buddha
bddh

 

In Buddhism, a buddha  (Sanskrit: Awakened) is any being who has become fully awakened (enlightened), and has experienced Nirvana.

In the Pali Canon and the Theravada tradition, the term 'buddha' usually refers to anyone who has become enlightened (i.e., awakened to the truth, or Dharma) on their own, without a teacher to point out the Dharma, in a time when the teachings on the Four Noble Truths or the Eightfold Path do not exist in the world. By comparison, those who awaken due to the teachings given by a Buddha are known as Arahants, a title also applied to Buddhas. Arahants and Buddhas are the same in the most fundamental aspects of Liberation (Nirvana), but differ in their paramis.

In the Mahayana tradition, the definition of Buddha extends to any being who becomes fully awakened. The Theravada Arhant would be considered a kind of Buddha in this Mahayana sense, and this usage also occurs once in later (12th century) Theravada literature.

Buddhists do not consider Siddhartha Gautama to have been the only Buddha. The Pali Canon refers to many previous ones (see List of the 28 Buddhas), while the Mahayana tradition additionally has many Buddhas of celestial, rather than historical, origin (see Amitabha or Vairocana for examples). A common Buddhist belief across all Buddhism is that the next Buddha will be one named Maitreya (Pali: Metteyya).

Content:

Types of Buddha

 

In the Pali Canon, there are considered to be two types of buddha: samyaksambuddhas (Pali: sammasambuddhas) and pratyekabuddhas (Pali: paccekabuddhas).

  1. Samyaksambuddhas attain buddhahood, then decide to teach others the truth they have discovered. They lead others to awakening by teaching the Dharma in a time or world where it has been forgotten. Siddhartha Gautama is considered a samyaksambuddha. (See also the List of the 28 Buddhas (all of whom are samyaksambuddhas).) In order for one to become a Samyaksabuddha one must practice the 10 parami which are perfections that are attributed to all Samyaksambuddhas. If one has the 10 parami and attains Buddhahood then he can be considered "perfectly enlightened" and fit to preach the Dharma.
  2. Pratyekabuddhas, sometimes called 'silent Buddhas') are similar to samyaksambuddhas in that they attain nirvana and acquire many of the same powers as a samyaksambuddha, but are unable to teach what they have discovered. They are considered second to the samyaksambuddhas in spiritual development. They do ordain others; their admonition is only in reference to good and proper conduct (abhisamācārikasikkhā). In some texts, the pratyekabuddhas are described as those who understand the Dharma through their own efforts, but obtain neither omniscience nor mastery over the 'fruits' (phalesu vasībhāvam).[1]

The disciple of a samyaksambuddha is called a savaka ("hearer" or "follower") or, once enlightened, an arahant. These terms have slightly varied meanings but can all be used to describe the enlightened disciple. Anubuddha is a rarely used term, but is used by the Buddha in the Khuddakapatha[1] to refer to those who become Buddhas after being given instruction. Enlightened disciples attain nirvana and parinirvana as the two types of Buddha do. Arahant is the term most generally used for them, though it is also applicable to Buddhas.

One 12th century Theravadin commentary uses the term 'savakabuddha' to describe the enlightened disciple. According to this text there are three types of buddhas. In this case, however, the common definition of the meaning of the word buddha (as one who discovers the Dharma without a teacher) no longer applies.

 

Characteristics of a Buddha

 

Nine characteristics

Some Buddhists meditate on (or contemplate) the Buddha as having nine characteristics:

  1. a worthy one
  2. perfectly self-enlightened
  3. stays in perfect knowledge
  4. well gone
  5. unsurpassed knower of the world
  6. unsurpassed leader of persons to be tamed
  7. teacher of the gods and humans
  8. the Enlightened One
  9. the Blessed One or fortunate one.

These characteristics are frequently mentioned in the Pali Canon, and are chanted daily in many Buddhist monasteries.

