Buddha omniscient

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Buddha omniscient

Postby robertk » Wed May 09, 2012 1:28 pm

This was written by a member in the Classical Theravada forum today:
Do not blindly adhere to what you think the Buddha taught, he was not omniscient, he did not know everything and basing all your views on some books written down hundreds of years after he died is dogmatic and unfit


I think this member is incorrect according to THeravada:
Majjhima Nikaya 71 Tevijjavacchagotta Sutta 'To Vacchagotta on the
Threefold True Knowledge'

"Venerable sir, I have heard this: "The recluse Gotaka claims to be
omniscient and all-seeing, to have complete knowledge and visiion
thus: "Whether I am walking or standing or sleeping or awake,
knowledge and vision are continuously and uninterruptedly present to
me." Venerable sir, do those who speak thus say what has been said
by the Blessed One, and not misrepresent him with what is contrary to
fact? Do they explain in accordance with the Dhamma in such a way
that nothing which provides a ground for censure can be legitimatelly
deduced fromtheir assertion?"

"Vaccha, those who say thus do not say what has been said by me, but
misrepresent me with what is untrue and contrary to fact."

note 714 of BB : MA explains that even though part of the statement is
valid, the Buddha rejects the entire statementbecause of the portion
that is invalid. The part of the statement that is valid is the
assertion that the Buddha is omniscient and all-seeing; the part that
is excessive is the assertion that knowledge and vision are
continuously present to him. According to the Theravada tradition
the Buddha is omniscient in the sense that all knowable things are
potentially accessible to him. He cannot, however, know everything
simultaneously and must advert to whatever he wishes to know. At MN
90.8 the Buddha says that it is possible to know and see all, though
not simultaneously, and at AN 4.24/ii.24 he claims to know all that
can be seen, heard, sensed, and cognised, which is understood by the
Theravada tradition as an assertion of omniscience in the qualified
sense. .
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Re: Buddha omniscient

Postby cooran » Wed May 09, 2012 8:11 pm

Thanks for picking this up Rob!
:smile:

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Re: Buddha omniscient

Postby polarbuddha101 » Wed May 09, 2012 8:47 pm

Are you asserting that he was capable of knowing what we are doing right now if he had just directed his attention to the future?

Also can you provide the actual words from the sutta pitaka where the Buddha says "I am omniscient and all-seeing"
Last edited by polarbuddha101 on Wed May 09, 2012 8:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Buddha omniscient

Postby mikenz66 » Wed May 09, 2012 8:51 pm

polarbuddha101 wrote:Are you asserting that he was capable of knowing what we are doing right now if he had just directed his attention to the future?

The Sutta (or, at least, the commentary) seems to be asserting that, and that's the topic under discussion.

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Re: Buddha omniscient

Postby mikenz66 » Wed May 09, 2012 8:53 pm

Here is a translation of the whole sutta (unfortunately a rather old one...)
http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pit ... ta-e1.html

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Re: Buddha omniscient

Postby polarbuddha101 » Wed May 09, 2012 8:59 pm

I think this discussion needs to enter into general theravada. Then a proper discussion and debate can be made. Also, that sutta doesn't say the Buddha is all knowing, the three knowledges do not encompass that much knowledge when compared with all the knowledge that can be had.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Buddha omniscient

Postby Coyote » Wed May 09, 2012 9:15 pm

polarbuddha101 wrote:Are you asserting that he was capable of knowing what we are doing right now if he had just directed his attention to the future?

Also can you provide the actual words from the sutta pitaka where the Buddha says "I am omniscient and all-seeing"


Is this actually the tradition of the Theravada? I was under the impression that some events in the future, being based on our choices, are uncertain, and therefore even a fully-enlightened Buddha could not know them.
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: Buddha omniscient

Postby mikenz66 » Wed May 09, 2012 10:28 pm

polarbuddha101 wrote:I think this discussion needs to enter into general theravada. Then a proper discussion and debate can be made.

Feel free to start a thread in another section and give a link to this thread.

It has been deemed useful by the creators of this Forum to be able to discuss how questions like the following are seen by the Theravada tradition:
Coyote wrote:Is this actually the tradition of the Theravada? I was under the impression that some events in the future, being based on our choices, are uncertain, and therefore even a fully-enlightened Buddha could not know them.

That's a good question, and perhaps Robert can comment on this.

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Re: Buddha omniscient

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu May 10, 2012 1:06 am

Doesn't this question fall under one of the four unconjecturables?

It seems to me that both the OP and the earlier post that prompted the OP run afoul of the Buddha's guidance -- since in either case we are conjecturing about the powers of the Tathāgata. On the one hand, denying that the Tathāgata has the power of omniscience; on the other, insisting that he does.
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Re: Buddha omniscient

Postby mikenz66 » Thu May 10, 2012 1:49 am

I think such warnings are to those who are not Buddhas.

