Characteristics of an Arhat

Arhat

“Spirituality is a way of life. It is not just doing meditation.”

Master Choa Kok Sui

Since the objective of Arhatic Yoga is to guide us towards becoming an Arhat, it would help to know what the end result is. The five pillars, the corresponding virtues and practices are the guideposts that help us stay on the right track towards reaching that ultimate destination correctly.

Therefore, let us examine the characteristics of an Arhat as outlined in ancient Buddhist texts.

Arhatic comes from the Pali word Arhat which means saint or a highly evolved being. It refers to a person, who, through diligent practice and character-building, has overcome their deficiencies. Theravada Buddhism defines an Arhat as a Perfected One who has overcome the three poisons of desire, hatred and ignorance. At the end of the present life, they are no longer reborn and are finally freed from the suffering of existence in the cycle of constant rebirth and attain Nirvana. It stands to reason that if Arhatic Yoga practitioners emulate these characteristics consciously their spiritual development will be accelerated.

“Spirituality is a way of life. It is not just doing meditation.” – Master Choa Kok Sui

Various texts define the seven qualities that an Arhat must possess, and they are as follows:

  1. They perfectly see and comprehend the impermanence of all constructions.
  2. The addiction and torture of all sense desires is perfectly perceived and known.
  3. Their mind is only inclined towards solitude, seclusion, silent ease, and peace.
  4. They continuously and perfectly observe the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
  5. The five mental faculties and strengths are thoroughly developed and consummated.
  6. The Seven Links of enlightenment are utterly refined and fully accomplished.
  7. The Noble Eightfold Middle Path is perfectly realized, acquired and all concluded.

 They perfectly see and comprehend the impermanence of all constructions.

An Arhat understands that everything that has been created will decay, and eventually be destroyed. Since all material objects are impermanent, they do not get attached to them. They focus on what is permanent, namely, God and the soul. They focus on Sharanagati and character building in order to develop their connection to the Higher Soul and God.

 The addiction and torture of all sense desires is perfectly perceived and known.

The sense desires mentioned here are not limited to the desires generated by the sense organs alone (eyes, ears, etc.) For instance, the desire generated by the sense of taste can be gluttony or greed towards food. Well, that’s one level of truth. Another way of looking at it would be in understanding the intangible senses and their effects. A sense of right and wrong is also a sensory input. There are many other such sensory inputs such as a sense of fairness, a sense of justice, a sense of belonging, and so on and so forth. These senses and their associated desires can cause imbalance. If someone feels that they have been dealt with unfairly, they will likely keep thinking about it and that will cause a lot of internal suffering. It may even lead to outbursts and deterioration in relationships. Arhats understand it and remain de-attached from these sensory addictions and resulting torture by doing a lot of purifications, such as inner reflection and firm resolution, and by practicing forgiveness.

Their mind is only inclined towards solitude, seclusion, silent ease, and peace.

This is fairly self-explanatory. If the mind undergoes disturbance, they firmly guide it back towards harmony. This is achieved through meditation practices and chanting mantras. (For a guide on how to chant mantras correctly, please refer to he article on Mantras. Prolonged practice of controlling the mind results in clarity, thorough understanding, accurate perception and correct expression.

They continuously and perfectly observe the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.

Buddhist manuscripts outline these four foundations as
1) Contemplation of the body (Kaya)
2) Contemplation of the feelings (Vedana)
3) Contemplation of the mind (Chitta)
4) Contemplation of the mind objects (Dharma)
Arhats understand that they are not the body; that the body is only a vehicle of the soul. They understand that they are not the emotions or the thoughts, just as a carpenter is not the furniture he creates. They understand that they are not the mind; the mind is only a subtle instrument of the soul, much like the computer user is not the computer. They are in a continuous and perfect state of soul affirmation.

The five mental faculties and strengths are thoroughly developed and consummated.

These are mentioned as the abilities of
1) Faith (saddhā)
2) Energy (viriya)
3) Awareness (sati)
4) Concentration (samādhi)
5) Understanding (pañña)
These faculties are a refinement of the emotions and the thoughts and lead to greater understanding of one’s environment and self. For instance, there exists some confusion about the difference between Awareness and Concentration.
Let’s take an example. As you are reading this, you are subconsciously aware of the way you are sitting and how your neck is angled towards your screen. You may become aware of your posture and straighten your seating. Your awareness covers the background sounds, the place you are at, the way the breeze (or lack of it) feels on your skin, the temperature of the environment and so on. If someone calls your name from across the room, you’ll probably respond quickly. This is awareness, when your consciousness is expansive.
On the other hand if you’re focused intently on a particular object (hopefully this article), you may not register a great deal about your surroundings. Time will seem to have slipped by without your notice. Someone may call you numerous times, and you’ll not have realized it. This is concentration, when your consciousness has a single focal point. An Arhat develops and practices these various nuances of the mind. One way to develop this is by chanting Om Namo Rama Om. Ra refers to the sun, or the intellect. Ma refers to the moon, or the emotions. By chanting it in same style as MCKS, we can rapidly gain mastery over our thoughts and emotions.

The Seven Links of enlightenment are utterly refined and fully accomplished.

