Arya (Skt. ārya; Tib. འཕགས་པ་, pakpa; Wyl. 'phags pa) literally means 'noble' or 'sublime'. The Tibetan word for Arya (pakpa) means 'elevated' or 'exalted', and refers to the exalted state, surpassing that of an ordinary, samsaric being, which is attained when reaching the path of seeing, whether as a shravaka, pratyekabuddha or bodhisattva.
There are four classes of noble beings:
Arya (Sanskrit, also ārya; Pāli: Ariya) is a term frequently used in Buddhism that can be translated as "Noble", "not ordinary", "valuble", "precious", "pure", etc.Arya in the sense "Noble" or "exalted" is frequently used in Buddhist texts to designate a spiritual warrior or hero.
The term is used in the following contexts:
- The Four Noble Truths are called the catvāry ārya satyāni (Sanskrit) or cattāri Ariya saccāni (Pali).
- The Noble Eightfold Path is called the ārya mārga (Sanskrit, also āryāṣṭāṅgikamārga) or Ariya Magga (Pāli).
- Buddha's Dharma and Vinaya are the ariyassa dhammavinayo.
- In Buddhist texts, the āryas are those who have the Buddhist śīla (Pāli Sīla, meaning "Virtue") and follow the Buddhist path.
- Buddhists themselves are called Ariya puggalas (Arya persons).
- Those who despise Buddhism are often called "anāryas".
- Paul Williams states: "The Aryas are the Noble ones, the saints, those who have attained 'the fruits of the path', 'that middle path the Tathagata has comprehended which promotes sight and Knowledge, and which tends to peace, higher Wisdom, Enlightenment, and Nibbana' (Narada 1980: 50).
- Geshe Tashi Tsering states: "The modifier Noble [i.e. arya means Truth as perceived by arya beings, those beings who have had a direct realization of Emptiness or selflessness.
For people like us, who do not have the direct realization of Emptiness, although we may understand certain levels of physical and Mental experiences as Suffering, it is impossible for us to see all the levels of Suffering for what they are. Instead we may see some things as desirable when in Truth they are Suffering."
The same text also describes the āryas as the ones who "have understood and realized about the truth of] Suffering, (Impermanence, Emptiness, and no-self)" and who "understand things as they are". In another text, the Yogācārabhūmi (Taishō 1579, vol. xx, 364b10-15), the āryas are described as being free from the viparyāsas.
In many parts of the South India, if somebody (new) is supposed to be addressed respectably, the prefix "Ayya", derived from "Arya" is used. South Indians used to call them "Arya" which is now transformed to "Ayya". This term is used even today.