In Buddhism, the term (Skt.) “arhat” (Pali “arahant”) refers to a person who has achieved realization or enlightenment, having attained a state of nirvana. It is the model for spiritual development in Theravada Buddhism, one of three branches of contemporary Buddhism, also known as the southern transmission, because the tradition went southward from India to Sri Lanka, then to Thailand, Burma, Laos, and Cambodia. In the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions, the model of the arhat is replaced by the model of the bodhisattva.
The arhat is a fully realized being and upon death they do not return to the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, the samsaric wheel of life. One attains this state through much dedication and effort, probably across many lifetimes. The earliest Buddhist scriptures, the Tipitaka, recount stories of how many of the monks who studied with the Buddha attained arhatship during their lifetimes.
There are four stages over which the already advanced practitioner reaches the...