Brief History of the Buddha

Previous incarnation of Amitabha Buddha

Update: 31/03/2007
The original teacher Sakyamuni Buddha has been a Historical Being in the Jambudvida or the Saha world. Over thousands of years, His image has been deeply imprinted on human memory through memoirs and relics, especially the brightly golden traits in Tripitakas (the three baskets of Buddhist Teachings, about 11 times the size of the Bible). The Blessed One Amitabha Buddha is also a completely historical Being of the Land of Ultimate Bliss. For over some scores of centuries, His great name has been resounding on the human lips and in the heart of everybody, really like those uttered by our Original Teacher, Sakyamuni Buddha, who has always uttered true words. Previously, The Original Teacher was the embodiment of the Supreme Religion at the root of a bodhi-tree. Then he became Head of the noble religion of the realm of Jambudvida. He was called Sadhumati Bodhisattva, who offered the flowers in the form of hair fruit to make offerings to Dipankara Buddha, and also was the Life-Protection Bodhisattva when he was still in Tusita Heaven, etc. The Blessed One was, too. Before beoming the wisdom or omniscience of a Buddha and King of the Law in the World of Innermost Joy, He had his own realm: King Vo Tranh Niem in the period of Ratna-Garbha Buddha, King Tu Thang in the Buddhist Assembly for worship or peaching, Sramaneri Bodhisattva who was the son of Mahabhijna-Jnanabhibhu, the great Buddha of supreme penetration and wisdom, etc. Before finding out about the biography and his present realm of The Blessed One, we should clearly master His realm so as to understand that the highest results he obtained now came from his previous excellence.

Previous incarnation of Amitabha Buddha


I. King Vo tranh Niem:

Quoted from “Bi Hoa” sutra:

Amitabha Buddha was a king in Lac Bang World with endless authority and great vows . He created the transportation means to help living beings escape from Jambudvida and took them back to the Pure Land. In “Bi Hoa” sutra one reads, “Previously, in countless lives there was a life called ‘Vibhavana’ (meaning ‘Clear Perception’). And in a remote land named Sandilya there was a Wheel-Turning King named Vo Tranh Niem, who was in command of the whole world, the first of which was Dong Thang Than Chau, the second was Nam Thien Bo Chau, the third was Tay Nguu Hoa Chau, and the fourth was Bac Cu Lo Chau. Vo Tranh Niem was a gentle king, whose good fame was spreading all around the country. Accordingly, all the local people showed respect and love to the king.

The king had many children among them there was a high-ranking mandarin named Bao Hai who came from Pham descent and was expert in studying astronomy.

Bao Hai had a son who had an extremely good appearance - he had 32 good features from head to toe.

Accordingly, right on his birthday there were so many distinguished visitors who came into sight of the newly-born boy with their offerings - accordingly, the boy was named Bao Tang, textually meaning ‘Precious appearance’.

When grown up, Bao Tang studied abundantly from books and knew that human beings had to undergo miseries and from the natural law known as the impermanence of life. Because of these judgements, he became world-weary and therefore gave up all luxuries and honours. He then entered a monhood and later became a Buddha with the title ‘Precious appearance Tathagata’ who obtained all Buddhist miracles and extensive magics. And once he became a Buddha, he strolled everywhere to rescue all living beings. He also had countless disciples who already obtained the titleSravakaorSound bearerBuddha, Pratyeka Buddha, orBodhisattva - these titles made all the people welcome them.

One day, together with the masses king Vo Tranh Niem was listening to Precious appearance Tathgata‘s preaching at the garden called Jambu, which was close to the capital, thought to himself, “I want to reach the spot where Tathagatha is preaching to know what the Buddha is preaching that makes the masses have a strong belief in him.”

So thinking, the king, his family and his high-ranking madarins came to the garden. After having prostrated themselves before the Buddha, the entourage walked three rounds around the Buddha and then sat down to continue listening to the preaching.

