemly to bring a false accusation against the Blessed One, nor could the Blessed One speak so. By many a figure, brother, have the Dangerous Qualities been declared by the Blessed One to be full of danger, and also to be sufficient to prevent him who cultivates them (from attaining spiritual gifts).'

3. Arahats would never do drugs or drink.

Well finally we agree on one. There is a case, the one which triggered the rule about not drinking alcohol, where an Arahant got drunk and became disrespectful to the Buddha. So they can, but because of the rule, they would not.

4. Arahats cannot kill anything ever.

This is another straw man. We kill, and I am sure Daniel knows this, every step we take, every breath we breath. It is the intent that is the issue when it comes to kamma and the Arahant. The Arahant would not intentionally kill. First off he would see the dangerous nature of the kamma and secondly he would likely also be able to see the heart of the being there ... maybe his grandma or sister.

5. Arahats cannot state they are arahats.

Arahants are not supposed to state they are Arahants is a rule of the Sangha. Outside that, what would be the point if it were not something that related to wanting something? ... laid down the load ... also it's tacky and this is a system for the Ariyan: the Aristocrat. He is God, he is the king, down here as a beggar to see what the people really think of him. He is the demonstration to the lowest that through perfect behavior this life is well led even at the bottom of the pile. He is the perfection of this manner and feels the need to be modest in the same way as a protected child get's embarassed when his mom tells the neighbours what a genious she has for a son.

6. Arahats must ordain within 7 days of becomming an arahat in the Buddhist order of monks or they will die.

I heard it was 24 hours. I also heard it was not ordain, but become homeless. I can understand it if it is the latter because long before Arahantship even household life becomes very difficult. Cutting the lawn, for example, is wholsale massacre. If you want a really upsetting meditation set a trap and kill a rat. It's just not worth the horror after a while. As the beggar said, earning a living in almost any other way than begging involves lying, stealing and harming other beings. Then, accepting the idea that it means 'homeless', getting into the order seems like a good idea. This is not something said in the suttas.

7. Arahats cannot think the thought "I am an arahat."

Dealt with above. Here he has internal contradictions, so I guess by his rules we need to dismiss everything he has said ... um ... maybe in this case not such a bad idea.

8. Arahats cannot feel the following emotions: lust, hatred, irritation, restlessness, worry, fear, pride, conceit, desire for the formless realms, desire for the formed realms, or any other "bad" emotion.

Think: 'The End of tanha (lust, desire, wanting ...) is the End of Pain'. Then think: 'Laid down the burden' These things are all interpretations placed on sensations. The body of even the Arahant continues to experience pleasant, unpleasant and neutral sensations. Interpretation is placed on sensation as a consequence of wanting to be. Something that has been let go by the Arahant. Daniel has now denied the sanyojanas. Denying the sanyojanas he has denied that the Arahant has laid down the load. So then we are back at the Arahant is the same as the ordinary person except that he is a fool because he has tried to escape pain.

9. Arahats cannot like music or dance.

Early training in self control: 'He guards the doors of the senses; seeing an object with the eye, he does not dwell on either the general appearance or the specifics. Should he dwell on the general appearance or the specifics liking and disliking, unskillful states of mind might enter, so he puts a guard on and watches over the doors to the senses. And then, when he becomes Arahant he forgets all about that? Early training in Ethics. DN 1. He abstains from shows of music or dance. Just a training there, liking might still arise, but he is training to avoid that happening at some point in the future.

10. Arahats love forests.

What is said is that the heart of the Arahant inclines to solitude. Way before becoming Arahant, I can testify, the mind becomes fed up with the madness of this world and inclines to solitude.

11. Arahats cannot have jobs or normal relationships.

This is just Daniel saying: I am an Arahant. I have a job and a normal relationship (meaning wife and family). Therefor Arahants can ... It might be possible for an Arahant to perform the tasks necessary in some jobs, but I doubt it. The job, as such, is a thing deeply imbedded in the worldly life and the worldly life is a very heavy matter, something like reading a scientific manual to a bunch of children who are bored or trying to perform a delicate operation in a dream. Going any other direction but out is just too clearly seen as a waste of time and one has no time to waste. Again thanks to my mad beggar teacher for teaching me this, but most jobs, maybe all jobs involve intentional harm, theft and lies. The practice of medicine, for example, a so-called noble occupation, is the practice of a rolling con game. The bedside manner is stylized lying. The doctor prescribes medicines he has no idea at all about what they actually do. Etc.