 

Spiritual realizations

All Buddhist traditions hold that a Buddha has completely purified his mind of desire, aversion and ignorance, and that he is no longer bound by Samsara. A Buddha is fully awakened and has realized the ultimate truth, the non-dualistic nature of life, and thus ended (for himself) the suffering which unawakened people experience in life.

 

The Nature of the Buddha

Further information: Buddhology

The various Buddhist schools hold some varying interpretations on the nature of Buddha (see below).

 

Pali Canon: The Buddha was human

From the Pali Canon found in Theravada Buddhism emerges the view that the Buddha was human, endowed with the greatest psychic powers (Kevatta Sutta). The body and mind (the five khandhas) of a Buddha are impermanent and changing, just like the body and mind of ordinary people. However, a Buddha recognizes the unchanging nature of the Dharma, which is an eternal principle and an unconditioned and timeless phenomenon. This view is common in the Theravada school, and the other early Buddhist schools.

It is however important to note that in the Pali Canons Gautama Buddha is known as being a "teacher of the gods and humans", superior to both the gods and humans in the sense of having nirvana or the greatest bliss (where as the devas or gods of the Vedic era were still subject to anger, fear, sorrow, etc...).

 

Eternal Buddha in Mahayana Buddhism

 

In some sutras found in Mahayana Buddhism, the Buddha teaches that the Buddha is no longer essentially a human being but has become a being of a different order altogether and that, in his ultimate transcendental "body/mind" mode as Dharmakaya, he has eternal and infinite life, is present in all things (i.e. is "the boundless dharmadhatu", according to the Nirvana Sutra), and is possessed of great and immeasurable qualities. In the Mahaparinirvana Sutra the Buddha declares: "Nirvana is stated to be eternally abiding. The Tathagata [Buddha] is also thus, eternally abiding, without change." This is a particularly important metaphysical and soteriological doctrine in the Lotus Sutra and the Tathagatagarbha sutras. According to the Tathagatagarbha sutras, failure to recognize the Buddha's eternity and - even worse - outright denial of that eternity, is deemed a major obstacle to the attainment of complete awakening (bodhi).

 

The Buddha as compared to God

 

A common misconception among Westerners views the Buddha as the Buddhist counterpart to “God”; Buddhism, however, is non-theistic (i.e., in general it does not teach the existence of a supreme creator god (see God in Buddhism) or depend on any supreme being for enlightenment; the Buddha is a guide and teacher who points the way to nirvana). The commonly accepted definition of the term "God" describes a being that not only rules but actually created the universe (see origin belief). Such ideas and concepts are disputed by the Buddha and Buddhists in many Buddhist discourses. In Buddhism, the supreme origin and creator of the universe is not a god, but rather causes and conditions obscured by time.

 

Depictions of the Buddha in art

Buddhas are frequently represented in the form of statues and paintings. Commonly seen designs include:

  • the Seated Buddha
  • the Reclining Buddha
  • the Standing Buddha
  • Hotei or Budai, the obese Laughing Buddha, usually seen in China (This figure is believed to be a representation of a medieval Chinese monk who is associated with Maitreya, the future Buddha, and is therefore technically not a Buddha image.)
  • the Emaciated Buddha, which shows Siddhartha Gautama during his extreme ascetic practice of starvation.

The Buddha statue shown calling for rain is a pose common in Laos.

 

Markings

Most depictions of Buddha contain a certain number of markings, which are considered the signs of his enlightenment. These signs vary regionally, but two are common:

  • a protuberance on the top of the head (denoting superb mental acuity)
  • long earlobes (denoting superb perception)

In the Pali Canon there is frequent mention of a list of 32 physical marks of Buddha.

 

Hand-gestures

The poses and hand-gestures of these statues, known respectively as asanas and mudras, are significant to their overall meaning. The popularity of any particular mudra or asana tends to be region-specific, such as the Vajra (or Chi Ken-in) mudra, which is popular in Japan and Korea but rarely seen in India. Others are more common; for example, the Varada (Wish Granting) mudra is common among standing statues of the Buddha, particularly when coupled with the Abhaya (Fearlessness and Protection) mudra.