In the sramanic traditions of ancient India (most notably those of Mahavira and Gautama Buddha) arhat (Sanskrit) or arahant (Pali) signified a spiritual practitioner who had—to use an expression common in the tipitaka—"laid down the burden"—and realised 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.


The word "arahan" literally means "worthy one (an alternative folk etymology is "foe-destroyer" or "vanquisher of enemies) 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.


  • Burmese: ရဟန္တာ (yahanda; IPA: ; 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

Theravada Buddhism

In Theravada Buddhism the Buddha himself is first named as an arahant, as were his enlightened followers, since he is free from all defilements, without greed, hatred, and delusion, rid of ignorance and craving, having no "assets" that will lead to a future birth, knowing and seeing the real here and now. This virtue shows stainless purity, true worth, and the accomplishment of the end, nibbana.

In the Pali canon, Ven. Ānanda states that he has known monastics to achieve nibbana in one of four ways:

  • one develops insight preceded by serenity (Pali: );
  • one develops serenity preceded by insight ();
  • one develops serenity and insight in a stepwise fashion ();
  • one's mind becomes seized by excitation about the dhamma and, as a consequence, develops serenity and abandons the fetters ().

In Theravada, although the Arahants has achieved the same goals which is identical to Buddha, there are some differences among Arahant due to the way of their practice.

Mahayana Buddhism

Mahayana Buddhists see the Buddha himself as the ideal towards which one should aim in one's spiritual aspirations. Hence the arhat as enlightened disciple of the Buddha is not regarded as the goal as much as is the bodhisattva. Bodhisattva carries a different meaning in Mahayana Buddhism compared to Theravada Buddhism. In the Pali scriptures the Tathagata when relating his own experiences of self-development uses a stock phrase "when I was an unenlightened bodhisattva". Bodhisattva thus connotes here the absence of enlightenment (Bodhi) 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.


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".

See also



  • 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.
  • Khantipalo, Bhikkhu (1989). Buddha, My Refuge: Contemplation of the Buddha based on the Pali Suttas. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society. ISBN 9-55240-037-6. An excerpt from the "Introduction" is available on-line at
  • Rhys Davids, T.W. & William Stede (eds.) (1921–5). The Pali Text Society's Pali–English dictionary. Chipstead: Pali Text Society. A general on-line search engine for the PED is available at
  • Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1998). Yuganaddha Sutta: In Tandem. Available on-line at

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