King Vo Tranh Niem noticed that Precious appearance Tathagata was sitting cross-legged on a high platform with the picture of a lion behind him; he was very solemn with all his good features. Around him was various colorful lights dazzling.

Among the listeners were those who had entered monhood and were disciples of the Buddha and who had shaved their head and wore a monk’s robe. Also, there were royal offspring who wore fashionable clothes and with beautiful imperial maids surrounding them. There were also students, farmers, workers and merchants in their decent clothes - some were clasping their hands and sitting quiet, some were kneeling to ask questions. In short, all the audience was looking at the Buddha and listening to him.

King Vo Tranh Niem observed all around and then looked back to himself and to the Buddha without winking. At the solemn and respectful scenery, king Vo Tranh Niem warmly welcomed the Buddha and a true faith rose in his heart. He bowed himself to the Buddha and then walked three rounds around the Buddha and finally sat down beside the Buddha and continued listening to the Buddha’s preaching attentively.

Hearing the Precious Appearance Tathagata presenting all the Buddhist methods, the king’s heart became understanding thoroughly. His heart became calm, understood how to liberate human beings’ miseries and how to make it up with everybody. Therefore, he knelt down in front of the Buddha and said, “Oh, venerable World’s Honoured One! I would like to offer you, including the audience here, three months of provision, such as hot meals, clothing, blankets and medicine. So you may continue your preaching. Please kindly accept my request.”

Seeing that the Buddha accepted his request, king Vo Tranh Niem returned to his residence and gave order that his promised provsion be well prepared and well provided without any delay.

King Vo Tranh Niem also advised his high-ranking mandarins and his family members, including his citizens, by speaking to them, “Do you all know that from now on I want to give alms and respectfully asked the Precious Appearance Tathagata and the masses to accept my offerings for three successive months? All the precious things that I have been using will be offered. So, you all should follow my example in offering the Buddha and the monks so that you may get blessings for yourselves.”

The whole masses obeyed the king’s advice and prepared things to offer the Buddha.

One day, the high-ranking mandarin named Bao Hai, the father of king Precious Appearance Tathagata, in his sleep dreamt of King Vo Tranh Niem giving big alms while his request for blessings was little. The king’s wish still depended on his karma which did not escape from the laws of samsara and birth-death. Accordingly, the high-ranking mandarin was not joyful, for he wanted the king to show his kind heart attaining the Bodhi-tree fruit, that is, the king could attain the Way so that he might save many types of living beings instead of obtaining illiberal blessings like those of common people.

So thinking of, the high-ranking mandarin went to Precious Appearance Tathagata and disclosed his dream to the latter and reported to king Vo Tranh Niem, “Your Majesty! Please think of this matter: According to the birth-death and samsara laws, living beings have to leave their existing bodies and take another body forms, As such, it is hard for them to regain human body. As you have depended on your previous blessings to regain a royal body, how precious this is! The Buddhas have also depended on their living beings’ potentialities and conditions to appear in this world, it is like the blooming of flowers - this is a rare thing. Now you have met the Buddha in this world, how happy you should be! Breaking with desire and performing good deeds are also difficult things to do, it is true that no one can bear comparison with you!

Please forgive me when I ask you this, “I see that nowadays you make offerings to Buddhas and monks, what do you request or rely on? Please let me, as a stupid servant of yours, know.”

If you request for a rebirth to Heaven to become a Divine Son of Heaven so as to enjoy all blessings including longevity, or to be reborn onto the earth and become a Wheel-Turning king who is in command of everybody like you are now and you will still be in the sea of sufferances instead of being able to escape from the birth-death and samsara laws.

“Your Majesty! Those two blessings that I have just presented you are all indetermined and impermanent things. They are just like a gust of wind or a mass of cloud. They are just like a broken mass of cloud. In other words, they are neither solid nor long-remaining; so why do you have to request them for?

