THE NINE SUPREME ATTRIBUTES OF THE LORD BUDDHA
Aung Thein Nyunt
Vol. 1, No.2 , 1981
Having fulfilled the ten perfections (paramis) during a countless number of rebirths, our Lord Buddha finally attained the highest possible level of perfection. He taught the dhamma which he had realized by himself. He guided people on the real path of truth which he himself had trod, leading to complete liberation from worldly suffering, sorrow and misery. This demonstrated his boundless love and great compassion. His Enlightenment, however, does not set others free from sin, but merely guides them on the real path of complete liberation. Strictly speaking he did not save anyone through his power. Rather each of us has the responsibility to free ourselves from worldly suffering with the aid of the Buddha's excellent teachings (dhamma). Thus, taking refuge in his dhamma and hearing his supreme attributes, we pay homage to him as our great Teacher, worthy of honor and highly respected by all Buddhists. Our Lord Buddha possessed nine supreme attributes:—
The exegesis presented here is intended to illuminate the meanings of these attributes.
(1) The Lord Buddha is entirely free of all defilement and impurity because he eradicated them through natural inclination and habitual action. He did not act like those fools in the world who boast about their virtue, and yet commit evil deeds secretly for fear of puffing themselves in ill repute. He takes no shelter to do evil deeds. His thoughts are totally pure at all times. For these reasons he is worthy of honor, offerings and homage. He is honored as an "Arahanta' and lauded as the "Holy One."
(2) The Lord Buddha discovered all ultimate realities (dhammas) as they really are. This should be clearly realized by all mankind concerned with their own welfare. This form of enlightenment, which must be fully realized, is called "Neya dhamma" in Pali.
It consists of the five following types:
No one helped the Lord Buddha to realize these five Neya dhammas He himself realized them correctly step by step. This is the reason why he is referred to by the supreme attribute "The Fully Self- Enlightened One"
(3) The Lord Buddha is endowed with knowledge and conduct. There are three kinds of knowledge (Vijja), namely:-
The latter may again be elaborated as eight types of knowledge:-
There are fifteen virtuous conducts (carana), namely:-
The Lord Buddha is endowed with three or eight types of knowledge (vijja) and fifteen virtuous conducts casanas), all of which are interdependent and interrelated. It is true that right knowledge always leads to right conduct. Only the Lord is capable of such supreme qualities in this world.
(4) The Lord Buddha, through the fulfillment of the thirty perfections and through following the correct path without deviating towards either the extreme of eternalism or that of annihilationism by avoiding indulgence in sensual pleasures or self-mortification from the time of his pledge at the feet of the DipankaraBuddha until that of his Enlightenment has followed the correct path, and therefore worked for the welfare and happiness of the entire world. He is, therefore, named the "Welfare" He also spoke rightly, that is the proper words in the proper place at the proper time, and is honoured with the tide "Perfect Speaker" (Sugada).*
(5) Having complete knowledge of all worlds, the Lord Buddha is known as "Knower of the World." He has known; experienced and penetrated the world with respect to its individual essence, arising, cessation and the way to its cessation. This knowledge is divided into three parts:
All living creatures are of the "World of Beings." The Lord Buddha knows the habits, inherent tendencies, keen and dull faculties of all living beings. Thus his knowledge of the "World of Being" is complete.
"The World of Formations" means the impermanence and transitoriness of all mental and material qualities, names and terms. Material quality consists of uncountable, tiny units of matter (Rupa Kalapas). They cannot be seen. Although it may be said that scientists can examine particles of matter with microscopes, there is never only a single particle, but always a collection of them. In the words of the Lord Buddha, the tiniest particle is composed of eight inseparable material qualities: solidity, fluidity, heat, motion, form, odor, taste and nutritive essence. These cannot be analyzed discriminatively by science. However, the Lord Buddha knows all such minute particles and also their root-causes of arising, their characteristics and functions.
Moreover, there are mental phenomena contained in the so-called body of a person which consist of numerous particles of matter. Through the power, of mental phenomena we are conscious of things such as sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and other cognizable objects. The Lord Buddha understands completely the root causes of their arising and their functions.
