Articles about Buddha

The greatness of Buddha

Update: 05/05/2007
"If you want to see the most noble of mankind, look the emperor in beggar wear, the Buddha. His holiness character is great out of human being."

Buddha is a man with supernatural personality, unique in the history of mankind. A European writer has commented:

"Nowhere in the world of religion, worship and belief that we can find such a supreme leader as Buddha! In the sky of stars, he is the greatest one. A number of scientists, philosophers, culturists declared him as "the ever greatest man" His halo has enlightened this world of suffering and darkness, as lighthouse guiding boatmen in darkness. " (Buddhism in the view of intellectuals)

I. Buddha, Who is he?

This question has been raised for more than 25 centuries. Both incredulous judgments, critiques, and convinced expression, praise about Buddha, so far have been the endless inspiration for people. As Carl Jung, a psychologist, said: "your vision is always limited by what you have and who you are."

Hence with different background, people have different perceiving and views of Buddha.

Buddha's teachings come from his own experience of enlightenment, which is different from common ones. So it is impossible to fully understand Buddha, as it says in sutras that only Buddha who can understand Buddha.

In Buddha time, his opponents used to criticize, slandere him with inferior words/philosophy as: this Buddha desired fame, advocated sabotage life (Sutra Magandiya). They also criticized him incapable of the saint's level (Mahāsīhanāda Sutta – Lion’s Roar Sutta) or that he was just a black-magic recluse (Upāli Sutta) v. v ... Besides criticisms, there were numerous of praises for Buddha. The intellectuals of the society praised him as "he erects the thrown down ones, exposes the concealed, guides the lost and lightens the darkness" (Majjhima Nikàya). For either praises or censures, he is always in the mood of peace, calm and patience. A pagan praised Buddha:

"It’s miraculous! Venerable Gotama! How wonderful you are, Venerable Gotama! Despite whatever criticize, hostile, condemn during the conversations, your face and appearance are always calm, fresh and peaceful as an enlightened Arhat. " (Mahàsaccaka sutta)

He is called Guru or great physician, because he shows everyone the way to liberation and cures suffering disease for human beings.

Some texts in the original scriptures have recorded some of Buddha's interesting statements about himself as following:

One day, on his way to Deer Park turning the Dharma Wheel, Buddha met with ascetic Upaka. The ascetic asked: "O Brethren! Five senses of yours are extremely bright and your complexion is absolutely flawless. This O Brethren, could you please tell me why you renounce family life? Who is your teacher? Whose teaching do you profess? Buddha replied:

"'All-conquering have I now become, all-knowing;
Untainted by the elements of being.
I've left all things, am freed through thirst's destruction,
All wisdom's mine: what teacher should I follow?
"'I have no teacher anywhere;
My equal nowhere can be found;
In all the world with all its gods,
No one to rival me exists.
"'The saintship, verily, I've gained,
I am The Teacher, unsurpassed;
I am The Buddha, sole, supreme;
Lust's fire is quenched, Nirvana gained.

"'To found the Doctrine's reign I seek
Benares, chief ofKāsi'stowns;
And for this blinded world I'll cause
The drum of deathlessness to beat.'
Upaka interrogated
'Which is as much as to say, brethen, that you profess to be a saint, an immeasurable Conqueror?'
The Buddha confirmed:
"'Yea, were The Conquerors like to me,
Well rid of all depravity.
I've conquered every evil trait;
Thus, Upaka, a Conqueror I.'

(Ariyapariyesana Sutta)

Buddha has clearly identified him the Conqueror who gets rid of all depravity. Therefore, he is the noblest person in the world. This is the first statement of Buddha’s supreme position among beings, which has been stated at his birth: "Universally,my equal nowhere can be found“.His life of preaching Dharma has proven the truth of his state.

