In early Buddhism, an arhat (Sanskrit) or arahant (Pali) – perfected person, one who has gained insight into the verity nature of existence and has achieved nirvana. The arhat, having freed himself from the bonds of desire, won’t be reborn. 


 Arhat (Luohan)

The acknowledgment of the assumption has changed over the centuries and varies between different schools of Buddhism and regions. In early scriptures, Gautama Siddhartha is typically also called an arhat. Both an arhat and a Buddha were treated to be perfectly enlightened and purified of all defilements. One difference between an arhat and a Buddha was that a Buddha realized enlightenment on his own, while an arhat was guided to enlightenment by a lecturer.

Mahayana Buddhist teachings motivate followers to take up the trail of a bodhisattva and to not fall back to the number of arhats and śrāvakas. The arhats, or a minimum number of the senior arhats, came to be widely regarded by Theravada Buddhists as “moving beyond the state of personal freedom to hitch the Bodhisattva enterprise in their way”.

The Arahant in Theravada Buddhism

In Theravada, the Buddha himself is first identified as an arhat, as are his enlightened followers, because they’re free from all defilements, existing without greed, hatred, delusion, ignorance, and craving. In Theravada Buddhism, an arahant could be the one that has eliminated all the unwholesome roots which underlie the fetters, who upon their death won’t be reborn in any world, since the fetters bind an individual to the samsara are finally dissolved. Today’s Theravada still defines the Pali word arahant as a wonderfully enlightened and purified being.

Theravada Buddhism

The Arahant in Theravada Buddhism.

The state of an arhat is taken into account within the Theravada tradition to be the genuine goal of a Buddhist. Four stages of attainment are stated in Pali texts as:

  1. The state of the “stream-enterer”, i.e., a convert (sotapanna) is fulfilled by overcoming false reliance and doubts regarding the worshiper, the teaching (dhamma), and so the order (sangha).
  2. The “once-returner” (sakadagamin), who is reborn just once during this realm, a state attained by diminishing lust, hatred, and illusion.
  3. The “nonreturner” (anagamin), who reborn in higher heaven after death, where he might become an arhat, a state attained by overcoming sensuous desire and ill will, additionally to the attainments of the primary two stages.
  4. The arhat. Besides under exceptional situations, a man or woman can become an arhat only while a monk or nun.

The Arhat in Mahayana Buddhism

Mahayana Buddhists may use the word arhat to mention an enlightened being, or they will consider an arhat to be someone who is incredibly far along the trail but who has not yet realized Buddhahood. They often use the word shravaka — “one who hears and proclaims”, as a synonym for arhat. Both words describe an extremely advanced practitioner’s merit of respect.


Temple of 500 Arhats in Sri Lanka.

Mahayana Buddhism has viewed the śrāvaka path culminating in arhatship as a lesser accomplishment than complete enlightenment, but still accords due regard to arhats for his or her respective achievements. Therefore, buddha-realms are portrayed as populous by both śrāvakas and bodhisattvas. Far-off from being completely disregarded, the accomplishments of arhats are viewed as impressive, essentially because they need to transcend the mundane world.


Golden statues of Arhats of Wat Bang Thong Temple, Karbi Province, Thailand.

In China, additionally, to Korea, Japan, and Tibet, arhats (Chinese lohan, Japanese Rakan) were often depicted on the walls of temples in groups of 16 (later enlarged to 18, or maybe 500). They represent 16 close disciples of Gautama Buddha who were entrusted by him to stay within the world and not to enter nirvana until the approaching of the subsequent Buddha, to supply people with objects of worship.

Disciples of Buddha

The Eighteen Disciples of the Buddha.

Mahayana Buddhists criticize the arhat ideal because the bodhisattva could be a higher goal of perfection, for the bodhisattva vows to become a buddha to figure for the well-being of others. This divergence of opinion continues to be one of all the elemental differences between the Theravada and Mahayana traditions.


A range of views on the attainment of arhats existed within the first Buddhist schools. The Sarvāstivāda, Kāśyapīya, Mahāsāṃghika, Ekavyāvahārika, Lokottaravāda, Bahuśrutīya, Prajñaptivāda and Caitika schools all judged arhats as being inferior in their attainments compared to buddhas. The Dharmaguptaka sect adhered that “the Buddha and also the people of the 2 vehicles, although they have one and also the identical liberation, have followed different imperial aisles.

Tags: Buddhism

One Comment

  1. Sindhu

    Lots and lots of information about Buddhism. Good Content

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