Through the power of omniscience, he also knows the "World of Locations". He is aware of the existence of countless universes including stars, planets, their satellites etc. He does not, however, emphasize this knowledge in his teaching, because it is not conducive to liberation from the cycle of rebirth and the attainment of the ultimate goal of Nibbana.
(6) The Lord Buddha a peerless charioteer to tame men. No one can be compared with him, and thus he is supreme. He surpasses the entire world in the attributes of morality and in the eminent characteristics of concentration, realization, deliverance, wisdom and vision of deliverance. He is equalled only by the previous Enlightened Ones. Just as an experienced elephant trainer can drive away a wild elephant, chasing him in only one direction, the Lord Buddha guides men and admonishes them of the dangers of the cycle of rebirth. The wise and the foolish the poor and the rich, the noble and the ordinary must all be tamed and admonish in accordance with their natural tendencies and attributes. Even non-human beings, including animals, gods and spirits, who are not civilized but are fit to be tamed, were set free from the passion, were freed from defilement, and established in the three refuges and precepts of virtue, being disciplined by various rules and regulations. Moreover, he also cultured those who had already been tamed, leading them to higher levels of purification, including that of the stream-winner, once returner, non-returner and so forth.
(7) The Lord Buddha is the teacher of all gods and men. As their teacher, he points out the advantages of the present life, of the life hereafter and of Nibbana. He bestows his blessings on all of the gods, men and animals who are capable of progress. In this way he is similar to a caravan leader who leads his followers from the dangers of the desert to a safe land. He leads all living beings from extremely fearful states, i.e. the cycle of rebirth, decay and death which is the whirlpool of samsara to the peaceful path leading to Nibbana.
(8) The Lord Buddha is omniscient and enlightened with the knowledge that is the fruit of liberation. He has discovered everything that may be known, especially the Four Noble Truths:—
He enlightens others concerning the Four Noble Truths. He is also the discoverer of the Four Noble Truths. In this way the title, Buddha (knower) has become prominent in the history of religions.
(9) The Lord Buddha is called "The Glorious" because he is associated with glory. Here the word glory is used to refer to six supernatural powers: Lordship, Dhamma, Fame, Splendor, Wish and Endeavor ;— He has the supreme power of lordship over His own mind, such as:—
Dhamma here means nine supramundane dhammas including the Four Noble Paths (Magga), the Four Noble Fruitions (Phala) and Ultimate Goal (Nibbana). The extremely pure fame of the Lord Buddha spread through the three worlds—Kama, Rupa and Arupa. All His limbs were radiantly, splendid and perfect in every aspect. He has his wish, that is, whatever He wishes will, then and there, be fulfilled in accordance with His wishes. He has the steadfast endeavour and right effort which is the reason why the whole world highly respects Him.
Buddhist worship the image of the Lord Buddha wholeheartedly while keeping all of the above mentioned attributes deeply in mind. While concentrating on them, the mind cannot be obsessed by defilements such as greed, hatred, ignorance etc. Consequently the thought processes of the worshiper become pure arid stable. This gives rise to genuine peace and happiness, and calms bodily and mental disturbances. This tranquility of mind or one-pointedness of consciousness maintains worshipers in a state of blissful peace and can set them free from the bondage of the endless cycle of birth and death which is samsara.
In conclusion, it must be admitted that all of the above mentioned attributes of the Lord Buddha are only concise expositions. They are presented in this fashion to save space and to allow the reader to grasp the most important points.
Those desiring more complete explanations are referred to Chapter VII of Buddhagosha's Visuddhi - magga (The Path of Purification) and to the introduction to Parajikanda Atthakattha. In fact, descriptions of the Buddha's supreme attributes are found in almost all of the canonical texts of Buddhism. They cannot all be spoken of at one sitting. The more deeply you think of them, the more clearly you will come to recognize his unique qualifications.
* There are six kinds of speech; (l) The works of untruth, disadvantageous and not pleasing to others; (2) the words of truth but disadvantageous and not pleasing to others; (3) the words of truth, advantageous but not pleasing to other; (4) the words of untruth, disadvantageous but pleasing to others; (5) the words of truth but pleasing to others; and (6) the words of truth, advantageous and pleasing to others. Suitable speech here means two kinds of speech (3) and (4), out of Six, uttered by Buddhas for the benefit of the whold world, in accordance with the situation that occurs.