Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words

This page describes “why is the buddha called arhat” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

Part 3 - Why is the Buddha called Arhat

The Buddha is also called A lo ho (arhat). Why is he called Arhat?

1. Ara means enemy (ari) and hat means to kill (han). The expression therefore means “killer of enemies”.[1] Some stanzas say:

The Buddha has patience (kṣānti) as his armor (varman),
Energy (vīrya) as his helmet (śīrṣaka),
Discipline (śīla) as his great steed (mahāśva),
Dhyāna as his bow (dhanus),

Wisdom (prajñā) as his arrows (śara).
Outwardly, he destroys the army of Māra (mārasena).
Inwardly, he destroys the passions (kleśa), his enemies.
He is called Arhat.

2. Furthermore, A marks negation and rahat means ‘to be born’. The expression means, therefore, “unborn”. The seeds (bīja) of the mind of the Buddha (buddhacitta) ‘do not arise’ in the field of rebirths (punarbhavakṣetra), for ignorance (avidyā) in him has been dissolved.

3. Finally, Arhat means worthy (arhat) of receiving worship (pūja). The fetters (saṃyojana) have been cut in the Buddha, he has attained omniscience (sarvajñāta); therefore he merits receiving the worship of beings in heaven and on earth. This is [71c] why the Buddha is called Arhat.[2]

Buddhaghosa’s explanations of Arhat (Arahant):

Cf. Buddhaghosa’s explanations. Sumaṅgala, I, p. 146; Visuddhimagga, I, p. 198: Tattha ārakattā arīnaṃ… Bhagavā arahan ti veditabbo. “Because he is far away (āraka) [from the passions], because he has destroyed the enemies (ari) [i.e., the passions], because he has broken the spokes (ara) [of the wheel of existence], because he is worthy (araha) of receiving the necessities, because he stays apart from evil actions, for all these reasons the Blessed One is called Arahant.” See also Majjhima, I, p. 280; Aṅguttara, IV, p. 145.

Footnotes and references:


Cf. Visuddhimagga, p. 198: Te ca anena kilesārayo maggena hatā ti arīṇaṃ hatattā pi arahaṃ.


Ibid., p. 201: Aggadakkhiṇeyyattā ca cīvarādipaccaye… na te aññattha pūjaṃ karonti. – This is the only valid etymological explanation.

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