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Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera
Salvation Through Arahantahood
Attaining Nibbana through Arahantahood is not selfish.
Certain Buddhists believe to seek salvation by becoming an Arahant is a selfish motive; because everyone, they claim, must try to become a Buddha in order to save others. This particular belief has absolutely no ground in the Teaching of the Buddha. The Buddha never mentioned that He wanted to save every living being in this whole universe. He offered His help only to those who were spiritually matured and willing to accept His Noble Way of Life.
'The doors to the deathless are open!
The belief that everyone must strive to become a Buddha in order to attain salvation cannot be found in the original Teachings of the Buddha. This belief is just like asking every person to become a doctor in order to cure other people and himself of diseases. This advice is most impractical. If people want to cure themselves of their sicknesses they can get medical advice from a qualified doctor. This they can do without waiting until they are all doctors before curing themselves. Nor is there any need for each and every person to be a doctor. If everyone becomes a doctor, who are going to be their patients? In the same way if everyone is going to become Buddhas, who is going to save whom?
Of course, those who wish to become doctors can do so. But they must have intelligence, courage and the means to study medicine. Likewise, it is not compulsory for everyone to become a Buddha to find his salvation. Those who wish to become Buddhas can do so. However, they need the courage and knowledge to sacrifice their comforts and practice all kinds of renunciations in order to attain Buddhahood. Others can be content to be healthy.
To attain Arahantahood, one has to eradicate all greed and selfishness. This implies that while relating with others, an Arahant will act with compassion and try to inspire others to go on the Path leading to Liberation. He is the living proof of the good results that accrue to a person who follows the method taught by the Buddha. The attainment of Nibbana is not possible if one acts with a selfish motive. Therefore, it is baseless to say that striving to become an Arahant is a selfish act.
Buddhahood is indisputably the best and the noblest of all the three ideals (Supreme Buddha, Silent Buddha and Arahant). But not everyone is capable of achieving this highest ideal. Surely all scientists cannot be Einsteins and Newtons. There must be room for lesser scientists who nevertheless help the world according to their capabilities.
Source: Buddhist Study and Practice Group, http://www.sinc.sunysb.edu/Clubs/buddhism/
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