Last week, we learnt about the Truths of the Triple Gem. In this week, we shall understand more about the First Gem: the Buddha.
Eminent people of esteemed status usually have long titles. One of the examples is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II: Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.
The same goes to the Buddha. We can get a glimpse of the identity of the Buddha through his ten titles, or Ten Epithets of the Buddha:
|Chinese||Sanskrit||Minerva Lee’s||Burton Watsons’s||Gene Reeves’||
|1||如来||tathagata||Tathagata||thus come one||tathagata||Tathagata|
|2||应供||arhat||Worthy of Offerings||worthy of offerings||worthy of offerings||the Worshipful|
|3||正遍知||samyak-sambuddha||Perfect in True Wisdom and Enlightenment||of right and universal knowledge||truly awakened||the All Wise|
|4||明行足||vidya-cha-rana-sampanna||Perfect in Knowledge and Conduct||perfect clarity and conduct||fully clear in conduct||the Perfectly Enlightened in Conduct|
|5||善逝||sugata||Well-Liberated||well gone||well gone||the Well Departed|
|6||世间解||lokavid||the Omniscient||understanding the world||understanding the world||the Understander of the World|
|7||无上士||anuttara||the Almighty||unexcelled worthy||unexcelled leader||the Peerless Leader|
|8||调御丈夫||purusha-damya-sarathi||Master Trainer||trainer of people||trainer of men||the Controller|
|9||天人师||shasta-deva-manushyanam||Teacher of Heavenly Gods and Humans||teacher of heavenly and human beings||teacher of heavenly beings and people||the Teacher of Gods and Men|
|10||佛 – 世尊||Buddha-bhagavat||Buddha-Bhagavat||Buddha, world-honored one||Buddha, world-honored one||the Buddha, the World-honored One|
- Tathagata – One who has come from the world of Truth. A Buddha embodies the fundamental truth of all phenomena.
- Worthy of Worship – One who is qualified to receive offerings from all living beings
- Perfect in True Wisdom and Enlightenment – One with a perfect understanding of the Universe as it is.
- Perfect in Knowledge and Conduct – One who understands the past, present and future of the Universe as it is and who is a perfect performer of all good deeds.
- Well-Liberated – One who has gone over to the world of enlightenment, who has complete mastery and freedom over his births and deaths.
- the Omniscient – One who completely understands the world, both secular and spiritual, as it is.
- the Almighty – One who stands supreme among all living beings.
- Master of Living Beings – One who trains and leads all people to enlightenment.
- Teacher of Heavenly Gods and Humans – One who can teach all human and heavenly beings.
- Buddha-Bhagavat – An awakened one who is endowed with perfect wisdom and virtue.
Other than the Ten Epithets, the Buddha has the following appellations as found in the Lotus Sutra：
- King of the Gods. (天中王) LS 7: 3.18
- God of Heavenly Gods (天中天 ) LS 1: 4.31
- Great Benefactor(大施主) LS 22: 1.2
- Hero of the World (世雄)LS 7:2.13
- Father of the World (世父, 世间之父) LS 16：20, LS 3: 5.51
- Father of All Living Beings (众生之父) LS 3: 4.18, LS 3: 4.26, LS 7: 3.21
- Savior of the World (救世者) LS 21:2.1
You may notice that the Buddha never refers himself as a “Messenger”; he is always the “Teacher” and the “Father”. This is significant as it unquestionably depicts his unsurpassed eminence in guiding over living beings towards Buddhahood in the Saha world.
The way Robert Buswell and Donald Lopez puts it in 10 Misconceptions about Buddhism: God of Human? about the real identity of a Buddha is most thought-provoking:
“Did he create the universe? No. Is he omniscient? Yes. Is he omnipotent? It depends on what you mean. Is he eternal? Sort of. Is he God? You decide.”
Looking at the Ten Epithets and the various appellations of the Buddha, it becomes clear that the Buddha is indeed the benevolent Father, Savior, and Teacher in this Saha land.
The Buddha teaches that all of us have the potential to become a Buddha just like him. All the answers we need to know can be found inside us. Hence, we need awaken our Buddha-nature to see the truth that ultimate the path of salvation and Buddhahood begins with us.
The topic for Next Sunday is 5 Lessons Learnt about Bodhisattva Never Disrespectful – the past life of Shakyamuni Buddha. Stay tuned.
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