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The Quote Farm[edit]

Previously, the Theravada section contained a long list of quotations from the suttas, without any third-party sources or context. This is bad style and unreliable information by Wikipedia standards, as verifiability an encyclopedic format are basic to Wikipedia articles. I have saved these previous quotes below if they may be re-worked or used in the future. However, what might be more helpful, are reliable sources to pin down the basic doctrine of the arahant in Theravada Buddhism. Tengu800 (talk) 17:01, 23 August 2010 (UTC)

In well known verses in the Pali Canon, the Buddha describes himself as an arahant soon after his enlightenment:[1]


all-knowing am I, with regard to all things, unadhering. All-abandoning, released in the ending of craving: having fully known on my own, to whom should I point as my teacher?

I have no teacher, and one like me can't be found. In the world with its devas, I have no counterpart.

For I am an arahant in the world; I, the unexcelled teacher. I, alone, am rightly self-awakened. Cooled am I, unbound.

To set rolling the wheel of Dhamma I go to the city of Kasi. In a world become blind,

I beat the drum of the Deathless.'
— Ariyapariyesana Sutta

In the Pali Canon, Gotama Buddha is described as thus:[2]

A monk called Gotama…a son of the Sakyans who went forth from a Sakyan clan...Now a good report of Master Gotama has been spread to this effect: 'That Blessed One is such since he is arahant and Fully Enlightened, perfect in true knowledge and conduct, sublime, knower of worlds, incomparable teacher of men to be tamed, teacher of gods and humans, enlightened, blessed...He teaches a Dhamma that is good in the beginning, good in the middle and good in the end...' Now it is good to see such arahants.

— Saleyyaka Sutta

In the Pali Canon, Arahant qualities are described as thus:[3]

When a monk is an arahant, his fermentations ended, who has reached fulfillment, done the task, laid down the burden, attained the true goal, totally destroyed the fetter of becoming, and is released through right gnosis, he is dedicated to six things: renunciation, seclusion, non-afflictiveness, the ending of craving, the ending of clinging/sustenance, & non-deludedness.

— Sona Sutta

In the Pali Canon, Arahant qualities are described as thus:[4]

…those monks who are arahants — whose mental effluents are ended, who have reached fulfillment, done the task, laid down the burden, attained the true goal, totally destroyed the fetter of becoming, and who are released through right gnosis — no (future) cycle for manifestation…

— Alagaddupama Sutta

In the Pali Canon, attainment of arahantship is described as thus:[5]

…dwelling alone, secluded, heedful, ardent, and resolute — he in no long time reached and remained in the supreme goal of the holy life, for which clansmen rightly go forth from home into homelessness, knowing and realizing it for himself in the here and now. He knew: ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for the sake of this world.’ And thus Ven. Ratthapala became another one of the arahants.

— Ratthapala Sutta

"Monks, there are these four floods. Which four? The flood of sensuality, the flood of becoming, the flood of views, & the flood of ignorance. These are the four floods. Now, this noble eightfold path is to be developed for direct knowledge of, comprehension of, the total ending of, & the abandoning of these four floods." - SN 45.171

18 Arhats[edit]

Hi, I noticed that there exists a page Eighteen Arhats. In editing a page (Guanxiu) I noticed that this page and the eighteen arhats pages aren't interlinked (as well I tihnk there might be another seperate sixteen arhats article). I thought these might warrent a mention on this page as to improve the context of the other two articles. But since I don't know much about this topic I thought I would just leave a comment. Adrianturcato (talk) 22:58, 19 December 2010 (UTC)

Good catch. I just revised the text to include a link to the 18 arhats, and mention of the first artist. Tengu800 (talk) 01:25, 20 December 2010 (UTC)

Questionable material[edit]

Nonetheless, the Pali Tipitaka, the earliest complete Buddhist canon of scripture, portrays the arhat as the final product of the Buddha's path to liberation and the goal to which all disciples aspired.[4] The Mahayana was motivated by a more altruistic ideal in which spiritual practitioners while making efforts towards their own liberation were moved by compassion towards their fellow man and committed to helping them discover the path to liberation too.[5]

