Can you decide which kind of Buddha you're going to be?

A curious feature of Mahāyāna Buddhism is that it considers itself superior to other schools of Buddhism because it teaches practitioners to aim for the 'highest' kind of Buddha. Consider this from The Wikipedia article about three types of Buddha:

"Mahāyāna, and Vajrayāna traditions consider there to be three types of Buddha:

* Samyaksambuddha (Pāli: Sammāsambuddha), often simply referred to as Buddha)
* Pratyekabuddha (Pāli: Paccekabuddha),
* Śrāvakabuddha (Pāli: Sāvakabuddha), often equated to the more general term Arhat (Pāli: Arahant).

All three types of Buddha achieve Nirvāṇa, and may be called Arhats, or foe destroyers, but within the Mahāyāna tradition some people reserve the term Arhat for Sravaka Buddhas."

Why would Mahāyāna would consider forms 2 and 3 to be 'lesser' - espeically when the historical Buddha almost decided not to teach because it was too subtle. According to legend, Brahmā Sahampati came down from a Celestial Sphere and pleaded with Gotema to teach. Finally, Gotema agreed. (This is not the first time that Gotema Buddha was convinced to do something that he initially didn't want to do - Ananda convinced him to admit women as monastics, despite strong reservations. These episodes are interesting to me as they contrast so strongly with Gotema's other unique and sometimes eyebrow raising qualities.)

Seems to me that it really isn't up to the individual to choose how they'll end up. This applies not only to 'states of enlightenment' but to any future state - can I really choose 'how I will be' tomorrow? Or even today? There are qualities that I have, and qualities that I do not have, and while I can work hard to nuture those qualities that I think are most beneficial, my success is, in some very real sense, out of my hands. Any statment I make about my future state is not binding, and it's hard to understand how Mahāyāna differs from other Buddhist schools except in making such statements.

No comments: