Why can there be only one Buddha at at time?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Why can there be only one Buddha at at time?

Postby genkaku » Fri Feb 27, 2009 1:12 pm

Interesting discussion, but I would be interested in who or what, precisely, anyone considers "Buddha" to be. If we rely on texts for an answer, OK. If we rely on experience, OK. And if we suggest that relying on anything whatsoever is not appropriate, OK.

I mean no disrespect. I'm just wondering how we can talk about something if we don't nail down the perspective being used to address that 'something.'
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Re: Why can there be only one Buddha at at time?

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Feb 27, 2009 2:58 pm

genkaku wrote:Interesting discussion, but I would be interested in who or what, precisely, anyone considers "Buddha" to be. If we rely on texts for an answer, OK. If we rely on experience, OK. And if we suggest that relying on anything whatsoever is not appropriate, OK.

Not sure if I am answering the questions, but:

Buddha = Samma-sam-buddha, the rare fully enlightened one by himself when / after the teachings have died out.
Arahant = Fully enlightened, by from hearing the teachings of a Buddha (during the Buddha's lifetime or after from the Suttas) and practice.
Paccekabuddha = A silent buddha. One who attains full enlightenment, but does not teach others.

I think those who are spiritually advanced will recognize a Buddha after the Dhamma has died out, by his words, deeds, actions and perhaps by a resolve to meet a future Buddha in a previous lifetime.

But needless to say, there is no samma-sam-buddha now or for a very long time, as the good Dhamma is still with us. We are still in 'Gotama's' dispensation.
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Re: Why can there be only one Buddha at at time?

Postby piotr » Fri Feb 27, 2009 4:27 pm

Hi,

genkaku wrote:Interesting discussion, but I would be interested in who or what, precisely, anyone considers "Buddha" to be. If we rely on texts for an answer, OK.


According to the Aṅguttara-nikāya there are two types of the Awakened Ones (buddhā):

    "Dveme, bhikkhave, buddhā. Katame dve? Tathāgato ca arahaṃ sammāsambuddho, paccekabuddho ca. Ime kho, bhikkhave, dve buddhā"ti.

    "There are two, bhikkhus, types of the Awakened Ones. Which two? Truly gone, worthy, rightly Awakened One and privately Awakened One. This are, bhikkhus, two types of the Awakened Ones." — Puggala-sutta 5 (AN 2.56) <i, 77>


According to the same book there can be only one worthy, rightly Awakened One in the same world:

    "Aṭṭhānametaṃ, bhikkhave, anavakāso yaṃ ekissā lokadhātuyā dve arahanto sammāsambuddhā apubbaṃ acarimaṃ uppajjeyyuṃ. Netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjati."

    "lt is impossible, bhikkhus, it cannot happen that two worthy, rightly Awakened Ones, could arise contemporaneously in one world-system. There is no such possibility." — Aṭṭhāna-sutta 10 (AN 1.297) <i, 27>
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Re: Why can there be only one Buddha at at time?

Postby Individual » Fri Feb 27, 2009 5:15 pm

piotr wrote:Hi,

genkaku wrote:Interesting discussion, but I would be interested in who or what, precisely, anyone considers "Buddha" to be. If we rely on texts for an answer, OK.


According to the Aṅguttara-nikāya there are two types of the Awakened Ones (buddhā):

    "Dveme, bhikkhave, buddhā. Katame dve? Tathāgato ca arahaṃ sammāsambuddho, paccekabuddho ca. Ime kho, bhikkhave, dve buddhā"ti.

    "There are two, bhikkhus, types of the Awakened Ones. Which two? Truly gone, worthy, rightly Awakened One and privately Awakened One. This are, bhikkhus, two types of the Awakened Ones." — Puggala-sutta 5 (AN 2.56) <i, 77>


According to the same book there can be only one worthy, rightly Awakened One in the same world:

    "Aṭṭhānametaṃ, bhikkhave, anavakāso yaṃ ekissā lokadhātuyā dve arahanto sammāsambuddhā apubbaṃ acarimaṃ uppajjeyyuṃ. Netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjati."