If you are reborn to Heavan, you will enjoy pleasures and this will make you create bad karma leading you to be banished to the Hell where you have to undergo countless miseries. If you are reborn onto the worldly world, you will have to undergo all kinds of misery, partly because you have to encounter your enemies there and partly because you have to repay your previous separated love, and all those miseries cannot be counted!

You are enjoying good conditions thanks to your good karma created in your previous lives. So, if you now more abide by the precepts, then you will enjoy more blessings, and if you cultivate yourselves in the correct dharma, you will be able to obtainomniscience, or the knowledge of the seed or cause of all phenomena.

So, please show your kindness of heart to follow the Infinite Bodhi religion so that you may not request for little blessings like those common people do.

After listening to the high-ranking mandarin’s advice, king Vo Tranh Niem’s heart became wide open. He then replied, “I want to give alms largely, keep the Buddhist commandments so that I may listen to the miraculous Dharma, cultivate me after Bodhisattva’s conduct, and rescue living beings; basing on those conditions to show my kindness of heart.”

The high-ranking mandarin added, “Bodhism is a pure religion, very straightforward, serious, lucid and solemn. It is also fine, sublime and covers all the open space with extreme strong authority.

“In addition, Bodhism is mainly giving alms and the giver will be wealthy; it is also keeping the Buddhist commandments and the keeper will obtain tranquility; it is also the conduct of resignation and he who resigns himself will obtain selflessness; it is the conduct of diligence and he who has this conduct will obtain the non-stepping-back character; it is the predestined conduct and he who has this conduct will obtain calmness; and finally it is prajna and he who obtains this conduct will have a lucid mind.

“Self cultivation in such a way will help the practitioner reach peace and contentment, and also reach Nirvana. Accordingly, Your Majesty are pleased to show your kindness of heart to follow such a religion.”

King Vo Tranh Niem replied, “Hey, our favourite subject! During the middle period, a long-lived person could live up to 80,000 ages only. Now, Precious Appearance Tathagata appeared in this worldy world to educate living beings, or somebody who already obtained the mind fixed and undisturbed, or somebody who attained Bodhisattva or Buddhahood, or attained the Fruit in Heaven. Among living beings there was no one who had sewn good natural powers and conditioning environment so that Tathagata preached on the method of ceasing sufferance. Although he was the garment of the field of blessing for living beings, those who had not such natural powers and conditioning environment could not be helped by Tathgata to cease sufferance’s.”

Now I make a vow to cultivate myself after Bodhisattva conduct, study Mahayana, attain the extremely marvelous method, specialize in doing Buddhist work so as to educate living beings and find this very easy to perform. By so doing, I think I will attain the title called ‘The Supreme Balanced and Right State of Truth”.

Having said such a thing, king Vo Tranh Niem went with the high-ranking mandarin Bao Hai to Precious Appearance Tathagata and saw that the latter was entering into meditation. The king then used his magic power and emitted his bright halo so that everybody could see the scenes or worlds: whether Nirvana with already existing Buddhas, or Nirvana with becoming Buddhas, or the world in which Bodisattvas were just sitting at a Bodhi-mandala at a foot of a bodhi-tree and who were dominating ghosts, or the scene where there were newly attained Buddhas and began preaching, or the scene where there had been Buddhas who attained Buddhahood long ago and were preaching, or the scene where there were only Bodhisattvas or only celebrities or only sound bearers or pratyeka-buddhas, or the scene where there were no Buddas at all, or the scene where there were all five types of impurity beings, or where there were decent or mean, dirty beings, or the scene with extraordinarily good beings, or the world with long-lived people or with short-lived people, or the world where everything was close to be achieved or already achieved, or the world with frequent disasters or non-disasters at all. Seeing those scenes or worlds, the high-ranking mandarin reported to king Vo Tranh Niem, “Now, it’s thanked to the power and reputation of Tathagata that Your Grace can see those scenes or worlds. So, which of these scenes or worlds do you want to obtain?”