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Re: Buddha omniscient

Postby robertk » Thu May 10, 2012 4:55 am

polarbuddha101 wrote:I think this discussion needs to enter into general theravada. Then a proper discussion and debate can be made. Also, that sutta doesn't say the Buddha is all knowing, the three knowledges do not encompass that much knowledge when compared with all the knowledge that can be had.


Of course I realise that few Dhammawheel members are interested in the actual Theravada position on most matters. My reason to place the discussion here in Classical Theravada was that I hope there are a handful who do have this unusual inclination.


Regarding the question about the future. Of course the suttas give many examples of the Buddha knowing such matters: In the Cakkavatti-Sihanada sutta the Buddha says a great deal about the very distant future:
I give a short extract, "


And in the time of those people [far in the future] this continent Jambudipa will be powerful and prosperous...at that time the Varanasi of today will be a royal city called Ketumati, powerful and prosperous...there will arise a wheel turning monarch callaed Sankha..there will arise in the world an arahant..named Metteyya.....then King Sankha will re-erect the palace once built by the King Maha-Panada and having lived in it will give it up and present it to the ascetics and Brahmins.."
pp. 402-404 trans. Walshe.



We see that according to this sutta the Buddha knew even the names and activities of people countless years in the future from now.
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Re: Buddha omniscient

Postby robertk » Thu May 10, 2012 4:57 am

This is an interesting Commentary explaining some of the Buddha's knowledge.

Dispeller of delusion (Commentary to Abhidhamma)2019: The word-by-word commentary having been completed thus,
these ten powers should now be understood to be set forth successively as
follows because (1) in the first place the Tathaagata sees with the
knowledge of the possible and the impossible the absence of obstruction by
defilement which is the possibility (reason) for the attaining or the
impossibility (non-reason) for the non-attaining of the destruction of the
cankers by teachable beings; this is owing to seeing the possibility
(thaana) for mundane right view and owing to seeing the absence of
possibility for assured wrong view. (2) Then with the knowledge of kamma
result he sees the absence in them of obstruction by kamma result; [402]
this is owing to seeing a rebirth-linking with three root-causes. (3) With
the knowledge of ways wheresoever going, he sees the absence of
obstruction by kamma; this is owing to seeing the absence of kamma with
immediate effect. **(4) With the knowledge of the numerous and varying
elements, he sees the specific habit (temperament) of those who are thus
free from obstructions for the purpose of teaching of the Law suitable [to
their habit]; this is owing to seing the diversity of the elements.** (5)
Then with the knowledge of different resolves, he sees their resolves;
this is for the purpose of teaching the Law according to their disposition
even if they have not accepted the means. (6) Then, in order to teach the
Law according to the ability and capacity of those whose resolves have
been seen in this way, with the knowledge of the disposition of the
faculties, he sees the disposition of the faculties; this is owing to
seeing the keen and dull state of faith, etc. (7) But owing to disposition
of the facultites being fully understood thus, if they are far off then
owing to mastery of the first jhaana, etc., he quickly goes to them by
means of his distinction in miraculous power; and having gone, seeing (8)
the state of their former existences with the knowledge of the
recollection of former lives, and (9) the present distinction of
consciousness with the knowledge of the penetration of others' minds to be
reached owing to the power of the Divine Eye; (10) with the power of the
knowledge of destruction of the cankers, he teaches the Law for the
destruction of the cankers owing to being rid of delusion about the way
that leads to the destruction of the cankers. Therefore it should be
understood that these ten powers were referred to in this sequence.
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Re: Buddha omniscient

Postby polarbuddha101 » Thu May 10, 2012 4:58 am

Go to the general theravada section please and read the essay there Robert, I would very much appreciate it. Thank You

:namaste:
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Buddha omniscient

Postby mikenz66 » Thu May 10, 2012 5:50 am

polarbuddha101 wrote:Go to the general theravada section please and read the essay there Robert, I would very much appreciate it. Thank You

Link here: viewtopic.php?f=13&t=12386

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Re: Buddha omniscient

Postby robertk » Thu May 10, 2012 6:53 am

from Visuddhimagga,
VII,note 7. 9 the paramathamanjusa)

"'Is not unobstructed knowledge (anaavara.na-~naana) different from
omniscient knowledge (sabba~n~na-~naana)? Otherwise the words, 'Six
kinds of knowledge unshared [by disciples]' (Ps.i.3) would be
contradicted? [Note: The six kinds are: knowledge of what faculties
prevail in beings, knowledge of the inclinations and tendencies of
beings, knowledge of the Twin Marvel, knowledge of the attainmnent of
the great compassion, omniscient knowledge, and unobstructed knowledge
(see Ps.i.133).] - There is no contradiction, because two ways in
which a single kind of knowledge's objective field occurs are
described for the purpose of showing by means of this difference how
it is not shared by others. It is only one kind of knowledge; but it
is called omniscient knowledge because its objective field consists of
formed, unformed, and conventional (samutti) [i.e. conceptual] dhammas
without remainder, and it is called unobstructed knowledge because of
its unrestricted access to the objective field, because of absence of
obstruction. And it is said accordingly in the Pa.tisambhidaa: 'It
knows all the formed and the unformed without remainder, thus it is
omniscient knowledge. It has no obstruction therein, thus it is
unobstructed knowledge' (Ps.i.131), and so on. So they are not
different kinds of knowledge. And there must be no reservation,
otherwise it would follow that omniscient and unobstructed knowledge
had obstructions and did not make all dhammas its object. There is
not in fact a minimal obstruction to the Blessed One's knowledge: and
if his unobstrcted knowledge had obstructions and did not have all
dhammas as its object, there would be presence of obstruction where it
did not occur, and so it would not be unobstructed.

'Or alternatively, even if we suppose that they are different, still
it is omniscient knowledge itself that is intended as 'unhindered'
since it is that which occurs unhindered universally. And it is by
his attainment of that that the Blessed One is known as Omniscient,
All-Seer, Fully Enlightened, not because of awareness (avabodha) of
every dhamma at once, simultaneously (see M.ii.127). And it is said
accordingly in the Pa.tisambhidaa: 'This is a name derived from the
final liberation of the Enlightened Ones, the Blessed Ones, together
with the acquisition of omniscient knowledge at the root of the
Enlightenment Tree; this name 'Buddha' is a designation based on
realisation' (Ps.i.174). For the ability in the Blessed One's
continuity to penetrate all dhammas without exception was due to his
having completely attained to knowledge capable of becoming aware of
all dhammas.

'Here it may be asked: But how then? When this knowledge occurs,
does it do so with respect to every field simultaneously, or
successively? For firstly, if it occurs simultaneously with respect
to every objective field, then with the simultaneous appearance of
formed dhammas classed as past, future and present, internal and
external, etc., and of unformed and conventional (conceptual) dhammas,
there would be no awareness of contrast (pa.tibhaaga), as happens in
one who looks at a painted canvas from a distance. That being so, it
follows that all dhammas become the objective field of the Blessed
One's knowledge in an undifferentiated form (aniruupita-ruupana), as
they do through the aspect of not-self to those who are exercising
insight thus 'All dhammas are not-self'...And those do not escape this
difficulty who say that the Enlightened One's knowledge occurs with
the characteristic of presence of all knowable dhammas as its
objective field, devoid of discriminative thinking (vikappa-rahita),
and universal in time (sabba-kaala) and that is why they are called
'All-seeing' and why it is said, 'The Naaga is concentrated walking
and he is concentrated standing'(?). They do not escape the
difficulty since because, by having the characteristic of presence as
its object, past, future, and conventional dhammas, which lact that
characteristic, would be absent. So it is wrong to say that it occurs
simultaneously with respect to every objective field. Then secondly,
if we say that it occurs successively with respect to every objective
field, this is wrong too. For when the knowable, classed in many
different ways according to birth, place, individual essence, etc.,
and direction, place, time, etc., is apprehended successively, then
penetration without remainder is not effected since the knowable is
infinite. And those are wrong too who say that the Blessed One is
All-seeing owing to his doing his defining by taking one part of the
knowable as that actually experienced ( anumaanika) since it is free
from doubt, because it is what is doubtfully discovered that is meant
by inferential knowledge in the world. And they are wrong because
there is no such defining by taking one part of the knowable as that
actually experienced and deciding that the rest is the same because of
the unequivocalness of its meaning, without making all of it actually
experienced. For then that 'rest' is not actually experienced; and if
it were actually experienced, it would no longer be 'the rest'.

'All that is no argument - Why not? - Because this is not a field for
ratiocination; for the Blessed One has said this: 'The objective
field of Enlightened One's is unthinkable, it cannot be thought out;
anyone who tried to think it out would reap madness and frustration'
(A.ii.80). The agreed explanation here is this: What ever the
Blessed One wants to know - either entirely or partially - there his
knowledge occurs as actual experience because it does so without
hindrance. And it has constant concentration because of the absence
of distraction. And it cannot occur in association with wishing of a
kind that is due to absence from the objective field of something that
he wants to know. There can be no exception to this because of the
words, 'All dhammas are available to the adverting of the Enlightened
One, the Blessed One, are available at his wish, are available to his
attention, are available to his thought' (Ps.ii. 195). And the
Blessed One's knowledge that has past and future as its objective
field is entirely actual experience since it is devoid of assumption
based on inference, tradition, or conjecture.

