That’s wrong. Arhatas become themselves buddhas; there is no question of their not knowing the buddha. Yes, as a scholar, as a great learned man, as a man immensely studious and a man of tremendous memory, he has not known what the nature of enlightenment is, what is buddhahood. But it is not because of his being an arhata. The moment he became enlightened, then he became an arhata. The arhatahood or bodhisattvahood comes after enlightenment, not before.
Only when you become enlightened do you realize what is your nature. Is there any desire for compassion, or no desire for any compassion? Are you ready to leave this shore immediately, or are you going to stay here to help a few people to become enlightened?
I know this statement that – arhats don’t know the buddha – is not the fault of the person who has taken the notes. It is Bodhidharma’s statement, because he is a bodhisattva and the conflict between bodhisattvas and arhatas is twenty-five centuries old. They go on condemning each other. They simply cannot understand a person who becomes enlightened and has no compassion.
The bodhisattva cannot understand that enlightenment is possible without compassion and the arhata cannot understand that a man of enlightenment still has a desire to help; he has not yet become desireless. He still wants to interfere into other people’s lifestyle. If they don’t want to awaken, who are you to awaken them? Then just move silently so that their sleep is not broken…to the arhata that is real compassion. You don’t want to interfere in anybody’s life; everybody has to live his own life according to his own light, according to his own individuality. And whenever his time comes to become enlightened, he will become enlightened. You cannot force anybody to become enlightened. It is not something that somebody can be persuaded, or somebody can be seduced into.
Neither the arhata can understand the bodhisattva, nor the bodhisattva can understand the arhata. They are such diametrically opposite poles. That’s why I say this mistake is not of the note-taker, this mistake comes from Bodhidharma himself; he is not an arhata.
Now, Buddhist countries are divided into sections. For example, Japan belongs to Mahayana, the land of the bodhisattvas, and Sri Lanka belongs to Hinayana, the land of the arhatas. In Sri Lanka there is no respect for Zen at all. If you talk about Bodhidharma in Sri Lanka, they will simply laugh at you – “That man was mad!” And if you talk about arhatas like Ananda in Japan, they will simply say, “That man was utterly selfish; his whole life he was so blindly selfish that he was putting conditions on Gautam Buddha and when he became enlightened, then he simply disappeared, went to the further shore, into eternity – without bothering for a single moment that there are people who need a few guidelines, a few hints; who are borderline cases, just a little push and they will take the quantum leap.”