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It is well known that there are periodic crises in Buddhism, usually - it seems - involving sexual misconduct.

I also know that e.g. Vasubandhu claimed that aryans - even if they could still have sexual desire - were incapable of sexual misconduct.

Does that mean that everyone involved in these crises are complete fakes or have retrogressed? Quite famously, an important Tibetan llama was even convicted of child rape: can anyone defend the claim any a "tulku" of this sort is a Buddha behind bars?

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3 Answers 3

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Ariyans cannot perform acts of evil. That is why they are called 'Ariyans'. The suttas say:

"And which are the four factors of stream-entry with which he is endowed?

"There is the case where the disciple of the noble ones is endowed with verified confidence in the Awakened One: 'Indeed, the Blessed One is worthy & rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge & conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the world, unexcelled as a trainer for those people fit to be tamed, the Teacher of divine & human beings, awakened, blessed.'

"He is endowed with verified confidence in the Dhamma: 'The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One, to be seen here & now, timeless, inviting verification, pertinent, to be realized by the wise for themselves.'

"He is endowed with verified confidence in the Sangha: 'The Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples who have practiced well... who have practiced straight-forwardly... who have practiced methodically... who have practiced masterfully — in other words, the four pairs, the eight individuals — they are the Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples: worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, the incomparable field of merit for the world.'

"He is endowed with virtues that are appealing to the noble ones: untorn, unbroken, unspotted, unsplattered, liberating, praised by the wise, untarnished, leading to concentration.

"These are the four factors of stream-entry with which he is endowed.

AN 10.92

Yes, it does mean that everyone involved in these crises are complete fakes or have retrogressed.

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  • I was under the assumption, or at least from what i have read that the qualities of a sotapanna, specifically the quality of never falling to lower rebirth is only because of the cessation of the first of the 3 fetters and the inability to perform the 5 heinous actions that would cause such lower rebirth. I have never read anywhere that a sotapanna automatically has pure stainless sila. Meaning a sotapanna may still be able to lie or commit adultery or even kill, just that they would not be controlled by kleshas to do such actions and especially not the 5 heinous actions.
    – Remyla
    Apr 7, 2022 at 8:48
  • sorry your ideas are unsubstantiated despite being very common among intellectual buddhists Apr 7, 2022 at 19:53
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When the Buddha talks about an arhat (or aryan in the Tibetan), he is referring to an inner state: an attitude that someone naturally develops as they walk further and further down the path.

When lay people talk about an arhat (or aryan) they usually mean it in terms of an outer status: a label acquired by someone due to long practice and broad respect in the community. The label becomes a sigil or a fetish; it is ascribed to someone without foundation in the person's actual (inner) attainment.

Most people rise to the ascription, because even if they haven't yet attained realization, that is their earnest desire. They take care in their use of the label. Some people lose their way under the ascription, becoming attached to their own importance and the rewards they feel they should receive for the status.

The Tibetan tradition has been particularly vulnerable to the latter problem because the Tibetan religious culture has been so thoroughly uprooted from its ancestral home. The combination of disrupted lineages and broad sympathy and support from Western lay communities created a fertile ground for egoism and misappropriation. That will settle itself out over time, I imagine...

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  • Arya means noble person, one of the stages of progress to liberation. Sotapanna onward to arhant.
    – Remyla
    Apr 7, 2022 at 8:50
  • @Remyla: Ah, thanks. Not a word I've seen before (in this context) and the web seemed to imply equivalence. I"ll have to think about whether that affects my answer. Apr 7, 2022 at 16:29
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One of the downfalls of labelling so-called spiritual attainments - like aryan - is that it seems to define a particular set of parameters regarding human behaviour or that certain behaviours are lost or given-up in some way. This is where orthodoxy should get real with itself. It is true that certain behaviours can fall away, but such is the complexity of the human mind that those behaviours don't's always disappear in-line with a set of religious ideas or models; karmic formations can be very complex.

The simplest explanation for evil behaviour is always the best: we consider ourselves to be made-up of the body. Having given ourselves to that consideration, we feel separated from everything and everybody else. In this state of separation, we feel vulnerable and afraid. It is this insecurity that gives rise to all sorts of unwholesome behaviours in the world, regardless of whether you claim to be an aryan or not.

Therefore, the stream-entrant - while a moderately significant understanding - has only realized very little.

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