    "lt is impossible, bhikkhus, it cannot happen that two worthy, rightly Awakened Ones, could arise contemporaneously in one world-system. There is no such possibility." — Aṭṭhāna-sutta 10 (AN 1.297) <i, 27>

The "Savakabuddha" (a person who listens to the Buddha's teachings and becomes an Arahant) is mentioned as another kind, elsewhere, not sure where.
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Re: Why can there be only one Buddha at at time?

Postby piotr » Fri Feb 27, 2009 5:39 pm

Hi,

Individual wrote:The "Savakabuddha" (a person who listens to the Buddha's teachings and becomes an Arahant) is mentioned as another kind, elsewhere, not sure where.


This is a term from the Commentaries, which is absent in the Canon.
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Re: Why can there be only one Buddha at at time?

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Feb 27, 2009 6:45 pm

piotr wrote:Hi,
Individual wrote:The "Savakabuddha" (a person who listens to the Buddha's teachings and becomes an Arahant) is mentioned as another kind, elsewhere, not sure where.

This is a term from the Commentaries, which is absent in the Canon.

But still an appropriate term, since the Canon mentions several fully enlightened ones who are not a Paccekabuddha or Samma-sam-buddha.
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Re: Why can there be only one Buddha at at time?

Postby Individual » Fri Feb 27, 2009 7:33 pm

TheDhamma wrote:
piotr wrote:Hi,
Individual wrote:The "Savakabuddha" (a person who listens to the Buddha's teachings and becomes an Arahant) is mentioned as another kind, elsewhere, not sure where.

This is a term from the Commentaries, which is absent in the Canon.

But still an appropriate term, since the Canon mentions several fully enlightened ones who are not a Paccekabuddha or Samma-sam-buddha.

If it's in the commentaries, but not the canon, its appropriateness is a matter of debate.

Earlier in this thread, I wanted to say (and now again, I want to say this, so I'll say it): It seems insufficient to me to say that Buddhas and Arahants are of the same wisdom or worldview. This is true, with regards to suffering, but not with regards to wisdom of all things, knowledge of karma, rebirth, siddhis, etc.. An Arahant, for instance, cannot examine the conditions of the world, examine the language of the world, and then create a unique teaching that is capable of bringing benefit. At best, he can correctly recite a supreme Buddha's teaching.

But at the same time, it seems insufficient to me to say that there can be a Buddha above the Arahants, because if such a thing were possible, how would it be possible? And also, if this is the distinction being made (and, contrary to Theravadin views, a supreme Buddha is not merely distinguished from Arahants by being self-taught but has a class of wisdom all his own), then I do not understand why more than one Buddha cannot arise in a single world-system or why the Buddha himself is called an Arahant in the Tipitaka.

Stated briefly: If the Theravada notion of the relationship between Buddha and Arahant (stated simply Buddha=Arahant) is true, then shouldn't the capacity for self-teaching bring with it a class of wisdom entirely its own? But if the Mahayana notion of the relationship between Buddha and Arahant is true (stated simply Buddha>Arahant), then how is it that more than one Buddha cannot arise in the world, and why is the Buddha himself is called an Arahant?

The "Buddha-range of the Buddhas" is one of the four imponderables.
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Re: Why can there be only one Buddha at at time?

Postby piotr » Fri Feb 27, 2009 8:14 pm

Hi,

TheDhamma wrote:But still an appropriate term, since the Canon mentions several fully enlightened ones who are not a Paccekabuddha or Samma-sam-buddha.


It's true that there is no qualitative difference between the liberation of a rightly Awakened One and that of an his disciples. But there is a difference in an occasion in which this liberation takes place. If we agree to use that term, then — since 'buddha' means 'an awakened' — sāvaka-buddha should awake to something which was previously forgotten and unheard — but I don't see such a thing, because he or she is a disciple of a rightly Awakened One, and has heard dhamma from him.

And if maybe someone wants to put disciples of the Noble Ones on a pedestal, because someone else has put them down, then rather than by calling them 'sāvaka-buddha' (what appears to be contrary to the passage from AN 2.56), I would prefer to see arguments based on a suttas (starting with SN 22.58) which would show that there is no qualitive difference between the liberation of a rightly Awakened One and that of an his disciples.
Last edited by piotr on Fri Feb 27, 2009 8:24 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Why can there be only one Buddha at at time?

