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the Wanderling

The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom
The Dharmamitra Translation by:

Buddhism teaches that after a practitioner achieves a certain degree of realization, spiritual power develops. A person at the level of an Arahat is said to possess six supernatural powers. (source)

If it is the case that the path of the Pratyekabuddha is the same as that of the Arahat, how then is one able to distinguish between the two?

Although their paths, Pratyeka Buddhas and Arahats (also Arhat, Arahant, Arhant), are of a single type, still their uses of wisdom have their differences. In a case where the Buddhas have already come forth [into the world] and the Buddhadharma has then already become extinct, this person, on account of the causes and conditions of previous lifetimes, brings forth wisdom on his own and does not do so based on hearing it from anyone else. On his own he employs wisdom to gain the Way.

This is illustrated by an instance in which the king of a country had gone out into his gardens to wander about and enjoy himself. In the very early morning he observed the trees in the grove, the flowers and the fruit. They were extremely lovely and pleasurable. After the King had eaten, he then lay down to take a nap. Meanwhile, the wives and female entertainers of the King all went about picking flowers and in the process damaged the trees by breaking off branches.

After the King awoke, he observed the destruction in the grove and became spontaneously enlightened to the fact that all worlds are impermanent and bound to destruction in just this same way. After he had contemplated this, the mind of the way of no outflows arose in him, he cut off The Ten Fetters, gained the way of the Pratyekabuddha, perfected the six superknowledges and FLEW off into an unoccupied and quiet area of the forest.

On account of causal bases such as these which derive from the resultant retribution associated with the merit, vows and conduct of previous lives, in this present life, one may need only to observe but a minor cause or condition and then be able thereby to perfect the way of the Pratyekabuddha. It is factors such as these which constitute the difference.

Additionally, there are two kinds of Pratyekabuddhas. The first is referred to as "Solitarily Enlightened." The second is referred to as "Awakened by Causes and Conditions." To be "Awakened by Causes and Conditions" is as related above. As for being "Solitarily Enlightened," this refers to a person who completes the way in the present life, achieving a spontaneous Enlightenment not (necessarily) involving hearing teachings from anyone else. This is what is meant by the "Solitarily Enlightened" Pratyekabuddha.

The "Solitarily Enlightened" Pratyekabuddha is of two types:

The first is one who originally was one on the path of study and who was then reborn among people. There was no Buddha in the world at this time and the (true) Buddhadharma had already become extinct (or nearly so). This Sotapanna had already fulfilled seven subsequent rebirths, should not have been bound to take an eighth rebirth, and then spontaneously succeeded in realizing the Way. This person is not properly referred to as a Buddha or as an Arhat, but is instead referred to as a "lesser" Pratyekabuddha. In fact, he is no different from an Arhat. In some cases there are those who are not even comparable to the great Arhats such as Sariputra.

The second is the "great" Pratyekabuddha. The great Pratyekabuddha creates merit and increases his wisdom across the course of a hundred kalpas and gains a number of the thirty-two marks. He may possess thirty-one marks or perhaps thirty, twenty-nine, or even on down to just one of the marks. Compared to the Four Types of Arhats, the acuteness of his wisdom is superior with respect to the general characteristics and specific characteristics of profound Dharmas. He is able to enter into and long cultivate the absorptions. He constantly takes pleasure in dwelling alone. One who has characteristics such as these is referred to as a "great" Pratyekabuddha. It is characteristics such as these which constitute the difference.

"He has no desire for fame. To become anything of a public figure would be deeply distasteful to him; and so it may be that he is satisfied to lead his chosen life and be no more than just himself. He is too modest to set himself up as an example to others; but it may be he thinks that a few uncertain souls, drawn to him like moths to a candle, will be brought in time to share his own glowing belief that ultimate satisfaction can only be found in the life of the spirit, and that by himself following with selflessness and renunciation the path of perfection he will serve as well as if he wrote books or addressed multitudes."