12. Arahats do not really exist today.

Well we have yet to see what authority is being used to define Arahant. At one point the term was simply an honorific applied to high level laymen. Other systems had this term in Buddha's time. Schools of Buddhism today may be calling certain low level or paid-for states Arahantship. In the Buddhism of the Pali Suttas it would be hard to tell because the Arahant does not declare himself to anyone but insiders and they do not speak about it. The Buddha has said an encouraging word on this however. At one point in encouraging the bhikkhus to stick to the old ways and high standards, he wishes for the world that it not be devoid of Arahants. Who knows? We can know when someone is not an Arahant, a much harder job to know when someone is.

13. Arahats must work hard to maintain their understanding, and it is this that makes them unable to do so many things.

If my experience is any example, what happens is that the further one gets into this sytem the less and less complicated it seems. It ends up being possible to control one's mind with one word: Freedom or Detachment upekkha. If it's not that, it's going the wrong way. One time when Gotama was asked if the system could be taught in one word he said: "Anything that has anything to do with thirst (tanha), know that that is not of this Dhamma. Another time he said the same thing of the term 'Appamada'. The real response here is that the whole point of Arahantship is that it ends the problem of transitoryness, whatever the result it is not something necessitating intentional action and upkeep requires intentional action. Additionally one of the definitions of Arahantship speaks of the asavas as not being subject to reappearance. What make an arahant unable to do so many things is the insanity of doing those things.

14. Arahats have not fully realized the Truth of Things, but instead only practioners of certain strains of Tibetan Buddhism can really see through to reality.

A little jab at someone who rejected the idea he was an Arahant?

Those who go back to the books to find quotes to try to prove me wrong should:

1. Consider that the texts contain numerous contraditions even within themselves.

I think we have dealt with this one!

2. Were written down over hundreds of years from stories recited over hundreds of years by people with diverse backgrounds and levels of understanding, and so contain both truth and falsehood.

He is speaking as though he knows. I heard different. I heard it was written down in one gulp about 80 years after Gotama's death by people all considered arahant (similar backgrounds and levels of understanding). And no matter which, no guarantee of certainty that they contain both thruth and falsehood. It took about 5 generations at most to go from Gotama's death to writing it down. There could easily be some that were there at the end that were there at the start. During the time it was passed orally from the original Arahants to those who followed it was done in a way something like singing in round. The older reciters monitored the younger ones and there was always more than one recitation going on at the same time. Then, given the fact that even today there are those who have memorized the entire sutta pitaka, it seems quite reasonable to me that we have the collection in writing very much the way it was first collected and that that was near enough to those who were there to be not far off.

What seems more likely to me is that much if not all of the suttas were set down in writing at the time. There is an insident where some bhikkhus wanted to translate it (in writing) into Sanskrit. Writing and writing materials were available contrary to some scholarly reporting. The temptation of the weaker minds at the time, some of whom would find writing fascinating, to set down this doctrine, would have been overwhelming. As they say: the absense of evidence is no evidence of absence.

And then we get to comparing sutta with sutta. My experience is: no internal contradictions. My experience doesn't matter. The method is to to take the parts that do agree and with regard to the main priciples of the system, there is nothing of any vital importance that is contradicted by any other part of the sutta collection. That includes laying down the load. If one's elimination of perceived contradictions became so vast as to get to The Four Truths, then the problem is simply that what is being spoken of is not the Buddhism taught by Gotama.

3. Get your head out of the books and go get enlightened to a high degree, as not only will that end the debate, it is the thing that all this is about in the first place.

Then you too can shoot off your mouth not knowing what you are talking about. It is my personal experience to know of bhikkhus with very strong meditation skills and an understanding of the heart of Gotama's system whose knowledge of the Dhamma is so threadbear that when asked to explain their achievements they teach a Dhamma that makes no sense whatever. The Dhamma that is needed by one to attain the goal can be very little: The Four Truths, or as mentioned above, just the idea that thirst must be totally eradicated. It is at the point where one wishes to teach others of the system that it becomes vast and highly detailed. In the suttas what we have is Gotama's responses to a huge number of questions put to him by people at all levels where these resposes are tailored to the needs of the situation. It is this tailoring of the Dhamma to individual needs that makes it the vast body of literature that it is.