A pagan sect once wanted to check Buddha ethics to see if it matched to his reputation of perfect purity and free-corruption. After discussion, they assigned a supervisor overseeing Buddha’s activities constantly in seven days. Finally, that supervisor came back with the result: recluse Gotama has indeed been quite perfect in his daily activities, even in the tiniest ones as walking through a puddle or pulling the corner of his robe . . . all are full of saintness. (Majjhima Nikàya)

Another time when getting some suspicion of Buddha’s capacity and purpose, after pointing out the shortcomings of their allegation, Buddha said:

"O Sariputta, those who want to talk about me properly should say: (Buddha's) The One freed from delusion, was born in life due to his compassion for the world, for the benefit and happiness of sentient beings, for the good, happiness and bliss of Devas and human” (Cùlasìhanàda Sutta - Majjhima Nikàya).

This statement implies the perfect and endless compassion of Buddha who wants to save all living beings.

II. Buddha’s Enlightenment

All powers of the Buddha have arisen from his wisdom, i.e. from his supreme enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.

One day,Vacchagotta the wandererasked Buddha:

I have heard that recluse Gotamais all knowing and all-seeing,
with nothing outside his ken and vision,
and that he claims that,
whether he is walking or standing still,
whether he is asleep or awake,
his ken and vision stand ready,
aye ready.

Pray, sir, is this witness true,
not misrepresenting the Lord
and not mis-stating the gist of his Doctrine?

Buddha replied:

The witness, Vaccha, is not true;
it imputes to me what is false and untrue.


Well, sir, what account ought we to give of the Lord, so as neither to misrepresent him nor to misinterpret the gist of his Doctrine or entail the censure of an orthodox expositor thereof?


He would bear true witness,
neither misrepresenting me
nor misinterpreting the gist of my Doctrine nor entailing the censure of an orthodox expositor thereof, -
who should say:

The recluse Gotama has the threefold lore(te-vijja).

For, Vaccha, as long as I please,
I can call to mind all my own past existences,
from a single one onwards,
in all their details and features,
As long as I please,
I can see - with the Eye Celestial,
which is pure and far surpasses the eye of man - creatures in act to pass hence and re-appear elsewhere
By destroying the Cankers,
I have won that Deliverance of heart and mind in which no Cankers are; here and now have I entered on and abide in this Deliverance, which of and by myself
I have discerned and realized.

So it wouldbe a true witness, Vaccha,
to say that I have the threefold lore.

(Tevijja Vacchagotta Sutta)

Thus the threefold lore: (pubbe nivàsànussati ~nà.na, dibbacakkhuorsattàna.m cutùpapàta~nà.na,àsavakkhaya~nà.na)is Buddha’s Enlightenment. Especially only Buddha attains the fullfledged-threefold lore though this trio is considered the proof for practitioners’ enlightenment. It is the difference between Buddha and his followers.

Enlightenment process starts with Four Trances as following:

1. First Trance: Dhyana – Prathama

Joy and reflection, possesses both ideas and scrutiny

2. Second Trance: Dhyana – Dvitya

Joy and absence of reflection. no ideas but scrutiny alone

3. Third Trance: Dhyana – Trtiya

Being free of joy, and equable concentration states. Mental action devoid of ideas and scrutiny

4. Fourth Trance: Dhyana – Caturtha

Supreme equanimity. mental action which is united with delight

Lord Buddha and his disciples all have been through the quaternary with supreme delight, calm and be ready for the achievement of either

1. Six kinds of supernatural powers (sad abhijnah) or Threefold Lore, getting the ultimate Awaken

2. Or they may joins progressive steps as following

a)Dimension of Infinite Space

In this dimension the following qualities are "ferreted out":"the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space, singleness of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention".

b)Dimension of Infinite Consciousness In this dimension the following quailities are "ferreted out":"the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, unification of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention"

c)Dimension of Nothingness

In this dimension the following qualities are "ferreted out":"the perception of the dimension of nothingness, singleness of mind, contact, feeling, perception, intention, consciousness, desire, decision, persistence, mindfulness, equanimity, & attention"

d)Dimension of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception

No qualities to be "ferreted out" are being mentioned for this dimension

e) Nirodha-Samapatti

The Buddha also rediscovered an attainment beyond the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, Nirodha-Samapatti, the "cessation of feelings and perceptions"This is sometimes called the "ninthjhāna" in commentarial and scholarly literature.

