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A Pratyekabuddha (Sanskrit: प्रत्येकबुद्ध) or paccekabuddha (Pali: पच्चेकबुद्ध), literally "a lone buddha", "a buddha on their own" or "a private buddha", is one of three types of enlightened beings according to some schools of Buddhism. The other two types are arhats and sammāsambuddhas (Sanskrit samyaksambuddhas).


General overview

The yana or "vehicle" by which pratyekabuddhas achieve enlightenment is called the pratyekabuddhayāna in Indian Buddhist tradition.

Pratyekabuddhas are said to achieve enlightenment on their own, without the use of teachers or guides, according to some traditions by contemplating the principle of dependent origination. They are said to arise only in ages where there is no Buddha and the Buddhist teachings (Sanskrit: dharma; Pāli: dhamma) are lost. "The idea of a Paccekabuddha … is interesting, inasmuch as it implies that even when the four truths are not preached they still exist and can be discovered by anyone who makes the necessary mental and moral effort".[1] Many may arise at a single time.

According to "The Paccekabuddha, A Buddhist Ascetic", [2]

“Their knowledge is confined to what is necessary for their own salvation and perfection. They are mentioned in the Nikayas as worthy of all respect, but are not prominent in either the earlier or later works, which is only natural, seeing that by their very definition they are self-centred and of little importance for mankind.”

According to the Theravada school, after rediscovering the path on their own, Paccekabuddhas are unable to teach the Dhamma, which requires[3] the omniscience and supreme compassion of a sammāsambuddha, and even (s)he hesitates to attempt to teach.[4] Paccekabuddha give moral teachings but do not bring others to enlightenment. They leave no sangha as a legacy to carry on the Dhamma.

In the Abhidharmasamuccaya

In the 4th century Mahāyāna abhidharma work Abhidharmasamuccaya, Asanga describes followers of the Pratyekabuddha Vehicle as those who dwell alone like a rhinoceros or as a solitary conquerors (Skt. pratyekajina) living in a small group.[5] Here they are characterized as utilizing the same canon of texts as the śrāvakas, the Śrāvaka Piṭaka, but having a different set of teachings, the Pratyekabuddha Dharma.[6]

In the Jātakas

Pratyekabuddhas (e.g. Darīmukha J.378, Sonaka J.529) appear as teachers of Buddhist doctrine in pre-Buddhist times in several of the Jataka tales.

In the Rhinoceros Sūtra

The experiences and enlightenment verses uttered by pratyekabuddhas are narrated in the Rhinoceros Sutra of the Sutta Nipata. Traditional commentaries on the text have unanimously associated the Rhinoceros Sūtra[7] with the Buddhist tradition of pratyekabuddhas.[8]

See also


  1. Charles Eliot, Hinduism and Buddhism, 3 Volumes, London, 1922, I 344–5
  2. The Paccekabuddha: A Buddhist Ascetic
  3. The Paccekabuddha: A Buddhist Ascetic A Study of the Concept of the Paccekabuddha in Pali Canonical and Commentarial Literature by Ria Kloppenborg
  4. Ayacana Sutta: The Request (SN 6.1) translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu @ Access to Insight
  5. Boin-Webb, Sara (tr). Rahula, Walpola (tr). Asanga. Abhidharma Samuccaya: The Compendium of Higher Teaching. 2001. pp. 199-200
  6. Boin-Webb, Sara (tr). Rahula, Walpola (tr). Asanga. Abhidharma Samuccaya: The Compendium of Higher Teaching. 2001. pp. 199-200
  7. Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1997). Sutta Nipata I.3, Khaggavisana Sutta: A Rhinoceros Horn
  8. Salomon, Richard. A Gāndhārī Version of the Rhinoceros Sutra: British Library Kharoṣṭhi Fragment 5B Univ. of Washington Press: Seattle and London, 2000, p. 10, 13

Further reading

External links

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