The difference between the Buddha, Bodhisattva, and Arahant

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The difference between the Buddha, Bodhisattva, and Arahant usually makes us a little confused while discovering about the Buddhism world. Sometimes, it is difficult for us to differentiate these terms because we do not know clearly who they are. Hence, it is vital for us to have an overview awareness of their names as well as their role in the Buddhism philosophy.

The difference between the Buddha, Bodhisattva, and Arahant - Have you ever wondered the difference between the Buddha, Bodhisattva, and Arahant?
Have you ever wondered the difference between the Buddha, Bodhisattva, and Arahant?

Arahant – Who is Arahant?

According to the Hinayana Buddhism, Arahant is the highest fruition on the cultivating path that each one can attain. The Arahant had deleted all bad seeds in mind and achieved the permanent calmness. Finally, they can attain Nirvana and no longer in the circle of reincarnation. That is the reason why the Hinayana Buddhism call Arahant the perfect one, the worthy one, or the perfect understanding one. As a result, the Arahant is really the perfect being and deserves to be honored by the humanity.

There is two highest fruition of Hinayana Buddhism. The first one is the Sravaka who hears the Buddhism Dharma and makes effort to enlightenment. The Sravaka also witnesses the Four Noble Truths and understands the immateriality of the nature of all things. Finally, the Sravaka attains the Nirvana and become Arahant.

The Sravaka, Arahant
The Sravaka in Hinayana.

And, the second fruition of Hinayana Buddhism is Pratyeka-buddha. This word itself means “to be in the period that the Buddha does not exist“. Thus, the Pratyeka-buddha is the one who attains enlightenment thanks to his own effort and good karmas from many previous lives.

However, they are not back to liberate the humanity because they feel bored with the reincarnation. They are just Arahant, not Bodhisattva or the Buddha.

In contrast, the Mahayana Buddhism does not appreciate Arahant. According to the Mahayana’s point of view, Arahant is still ignorant of many things and not perfect. Instead, the humanity should honor the ones who sacrifice their life to save sentient beings and attain the Buddhahood.


Bodhisattva/Bodhi – Sattva:  What Does It Really Mean?

Bodhi” means “Awake”, and “Sattva” means “sentient”. The term “Bodhisattva” refers to the awaked ones who has sympathy for the humanity absolutely as well as show empathy for them and be ready to help them. Generally, people often use the word “Bodhisattva soul” for those who are good-hearted.

However, the real meaning of Bodhisattva is totally different from the humanity’s worldview. The Bodhisattva is the one who respects the Buddha, learn the Buddhism Dharma, and is ready to help others, including dedicating the whole life to liberate the universal beings.

In order to become the Buddha, the Buddhist must go on the Bodhisattva path. And being the Buddha is the achievement of practicing the Bodhisattva. Hence, the prerequisite requirement for everybody who looks forward to being the Buddha is to cultivate the Bodhisattva path. There are three main disciplines that the Buddhists must practice well if they really hope to get success in this journey.

First of all, they must benefit self and benefit other, lead to Buddhahood.

Second, they have to seek Bodhi who is above themselves and transform all beings (sattva).

Third, they commit to deleting all the mankind’s sorrow.

Finally, they vow to learn the Buddhism Dharma and determine to attain the greatest achievement of cultivating Bodhisattva – becoming the Buddha.


Some Most Well-Known Bodhisattva in Buddhism

On the tough journey of trying to become the Buddha, they must experience 52 stages. From the beginning to the final stages, they are called the Buddha. Nevertheless, there is the difference between the Puthujjana Buddha and the Holy Buddha. Usually, the Scriptures in Buddhism mention about the Holy Buddhas such as:

The Avalokitesvara – one of the most important Mahayana Buddhism’s Buddha who is extremely famous for the great loving – compassion. In fact, loving – compassion is one of two core Buddha nature.

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, Bodhisattva
The Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva save the humanity with great loving – compassion.

Next, the second Buddha nature is the Prajna or Wisdom. This is the ability to know clearly the real nature of the Dharma and how to delete all sorrow and bad actions. And the Manjushri Bodhisattva is the representative for this Buddha nature.

