A generic name, an appellative - but not a proper name - given to one who has attained Enlightenment (na mātarā katam, na pitarā katam – vimokkhantikam etam buddhānam bhagavantānam bodhiyā mūle ... paññatti, MNid.458; Ps.i.174) a man superior to all other beings, human and divine, by his knowledge of the Truth (Dhamma).
The texts mention two kinds of Buddha: viz.,
The Commentaries, however (e.g., SA.i.20; AA.i.65) make mention of four classes of Buddha:
All arahants (khīnāsavā) are called Catusacca Buddhā and all learned men Bahussuta Buddhā. A Pacceka Buddha practises the ten perfections (pāramitā) for two asankheyyas and one hundred thousand kappas, a Sabbañu Buddha practises it for one hundred thousand kappas and four or eight or sixteen asankheyyas, as the case may be (see below).
Seven Sabbaññu Buddhas are mentioned in the earlier books; these are
E.g., D.ii.5f.; S.ii.5f.; cp. Thag.491; J.ii.147; they are also mentioned at Vin.ii.110, in an old formula against snake bites. Beal (Catena, p. 159) says these are given in the Chinese Pātimokkha. They are also found in the Sayambhū Purāna (Mitra, Skt. Buddhist Lit. of Nepal, p. 249).
This number is increased in the later books. The Buddhavamsa contains detailed particulars of twenty five Buddhas, including the last, Gotama, the first twenty four being those who prophesied Gotama's appearance in the world. They are the predecessors of Vipassī, etc., and are the following:
The same poem, in its twenty seventh chapter, mentions three other Buddhas - Tanhankara, Medhankara and Saranankara - who appeared in the world before Dīpankara.
The Lalitavistara has a list of fifty four Buddhas and the Mahāvastu of more than a hundred. The Cakkavatti Sīhanāda Sutta (D.iii.75ff ) gives particulars of Metteyya Buddha who will be born in the world during the present kappa. The Anāgatavamsa gives a detailed account of him. Some MSS. of that poem (J.P.T.S. 1886, p. 37) mention the names of ten future Buddhas, all of whom met Gotama who prophesied about them. These are Metteyya, Uttama, Rāma, Pasenadi Kosala, Abhibhū, Dīghasonī, Sankacca, Subha, Todeyya, Nālāgiripalaleyya (sic).
The Mahāpadāna Sutta (D.ii.5f ) which mentions the seven Buddhas gives particulars of each under eleven heads (paricchedā) -
The Commentary (DA.ii.422ff) adds to these other particulars -
In the case of Gotama, the further fact is stated that on the day of his birth there appeared also in the world Rāhulamātā, Ananda, Kanthaka, Nidhikumbhi (Treasure Trove), the Mahābodhi and Kāludāyī.
Gotama was conceived under the asterism (nakkhatta) of Uttarāsālha, under which asterism he also made his Renunciation (Da.ii425), preached his first sermon and performed the Twin Miracle. Under the asterism of Visākha he was born, attained Enlightenment and died; under that of Māgha he held his first assembly of arahants and decided to die; under Assayuja he descended from Tāvatimsa.
The Buddhavamsa Commentary says (BuA.2f) that in the Buddhavamsa particulars of each Buddha are given under twenty two heads, the additional heads being the details of the first sermon, the numbers of those attaining realization of truth (abhisamaya) at each assembly, the names of the two chief women disciples, the aura of the Buddha's body (ramsi), the height of his body, the name of the Bodhisatta (who was to become Gotama Buddha), the prophecy concerning him, his exertions (padhāna) and the details of each Buddha's death. The Commentary also says that mention must be made of the time each Buddha lived as a householder, the names of the palaces he occupied, the number of his dancing women, the names of his chief wife, and his son, his conveyance, his renunciation, his practice of austerities, his patrons and his monastery.
There are eight particulars in which the Buddhas differ from each other (atthavemattāni). These are length of life in the epoch in which each is born, the height of his body, his social rank (some are born as khattiyas, others as brahmins), the length of his austerities, the aura of his body (thus, in the case of Mangala, his aura spread throughout the ten thousand world systems, while that of Gotama extended only one fathom; - but when he wishes, a Buddha can spread his aura at will, BuA.106); the conveyance in which he makes his renunciation, the tree under which he attains Enlightenment, and the size of the seat (pallanka) under the Bodhi tree.