The king clasped his hands and answered to Precious Appearance Tathagata, “Oh, The Venerable World’s Honoured One! I don’t know what kind of method of cultivation that those Bodhisattvas had chosen so that they were finally able to be in such worlds -fine or wicked world. Or relying on what karma that they were able to live long or what karma had they created so they had so short lives? Please kindly show me so that I may practice my cultivation.”

Precious Appearance Tathagata replied, “As the Bodisattvas had their vows known as wishing to live in a tranquil world, where there were not any impurity, they were able to, after attaining the Way, live in a decent life; otherwise, those with their less decent vows, wishing to be in an impure world, will be in indecent ones with their heart in their boots.”

Having bowed himself to the Buddha, king Vo Tranh Niem returned to his palace snd sat still by-himself thinking of his own vow - wishing to live in an extremely good world so that he might be able to help living beings.

After a moment of thinking, king Vo Tranh Niem went back to bow himself to the Buddha and asked, “Respectful World Honoured One! As I would like to attain the Bodhist Way, I have decided to offer you and the masses for three successive months so that I may later obtain the pure and decent world. Here are my own vows:

1. Respectful World Honoured One! I vow that in the future when I have attained Buddhahood, I wish I could be in a joyful and beautiful world where all the people‘s skin was yellow. Also, there would be no roads to Hell, no hungry ghosts and animals that lived together. I wish I would be in a world where there were no beings that would be retrograded to be banished to those forms kownn as hell, hungry ghosts and animals, and that all the human beings there would obtain the six magical abilities and have good natural powers and conditioning environment.

2. “I vow that all living beings could be reborn into such a world - that means, they would be extremely handsome men, neither in female forms nor with female titles. All those who are reborn there will have their good form; that is being incarnated in a lotus flower when it blooms, it will be in a pretty form, and extremely long-lived.

3. “I vow that such a world be solemn with beautiful scenery without any impurity and with beautiful flowers that their fragrance will pervade in all directions.

4. “My vow is that all the living beings in that world would have 32 fine appearances, six magical powers, could instantly stroll within the Buddha world so that they may perform their offerings and listen to the Dharma and return to their lunch without any delay.

5. “I vow that the people in such a world would feel free to have their meals – that is, they could have ready and timely meals with curious and unusual foods readily appeared before their eyes at their request, including their clothes without having to make any preparations like the case they have to do in their wordly world.

6. “I vow that I could be in a Buddha’s world so that from now and forever I could cultivate myself in Bodhisattva conduct to change things from their normal forms into those in the pure land, In that way, whenever having attained the Way, I could sit at the root of a bodhi-tree and become the omniscience of a Buddha and could send out my halo to as to enlighten all the universe so that all the Buddhas would see me and speak highly of my title.

7. “I vow that I could be in a Buddha’s world so that from now and forever I could cultivate myself in Bodhisattva conduct to change things from their normal forms into those in the pure land, In that way, whenever having attained the Way, I could sit at the root of a bodhi-tree and become the omniscience of a Buddha and could send out my halo to as to enlighten all the universe so that all the Buddhas would see me and speak highly of my title.

8. “I vow that once I have attained Buddha hood, the beings that have cultivated themselves in Budhisattva way and wish to be reborn into my world, would be welcomed by my own presence and my disciples - we would come to accompany them to my world.

9. “I vow that when I die, from then on and till uncountable lives thereafter, once hearing my title female human beings in other worlds would remain if male forms instead of being changed into female ones.

10.“Venerable World Honoured One! I would accept to attain Buddha hood if my above-mentioned requests could be satisfied”.

