Ariyasāvaka and Puthujjana


Perhaps the most vivid illustration that transcends traditional categories is how Masefield distinguishes the ariyasāvaka* and puthujjana: it does not involve “religious monks” and “secular layman”, but a higher manifestation of the Noble Spirit that is present or absent in each. Firstly, he defines the ariyasāvaka as one who is empowered to discern right view* and in so doing has become emboldened to traverse the ariyan ten-fold (Masefield includes “right knowledge” and “Right Release”) path in the company of the Noble Ariya—thus establishing themselves as one in the same. He defines the puthujjana as an assutavant—one devoid of the Self-realization of Noble Wisdom and thus devoid of insight into the Four Noble Truths: “The puthujjana is thus one who has not heard [and has not internalized, inclusion mine] the teaching or the tradition (MLS i 3 n 8; cp Dhs trans 258 n 2), that is to say, the Dhamma; it is in this crucial knowledge that he is deficient.” (Masefield, pg. 3) The puthujjana does not see Reality AS IT Really IS: Yathābhūtaṁ. Whereas the Noble Ariyasāvaka is one who has heard AND internalized the Holy Dhamma. It can also be shown that the ariyasāvaka can discern another ariyasāvaka and those who are not:

…according to SnA 1 66 one is an ariyasāvaka* on account of having heard (Dhamma) in the presence of the ariyans* (ariyānaṁ santike sutattā ariyasāvako) and the whole passage therefore states that the ariyasāvaka* is one who has heard the Dhamma (in the presence of the ariyans*), one who is able to discern who are ariyans*, one who is conversant with the Dhamma of the ariyans*, one who is well guided* in the Dhamma of the ariyans…(ibid, pg.4)

Along with this it goes without saying that, for instance, “the eight-year-old monk is unlikely to be any more spiritually advanced than his eight-year-old lay cousin – and quite possibly less spiritually advanced than an adult lay-follower.” What this all addresses is very pertinent even in our own present age. Formalism does not guarantee religiosity. Even an old monk of advanced age who has not internalized the sacred teachings (whatever the traditional origin), who merely clings to his religious garb is not an authentic disciple of the teaching. Whereas, even a young layman—although not externally robed as such—can absorb the teaching and thus become an authentic devotee. Masefield stresses that it is IN THE HEARING and INTERNALIZING, and not through mere external observances and practices like donning religious paraphernalia that determines who is an authentic Sāvaka. In light of this understanding a monk can be a puthujjana whereas a lay-devotee can be graced with ariyasāvakahood.

Masefield then extends this realization to even include devas. We know from past sutra study that devas can also be converted to the Buddhadharma: “it is no doubt such sāvaka* devas who are said to be utterly devoted to Gotama (D i 1 16), confess to him their transgressions (S i 23ff) and also to go to him for refuge (D i 1 16 = M ii 167; A ii 24)” (ibid, pg. 14).” At the same time not all devas are sāvakas. There are devas who are so-caught-up-in their beautiful and “long-lived” lifespans that whenever the Tathāgata appears in the realm of sentient beings to teach the Buddhadharma, they turn a “deaf-ear” out of fear and trembling of losing their “apparent permanency”. Such devas are void of the sāvaka spirit. They “do not hear” the Dhamma’s salvific message and are, like a puthujjana, doomed to suffer from continued rebirth in realms of impermanence; as such the main difference between the sāvaka and puthujjana deva is a soteriological one.

Masefield stresses that the most important bifurcation between the ariyasāvaka and the puthujjana concerns right view*:

He is called, monks, an ariyasāvaka* who possesses (right) view*, who possesses vision*, who has come to this true Dhamma*, who sees this true Dhamma*, who is endowed with the knowledge (nāṇena) of the sekha* (i .e. a sotāpanna*, sakadāgāmin* or anāgāmin*), who is endowed with the wisdom (vijjāya) of the sekha* , who has attained the Dhamma-ear* , who has the ariyan* insight of revulsion , who stands having arrived at the door to the Deathless*. (ibid, pg.6)

We mentioned earlier about the “Dhamma of sound—Dhammasota, or fine-tuning the inner Dharma-ear that is instilled with the heightened Buddha-gnosis (Parato ghosa) of deathlessness.” Masefield continues stating that “Dhammapala puts the matter more forcibly.”

…defining the sāvaka* as one who becomes born of the ariyan* birth upon hearing the Dhamma from the Perfectly Enlightened One (sammāsambuddhassa dhammasavanante ariyāya jātiya jātatāya taṃ dhammaṁ suṇanti tī sāvakā – VvA 194f). This is in strict accord with the statement of the Buddha that ‘He, monks , who does not know , does not see , when the Tathāgata is thus announcing , teaching, making known , establishing, revealing, analyzing and setting out (the khandhas), him, monks, do I set at naught as a foolish puthujjana, blind, lacking vision , unknowing, unseeing’ (S iii 140) . Here we may recall the instance of Gopikā rebuking certain (former) monks saying, ‘Where were your ears, good sirs, that you did not hear Dhamma from the Lord? (D ii 272) – to which Buddhaghosa adds ‘Where were your ears? When the Lord was facing you and teaching Dhamma, where were your ears – were you absent-mindedly looking about you this way and that or were you sleeping?’ (DA 707). (ibid, pg.7)

Some scholars mistakenly accuse Masefield of presenting a “racial dimension” to the Ariyasāvaka-equation, one meant only for Aryan peoples. Rather, Masefield is articulating a thoroughly new “spiritual” (not racial) dimension:

It was hinted earlier that the Buddhists might have taken the old, racial, distinction of Aryan and non-Aryan and transformed this into the spiritual distinction of those who are ariyan* and unariyan. The new Aryan, he who is truly Aryan, is the supermundane* sāvaka* who is to be contrasted with the new non-Ayran, the new mleccha, who is the mundane puthujjana and who, whilst probably of Aryan descent racially, is nonetheless totally non-Aryan in habit and conduct. (ibid, pg. 28)

An interesting parallel concerning this was presented in our The Doctrine of Awakening series on Evola, especially the blog on The Spiritual Race:

[For Evola] this places him squarely in league with the tenants of the Lankavatara Sutra, whose teachings are first and foremost for the Maha-Bodhisattvas, and not for the puthujjanas, the lesser able (Worldlings), who refuse to move from the illusions of their own comfort zone—who will never be attuned with Buddha-gnosis. As Evola will point out, the Buddha also originally taught—not to the common crowd—but only to the ariya, or those attuned to the very spirit that leads one to Noble Self-realization. This was the Doctrine of the Buddha—the Noble Path of Buddha gnosis, the Aryan-ariya-naya, the very Root of the Four Noble Truths themselves. Sadly, this “Noble” truth has been so watered down today that the Buddha and his teachings have been reduced to mere ignoble attention to the psychophysical needs of puthujjanas who wallow in their misery—who want to get all warm and “touchy-feely” with their angst and thus being wholly inattentive to the Real-Stuff of the Buddhadharma. They’re not even being given a watered-down version, but a Non-version of what the Buddha taught for Noble Self-realization.

In light of this, Masefield, in league with Evola, is concerned with a spiritual and not, prima facie, a straight out racial component. It is more about “a Luminous-race bearing Bodhi seeds that will take root only in Noble Soil—soil that has been tilled with the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Ten-fold Path leading to the Self-realization of Noble Wisdom.”

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