Talk:Arhat/version 2

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Apparently someone thinks matters aught be discussed @ Talk:Three Buddhas. I'll see what can be done there, feel free to join us if your reading this. Sam [Spade] 19:44, 8 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Mahayana arhats[edit]

The list of questions below by (20040302 09:07, 9 Nov 2004 (UTC)) (The Contentionus Paragraph) says that pratyekabuddhas are not called arhats any more than Samyaksambuddhas - ie. in the general sense that all Buddhist saints can be given the title arhat ie 'worthy, deserving (of offerings). Actually, there are texts which specifically place sravakas and pratyekabuddhas in the category of arhat, but not bodhisattvas and Buddhas (except in the 'general sense'). But, as is mentioned below, other times the specific sense is sravakas alone. Citation of the arhats in the monastery garden as evidence that arhats were not used a foil for the Mahayanists confuses two rather separate issues. The Mahayana 'cult' of the arhats, which the statues represent, is mainly a Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Tibetan form of devotion. Its Indian Mahayana textual origins are quite removed from the Mahayana discourse on the differences between the Hinayana and Mahayana, except insofar as it may reflect a softening of the Mahayana attitudes to arhats, in opposition to that discourse. Mahayanists are taught not to denigrate the 'Hinayana' school, but in their teachings on the stages of enlightenment they leave no doubt that they regard the way of the arhat as inferior - genuinely Buddhist, but not as good as the bodhisattva or Buddha Way. Contrary to what the questioner asserts, plenty of Mahayanist clearly argue that arhats are not compassionate enough, even if they do not go so far as to say they are self-centred. The very presence of Mahayana texts warning not to denigrate the Hinayana reflects the fact that Mahayanists typically did do that, and others who came later regretted this.


Vietnamese name for arhat. This the first time I see the term translated this way (a la hán). I can see where the first word 'a' comes from but I far as I know, arhat has always been translated as 'la han' in Vietnamse. Vietnamese call the earliest known disciples of the Buddha as Thâp bát La Hán (18 arhats). (mirrordor) 05/5/2007

The contentious paragraph[edit]

In some Mahāyāna texts, the arhat (or the śrāvaka and pratyekabuddha who are practicing towards arhatship) is placed in the position of foil for the Mahāyāna exemplar, the bodhisattva. This is seen to disparage practitioners of the two vehicles as adherents of the "lesser vehicle", implying that they are engaged in practices that are self-centered and incomplete in the wisdom of emptiness.

  • In some Mahāyāna texts - what Mahayana texts?
  • Noone agrees that pratyekabuddha are practicing towards Arhatship: they have already attained Nirvana.
  • There is no evidence of Arhats being placed in a position of foil for Mahayanas. The photo next to the article shows golden statues from a Mahayana temple. There is plenty of evidence from the earliest of mahayana sutras (e.g. Lotus sutra, chapter 14) to show that practitioners of all vehicles are to be revered and respected.
  • The issue of disparagement towards the Sravakayana receives very limited support in light of evidence from tradition and texts.
  • The final phrase, regarding implication is just rhubarb. Even if there was disparagement which there isn't, the implication does not follow .
  • Moreover, the idea that Sravakas are self-centred is a misunderstanding of the Mahayana stance towards the Sravakayana.
  • Lastly, I don't know of any sources that apply the term Arhat to Pratyekabuddhas when they do not also apply it to Samyaksambuddhas (ie in it's broad sense). When it is used in it's restricted sense, it is used to identify Sravakabuddhas. I may be wrong about this, but I have not found evidence that supports a claim of Arhat being used to indicate both Pratyekabuddhas and Sravakabuddhas, excluding Samyaksambuddhas.
  • I am aware that sources such as the Encyclopedia Britannica make all sorts of claims about these issues, but unfortunately the articles are poorly written, with no primary sources.

