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Arhat

Arhat (arhati, ‘be worthy of’; Pāli arahat). In Buddhism, one who is worthy of reverence because he has attained the penultimate state of perfection (Chin., alohan, lohan; Jap., arakan; Korean, arahan, nahan). The term was originally applied to all ascetics, but it came to be applied to those who are no longer bound to punabbhava (‘again-becoming’) and have become completely detached from the Triple World of sense, form, and formlessness. Since, in Theravāda, there can be only one Buddha in each world cycle, the condition of arhat is the highest to which one can aspire in this cycle (since the Buddha has already appeared).

They possess four faculties of discernment and exegesis not possessed by ordinary mortals, and five kinds of transcendent knowledge, so that they are characterized by supreme wisdom, and are known as prajñāvimukta. They can hear and understand all sounds in the universe, know the thoughts of others, and remember previous existences. At death, they attain nirvāna completely.

Mahāyāna Buddhism, in contrast, regards the notion, especially the limited goal, of arhat as selfish. The development of the bodhisattva, who might attain the goal but returns to help others, is held to be the logical application of the example of the Buddha and of his teaching.

Among Jains, the arhat is one who is worthy of absolute reverence. In effect, these are the tīrthaṅkaras.

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