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Today I stumbled upon a thread on Reddit. Deep down in the comments, I saw someone make the following claim:

My personal opinion is probably they [lay arahants] will run away from society and die in a forest, which is what happened in the suttas to a prince who ran away from society when he attained Arahantship in his sleep, and woke up. The Buddha telepathically communicated with him to come to the Sangha, aka The Refuge, it's called a Refuge because it is a refuge for Enlightened people who escape the lay life.

When asked by another user where in the suttas this story was found, he replied that he didn't remember where he read it but that it was probably in the Khuddaka Nikaya. Of course I don't have time now to read the entire Khuddaka Nikaya, so I want to ask if anyone here is familiar with the story. On the one hand it sounds pretty improbable to me (if it were in the Canon, why have I never seen it being mentioned in debates about whether lay arahants exist?), but on the other hand I don't think the person who posted it has made it up all by himself.

Thanks in advance for your answers!

  • What kind of answer are you hoping for -- just people who agree with you that, "if it were in the Canon, why have I never seen it being mentioned in debates about whether lay arahants exist"? – ChrisW Apr 19 at 11:58
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As you found out on Reddit, the story sounds a lot like that of Yasa, who didn't of course become an Arahant before meeting the Buddha, and certainly not in his sleep! But to your general question, stories of lay people who have become arahants and then left home do exist in the texts. A notable example that comes to mind is Khema Theri (see palikanon.com/english/pali_names/ku/khemaa.htm).

Worth keeping in mind is that an arahant needs to learn from a Buddha to become enlightened, so if the story in question means the prince became an arahant before meeting the Buddha, that is impossible.

  • Does this mean that paccekabuddhahood is not open for all, but only to mendicants outside of where the Buddha's words are known? – Ilya Grushevskiy Apr 19 at 17:27
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    Yes, the orthodox Theravada doctrine IIRC is that all paccekabuddhas enter parinibbana before the Buddha arises, and none will arise until after the Buddha passes away. – yuttadhammo Apr 20 at 2:33

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