After hearing all the vows from king Vo Tranh Niem, Precious Appearance Tathagata praisedthe former, “Good, good! You have really great vows and wishes to obtain a tranquil world! Now look to the west which is thousands and thousands distances away from that of the Buddha. There, there is a world called ‘Ton Thien Vo Câu’ the head of which is ‘Ton Am Vuong Tathgata’, who is presently teaching Mahayana methods to those with high natural powers and conditioning environment instead of preaching the low-authority method to them.”

In such a world there were no living beings that needed to practice Hynayana (the opposite of the great school in Buddhism known as Mahayana) and there was not a single female being. But the appearance of Ton Am Vuong Tathagata was very solemn and this was very appropriate to the place for prayers for such a great king. As you wish to be in a tranquil world, I now change your title as ‘Infinite tranquility’.

When ‘Infinite tranquility’ ended his middle life, the Budha Ton Am Vuong Tathagataentered Nirvana, during which the Buddhist Dharma is transmitted for a period of 10 middling kalpas (one kalpa equals to 360, 000, 000 years). Once the period called ‘destruction’ has been over, and after the middling calpa has passed 60 years, the world called ‘Tôn Thiện Vô Cấu’will be changed into its new name known as ‘Di Lau Quang Minh’. Where there is a Buddha with the title ‘Bất Khả Tư Nghị Công Đức Vương Như Lai’ who made his way in the world to educate living beings. After the Buddha had entered Nivirna and countless lives had passed, the world called ‘Di lâu Quang Minh’ was changedinto a new name known as ‘Peace and contentment’. Then when ‘Infinite Tranquility’ attained the Way and became Buddhahood, his new title was Amitabha Tathagata, who had a very long life and also led so many human beings to that world and later educated them to attain Buddhahood.

Once king Vo Tranh Niem had finished his presentation and was bowing his head to pay respect to the Buddha, various sounds from different directions were resounding loudly. The king in the Assembly was very joyful when he knew that all the other Buddhas came forreceiving from him predestination, prophecy or giving of a record, prediction, fortelling (to become a Buddha) as well as the presentation from Precious Appearance Tathagata. He, accordingly, clasped his hand in the way of paying respect to a superior and then sat listening toPrecious Appearance Buddha’s registration for other Bodisattvas.

From thenceforward, after king Vo Tranh Niem’s death, his younger generations always kept the foremost vow known as ‘cultivation oneself after Bodhisattva’s conduct so as to rescue living beings’ and up to now this have passed over infinite kalpas. Up to now, this type of self-cultivation has passed ten great kalpas and the Buddha is still in the land of Ultimate Bliss, which is in the west where he is teaching Hamayana (the Buddhist Great Vehicle method) to all beings and has been accompanying living beings to such a world.

II. Novive or Sramanera Bodhisattvas

(Extracted from the Lotus Sutra, paragraph ‘Hoa Thanh Du’ 7)

While still seated on the throne as a king, The great Buddha of Supreme Penetrationand Wisdom had 16 sons. And when he gave up the throne to become a Buddha, all his 16 sons unanimously joined the Assembly for worship or preaching and later asked for leaving the world as novices. After a period of time spending in their cultivation, they all attained the title Diệu Lý and all the 16 sramaneras obtained magical intelligence.

After preaching the Suddharmapundarika Sutra to the masses in the Assembly,The great Buddha of Supreme Penetrationand Wisdom immediately entered a pure abode toachieve enlightenment and wisdom and save all beings.

The time the Buddha sat still and quietly in the abode, the 16 sramanera Bodhisattvas came directly to the pulpit and preached the broad meanings of the Lotus Sutra to the masses. Each of the 16 sramanera Bodhisattva helped 680 ten thousandnapeople (‘na’ is a numeral - each ‘na’ equals to 100,00 or one million, or even ten million).

All the 16 sramaneras now have become Buddhas. They are presently seated in a stately way in the Bodhi-mandalas all around the world. The 16th sramanera who atained Buddhahood in the saha world is Sakyamuni Buddha and the 9thsramanera who attained Buddhahood is now seated in the world of intermost joy-namely, the Blessed One Amitabha Buddha.