All of the links are connected to Awakening or Enlightenment. They are,
1) The Awareness Link to Awakening (sati)
2) The Investigation Link to Awakening (dhammavicaya)
3) The Energy Link to Awakening (viriya)
4) The Joy Link to Awakening (pīti)
5) The Tranquility Link to Awakening (passaddhi)
6) The Concentration Link to Awakening (samādhi)
7) The Equanimity Link to Awakening (upekkhā)
The process begins with the soul becoming aware that it is on the way towards Enlightenment. It then investigates the various experiences which has led it towards this outcome. We ourselves can pinpoint a few turning points in our life which led us to Pranic Healing and Arhatic Yoga. Once the investigation is complete, the soul pours in more energy to hasten the enlightenment. This leads to a feeling of joy, which subsequently leads to a feeling of tranquility. By this time the soul is well on the way towards becoming an Arhat. It then concentrates on the link to strengthen it further and to not lose the focus. This leads ultimately to equanimity, or the ability to remain calm and composed even in the face of great extremes. That’s why the Buddha was never swayed by extremes of either sadness or happiness. There was only equanimity. An Arhat continuously refines this link and has accomplished every possible method of keeping the link intact. It is a method of study and training the mind, thoughts and emotions.

The Noble Eightfold Middle Path is perfectly realized, acquired and all concluded.

MCKS talks in details about the Noble Eightfold Path in his course Inner Teachings of Buddhism Revealed and touches upon it in the Om Mani Padme Hum book. Here we briefly touch upon what the Eightfold path constitutes.
1) Right View: our actions have consequences; death is not the end, and our actions and beliefs also have consequences after death. This is equivalent to Accurate Perception.
2) Right Motivation: This concept aims at peaceful renunciation into an environment of non-sensuality, non-ill-will (to loving kindness), away from cruelty (to compassion). Such an environment aids contemplation of impermanence, suffering, and non-Self. Correct Expression begins from this step till the last one.
3) Right Speech: No lying, no rude speech, speaking good things.
4) Right Action: Only moderation, no killing or injuring, no taking what is not given, no excessiveness.
5) Right Livelihood: Keeping what is essential and cutting out the rest, which is rubbish.
6) Right Effort: Guard against sensual thoughts; aim at preventing unwholesome states that disrupt meditation.
7) Right Awareness: never be absent minded, being conscious of what one is doing; Encourage the mindfulness about impermanence of body, feeling and mind, as well as to experience Awakening.
8) Right Concentration: practicing meditation culminating into unification of the incarnated soul with the higher soul.

It’s interesting to note here that an Arhat has 7 characteristics. There are also 7 rays, 7 colours, and 7 sounds. The number 7 plays a recurring role throughout.

The Buddhist texts go on to explain that there are certain defilements which greatly reduce the process of becoming an Arhat. They are blind belief; doubt or uncertainty; attachments to rites and rituals; sensual desires; ill will; lust for material existence and things; lust for immaterial existence and to be free; conceit; restlessness; ignorance. Of all these defilements, the lust for freedom and immaterial existence needs to be looked into. There are many Arhatic Yoga practitioners who have been serving selflessly for years and some of them have begun expressing that they look forward to retiring or going home and being free from the fetters. Occasionally, in conversation, they express their desire to complete their duties quickly and attain Nirvana. This is dangerous. It is a form of self delusion. The focus should be on Achieving Oneness with the Higher Soul. All the experiences that we undergo daily contribute to that Golden Objective, and the time required for it is irrelevant. It’s not a competition!

Etymologically, kāya means body, sakkāya means existing body. Muni comes from the word manan, which means to think, or churn the mind. Therefore a muni is one who thinks deeply, or contemplates. Therefore Sakya-muni-Buddha means someone who has become a Buddha by doing contemplations while still existing within his physical body. Becoming an Arhat can happen when we are still in body! After attainment of Nirvana, the five aggregates (physical forms, feelings/sensations, perception, mental formations and consciousness) will continue to function, sustained by physical bodily prana. This attainment is termed the nirvana element with a residue remaining. But once the Arhat passes away and with the disintegration of the physical body, the five aggregates will cease to function, hence ending all traces of existence in the phenomenal world and thus total release from the bonds of physical existence. It would then be termed the nirvana element without residue remaining. Lacking “assets” which will lead to future birth, the Arhat knows and sees the real here and now. This virtue shows stainless purity, true worth, and the accomplishment of the end, which is Nirvana.

“The purpose of Arhatic Yoga is to produce intelligent, compassionate, good hearted, powerful disciples who will become great divine servants. To do this, it is necessary to eliminate pride, self conceitedness, and self delusions. A person with great pride will not become a great servant; he will make other people his servants.”

Master Choa Kok Sui

References:

  1. The Complete Book of Buddha’s Lists Explained, David N. Snyder, Ph.D., 2006.
  2. The Origin of Modern Pranic Healing and Arhatic Yoga, Master Choa Kok Sui
  3. The Spiritual Essence of Man, Master Choa Kok Sui
  4. Om Mani Padme Hum, Master Choa Kok Sui
  5. Achieving Oneness with the Higher Soul, Master Choa Kok Sui

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