big boat, little boat

“Before enligtenment the master prepares the people who are going to succeed him, makes them more articulate, makes them better able to transform the wordless into words, the absolutely silent into song, the absolutely unmoving into dance. Only then will he be able to convey something of help to blind humanity.

Buddha divided his enlightened people into two categories. They both have the same height-there is no quality of lower or higher-they both belong to the same cosmic reality, the fundamental nature. One category is called the arhatas-the arhatas are the ones who become enlightened and remain silent and the second category is called bodhisattvas. They also become enlightened, but their work is to convey something, some device, some hint about their experience to people.


Arhatas are also called hinayana, a little boat in which one man can row and go to the other side. Of course he reaches the other shore. And bodhisattvas are the mahayana, a great ship in which thousands of people can move to the other shore. The other shore is the same, but the bodhisattva helps many.

The arhata is not articulate; he is a simple, nice, utterly humble person, but will not utter a single word of what he has attained. It is too much for him to say anything. He is completely contented; why should he speak? And anyway, everybody has to find his own way, so why unnecessarily harass people? The arhata has his own standpoint.

The arhata is someone who makes every effort to become enlightened and once he is enlightened he completely forgets about those who are still groping in the dark. He has no concern with others. It is enough for him to become enlightened. In fact, according to the arhatas, even the great idea of compassion is nothing but another kind of attachment.

Compassion is also a relationship; howsoever beautiful and great, it is also a concern with others. It is also a desire. Although it is a good desire, it makes no difference-according to the arhatas, desire is a bondage whether it is good or bad. The chains can be made of gold or of steel, it doesn’t matter; chains are chains. Compassion is a golden chain.

The arhata insists that nobody can help anybody else at all. The very idea of helping others is based on wrong foundations. You can help only yourself.

It may occur to the ordinary mind that the arhata is very selfish. But if you look without any prejudice, perhaps he also has something immensely important to declare to the world. Even helping the other is an interference in his life, in his lifestyle, in his destiny, in his future. Hence, arhatas don’t believe in compassion. Compassion to them is another beautiful desire to keep you tethered to the world of attachments. It is another name-beautiful, but it is still just a name-for a desiring mind.

Why should you be interested in somebody becoming enlightened? It is none of your business. Everybody has absolute freedom to be himself. The arhata insists on individuality and its absolute freedom. Even for the sake of good. nobody can be allowed to interfere in anybody else’s life.

Hence the moment he becomes enlightened, the arhata does not accept disciples, he never preaches, he never helps in any way. He simply lives in his ecstasy. If somebody on his own can drink out of his well, he will not prevent him, but he will not send an invitation. If you come to him on your own accord and sit by his side and drink his presence and get on the path, that is your business. If you go astray, he will not stop you.

In a certain way this is the greatest respect ever paid to individual freedom-to the logical extreme. Even if you are falling into deep darkness, the arhata will silently wait. If his presence can help, that is okay, but he is not going to move his hands to help you, give you a hand, pull you out of a ditch. You are free to fall in a ditch and if you can fall in a ditch, you are absolutely capable of getting out of it. The very idea of compassion is foreign to the philosophy of the arhatas.

Gautam Buddha accepted that there are a few people who will become arhatas, and their path will be called hinayana -“the small vehicle”-the small boat in which only one person can go to the other shore. The arhata does not create a big ship or collect a crowd in a Noah’s Ark to take them to the further shore. He goes by himself in his small boat, which cannot even contain two. He is born alone in the world, he has lived and died millions of times alone in the world, and alone he is going to the universal source.


Buddha accepts and respects the way of the arhata, but he also knows there are people who have immense compassion and when they become enlightened, their first longing is to share their joy, to share their truth. Compassion is their way. They also have a profoundtruth. These people are the bodhisattvas. They provoke and invite others to the same experience. And they wait on this shore as long as possible to help all seekers who are ready to move on the path, and who just need a guide, a helping hand. The bodhisattvas can postpone going to the far shore out of compassion for blind people groping in darkness.

Buddha had such a comprehensive and vast perception that he accepted both-that it is the nature of a few people to be arhatas, and it is also the nature of other people to be bodhisattvas. It is the standpoint of Gautam Buddha that such is the case and nothing can be done about it-an arhata will be an arhata and a bodhisattva will be a bodhisattva. Their natures have different destinies, although they reach the same goal finally. But after reaching the goal there is a parting of the ways.

The arhatas don’t stay on this shore even for a single moment. They are tired, they have been long enough in this wheel of samsara, moving through birth and death millions of times. It has already been too much. They are bored and don’t want to stay even a single minute more. Their boat has arrived, and immediately they start moving toward the further shore. This is their suchness.

Then there are bodhisattvas who tell the boatman, “Wait, there is no hurry. I have lingered on this shore long enough-in misery, in suffering, in anguish, in agony. Now all that has disappeared. I am in absolute bliss, silence, and peace, and I don’t see that there is anything more on the other shore. So as long as I can manage, I will be here to help people.”

Gautam Buddha was certainly one of those people who can see the truth even in contradictions. He accepted both without making anybody feel lower or higher.” – Osho, Buddha; his life and teachings and impact on humanity