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Buddha

A stone image of the Buddha.

A stone image of the Buddha.

Buddha (Sanskrit, Pali, others: literally Awakened One, from the root: √budh, "to awaken") is a title used in Buddhism for anyone who has discovered their enlightenment (bodhi), although it is commonly used to refer to Siddhartha Gautama, the historical founder of Buddhism.

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Generally, Buddhists do not consider Siddhartha Gautama—who lived from about 623 BC to 543 BC, and attained bodhi around 588 BC—to have been the first or the last Buddha. From the standpoint of classical Buddhist doctrine, a Buddha is anyone who rediscovers the Dharma and achieves enlightenment, having amassed sufficient positive karma to do so. There have existed many such beings in the course of cosmic time. Hence, Gautama Buddha (known by the religious name Shakyamuni) is one member of a spiritual lineage of Supreme Buddhas going back to the dim past and forward into the distant future. His immediate predecessor was Dipankara Buddha, and his successor will be named Maitreya.

Buddhism recognises three types of Buddha, of which the simple term Buddha is normally reserved for the first type, that of Samyaksam-buddha (Pali: Samma-Sambuddha). The attainment of Nirvana is exactly the same, but a Samyaksam-buddha expresses more qualities and capacities than the other two.

The historical Buddha seems to have presented himself not as a god or savior, but as a teacher capable of guiding sentient beings out of samsara. Nevertheless, many forms of Buddhism do recognize savior-type figures. The technical differences between Buddhas, bodhisattvas, dharmapalas (protector deities), yidams ("tutelery deities"), and "gods" (Sanskrit deva, Tibetan lha) often blur in practical devotion. Nonetheless, all are seen within the mainstream Buddhist context as being empty of inherent existence, a quality no theistic religion would ascribe to its "god". Certain teachings of the Buddha in a number of Mahayana sutras, however, vigorously oppose the idea that even the Buddha (in his ultimate Dharmakaya mode) is not truly and eternally Real (see "Eternal Buddha" section below): according to this less widespread doctrine, only the realm of samsara has no enduring essence, whereas to assert the same of the Buddha is to commit a grave offence and to stray dangerously from the path of authentic Dharma (see Nirvana Sutra).

A Tang Dynasty sculpture of Amitabha Buddha, found in the Hidden Stream Temple Cave, Longmen Grottoes, China indicates.

A Tang Dynasty sculpture of Amitabha Buddha, found in the Hidden Stream Temple Cave, Longmen Grottoes, China indicates.

The awakened bliss of Nirvana, according to Buddhism, is available to all beings—although orthodoxy holds that one must first be born as a human being. Emphasizing this universal availability, Buddhism refers to many Buddhas and also to many bodhisattvas - beings committed to Enlightenment, who vow to

  • (from the Nikaya view) postpone their own Nirvana in order to assist others on the path, or
  • (from the Mahayana view) secure Awakening/Nirvana for themselves first and thereafter continue to liberate all other beings from suffering for all time.

Contents

Eternal Buddha

A statue of Lord Buddha in Hyderabad, India.

A statue of Lord Buddha in Hyderabad, India.

The idea of an everlasting Buddha is a notion popularly associated with the Mahayana scripture, the Lotus Sutra. That sutra has the Buddha indicate that he became Awakened countless, immeasurable, inconceivable myriads of trillions of aeons ("kalpas") ago and that his lifetime is "forever existing and immortal". From the human perspective, it seems as though the Buddha has always existed. The sutra itself, however, does not directly employ the phrase "eternal Buddha"; yet similar notions are found in other Mahayana scriptures, notably the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, which presents the Buddha as the ultimately real, eternal ("nitya"/ "sasvata"), unchanging, blissful, pure Self (Atman) who, as the Dharmakaya, knows of no beginning or end. The All-Creating King Tantra additionally contains a panentheistic vision of Samantabhadra Buddha as the eternal, primordial Buddha, the Awakened Mind of bodhi, who declares: "From the primordial, I am the Buddhas of the three times [i.e. past, present and future]." The notion of an eternal Buddha perhaps finds resonance with the earlier idea of eternal Dharma/Nirvana, of which the Buddha is said to be an embodiment.

The doctrine of an eternal Buddha is not, however, a feature of Theravada Buddhism. The Elders' School of Buddhism, which claims to preserve the original teachings of the Buddha from the first great recital (the second led the way to the division into Theravada and Mahayana), places great value on the Master's words that 'none is eternal', and believes that even the life of an enlightened one does indeed have an end.