Regarding the attribution of 'selfishness' towards the Sravakas, there is some evidence of the the attribution by some Mahayana (notably Japanese buddhist) schools. However, there is actually a widespread (but subtle) misconception about the Japanese Buddhist application of the term 'selfish': It is based on the idea that an individual who does not wish to engage in the three kalpas of the Bodhisattva path in order to turn the wheel of Dharma as a Samyaksam-Buddha is selfish. However, it is NOT an accusation that Sravakas are selfish in their general behaviour, and it is NOT an assertion that the Sravakas could not or will not teach the path to Nirvana. After all, if it did mean the latter, what would be the difference between the Sravaka and the Pratyeka?

When we attend Mahayana and Vajrayana talks, we are told repeatedly not to criticise the Hinayana or the Theravada in any way at all. So, far from hearing criticism of the Theravadins, we hear praise and respect; we are also taught to never criticise any of the followers of Buddha. While attendomg Vajrayana teachings, we are taught not to criticise ANYTHING - not even a rainfall or a piece of dirt. I agree that there is some idea in the West (propagated by who?) that many Mahayanists wish to denigrate or denide the Theravadins and the Sravakayana. I have found none of that in 30 years of attending talks from Buddhists teachers around the world. This is why I am convinced that such claims are attribution errors.

The arhats are in the daily prayers of the Mahayanists; one of the greatest of Tibetan rinpoches is said to be the rebirth of the Arhat Bakula. There are numerous other acknowledgements. Frankly, the evidence from Sutra and the Vajrayana tradition is so strongly in favour of recognising the Sravaka as a valid and respected path, with valid methods and valid goals, that I cannot understand where these ideas of denigration come from. (20040302 09:07, 9 Nov 2004 (UTC))

Thanks, 20040302, your scholarship on this issue is appreciated. Do you think that it might be useful to include some information on the purported criticisms of Hinayana Buddhism that appear in sources such as Encyclopaedia Britannica?
The difficulty that I have is one of attribution. there has been an ongoing Western concept about Mahayana attitudes towards the SravakaBuddhas. The issue is subtle, and obviously I am only able to talk from what limited reading and understanding I have. There is an issue regarding Nirvana that I mentioned on another talk page ( Talk:Bodhisattva ) earlier today which also confounds the issue. But primarily, the normal take on the Mahayana attitudes towards the Hinayana/Sravakayana is far too reductive to accept on it's face value. As most articles such as EB do not cite sources, it is hard to chase sources. I left a question of this nature on User_Talk:Acmuller - the original author of the paragraph in question.
Also, I rewrote the second paragraph of the entry because it did not make a whole lot of sense previously. The third and final paragraph also needs something done to it: it is quite confusing in light of the previous discussion about the nuanced meaning of the word. I still think that Sravaka-Buddha should be merged with this article so they can be discussed together. - Nat Krause 14:08, 10 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Yes - it reads well. Thanks Nat. Please feel encouraged to have a go with the other two! Merger may hard, due to the dual meanings of Arhat - maybe we need a disambiguation page (for the SravakaBuddha -> for Buddha -> ) something like that? (20040302 16:01, 10 Nov 2004 (UTC))

Wow, look at all the thoughtful comments![edit]

This is seen to disparage practitioners of the two vehicles as adherents of the "lesser vehicle", implying that they are engaged in practices that are self-centered and incomplete in the wisdom of emptiness.

