Was the Buddha enlightened before he appeared as Shakyamuni?

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Was the Buddha enlightened before he appeared as Shakyamuni?

Postby Luke » Wed Sep 30, 2009 9:35 pm

Mod note... Topic split from : viewtopic.php?f=36&t=459 - thanks, Retro.

TheDhamma wrote:17. "The Buddha is a God or one of the gods."
The Buddha was as mortal as any of us and got sick and died too. Although I think some Mahayana schools may have a slightly different view, but still see Buddha as someone who was at least one time mortal and then became THE Buddha. Anyway he was certainly not considered a Son of God, as in Christian-Greek-Brahmin mythology.


I believe that the Mahayana viewpoint is that Buddha had already attained enlightenment prior to his rebirth as Shakyamuni. He simply demonstrated the path to enlightenment during this lifetime in order to teach other sentient beings.

Gods in other religions are generally based on the duality of a lowly human standing separate from and observing a lofty deity. In Buddhism, the higher viewpoint is that there is ultimately no distinction between a Buddha and ourselves. We simply need to clear away our mental obscurations and ignorance in order to see this.

Other religions promote a dualistic viewpoint; Buddhism refutes it.

"Form is emptiness. Emptiness is form."
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Re: Top Ten Misconceptions About Buddhism

Postby Dazzle » Wed Sep 30, 2009 10:50 pm

'
I was not taught that Lord Buddha was enlightened before his birth as Shakyamuni.

http://www.samyeling.org/index.php?module=Pagesetter&func=viewpub&tid=30&pid=1

Regarding Buddhahood, in Tibetan Buddhism it is taught that all beings have Buddha nature - or the potential to be Buddhas. It is said in the Samadhiraja Sutra :" The essence of buddhahood pervades all beings" and in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra it states: " All beings possess the nature of Buddha, or tathagatagarbha ".
In other words it simply means that its possible for us all to become enlightened (if we practice the Dharma)

Kind regards,

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Re: Was the Buddha enlightened before he appeared as Shakyamuni?

Postby Luke » Thu Oct 01, 2009 9:02 pm

...The earliest sources for the life of the Buddha include, within the Theravada scriptures, several Pali suttas from The Collection of Middle-Length Discourses (Pali: Majjhima Nikaya) and, from the various Hinayana schools, several Vinaya texts concerning monastic rules of discipline. Each of these texts, however, gives only pieces of Buddha’s life story.

The first more expanded account appeared in Buddhist poetic works of the late second century BCE, such as Great Matters (Skt. Mahavastu) of the Mahasanghika school of Hinayana. This text, which was outside The Three Basket-like Collections (sDe-snod gsum, Skt. Tripitaka, Three Baskets), added, for instance, the detail that Buddha was a born as a prince in a royal family. Another such poetic work appeared in the literature of the Sarvastivada school of Hinayana: The Extensive Play Sutra (Skt. Lalitavistara Sutra). Later Mahayana versions of this text (rGya-cher rol-pa’i mdo) borrowed and elaborated on this earlier version, for instance by explaining that Shakyamuni had become enlightened ages ago and, emanating as Prince Siddhartha, was merely demonstrating the way to attain enlightenment in order to instruct others.

Eventually some of these biographies were included in The Three Basket-like Collections. The most famous is Deeds of the Buddha (Sangs-rgyas-kyi spyod-pa zhes-bya-ba’i snyan-ngag chen-po, Skt. Buddhacarita) by the poet Ashvaghosha (rTa-dbyangs), written in the first century CE. Other versions appeared even later in the tantras, such as in the Chakrasamvara (‘ Khor-lo bde-mchog) literature. There, we find the account that, while appearing as Shakyamuni teaching the Sutras on Far-reaching Discriminating Awareness (Sher-phyin mdo, Prajnaparamita Sutras, Perfection of Wisdom Sutras), Buddha simultaneously emanated as Vajradhara and taught the tantras.

From each account, we can learn something and gain inspiration...

...Various Buddhist traditions teach different accounts of Buddha’s life. Their differences indicate how each tradition conceives of a Buddha and what we can learn from his example.

* The Hinayana versions speak only of the historical Buddha. By showing how Buddha worked intensely on himself to reach enlightenment, we learn to put in effort ourselves.
* According to the general Mahayana versions, Buddha had already attained enlightenment many eons ago. By manifesting a life with twelve enlightening deeds, he teaches us that enlightenment entails working forever for the sake of all.
* In the anuttarayoga tantra accounts, Buddha manifested simultaneously as Shakyamuni teaching The Sutras on Far-reaching Discriminating Awareness (The Prajnaparamita Sutras) and as Vajradhara teaching the tantras. This indicates that tantra practice is fully based on the Madhyamaka teachings of voidness.

