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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 Rigpa Organization,

Pratyekabuddhas are sometimes referred to as 'intermediate buddhas' and their enlightenment is considered to be a higher form of realization than that of Śrāvakas for two reasons: their accumulation of merit, and their accumulation of wisdom.

Śrāvakas accumulate merit for up to sixteen lifetimes, whereas pratyekabuddhas accumulate merit for a hundred kalpas. In their accumulation of wisdom, Śrāvakas only realise one type of selflessness – the selflessness of the individual – whereas pratyekabuddhas also realise half of the selflessness of phenomena. For the same reasons, the pratyekabuddhas' realization is considered inferior to the full enlightenment of those following the bodhisattva path. A bodhisattva accumulates merit for three countless aeons and fully realises both types of selflessness.[2]

According to the Theravada school, Paccekabuddhas[3] ("one who has attained to supreme and perfect insight, but who dies without proclaiming the truth to the world") are unable to teach the Dhamma, which requires[4] the omniscience and supreme compassion of a sammāsambuddha, and even (s)he hesitates to attempt to teach.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7]

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[8] with the Buddhist tradition of pratyekabuddhas.[9]

See also


  1. Charles Eliot, Hinduism and Buddhism, 3 Volumes, London, 1922, I 344–5
  2. Rigpa, Pratyekabuddha
  4. The Paccekabuddha: A Buddhist Ascetic A Study of the Concept of the Paccekabuddha in Pali Canonical and Commentarial Literature by Ria Kloppenborg
  5. Ayacana Sutta: The Request (SN 6.1) translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu @ Access to Insight
  6. Boin-Webb, Sara (tr). Rahula, Walpola (tr). Asanga. Abhidharma Samuccaya: The Compendium of Higher Teaching. 2001. pp. 199-200
  7. Boin-Webb, Sara (tr). Rahula, Walpola (tr). Asanga. Abhidharma Samuccaya: The Compendium of Higher Teaching. 2001. pp. 199-200
  8. Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1997). Sutta Nipata I.3, Khaggavisana Sutta: A Rhinoceros Horn
  9. 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