And, it will be a dismiss not to mention about the Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva. In the Mahayana Buddhism’s perspectives, this Bodhisattva plays a vital role in guiding the humanity that they need to be liberated from all sufferings.

The Amida Buddha, Bodhisattva, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva
The Amida Buddha and Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva on the right and Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva on the left of the picture save the humanity.

The Earth-womb Bodhisattva is also the great Bodhisattva who aims at saving the mind of the living, especially children. Sometimes, he is also believed to rescue the pilgrims. In the visual description, Ksitigarbha Buddha is often delineated as the Buddha with the Khakkhara – the monk’s metal staff which is used for demon expulsion. And there are six rings that represent the Buddha’s saving in six reincarnation paths.

Earth-womb Bodhisattva, Bodhisattva
The Earth-womb Bodhisattva with his Khakkara.


Summary About Bodhisattva

In conclusion, the above Bodhisattvas are the on-going Buddhas. That is the reason why we often see that they still stand below the Buddha. And in the Buddhism history, there are some great high-level Bodhisattvas that can become the Buddha. In daily life, the ones who cultivate at home then attain enlightenment can also become the Bodhisattva. And in the 52 stages of cultivating Bodhisattva paths, they are in the beginning steps.

The difference between Arahant and Boddhisattva is the Arahant must be the monks, whereas all humans can become the Boddhisattva if they can practice the Bodhisattva path well.


The Buddha – Maybe, You Think You Have Already Known Clearly, But To What Extent Do You Really Know About The Buddha?

The Buddha is the holy name of the Siddhartha Gotama after enlightenment. “Buddha” itself means the enlightened ones, and this one can relieve himself, relieve the humanity and acknowledge the nature of all things. However, the Buddha is not the Creator. The Buddha is just the one who helps and teaches the humanity the way to relieve the suffering.

All sentient being has the “Buddha nature” and can become the Buddha. The Buddha is the enlightened human. And all humans are the non-Buddha, but have Buddha nature, and be able to become the Buddha. The Buddha does not think he is a God who needs to be honored, and does not admit the appearance of the Creator, too. He knows all the philosophies and truths of the humanity. Although he knows all, he can not change the humanity’s fate. He is just able to guide the humanity how to change their life.

The Buddha is the mental doctor who gives good advice to have a better mindful living – a life without hardship or suffering. He gives us the useful prescription to liberate from all human pains. The ones who believe in the Buddha can get escape from the pains in the reincarnation. If not, he just shows empathy but cannot help. He is really a transcendental mentor. That is the reason why he does not call himself the Creator of the Universe. He does not look forward to being honored by the humanity. If someone follows his guidance and practice them in daily life, it also means they show respect to the Buddha and vice versa.

The world of the Buddha, Bodhisattva, and Arahant.
The world of the Buddha, Bodhisattva, and Arahant.

How Do You Think about The Buddha, Bodhisattva, and Arahant?

How do you think about the difference between the Buddha, Bodhisattva, and Arahant?

Now, you can see that a variety of Buddhism sects created a lot of names in the Buddhism world. Depending on each Buddhism sect’s belief system, the highest fruition can be different. Instead of thinking too much about their difference, we can learn from them.

  • Arahant: By listening to the Dharma, Arahant can attain the enlightenment and Nirvana.
  • Bodhisattva: By cultivating themselves, whether they are at homes or in the pagodas/temple, they can absolutely go on the Bodhisattva path.
  • The Buddha: By making effort to practice mindfulness meditation in forty-nine days, finally, he came up with the idea of the Four Noble Path, the Noble Eightfold Path, and the Tree Poisons that leads to all humanity’s suffering. After enlightening the universal truths, he became the Buddha and knew how to liberate from all humanity’s pain. Thus, by following his guidance, we can definitely get an escape from the daily sorrow and have a better life.

In conclusion, although the labels of the highest fruition in Buddhism are different, they share the same spirit: the Dharma leads us the Nirvana. If we really look forward to achieving the eternal bliss, there is no short way for us but making effort to cultivate ourselves.

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