Tuesday, September 04, 2007

rang sangs rgyas - Pratyeka Buddhas

The second kind of practitioner that obtains a somewhat different kind of Nirvana in the Hinayana tradition is rang sangs rgyas, Pratyekabuddha in Sanskrit.

rang is a very good word to learn inside out, it means self, and is used in various permutations in Tibetan texts. sangs rgyas is Buddha.

Now, this is not the same as what is considered a Buddha, a perfect enlightened being. rang sangs rgyas have reached Nirvana, based on the meditational experience of directly experiencing the emptiness of self. In addition to realizing the emptiness of self, they also realize the emptiness of the subject-object different, but nothing else, not the emptiness of all phenomena and things. This is of course the lower Middle Way school interpretation, in the highest Middle way emptiness is emptiness, there are not classifications. Anyway, just based on this somewhat bigger realization they are classified higher as the earlier mentioned nyan thos.

As for the name itself, it's based on the way how the meditators act. They get to a point where they want to get the realization all by themselves, so like rhinos they isolate themselves and just figure it out. The irony is that in past lives they have had help from teachers, and full enlightened beings could teach from the sound of trees, wind, and so on...

Anyway, another English term used is Solitary Realizer. It's somewhat clunky, and does not reflect the Sanskrit original term, pratyekabuddha, neither the Tibetan term, so I prefer again to just use the nice Sanskrit term and in a foot note describe this practitioner class.

And as mentioned earlier, you don't belong to a certain school, monastery, tradition and so on. It all depends on the inner motivation if someone is a rang sangs rgyas or not.


boris said...

Hello, first to say that this blog is really nice, i read it every day :)

But i have two questions regarding this post:

1. do you know the tibetan for "the emptiness of the subject-object different", and

2. i'm still wondering about the difference between Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas. According to Prasangika, they realize the same emptiness (as there is only one), but on the other hand it is said that Pratyekabuddhas have much bigger collection of merit. One would think, if they have so much more merit, then Pratyekabuddhas would have some additional realizations which Shravakas dont have. Any ideas?

Kent Sandvik said...

Thanks, always appreciate feedback.

1. Emptiness of subject-object is something as gzung 'dzin gyi rdzas tha dad kyis stong pa nyid, that's one term for it. Here's a nice listing of all kinds of terms about this interesting topic:

2. Yes, the subject-object realization in addition to realization of no self makes the Pratyekabuddhas higher in realization aspect.

What the Prasangikas state is that there's no special emptiness versions, so the same emptiness experience is happening, but what happens after that was based on the original intent before emptiness w as realized.