Who is an arhat (arahat)? What is nirvana (nibbana)?
An arhat is someone who has eliminated the ignorance and afflictive emotions (anger, attachment, jealousy, pride, etc.) from his/her mind forever. In addition, he/she has purified all karma that could cause rebirth in the cycle of constantly recurring problems (samsara). This person abides in a state of peace, beyond all sorrow and suffering, called nirvana or liberation.
What is bodhi or enlightenment?
In addition to eliminating ignorance, afflictive emotions and karma from one’s mind, a Buddha has also eliminated the stains of these defilements. Thus, a Buddha has purified all Steps Along The Path defilements and developed all of his/her qualities. The resultant state attained is called enlightenment.
What is a bodhisattva, a dedicated being?
A bodhisattva is a being who spontaneously and continuously has the wish to attain enlightenment for the benefit of sentient beings. By practicing the path, such a person will attain the state of Buddhahood.
There are different levels of bodhisattvas, according to their level of realization. Some are not yet free from the cycle of constantly recurring problems, while others are. The latter can then take birth in the world voluntarily, by the power of compassion, in order to help others. Buddhas can do this as well.
What is an arya, a superior or noble one?
This is a person who has direct realization of emptiness. Such a realization occurs before one becomes an arhat or Buddha, and it is by this wisdom realizing emptiness that one eliminates ignorance, afflictive emotions, karma, and their stains, thereby attaining liberation and enlightenment.
Extract from the book titled "I Wonder Why" by Thubten Chodron
Copyrighted & Published by:
Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery
Gratefully acknowledges the permission kindly given by the publisher, Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery to share the above on this blog