W. Somerset Maugham, writing of Larry Darrell in The Razor's Edge months after his Enlightenment high in the mountains of India.



Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.








Copyright © 2001. Bhikshu Dharmamitra. All rights reserved.

Bhikshu Dharmamitra -- aka Reverend Heng Shou -- a fully-ordained Buddhist monk following in the tradition of the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

Bhikshu Dharmamitra retains the copyright to all material except for the Wanderling's comments, footnotes and/or where otherwise noted. Although all rights are reserved, downloading, printing out from a personal computer, photocopying, and free-only distribution of separate unbound single sections only is expressly permitted & encouraged so long as such photocopying and distribution retains the copyright statement found in each section and so long as no charge whatsoever is made to recipients. Inclusion of any of this copyrighted material in other publications, whether electronic, on the Internet (except for links), or printed (except for short sections for review or other fair-use purposes) requires prior written permission. Binding together of separate sections into "books" is expressly disapproved.

A Note on the Proper Care of Printed Dharma Materials

Traditional Buddhist cultures treat Dharma materials as sacred. It is considered disrespectful to place them in a low position, to read them when lying down or to place them where they might become damaged by food or drink. Although this may seem strange to those of us who have not been sensitized to this tradition, one should realize on reflection that failure to treat Dharma materials with due respect might easily carry over into casualness in the actual practice of Dharma and might also lead others to look upon them lightly.


I. Sukkhavipassaka: First of the Four Types of worthy ones. Those who have attained the noble path through Mindfulness Leading to Insight (wisdom), observation or investigation of reality of life, and the soul detached from The Five Aggregates. They have at least reached the first stage of absorption (First Jhanic State) to realize the true meaning of life and reached the stage of sainthood. They enjoy the happiness of Nirvana through comprehension of the fruits that they have attained. See also Vipassana.

Those who practice the four foundations of mindfulness will attain Nirvana by wisdom, but they will not see ghosts or any sentient beings in hells or heavens or Brahma. They have no miraculous powers of mind. They do not see Nirvana or Buddha, but they realize there are many planes of existence and there is real eternal supreme happiness that they can enter after they die.

II. Tevijja (threefold knowledge of the worthy ones): The second type of worthy ones are those Arahats or Enlightened people who have attained the noble path through super-knowledge from forty subjects of meditation such as the following three :

The knowledge of previous lives (Pubbeniva sanusstinana).

The super-knowledge of passing away and rebirth of beings (Cutupapata-nana). On what plane will they be born whether in a state of misery or on a heavenly plane ?

The super-knowledge of emancipation. Those Enlightened people have easily abandoned the passions of the body (five aggregates of hatred, anger, craving, attachment, all worldly possessions) with the highest state of absorption in concentration meditation. They have realized the true meaning of life, nature, and the universe, through the highest wisdom. They have entered the noble path and attained Nirvana, the supreme happiness.

III. Chalabhinna (sixfold knowledge of the worthy ones). The third type are Enlightened people that enjoy the eternal peace or Nirvana and have been liberated from the cycle of life and death by the forty methods of meditation and have gained miraculous psychic power and supernatural knowledge far beyond that of scientists. They have practiced meditation with the eight devices (kasina) until they have reached the fourth stage of absorption (one-pointedness of mind) in each device. They are able to walk on water, fly in the air, or become visible or invisible and can go anywhere within seconds. They perform many miraculous powers which we ordinary people cannot understand. The sixfold path of supernatural knowledge or super-wisdom is as follows:


The Buddha said "If a monk should frame a wish as follows: 'Let me exercise the various magical powers, let me being one become multiform., let me being multiform become one, let me become visible, become invisible, go without hindrance through walls, ramparts or mountains as if through air, let me rise and sink in the ground as if in the water, let me walk on the water as if on unyielding ground, let me travel through the air like a winged bird, let me touch and feel with my hand the moon and the sun mighty and powerful though they are, and let me go without my body even up to the Brahma world,' then must he be perfect in the precepts (Sila), bring his thoughts to a state of quiescence (Samadhi), practice diligently the trances (Jhana), attain to insight (Prajna) and be frequenter to lonely places." See:




The Enlightened One expounded thus: "If a monk should frame a wish as follows: Let me hear with a divinely clear hearing, surpassing that of men, sounds both celestial and" human, far and near," then he must be perfect in the precepts, bring his thoughts to a state of quiescence, practise diligently to the trances, attain to insight and be a frequenter to lonely places.


