In Buddhism, an arhat (Sanskrit) or arahant (Pali) is one who has gained insight into the true nature of existence and has achieved nirvana

Mahayana Buddhist traditions have used the term for people far advanced along the path of Enlightenment, but who may not have reached full Buddhahood

The understanding of the concept has changed over the centuries, and varies between different schools of Buddhism and different regions

A range of views on the attainment of arhats existed in the early Buddhist schools

The Sarvāstivāda, Kāśyapīya, Mahāsāṃghika, Ekavyāvahārika, Lokottaravāda, Bahuśrutīya, Prajñaptivāda, and Caitika schools all regarded arhats as imperfect in their attainments compared to buddhas

Mahayana Buddhist teachings urge followers to take up the path of a bodhisattva, and to not fall back to the level of arhats and śrāvakas

The arhats, or at least the senior arhats, came to be widely regarded by Theravada buddhists as “moving beyond the state of personal freedom to join the Bodhisattva enterprise in their own way”

Mahayana Buddhism regarded a group of Eighteen Arhats (with names and personalities) as awaiting the return of the Buddha as Maitreya, while other groupings of 6, 8, 16, 100, and 500 also appear in tradition and Buddhist art, especially in East Asia called luohan or lohan

They may be seen as the Buddhist equivalents of the Christian saint, apostles or early disciples and leaders of the faith