One day Banzan was walking through a market. He overheard a customer say to the butcher, “Give me the best piece of meat you have.” “Everything in my shop is the best,” replied the butcher. “You can not find any piece of meat that is not the best.” At these words, Banzan was enlightened.
Arhat, or Arahant in Pali, is a term you hear a lot in Buddhism. Someone who has achieved liberation. But what does it actually mean? Well the etymology is ambigous. The traditional school reports arhat as meaning: one who is worthy. But apparently, recent research suggests that it is cognate with sanskrit Arihan: one who kills or destroys enemies. The Tibetan translation of Arhat – dgra bcom pa – means: one who has destroyed the foes of afflictions.
Continue reading “Just what is an arhat”
Just because we’ve had an awakening of sorts doesn’t mean that we’ve been transfigured. It’s a long journey. In astrological symbolism we reverse the wheel in Libra, transform the emotional nature in Scorpio, silence our thoughts in Sagittarius and become transfigured in Capricorn.
I think people misunderstand the concept of sudden enlightenment. Satori itself is sudden and fully transformative, but getting to that point can take lifetimes. Buddha himself after making his vow when he first saw Dipankara took a number of lifetimes.
To think that people don’t stumble along the path is naive. We do, we say things that are cutting, we entertain selfish thoughts, we eat things it would be best not to, etc. etc. And that is one of the reasons we must generate compassion towards ourselves, not just towards others.
The other problem is the idea that we are perfecting our nature. In Zen we are not perfecting anything, just preparing the ground for enlightenment.
As a parting thought try this, in the enlightened mind the universe is already whole. There is no difference between you and the universe. As Alan Watts put it
The inside and the outside are one. Where is there not Alaya?
Forgive yourself and be free.