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A Chinese Luo Han statue from the Liao Dynasty (907–1125) in Hopeh Province, China

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Arhat (Sanskrit) or arahant (Pali), in the sramanic traditions of ancient India (most notably those of Jainism and Buddhism), signified a spiritual practitioner who had – to use an expression common in the tipitaka – "laid down the burden", realising the goal of nirvana, the culmination of the spiritual life (brahmacarya). Such a person, having removed all causes for future becoming, is not reborn after biological death into any samsaric realm. In the Pali Canon, the word is sometimes used as a synonym for tathagata.[1]

Contents

Origin

Arhat occurs as 'arhattaa' in the Rig Veda (Hopkins, P. 202The Great Epic of India) and as the first offer of salutation in the main Jain prayer Navakar Mantra. The latter word occurs mostly in Buddhist and Jain texts, but also in some Vaishnava texts, such as the Bhagavata Purana.[2] Arhattaa also occurs in the Vaishnava Srî Narada Pancharatnam (Vijnanananda, P. 203 Srî Narada Pancharatnam).

A Luohan, by Liu Songnian, late 12th-early 13th century, Song Dynasty.

The word "arahan" literally means "worthy one"[3] (an alternative folk etymology is "foe-destroyer" or "vanquisher of enemies"[4]) and constitutes the highest grade of noble person—ariya-puggala—described by the Buddha as recorded in the Pali canon. The word was used (as it is today in the liturgy of Theravada Buddhism) as an epithet of the Buddha himself as well as of his enlightened disciples. The most widely recited liturgical reference is perhaps the homage: Namo Tassa Bhagavato, Arahato, Samma-sammbuddhassa.Homage to him, the Blessed One, the Worthy One, the perfectly enlightened Buddha.

Variations

  • Bengali: orhot/orhotto
  • Burmese: ရဟန္တာ (yahanda; IPA: [yahá̃ dà]; MLCTS: ra. hanta)
  • Chinese: 阿羅漢/羅漢 (āluóhàn, luóhàn); rarer terms: 應供 (yinggong), 應真 (yingzhen), 真人 (zhenren). "真人" normally refers to a respected Taoist, and the term comes from the book Huangdi Neijing.
  • Hindi: अर्हन्त (arhant)
  • Japanese: 阿羅漢 羅漢 (arakan, rakan)
  • Korean: 나한 (nahan), 아라한(arahan)
  • Tibetan: dgra bcom pa
  • Thai: อรหันต์ (arahant)
  • Vietnamese: la hán
  • Mongolian: найдан
Depiction of a 'Furious Arhat', silk painting from Turfan, East Turkestan, 8/9th century CE

Arihantas in Jainism

In Jainism, the term "arhat" or "arihant" is a synonym for jina and is a siddha who has not yet died and thereby lost all aghatiya karma.

It is not a synonym of Tirthankar, which refers specifically to certain arhats who have certain karmas that enable them to become teachers of Jainism. The Jain Navakar Mantra starts with "Namo Arhantanam".

The word Arihanta is made up of two words: 1) Ari, meaning enemies, and 2) hanta, meaning destroyer. Therefore, Arihanta means a destroyer of the enemies. These enemies are not people, but rather inner desires known as passions. These includes anger, ego, deception, and greed. These are the internal enemies within us. Until we control our passions, the real nature or the power of our soul will not be realized or manifested. When a person (soul) wins over these inner enemies he/she is called Arihanta. When that happens, the person has destroyed the four ghati karmas namely Jnanavarniya (knowledge blocking) Karma, Darshanavarniya (perception blocking) Karma, Mohniya (passion causing) Karma and Antaraya (obstacle causing) Karma. These karmas are called ghati karmas because they directly affect the true nature of the soul. Arihanta attains:

1) Kevaljnan, perfect knowledge due to the destruction of all Jnanavarniya Karmas,

2) Kevaldarshan, perfect perception due to the destruction of all Darshanavarniya karmas,

3) becomes passionless due to the destruction of all Mohniya Karmas,

4) gains infinite power due to the destruction of all Antaraya Karmas.

Complete knowledge and perception means they know and see everything everywhere that is happening now, that has happened in the past, and that will happen in the future. Arihantas are divided into two categories: Tirthankar and Ordinary. Tirthankaras are special Arihants because they revitalize the Jain Sangh (fourfold Jain Order) consisting of Sadhus (male saints), Sadhvis (female saints), Shravaks (male householders), and Shravikas (female householders). During every half time cycle, twenty-four persons like us rise to the level of Tirthankar. The first Tirthankar of our time period was Lord Rishabhdev, and the twenty-fourth and last Tirthankar was Lord Mahavira, who lived from 599 BCE to 527 BCE. A Tirthankar is also called a Jina. Jina means conqueror of passions. At the time of nirvana (liberated from the worldly existence), Arihanta sheds off the remaining four aghati karmas namely:

1) Nam (physical structure forming) Karma,

2) Gotra (status forming) Karma,

3) Vedniya (pain and pleasure causing) Karma,

4) Ayushya (life span determining) Karma.

