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In Mahayana Buddhism the icchantika is a deluded being who can never attain enlightenment (Buddhahood).


According to some Mahayana Buddhist scriptures, the icchantika is the most base and spiritually deluded of all types of being. The term implies being given over to total hedonism and greed.[1]

In the Tathagatagarbha sutras, some of which pay particular attention to the icchantikas, the term is frequently used of those persons who do not believe in the Buddha, his eternal Selfhood and his Dharma (Truth) or in karma; who seriously transgress against the Buddhist moral codes and vinaya; and who speak disparagingly and dismissively of the reality of the immortal Buddha-nature (Buddha-dhatu) or Tathagatagarbha present within all beings.[1][note 1]

The two shortest versions of the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra - one translated by Fa-xian, and the other a middle-length Tibetan version of the sutra - indicate that the icchantika has so totally severed all his/her roots of goodness that he/she can never attain liberation and nirvana or enlightenment (Buddhahood). The full-length Dharmakshema version of the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, in contrast, insists that even the icchantika can eventually find release into nirvana,[2] since no phenomenon is fixed (including this type of allegedly deluded person) and that change for the better and best is always a possibility.

Other scriptures (such as the Lankavatara Sutra) indicate that the icchantikas will be saved through the liberational power of the Buddha - who, it is claimed, will never abandon any being.

Buswell notes: "With the prominent exception of the Faxian-School [...], East Asian Buddhists rejected the icchantica-doctrine in favor of the notion that all beings, even the denizens of hell, retained the capacity to attain enlightenment."[3]


  1. Including icchantikas themselves, though it is more hidden from their consciousness than in other individuals due to the massive accretions of sinfulness and delusion which conceal it from their sight.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Hodge, Stephen (2006). "On the Eschatology of the Mahaparinirvana Sutra and Related Matters" (PDF). lecture delivered at the University of London, SOAS. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 14, 2013.  Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  2. Liu , Ming-Wood (1984). The Problem of the Icchantika in the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra, Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 7 (1), 71-72
  3. Buswell, Robert E. (2003). Encyclopedia of Buddhism, vol.1. New York: Macmillan Reference Lib. p. 351. ISBN 0028657187. 

Further reading

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