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Do Buddhas and Bodhisattvas care and have compassion for all sentient beings equally. On the one hand, my question is a little facetious (if only because, at least within the laity, not doing so is impractical in the extreme: why would spiritual help be any different?). On the other, it may raise some interesting riddles.

What does "the one taste of the dharmadhatu" mean except that? And, wouldn't that mean that a Buddha could in principle approve of hells, at least if the suffering in them is, like I believe it kinda is in Christianity, to assure the good and beneficent that virtue is loved, via granting us "free will" (don't quote me on that).

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  • The riddles were too simple: Buddhas do not create hells and do not populate them (bodhisattvas aside), do not create the laws of karma; and the "one taste" of the dharmadhatu is about being free, not a lack of differentiation among moral agents. Right?
    – user23973
    Jul 28 at 12:28
  • I guess you put "free will" in quotes because they claim that God is omnipotent which results in that paradox. Conversely, hell doesn't imply that the Buddha has no compassion.
    – ChrisW
    Jul 29 at 10:15
  • well, I don't know if people are sad to be free to reject God's love and if that is equivalent to punishment, but it's one answer. But then I believe God can save anyone, so I dunno. Anyway, I"m not much of a theist @ChrisW
    – user23984
    Jul 31 at 21:07

2 Answers 2

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Do Buddhas and Bodhisattvas care and have compassion for all sentient beings equally.

Perhaps in practice the type of relationship varies -- see for example AN 4.111.

What does "the one taste of the dharmadhatu" mean except that?

I don't know about Mahayana, I think that from the Pali suttas "one taste" might be a reference to this (description of the dhamma-vinaya):

The ocean has just one taste, the taste of salt. In the same way, this teaching and training has one taste, the taste of freedom.

Ud 5.5

And, wouldn't that mean that a Buddha could in principle approve of hells

Imagine if someone who you love is in hell, I'd suppose it's difficult to approve of that.

Approving of someone's suffering sounds to me to be the very opposite of mudita (which is one of the four brahmaviharas).

like I believe it is in Christianity, to assure the good and beneficent that their virtue is loved (don't quote me on that)

There are different Christian sects with different doctrines, I heard one of them teach that hell is a self-imposed consequence of choosing to distance or to separate oneself from the love of God.

I imagine Buddhist doctrine is somewhat similar, i.e. that hell is a natural consequence of unskilful or unvirtuous actions and desires. Perhaps the definition of "skilful" is "eradicates suffering".

But the idea of Buddhas approving of suffering just sounds like anathema to me -- instead they would only approve of the skilful/noble ways that lead to non-suffering.

The closest I know of to the idea of suffering being good is this:

And "wrathful" deities (from the Tibetan tradition):

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  • Thanks for the quote on "freedom", but the question was not quite insightful (which I do not mean except as an answer) enough to accept. e.g. the sutra you cited saying that the buddha "kills" people he cannot help: does that mean he violates the precepts or just that his teaching and compassion is lost to them (an absence of compassion is not necessarily malign)? Could use more discussion, yours or someone else's. For some reason, I always find your answers difficult in those terms.
    – user23973
    Jul 28 at 12:11
  • The sutta explains what he means -- i.e. he stops talking with them. A bit like the American/English idiom, "to cut someone dead" which means to not converse with them socially. See also this answer, in which Channa fails to receive instruction. There's another longer answer here. But I just meant that the Buddha agreed to teach for the sake of those "who have ears to hear" and "little dust in their eyes" ...
    – ChrisW
    Jul 28 at 12:53
  • Yes, I agree that's what the sutta says
    – user23973
    Jul 28 at 12:54
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Good householder, like a farmer would first work on best land, the Buddha and his good monks teach first to monks, second to devoted lay people, and out of compassion sometimes also wanderer of other sects. Why? Because even a single sentence, if they understand, would merit much for them. - SN 42.7

And, yes, monks aren't given to teach those showing disregard and stinginess.

Yet thoughts of compassion will in all ways remain toward all, incl. "hopeless" cases. There the most compassionate action is to leave them far.

“In these three instances, monks, one can be recognized as a person of conviction & confidence. Which three? One wants to see virtuous people. One wants to hear the True Dhamma. One’s awareness cleansed of the stain of stinginess, one lives at home, freely generous, openhanded, delighting in being magnanimous, responsive to requests, delighting in the distribution of alms. In these three instances, monks, one can be recognized as a person of conviction & confidence.”

One who wants to see virtuous ones, & wants to hear the True Dhamma —having subdued the stain of stinginess— is said to have conviction.

And those with proper attitudes will be taught of course fist and possible all.

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