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Peter Harvey states:
- Among the early schools, one of three kinds of aspiration came to be espoused by dedicated practitioners. These were to aim to become awakened as a sāvaka-buddha (Skt śrāvaka-buddha), a pacceka-buddha (Skt pratyeka-buddha) or a sammā-sambuddha (Skt samyak-sambuddha) (Gethin, 1998: 32–4). The first is an ‘awakened disciple’: an Arahat, one liberated by practising under the guidance of a perfect Buddha such as Gotama; this attainment might be in this or a future life. The second is a ‘solitary awakened one’, someone who attains awakening by their own efforts, often by practising in the forest (Ray, 1994: 213–50), in a phase of history when the teachings of a perfect Buddha are unavailable, and teaches others only in a minimal way. The term may have originally been pacceya-buddha, meaning ‘one awakened by a cause’, such as insight into the limited nature of conditioned reality coming from seeing a withered leaf fall (Harvey, 2007d: 600a–602b). Their insight is seen as greater than that of an Arahat. The third kind of buddha is the ‘perfectly and completely awakened one’, usually referred to simply as Buddhas or perfect Buddhas. These are beings who have the ability to rediscover the Dhamma when it has become lost to human society, and teach it in many skilful ways, to the benefit of many others.
Rupert Gethin states:
- We have then here two kinds of buddha: ‘the perfectly, fully awakened one’ (samyak-/sammā-sambuddha) like Gautama, and the arhat or ‘one who has awakened as a disciple’ (śrāvaka-/sāvaka-buddha). Thus while on the one hand wishing to stress that the ‘awakening’ of Gautama and his ‘awakened’ disciples is the same, the Buddhist tradition has also been unable to resist the tendency to dwell on the superiority of Gautama’s achievement. Apart from becoming ‘awakened’ as a samyaksam-buddha or arhat, Buddhist texts also envisage a third possibility: that one might become awakened by one’s unaided effort without hearing the teaching of a buddha and yet fail to teach others the way to awakening. Such a one is known as a ‘solitary buddha’ (pratyeka-/pacceka-buddha).