Only the first five are mentioned in DA.ii.424; also at BuA.105; all eight are given at BuA.246f., which also gives details under each of the eight heads, regarding all the twenty five Buddhas.
In the case of all Buddhas, there are four fixed spots (avijahitatthānāni). These are:
The monastery may vary in size; the site of the city in which it stands may also vary, but not the site of the bed. Sometimes it is to the east of the vihāra, sometimes to the north (DA.ii.424; BuA.247).
Thirty facts are mentioned as being true of all Buddhas (samatimsavidhā dhammatā).
There are also mentioned four dangers from which all Buddhas are immune:
A Buddha is born only in this Cakkavāla out of the ten thousand Cakkavālas which constitute the jātikkhetta (AA.i.251; DA.iii.897). There can appear only one Buddha in the world at a time (D.ii.225; D.iii.114; the reasons for this are given in detail in Mil. 236, and quoted in DA.iii.900f). No Buddha can arise until the sāsana of the previous Buddha has completely disappeared from the world. This happens only with the dhātuparinibbāna (see below). When a Bodhisatta takes conception in his mother's womb in his last life, after leaving Tusita, there is manifested throughout the world a wonderful radiance, and the ten thousand world systems tremble.
Similar earthquakes appear when he is born, when he attains Enlightenment, when he preaches the first sermon, when he decides to die, when he finally does so (D.ii.108f.; cp. DA.iii.897).
The Mahāpādāna Sutta (D.ii.12-15) and the Acchariya-bbhuta-dhamma Sutta (M.iii.119-124) contain accounts of other miracles, which attend the conception and birth of a Buddha. Later books (e.g., J.i.) have greatly enlarged these accounts. They describe how the Bodhisatta, having practised the thirty Pāramī, and made the five great gifts (pañcamahāpariccāgā), and thus reached the pinnacle of the threefold cariyā - ñātattha-cariyā, lokattha-cariyā and buddhi-cariyā - gives the seven mahādānā, as in the case of Vessantara, making the earth tremble seven times, and is born after death in Tusita.
The Bodhisatta, who later became Vipassī Buddha, remained in Tusita during the whole permissible period - fifty seven crores and sixty seven thousand years. But most Bodhisattas leave Tusita before completing the full span of life there. Five signs appear to warn the devaputta that his end is near (see Deva); the gods of the ten thousand worlds gather round him, beseeching him to be born on earth that he may become the Buddha. The Bodhisatta thereupon makes the five investigations (pañcamahāvilokanāni).
Sometimes only one Buddha is born in a kappa, such a kappa being called Sārakappa; sometimes two, Mandakappa; sometimes three, Varakappa; sometimes four, Sāramandakappa; rarely five, Bhaddakappa (BuA.158f). No Buddha is born in the early period of a kappa, when men live longer than one hundred thousand years and are thus not able to recognize the nature of old age and death, and therefore not able to benefit by his preaching. When the life of man is too short, there is no time for exhortation and men are full of kilesa. The suitable age for a Buddha is, therefore, when men live not less than one hundred years and not more than ten thousand. The Bodhisatta must first consider the continent and the country of birth. Buddhas are born only in Jambudīpa, and there, too, only in the Majjhimadesa. He must then consider the family; Buddhas are born only in brahmin or khattiya families, whichever is more esteemed during that particular age. Then he must think of the mother: she must be wise and virtuous; and her life must be destined to end seven days after the Buddha's birth.
Having made these decisions, the Bodhisatta goes to Nandanavana in Tusita, and while wandering about there "falls away" from Tusita and takes conception. He is aware of his death but unaware of his cuti-citta or dying thought. The Commentators seem to have differed as to whether there is awareness of conception. When the Bodhisatta is conceived, his mother has no further wish for indulgence in sexual pleasure. For seven days previously she observes the uposatha vows, but there is no mention of a virgin birth; the birth might be called parthenogenetic (see Mil.123).