Buddhaghosa is not a reliable source regarding early Buddhism, as he lived almost 1000 years after the Buddha. The Pali Canon also was not put into writing until hundreds of years after the time of the Buddha. The texts of the Pali Canon can tell us certain things about the Theravada school, but not much about early Buddhism as a whole. The statements being made here are also not backed up by the sources. For example, citing an author's interpretations of Buddhaghosa's writings does not provide us any proof about what Buddhists believed almost 1000 years before. The statement being made about the Mahayana is not a reliable source for such material, and the authors are theorizing about the origins of the bodhisattva path, rather than presenting any information or facts related to its actual origins. Tengu800 01:30, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

No serious published scholar accepts your absurd premise that the Pali canon cannot tell us much about early Buddhism. Buddhaghosa is not the source for this statement but the Pali tipitaka itself which was first put to writing in the first century BCE. Buddhaghosa is a commentator and exegete of these writings which were then already hundreds of years old. The nature of the arhat (called arahant in Pali) is made crystal clear within the sutta pitaka. There is no ambiguity whatsoever. It is well known among scholars of Indian religion that the concept of the arhat existed prior to the Buddha's lifetime. What Bhikkhu Bodhi asserts here is uncontroversial. Further, Damien Keown and Charles Prebish (two of the world's leading Buddhist scholars) are not 'theorizing' about the origins of the bodhisattva path but explaining how the Mahayana distinguished itself from other schools and the defining feature in the early Mahayana was the belief in a more pro-actively compassionate form of Buddhist practice using skillful means to help others. It parallels the Christian ethic that was emerging at the same time in the West. The origins of the bodhisattva path can be textually located in the early perfection of wisdom literature. The Mahayana originally called itself the bodhisattva yana. The word Mahayana was a later polemical appellation to assert superiority over schools termed Hinayana. The Mahayana is in essence the vehicle of the bodhisattvas. And a bodhisattva - according to the Perfection of Wisdom in 8000 lines - is someone who while working towards their own liberation helps others to awaken to the path too. None of these things are dubious or controversial. They are commonly accepted data within the community of professional scholars. (talk) 11:33, 24 December 2012 (UTC)
Actually a number of scholars have stated precisely that the Pali Canon can tell us little concrete about early Buddhism. For example, which texts existed at that time, and which were compiled later. Many scholars look to certain materials like the Sutta Nipata as being older than the first four Nikayas, and representing an earlier stratum of Buddhism. Although there is no consensus on the matter, much has been published to this effect by "serious scholars." It has even been pointed out, and has become a common view in scholarship, that early Buddhist texts diverged much more than previously believed. This has been the trend since studying the Gandharan Buddhist Texts, which are different from both Chinese and Pali sources, and yet these are the oldest extant Buddhist texts in existence. The old view that the Pali Canon is roughly representative of early Buddhism does not have much credibility.
Again, your viewpoint that the Sutta Pitaka says this or that is original research. If it is not original research, then the viewpoint can be attributed to some scholar or commentator. Wikipedia typically relies on high quality secondary sources, not primary sources, and certainly not primary sources that require the interpretation of religious texts. Bhikkhu Bodhi is a scholar, but he is a religious scholar and not a secular academic. His statements should be attributed to him rather than to the Pali Canon itself (again, attributing a view to a religious text is original research).
Your material that you added about the Mahayana is cherry picking sources and misrepresenting them. The material you added was written in such a way that it promotes the view that bodhisattvas have the same goal as arhats ("liberation"). However, this viewpoint you are promoting contradicts mainstream scholarship on Mahayana Buddhism, as well as the vast majority of Mahayana texts. It is a standard Mahayana teaching, for example, that arhats have not attained the same nirvana as samyaksambuddhas. It is also a standard teaching that there is a hierarchy of attainments, with samyaksambuddhas at the top, advanced bodhisattvas below that, pratyekabuddhas below that, and arhats further below. The material added does not make this critical distinction, but attempts to whitewash the entire matter while claiming that the stated source backs up such a view. In fact, the material does not represent the original source well at all, or give a balanced view on the matter. The material added is being used to advance your own view and is being done by cherry-picking sources and misrepresenting them.
Further, your claim that the term Mahayana is polemic is untrue and shows that you are not so familiar with scholarship on the matter. Nattier has shown that the term Hinayana was created long after the term Mahayana, and that the term Mahayana was just an honorary term for Bodhisattvayana. The old view that Hinayana consisted of "Hinayana schools" is also outdated scholarship, and nobody holds that view today. Hinayana and Mahayana are doctrinal distinctions held by individuals within a traditional Buddhist nikaya. It is widely acknowledged, for example, that monks following the Sravakayana and Mahayana often coexisted in the same monasteries as part of the same nikayas. Further, if you want to pull out quotes from the Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita, then I would be quite happy to do so as well. There are many points in that text in which it is quite clearly stated that the level of arhats and pratyekabuddhas is far lower than that of samyaksambuddhas, and that bodhisattvas should never fall back to that level. Of course, that's not the sort of quote that you would choose, is it?
"[A] bodhisattva - according to the Perfection of Wisdom in 8000 lines - is someone who while working towards their own liberation helps others to awaken to the path too." I would be curious to see your quote from the Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita, though, since your phrasing of that statement seems unusual. Tengu800 17:30, 24 December 2012 (UTC)


