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pratyekabuddha (P. paccekabuddha; T. rang sangs rgyas; C. yuanjue 緣覺/獨覺) is translated as "solitary realizer," "solitary enlightened one," "solitary buddha," etc.

A pratyekabuddha is someone who has attained liberation entirely through their own contemplation as a result of merit accumulated in previous lives.[1][2] However, unlike a "fully enlightened buddha" (samyaksaṃbuddha), a pratyekabuddha does not teach others because he has not accumulated sufficient merit in previous lifetimes, and thus lacks the great compassion (karuna) of the fully enlightened buddhas.[1][2]

Even though a pratyekabuddha does not teach others, a pratyekabuddha may still guide others through example or through the use of gestures.[1]

A pratyekabuddha is also distinguished from an arhat (a.k.a. sravakabuddha) in that those who follow the sravaka path to arhathood do not attain realization on their own, but they must receive instructions on the path.[1]

Pratyekabuddhas are said to achieve through 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.

Traditional sources identify two types of pratyekabuddhas, those who dwell alone (like a rhinoceros), and those who live together in small groups.[1]


The path or "vehicle" (yana) of the pratyekabuddhasis called the pratyekabuddhayāna.

Within Buddhist literature

Pali literature

Ria Kloppenborg states:

The Paccekabuddha is rarely dealt with in the secondary literature. Most studies mention him as a possible type of enlightened personality recognised in the Canon, but go no further into the matter. The reason for this seems to lie in his lack of a sense of mission. As Eliot observes in his Hinduism and Buddhism:[3] "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. 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.”[4]

In Pali literature, "...Paccekabuddha attains enlightenment, but not the omniscience or the powers which are the special attainments of the Sammāsambuddha."[4]

Sanskrit literature

According to the Abhidharma-samuccaya, a pratyekabuddha is born in a time when there is no buddha in the world, and is one who confronts the path through internal will alone.[5] The Abhidharma-samuccaya describes two types of pratyekabuddha:[5]

  • those who dwell alone like a rhinoceros, and
  • those who dwell living in a small group.

According to the Abhisamayālaṃkāra, a pratyekabuddha is able to eliminate the conceptualization of the object of perception (grāhya-vikalpa), but is not able to eliminate the conceptualization of the agent of perception (grāhaka-vikalpa). (See grāhya-grāhaka and vikalpa.)[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. pratyekabuddha.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Internet-icon.svg rang sangs rgyas, Christian-Steinert Dictionary
  3. Eliot 1922.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Kloppenborg 1974, pp. 8-9.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Asanga 2001, pp. 199-200.


Further reading