Was Buddha a normal human being or something more?

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Was Buddha a normal human being or something more?

Postby TomC » Sun May 18, 2014 6:36 pm

I was in a discussion earlier today and the leader said that Buddha was an Avatar, like Jesus or Krishna, somehow different from ordinary men, who came to earth specifically to teach.

I said that Buddha was a man just like any other man. He had an awakening and that awakening is possible for other ordinary people.

After the discussion the leader asked me how I could be certain of what I had said. I replied that I wasn't really certain of anything, but that Buddha had said he was just a man, just like any other man. I had heard Buddhist teachers say this so often that I assumed Buddha had said it. However, in trying to find a direct quote from Buddha saying that he was a normal human being I can't find anything.

What did Buddha actually say about this? Can anyone give me a link to a quote?
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Re: Was Buddha a normal human being or something more?

Postby Goofaholix » Sun May 18, 2014 8:18 pm

People who are normal human beings don't tend to have to go around telling people they are normal human beings, it's usually not necessary.

What is powerful about the Buddhist path is that you and I can potentially achieve the same kind of awakening that he did by following the same approach that he did, elevate him to some kind of god-like status and we take that away and the Buddhist path becomes just another hero worship religion.

I'm sure there are scriptural quotes one could use both for the affirmative and the negative in this argument, and if your friend relies on Mahayana scripture he'll have no shortage of support for his view. What's more important is what makes sense and is meaningful to support the practice here and now.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Was Buddha a normal human being or something more?

Postby culaavuso » Sun May 18, 2014 9:08 pm

TomC wrote:What did Buddha actually say about this? Can anyone give me a link to a quote?


MN 26 may be relevant.

MN 26: Ariyapariyesana Sutta wrote:I, too, monks, before my Awakening, when I was an unawakened bodhisatta, being subject myself to birth, sought what was likewise subject to birth. Being subject myself to aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement, I sought [happiness in] what was likewise subject to illness... death... sorrow... defilement. The thought occurred to me, 'Why do I, being subject myself to birth, seek what is likewise subject to birth? Being subject myself to aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement, why do I seek what is likewise subject to illness... death... sorrow... defilement? What if I, being subject myself to birth, seeing the drawbacks of birth, were to seek the unborn, unexcelled rest from the yoke: Unbinding? What if I, being subject myself to aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement, seeing the drawbacks of aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement, were to seek the aging-less, illness-less, deathless, sorrow-less, unexcelled rest from the yoke: Unbinding?'

...

"Then, monks, being subject myself to birth, seeing the drawbacks of birth, seeking the unborn, unexcelled rest from the yoke, Unbinding, I reached the unborn, unexcelled rest from the yoke: Unbinding. Being subject myself to aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement, seeing the drawbacks of aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement, seeking the aging-less, illness-less, deathless, sorrow-less, unexcelled rest from the yoke, Unbinding, I reached the aging-less, illness-less, deathless, sorrow-less, unexcelled rest from the yoke: Unbinding. Knowledge & vision arose in me: 'Unprovoked is my release. This is the last birth. There is now no further becoming.'


SN 22.58 may also be relevant.

SN 22.58: Buddha Sutta wrote:"So what difference, what distinction, what distinguishing factor is there between one rightly self-awakened and a monk discernment-released?"

"For us, lord, the teachings have the Blessed One as their root, their guide, & their arbitrator. It would be good if the Blessed One himself would explicate the meaning of this statement. Having heard it from the Blessed One, the monks will remember it."

"In that case, monks, listen & pay close attention. I will speak."

"As you say, lord," the monks responded.

The Blessed One said, "The Tathagata — the worthy one, the rightly self-awakened one — is the one who gives rise to the path (previously) unarisen, who engenders the path (previously) unengendered, who points out the path (previously) not pointed out. He knows the path, is expert in the path, is adept at the path. And his disciples now keep following the path and afterwards become endowed with the path.

"This is the difference, this the distinction, this the distinguishing between one rightly self-awakened and a monk discernment-released."


The essay Arahants, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi discusses these points in some detail.
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Re: Was Buddha a normal human being or something more?

Postby Unrul3r » Sun May 18, 2014 9:30 pm

TomC wrote:What did Buddha actually say about this? Can anyone give me a link to a quote?


There is this:
AN4.36 wrote:"... a human being?"

"No, brahman, I am not a human being."

"When asked, 'Are you a deva?' you answer, 'No, brahman, I am not a deva.' When asked, 'Are you a gandhabba?' you answer, 'No, brahman, I am not a gandhabba.' When asked, 'Are you a yakkha?' you answer, 'No, brahman, I am not a yakkha.' When asked, 'Are you a human being?' you answer, 'No, brahman, I am not a human being.' Then what sort of being are you?"

