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Template:Clone Template:Buddhist term Śrāvaka (Sanskrit) or Sāvaka (Pali) means "hearer" or, more generally, "disciple". This term is used in Buddhism and Jainism. In Jainism, a śrāvaka is any lay Jain so the term śrāvaka has been used for the Jain community itself (for example see Sarak and Sarawagi).

In Buddhism, the term is sometimes reserved for distinguished disciples of the Buddha.


Early Buddhism

Template:See also In early Buddhism, a śrāvaka or śrāvikā is a disciple who accepts:

In the Nikāya, depending on the context, a sāvaka can also refer to a disciple of a teacher other than the Buddha.Template:Sfn

Theravada Buddhism

Template:Peoplepalicanon In the Pāli Canon, the term "disciple" transcends monastic-lay divisions and can refer to anyone from the following "four assemblies":Template:Sfn

Buddhist texts further mention three types of disciples based on spiritual accomplishment:[1][2]Template:Sfn

  • "Chief Disciple" (Pāli: aggasāvaka; Sanskrit: agraśrāvaka): in the Pali canon, these are Sāriputta and (Mahā)moggallāna
  • "Great Disciple" (Pāli: mahāsāvaka; Sanskrit: mahāśrāvaka): examples are Mahākassapa, Ānanda, Anuruddha and Mahākaccāna.Template:Sfn
  • "Ordinary Disciple" (Pāli: pakatisāvaka; Sanskrit: Template:IAST): constituting the majority of disciples, while devoted to the Buddha and his teaching and while having planted seeds for future liberation, they have not yet irreversibly entered the path to emancipation and are still subject to infinite rebirths.Template:Sfn


In the Pali commentaries, the term ariyasāvaka is explained as "the disciple of the Noble One (i.e. Buddha)".[3] Accordingly, Soma Thera and Thanissaro Bhikkhu translate this term as "The disciple of the Noble Ones"[4]

However Bhikkhu Bodhi interprets this term as "noble disciple", and according to him, in the Pali suttas, this term is used in two ways:Template:Sfn

  1. broadly: any lay disciple of the Buddha;
  2. narrowly: one who is at least on the path to enlightenment (Pāli: sotāpatti maggattha). In this sense, "ordinary people" (puthujjana) can be contrasted with this narrow definition of "noble disciple" (ariyasāvaka).Template:Sfn Nyanatiloka writes, "sāvaka [...] refers, in a restricted sense (then mostly ariya-sāvaka, 'noble disciple'), only to the eight kinds of noble disciples (ariya-puggala, q.v.)."Template:Sfn

The canon occasionally references the "four pairs" and "eight types" of disciples.[5] This refers to disciples who have achieved one of the four stages of enlightenment:

In regards to disciples achieving arahantship, Bhikkhu Bodhi writes: Template:Quote For each of these stages, there is a "pair" of possible disciples: one who is on the stage's path (Pāli: magga); the other who has achieved its fruit (Pāli: phala). Thus, each stage represents a "pair" of individuals: the path traveler (Pāli: maggattha) and the fruit achiever (Pāli: phalattha). Hence, the community of disciples is said to be composed of four pairs or eight types of individuals (Pāli: cattāri purisayugāni attha purisapuggalā).Template:SfnTemplate:Harv

Foremost disciples

In the "Etadaggavagga" ("These are the Foremost Chapter," AN 1.188-267), the Buddha identifies 80 different categories for his "foremost" (Pāli: agga) disciples: 47 categories for monks, 13 for nuns, ten for laymen and ten for laywomen.[6]Template:Sfn

While the disciples identified with these categories are declared to be the Buddha's "foremost" or "chief" (Pāli: agga), this is different from his "Foremost" or "Chief Disciples" (Pāli: aggasavaka) who are consistently identified solely as Sariputta and Mahamoggallana. In this article, in order to avoid confusion regarding this use of the Pāli word agga, the aggasavakas will be referred to as "Chief Disciples" while those disciples simply referred to as being agga will be called "foremost" disciples.Template:Citation needed Some of these categories and the associated disciples are identified in the table below.[7]

  The Buddha's Foremost Disciples
(Based on AN 1.14)
CATEGORY Bhikkhu Bhikkhuni Upāsaka Upāsikā
First Kondañña Mahapajapati Gotami
Great / High Wisdom Sāriputta Khemā, Yasodharā
Psychic Powers Mahāmoggallāna Uppalavaṇṇā
Discipline Mahākassapa Paṭācārā
Heavenly Eye Anuruddha Bakulā
Teaching / Knowledge Mahākaccāna, Puṇṇa, Vangisa Dhammadinnā Citta Kujjuttarā
Foremost Layperson Sudatta Visakhā
First Taking Refuge Tapusa and Bahalika Sujāta

In addition, in SN 17.23,[8] SN 17.24[9] and AN 4.18.6,[10] the Buddha identifies four pairs of disciples "who have no compare" and who should thus be emulated. These four pairs are a subset of the 80 foremost disciples identified in the sub-section 14 of AN 1 (i.e. AN 1.188-267). These four pairs of disciples to be most emulated are:

The community of disciples

In Buddhism, there are two main communities (Pāli: sangha):

  • The "community of monks and nuns" (Pāli: bhikkhu-sangha; bhikkhuni-sangha) refers to a community of four or more monks or nuns who are living in a permanent or semi-permanent single-sex community (in the contemporary West monks and nuns may live within the same monastery but in separate living quarters). Within this community of monks and nuns there is a further sub-division containing practitioners (who are nonetheless still living among their fellow renunciates) possessed of some substantive level of realization (namely, those who have at least gained stream-entry). This core group is called the "noble sangha" (ariya-sangha).
  • The "community of disciples" (Pāli: sāvaka-sangha) refers to the broad community of monks, nuns, and male and female layfollowers.

