(Pāli: “noble person”),abbreviation  Ariya,  Sanskrit  Arya-pudgala,  

      in Theravāda Buddhism, a person who has attained one of the four levels of holiness. A first type of holy person, called a sotāpanna-puggala (“stream-winner”), is one who will attain Nirvana (the supreme goal of Buddhist thought and practice) after no more than seven rebirths. Another type of holy person is termed a sakadāgamin (“once-returner”), or one who is destined to be reborn in the human world only once more before reaching Nirvana. A third type of ariya-puggala is the anāgamin (“never-returner”), or one who will not be reborn in the human realm and will enter the realm of the gods at the time of death. The never-returner, however, is still not considered to have reached Nirvana.

      The Theravāda Buddhist at the highest level of holiness is the arhat, one who has reached final and absolute emancipation from all rebirths in any human or superhuman realm. The arhat—a model person for Theravāda Buddhists—is to be distinguished from the personal ideal of the Mahāyāna Buddhist schools, the bodhisattva (q.v.; “buddha-to-be”). The latter is a holy person who has reached enlightenment but refuses to enter Nirvana, choosing rather to teach his insights until all creatures have similarly been liberated.

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