These four karmas do not affect the true nature of the soul, therefore, they are called Aghati karmas. After attaining salvation these Arihants are called Siddhas.

In the Namokar Mantra, Jains pray to the Arihants first and then to the Siddhas, even though the Siddhas are perfected souls who have destroyed all (both Ghati and Aghati) Karmas, and at a higher spiritual stage than Arihants. Since Siddhas have attained ultimate liberation, we do not have access to them. On the other hand, Arihants are still human beings and offer us spiritual guidance during their lifetime. It would not have been possible for us to know about Siddhas or liberation without them. In order to show our special reverence for their teachings, Jains salute in their prayer Arihants first and then Siddhas.

Pre-Kushana Jain Arhat from Mathura

Theravada Buddhism

In Theravada Buddhism the Buddha himself is first identified as an arahant, as are his enlightened followers, because they are free from all defilements, without greed, hatred, delusion, ignorance and craving, lacking "assets" which will lead to future birth, the arahant knows and sees the real here and now. This virtue shows stainless purity, true worth, and the accomplishment of the end, nibbana.[5]

In the Pali canon, Ānanda states that he knows monastics to achieve nibbana in one of four ways:

  • one develops insight preceded by serenity (Pali: samatha-pubbaṇgamaṃ vipassanaṃ),
  • one develops serenity preceded by insight (vipassanā-pubbaṇgamaṃ samathaṃ),
  • one develops serenity and insight in a stepwise fashion (samatha-vipassanaṃ yuganaddhaṃ),
  • one's mind becomes seized by excitation about the dhamma and, as a consequence, develops serenity and abandons the fetters (dhamma-uddhacca-viggahitaṃ mānasaṃ hoti).[6][7]

In Theravada, although the Arahants have achieved the same goals as the Buddha, there are some differences among Arahants due to the way of their practice.

Mahayana Buddhism

Arhat figurines in the Huating Temple in the Western Hills near Kunming, China
A garden featuring depictions of various arhats (Hsi Lai Temple, California)

Mahayana Buddhists see the Buddha himself as the ideal towards which one should aim in one's spiritual aspirations. Hence the arhat, as an enlightened disciple of the Buddha, is not regarded as a goal as much as the bodhisattva. In the Mahayana tradition, Bodhisattva carries a meaning different from that in Theravada Buddhism. In the Pali scriptures the Tathagata, when relating his own experiences of self-development, often uses the phrase "when I was an unenlightened bodhisattva". Bodhisattva thus connotes here the absence of enlightenment of a person working towards that goal. In Mahayana Buddhism, on the other hand, a bodhisattva is someone who seeks to put the welfare of others before their own, forfeiting their own enlightenment until all beings are saved. Such a person is said to have achieved a proto-enlightenment called bodhicitta.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Peter Harvey, The Selfless Mind. Curzon Press 1995, page 227.
  2. ^ http://vedabase.net/a/arhat
  3. ^ An authoritative Pali-to-English translation of "arahant" can be found in Rhys Davids & Stede (1921–25), p. 77. http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/getobject.pl?c.0:1:2081.pali
  4. ^ See Mitra, Rajendralala (ed) 1877 Lalitavistara or Memoirs of the Early Life of Sakya Sinha, Calcutta: Asiatic Society of Bengal, English appendix page 10(658). http://books.google.com/books
  5. ^ Khantipalo (1989), "Introduction". http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Buddhawaslike
  6. ^ Ānanda's teaching on achieving arhantship can be found in AN 4.170. Translations for this sutta can be found in Bodhi (2005) pp. 268–9, 439, and Thanissaro (1998).
  7. ^ Bodhi (2005), p. 268, translates this fourth way as: "a monk's mind is seized by agitation about the teaching." Thanissaro (1998) gives a seemingly contrary interpretation of: "a monk's mind has its restlessness concerning the Dhamma [Comm: the corruptions of insight] well under control." Thus, it appears possible to interpret the excitation (Pali: uddhacca, see Rhys Davids & Stede, 1921–25) as either something that the future arahant uses to impel their pursuit of the path or something that the future arahant controls in order to pursue the path.

References

  • Bodhi, Bhikkhu (ed.) (2005). In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pāli Canon.Boston: Wisdom Pubs. ISBN 0-86171-491-1.







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