Thus, we can learn many helpful things from each of the versions of Buddha’s life and gain inspiration on many different levels.

http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/ar ... uddha.html
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Buddhism contains many levels of meaning for many levels of realization: each one brings some benefits. Most Vajrayana organizations probably only put the simplest interpretations of Buddha's life on their main pages. A lot of westerners really enjoy thinking of Buddha as the prototypical "self-made man" without thinking about his countless prior lifetimes, anything supernatural, or about rebirth in general.

However, from any point of view, the life of the historical Buddha remains inspiring and extraordinary.

Actually, I haven't heard any lama talk about any of this in person yet either, but all the lamas I meet are Kagyu and have the attitude that meditation is much more important than philosophy and doctrine, so they mostly just focus on teaching meditation along with the essentials of Buddhism.
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Re: Was the Buddha enlightened before he appeared as Shakyamuni?

Postby Dazzle » Thu Oct 01, 2009 10:21 pm

'
Hi Luke,

Most Vajrayana organizations probably only put the simplest interpretations of Buddha's life on their main pages


I did not learn about Lord Buddha from a webpage,nor from Mr Berzin's site.

When I speak about what I have learned, it has been from offline instruction from Tibetan tulkus of the Kagyu lineage of HH 17th Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorje.

Kind regards,

Dazzle


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Re: Was the Buddha enlightened before he appeared as Shakyamuni?

Postby Luke » Fri Oct 02, 2009 3:13 pm

Dazzle,

I didn't mean to suggest that Dr. Berzin is the highest authority on Buddhism. However, his website has been authorized by the Dalai Lama, he has been a translator for the Dalai Lama, and he's quite knowledgeable about Buddhism. I'm not arguing here for the "right" interpretation. I simply showed that webpage as proof that the idea that Buddha was enlightened before his birth as Shakyamuni is not a new one and that many Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhists believe this.

If you've had good teachers that is great. Please ask them directly about this issue. I would be fascinated to hear their opinions.

My point is simply that even great and knowledgeable lamas often don't teach everything they know about a topic at once. They wait until students are ready for new ideas before they teach them. Tantra especially has many levels of interpretation. I try to keep an open mind about what new ideas lie ahead of me. I haven't yet fixated on a particular point of view.

Sincerely,

Luke
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Re: Was the Buddha enlightened before he appeared as Shakyamuni?

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Wed Oct 07, 2009 8:37 pm

It has always been my understanding that a nirmanakya manifests as the physical body of the Buddha in order to rediscover and teach the dharma once it has been lost to sentient beings. The next nirmanakaya is called Maitreya and will not come here for a long time. He currently abides in Tusita heaven.

However, my understanding is open to correction :smile:

:namaste:
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Re: Was the Buddha enlightened before he appeared as Shakyamuni?

Postby BFS » Sat Oct 10, 2009 1:25 pm

The following is an extract from Ken Holmes' recent book "Karmapa"

Mahayana Buddhism considers that Sakyamuni had already achieved enlightenment before being born as Prince Gautama in Lumbini over 2,500 years ago. They see his life here on Earth as being but one fraction of that enlightenment's consequences—a necessary drama played out in twelve acts, each of which (including his "attaining enlightenment" in the eyes of people here) had a vital role to play in his bringing the timeless message of universal truth to our world.
Every one of the twelve stages helped in the proper establishment of his teaching for millenia to come and each had something to contribute to the envigoration he brought to our planet. The coming of a teaching Buddha coincides with a key moment in the destiny of the world and in the complex cycle of reincarnations of its inhabitants. Enacting the twelve deeds is the way in which each of the one thousand and two teaching buddhas who visit our Earth, before its final burn-up by the sun, will reset in motion the wheel of truth. The noble, exemplary life which they enact at such a time is known as the supreme emanation (supreme nirmanakaya).
The twelve deeds are:

... to leave the heavens and manifest on Earth at the most appropriate time,
... to enter the womb of a mother so as to be born in the most appropriate family for what will follow,
... to be born miraculously,
... to grow up showing unique physical prowess and mental intelligence,
...to enjoy consorts and the finest pleasures that worldly life can offer,
...to leave worldliness,
...to practice asceticism more radically than anyone ever did and then renounce it for its inadequacy,
...to go to the place where all the buddhas of this world manifest enlightenment,
...there to vanquish the negative energies of the world,
...to show recognition of the Middle Way and attain enlightenment,
...to teach the universal truths and
...to enter nirvana.
Had Prince Gautama not been a richand handsome prince, not had more beautiful wives than all other men, not been a better athlete and scholar and so forth, how could he be credible, later, as Gautama Buddha, declaring that worldly possessions are not everything? Had he just been a poor yogi, many might have accused him of sour grapes about worldly pleasures he had never known. Likewise, how could he have convinced people of the non-necessity of self-mortification had he himself not gone without food, sat in the burning Indian midday sun without drinking and so forth to a degree which surpassed anything anyone else had ever done?
There is great significance in each aspect of a Buddha's life. It is not just the final and perfect life of a being who has been working from purity to purity through hundreds of lives but the perfect teaching drama; a template for an age to come, a reference point by which all else can be measured.
Emanations

The teaching emanation of the Buddha as Prince Guatama graced the world for 84 years. Yet throughout the five thousand year age illuminated by his enlightenment, he remains constantly present in other forms, giving teachings to those whose minds are pure enough and open enough to be aware of them. These can be emanations appearing in an infinite variety of ways, animate or inanimate, from time to time, to help human and other beings.
Beyond these there is a constant teaching presence which is so pure and powerfully direct that only those who have reached the ten levels of constant absorption in voidness have the subtlety and strength of mind to be aware of it. Called the sambhogakaya, it is a state of mental transfiguration no longer sullied by the confusion of worldly ignorance. In that state, every sight and sound is charged with deep and joyous meaning. Its experience consists of thousands of interfaces, each perfect and meaningful, with the overall universal wisdom of enlightenment. These are known as pure lands; pure experience.
Although buddhahood and its wisdom can never be realised directly for what it is until one attains complete enlightenment and actually becomes it, bodhisattvas experience it indirectly through the doors of their mind and senses, as visionary states of insight. Far removed from suffering yet emanating to help those still suffering, deeply rooted in peace and wisdom, nurtured by this ever-growing vision of perfection, they enjoy the finest access to enlightenment. Their way of experiencing enlightenment is known as sambhogakaya, which means complete access, complete enjoyment.
Last edited by BFS on Sat Oct 10, 2009 2:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Was the Buddha enlightened before he appeared as Shakyamuni?

Postby BFS » Sat Oct 10, 2009 2:44 pm

The following is an extract from Chapter 1 - How to Practice The Way to a Meaningful Life - by His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.




According to some Buddhist schools, Shakyamuni Buddha first became enlightened in India in the sixth century b.c., through practice of the path. Others, however, believe that Shakyamuni Buddha had achieved enlightenment long before and that in his sixth century b.c. incarnation the Buddha was merely demonstrating the path. In Tibet, we take the latter view, and followers learn from his example how to practice in order to achieve enlightenment themselves.

In either case, we need to notice that:

Shakyamuni Buddha was born into a life of pleasure as a prince in an Indian royal family. At age twenty-nine, upon seeing the suffering of the world, he gave up his royal position, cut his own hair, left his family, and took on the morality of a monastic, adopting a system of ethical behavior.
For the next six years he engaged in ascetic meditation for the sake of achieving concentrated meditation.
Then, under the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, he practiced special techniques for developing wisdom, and achieved enlightenment. He went on to teach for forty-five years, and at age eighty-one, he died.
In the Buddha's life story we see the three stages of practice: morality comes first, then concentrated meditation, and then wisdom. And we see that the path takes time.
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Re: Was the Buddha enlightened before he appeared as Shakyamuni?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Oct 10, 2009 3:08 pm

BFS wrote:Had Prince Gautama not been a richand handsome prince, not had more beautiful wives than all other men, not been a better athlete and scholar and so forth, how could he be credible, later, as Gautama Buddha, declaring that worldly possessions are not everything? Had he just been a poor yogi, many might have accused him of sour grapes about worldly pleasures he had never known.


Interesting point. If he had mentioned that he was rich in previous lives, but still had no lasting happiness, people would not have believed him and it still would have been seen as a case of sour grapes.

S. N. Goenka (Theravada, vipassana teacher) sometimes mentions in his Dhamma talks that had he not been a wealthy and successful businessman, he might have still wondered and believed that riches would make you happy. But since he has seen great wealth, he knows that it does not bring lasting happiness.
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Re: Was the Buddha enlightened before he appeared as Shakyamuni?

Postby Dazzle » Sat Oct 10, 2009 3:52 pm

.
Regarding the quotes from Ken Holmes and HH Dalai Lama about Lord Buddha's previous enlightenment - all I can say is that I must have either been asleep or in la-la-land during the many offline teachings that I've attended when the subject of Lord Buddha has come up. :rolleye:


On the other hand maybe my mind just blots out the bits that aren't going to be useful to my practice in the here and now.



I don't think it matters if he was a buddha or a bumble-bee in his previous incarnation before Shakyamuni quite honestly. What matters is his recorded teachings and legacy as the Buddha of our particular time.

My teacher always said "Never mind about other lives, this is the one that counts" and I think that was very wise advice - not only in terms of speculation about one's own past or future lives but about those of other people too.


Lots of good wishes to all.


Byeee ! :alien:
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Re: Was the Buddha enlightened before he appeared as Shakyamuni?

Postby anupam.tech1 » Mon Nov 09, 2009 8:01 pm

mahayana refers budha as celestial budha who was there to help the world so i think although he possed potential enough for nirvana he still had to go thru path of enlightment before reaching it
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