In short, the Limted Emotional Range Model, the Limited Possible Action Model, and the Limited Possible Thought Model of enlightenment are all completely off the mark and have nothing to do with actual perception of the Truth of Things. Remember, the Truth of Things is present in all that happens, by definition, and that has to include the sides of reality that people do not like, as those sides of reality are happening now in many people and must also be part of the Truth of Things.

What you need to remember when considering Gotama's system is that it does not perport to teach 'The Truth of Things.' It teaches a way to end pain. Gotama's 'Truths' are 'consummate truths', 'highest truths', not 'The Truth'. Additionally, it is not seeing the truths alone that is the point of the system, but seeing the truths, doing what is implied which is letting go of wanting or desire.

What is true is that seeing all sensations as just part of the transient field of experience rather than some of them being a seperate or permenent self does change something in the relationship to phenomena, and there are emotional benefits that come from this, but they are exceedingly difficult to explain and certainly are not properly explained by the standard dogma. Thus, those who take as their primary criteria the dogma of the emotions that are supposed to be eliminated are looking in the wrong place. The place to look is the impermanence and selflessness of all phenomena, including all the phenomena that make up thoughts and emotions whether they like them or not. These were always simply part of the natural field of causality. This understanding is something very down to earth and real, not something grand, rarified, or abstract. It is the ultimate acceptance of the human condition as it is.

This argument is aserting that awakening is something that happens to the individual who then goes on as before only with a different perspective. What Gotama is saying is that there was no individual there to begin with and that the process of awakening is waking up to that fact after which there is no further identification with existing things. The the goal of the system is not the acceptance of the human condition as it is or otherwise, it is the eradication of Pain. ... and that would involve the ultimate non-acceptance of the human condition. Downbound to desire, the rebound is being some sort of being in some sort of world of beings. Cut down desire cuts down being.

The reformists in Zen and even Tantra that make these points in their unfortunately grand and/or mysterious style are yet correct in their meaning. Becoming an arahat does not mean becoming the perfectly sanitized and hyper-limited manifestation dreamed of by the id-denying super-ego of a naive idealist, but someone who has finally come to rest in the clear and direct perception of the fullness of life, and that includes the emotional life, in all its glory, ordinariness, and tragedy.

This is just not what is taught in Gotama's system. Nowhere in the suttas will one find anything even remotely like this statement or anything from which such a statement might be deduced.

I get so many emails from people who say things like, "I'm not really feeling much lust anymore, so I must be enlightened." Wow. I hardly know where to begin except to feel sorry for them.

There are are a whole host of other similar ridiculous myths and disempowering ideals about arahats that not only make it sound more like bondage than freedom but also simply do not make any sense, being the arbitrary and delusional products of various neurosis and misunderstandings of the dogma-compliers of the ages. When you run into any claims about what arahats or beings of any level of realization cannot or must do, think again.


One last point about arahats that I hear debated often has to do with whether or not arahats must master the jhanas to become arahats. The answer is a qualified no. The problem with the debate is that the jhana terminology was used in the original texts to define both the stages of insight and the pure concentration states. The commentaries then went on to describe the stages of insight but ignored what had been done in the original texts. So, if one takes the word jhana to mean pure concentration states, an arahat will only have mastered these if they learned to do so. Similarly, one who has mastered the concentrations states will not necessarily have any level of realization.

This is an argument based on confusion arising from translation. The PTS translators started this with translating 'samadhi' as concentration. The Sri Lankan, Thai, and Burmese scholars learned the English they use to explain the Dhamma to English speakers from the English scholars that tried to understand the Sri Lankan scholars explanations of it when the Sri Lankan's to whom they spoke had not practiced the system themselves in any meningful way for hundreds of years. I don't know, but it seems that the Sri Lankan, Thai, Burmese teachers of today have in their turn interpreted the Pali into their own languages following the PTS English translations. Round and round. Jhana includes concentration. What jhana is all about is a defining of the final steps in letting go. This requires calm and knowledge. When the knowledge informs the jhana what needs to be let go and how to do that is seen and this is called insight, the actual letting go is done through calming body and mind. They work together and although one or the other may be the way a sit down session is describe before and after, during the practice they are not separate.

I hope you find these clarifications helpful. Those who wish to debate these points should realize a few things, chief among them that I am a strong debater and that I am not going to have my views changed on these points.

These things are not only not helpful, but muddy the waters and could be harmful to those who do not research them carefully. I have not seen before such a bold declaration and pride in having a closed mind!




