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The Buddha, His Life and Teachings

Buddhahood and Arahatship

Perfect Enlightenment, the discovery and realization of the Four Noble Truths (Buddhahood), is not the prerogative of a single being chosen by divine providence, nor is it a unique and unrepeatable event in human history. It is an achievement open to anyone who earnestly strives for perfect purity and wisdom, and with inflexible will cultivates the pârami, the perfections which are the requisites of Buddhahood, and the Noble Eightfold Path. There have been Buddhas in the dim past and there will be Buddhas in the future when necessity arises and conditions are favourable. But we need not think of that distant future; now, in our present days, the "doors to the Deathless" are still wide open. Those who enter through them, reaching perfect sanctity or arahatship, the final liberation from suffering (Nibbâna), have been solemnly declared by the Buddha to be his equals as far as the emancipation from defilements and ultimate deliverance is concerned:

"Victors like me are they, indeed,
They who have won defilementsí end."n32

The Buddha, however, also made clear to his disciples the difference between a Fully Enlightened One and the arahats,n33 the accomplished saints:

"The Tathâgata, O disciples, while being an arahat, is Fully Enlightened. It is he who proclaims a path not proclaimed before; he is the knower of a path, who understands a path, who is skilled in a path. And now his disciples are wayfarers who follow in his footsteps. That, disciples, is the distinction, the specific feature which distinguishes the Tathâgata, who being an arahat, is Fully Enlightened, from the disciple who is freed by insight."n34

 

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