On the day of the actual conception, the mother, having bathed in scented water after the celebration of the Asālha festival, and having eaten choice food, takes upon herself the uposatha vows and retires to the adorned state bedchamber. As she sleeps, she dreams that the Four Regent Gods raise her with her bed, and, having taken her to the Himālaya, bathe her in Lake Anotatta, robe her in divine clothes, anoint her with perfumes and deck her with heavenly flowers (according to the Nidānakathā, J.i.50, it is their queens who do these things, re the Bodhisatta assuming the form of an elephant, see Dial.ii.116n). Not far away is a silver mountain and on it a golden mansion. There they lay her with her head to the east. The Bodhisatta, assuming the form of a white elephant, enters her room, and after circling right wise three times round her bed, smites her right side with his trunk and enters her womb. She awakes and tells her husband of her dream. Soothsayers are consulted, and they prophesy the birth of a Cakka-vatti or of a Buddha.
The two Suttas mentioned above speak of the circumstances obtaining during the time spent by the child in his mother's womb. It is said (DA.ii.437) that the Bodhisatta is born when his mother is in the last third of her middle age. This is in order that the birth may be easy for both mother and child. Various miracles attend the birth of the Bodhisatta. The Commentaries expound, at great length, the accounts of these miracles given in the Suttas. Immediately after birth the Bodhisatta stands firmly on his feet, and having taken seven strides to the north, while a white canopy, is held over his head, looks round and utters in fearless voice the lion's roar: "Aggo 'ham asmi lokassa, jettho 'ham asmi lokassa, settho 'ham asmi lokassa, ayam antimā jāti, natthi dāni punabbhavo” (D.ii.15).
To the later Buddhists, not only these acts of the Bodhisatta, but every item of the miracles accompanying his birth, have their symbolical meaning. See, e.g., DA.ii.439; thus, standing on the earth means the attaining of the four iddhi-pādas; facing north implies the spiritual conquest of multitudes; the seven strides are the seven bojjhangas; the canopy is the umbrella of emancipation; looking round means unveiled knowledge; fearlessness denotes the irrevocable turning of the Wheel of the Law; the mention of the last birth, the arahantship he will attain in this life, etc.
There seems to have been a difference of opinion among the Elders of the Sangha as to what happened when the Bodhisatta took his seven strides northwards. Did he walk on the earth or travel through the air? Did people see him go? Was he clothed? Did he look an infant or an adult? Tipitaka Culābhaya, preaching on the first floor of the Lohapāsāda, settled the question by suggesting a compromise: the Bodhisatta walked on earth, but the onlookers felt he was travelling through the air; he was naked, but the onlookers felt he was gaily adorned; he was an infant, but looked sixteen years old; and after his roar he reverted to infancy! (DA.ii.442)
After birth, the Bodhisatta is presented to the soothsayers for their prognostications and they reassert that two courses alone are open to him either to be a Cakka-vatti or a Buddha. They also discover on his body the thirty two marks of the Great Man (Mahāpurisa) (These are given at D.ii.17 19; also M.ii.136f). The Bodhisatta has also the eighty secondary signs (asīti anubyañjana) such as copper coloured nails glossy and prominent, sinews which are hidden and without knots, etc. (The list is found in Lal. 121 ). The Brahmāyu Sutta (for details see M.ii.137f) gives other particulars about Gotama, which are evidently characteristic of all Buddhas. Thus, in walking he always starts with the right foot, his steps are neither too long nor too short, only his lower limbs move; when he gazes on anything, he turns right round to do so (nāgavilokana). When entering a house he never bends his body (Cp. DhA.ii.136); when sitting down, accepting water to wash his bowl, eating, washing his hands after eating, or returning thanks, he sits with the greatest propriety, dignity and thoroughness. When preaching, he neither flatters nor denounces his hearers but merely instructs them, rousing, enlightening and heartening them (M.ii.139). His voice possesses eight qualities: it is frank, clear, melodious, pleasant, full, carrying, deep and resonant; it does not travel beyond his audience (for details concerning his voice see DA.ii.452f.; and MA.ii.771f). A passage in the Anguttara (A.iv.308) says that a Buddha preaches in the eight assemblies - of nobles, brahmins, householders, recluses, devas of the Cātummahārājika world, and of Tāvatimsa, of Māras and of Brahmās. In these assemblies he becomes one of them and their language becomes his.