III. The Crown Prince Thai Cong Duc.(Extracted from the sutra name ‘Nhut Huong Xuat Sanh Bodisattva).

In the old times there was a Crown Prince named Bat TNghì Thang Cong Ðức. At his 16 years old he listed to the sutra named ‘Phap BổnDharani’where the Buddha named Bao CongDuc Tinh TKiep Vuong NhuLai…

After having listened to the sutra, the Crown Prince diligently practised his self cultivation for 70 successive years without sleeping, lying and leaning on anything. Thanks to his really great force, the Prince gradually met a very large number of Buddhas from whom countless numbers of Buddhist insights handed down to him, he could master them all. Later, the Prince left his home to become a Buddhist priest and cultivated himself after the method called Bhutatatthata (the root essence of all things) for a period of 90 years and then preached the true Dharma to everybody.

The Crown Prince diligently practised his self-cultivation together with his entire preaching life, he helped a very large number of people who showed kindness of heart; as a result, he attained the title ‘’Never-receding Buddha’.

The Prince is the forerunner of The Blessed One Amitabha Buddha.

IV. Dharmakara Bodhisattva(Extracted from the sutra named The Buddha speaks of Infinite Life, also called The Major Amitabha Sutra).

One day, as noticing that Sakyamuni Buddha’s countenance was better than before, saint Ananda bowed himself to the Buddha and then asked for the reason.

The original teacher or Sakyamuni Buddha appreciated the inquiry. According to the Buddha, such an inquiry was greater than the merits of offering presented by the Sound Hearers and Pratyeka Buddha. It was also greater than the merits of offerings made by the Devas. As result, it made all the people moved for many lives. For the Devas and the people, all are thanked to such an inquiry that they are liberated by Buddhism.

Then Sakyamuni Buddha answered that that day he was thinking of the Buddhist original work, vows and conduct of the Head of the World of Intermost Joy and those of Amitabha Buddha.

The original teacher added, “Previously, in infinite lives during the time of Lokesvararaja (the Buddha under whom Amitabha, in a previous existence, entered into the ascetic life and made his 48 vows) who came into the world to educate living beings, there was a king who was very joyful at listening to the Buddha’s preaching. So, he immediately left his throne and entered monkhood and became a Buddhist priest, and now he is Dharmakara.

Buddhist Priest Dharmakara prostrated himself in front of Lokesvararaja and after extolling the Buddha, he politely request the Buddha to teach him the solemn conduct of the Pure Land in helping living beings so that he might follow it in his self cultivation.

Clearly understanding that Dharmakara was a gifted and clairvoyant being with a strong wish, Buddha Lokesvararaja explained the results from former karma to the former together with the appearance of the results.

When seeing and hearing the solemn direct retribution of previous existence and the dependent condition or environment created by beings’ minds in various countries, Dharmakara made up his mind at a maximum level. And then, for a period of five lives, he thought over and finally chose the solemn and tranquil conduct helped by the Buddha (the original teacher said to Ananda, “At that time the Buddha lived up to ten lives”).

Having practiced his self-cultivation, Dharmakara came and paid respect to Lokesvararaja and asked the latter to witness the presentation of his 48 great vows that he had previously sworn to rescue all living beings.

After finishing the presentation of the 48 great vows, the whole globe shook forcefully and precious flowers overflowed his body and the heavenly music was heard throughout the open space with the sonic phrase “It is determined to become a Buddha!”

Later on, through infinite lives Dharmakara Bodhisattva practiced his self-cultivation and realized all the above-mentioned vows and he has already attained Buddhahood for ten lives with the present title known as Amitabha and has been preaching in the land of Ultimate Bliss which is in the west.

Translated into English by Mr. HoangHuan.

Extracted from the book entitled ‘The Road to Ultimate Bliss’ by Superior Buddhist Monk Thich Tri Tinh.

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