For an example of a traditional stock reference to the sāvaka-sangha in the Pali canon, in "The Crest of the Standard" discourse (SN 11.3), the Buddha advises his monks that, if they experience fear, they can recollect the Buddha or the Dhamma or the Sangha; and, in recollecting the Sangha they should recall:

"The Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples [sāvaka-sangha] is practising the good way, practising the straight way, practising the true way, practising the proper way; that is, the four pairs of persons, the eight types of individuals...."[13]

A similar phrase can also be found in the lay disciple's daily chant, "Sangha Vandanā" ("Salutation to the Sangha").[14]

Mahāyāna view

In Mahayana Buddhism, śrāvakas or arhats are sometimes contrasted negatively with bodhisattvas.Template:Sfn

In the 4th century abhidharma work Abhidharmasamuccaya, Asaṅga describes those who follow the Śrāvakayāna. These people are described as having weak faculties, following the Śrāvaka Dharma, utilizing the Śrāvaka Piṭaka, being set on their own liberation, and cultivating detachment in order to attain liberation.[15] Those in the Pratyekabuddhayāna are portrayed as also utilizing the Śrāvaka Piṭaka, are said to have medium faculties, to follow the Pratyekabuddha Dharma, and to be set on their own personal enlightenment.[16] Finally, those in the Mahāyāna "Great Vehicle" are portrayed as utilizing the Bodhisattva Piṭaka, as having sharp faculties, following the Bodhisattva Dharma, and set on the perfection and liberation of all beings, and the attainment of complete enlightenment.[17]

According to Vasubandhu's Yogacara teachings, there are four types of śrāvakas:[18]

  1. The fixed
  2. The arrogant
  3. The transformed
  4. The converted (to "Bodhi" or Buddhism)

The transformed and the converted (Buddhist) are assured of eventual Nirvana in the Lotus Sutra.Template:Citation needed

According to Je Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism: Template:Quote


A śrāvaka in Jainism is a lay Jain. He is the hearer of discourses of monastics and scholars, Jain literature. In Jainism, the Jain community is made up of four sections: monks, nuns, śrāvakas (laymen) and śrāvikās (laywomen).

The term śrāvaka has also been used as a shorthand for the community itself. For example, the Sarawagi are a Jain community originating in Rajasthan, and sometimes śrāvaka is the origin of surnames for Jain families. The long-isolated Jain community in East India is known as the Sarak.

The conduct of a śrāvaka is governed by texts called śrāvakācāras,[19][20] the best known of which is the Ratnakaranda śrāvakācāra of Samantabhadra.

A śrāvaka rises spiritually through the eleven pratimas. After the eleventh step, he becomes a monk.

Jains follow six obligatory duties known as avashyakas: samayika (practising serenity), chaturvimshati (praising the tirthankara), vandan (respecting teachers and monks), pratikramana (introspection), kayotsarga (stillness), and pratyakhyana (renunciation).Template:Sfn

See also


  1. Acharya (2002), pp. 100-101. (On-line, see the "Glossary" entry for āriya.[1].)
  2. Webu & Bischoff (1995)
  3. See the entry for "ariya" in Pali Text Society Pali-English dictionary, and Pali commentaries: Itivuttaka-Atthakatha 2.73, Ekanipata-Atthakatha 1.63, Patisambhidamagga-Atthakatha 1.167, Sammohavinodani-Atthakatha 119, Nettippakarana-Atthakatha Mya:112.
  4. See the translation of Kalama sutta by Soma Thera [2] and Thanissaro Bhikkhu [3]. In the Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation of the Kalama sutta the term "noble disciple" is used instead.
  5. See, for instance, "The Crest of the Standard" discourse (SN 11.3) (Bodhi, 2000, p. 320) as well as Nyanatiloka (1952), entries for "ariya-puggala" ("noble ones") [4] and "sāvaka" [5].
  6. The number of foremost disciple categories is evident from scanning Uppalavanna (n.d.-b)
  7. Based on Uppalavanna (n.d.-b).
  8. Bodhi (2000), p. 688.
  9. Bodhi (2000), p. 689.
  10. Uppalavanna (n.d.-a).
  11. According to AN 1.251, Hatthaka of Āḷavī is foremost "to establish liberality, kind speech, leading an useful life and a state of equality among the others".
  12. (Bodhi, 2000, p. 812, n. 329;).
  13. Bodhi (2000), p. 320.
  14. Indaratana (2002), pp. 7-8.
  15. Boin-Webb, Sara (tr). Rahula, Walpola (tr). Asanga. Abhidharma Samuccaya: The Compendium of Higher Teaching. 2001. p. 199
  16. Boin-Webb, Sara (tr). Rahula, Walpola (tr). Asanga. Abhidharma Samuccaya: The Compendium of Higher Teaching. 2001. pp. 199-200
  17. Boin-Webb, Sara (tr). Rahula, Walpola (tr). Asanga. Abhidharma Samuccaya: The Compendium of Higher Teaching. 2001. p. 200
  18. P. 396 Pruning the Bodhi Tree: The Storm Over Critical Buddhism edited by Jamie Hubbard, Paul Loren Swanson
  19. Shravakachar Sangrah, Five Volumes, Hiralal Jain Shastri, Jain Sanskruti Samrakshak Sangh Solapur, 1988
  20. Jaina yoga: a survey of the mediaeval śrāvakācāras By R. Williams


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