The typical career of a Buddha is illustrated in the life of Gotama. He renounces the world only after the birth of a son. This, the Commentary explains (DA.ii.422), is to prevent him from being taken for other than a human being. He sees the four omens before his Renunciation: an old man, a sick man, a dead man, and a recluse. Some Buddhas see all four on the same day, others, like Vipassī, at long intervals (DA.ii.457). On the night before the Enlightenment, the Bodhisatta dreams five dreams (A.iii.240). After the Enlightenment the Buddha does not preach till asked to do so by Mahā Brahmā. This is on order that the world may pay greater attention to the Buddha and his teaching (DA.ii.467). A Buddha generally travels from the Bodhi tree to Isipatana for his first sermon, through the air, but Gotama went on foot because he wished to meet Upaka on the way (DA.ii.471).
The Buddha's day is divided into periods, each of which has its distinct duties (DA.i.45f; SNA.i.131f, etc.). He rises early, and having attended to his bodily functions, sits in solitude till the time arrives for the alms round. He then puts on his outer robe and goes for alms, sometimes alone, sometimes with a large following of monks. When he wishes to go alone he keeps the door of his cell shut, which sign is understood by the monks (Ibid., 271). Occasionally he goes long distances for alms, travelling through the air, and then only khīnāsavā are allowed to accompany him (ThagA.i.65). Sometimes he goes in the ordinary way (pakatiyā), sometimes accompanied by many miracles. After the meal he returns to his cell; this is the pure bhattakicca.
Having washed his feet, he would emerge from his cell, talk to the monks and admonish them. To those who ask for subjects of meditation, he would give them according to their temperament. He would then retire to his cell and, if he so desire, sleep for a while. After that, he looks around the world with his divine eye, seeking whom he may serve, and would then preach to those who come to him for instruction. In the evening he would bathe, and then, during the first watch, attend to monks seeking his advice. The middle watch is spent with devas and others who visit him to question him. The last watch is divided into three parts: the first part is spent in walking about for exercise and meditation; the second is devoted to sleep; and the third to contemplation, during which those who are capable of benefiting by the Buddha's teaching, through good deeds done by them in the past, come into his vision. Only beings that are veneyyā (capable of benefiting by instruction) and who possess upanissaya, appear before the Buddha's divine eye (DA.ii.470).
The Buddha gives his visitors permission to ask what they will. This is called Sabbaññupavārana, and only a Buddha is capable of holding to this promise to answer any question (SNA.i.229). Except during the rains, the Buddha spends his time in wandering from place to place, gladdening men and inciting them to lead the good life. This wandering is called cārikā and is of two kinds - turita and aturita. The first is used for a long journey accomplished by him in a very short time, for the benefit of some particular person. Thus Gotama travelled three gāvutas to meet Mahā Kassapa, thirty yojanas to see Alavaka and Angulimāla, forty five yojanas to see Pukusāti, etc. In the case of aturita cārikā progress is slow. The range of a Buddha's cārikā varies from year to year. Sometimes he would tour the Mahāmandala of nine hundred yojanas, sometimes the Majjhimamandala of nine hundred yojanas, sometimes only the Antomandala of six hundred yojanas. A tour of the Mahāmandala occupies nine months, that of the Majjhimamandala eight, and that of the Antomandala from one to four months. Details of the cārikā and the reasons for them are given at length in DA.i.240 3. When the Buddha cannot go on a journey himself, he sends his chief disciples (SNA.ii.474). The Buddha announces his intention of undertaking a journey two weeks before he starts, so that the monks may get ready (DhA.ii.167).
The Buddha is omniscient, not in the sense that he knows everything, but that he could know anything should he so desire (see MNid.178,179; see also MNidA.223; SNA.i.18.). His ñāña is one of the four illimitables (neither can the Buddha's body be measured for purposes of comparison with other bodies, MA.ii.790). He converts people in one of three ways:
It is the last method, which the Buddha most often uses (BuA.81) The Buddha's rivals say that he possesses the power of fascination (āvattanīmāyā); but this is untrue, as sometimes (e.g., in the case of the Kosambi monks) he cannot make even his own disciples obey him. Some beings, however, can be converted only by a Buddha. They are called buddha veneyyā (SNA.i.331). Some are pleased by the Buddha's looks, others by his voice and words, yet others by his austerities, such as the wearing of simple robes, etc.; and finally, those whose standard of judgment is goodness, reflect that he is without a peer (DhA.iii.113f.).
