I was traveling in Japan, I didn't know what a "Rakkan"
was. One of my friends told me they were "disciples of the
Buddha," and that was good enough for me.
It wasn't until I began my formal
studies in Buddhism that I lkearned that "rakkan" was from the
Chinese "lohan," a variant of "a-lo-han," which is
the SInified version of "arahant," the Sanskrit form of the
Pali "arhat." (Got that?)
And the arhats are the disciples of the
Buddha, all right, but they're rather special: they have attained Nirvana through their own meditative efforts! In the Mahayana
tradition, when the cosmic Buddha speaks ex cathedra, as it were,
the 500 arhats are always there.
Here, then, are what must have been at
the time Japan's newest set of the 500--so new that some of them were
still in their crates! These guys were just being installed at
Unpenji, Shikoku temple Number