The Omniscient One amplified thus: "If a monk should frame a wish as follows:- "Let me by my own heart investigate and discern the hearts of other beings, the hearts of other men, let me discern a passionate mind to be passionate, let me discern a mind free from passion to be free from passion, let me discern a mind full of hatred to be full of hatred, let me discern a mind free from hatred to be free from hatred, let me discern an infatuated mind to be infatuated, let me discern a mind free from infatuation to be free from infatuation, let me discern an intent mind to be intent, let me discern a wandering mind to be wandering, let me discern an exalted mind to be exalted, let me discern an unexalted mind to be unexalted, let me discern an inferior mind to be inferior, let me discern a superior mind to be superior, let me discern a concentrated mind to be concentrated, let me discern an unconcentrated mind to be unconcentrated, let me discern an emancipated mind to be emancipated, let me discern an unemancipated mind to be unemancipated" then must he be perfect in the precepts etc. (as mentioned above).

This power may be far superior to the highest form of modem thought-reading now largely practised all over the world.


The All-knowing One further elucidated thus: "If a monk should frame a wish as follows:- Let me call to my mind many previous states of existence, to wit one birth, two births, three births, four births, five births, ten births, twenty births, thirty births, forty births, fifty births, one hundred births, one thousand births, one hundred thousand births, many destructions of a world cycle (Kappa), many renovations of a world cycle, many destructions and many renovations of a world cycle: I lived in such a place, had such a name was of such a family, of such a caste, had such a maintenance, experienced such happiness and such miseries had such a length of life. Then I passed from that existence and was reborn in such a place. There also I had such a name, was of such a family, of such a caste, had such a maintenance, experienced such happiness and such miseries, had such a length of life. Then I passed from that existence and was reborn in such a place. There also I had such a name, was of such a family, of such a caste, had such a maintenance, experienced such happiness and such miseries, had such a length of life. Then I passed from that existence and was reborn in this existence." Thus let me call to my mind many former states of existence and let me specifically characterise them," then must he be perfect in the precepts etc. -

This power is sorely attributable to the expounding of the Theory of Rebirth and 'Samsara' by the Buddha for all living beings in the entire Universe.


The Blessed One also amplified thus: "If a monk should frame a wish as follows :- "Let me with a divinely clear vision, surpassing that of men, behold beings as they pass from one existence and spring up in another existence, let me discern the base and the noble, the handsome and the ugly, those in a higher state of existence and those in the lower state of existence undergoing the result of their deeds, so that I can know as follows:- 'Alas! these beings, having been wicked of body, wicked of voice, wicked of mind, slanderers of noble people, wrong in their views, acquirers of false merit under wrong views, have arrived after the dissolution of the body, after death, at a place of punishment, a place of suffering, perdition, hell; or again, these other beings, having been righteous of body, righteous of voice, righteous of mind, not slanderers of noble people, right in their views, acquirers of merit under right views, have arrived, after the dissolution of the body, after death, at a place of happiness, a heavenly world." Thus let me with a divinely clear vision, surpassing that of men, discern beings as they pass from one existence and spring up in another existence; let me discern the base and the noble, the handsome and the ugly, those in a higher state of existence and those in a lower state of existence undergoing the result of their deeds," then he must be perfect in the precepts etc. This refers to the power of knowing the Truth of Karma.


