Recently, I visited Wat Paknam in Bangkok. There is a huge pagoda in this temple and inside this pagoda is a large glass pagoda (see below). The ceiling is painted with stars and the past 28 Buddhas of our current world system. The 28 Buddhas include Sakyamuni Buddha and according to Buddhist scriptures, a Buddha may reappear in a world period when the Dharma has been completely forgotten. The next Buddha-to-be shall be called Maitreya Buddha.
If you look carefully, all the Buddhas looked exactly the same; except for the trees behind them. In the enlightened state, there are no differences. The concept of one being mightier than the other is no longer relevant.
To appreciate this message better, we have to ask ourselves earnestly, “Will I be bothered if there is no longer any differences in the world?”
Imagine, being the same as your family member or your friends or colleague. Imagine going onto a bus or train and everyone in there has exactly the same “face” as you do.
Is it bliss or a nightmare for you?
If it is a nightmare, then it simply implies that our sense of self-cherishing is still very strong. There is an “I” and “them”. We derive comfort from such differences.
And due to the differences, we wish to know which is better. Who is better? Right?
Next, we are going to discuss something along the line.
Who is more powerful? The Buddha or the arhats?
Arhats are disciples of the Buddha who had attained complete enlightenment.
When we practice Buddhism as a religion, our egoistic views propel us to differentiate. In that manner, many Buddhists have this mistaken notion that Buddha is more “powerful”. Just like how ancient religion designed the pantheon of gods according to human society. There is a king of gods, then the next more powerful one, etc. Similarly, we will see Buddhist worshipping Buddha as a “king” or” chief”, then the arhats as secondary enlightened beings.
But if we are serious about understanding Buddhism, we should understand that full enlightenment (Arhat’s enlightenment) is of one taste. Therefore, a Buddha is also an Arhant. After full enlightenment, we do not have to spend our time “serving” Buddha. The secular concept of differences is no longer applicable. In that manner, the ultimate goal of Buddhism is really fair. We become equally enlightened as Buddha. Does this sound right to you?
May all be well and happy.