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Seated Buddha, from the Chinese Tang dynasty, Hebei province
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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 (although not generally by Mahayana Buddhism itself) in this Mahayana sense, and this usage also occurs in the Theravada commentaries[1].

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 as examples). A common Buddhist belief across all Buddhism is that the next Buddha will be one named Maitreya (Pali: Metteyya).

Types of Buddha

Main article: 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 Samyaksambuddha 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).

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[2] 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 late (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 (Skt: arhat)
  2. perfectly self-enlightened (Skt: samyak-saṃbuddha)
  3. perfected in knowledge and conduct (Skt: vidyā-caraṇa-saṃpanna )
  4. well gone (Skt: sugata)
  5. unsurpassed knower of the world (Skt: anuttara-loka-vid)
  6. unsurpassed leader of persons to be tamed (Skt: anuttara-puruṣa-damya-sārathi)
  7. teacher of the gods and humans (Skt: śāstṛ deva-manuṣyāṇaṃ)
  8. the Enlightened One (Skt: buddha)
  9. the Blessed One or fortunate one (Skt: bhagavat)
These characteristics are frequently mentioned in the Pali Canon, and are chanted daily in many Buddhist monasteries.

Spiritual realizations

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The Buddha, in Greco-Buddhist style, 1st-2nd century CE, Gandhara (Modern Pakistan). (Standing Buddha (Tokyo National Museum)).
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 (whereas the devas or gods of the Vedic era were still subject to anger, fear, sorrow, etc.).

Eternal Buddha in Mahayana Buddhism

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A statue of the Sakyamuni Buddha in Tawang Gompa.

Main article: Eternal Buddha

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).

For the Tibetan Buddhist master, Dolpopa, and his Jonangpa School, the Buddha is to be understood as the wondrous and holy wish-fulfilling Essence of all things, beyond comprehension:

"Buddha - an essence of immeasurable, incomprehensible, unfathomable, excellent exalted body, wisdom, qualities, and activities extremely wondrous and fantastic - is vast like space and the holy source, giving rise to all that is wished by sentient beings like a wish-granting jewel, a wish-granting tree ..." (Dolpopa, Mountain Doctrine, tr. by Jeffrey Hopkins, Snow Lion Publications, 2006, p. 424).

The Buddha as compared to God

Main article: God in Buddhism
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. However, certain Mahayana sutras (such as the Nirvana Sutra and the Lotus Sutra) and especially such tantras as the Kunjed Gyalpo Tantra give expression to a vision of the Buddha as the omnipresent, all-knowing, liberative essence and deathless Reality of all things and thus, to that extent, draw close to panentheistic conceptions of godhead.

Depictions of the Buddha in art

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Buddha statues at Shwedagon Paya
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Jade Buddha statue at Shwedagon Paya

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.


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.


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.


Cited references
1. ^ Theragatha commentary, Pali Text Society edition, volume I, page 10
2. ^ Ratanasutta:56
General references
  • What the Buddha Taught (Grove Press, Revised edition July 1974), by Walpola Rahula
  • Buddha - The Compassionate Teacher (2002), by K.M.M.Swe

See also

External links

Buddhism is often described as a religion[1] and a collection of various philosophies, based initially on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, known as Gautama Buddha.
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The History of Buddhism spans from the 6th century BCE to the present, starting with the birth of the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama. This makes it one of the oldest religions practiced today.
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1st Buddhist council (c. 5th century BCE)

