30)“Are there any arahants in the world at the present time?”
THIS POINT CAN be answered by quoting the Buddha, “If all bhikkhus live rightly, the world will not be empty of arahants (worthy, undefiled beings).” He said this on the very day he died.
If doubts or questions arise as to whether there are any arahants nowadays, don’t go answering simply “Yes” or “No”. This would be a serious mistake. You must answer by quoting the Buddha, “If bhikkhus live rightly, the world will not be empty of arahants.”
This leaves us with the question,
“What is meant by living rightly?”
“RIGHT LIVING” REALLY has a special meaning of its own. To live rightly is simply to maintain conditions such that the mental defilements cannot obtain nourishment and cannot develop. Hence, it is nothing other than living all the time with a mind that is free and empty (cit waang), that is, a mind that views the entire world as something empty and does not clutch or grab at anything as being a self or belonging to a self.
Then, though one will continue to speak, think, and act; to seek, use, and consume things; one will not have the idea of grasping at any one of them as being a self. Just acting with constant awareness, acting wisely, acting with insight into the circumstances in which one is involved — that is what is known as “living rightly”. In other words, living rightly is living in such a way that the defilements have no means of arising and no means of obtaining nourishment.
We could also say it amounts to keeping to the Noble Eightfold Path. This is right living because right understanding, the first aspect of the Noble Path, is simply the knowledge, the understanding, the unobscured and perfect insight, that there is nothing that should be grasped at or clung to. Thus, in striving, in speaking, in any activity whatsoever, there is simply no grasping or clinging.
If we live rightly as described, the defilements become undernourished and emaciated. They fall away of their own accord and become completely extinct. There is no way they can arise again, because one has given up the habit of letting them arise.
This is important because the things called anusaya (unwholesome tendencies), which build up within us, are only a matter of familiarity with defilement.
However, one who doesn’t know this looks upon the defilements as permanent entities or selves, and thus falls into the wrong view of eternalism (sassata-di..hi).
To hold that the defilements are permanent entities lying deep within the character is to be an eternalist, one who clings to belief in an eternal self or soul. Those who have insight and understanding based on Buddhist principles cannot regard these things as independent and permanent entities or selves. There is a reason for their existence; they arise in conformity with causal laws. When they arise too frequently, one becomes used to them and regards them as permanent aspects of one’s nature. Believing them to be permanent misleads us to think they are lying in wait deep within us all the time.
Do understand that the anusaya are only our habitual tendencies, the results of a process of familiarization. This is how the word “anusaya” is used.