Getting to Know Buddha

Tomorrow is the day that Shakyamuni Buudha attained Enlightenment according to lunar calendar. This year 2018, it is on the 29th of May.

The following stanza recollects the 10 honorifics of Buddha and is widely chanted in Asia. Through these descriptions, we can catch a glimpse of Buddha and his personality.

Here’s the pali version.

Iti pi so Bhagavâ-Araham Sammâ-sambuddho. 
Vijjâ-carana sampanno Sugato Lokavidû Anuttarro 
Purisa-damma-sârathi Satthâ deva-manussânam 
Buddho Bhagavâti

and the Chinese version and the Sanskrit version.

南無如來。應供。正遍知。明行足。善逝 世間解。無上士。調御丈夫。天人師。佛。世尊。
Namo Tathagata, Bhagavant-arhat, Samyak Sambuddha, Vidyacaranasampanna, Sugata, Lokavid, Anuttara, Purusadamyasarathi, Sasta Devamanusyanam, Buddha Bhagavam.

Chanting this on Vesak days help us recall the qualities of Buddha and help us gain much merits.

(應供) Bhagavant-arhat [Sanskrit], Bhagavâ-Araham [Pali]

– The Buddha is one who is worthy of worship and offerings. In fact, he is far more worthy of worship and offering because he teaches all beings the way to end sufferings. In Buddhism, celestial beings are just another class of sentient beings that are stuck in the endless cycle of rebirth and death.

(正遍知) Samyak Sambuddha [Sanskrit], Sammâ-sambuddho [Pali]

– He is the One who is self Enlightened and Enlightens Others.

The Buddha gained enlightenment through his own merits and skills. His Enlightenment is not taught by others nor is his enlightenment a gift from others nor is it bestowed by others.

His enlightenment is a Truth because it can be taught to others and others who followed his method can also attain Enlightenment.

(明行足) Vidyacaranasampanna [Sanskrit], Vijjâ-carana sampanno [Pali],

– Meaning the complete perfection of wisdom and conduct.

According to scriptures, many people were awed by the perfect conduct and speech of Buddha. Whether sitting, walking, lying down or eating, his manner is a constant mindful grace.

His virtues are also perfected in all aspect. Thus we know him as a perfect being.

(善逝) Sugata [Sanskrit], Sugato [Pali]

– means Gone Beyond Samsara. When Buddha manifest the parinirvana, it demonstrate a “departure”. In reality the Buddha is beyond the mortal concept of “coming” and “leaving” The Dharmakaya is always present and all pervading.  It means an ultimate release or the ultimate freedom from ceaseless rebirth and death in Samsara. It is a state that is beyond our common perception (which is limited by our samsaric experience)

(世間解) Lokavid [Sanskrit], Lokavidû [Pali]

– Knower of the worlds. This means the Buddha has complete knowledge of all planes of existence, he knows the causes and effects of all matters arising in these worlds and knows them in the context of past, present and future. That is why gods, nagas and various beings come to him for advice and teachings.

(無上士) Anuttara [Sanskrit], Anuttarro [Pali]

– the incomparable one. Refers to Buddha as incomparable to all other humans. This reminds us that Buddha is not just an ordinary human. He is incomparable. According to scriptural account, I think he is super human. His physiques are unique and he is born with super human ability too.

According to scriptures, he started walking immediately after birth, he was super strong, he can fly, he can materialise and dematerialise, these are amongst his many abilities.

In terms of virtues and personalities, he is also number one.

(調御丈夫) Purūs˙a-damya-sārath [Sanskrit], Purisa-damma-sârathi [Pali]

Leaders of man to be tamed. Man to be tamed refers to ordinary beings who suffers from all sort of mental afflictions that are rooted in Greed, Hatred and Ignorance. Buddha is able to cure us of our afflictions. He is able to guide different people with different propensity skillfully. That is why we have so many different types of Buddhism now.

(天人師) Śasta -deva-manusyanam [Sanskrit] Satthâ deva-manussânam [Pali]

In the Buddhist scriptures, there were many accounts of celestial beings visiting the Buddha and humbly requesting his teachings.

When the celestial beings from different heavens visited the Buddha for teachings (usually late at night), the city folks could see strange lights and radiance coming from the direction of the monastery where Buddha was residing.

He was invited to teach in Heavens. When he returned to earth, the celestial beings accorded him the highest respect and escorted him with much fanfare. His descend from the celestail abode were witnessed by an entire population.

This honorific reminds us that Buddha is also a teacher of Gods and Goddess.

(佛世尊)Buddha Bhagavam [Sanskrit] Buddho Bhagava [Pali]

The word Bhagavam has multi layer of meaning. It also means the most precious one in the world. In ancient India, there are various other religious leaders besides Buddha who addresses themselves as Bhagava or Bhagavat. The word Buddha is therefore put in the front to distinguish the Buddha from the others. It means a Noble one (Buddha) who is worthy of honor by all worlds.

Happy Vesak Day!

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