This sentance is one which has some value I feel, and if it needs to be reworded, I'd like to see the links kept. Cheers, Sam [Spade] 16:15, 11 Nov 2004 (UTC)
I struggle with your sentence on many fronts (and have queried it extensively above). But, to ease my mind, could you give me a list of the Mahayana sutras that actually do disparage the Sravakas in the way as suggested? Also, I would like to know your reaction(s) to e.g.
  • Lotus Sutra ch. 14: A bodhisattva [...] does not hold other Buddhists in contempt, not even those who follow the Hinayana path, nor does he cause them to have doubts or regrets by criticizing their way of practice or making discouraging remarks.
  • Ethics chapter of Asanga's Bodhisattvabhumi: [Do not] Disparage the Hinayana, or over-encourage others to learn Mahayana.
  • Candragomin's twenty verse summary: (a root downfall): Rejecting the Sravakayana
  • 18,000 verse perfection of wisdom sutra: Bodhisattvas should practice all paths - whatever is a path of a sravaka, a pratyeka or a Buddha - and should know all paths.
  • Vimalakirti Sutra (opening verses): Reverence to all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Aryasravakas, and Pratyekabuddhas, in the past, the present, and the future
  • Vimalakirti Sutra (opening verses): [...] Of bhikshus there were eight thousand, all arhats. They were free from impurities and afflictions, and all had attained self-mastery. Their minds were entirely liberated by perfect knowledge [...]
An often-misrepresented component of the Lotus sutra states that 5,000 haughty Bikkhus get up and leave. I refer you to the Theravadan (or other alternative) Vinaya which often distinguishes haughty Bikkhus as being those whose ethics are weak, whereas the Lotus states that there are 20,000 Bikshus and Bikhunis present at the discourse. So this is not evidence of disparagement towards Sravakas, but merely towards those who are haughty.
I submit that the evidence for such ideas as The arhat [is] placed in the position of foils for the Mahāyāna hero is based upon interpretation of a specific sort. My experiences - certainly from the indo-tibetan axis of Mahayana buddhism - would say that such interpretations are wildly distorted.
So, I'm sorry Sam, could you argue your case? I would like to understand what you are stating. Currently you are making a bare assertion - care to stick a foundation to it? (20040302 16:44, 11 Nov 2004 (UTC))
Hmm... sure I'd like to! But I know almost nothing about Buddhism ;) I simply know that this concept of two vehicles, and the ethics involved, the distinction between altruism and asceticism, is an important one. When discussing these matters with a Buddhist friend of mine, he explained Arhat as being the ascetic version, craving dissolution, and bodhisattva as the altruist version, willing to come back to earth to help others (like Christ). I (as a lay-reader ;) would like to maintain some explanation of this distinction here, or better yet, see it expanded upon. Of course I have no references to back this up, its just the reason why I had this on my watchlist in the first place :) Sam [Spade] 17:03, 11 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Well, I don't want to disappoint you - but regarding the two vehicles concept, I read the cited sutra ( Srimala-sutra.), and it didn't mention two vehicles at all, but reiterated the normal Triyana division. Moreover, the article distinguished the two vehicles as sravakayana and pratyekayana, which in light of your comment would be mistaken regardless; it would be more appropriate to say the Hinayana and Mahayana - the divisions of which, of course, are only recognised by the Mahayana schools (see Yana )
Your friend has some interesting ideas about the distinctions between the SravakaBuddha and the SamyaksamBuddha, which I guess are based upon the technical variations of doctrine in early Buddhist schools that led to the development of the Mahayana: As I understand it, this was a dispute based upon whether or not nirvana-with-remainder came before or after nirvana-without-remainder. (The Mahayana schools say that SamyaksamBuddhas remain in nirvana-with-remainder, and that this is the final nirvana).
However, the sentence that you like deviates rather strongly from such a discussion. It may be good sometime to look at the real differences between the Mahasamghika and the other early buddhist schools, but such a discussion would not really belong under the Arhat article. If you like, I can let you know when the opportunity arises.
Lastly, the Bodhisattva doesn't 'come back' to earth when s/he acheives enlightenment as a SamyaksamBuddha - s/he attains enlightenment on earth, but I get your point, and it is a nice one. It just needs to be written in the right manner, and in the right place!
There are many interesting relationships between Buddhism and Christianity. Did you know that Buddha is a Catholic saint?! Check out the saints Barlaam and Josaphat. I also have a Buddhist traditional text that compares the Bodhisattva to a shepherd - the shepherd, fisherman and king metaphors are used to describe the three different types of compassion found in the Bodhisattva. Interesting! (20040302 19:41, 11 Nov 2004 (UTC))
Interesting. Please do let me know when and if there is such a dicussion of the moral distinctions between asceticism (and dissolution) and altrusim / righteousness. It interests me a great deal. Cheers, Sam [Spade]
Definately! (20040302)

Arhats in the Lotus and Heart sutras[edit]

Here's Red Pine (Bill Porter) on arhans (sic) in the Lotus, from his book The Heart Sutra, p138: Chapter Two of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha tells Shariputta and the other arhans seeking to become bodhisattvas that the nirvana they have attained is really but an imaginary oasis on the road to buddahood.

