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Arahants have eliminated the conceit of, "better," amongst other aspects of conceit and other fetters. However, if they are perfected people, that would mean they are perfect. Other people are not perfect, by very virtue of not being arahants.

How do we explain the fact that an arahant doesn't feel better than anyone, though in reality they are better, morally, spiritually, and emotionally? Doesn't an arahant also lack ignorance? It seems knowing what you are and where you stand is a lack of ignorance.

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    What is your definition of perfect? Is it accomplished in virtue, wisdom, mental development such as concentration and awareness?
    – Desmon
    Commented Feb 16 at 1:42
  • I would say it's directly the accomplishment of the release of suffering, and also causing no one else suffering. This is why I can't resolve my contradiction, because an arahant is automatically perfect by that definition... unless of course by that definition an arahant COULD think they're better, but by more conventional definitions they could not. Commented Feb 16 at 1:44
  • The definition of arahant isn't someone who's perfect, it's someone who's got the gist of Buddhism. It may be true that they're good at managing their lives, but 'better or worse' at living has no meaning to them. They realize that everyone is equal.
    – Cdn_Dev
    Commented Feb 16 at 2:23

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As far as I know, Arahants don't think of themselves as "selves". Instead, they tend to think in terms of qualities and their sources - i.e. "there's this wisdom, it came from study and meditation, and ultimately from the cumulative effort of generations of Buddhists", "there's this calm, it came from understanding of what's important and what's not important, after making so many stupid mistakes", "there's this kindness, it came from practice of selflessness inspired by these teachers from this tradition".

When you see it like this, there's no reason to be proud - it's not like you invented the Dharma, you just were lucky enough to inherit these causal chains. If you feel anything, it's the gratitude, indebtedness, and desire to pay it forward.

And in general, I don't think Arahants dwell on these things. That's because, being perfect, at any given moment they are supposed to think about whatever is the most helpful thing at that time given the situation at hand, and comparing "this" with "that" is rarely very helpful. How often do you compare yourself with your children? It's kind of beside the point. You are busy changing the diapers or helping with homework, not thinking how much you are better. See what I mean?

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  • Yes that makes sense. I see comparison as a basic human function, but it is always possible that it is not. Commented Feb 16 at 3:03
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Arahants will not feel proud or conceited. They would feel peace.

Regardless of what things they know,
whether internal or external,
they wouldn’t be proud because of that,
for that is not extinguishment, say the good.

They wouldn’t let that make them conceited,
thinking themselves better or worse or alike (equal).
When questioned in many ways,
they wouldn’t keep justifying themselves.

A mendicant would find peace inside themselves,
and not seek peace from another.
For one at peace inside themselves,
there’s no picking up, whence putting down?
Snp 4.14

Though neither proud, nor conceited, they may feel relieved to be free from the suffering that others experience.

How very happily we live,
free from hostility
among those who are hostile.
Among hostile people,
free from hostility we dwell.

How very happily we live,
free from misery
among those who are miserable.
Among miserable people,
free from misery we dwell.

How very happily we live,
free from busyness
among those who are busy.
Among busy people,
free from busyness we dwell.

How very happily we live,
we who have nothing.
We will feed on rapture
like the Radiant gods.
Dhp 197-200

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    That makes sense, seeing as relief to be free of suffering others experience is a distinct emotion versus pride, which I can imagine it is. Commented Feb 16 at 10:29
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I agreed with the OP that the one quality I deeply admired about the Buddha and his arahant monks is that they do not harm themselves or others (as well as other beings). This gift of harmlessness is something so rare, precious and especially inspiring after I became an adult and witness the hurt, pain and harm inflicted in real life by people to themselves and others; often in the name of the big picture.

I witness an old lady who was denied life prolonging treatment because her main caregiver, her daughter was advised so by the doctors. The context was that since the old woman’s cancer cannot be cured, the hospital bed that she was occupying could be better utilized by another patient (presumably younger with better survival prospect) in need of medical treatment but could not do so due to the shortage of beds. The old woman was devastated when informed of the news by her daughter.

I witness a consultant who spent months working closely with top management and various stakeholders on a project. Just when the project was to be awarded, his service was terminated. Apparently, the company’s IT manager assured top management that the project could be easily implemented in-house. Perhaps, he “gotten” the ideas after sitting in and listening to the various presentations by the consultant. The self-employed consultant was looking forward to securing the project after working hard for months at a pittance. The management must have thought if the IT manager can implement the project in-house, it will save a bunch and it’s good for the company.

I witness couples in marriages where one spouse treats the other like a subordinate. The reason is that their spouse is poor at future planning and thinking ahead. Therefore, the “farsighted and more capable” husband or wife needs to make the big decisions to ensure a brighter future for the marriage and the family.

When I learned the Dharma, the teaching is so simple. But when I step into society, I was taught that this simple teaching is not sufficient to handle the complex, fast-changing and dynamic big picture. The conventional thinking is that the big picture ensure that the overall suffering is reduced and total welfare is maximized, right?

Thankfully, arahants are not like that. An ordinary person will not hesitate to squashed a mosquito because it is feeding on their blood. By killing the mosquito, the argument is that this reduces the potential of a carrier of malaria, dengue and who knows what disease. I know arahants won’t kill a feeding mosquito because monks had told me they don’t.

This harmlessness is why they are accomplished in virtue. I believe they don’t think themselves as better, worse or equal to others as Ajahn Chah said:

“If we think others are worse or better or the same as us, we go off the curve. If we discriminate, we will only suffer.”

This doesn’t mean that arahants are not aware of the on-going cycles of hurt and harm that ordinary people do to themselves and others. They no longer participate in this cycle whether intentionally or otherwise. Free of sufferings themselves and not adding any to the world; just being an inspiration by their harmlessness.

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  • I like this answer's emphasis on how Arahants do have particularly admirable qualities. Additionally the other answer about how arahants feel relief and gratitude. Then, the answer about how without self there's no one to be conceited and that arahants would likely not focus very much time feeling that relief but would rather serve others. One key point from the most popular answer was that one wouldn't compare themselves to their child... which everyone is under the care of an arahant. I would award a winner but learned something from several answers. No one is better or worse! Commented Feb 17 at 19:09
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    @JeffBogdan I think the answers are all interlinked. For example, harmlessness is possible because the concept of self no longer exists. Once, we have a sense of self and identities (e.g. clever vs stupid, a somebody vs a nobody) arise, it is hard not to feel threatened, harm ourselves or others out of ignorance and suffer.
    – Desmon
    Commented Feb 18 at 10:47
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The word 'perfect' is not appropriate for arhant. The fetter of wrong view is already gone when you become sotapanna. in that sense arhant do not know more then a sotapanna. nor he has any great power compare to sotapanna.

In fact going forward he looses even more stuff asmimān too. so there is no more individuality/personality for arhant.

and all this changes from sotapana to arhant is not perfection. but reduction of defilement. and when you know you have no more defilement you also know you have no more rebirth.

At this stage he do not get physic power to read other peoples mind and to read about their future life etc... Getting such physic power is different and not prerequisite for arhant.

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