Though the Buddha's teaching is never really lost on the listener, he sometimes preaches knowing that it will be of no immediate benefit (see, e.g., Udumbarikasīhanāda Sutta, D.iii.57). It is said that wherever a monk dwells during the Buddha's time, in the vicinity of the Buddha, he would always have ready a special seat for the Buddha because it is possible that the Buddha would pay him a special visit (DA.i.48). Sometimes the Buddha will send a ray of light from his Gandhakuti to encourage a monk engaged in meditation and, appearing before him in this ray of light, preach to him. Stanzas so preached are called obhāsagāthā (SNA.i.16, 265).
Every Buddha founds an Order; the first pātimokkhuddesagāthā of every Buddha is the same (DA.ii.479). The attainment of arahantship is always the aim of the Buddha's instruction (DA.iii.732). Beings can obtain the four abhiññā only during the lifetime of a Buddha (AA.i.204). A Buddha has ten powers (balāni) which consist of his perfect comprehension in ten fields of knowledge,
A.v.32f.; M.i.69, etc. At S.ii.27f., ten similar powers are given as consisting of his knowledge of the Paticasamuppāda. The powers of a disciple are distinct from those of a Buddha (Kvu.228); they are seven (see, e.g., D.iii.283) and physical strength equal to that of one hundred thousand crores of elephants (BuA.37). He alone can digest the food of the devas or food which contains the ojā put into it by the devas. No one else can eat with impunity the food which has been set apart for the Buddha (SNA.i.154). Besides these excellences, a Buddha possesses the four assurances (vesārajjāni, given at M.i.71f)), the eighteen āvenikadhammā*, and the sixteen anuttariyas**.
*Described at Lal. 183, 343, Buddhaghosa also gives (at DA.iii.994) a list of eighteen buddhadhammā, but they are all concerned with the absence of duccarita in the case of the Buddha.
**Given by Sāriputta in the Sampasādāniya Sutta (D.iii.102ff.).
The remembrance of former births a Buddha shares with six classes of purified beings, only in a higher degree. This faculty is possessed in ascending scale by titthiyā, pakatisāvakā, mahāsāvakā, aggasāvakā, pacceka buddhā and buddhā (E.g.,Vsm.411).
Every Buddha holds a Mahāsamaya, and only a Buddha is capable of preaching a series of suttas to suit the different temperaments of the mighty assembly gathered there (D.ii.255; DA.ii.682f).
A Buddha is not completely immune from disease (e.g., Gotama). Every Buddha has the power of living for one whole kappa," but no Buddha does so, his term of life being shortened by reason of climate and the food he takes (DA.ii.413).
The Commentary explains (DA.ii.554f.) that kappa here means āyukappa, the full span of a man's life during that particular age. Some, like Mahāsīva Thera, maintained that if the Buddha could live for ten months, overcoming the pains of death, he could as well continue to live to the end of this Bhaddakappa. But a Buddha does not do so because he wishes to die before his body is overcome by the infirmities of old age.
No Buddha, however, dies till the sāsana is firmly established (D.iii.122). There are three parinibbānā in the case of a Buddha: kilesa parinibbāna, khandha parinibbāna and dhātu parinibbāna. The first takes place under the Bodhi tree, the second at the moment of the Buddha's death, the third long after (DA.iii.899f.; for the history of Gotama's relics see Gotama). Some Buddhas live longer than others; those that are dighāyuka have only sammukhasāvakā (disciples who hear the Doctrine from the Buddha himself), and at their death their relics are not scattered, only a single thūpa being erected over them (SNA. 194, 195). Short lived Buddhas hold the uposatha once a fortnight; others (e.g. Kassapa Buddha) may have it once in six months; yet others (e.g. Vipassī) only once in six years (ThagA.i.62).
After the Buddha's death, his Doctrine is gradually forgotten. The first Pitaka to be lost is the Abhidhamma, beginning with the Patthāna and ending with the Dhammasangani. Then, the Anguttara Nikāya of the Sutta Pitaka, from the eleventh to the first Nipāta; next the Samyutta Nikāya from the Cakkapeyyāla to the Oghatarana; then the Majjhima, from the Indriyabhāvanā Sutta to the Mūlapariyāya Sutta, and then the Dīgha, from the Dasuttara to the Brahmajāla. Scattered gāthā like the Sabhiyapucchā, and the ālavakapucchā, last much longer, but they cannot maintain the sāsana. The last Pitaka to disappear is the Vinaya, the last portion being the mātikā of the Ubhatovibhanga (VibhA.432).
