What’s the True Meaning of Buddha?

What is the definition of Buddha? Who is Buddha? Does Buddha certainly someone?

• The Teaching of Buddha

Buddha, is someone who has realized the enlightenment that ends the cycle of birth and death and which brings liberation from suffering. Buddhists believe that there have been many buddhas and that there will be many buddhas in the future. He or she is not reborn and is awakened to the true nature of reality, which is a short definition of what English-speaking Buddhists call “enlightenment”. For this reason, anyone who advertises himself as a “reincarnated Buddha” is confused.

The definition of Buddha is “the awakened one” or “enlightened one”. Buddha, also called Gautama, is a Sanskrit word. It is a title and not a proper name. A title applied to Gautama Siddhartha, a nobleman and religious teacher working in North India, regarded by his followers as the most recent discoverer of the path to attain full prajna, enlightenment or wisdom: the founder of Buddhism.

However, the question “What is a Buddha?” could be answered many other ways.

• Buddhas in Theravada Buddhism

There are two major schools of Buddhism, most often called Theravada and Mahayana. Theravada is the dominant school in southeast Asia, and Mahayana is the dominant school in the rest of Asia.

According to Theravada Buddhists, there is only one Buddha per age of the earth, and ages of the earth last a very long time. The Buddha of the current age is the Buddha, the man who lived about 25 centuries ago and whose teachings are the foundation of Buddhism. He is sometimes called Gautama Buddha or (more often in Mahayana) Shakyamuni Buddha.

Early Buddhist scriptures also record names of the Buddhas of earlier ages. The Buddha of the next, future age is Maitreya.

Note that the Theravada are not saying only one person per age may be enlightened. Enlightened women and men who are not Buddhas are called arhats or arahants. The significant difference that makes a Buddha is that a Buddha is the one who has discovered the dharma teachings and made them available in that age.

More detail about: Theravada Buddhism

• Buddhas in Mahayana Buddhism

Mahayana Buddhists also recognize Shakyamuni, Maitreya, and the Buddhas of previous ages. But they don’t limit themselves to one Buddha per age. There could be infinite numbers of Buddhas. Indeed, according to the Mahayana teaching of Buddha Nature, “Buddha” is the fundamental nature of all beings. In a sense, all beings are Buddha.

Mahayana art and scriptures are populated by a number of particular Buddhas who represent various aspects of enlightenment or who carry out particular functions of enlightenment. However, it’s a mistake to consider these Buddhas as god-like beings separate from ourselves.

More detail about: Mahayana Buddhism

Further more, the Mahayana doctrine of the Trikaya says that each Buddha has three bodies. The three bodies are called dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, and nirmanakaya. In briefly, dharmakaya is the body of absolute truth, sambogakaya is the body that experiences the bliss of enlightenment, and nirmanakaya is the body that manifests in the world. In Mahayana literature, there is an elaborate schema of transcendent (dharmakaya and sambhogakaya) and earthly (nirmanakaya) Buddhas who correspond to each other and represent different aspects of the teachings.

You will stumble into them in the Mahayana sutras , so it’s good to be aware of who they are. These include below:

• Amitabha, the Buddha of Boundless Light and the principal Buddha of the Pure Land school.

• Bhaisajyaguru, also called Medicine Buddha, who represents the power of healing.

• Vairocana, the universal or primordial Buddha

• Fat or Laughing Buddha, who emerged from Chinese folklore in the 10th century. Also called Pu-tai or Budai in China and Hotei in Japan, and is said to be an incarnation of the future Buddha, Maitreya.