"Brahman, the fermentations by which — if they were not abandoned — I would be a deva: Those are abandoned by me, their root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising. The fermentations by which — if they were not abandoned — I would be a gandhabba... a yakkha... a human being: Those are abandoned by me, their root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising. Just like a red, blue, or white lotus — born in the water, grown in the water, rising up above the water — stands unsmeared by the water, in the same way I — born in the world, grown in the world, having overcome the world — live unsmeared by the world. Remember me, brahman, as 'awakened.'


But there is also this:
AN4.36 wrote:“Could you be a human being, sir?”

“I will not be a human being, brahmin.”

“When you are asked: ‘Could you be a deva, sir?’ you say: ‘I will not be a deva, brahmin.’ When you are asked: ‘Could you be a gandhabba, sir?’ you say: ‘I will not be a gandhabba, brahmin.’ When you are asked: ‘Could you be a yakkha, sir?’ you say: ‘I will not be a yakkha, brahmin.’ When you are asked:
‘Could you be a human being, sir?’ you say: ‘I will not be a human being, brahmin.’ What, then, could you be, sir?” “Brahmin, I have abandoned those taints because of which I might have become a deva; I have cut them off at the root, made them like palm stumps, obliterated them so that they are no longer subject to future arising. I have abandoned those taints because of which I might have become a gandhabba . . . might have become a yakkha . . . might have become a human being; I have cut them off at the root, made them like palm stumps, obliterated them so that they are no longer subject to future arising. Just as a blue, red, or white lotus flower, though born in the water and grown up in the water, rises above the water and stands unsoiled by the water, even so, though born in the world and grown up in the world, I have overcome the world and dwell unsoiled by the world. Remember me, brahmin, as a Buddha.


From the Pāḷi this second one seems more accurate but I'm only going by the dictionary. If the second one is indeed more accurate, this will not answer your question. From my knowledge, the Buddha never defined himself as anything, maybe due to having cut conceit off.

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Re: Was Buddha a normal human being or something more?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon May 19, 2014 3:48 am

Unrul3r wrote:From the Pāḷi this second one seems more accurate but I'm only going by the dictionary.

Yes, the second is more accurate, and agrees with Bhikkhu Ñānamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi's edition of the Aṅguttaranikāya. The Pāḷi uses the future tense.
“Devo no bhavaṃ bhavissatī”ti? “Na kho ahaṃ, brāhmaṇa, devo bhavissāmī”ti. “Gandhabbo no bhavaṃ bhavissatī”ti? “Na kho ahaṃ, brāhmaṇa, gandhabbo bhavissāmī”ti. “Yakkho no bhavaṃ bhavissatī”ti? “Na kho ahaṃ, brāhmaṇa, yakkho bhavissāmī”ti. “Manusso no bhavaṃ bhavissatī”ti? “Na kho ahaṃ, brāhmaṇa, manusso bhavissāmī”ti.

It is misleading to say that the Buddha was an ordinary human being. He was an extraordinary and perfect human being, with unique abilities accumulated after many aeons of striving for perfection.

However, he was not a god, nor a messenger sent by God. He was born from the womb, and conceived in the usual way. He also suffered from pain and disease, and became old. Although his body aged and became frail, his mind did not decay. His mental faculties were completely lucid and unimpaired right up to his death.
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Re: Was Buddha a normal human being or something more?

Postby Monkey Mind » Mon May 19, 2014 12:31 pm

I'm in the camp of "Buddha was a human", but read this:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
In the early texts, the miracles were the result of advanced mental development. But in a very short amount of time, the stories evolved to indicate that the miracles demonstrated that the Buddha had superhuman abilities.
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710
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Re: Was Buddha a normal human being or something more?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon May 19, 2014 6:36 pm

Monkey Mind wrote:I'm in the camp of "Buddha was a human", but read this:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
In the early texts, the miracles were the result of advanced mental development. But in a very short amount of time, the stories evolved to indicate that the miracles demonstrated that the Buddha had superhuman abilities.

Such abilities always were superhuman.

They are called “uttarimanussadhamma” in Pāḷi, which means things superior to what ordinary human beings can do. They are not, however, supernatural — just exceptional human abilities that are the result of prolonged mental development.
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Re: Was Buddha a normal human being or something more?

Postby Kusala » Wed May 21, 2014 3:21 am

TomC wrote:I was in a discussion earlier today and the leader said that Buddha was an Avatar, like Jesus or Krishna, somehow different from ordinary men, who came to earth specifically to teach.

I said that Buddha was a man just like any other man. He had an awakening and that awakening is possible for other ordinary people.

After the discussion the leader asked me how I could be certain of what I had said. I replied that I wasn't really certain of anything, but that Buddha had said he was just a man, just like any other man. I had heard Buddhist teachers say this so often that I assumed Buddha had said it. However, in trying to find a direct quote from Buddha saying that he was a normal human being I can't find anything.

What did Buddha actually say about this? Can anyone give me a link to a quote?


Comparing the Buddha to any other man is like comparing Mozart to any other composer.
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Homage to the Buddha
Thus indeed, is that Blessed One: He is the Holy One, fully enlightened, endowed with clear vision and virtuous conduct, sublime, the Knower of the worlds, the incomparable leader of men to be tamed, the teacher of gods and men, enlightened and blessed.

Homage to the Teachings
The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded; to be seen here and now; not delayed in
time; inviting one to come and see; onward leading (to Nibbana); to be known by the wise, each for himself.
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Re: Was Buddha a normal human being or something more?

Postby KumarS » Fri May 23, 2014 12:38 pm

TomC wrote:I was in a discussion earlier today and the leader said that Buddha was an Avatar, like Jesus or Krishna, somehow different from ordinary men, who came to earth specifically to teach.

I said that Buddha was a man just like any other man. He had an awakening and that awakening is possible for other ordinary people.



I was trying to reply to this post a few days ago, but for some reasons it does not appear anymore.
I do not know why sorry.

I heard some Theravada teacher who said that it took many hundreds or thousands of lives for the Buddha to be born as Buddha.
I do not know if there is anyone who can confirm to me this

According to him, a Buddha is qualitatively superior to Ahrants
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Re: Was Buddha a normal human being or something more?

Postby TheNoBSBuddhist » Fri May 23, 2014 1:27 pm

Kusala wrote:....Comparing the Buddha to any other man is like comparing Mozart to any other composer.

So very true.

It is said that when God wishes to hear music for himself, the angels play Bach.

When the Angels wish to hear music for themselves, they play Mozart.

Good analogy.....


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:namaste:

You will not be punished FOR your 'emotions'; you will be punished BY your 'emotions'.



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Re: Was Buddha a normal human being or something more?

Postby Mkoll » Fri May 23, 2014 6:28 pm

KumarS wrote:
TomC wrote:I was in a discussion earlier today and the leader said that Buddha was an Avatar, like Jesus or Krishna, somehow different from ordinary men, who came to earth specifically to teach.

I said that Buddha was a man just like any other man. He had an awakening and that awakening is possible for other ordinary people.



I was trying to reply to this post a few days ago, but for some reasons it does not appear anymore.
I do not know why sorry.

I heard some Theravada teacher who said that it took many hundreds or thousands of lives for the Buddha to be born as Buddha.
I do not know if there is anyone who can confirm to me this

According to him, a Buddha is qualitatively superior to Ahrants


The basic facts of the Buddha's life have been greatly embellished, and those embellishments have been embellished further. This kind of treatment seems to happen to most religious leaders and they assume a legendary status. Whether the Buddha actually told his followers this or it was added later by overly devout amenders of his teachings is unknown. That doesn't prove that it's not true, but we can't know for sure.
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Re: Was Buddha a normal human being or something more?

Postby Jetavan » Sat May 24, 2014 3:00 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:However, he was not a god....

Well, technically, he was a god (i.e., he was a deva in the Tusita deva realm).
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Re: Was Buddha a normal human being or something more?

Postby Kusala » Sun May 25, 2014 3:15 am

Goofaholix wrote:People who are normal human beings don't tend to have to go around telling people they are normal human beings, it's usually not necessary.

What is powerful about the Buddhist path is that you and I can potentially achieve the same kind of awakening that he did by following the same approach that he did, elevate him to some kind of god-like status and we take that away and the Buddhist path becomes just another hero worship religion.

I'm sure there are scriptural quotes one could use both for the affirmative and the negative in this argument, and if your friend relies on Mahayana scripture he'll have no shortage of support for his view. What's more important is what makes sense and is meaningful to support the practice here and now.


The world needs more heroes IMO...

"The hero acts alone, without encouragement, relying on conviction and his own inner resources. Shame does not discourage him; neither does obloquy. Indifferent to approval, reputation, wealth, love, he cherishes only his personal sense of honor, which he permits no one else to judge...Guided by an inner gyroscope, he peruses his vision single-mindedly, undiscouraged by rejection, defeat, or even the prospect of imminent death.

Few men can even comprehend such fortitude. Virtually all crave some external incentive: the appreciation of peers, the possibility of exculpation, the promise of retroactive affection, the hope of rewards, applause, decorations - of emotional reparations in some form. Because these longings are completely normal, only a man of towering strength of character can suppress them."
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Homage to the Buddha
Thus indeed, is that Blessed One: He is the Holy One, fully enlightened, endowed with clear vision and virtuous conduct, sublime, the Knower of the worlds, the incomparable leader of men to be tamed, the teacher of gods and men, enlightened and blessed.

Homage to the Teachings
The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded; to be seen here and now; not delayed in
time; inviting one to come and see; onward leading (to Nibbana); to be known by the wise, each for himself.
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Re: Was Buddha a normal human being or something more?

Postby Bakmoon » Tue May 27, 2014 7:18 am

Well, the Buddha was definitely not an Avatar-like being as Krishna or Jesus are viewed. The Buddha was very much a human. He was originally an ordinary human like us, and through his practice, he rose up and became a perfected human being free from greed, hatred, and delusion.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.
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Re: Was Buddha a normal human being or something more?

Postby Kusala » Wed May 28, 2014 1:24 am

Bakmoon wrote:Well, the Buddha was definitely not an Avatar-like being as Krishna or Jesus are viewed. The Buddha was very much a human. He was originally an ordinary human like us, and through his practice, he rose up and became a perfected human being free from greed, hatred, and delusion.


Indeed...
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Homage to the Buddha
Thus indeed, is that Blessed One: He is the Holy One, fully enlightened, endowed with clear vision and virtuous conduct, sublime, the Knower of the worlds, the incomparable leader of men to be tamed, the teacher of gods and men, enlightened and blessed.

Homage to the Teachings
The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded; to be seen here and now; not delayed in
time; inviting one to come and see; onward leading (to Nibbana); to be known by the wise, each for himself.
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Re: Was Buddha a normal human being or something more?

Postby KumarS » Sun Jun 01, 2014 3:21 am

Mkoll wrote:The basic facts of the Buddha's life have been greatly embellished, and those embellishments have been embellished further. This kind of treatment seems to happen to most religious leaders and they assume a legendary status. Whether the Buddha actually told his followers this or it was added later by overly devout amenders of his teachings is unknown. That doesn't prove that it's not true, but we can't know for sure.


I always feel uneasy when I hear such explanations.
The problem is then I do not understand how we can know which parts of the scripture is embellished and which is genuine

This is a problem you have with all religions, I assume
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Re: Was Buddha a normal human being or something more?

Postby Tex » Fri Jul 18, 2014 2:01 am

KumarS wrote:
Mkoll wrote:The basic facts of the Buddha's life have been greatly embellished, and those embellishments have been embellished further. This kind of treatment seems to happen to most religious leaders and they assume a legendary status. Whether the Buddha actually told his followers this or it was added later by overly devout amenders of his teachings is unknown. That doesn't prove that it's not true, but we can't know for sure.


I always feel uneasy when I hear such explanations.
The problem is then I do not understand how we can know which parts of the scripture is embellished and which is genuine

This is a problem you have with all religions, I assume


You're right that it is difficult, if not impossible, to know where embellishment may have worked its way into the narrative over time.

But I try not to give that too much thought. We have the Buddha's practical instructions, which are very consistent and which can be followed to see if they work, first hand. Did he really walk and talk from the moment of his birth, or was that embellished, for example? It really doesn't change the core teachings or my practice either way.
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Re: Was Buddha a normal human being or something more?

Postby martinfrank » Fri Jul 18, 2014 5:51 pm

But I try not to give that too much thought. We have the Buddha's practical instructions, which are very consistent and which can be followed to see if they work, first hand. Did he really walk and talk from the moment of his birth, or was that embellished, for example? It really doesn't change the core teachings or my practice either way.

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Re: Was Buddha a normal human being or something more?

Postby Mkoll » Sat Jul 19, 2014 12:56 am

martinfrank wrote:
But I try not to give that too much thought. We have the Buddha's practical instructions, which are very consistent and which can be followed to see if they work, first hand. Did he really walk and talk from the moment of his birth, or was that embellished, for example? It really doesn't change the core teachings or my practice either way.

:goodpost:

:goodpost:
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Re: Was Buddha a normal human being or something more?

Postby Aloka » Sun Jul 20, 2014 11:22 am

Mkoll wrote:

The basic facts of the Buddha's life have been greatly embellished, and those embellishments have been embellished further. This kind of treatment seems to happen to most religious leaders and they assume a legendary status. Whether the Buddha actually told his followers this or it was added later by overly devout amenders of his teachings is unknown. That doesn't prove that it's not true, but we can't know for sure.


Ajahn Sujato's comments "On The 32 Marks" (of the Buddha) might be of interest in this topic.

http://sujato.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/on-the-32-marks/


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