Having used mind-altering drugs myself, I can say that this is the problem with mind-altering drugs and unstructured, or worse, badly structured meditation practice: they often produce profound experiences of different ways of seeing the world. There is no refuting the reality of these experiences because they are real. The problem comes in when the individual experiencing such experiences interprets the experience. In a case such as we have here, if the interpretation is that 'This is what Awakening is. An Awakened one is an Arahant." then subsequent reasoning becomes: "Since I am Arahant and I still get erections and have sex, getting erections and having sex is something an Arahant can do." "Since I am an Arahant and I can have sex, then when the books say that an Arahant cannot have sex, they must be wrong."

Gotama goes to great lengths in DN 1 to describe the various sorts of experiences that are had as a consequence of interpreting one's personal experience which he describes simply as a mater of contact. He says of this catalog that it encompasses in generic terms all of the possible points of view resulting from such experiences. And in every case he adds that what he has to teach is superior. Then at the end he describes what it is that he teaches that is superior:

These shaman and Brahman, Beggars, experience what they experience as a consequence of contact through the six senses. Sense experience gives rise to wanting. Wanting gives rise to going after getting. Going after getting gives rise to Living. Living gives rise to Birth. Birth gives rise to aging and death, grief and lamentation, pain and misery, and despair.

When a Beggar, Beggars, knows as it really is the coming to be and the passing away of sense experience, the satisfaction of sense experience and the way of escape from sense experience, it is then that he knows these advanced things beyond mere points of view.


[1] See: AN 9.7 for a typical example. Here is the Olds, translation:

'The beggar who is arahant,
corruptions eliminated,
duty's doing done,
load laid down,
his own good gained,
yokes to living thoroughly broken,
highest answer-knowledge free,
cannot behave in these nine manners of carring on.

A corruptions-eliminated beggar cannot behave with the purpose of cutting off breathing life.

A corruptions-eliminated beggar cannot behave such as to take by theft what is not given.

A corruptions-eliminated beggar cannot behave such as to engage in things related to copulation.

A corruptions-eliminated beggar cannot behave such as to knowingly tell a lie.

A corruptions-eliminated beggar cannot behave such as to store up for the pleasure of enjoyment in the same way as when earlier living in a house.

A corruptions-eliminated beggar cannot behave such as to act upon wishes.

A corruptions-eliminated beggar cannot behave such as to act stupidly.

A corruptions-eliminated beggar cannot behave such as to act in fear.'

Nothing in the Suttas that I am aware of contradicts these things; logic supports these things as following from 1. the fact of having become free from lust, being, and blindness (the asavas), 2. the fact of having become free from all of the sanyojanas; experience supports these things as being liberating even when only temporarily experienced.

[2] See: [AN 7.47]. Forget about having sex, take a look at what the case is in detail. Olds, trans.:

Here, brahman,
some shaman or brahman
professes to live the highest Brahma carriage,
and though not going so far as to actually enter upon duplicitous coupling with women,
nevertheless enjoys being rubbed, scrubbed, bathed, and shampooed by women.

Again, brahman, deeper than that, ... nevertheless enjoys joking, fooling around and playing with women.

... eye-to-eye intently gazes at women.

... enjoys hearing women
through the wall,
or over the fence,
as they laugh, or talk, or sing, or cry.

... enjoys reminiscing about
such merriment, talking and playing around
as he previously had with women.

... is mentally overcome
seeing a housefather or a housefather's son
given over to, engrossed in
the five strands of pleasure.

... carries on the Brahma carriage aspiring to a deva-body, thinking:
'May I by this ethical behavior, practice, penance and Brahma-carriage, become some god or another.'

He savours this,
craves this,
and becomes intoxicated by this.

This, then, brahman,
is an incomplete, faulty, spotted, blemished,
Brahma carriage.

Moreover, brahman, I say
this is an unclean carrying on of the Brahma carriage,
yoked to the yoke of intercourse
not set free from birth, aging and death,
grief and lamentation
pain and misery,
and despair,
not set free from pain, say I.

For so long, brahman,
as I observed of these seven yokes to intercourse,
one or another of these yokes to intercourse
not given up by myself,
I did not, brahman,
acknowledge awakening to unsurpassed high-self-awakening
in this world with its generations of gods and men,
with it's shamen and brahmans,
devas, Maras, and Brahmas.



It is highly recommended that readers interested in this subject, (the great blindness phenomena), read the translation of MN 112, The Sixth Cleansing, on the questions to be asked of someone claiming Arahantship.

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