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As far as I know, most Theravada followers practice according to the Pali Canon even though they accept the Bodhisattva vehicle as well. So, the main focus is to attain Arahantship for most people. My question is: How common is it for Theravada practitioners to aspire to be Buddhas?

  • Very common. It usally ends only by stream enter. – Samana Johann Oct 8 at 9:01
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In Theravada, the word 'Bodhisatta' refers to an unenlightened person seeking Buddhahood.

In other words, a Bodhisattva is not a Buddha in Theravada.

Bhikkhus, before my enlightenment, while I was still only an unenlightened Bodhisatta...

MN 19

This is why most Theravada reject the Mahayana doctrine of Bodhisattva Vehicle and this is why there are two separate doctrines (Theravada & Mahayana) which despise each other. Theravada views the Mahayana doctrine as superstition and Mahayana views the Theravada doctrine as "hina", which means "inferior, low; poor, miserable; vile, base, abject, contemptible, despicable".


Also, in Theravada, a Buddha is an Arahant but an Arahant is generally not regarded to be a Buddha. Therefore, Theravadans generally aim for Arahant and keep the name 'Buddha' reserved for Gotama Buddha.

  • Yes, I understand the difference between a Bodhisatta and a Buddha. It appears that my question seemed to be unclear, so I editted it. I am actually asking whether it is common for Theravadin Buddhists to seek Buddhahood. – Adrian Rusli Oct 8 at 1:07
  • In the modern days, Theravadin Buddhists have began to accept the Bodhisattva vehicle as well. However, unlike Mahayana Buddhists, Theravadin Buddhists do not believe that celestial Bodhisattas exist. – Adrian Rusli Oct 8 at 1:12
  • What evidence are you basing that most theravadans accept the Bodhsattva path? – m2015 Oct 8 at 5:05
  • How about Dhammadhatu spoken of Theravadin-Bodhisatta-Buddha-Aharahants? There obiviously are such or? – Samana Johann Oct 8 at 8:59
  • This was said by Bhikkhu Bodhi in Access to Insight: "Once it became widespread in mainstream Indian Buddhism, the idea of the three vehicles was not only taken up by the Mahāyāna but was eventually also absorbed into conservative Theravāda Buddhism. " Arahants, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi – Adrian Rusli Oct 8 at 10:00
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There are many who aspire to be Buddhas even in the Theravada community. But it is not something that is usually encouraged. It is left up to the individual choice.

Those who make such aspirations out of ego and lack of understanding of the enormity of the task are discouraged and adviced to give it up. Those who have mastered the Tipitaka at the highest level and proven their worthiness to the community are given blessings. Even then it's not sure until they actually get the blessings of another Sammasambuddha. And it's not certain if they ever get the chance to meet another Buddha, let alone getting the blessing. Those who never get that blessing end up being Pacceka-Buddhas after a long time, if they don't give up the pursuit.

  • A person that has memorized and understood the Tipitaka to an advanced level is considered "well-versed" but this is not adequate. One should practice and apply the Dhamma so that nibbana can be attained. In this way, an individual serves as a great gift to the world as he or she is able to teach the right Dhamma out of compassion. However, an arahant's ability to teach is of course unlike that of the Buddha's. – Adrian Rusli Oct 8 at 3:18
  • @AdrianRusli you cannot attain Nibbana if you have an aspiration to become a Buddha. I used the word 'mastering' and you chose to replace it with the word 'memorizing' and started an argument. :) – Sankha Kulathantille Oct 8 at 3:27
  • The Theravadin Buddhists do not place much attention to the path leading to Buddhahood because there is little to no evidence that Buddha has ever taught it before. The reason why the Bodhisattva Vehicle is never taught is unclear. Perhaps it is simply because nobody had such aspiration in Buddha Gautama's era. However, as there were numerous Buddhas in the past, I believe there was at least once when the past Buddha taught the Bodhisattva Vehicle. It is unfortunate that it has been forgotten. – Adrian Rusli Oct 8 at 3:37
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    @AdrianRusli you cannot follow someone else's teaching and become a Buddha. That goes against the definition of the word 'Sammassambuddha'. It's as simple as that. – Sankha Kulathantille Oct 8 at 3:53
  • There are a thousand world systems beside our own. So, it is possible that even a Sammasambuddha exists in another world system in the present moment. If a Bodhisatta were to be reborn in heaven or as a monk that had successfully developed supernatural powers, he or she would be able to visit that Buddha. (Note that I am not starting an argument. So, do not misunderstand) – Adrian Rusli Oct 9 at 14:20
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The difference between Arhantship and Buddha is that the Buddha rediscovers the meditative technique through his/her own effort (rediscovers the technique since the technique is lost as it has been a long time since the last Buddha) that leads to liberation while the arhat learns the technique through Buddha or a line of teachers that have preserved the technique in its purity since the last Buddha. They both are enlightened beings.

I cannot say if it is common or uncommon to aspire to be a Buddha. To aspire for liberation is certainly a commmon goal.

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"Bodhisatta" in your question is a word mean "a man who enlightened by himself, then help uncountable others to enlighten follow him too".

According above meaning, there is very less person, uncommon, who going to be a Buddha because almost everyone hates suffering, loves happiness. Helping others are suffering. And if one chooses to help uncountable people, it comes with uncountable suffering, too, because each one comes with individual complex problems.

Most of people will not be Bodhisatta because they will give up to that uncountable suffering.

Every Bodhisatta borns with uncountable jobs, he has to plan for every step from current life to the next and next and uncountable next to the last life. Bodhisatta must work hard to practice people for making sure that people will birth with him and practice to enlighten follow him in his last life. He has only one chance to help people because it is his last life, so he has to work very hard to collect the actual practicable people before his last life.

The fail Bodhisatta is called "PaccekaBodhisatta" because he can't let the others enlighten follow him in his last life.

And that's why the Buddha praises PaccekaBuddha more than other Arahanta. Sāriputta and Moggallāna practiced to be the chief male disciples of Gautama Buddha only for 1 asaṇkheyya and 100 thousand mahākappa after making a decision in front of the Buddha, but PaccekaBuddha practiced for 2 asaṇkheyya and 100 thousand mahākappa to enlighten in the last life. All of them can enlighten at the time of making decision, but they didn't because they want to help people.

How does PaccekaBuddha help people? And why his helping is better than Sāriputta and Moggallāna?

PaccekaBuddha help people by helping many other Bodhisattas. All kinds of Bodhisatta help each other to collect people. You can see the co-working teamwork in Jataka-Atthakathā and some other Atthakatha. Who practice longer is who can help greater.

That's why PaccekaBuddha is better than Sāriputta and Moggallāna.

PaccekaBuddha can't help people to enlighten in his last life, but he can help many other Bodhisattas to let uncountable people enlighten follow more than Sāriputta and Moggallāna because PaccekaBuddha practiced in the longer period.

The only fail of PaccekaBuddha is "they can let people enlighten in their last life".

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