Nobody's perfect but Pine is pretty good at this kind of thing. So I'll be reviewing that chapter when I get around to it. Pine is probably talking about stuff like "Even if the whole world were filled with men like Shariputra...still they could not understand".

The historical Shariputra (his relics were dredged up by Sir Alexander Cunningham in 1851) was considered an arhat, whose attainment, if that is the word, was as respected as anyone of his time except Shakyamuni. I am not aware that during his lifetime anyone ever questioned his qualifications to teach.

Consider the Heart Sutra, which, like the Lotus, almost certainly does not record an actual event in Shariputra's life. In the sutra, the Bodhisattva Avolokiteshvara lectures Shariputra about emptiness, etc., in several cases reiterating doctrines well known in the Nikaya tradition. Reasonable persons can detect the condescension to which Charles Muller referred. Perhaps his statement was not "defensive, counter-factual" as the history page suggests. I've a few more things to do on this, but the gist of his remarks should be restored—that the arhat was a foil for the Mahayana examplar. The other points he makes can be covered pro and con in certain other wikis. --Munge 07:45, 20 Feb 2005 (UTC)

"foe destroyer"[edit]

So, someone deleted "foe destroyer". I imagine that's because it's not immediately obvious from Apte, or the Cologne online version of Monier Williams. However, it is found as a translation for arihat in the original Monier-Williams; see the lower right hand corner of the scanned page. I certainly see the term "foe destroyer" or similar used as a translation for arhat/arhan/arahant etc. Notably This translation of the Diamond Sutra displays both in English and Sanskrit] and uses the phrase "Destroyer of the foe" a lot (generally, in a favorable context, as a title of honor for Buddha). Some of those passages correspond to the ones where Thich Nhat Hanh uses the term arhat. Actually, I am not sure there is even an extant Diamond sutra in Sanskrit--is that other one real, or some kind of re-translation back into Sanskrit from Chinese or Tibetan or something? In any event, I am expressing the hope that others might help with more reliable sources. --Munge 04:37, 21 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Arhat in the Srimaladevisimhanada Sutra[edit]

Paul Williams, in Mahayana Buddhism (subtitle) The Doctrinal Foundations, pp100-101, sez (I'm blowing off diacritics as usual) "Perhaps the most important Tathagatagarbha sutra, at least in terms of citations in later Indian sources, is the Srimaladevisimhanada Sutra. It has bgben suggested that this sutra was ooriginally a Mahasamghika scripture composed in the Deccan/South India (Andhra) during the third century CE." (footnote omitted here) "The point remains controversial, however. The text as it standard draws a sharp contrast between the non-Mahayana saints on the one hand and fuly enlightened Buddha on the other. the Arhats and Pratykabuddhas have not finished with karma, they will be reborn, they are far from the ' nirvana-realm ' (Buddhahood...) The tathagatagarbha is the domain of the Buddha alone, it is not realized by the non-Mahayana saints..." --Munge 09:22, 5 Mar 2005 (UTC)

The continuing "misunderstanding" that the arhat is self-centered[edit]

20040302 wrote:

the idea that Sravakas are self-centred is a misunderstanding of the Mahayana stance towards the Sravakayana

The temple that's home to the arhat statues (referring to the photo featured in the article) remarks "Arhats refers to those who had extinguished all defilements and suffered afflictions. They had benefited themselves and severed all bonds of existence." Nice words, but they subtly spread the idea that the arhat is motivated to benefit one's self and omit to mention any concern for others.

If that is a misunderstanding, it is one that is expressed by the temple whose sculpture garden is featured in our article.

