It highly gratified our Delegates to Ceylon to find that not only every educated priest and layman, but the uneducated people of that Island also, knew the possibility of man’s acquiring the exalted psychical powers of adeptship, and the fact that they had often been acquired. At Bentota we were taken to a temple where a community of 500 of these Rahats, or adepts, had formerly resided. Nay, we even met those who had quite recently encountered such holy men; and a certain eminent priest, who joined our Society, was shortly after permitted to see and exchange some of our signs of recognition with one. It is true that, as in India and Egypt, there is a prevalent idea that the term for the manifestation of the highest grades of rahatship (Rahat or Arahat is the Pali equivalent of the Sanskrit Rishi—one who has developed his psychical powers to their fullest extent) has expired, but this comes from a mistaken notion that Buddha himself had limited the period of such development to one millennium after his death. To set this matter at rest we here give a translation by Mr. Frederic Dias, Pandit of the Galle Theosophical Society, of passages which may be regarded as absolutely authoritative. They were kindly collected for us by the chief assistant priest of the Paramananda Vihara, at Galle.—ED. [H.P.B.]
An opinion is almost universally current among the literary class of Buddhists that the period of the world for attaining to Rahatship has expired, and the present age is only a theoretical period of the Yoga-system. That this opinion is erroneous, is evident from the numerous passages of the Buddhistical Scriptures where the Dhyana system is described and the practical course of contemplation discussed. From the many detailed accounts of Rahatship, the following are extracted:
“Digha Nikaya.” (Section treating on Dhyana System, “Parinibberica Suttan.”)
“Hear Subhaddra. The world will not be devoid of Rahats if the Yogis in my dispensation will and truly perform my precepts.”
“Manorata Purani Angottara Atawáeva.”
Within a period of one thousand years from the temporal death of Buddha, the sacerdotal order will attain to that grade of Rahat termed ‘Siwupilidimbiapat Rahat’ (the 1st order). At the lapse of this period the sacerdotal order will attain tot he grade termed ‘Shat Abhigna’ (the 2nd order). In the course of time the sacerdotal order will attain to the grade ‘tividdhya’ (3rd order). After a further lapse of time this grade will also cease, and the priesthood will attain only ‘Suska Widarsaka’ (4th order).
Among these four grades of Rahat a limited time is defined only to the first order. And no defined period is assigned to the prevalence of the other orders.
“Milindapprasna,”—By the Rahat Magasena.
“As a pond is kept filled up with water by the continual pouring of rain; as a conflagration is kept up by feeding the fire with dry wood; as a glass is lustred by frequent cleaning; even so by the invariable observance of the enjoined devotional rules, and by indefatigable exertion to lead a pure life on the part of the priesthood, the world will not be devoid of Rahats.”
So it is evident that the attainment of Rahatship has no defined period.