Досточтимый Дхамманандо написал:
Regarding your other question (the one you e-mailed to me) about the decline of
the Buddha's dispensation, I hope you don't mind if I reply here as I seem to
have mislaid the e-mail.
1. The Pali atthakathaas and sub-commentaries are unanimous in their view that
realization (pa.tivedha) in Gotama's dispensation will last for 5,000 years and
then cease. This point is not contested by anyone.
2. However, there is no unanimity in the Atthakathaas concerning the manner of
decline during these 5,000 years. Rather, there are four quite discrepant
predictions of both the order of decline and the timescale for how long each
kind of ariyan attainment will last.
3. Buddhaghosa himself only reports the discrepant predictions without offering
any personal comment. He doesn't draw attention to the discrepancies in the
predictions, or attempt to reconcile them or advocate that one of them should be
preferred over the others.
4. In the sub-commentaries to the Tipi.taka, together with various minor Vinaya
treatise of the 12th-13th centuries, the discrepancies in the predictions are
explained as being due to their very origin: they are merely the
opinions that arose among different groups of text-reciters (bhaa.naka) and
which Buddhaghosa encountered here and there and wished to record for posterity.
5. If the sub-commentaries are right, then it follows that the status of the
predictions is not that of authoritative commentary (i.e., they are not sourced
in the atthakathaas brought to Ceylon by Mahinda.
6. It further follows that such claims as "non-returnership is the highest
ariyan attainment possible in the present age" or "attainment in the present age
is possible only by dry-visioned practice, not by jhaana" have only the
flimsiest textual support.
To Sarah, Jon, Nina, Rob, etc.
I realize the point of view I have expressed above is rather different to the
one usually voiced in DSG on this subject. However, inasmuch as this judgment of
the .Tiikaa authors has not to my knowledge been challenged by any Theravaadin
scholar of note for the last eight centuries, I believe it has a much stronger
claim to being the orthodox Theravadin view than that expressed in the Thai
article translated by Nina ("The Disappearance of Ariyans") to which readers of
DSG are often directed. The conclusion in that article is:
"It can be concluded that at the present time, which is the third period of
thousand years in the dispensation of the Buddha Gotama, nobody has the
excellent qualities of the degree of the arahat, and the highest attainment will
only be that of the anaagaamii."
The problem with this conclusion is that it is based upon seriously inadequate
research that doesn't take into account all of the relevant textual sources. In
1. The article's authors base their conclusion on the prediction of decline in
the Vinaya Atthakathaa, and a parallel passage in the Anguttara Atthakathaa, but
ignore a discrepant prediction also contained in the Anguttara Atthakathaa
(commentary to a nameless sutta in the Pamaadaadi Vagga of the Ekanipaata).
2. They ignore the discrepant prediction in the Samyutta Atthakathaa (commentary
to the Saddhammapa.tiruupaka Sutta).
3. They misunderstand the Digha Atthakathaa's commentary to the Sampasaadaniiya
Sutta as being relevant only to the decline of the past dispensation of Kassapa
Buddha. But the very reason for the commentary describing the decline of
pa.tivedha in Kassapa's dispensation is that the Diigha-bhaa.nakas held that
pa.tivedha in Gotama's dispensation would decline in an identical pattern (as
attested in the Anguttara and Vinaya sub-commentaries).
4. They neglect all of the sub-commentarial and Vinaya treatises in which these
discrepancies are addressed. These are chiefly the Saaratthadiipanii.tiikaa to
the Vinaya Pi.taka, the .tiikaa to the Anguttara Nikaaya, and two other Vinaya
treatises: the Siimavisodhanii and Vimativinodanii.
I regret that I'm not able to give precise citations right now as I'm separated
from my library and writing from memory, but I will try to rectify this omission
when I'm back in Bangkok.