Main article: First Buddhist council
According to the scriptures of all Buddhist schools, the first Buddhist Council was held soon after the nirvana of the Buddha under the
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Several Buddhist terms and concepts lack direct translations into English that cover the breadth of the original term. Below are given a number of important Buddhist terms, short definitions, and the languages in which they appear.
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The Four Noble Truths (Pali: Cattāri ariyasaccāni, Sanskrit: Catvāri āryasatyāni, Chinese: Sìshèngdì, Thai: อริยสัจสี่, Ariyasaj Sii
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Noble Eightfold Path (Pāli: Ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo; Sanskrit: Ārya 'ṣṭāṅga mārgaḥ; Chinese: 八正道, Bāzhèngdào; Japanese: 八正道,
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Śīla (Sanskrit) or sīla (Pāli) is usually rendered into English as "behavioral discipline", "morality", or ethics. It is often translated as "precept". It is an action that is an intentional effort.
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Nirvāṇa ( Sanskrit:
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Three Jewels, also called the Three Treasures, the Three Refuges, or the Triple Gem, are the three things that Buddhists give themselves to, and in return look toward for guidance, in the process known as taking refuge.
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Several Buddhist terms and concepts lack direct translations into English that cover the breadth of the original term. Below are given a number of important Buddhist terms, short definitions, and the languages in which they appear.
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Dukkha (Sanskrit duhkha) or unsatisfactoriness, 'dis-ease' (also often translated "suffering," though this is somewhat misleading). Nothing found in the physical world or even the psychological realm can bring lasting deep satisfaction.
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The five skandhas (Sanskrit) or khandhas (Pāli) are the five "aggregates" which categorize or constitute all individual experience according to Buddhist phenomenology.
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Buddhist cosmology is the description of the shape and evolution of the universe according to the canonical Buddhist scriptures and commentaries.


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Rebirth in Buddhism is the doctrine that the consciousness of a person (as conventionally regarded), upon the death or dissolution of the aggregates (skandhas) which make up that person, becomes one of the contributing causes for the arising of a new group of skandhas which may
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For a general discussion of the concept, see Dharma.

Dharma (Sanskrit: धर्म) or Dhamma (Pāli: धम्म) in Buddhism has two primary meanings:
  • the teachings of the Buddha which lead to enlightenment

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The doctrine of Pratītyasamutpāda (Sanskrit: प्रतीत्यसमुत्पाद) or Paticcasamuppāda
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Karma (Sanskrit: कर्मन karman, Pāli: कमा Kamma) means "action" or "doing"; whatever one does, says, or thinks is a karma.
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Pandita redirects here. For the butterfly genus, see Pandita (butterfly).

A number of noted individuals have been Buddhists.

Historical Buddhist thinkers and founders of schools

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Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent and the founder of Buddhism.[1] He is generally recognized by Buddhists as the supreme Buddha (Sammāsambuddha) of our age.
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Please [improve the article] or discuss this issue on the talk page. This article has been tagged since August 2007.
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The four stages of enlightenment in Buddhism are the four degrees of approach to full enlightenment as an Arahant which a person can attain in this life. The four stages are Sotapanna, Sakadagami, Anagami and Arahant.
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History of Buddhism

Timeline of Buddhism
Buddhist councils


Four Noble Truths
Noble Eightfold Path
Buddhist Precepts
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Buddhist meditation encompasses a variety of meditation techniques that develop mindfulness, concentration, tranquility and insight. Core meditation techniques are preserved in ancient Buddhist texts and have proliferated and diversified through the millennia of teacher-student
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In English translations of Buddhist literature, householder denotes a variety of terms. Most broadly, it refers to any layperson, and most narrowly, to a wealthy and prestigious familial patriarch.
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Buddhist beliefs and practices vary according to region. There are distinctions between and within the Buddhism practised in various regions, including:
  • South Asia
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Theravada (Pāli: theravāda; Sanskrit: स्थविरवाद sthaviravāda; literally, "the Way of the Elders") is the oldest surviving Buddhist school, and for many centuries has been the predominant
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East Asian Buddhism is a collective term for the schools of Buddhism that developed in the East Asian region, most of which are part of the Mahayana (which means "The Greater Vehicle") transmission.
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Buddhism is an Indian religion founded in north India and based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who is known as the Buddha (literally the Enlightened One or Awakened One).
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