The combination of the many hatnotes and the short lead with many italics makes this article awkward and confusing. The eye tends to miss the lead entirely and the TOC then seems to be immediately below the hatnotes.

One possible solution is to use a different hatnote template to reduce the number necessary. Andrewa (talk) 19:15, 29 September 2013 (UTC)

Title should be Arahata[edit]

not Arhat. In sanskrit, it should be arahata. could someone please change? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:37, 10 November 2013 (UTC)

Do you have citations for that? Also, we need to consider WP:COMMONNAME and discuss the matter first... Tengu800 09:35, 10 November 2013 (UTC)

Jungle of hyperlinks[edit]

Hyperlinks are nice, but they cannot be used to escape the author's responsibility to make the text understandable for his readers. Every piece of text should be self-reliant: so that the reader is capable to understand it even without the support of other articles.

What does this mean? When one uses highly specialized vocabulary in the text, one should also give a brief explanation on the meaning; "explain the terms open", so to speak. Once a brief explanation is given, there is no need to keep repeating that later in the article of course. Let's have an example of one certain Wikipedia article dealing with buddhism:

"In the 4th century Mahāyāna abhidharma work Abhidharmasamuccaya, Asaṅga refers to the collection which contains the āgamas as the Śrāvakapiṭaka, and associates it with the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas. Asaṅga classifies the Mahāyāna sūtras as belonging to the Bodhisattvapiṭaka, which is designated as the collection of teachings for bodhisattvas."

Now, let's suppose you ran into this term of "Āgama" somewhere and you have no further understanding on buddhism ever so far. Let's imagine that you are holding a real encyclopedia in your hands, and that the hyperlinks are replaced by references to other pages. Then you read the above-mentioned piece of text. Would it be really nice? Instead of getting all the relevant information from the text itself, you'd have to actually check up 11 more articles! There you'd be faced with reading few thousand new words per each article. If the same continues with every new article, the number of "articles-to-read" will just grow exponentially.

Seriously, would a real encyclopedia entry like this seem niece to you?

"In the 4th century Mahāyāna (see p. 598) abhidharma (see p. 52) work Abhidharmasamuccaya (see p. 53), Asaṅga (see p. 66) refers to the collection which contains the āgamas (see p.56) as the Śrāvakapiṭaka (see p. 878), and associates it with the śrāvakas (see p. 879) and pratyekabuddhas (see p. 736). Asaṅga classifies the Mahāyāna sūtras (see p. 599) as belonging to the Bodhisattvapiṭaka (see p. 95), which is designated as the collection of teachings for bodhisattvas (see p. 96)."

I would like to stress out that in my opinion, hyperlinks sure do are nice, but their usage does not relieve the author from the obligation to make his text self-reliant and understandable. As one can clearly see from the demonstration above, that's no good expression at all.

I hope this would be brought up into a more public discussion about Wikipedia in general... — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jayaguru-Shishya (talkcontribs) 12:47, 30 December 2013 (UTC)

Buddhist equivalents of the Christian saints[edit]

Please provide a source for both parts of this quote:

"the term arhat is very often used for the Buddhist equivalents of the Christian saints,(source?) apostles and early disciples and leaders of the faith, historical monks who lived with Buddha or in the early period of Buddhism.(source?)"

