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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Arhat

(Arhant; Pāli: Arahant). A Sanskrit word literally meaning “worthy” or “venerable” in Theravsda Buddhism. In classical texts, four stages are identified on the path to enlightenment:

1. Srotspatti – entering the stream. The Voice of the Silence states that when one becomes a Srotspatti, he will only be reborn seven more times.

2. Sakridagamin – once-returner, i.e., one who takes incarnation only one more time before attaining the fourth stage.

3. Anagamin – non-returner, i.e., one who will attain the fourth stage in that birth.

4. Arhat – an enlightened or liberated soul; one who has attained Nirvāṇa.

Charles W. LEADBEATER likened these to the first four Initiations according to esoteric teaching and said they are equivalent in expansion of consciousness (though not in name or symbolism) to the Christian esoteric teaching of Initiations, depicted in the life of Jesus: Birth, Baptism, Transfiguration, and Crucifixion/Resurrection.

Helena P. BLAVATSKY stated that Arhatship is not yet the highest Initiation. There are three further levels to attain before one reaches the apex of Initiation. It is claimed that the world has always had, and presently has, in it individuals who have attained these various levels of spiritual development. They form a spiritual brotherhood which attempts to assist humanity in various ways. The faculties needed for such attainment will only be fully developed in the average ascetic at the end of the 5th ROOT-RACE. And even then, most of humanity will not have reached such levels. Those who have reached the 7th initiation — called by HPB Arhats of the “fire-mist” — will have attained a level next only to the ROOT-BASE OF THE HIERARCHY, the latter of which are considered the highest on earth and in the Earth CHAIN (SD I:207).

In the Mahatma Letters (ML, p. 360), the Mahatma Koot Hoomi. states that an Arhat or Bodhisattva will have complete recollection of all the previous lives, both of the earthly and the devachanic (that is, the period between physical lives). He also mentions (ML, p. 102) that he has made his “Arhat vows,” where he can neither seek revenge nor help others obtain it. Mahatma K. H. refers to their doctrines as “Arhat philosophy” (ML, p. 343). See INITIATION.

V.H.C.

 

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