When a Buddha dies, his body receives the honours due to a monarch (these are detailed at D.ii.141f). It is said that on the night on which a Buddha attains Enlightenment, and on the night during which he dies, the colour of his skin becomes exceedingly bright (D.ii.134). Here we have the beginning of a legend which later grew into an account of an actual "transfiguration" of the Buddha.
At all times, where a Buddha is present, no other light can shine (SNA.ii.525).
No Buddha is born during the samvattamānakappa, but only during the vivattamānakappa (SNA.i.51). A Bodhisatta who excels in paññā can attain Buddhahood in four asankheyyas; one who exels in saddhā, in eight, and one whose viriya is the chief factor, in sixteen (SNA.i.47f). When once a being has become a Bodhisatta there are eighteen conditions from which he is immune (SNA.i.50). The Buddha is referred to under various epithets. The Anguttara Nikāya gives one such list. There he is called Samana, Brāhmana, Vedagū, Bhisaka, Nimmala, Vimala, Ñānī and Vimutta (C.iv. 340). Buddhaghosa gives seven others: Cakkkumā, Sabbabhūtanukampī, Vihātaka, Mārasenappamaddī, Vusitavā, Vimutto and Angirasa (DA.iii.962f).
The Buddha generally speaks of himself as Tathāgata. This term is explained at great length in the Commentaries - e.g., DA.i.59f. His followers usually address him as Bhagavā, while others call him by his name (Gotama). In the case of Gotama Buddha, we find him also addressed as Sakka (SN. vs. 345; perhaps the equivalent of Sākya), Brahma (SN. p.91; SNA.ii.418), Mahāmuni (BuA.38) and Yakkha (M.i.386; also KS.i.262). Countless other epithets occur in the books, especially in the later ones. One very famous formula, used by Buddhists in their ritual, contains nine epithets, the formula being: Bhagavā araham sammāsambuddho, vijjācaranasampanno, sugato, lokavidū, anuttaro, purisadammasārathi, satthā devamanussānam, Buddho Bhagavā (these words are analysed and discussed in Vsm. 198 ff). It is maintained (e.g., DA.i.288) that the Buddha's praises are limitless (aparimāna). One of his most striking characteristics, mentioned over and over again, is his love of quiet.
E.g., D.i.178f.; he is also fond of solitude (patissallāna), (D.ii.70; A.iv.438f.; S.v.320f., etc.). When he is in retirement it is usually akāla for visiting him (D.ii.270). There are also certain accusations, which are brought against a Buddha by his rivals, for this very love of solitude. "It is said that his insight is ruined by this habit of seclusion. By intercourse with whom does he attain lucidity in wisdom? He is not at his ease in conducting an assembly, not ready in conversation, he is occupied only with the fringe of things. He is like a one eyed cow, walking in a circle" (D.iii.38).
In this his disciples followed his example (D.iii.37). The dwelling place of a Buddha is called Gandhakuti. His footprint is called Padacetiya, and this can be seen only when he so desires it. When once he wishes it to be visible, no one can erase it. He can also so will that only one particular person shall see it (DhA.iii.194). It is also said that his power of love is so great that no evil action can show its results in his presence (SNA.ii.475). A Buddha never asks for praise, but if his praises are uttered in his presence he takes no offence (ThagA.ii.42). When the Buddha is seated in some spot, none has the power of going through the air above him (SNA.i.222). He prefers to accept the invitations of poor men to a meal (DhA.ii.135).
See also Gotama and Bodhisatta. Also the article on Buddha in the N.P.D.
2. Buddha. A king of forty one kappas ago, a previous birth of Vacchapāla (Pāyāsadāyaka) Thera. ThagA.i.160; Ap.i.157.
3. Buddha. A minister of Mahinda V. He was a native of Māragallaka and, in association with Kitti, another minister, vanquished the Cola army at Palutthagiri. He received as reward his native village. Cv.lv.26 31.
4. Buddha. A Kesadhātu, general of Parakkamabāhu I. He inflicted a severe defeat on Mānābharana at Pūnagāmatittha. Cv.lxxii.7.
5. Buddha. See Buddhanāyaka.