And this part is simply WP:UNDUE:

"In later Mahāyāna Buddhist tradition a group of Eighteen Arhats with names and personalities were regarded as the first followers of the Buddha, and other groupings of 6, 16, 100, and 500 also appear in tradition and Buddhist art, especially in East Asia.[3]"

It's only a very small part of the article, so there is no need to mention this in the lead.

Best regards, Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 16:24, 1 March 2014 (UTC)

The source is the next citation given, Rhie and Thurman (or indeed any basic book on later Buddhism in East Asia or Tibet - try some google searches like this). Most of the article consists of coverage of what the term might have meant to early Indian Buddhists, rather than what is certainly has meant to the vast majority of Buddhists for the last several hundred years. This is the absolute reverse of UNDUE. The lead is still too short. You returned to the old version of the first sentence, which is flat wrong - many Buddhists have believed this, but many have not, as the later sections amply demonstrate. Johnbod (talk) 16:35, 1 March 2014 (UTC)
The confusion for me is/was in the following sentence:
" The understanding of the concept has changed over the centuries, and varies between different schools of buddhism and different regions, but the term arhat is very often used for the Buddhist equivalents of the Christian saints, apostles and early disciples and leaders of the faith"
This suggests that the "equivalent"-usage, c.q. the 18 arhats, is the main usage. I can't judge hwo widespread this usage is, but I do know that the term "arhat" is not confined to those "18 arhats", and bypasses the theoretical meaning of the word "Arhat". The common usage is "worthy one", a person who has attained Nirvana. I've added a trasnalation and a definition, moved down the equivalent-part, and changed "but" into "In Mahayana Buddhism". I've also added a link to the Newark Museum as a reference, additional to Rhie & Thurman. Rhie & Thurman is inaccessible for me, but I do know that Thurman is a respected scholar on Buddhism. The newark-reference provides a reference that is accessible to everyone. Best regards, Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 09:34, 2 March 2014 (UTC)
  • These are rather POV edits. The flat statement at the start that Arhats are people who have attained nirvana is essentially a Theravada position. This is then immediately contradicted by much of the rest of the lead, opening the more nuanced position of various earlier schools and the later Mahayana position, as it is found in East Asia where the vast majority of the world's Buddhists live. The EB lead you have introduced as a reference is I note far closer to my coverage, but also rather self-contradictory, and I think mistaken to open with the same flat statement. As it says lower down: "Mahayana Buddhists criticize the arhat ideal on the grounds that the bodhisattva is a higher goal of perfection, for the bodhisattva vows to become a buddha in order to work for the good of others. This divergence of opinion continues to be one of the fundamental differences between the Theravada and Mahayana traditions." Apart from the added references, I don't see your edits as an improvement at all. It is far better to open with a more cautious general definition that is correct for all Buddhist traditions at all times. The main 6/16/18 arhat groups have possibly always been regarded as having reached Buddhahood, but this is not I think the case for all the members of the later 500 grouping, who, like the un-named wider group of disciples of Jesus, have had a rather vaguer status in their respective theologies or philosophies. Some "junior" arhats of the 500 group are given treatment in art as rather comic figures at times. Btw, pages 217-220 of this source from the search I linked above is interesting & dare I say unusually clear & well-explained for writing on this area - all on very early Buddhism. Johnbod (talk) 13:46, 2 March 2014 (UTC)
Thank you for your last edits, which are a great improvement. Johnbod (talk) 15:49, 2 March 2014 (UTC)
Ah, you were faster than I am; here's my previous response:
I agree with you that the opening-statement is contardicted by the rest; I've added a nuance, by insertig "Theravada", and "In other Buddhist traditions".
Regarding the "more cautious general definition that is correct for all Buddhist traditions at all times", I doubt if there's such a general definition, but I also don't see that as a problem. Buddhism includes a wide range of traditions, influenced by various cultures. The aim of Wikipedia is to give an overview, not a harmonisation, isn't it?
I don't know if Buddhahood is the most important aspect of those 6/16/18 arhat groups; the more important aspect seems to be that they remain on earth/in samsara (sorry, working from memory; definitely not the same, "earth" or "samsara"), instead of entering Nirvana, waiting for the coming of Maitreya Buddha. This is connected with the idea of a degeneration of the Buddha's teaching, and the idea that the Buddhist teaching will be restored by the next Buddha.
Freedman's & McClymond's book is only partially accessible to me, unfortunately. It's interesting, though.
I've shortened the following sentence:
"More generally, it has also been used for people far advanced along the path of Enlightenment, but who may not have reached full Buddhahood as a "perfected one" who has attained nirvana."
You gave Rhie & Thurman as a reference; unfortunately, as I said before, I can't access this source, but the part "as a "perfected one" who has attained nirvana" look sproblematic to me. The issue seems not to be whether arhats have attained nirvana, but whether they have attained full Buddhahood. The sentence now seems to suggest that the later Buddhist tradition regarded arhats as not having attained nirvana at all; I doubt it if that's correct. But again, I can't access this source.
By the way, I like your longlist of sources at your userpage. Best regards, Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 16:18, 2 March 2014 (UTC)
So, which version do you prefer: the present one (17:22), or the shorter on from 16.27? Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 16:27, 2 March 2014 (UTC)

