Pratyekabuddhayana (Skt. pratyekabuddhayāna; T. rang rgyal gyi theg pa; C. yuanjue sheng; J. engakujō; K. yŏn’gak sŭng 覺乘) is translated as the "vehicle of the solitary realizer".
A pratyekabuddha is one who realizes enlightenment without the aid of a teacher.
The term is used within Mahāyāna texts to describe one hypothetical path to enlightenment.
In early Buddhist schools
At least some of the early Buddhist schools used the concept of three vehicles including Pratyekabuddhayāna. For example, the Vaibhāṣika Sarvāstivādins are known to have employed the outlook of Buddhist practice as consisting of the Three Vehicles:
The Dharmaguptakas regarded the path of a pratyekabuddha (pratyekabuddhayāna) and the path of a bodhisattva (bodhisattvayāna) to be separate. One of their tenets reads, "The Buddha and those of the Two Vehicles, although they have one and the same liberation, have followed different noble paths."
Within the three yanas
- Those who follow the Śrāvaka Vehicle (Skt. śrāvakayanika) are described as having weak faculties, following the Śrāvaka Dharma, utilizing the Śrāvaka Piṭaka, being set on their own liberation, and cultivating detachment in order to attain liberation.
- Those in the Pratyekabuddha Vehicle (Skt. pratyekabuddhayānika) are portrayed as also utilizing the Śrāvaka Piṭaka, they are said to have medium faculties, to follow the Pratyekabuddha Dharma, and to be set on their own personal enlightenment.
- Finally, those in the Mahāyāna (Skt. mahāyānika) are portrayed as utilizing the Bodhisattva Piṭaka, as having sharp faculties, following the Bodhisattva Dharma, and set on the perfection and liberation of all beings, and the attainment of complete enlightenment.
Pratyekabuddhayana within the nine yanas
|The Nine Yanas|
|Sutrayana (Outer Yanas)|
|Three outer tantras|
|Three inner tantras|
Pratyekabuddhas, or ‘self-awakened’ are so-called because, having a more profound depth of wisdom than the śrāvakas, they manifest their own awakening through the power of their own wisdom, without needing to rely on other masters.
Let us elaborate slightly by presenting the initial entry point, view, meditation, conduct and results of the pratyekabuddha vehicle:
i. Entry Point
As with the entry point to the śrāvaka vehicle, the pratyekabuddhas take up any one of the seven sets of pratimokṣa vows and then keep them unimpaired.
When it comes to the basis of their path, how they determine the view, they realize the absence of a personal self completely, but only realize half the absence of phenomenal identity, because although they realize that the partless particles of perceived objects are not real, they still believe in the true existence of indivisible moments of consciousness.
When it comes to their path, and their practice of meditation, the uncommon approach of the pratyekabuddhas is to meditate on how the twelve links of interdependent origination arise in their progressive sequence and how they cease in the reverse order.
Like the śrāvakas, they keep to the twelve rules of ascetic practice.
As their fruition, those with sharper faculties attain the level of a rhinoceros-like pratyekabuddha arhat and those with duller faculties become parrot-like pratyekabuddha arhats.
Moreover, they reach their final existence as a result of three specific aspiration prayers. They pray that their last existence may be in a world without buddhas and śrāvakas, that they may attain awakening by themselves, without relying on any teacher, and that they may teach the Dharma silently through physical gestures.
- Nakamura, Hajime. Indian Buddhism: A Survey With Bibliographical Notes. 1999. p. 189
- Boin-Webb, Sara (tr). Rahula, Walpola (tr). Asanga. Abhidharma Samuccaya: The Compendium of Higher Teaching. 2001. p. 199-200
- A Brief Presentation of the Nine Yanas by Alak Zenkar Rinpoche
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