After fulfilling these steps, practitioners can achieve the Threefold Lore getting the ultimate enlightenment as above mentioned in N. 1

In Theravada scriptures, there is no record of any saint proclaiming his Threefold Lore achievement but either Arats or Nirodha-Samapatti, or and get rid of cankers (equivalent toàsavakkhaya~nà.na) instead. In The Sixfold Purity of an Arahant; according to the Chabbisodhana-sutta (Majjhima Nikāya) The Buddha teaches monk of practicing after the Four Trancee achievement as following:

"With calm, pure, blissful mind and without any canker, suffer, ready to promote, I drive my mind to(wisdom with no more canker) àsavakkhaya~nà.na.

I know it as it is: This is suffering, this is the cause of suffering, this is ending suffering, this is the way to end suffering.

I know it as it is: these are the cankers, this is the cause of the cankers, this is cankers to be ceased, this is the way to cease the cankers. "

Thus it is necessary for the practitioner to get rid of "craving canker, possessing canker and ignorance" to reach state of

"no more birth, full-fledged dignity, to-do things have been done, no longer return to this state." Hence we can see the disciples’ supernatural are limited. Please be noted that it is not a must for practicing level of enlightenment keeping pace with woner-working. That’s why there is no surprise for us to see Ven. Manda Galỳayana, the greatest disciple in term of supernatural. Buddha did not encourage his disciples focusing in supernatural practicing (as

Iddhividhi – super motion, divyaṃ-cakṣuḥ-jñānaṃ -clairvoyance,divyaṃ-śrotraṃ-jñānaṃ: - super-hearing, paracitta-jñānaṃ - super-feeling, can feel others’ will, purvanivasānusmṛiti-jñānaṃ - superknowledge of before-lives),

But the achievement of ending defilement state, āsravakṣaya-jñānaṃ (wisdom with no more canker - which is the true deliverance) instead. The wonder wor king ability can not help or prove the cessation of cankers in one’s mind.

Buddha’s enlightenment is a series of consecutive efforts and practicing to overcome obstacles and cankers. He has overcome all the fluctuations, attained the mood of neither come nor go, the Perfect One (Tathagata). Especially, practitioners can enjoy the feelings of blissful and peaceful during stages of Four Trances and Threefold Lore. But Tathagata has not been affected by those feelings either (Cùlasaccaka sutta).

In term of wonder-working, Buddha has achieved the super-motion, super-hearing, and super-feeling of others’ will before he got the Enlightenment. Right in the night of Enlightenment, Buddha has got superknowledge of before-lives, clairvoyant, and āsravakṣaya-jñānaṃ (no more defilement, no more return, no more samsara). Buddha says:

Before Enlightenment, I have tried my best practicing 5 methods:

· I have practiced and got the super-motion ability with my utmost desire, utmost effort, utmost singlemindedness, utmost consciousness/supervision and promote them; then I can get whatever one I want (Anguttara Nikàya II).

Nothing can hamper The Enlightened One. Buddha is the All-Knower, the All-Seer, the Knower of the Path, hence he is called Conqueror, King of the Right


On the 2545th anniversary of Buddha's Enlightenment (Buddhist calendar 2545), some praises of Buddha’s greatness, purity and Enlightenment as gratefulness to the Tathagata who has discovered the path to enlightenment for sentient beings. With limitness from this dusty world, human can not properly praise Buddha’s greatness. Ananda, Buddha’s great disciple said:

“Dear Brahmins, the Bhagavat is the One who has discovered the Path we have never known, revealed the Path which has never been revealed, talked about the Path which has never been talked about. He is the one who knows the present and future worlds exactly as they are. He is the All-Knower, the All-Seer, the Knower and Mater of the Path, the One who discloses the path and explains it.

To conclude, in the words of a Muslim poet, Abdul Atahiya who praised Buddha as following:

"If you want to see who the most noble of mankind, look emperor in the wear of beggar. It is Buddha. His sublime holy character is great out of people." (Buddha in the view of intellectual)

Thich Vien Giac

Translated by Dieu Lien Hoa

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