'And yet, even in that case, suppose he wanted to know the whole in
its entirety, then would his knowledge not occur without
differentiation in the whole objective field simultaneously? And so
there would still be no getting out of that difficulty?

"That is not so, because of its purifiedness. Because the Enlightened
One's objective field is purified and it is unthinkable. Otherwise
there would be no unthinkableness in the knowledge of the Enlightened
One, the Blessed One, if it occured in the same way as ordinary
people. So, although it occurs with all dhammas as its object, it
nevertheless does so making those dhammas quite clearly defined, as
though it had a single dhamma as its object. This is what is
unthinkable here. 'There is as much knowledge as there is knowable,
there is as much knowable as there is knowledge; the knowledge is
limited by the knowable, the knowable is limited by the knowledge'
(Ps.ii 195). So he is Fully Enlightened because he has rightly and by
himself discovered all dhammas together and separately, simultaneously
and successively, according to his wish'(Pm.190-91).
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Re: Buddha omniscient

Postby Coyote » Thu May 10, 2012 1:14 pm

Robert, if the Buddha did indeed know the future as the commentary maintains, then why are there several cases (provided in the essay on the thread linked by Mikenz66) that seem to contradict this understanding? What is the Traditional explanation for this? I would very much like to know.

Wilfred
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Re: Buddha omniscient

Postby robertk » Thu May 10, 2012 2:40 pm

Dear Wilfred,
The buddha did know, and if the writer of that piece had enough knowledge to look up the ancient Commentray he would see this. The example from king Pasenadi the commentry says the Buddha knew those ascetics were the Kings spies.
The monks who suicided: the Buddha deliberately gave them the foulness of the body as object, knowing that they would be able to attain jhana before their kammically inevitablee deaths.

You see the buddhas always know, but sometimes they don't reveal all they know about a situation, it depends on what is appropriate and most beneficial at the time.
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Re: Buddha omniscient

Postby Coyote » Thu May 10, 2012 3:05 pm

robertk wrote:Dear Wilfred,
The buddha did know, and if the writer of that piece had enough knowledge to look up the ancient Commentray he would see this. The example from king Pasenadi the commentry says the Buddha knew those ascetics were the Kings spies.
The monks who suicided: the Buddha deliberately gave them the foulness of the body as object, knowing that they would be able to attain jhana before their kammically inevitablee deaths.

You see the buddhas always know, but sometimes they don't reveal all they know about a situation, it depends on what is appropriate and most beneficial at the time.


Thank you. This is what I thought, but wanted to make sure. It makes sense that a Buddha wouldn't or wouldn't need to reveal all he knows or act on that knowledge - after all, he is dealing with people who do not have that knowledge.
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: Buddha omniscient

Postby plwk » Thu May 10, 2012 3:45 pm

Dear Wilfred,
The buddha did know, and if the writer of that piece had enough knowledge to look up the ancient Commentray he would see this. The example from king Pasenadi the commentry says the Buddha knew those ascetics were the Kings spies.
The monks who suicided: the Buddha deliberately gave them the foulness of the body as object, knowing that they would be able to attain jhana before their kammically inevitablee deaths.

You see the buddhas always know, but sometimes they don't reveal all they know about a situation, it depends on what is appropriate and most beneficial at the time.


Thank you. This is what I thought, but wanted to make sure. It makes sense that a Buddha wouldn't or wouldn't need to reveal all he knows or act on that knowledge - after all, he is dealing with people who do not have that knowledge.

This reminds me of...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
In the same way, monks, those things that I have known with direct knowledge but have not taught are far more numerous [than what I have taught]. And why haven't I taught them?
Because they are not connected with the goal, do not relate to the rudiments of the holy life, and do not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.
That is why I have not taught them.
Bhikkhus, if you develop and make much this one thing,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.
What is it? It is recollecting the Enlightened One.
If this single thing is recollected and made much,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.

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Re: Buddha omniscient

Postby mikenz66 » Thu May 10, 2012 7:31 pm

Thanks plwk,

In light of that last passage, and passages about right speech:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

It would be illogical to take this passage:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .vaji.html
I have set forth the Dhamma without making any distinction of esoteric and exoteric doctrine; there is nothing, Ananda, with regard to the teachings that the Tathagata holds to the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back.

to mean that if it wasn't in the Suttas the Buddha didn't know about it.

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