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Buddhists/Arhats in Mahayana Buddhism

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Question
An Arhat is the ideal of Theravada Buddhism.  I know that in Mahayana Buddhism, there is the Bodhisattva Ideal, but I am wondering about the Mahayana perspective on the achievement of Arhatship as the ultimate goal of practice.  

I am wondering what Mahayana Buddhism think about the Arhat Ideal. Is an Arhat perfect like the Buddha?  Is an Arhat also subject to rebirth?...

Answer
Hi Ted,
In Mahayana Buddhism the arhat is as purified as a Buddha, and will not *have* to be reborn. However, they do not have as many qualities that can help others to liberation as a Buddha - I think that's the same difference as in Theravada.
It is commonly taught that after a long, long time in what they thought was the ultimate nirvana, a blessing from the Buddha wakes them up, and they are then on a high Bodhisattva stage. They see that there is more to do, and work compassionately to become full Buddhas.
That is more or less the view of sutra-based Mahayana. Tantric explanations can vary.
Does that help?

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Alex Wilding

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I have practiced and studied Tibetan Buddhism in the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions since the early 1970s, and have a good knowledge of theory, history and of the struggles of trying to practice the teachings, including meditation, while leading a normal, modern life. I am also available to provide background information for journalists.

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I have been a practitioner since the early 1970s; have run a small Buddhist centre in the English Midlands and was vice-president of Kagyu Benchen Ling e.V. in Germany, for whom I managed three large Buddhist summer-camps. More importantly, I maintain a habit of personal practice. I am the "owner" of the Kagyu list at Yahoo.

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My first degree was an M.A. from Oxford. I later obtained a Master of Philosophy degree for a research thesis in "Initiation in Tibetan Buddhism" from Leicester University. I also have engineering and educational qualifications.

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