Sutra:  The Buddha said, "People who take leave of their families and go forth from the householder's life, who know their mind and penetrate to its origin, and who understand the unconditioned Dharma are called Shramanas. They constantly observe the 250 precepts, and they value purity in all that they do. By practicing the four true paths, they can become Arhats."


Commentary:  ...The three meanings of Arhat are:

1. Killer of thieves. Arhats are really fierce! Wherever there are thieves about, they kill them. "Well," you ask, "Aren't they violating precepts then?" The thieves the Arhats kill are not external thieves. They kill the inner thieves of affliction. Why are there thieves outside? Because there are thieves of affliction inside--the thieves of greed, hatred, and stupidity. Greed is a thief, anger is a thief, and stupidity is a thief. These are the thieves that must be killed. Therefore, the first meaning is "killer of thieves."

2. Worthy of offerings. They are entitled to receive the offerings of gods and humans. An Arhat who has been certified to the fruition is an enlightened sage. If you make offerings to an Arhat, you can thereby gain limitless and boundless blessings, too many to be reckoned. Being a Bhikshu is the cause of becoming an Arhat; one becomes an Arhat as a result of having been a Bhikshu. At the stage of causation, Bhikshus are destroyers of evil, and at the time of fruition, they are killers of thieves. At the stage of causation they are mendicants, and at the time of fruition they are said to be worthy of offerings. At the stage of causation they are frighteners of Mara, and at the time of fruition they are free of rebirth.

3. Free of rebirth. What is meant by "free of rebirth"? It means they have ended birth and death. They no longer suffer its misery. However, they have only ended share section birth and death. They have not yet ended change birth and death, so they are only Arhats. If you can cultivate the 250 precepts, then you will accomplish your study of the precepts. If you value purity in all things, then you will accomplish your study of samadhi. If you cultivate the Way of the Four Truths, then you will accomplish your study of wisdom. In this way, you will cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom to perfection; and you will destroy greed, hatred, and stupidity. Once you have destroyed greed, hatred, and stupidity, you become an Arhat. There are four kinds of Arhats: first, second, third, and fourth stage Arhats. One who accomplishes the fourth stage of Arhatship truly ends birth and death.

"Arhats can fly and transform themselves. They have a life span of vast eons, and wherever they dwell they can move heaven and earth."

What is an Arhat? A fourth stage Arhat has reached the position called Beyond Study, because further study is no longer necessary. So Arhats of the first three fruitions are in the position of Having More to Study. Arhats of the fourth fruition have reached the position of the Way of Certification; second and third fruition Arhats have reached the position of the Way of Cultivation; and first fruition Arhats have reached the position of the Way of Seeing.

Later this Sutra says: "Be careful not to believe your own mind; your mind is not to be trusted." We should be particularly careful not to believe our own minds. Our minds are unreliable. You can trust your mind only after you reach the fourth stage of Arhatship.

Sages who reach the fourth fruition of Arhatship don't have any more desire and love. They have severed love and desire. What proof is there that someone has certified to the fourth fruition of Arhatship? A fourth stage Arhat's feet don't touch the ground. His feet leave the ground by three-tenths of an inch, and for that reason he never squashes insects or ants, as would an ordinary person who walks along. When he's walking, there may be insects or ants beneath his feet, but he won't step on them. This proves that he has become certified to the fruition. Not only can fourth stage Arhats do this, but first stage Arhats can do this as well....


The Sutra in Forty-Two Sections Spoken by the Buddha.  A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

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In the Shurangama Sutra the Buddha said, “Bodhi is the ceasing of the mad mind.” The mad mind is explained as the false egocentric mind, the mind fond of status, the mind full of vain hopes and illusions, the mind that looks down on others and cannot see beyond its own achievements and intelligence. Even someone who is really ugly will consider himself to be very beautiful. Such strong attachments as these are dissolved when the mad mind is made to cease. That ceasing is Bodhi. It is an awakening to the Way; it is an enlightenment that is a first step toward the realization of Buddhahood. If you can cause the mad mind to cease, then you are well on your way.

Of the three kinds of enlightenment, the arhats’ and pratyekabuddhas’ enlightenment of self distinguishes them from ordinary, unenlightened people. Pratyekabuddhas awaken to the Way by cultivating the twelve links of conditioned causation. Arhats awaken to the Way by cultivating the dharma-door of the four sagely truths. Bodhisattvas differ from arhats and pratyekabuddhas in that they resolve to enlighten and to benefit others.

Ultimately, the arhats, the pratyekabuddhas, and the Bodhisattvas are simply people who have cultivated to the point of realization. How many people are we speaking of? We could be speaking of one person who cultivates to become first an arhat, then a pratyekabuddha, and then a Bodhisattva by means of the six paramitas and the myriad practices; such a person embodies all three levels.

Someone else, however, may cultivate to the level of arhatship, and then not want to go on. Once he himself has understood, such a person says: “I myself have already become enlightened. I understand. I can ignore everyone else.” He is a selfish person. He comes to a halt at the accomplishment of arhatship and it does not occur to him to continue down the path to pratyekabuddha-hood. Others continue to pratyekabuddhahood but do not consider progressing further. So one can say they are one person or one can say they are three people.

A Bodhisattva, however - one who enlightens himself and others . cultivates the six paramitas and the magnificence of the myriad practices, and he can continue to progress until he reaches the perfection of the Bodhisattva Way. That stage is said to be the perfection of enlightenment and practice; it is the realization of Buddhahood. The Buddha’s state of perfect enlightenment and practice distinguishes him from the Bodhisattva.

These three kinds of enlightenment can be discussed at length. When one practices them, many distinctions appear; within realizations are further realizations; within distinctions are further distinctions. The process is extremely complex.


The Shurangama Sutra, Volume 1, Chapter 1.  A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua


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“All outflows” refers to major shortcomings and minor faults. All of your peculiar, undesirable habits are outflows. To get even more basic, smoking, drinking, gambling, and chasing after women are all outflows. Chasing after men is an outflow too. Don’t think it applies only to men. It works both ways. Women, in fact have more outflows than men. Women have a monthly outflow. To be more explicit about it, when you cannot keep your semen, energy, and spirit in check, you have outflows. The biggest outflow occurs through the male and female reproductive organs as a function of sexual desire. There are many, many outflows.

However, these Arhats had exhausted all their outflows. Exhausted means that they had put them to an end. It does not mean that their outflows had flowed out until they were all gone. When you read the Sutras you have to be careful to interpret these things correctly. They had no outflows, they did not flow out. It was not the case that all their outflows had flowed out. Fourth Stage Arhats have obtained the Penetration of the Extinction of Outflows, which is one of the Six Spiritual Penetrations. Before one reaches the Fourth Stage of Arhatship, one has not obtained the extinction of outflows. These twelve thousand Arhats had exhausted all outflows and had not the slightest fault. They were sages.

“Having no further afflictions”: All of the great Arhats had obtained the Penetration of the Extinction of Outflows, and therefore had no further afflictions. If they had not obtained that penetration, they would still have afflictions. “Further” means that they will never become afflicted again.

They have done what they had to do,
And will undergo no further becoming.

Because they have ended birth and death, they have no affliction.

Dharma Flower Sutra, Chapter 1:  Introduction.  A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua