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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".

It is one of the three vehicles (yanas) within the Mahayana school.

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:[1]

  1. Śrāvakayāna
  2. Pratyekabuddhayāna
  3. Bodhisattvayāna

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."[2]

Within the three yanas

In the Abhidharma-samuccaya, Asaṅga describes the types of person who follow each the three yanas (vehicles) as follows:

  • 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.[3]
  • 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.[3]
  • 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.[3]

Pratyekabuddhayana within the nine yanas

In the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, this yana is the second of the nine yanas. Alak Zenkar Rinpoche explains Pratyekabuddhayana from the point of view of the Nyingma school:

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.

ii. View

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.

iii. Meditation

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.

iv. Conduct

Like the śrāvakas, they keep to the twelve rules of ascetic practice.

v. Results

As their fruition, those with sharper faculties attain the level of a rhinoceros-like pratyekabuddha arhat and those with duller faculties become parrot-like[6] 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.[4]


  1. Nakamura, Hajime. Indian Buddhism: A Survey With Bibliographical Notes. 1999. p. 189
  2. 《異部宗輪論述記》:謂佛雖在僧中所攝,然別施佛果大,非僧(果大)。於窣堵波興供養業獲廣大果。佛與二乘解脫雖一,而聖道異。無諸外道能得五通。阿羅漢身皆是無漏。餘義多同大眾部執。
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Boin-Webb, Sara (tr). Rahula, Walpola (tr). Asanga. Abhidharma Samuccaya: The Compendium of Higher Teaching. 2001. p. 199-200
  4. LotsawaHouse-tag.png A Brief Presentation of the Nine Yanas by Alak Zenkar Rinpoche
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