Mahapurisa, Mahāpurisa, Maha-purisa: 2 definitions


Mahapurisa means something in Buddhism, Pali. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

[«previous next»] — Mahapurisa in Theravada glossary
Source: Pali Kanon: Pali Proper Names

The name given to a Great Being, destined to become either a Cakka vatti or a Buddha. He carries on his person the following thirty two marks (Mahapurisalakkhanani) (these are given at D.ii.17f.; iii.142ff.; M.ii.136f ):

he has feet of level tread; on his soles are marks of wheels with spokes, felloes and hubs; his heels project; his digits are long; his hands and feet are soft; his fingers and toes straight; his ankles like rounded shells; his legs like an antelopes; standing, he can touch his knees without bending; his privacies are within a sheath; he is of golden hue; his skin so smooth that no dust clings to it; the down on his body forms single hairs; each hair is straight, blue black and at the top curls to the right; his frame is straight; his body has seven convex surfaces; his chest is like a lions; his back flat between the shoulders; his sheath is the same as his height; his bust is equally rounded; his taste is consummate; he has a lions jaws; has forty teeth; they are regular, and continuous; lustrous; his tongue is long; his voice like that of a karavika bird; his eyes intensely black; his eyelashes like a cows; between his eyelashes are soft, white hairs like cotton down; his head is like a turban.

The theory of Mahapurisa is pre Buddhistic. Several passages in the Pitakas (E.g., D.i.89, 114, 120; A.i.163; M.ii.136; SN.vs.600, 1000, etc.) mention brahmins as claiming that this theory of the Mahapurisa and his natal marks belonged to their stock of hereditary knowledge. The Buddhists, evidently, merely adopted the brahmin tradition in this matter as in so many others. But they went further. In the Lakkhana Sutta (D.iii.142ff) they sought to explain how these marks arose, and maintained that they were due entirely to good deeds done in a former birth and could only be continued in the present life by means of goodness. Thus the marks are merely incidental; most of them are so absurd, considered as the marks of a human being, that they are probably mythological in origin, and a few of them seem to belong to solar myths, being adaptations to a man, of poetical epithets applied to the sun or even to the personification of human sacrifice. Some are characteristic of human beauty, and one or two may possibly be reminiscences of personal bodily peculiarities possessed by some great man, such as Gotama himself.

Apart from these legendary beliefs, the Buddha had his own theory of the attributes of a Mahapurisa as explained in the Mahapurisa Sutta (S.v.158) and the Vassakara Sutta (A.ii.35f).

Buddhaghosa says (MA.ii.761) that when the time comes for the birth of a Buddha,

context information

Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).

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Languages of India and abroad

Pali-English dictionary

[«previous next»] — Mahapurisa in Pali glossary
Source: BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary

mahāpurisa : (m.) a great man.

Pali book cover
context information

Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

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