What is a Great Disciple? (Part 4)

Noble Disciples

In contrast to the ordinary disciples are those disciples in whom the seeds of practice have begun to take root and flourish.  These are the noble disciples (Pali: ariyasāvaka).  As Bhikkhu Bodhi states, “What has raised them from the status of wordling to the plane of spiritual nobility is a radical transformation that has occurred at the very base of the mind.”[1]

There are two ways in which we may view this radical transformation.  The first is a cognitive perspective that is akin to perception.  In this sense, what makes a disciple noble is that they have perceived the Dhamma.  This vision that arises in the noble disciple may be imperfect, but with diligent practice it can be cultivated to bring about the fruit of enlightenment as vast as that of Virojana-bul.

But we should not let the words ‘percevied’ and ‘vision’ lead us astray.  We recite in The Maha Prajnaparamita Hridaya Sutra, “No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind, // no form, sound, smell, taste, touch, or objects of mind, // no realm of sight, no realm of consciousness.”  This vision of the Dhamma is the fruition of practice in this body-mind and so is the fruition of practice with and in each of these six sense bases.  But, as Samu Sunim has remarked, it is like refreshingly tasteless water.  Similary, we might say, it is a sightless vision, a soundless hearing, an odourless smelling, a body without touch, a thought without consciousness of the thought.

[1] Great Disciples, p. XIX.

One thought on “What is a Great Disciple? (Part 4)”

  1. In my own practice and experience, nobility arises in a realm beyond perception and cognition. All the profound teachings and dedicated practice sessions matter very little until they manifest in a person’s day-to-day behaviors.

    Nobility begins when we first develop awareness of our intentions and actions, and then shift our life in a new direction. At least, that’s my experience.

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