Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 940,961 words

This page describes “why is the buddha called buddha” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

Part 11 - Why is the Buddha called Buddha

He is also called Fo t’o (buddha) [in the language of Ts’in, scholar]. What dharmas does he know? He knows all dharmas, past (atīta), future (anāgatā) and present (pratyutpanna), animate and inanimate (sattvāsattvasaṃkhyāta), permanent and impermanent (nityānitya). He knew them all completely under the bodhi tree (bodhivṛkṣa). This is why he is called Buddha.

Quesion. – Other individuals also know all the dharmas, e. g., Mo hi cheou lo (Maheśvara) [in the languag of Ts’in, Great Lord]: he has eight arms (aṣṭabhuja), three eyes (trinetra, tryakṣa) and he is mounted on a white bull (vṛṣavāhana) [Nandi]. Or also the god Wei nieou (Viṣṇu) [in the language of Ts’in, Pien wen, Univeral Eye]: he has four arms (caturbhuja), holds a conch (śaṅka) and a wheel (cakra), and rides a golden-winged bird (garuda). Or also the god Kieou mo lo (Kumāra): he holds a cock (kukkuṭa), a bell (ghaṇṭā), a red standard (lohitapatākā) and is mounted on a peacock (śikhigata). (see notes on the brahmanical trimūrti) All these gods are great guides (mahānāyaka). All the deities of this type, individually, are called great (mahat) and omniscient (sarvajña). – There are also men who teach, whose treatises are studied and whose systems are accepted. They are described as omniscient.

Answer. – 1. They cannot be omniscient. Why? Because their mind remains attached (abhiniviṣṭa) to hatred (dveṣa) and pride (abhhimāna). Some stanzas say:

Gods of painting and sculpture,
Gods of tradition and the hymns!  
These four kinds of gods
All of them brandish a weapon in one hand.

Out of weakness they fear others
Or out of spite they dread them.
Whether they fear others from necessity
Or they dread them from weakness,

The gods are all eternal cowards,
Unable to escape from the suffering of death.
Those who revere and honor them
Can fall into a sea of misery.

Those who distrust and scorn them
Can enjoy good fortune here below,
We should know that these gods are false, unreal.
This is why the wise man does not believe in the gods.

Beings in the world
Wander about as a result of their actions:
By virtue of merits, they are reborn in the heavens.
By virtue of mixed actions, they are reborn among humans.

The destiny of the world depends on causes and conditions;
This is why the wise man does not depend on the gods. 
     (also see notes on atheist and theist aspects)

2. Furthermore, the three gods [Maheśvara, Viṣṇu and Kumāra] wish the fulfillment of all their desires for those who love them; to those whom they hate, they wish the seven destructions. The Buddha is not like that. While he was still the Bodhisattva, he offered his flesh (māṃsa), his head (śiras-), his eyes (nayana), his marrow (majjā) and his brain (mastaka) to his enemies (amitracaura) who had come to kill him. (see notes on miracles of generosity)

And so, now that he has become Buddha, he will even less spare his life. This is why only the Buddha can bear the name Buddha. One must pay homage (namas-) [73b] to the Buddha, take the Buddha as teacher and not serve the gods.

Definition of Buddha according to the Visuddhimagga:

The Visuddhimagga, p. 209, gives four explanations of which here is the first: Yaṃ pana kiñci ñeyyaṃ nāma. sabbass’ eva buddhattā vimokkhabtikañāṇavasena Buddho. Cf. Mahāniddesa, p. 457–458; Paṭisambhida, I, p. 174: n’etaṃ nāmaṃ mātarā kataṃyadidaṃ Buddho ti. – Hôbôgirin, Butsu, p. 191–192, refers to the definitions of the Mppś, T 1509, k. 70, p. 552b; Nirvāṇasūtra, T 375, k. 16, p. 712b; Kośa, I, p. 1; Buddhabhūmiśāstra, T 1530, k. 1, p. 291b; Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 143, p. 735b; T 1851, k. 20B, p. 864c.