Also appearing in Theravada is the notion of anatta as one of the 'trilakshana'(the three characteristics of reality): this embodies the idea that there is no definite, fixed, unchanging entity constituting a "person" that passes from one life to the next; Theravadin interpretation (along with that of most other Buddhist schools) of "anatta" also denies the existence of a fixed, unchanging, everenduring personal soul. The concept in place of the soul is the 'Bhava' ("becoming"), which is an ongoing flow of karmically projected energies that derive from, and give rise to, volitional thoughts and emotion.

Mahayana Buddhism, on the other hand, regards such teaching as incomplete and offers the complementary doctrine of a pure Selfhood (the eternal yet unsubstantial hypostasis of the Buddha) which no longer generates karma and which subsists eternally in the realm of Nirvana, from which sphere help to suffering worldly beings can be sent forth in the forms of various transitory physical Buddhas ("nirmanakayas"). While the bodies of these corporeal Buddhas are subject to disease, decline and death - like all impermanent things - the salvational Tathagata or Dharmakaya behind them is forever free from impairment, impermanence or mortality. It is this transcendent yet immanent Dharmakaya-Buddha which is taught in certain major Mahayana sutras to be immutable and eternal and is intimately linked with Dharma itself. According to the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, worldly beings fail to see this eternality of the Buddha and his Truth (Dharma). The Buddha comments there: "I say that those who do not know that the Tathagata [Buddha] is eternal are the foremost of the congenitally blind." This view, it should be noted, is foreign to mainstream Theravada Buddhism.Buddha was born in Nepal.

32 Marks of the Buddha

1. He places his foot evenly on the floor
2. The soles of his feet are imprinted with wheels
3. He has projecting heels
4. He has long fingers and toes
5. He has soft and tender hands and feet
6. He has webbed hands and feet
7. He has arched feet
8. He has legs like an antelope
9. When he stands upright his hands reach down to his knees
10. His male organ is covered with a sheath
11. His complexion has a golden sheen
12. His skin is so smooth that no dust clings to it
13. Each hair on his skin grows from a single pore
14. The hair on his skin is blue-black, curly and turns at the end to the right
15. His limbs are straight like those of a god
16. There are seven convex surfaces on his body - four behind his limbs, two behind his shoulders and one behind his trunk
17. His torso is like that of a lion
18. The furrow between his shoulders is absent
19. His body is perfectly proportioned - the span of his arms is the same as his height
20. His neck and shoulders are evenly proportioned
21. His taste is exceptionally sensitive
22. His jaws are like those of a lion's
23. He has forty teeth
24. His teeth are even
25. There are no gaps in his teeth
26. His teeth are white and shining
27. He has a long tongue
28. He has a divine voice
29. He has deep blue eyes
30. He has eyelashes like those of an ox
31. He has soft white hair growing between his eyebrows
32. His head is shaped like a turban the two, are excellently smooth

Names of the Buddhas

In most Theravada countries, it is the custom for Buddhists to hold elaborate festivals to honor 28 Buddhas. In the Chronicle of the Buddhas (the Buddhavamsa), mention is made of only 24 Buddhas having arisen before Gautama Buddha.

The following are the names of 28 Buddhas:

1. Tanhankara, 2. Medhankara, 3. Saranankara, 4. Dipankara, 5. Kondnna, 6. Managala, 7. Sumana, 8. Revata, 9. Sobhita, 10. Anomadassi, 11. Paduma, 12. Narada, 13. Padumuttara, 14. Sumedha, 15. Sujata, 16. Piyadassi, 17. Atthadassi, 18. Dhammadassi, 19. Siddhatta, 20. Tissa, 21. Phussa, 22. Vipassi, 23. Sikhi, 24. Vessabhu, 25. Kakusandha, 26. Konagamana, 27. Kassapa, 28. Gautama

The "Buddha Boy" or "New Buddha"

There are reports that there is a "New Buddha". His name is Ram Bomjon, and he has been silently meditating beneath a pipal tree, much like the historical Buddha figure, for over 200 days (at the time of this posting). The link to an article can be found here: http://www.washtimes.com/world/20051121-101122-9033r.htm

Sources

  • The Threefold Lotus Sutra (Kosei Publishing, Tokyo 1975), tr. by B. Kato, Y. Tamura, and K. Miyasaka, revised by W. Soothill, W. Schiffer, and P. Del Campana
  • The Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra (Nirvana Publications, London, 1999-2000), tr. by K. Yamamoto, ed. and revised by Dr. Tony Page
  • The Sovereign All-Creating Mind: The Motherly Buddha (Sri Satguru Publications, Delhi 1992), tr. by E.K. Neumaier-Dargyay
  • Buddha - The Compassionate Teacher (2002), by K.M.M.Swe