Buddhist Saints in India: A Study in Buddhist Values and Orientations

By Reginald A. Ray | Go to book overview

7
The Solitary Saint, the Pratyekabuddha

The pratyekabuddha 1 (P., paccekabuddha; "solitary Buddha" or one "enlightened on his own" 2) is frequently mentioned in Indian Buddhist texts. 3 Pāli tradition, for example, attributes several characteristics to him. First and foremost, he 4 is like a buddha, an enlightened being by virtue of having comprehended the four noble truths on his own, without the help of any teacher ( Mp 105 [T.R. 1890-94, 1:158]). However, he does not have the capacity to proclaim the dharma to others and is not a teacher, and this separates him from a buddha. In addition, the pratyekabuddha cannot coexist in the same time period with a buddha and thus does not arise in the era when the teaching of a perfect buddha is known ( Nyanatiloka 1980, 140). 5 In terms of his personal style, the pratyekabuddha enjoys solitude and speaks little ( La Vallée Poussin 1908-27c, 152). Among the well- known and frequently appearing triad of arhant, pratyekabuddha, and buddha, 6 he is superior to an arhant but inferior to a buddha ( Mn 3:254 [Hn., 3:302]). 7 Sometimes, he is closely linked with the buddhas, whereas the arhant seems to stand off to the side as a markedly lower ideal. 8 The Sarvāstivādin definitions follow closely upon the Pāli. 9

The Mahāyāna accepts the major features of the Nikāya definitions, setting them within a characteristically Mahāyāna framework. 10 Candrakīrti, for example, remarks,

Pratyekabuddhas. . . , owing to their merit and knowledge, are greater than the śrāvakas. But, as they lack the equipment of merit and knowledge (of the perfect Buddhas), the great compassion, the universal knowledge, they are inferior to the perfect Buddhas. They are intermediary. And as knowledge (i.e., knowledge that brings nirvāṇa) is born in them without a teacher, as they are Buddhas by themselves, isolated and acting for their own sake, they are pratyekabuddhas. 11

In the Mahāyāna, although the pratyekabuddha retains precedence over the arhant, he and the arhant tend to be put together as two self-centered ideals of the "Hīnayāna," strictly inferior to the Buddha and also to the bodhisattva, who is on the way to buddhahood. 12 Thus, the Mahāyāna sometimes sees the pratyekabuddha and śrāvaka as members of the same vehicle ( La Vallée Poussin 1908-27c, 153). 13 Both Nikāya and Mahāyāna definitions of the pratyekabuddha tend to be abstract,

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Buddhist Saints in India: A Study in Buddhist Values and Orientations
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Contents xi
  • Conventions xiii
  • Abbreviations xv
  • Introduction 3
  • Notes 10
  • 1 - The Buddhist Saints and the Two-Tiered Model of Buddhism 15
  • Notes 36
  • 2 - Buddha Śākyamuni as a Saint 44
  • Notes 68
  • 3 - Saints of the Theragāthā and Therīgāthā 79
  • Notes 99
  • 4 - Some Orthodox Saints in Buddhism 105
  • Conclusion 136
  • Notes 141
  • 5 - Saints Criticized and Condemned 151
  • Notes 173
  • 6 - Cults of Arhants 179
  • Notes 205
  • 7 - The Solitary Saint, the Pratyekabuddha 213
  • Notes 241
  • 8 - Bodhisattva Saints of the Forest in Mahāyāna Sūtras 251
  • Appendix: the Minor Rāṣṭrapālaparipṛcchā Sūtra on Forest Bhikṣus 275
  • Appendix: the Minor Rāṣṭrapālaparipṛcchā Sūtra on Forest Bhikṣus 280
  • 9 - Ascetic Traditions of Buddhist Saints 293
  • Notes 318
  • 10 - The Buddhist Saints and the Stūpa 324
  • Notes 352
  • 11 - The Cult of Saints and Buddhist Doctrines of Absence and Presence 358
  • Notes 386
  • 12 - The Buddhist Saints and the Process of Monasticization 396
  • Notes 423
  • Conclusion: Toward a Threefold Model of Buddhism 433
  • Notes 447
  • Bibliography 448
  • Index 469
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