Even so, the author of the temple's Web site considers that the Arhats "were conversant with the true teachings and had reached the other shore, never to be subject to the relentless cycle of birth and death. As their cultivation is complete and their righteousness exemplary, these saints are worthy of offerings from sentient beings." --Munge 09:52, 5 Mar 2005 (UTC)

All I can say is that 20040302's interpretation is very different from others I have heard, and from my own understanding, but that I am not an expert on buddhism. (Sam Spade | talk | contributions) 16:17, 5 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Munge - I understand your thoughts, but I disagree with your interpretations, as ever :-) "Arhats refers to those who had extinguished all defilements and suffered afflictions. They had benefited themselves and severed all bonds of existence." does not, IMO say "Sravakas are self-centred"
There appears to be a subtle point, but it is this:
The Nikaya doctrine of nirvana-without-remainder means that there is no difference (after death) between a sravaka-buddha and a samyaksam-buddha, and most significantly, there is no ability for any type of buddha to benefit others after death. Therefore, as we are currently in the world of Shakyamuni, the only option for students of Shakyamuni is to achieve sravaka-buddhahood, or if one is to be a Bodhisattva, (like Maitreya), to postpone nirvana until one has manifested as a samyaksam-buddha.
Mahayana buddhism has a distinct doctrine of nirvana-without-remainder, and so therefore there is a distinction between the sravaka-buddhas who are at peace, therefore not initially engaged in benefitting others (after death), and the samyaksam-buddhas who are actively engaged in benefitting others for all time. If one insists on stating that the sravaka-buddha is selfish, then the term's sole scope is based on the fact that from within mahayana doctrine, sravaka-buddhas have a (rather extended) holiday.
It is not even that the Nikayas are selfish, or self-centred, according to the Mahayana, just that their (the Nikaya) view excludes the possibility of the mahayana rendition of the samyaksam-buddha.
A problem with 'self-centredness' is that most people will attribute worldly behaviour to that term - i.e. being self-interested and non-compassionate in one's behaviour. But, as we all (should) know, compassion and non-harm is as much a part of the Nikaya tradition as it is the Mahayana.
It is because of general attitudes such as Sam's that these issues are a big deal. I am aware that there are many modern texts and books that say all sorts of things. This is most evident when scholars talk about the Mahayana based on Nikaya doctrine, but imply that they are actually stating Mahayana doctrine. (Try a google on "postpone nirvana" - and then see how many articles not only do not distinguish that view as being specific only to the Nikaya, but also use sanskrit terminologies, such as 'Bodhisattva'). (20040302 12:16, 28 August 2005 (UTC))

Broken link from article[edit]

WikiProject class rating[edit]

This article was automatically assessed because at least one WikiProject had rated the article as start, and the rating on other projects was brought up to start class. BetacommandBot 16:21, 9 November 2007 (UTC)

"Lay down the burden"[edit]

What does it mean to "lay down the burden"? (talk) 01:11, 14 February 2008 (UTC)

While I think many could provide an intuitive answer (e.g., it refers to dukkha or samsara, etc.), I thought I'd share with you some more detailed information from the Pali literature.
Just to start with some context, this phrase is from a stock formula found repeated in the Pali literature for describing an arahant. The whole phrase — in English (taken from Thanissaro's 1998 translation of MN 1) and Pali — is:

"A monk who is a Worthy One,
devoid of mental fermentations —
who has attained completion,
finished the task,
laid down the burden,
attained the true goal,
destroyed the fetters of becoming,
and is released through right knowledge

