Home Discussion Forum Whatis an arahat and what is a bodhisattva?

Whatis an arahat and what is a bodhisattva?

I need to know what an arahat and what a Bodhisattva for gcse R.E. The answer doesn’t need to be too indepth but I’d like something that properly explains it, as of yet I have found nothing on the internet that compares the two. Are they both from the same tradition of Buddhism, whats the difference between them?


  1. These are different level of enlightenment. In Theravada, Arhats are supposedly the highest, but in Mahayana they’re ranked below Bodhisattvas.
    The difference is essentially that Bodhisattvas consciously attain the enlightenment and paranirvana but then reject it (to stay alive) in order to help the humanity. On the other hand, Arhats become living Buddhas and have no real interest in the living world (they are ready to die and attain paranirvana). That’s the gist of it. Don’t try to overanalyze it because it’s futile. Neither Mahayana nor Theravada adequately explain how this “enlightenment” actually functions in reality.

  2. Buddhist sects view the definitions differently.
    Buddha = a person that becomes enlightened without outside help.
    Boddhisatva = a person who becomes a Buddha later in life
    Arahat = a person who achieves enlightenment through a Buddha’s instructions.
    So no supernatural elements involved.
    MAHAYANA BUDDHISM (I’m not too sure of Mahayana… this is my guess)
    Buddha = the same. But it can happen in celestial places
    Boddhisattva = a person who could have been a buddha but chooses not to enter nirvana because they help other beings be freed from suffering first, so they stay in samara by option. Some pray to these Boddhisattvas for help, much like praying to God to external help. Boddhisattvas exist on earth, heaven and other realms.
    Arahat = a person that reaches nirvana through the Buddha’s teachings and chooses to stay in nirvana after they die, unlike a Boddhisattva who reaches nirvana but stays in samsara (samsara is the cycle of birth and death).
    Consensus among scholars seems to be that Theravada is closest to the original teachings of Buddha.


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