Pratyekabuddhas (Skt.; Tib. རང་སངས་རྒྱས་, rang sangyé, Wyl. rang sangs rgyas), or 'solitary realisers', are followers of the basic vehicle, and more specifically of the pratyekabuddha yana, who attain the level of a pratyekabuddha arhat by themselves, in solitude.
According to some early schools of Buddhism, and the Mahayana, pratyekabuddhas first hear the teachings of the Buddha, then study and reflect upon the twelve links of interdependent origination, and accumulate merit for a hundred kalpas. They pray to be reborn in a world to which no buddha has come, and they attain realization without relying on a teacher. They usually teach visually rather than verbally; for example, by displaying miracles such as transforming the upper part of their bodies into fire, and the lower part into water.
They are sometimes referred to as 'intermediate buddhas' and their enlightenment is considered to be a higher form of realization than that of shravakas for two reasons: their accumulation of merit, and their accumulation of wisdom.
The shravakas accumulate merit for up to sixteen lifetimes, whereas pratyekabuddhas accumulate merit for a hundred kalpas. In their accumulation of wisdom, shravakas only realise one type of selflessness—the selflessness of the individual—whereas pratyekabuddhas also realise half of the selflessness of phenomena. For the same reasons, the pratyekabuddhas' realization is considered inferior to the full enlightenment of those following the bodhisattva path. A bodhisattva accumulates merit for three countless aeons and fully realises both types of selflessness.
Types of Pratyekabuddha
There are two kinds of solitary realisers:
- those with duller faculties who live in communities, like parrots, (Skt. vargacārin) and
- those with sharper faculties who live alone, like rhinoceroses (Skt. khaḍgaviṣāṇakalpa).
- hermit buddhas (Gyurme Dorje)
- self-realized ones (Geshe Thupten Jinpa)
- They are called ‘parrot-like’ because they remain together in groups, unlike the ‘rhinoceros-like’ pratyekabuddha arhats who stay by themselves.