bhikkhu arahaṃ
sammadaññā vimutto

Based on a search of the Pali Canon (using the La Trobe U. search engine, the results of this search being here), this formula (with variations for different declensions) can be found at least 43 times in the Pali Canon's Sutta Pitaka.
As can seen above, the Pali for "laid down the burden" is ohitabhāro. Personally, I think the Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary (PED, found on-line here) is a good place to start trying to find pertinent explanations for such. Under the definition of Bhāra (p. 502), the PED states in part:
in metaphors for the burden of (the factors of renewed) existence (the khandhas and similar agents). Esp. in phrase panna-bhāra "one whose load (or burden) has been laid down," one who has attained Arahantship M i.139; A iii.84; S i.233; Dh 402 (=ohita-khandha-bhāra DhA iv.168); Sn 626 (same expln at SnA 467), 914 (expld as patita-bhāra, oropita˚, nikkhitta˚ Nd1 334, where 3 bhāras in this sense are distinguished, viz. khandha˚, kilesa˚, abhisankhāra˚); Th 1, 1021. So at Vism 512 with ref. to the ariya-saccāni, viz. bhāro=dukkha-saccaŋ, bhār' ādānaŋ=samuda-saccaŋ, bhāranikkhepanaŋ=nirodha-s., bhāra-nikkhepan'upāya = magga-s. -- On bhāra in similes see J.P.T.S. 1907, 118. [Boldface added.]
This is rich in possible sources of information. (Perhaps User:Peter_jackson can help us out with what is to be found in JPTS 1907, 118?) The one resource most readily accessible to myself is the Visuddhimagga (Vism.). The above PED entry references Vism. 512 which (using Nanamoli's BPE translation, p. 520) states:
... The truth of suffering should be regarded as a burden, the truth of origin as the taking up of the burden, the truth of cessation as the putting down of the burden, the truth of the path as the means to putting down the burden (see S.iii,26).
One can readily find S.iii,26 (aka, SN 22.22, fittingly enough entitled Bhara or "Burden") on-line with Thanissaro's 2001 translation on "Access to Insight" at The relevant passage states:
The Blessed One said, "And which is the burden? 'The five clinging-aggregates,' it should be said. Which five? Form as a clinging-aggregate, feeling as a clinging-aggregate, perception as a clinging-aggregate, fabrications as a clinging-aggregate, consciousness as a clinging-aggregate. This, monks, is called the burden.
"And which is the carrier of the burden? 'The person,' it should be said. This venerable one with such a name, such a clan-name. This is called the carrier of the burden.
"And which is the taking up of the burden? The craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming. This is called the taking up of the burden.
"And which is the casting off of the burden? The remainderless fading & cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, & letting go of that very craving. This is called the casting off of the burden."
I think some key points here are that the "burden" in this discourse refers to the "five aggregates" (panca-khandha) of "clinging" (upadana), taken up with "craving" (tanha); and, relatedly, this burden is laid down by relinquishing craving. Perhaps more significantly, this passage is essentially a recasting of the Four Noble Truths with "burden" standing in for "suffering" (dukkha). Thus, in short, while far from conclusive, I think the above provides possible support for the initial intuition (that "burden" alludes to "suffering" and samsaric rebirth, etc.)
I hope this helps. Feel free to follow up with any feedback, concerns or questions. (Perhaps some of this should be rehashed for an endnote in this article's reference to "lay down the burden"?) With metta,
Larry Rosenfeld (talk) 06:04, 19 February 2008 (UTC)

Arhat and Brahmin[edit]

Once I have read that the status of arahat in Hinduism corresponded to the status of a Brahmin. Do you know, too?

Austerlitz -- (talk) 12:44, 6 January 2009 (UTC)


The reason for removing the statement 'In the Pali Canon, the word is sometimes used as a synonym for tathagata.' is because it is incorrect though moving in the right direction. Tathagata is the epithet that Gautama Buddha used when referring to himself and himself only. Arhat, as used in the Pali Canon, however, refers to anybody who has attained nirvana. Therefore, the Buddha Gotama sometimes refers to himself as an Arhat because he is someone who has attained nirvana. However, the word Tathagata, although its meaning refers to the ambiguous ontological status of one who abides in nirvana, is only ever applied to Gautma Buddha because he is the founder of the Way. The word is never applied to anyone else. Thankyou. (talk) 12:28, 23 June 2009 (UTC)

No, it sometimes refers to other arahants as well. I just read a sutta like that. Mitsube (talk) 00:51, 10 August 2010 (UTC)


can there be arhats currently with no sakyamuni or maitreya? what becoming a hearer aryan at all? thanks.