In Japanese: arakan or rakan?[edit]

Does anybody know why the "other languages" box says the Japanese term is "arakan"? I can't find any trace of this on google - just the area in Burma. "Rakan" is what one finds in books, art history books anyway, and a google search - [1]. Johnbod (talk) 13:11, 7 March 2014 (UTC)

Shobogenzo, I guess: [2]. But "Arakan" seems to be Chinese [3]. This makes sense; Dogen was trained in China, and Japanese contains many Chinese elements. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 16:12, 7 March 2014 (UTC)
The last link is helpful- lower down there is a section on "rakan": "Chinese = Lohan, Sanskrit = Arhat. The Japanese term “Rakan” is an abbreviation of the Japanese term “Arakan (阿羅漢),” itself a translation of the Sanskrit term “Arhan.” Also called “Ougu (應供).” The highest diciples of Shaka 釈迦. In Theravada Buddhism, rakan are revered as having completed their training and ranked as mugaku 無学, "nothing else to learn," which indicates that they achieved the highest point that a disciple of Shaka could reach. However, in Mahayana Buddhism, rakan who aim at their own salvation are ranked below the Boddhisattva (Bosatsu 菩薩). It is said that when Shaka entered nirvana (涅槃), rakan were ordered to live in this world and protect the True Law (shouhou 正法). Therefore, rakan are depicted in the guise of priests, with buddhist monks' robes (kesa 袈裟) and bald heads (teihatsu 剃髪). Rakan were depicted in painting in the Six Dynasties (c222-589), but after Xuanzhuang 玄奘 (Jp: Genjou: 600-664) translated HOUJUUKI 法住記 containing the biographies of the sixteen rakan (see above entry), the cult of rakan became popular . Since the 9c numerous paintings and sculptures of rakan were ....". I'll add to the box if I can. Johnbod (talk) 18:38, 7 March 2014 (UTC)
Remember the Japanese were just pronouncing the Chinese terms for arhat -- aluohan and luohan. Luohan is an abbreviation of aluohan. In the same way, and using the same Chinese characters but different pronunciations, rakan is an abbreviation of arakan. But we should remember than in Chinese, at least, luohan became the more common form by far. Tengu800 02:07, 9 March 2014 (UTC)
I'm impressed! Always something (or a lot!) new to learn. Best regards, Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 06:14, 9 March 2014 (UTC)


The etymology section is confused, including an apparent confusion over the meaning of the word etymology. We need to distinguish between the modern (or even Pāninian) derivation of the word from the various folk etymologies. There is no need to cite separate etymologies for Pāḷi and Saṃskṛta, the differences are in usage, not in etymology. The word comes from the dhātu √arh 'to deserve' (Whitney, D. W. Roots, Verb-forms and Primary Derivatives of the Sanskrit Language), cf arha 'meriting, derserving'; arhaṇa 'having a claim, being entitled'; arhita (past-participle) honoured, worshipped; . Monier-Williams Sanskrit English Dictionary. The word is used in the Ṛgveda with this sense of deserving (RV 1.4.47, 2.5.51). Jayarava (talk) 10:25, 4 June 2015 (UTC)

Best you write it up. Johnbod (talk) 11:24, 4 June 2015 (UTC)