The Compassionate One further illustrated thus:

"If a monk should frame a wish as follows;- Let me through destruction of depravity, in the present life and in my own person, attain to freedom from depravity, to deliverance of the mind, to deliverance by wisdom, then he must be perfect in the precepts (Sila) and bring his thoughts to a state of quiescence, (Samadhi) practise diligently the trances (Jhana), attain to insight (Prajna) and be a frequener of lonely places."

It must be understood, however, that the Buddha did not consider every trance to be necessarily good, for it must aim at the right end. He was cognizant of the fact that there are those who devote themselves to yogic exercises only to acquire supernatural powers. The Buddha refined the practice by telling devotees that acquisition of supernatural powers does not confer any special spiritual advantage. It was for this reason that the Buddha forbade his disciples to work miracles for display. Craving for supernatural powers and taking delight therein after acquirement does not help to free one from The Three Poisons of desire, hatred and ignorance. It is advised that anyone striving along the path of holiness toward final liberation guard themselves to not get caught up in it all and forget the true purpose. (see)

Akankheyya Sutta, S. B. E. Vol. XI

IV. Patisambhidhapatta (The fourth type of Enlightened or Worthy Ones). Those who practice all forty subjects of meditation and four foundations of mindfulness and liberate themselves from the cycle of life and death attain Nirvana. They are very intelligent with many kinds of super-knowledge and can perform miraculous, powerful actions, especially the super-knowledge of sacred texts and languages can simply explain any difficult problems and make it easy for other people to understand the super-knowledge of all Buddha's teachings.

This type of enlightenment is a combination of Tevijja-Arahat and Chalabhinna-Arahat. They achieve the fourth stage of absorption in form devices and another four formless devices called The Eight Jhana States. They attain Nirvana with special kinds of super-knowledge and super-power performance. (source)

Sometimes two other Arahats are mentioned, often extrapolated from a combination of the above four, blending delineation or borrowing aspects. Those two are:

(1) Pannavimutta-Arahat: one who is emancipated through Pranja(wisdom), similar to or the same as the Sukkhavipassaka Arahat above.

(2) Ubhatobhagavimutta-Arahat: one who is emancipated in two ways, namely by arupa jhana and by ariyamagga.


Kasina: (related to Sanskrit krtsna, 'all, complete, whole'), is the name for a purely external device to produce and develop concentration of mind and attain the Four Absorptions (Jhána States). It consists in concentrating one's full and undivided attention on one visible object as preparatory image (parikamma-nimitta), e.g. a colored spot or disc, or a piece of earth, or a pond at some distance, etc., until at last one perceives, even with the eyes closed, a mental reflex, the acquired image (uggaha-nimitta). Now, while continuing to direct one's attention to this image, there may arise the spotless and immovable counter-image (patibhága-nimitta), and together with it the neighbourhood-concentration (upacára-samádhi) will have been reached. While still persevering in the concentration on the object, one finally will reach a state of mind where all sense-activity is suspended, where there is no more seeing and hearing, no more perception of bodily impression and feeling, i.e. the state of the first mental absorption (First Jhána).

Ten Kasinas are mentioned in the Sutras: earth-kasina, water, fire, wind, blue, yellow, red, white, space, and consciousness. There are ten kasina-spheres: someone sees the earth kasina, above, below, on all sides, undivided, unbounded .... someone see the water-kasina, above, below, etc. (M. 77; D. 33) Cf. abhibháyatan, bhávaná; further s. Fund. IV.

For space and consciousness-kasina we find in Vis.M. V the names limited space-kasina (paricchinnákása-kasina; . . . s. App. ) and light-kasina (áloka-kasina).

NOTE: the word is jnana, not jhana in this particular context. Jnana is derived from the Sanskrit root jna, to know, to learn, to experience. In other words, wisdom. In the context of Bhagavad-gita and the Upanisads, jnana is generally used in the sense of spiritual knowledge or awareness. Jhana with an "h" is a state of concentration.