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Feb 27, 2009 8:19 pm

I agree and that is why I like the term Arahant instead of Savakabuddha.
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Re: Why can there be only one Buddha at at time?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Feb 27, 2009 11:42 pm

Greetings,

Somewhere I'm pretty sure there's a sutta where the Buddha explains how he is different from the Arahants and the main reason is that he discovered the Dhamma himself... but I can't seem to find it anywhere just at the moment.

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Re: Why can there be only one Buddha at at time?

Postby fig tree » Sat Feb 28, 2009 7:37 am

retrofuturist wrote:Somewhere I'm pretty sure there's a sutta where the Buddha explains how he is different from the Arahants and the main reason is that he discovered the Dhamma himself... but I can't seem to find it anywhere just at the moment.

SN22.58: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.058.than.html. Other differences are described between these three types than that the Arahant succeeds in the presence of an already existing doctrine, the solitary Buddha doesn't generate an era in which the dhamma is taught, and the Samma Sambuddha does. The Buddha has for example the "ten powers of the Tathagatha".

It's never been clear to me, though, that there was any need for a further explanation of why there aren't two at a time, than to say that as a matter of definition it's not until the teachings are no longer current that a new one can arise. This leaves me a little puzzled that the Milindapanha in particular offers further reasons, that it would be like having twice as much food at a meal and so on, as if it were a problem one could imagine arising. I would think that were a second individual with similarly great paramis to be born at about the same time, it would simply be an extra bonus for the rest of the people living at the time. Whoever it is who was first to reach the deathless would be the Buddha, and the other could "just" be a chief disciple with a lot of ability. These types of individuals are all rare enough to begin with that it hardly seems likely that there'd be a problem of oversupply.

So I guess what puzzles me is not why there is only one "Buddha" at a time, but why it was considered useful to say so, and to give more than what seems the most obvious reason for it.

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Re: Why can there be only one Buddha at at time?

Postby green » Sat Feb 28, 2009 4:51 pm

Lokdhatu is quite confusing however, Buddha quite clearly defines what constitutes "the world"

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Then a certain monk went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One: "'The world, the world'1 it is said. In what respect does the word 'world' apply?

"Insofar as it disintegrates,2 monk, it is called the 'world.' Now what disintegrates? The eye disintegrates. Forms disintegrate. Consciousness at the eye disintegrates. Contact at the eye disintegrates. And whatever there is that arises in dependence on contact at the eye — experienced as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain — that too disintegrates.

"The ear disintegrates. Sounds disintegrate...

"The nose disintegrates. Aromas disintegrate...

"The tongue disintegrates. Tastes disintegrate...

"The body disintegrates. Tactile sensations disintegrate...

"The intellect disintegrates. Ideas disintegrate. Consciousness at the intellect consciousness disintegrates. Contact at the intellect disintegrates. And whatever there is that arises in dependence on contact at the intellect — experienced as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain — that too disintegrates.

"Insofar as it disintegrates, it is called the 'world.'"
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Re: Why can there be only one Buddha at at time?

Postby Dhammanando » Sat Feb 28, 2009 10:52 pm

Hi Green,

green wrote:"Insofar as it disintegrates, monk, it is called the 'world.' Now what disintegrates? The eye disintegrates.


This is the most important sense of 'world' as far as the development of paññā is concerned, but it isn't the only way the Buddha uses the word, nor is it the sense that applies in the context of this thread.

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Re: Why can there be only one Buddha at at time?

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Mar 01, 2009 3:41 am

Dhammanando wrote:it isn't the only way the Buddha uses the word, nor is it the sense that applies in the context of this thread.

That's what makes it tricky... knowing what sense is meant at each particular usage. Do we have any clues as to which sense was meant here?
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Re: Why can there be only one Buddha at at time?

Postby Dhammanando » Sun Mar 01, 2009 10:18 am

Hi Peter,

Peter wrote:Do we have any clues as to which sense was meant here?


Buddhaghosa:

    Buddha-fields (buddhakkhetta) are of three kinds: the field of birth (jātikhetta), the field of authority (āṇākhetta), and the field of scope (visayakhetta).

    Herein, the field of birth is limited by the ten-thousandfold world-spheres that quaked on the Tathāgata’s taking rebirth-linking, and so on.

    The field of authority is limited by the hundred thousand million world-spheres within which the following protections (paritta) are efficacious: the Ratana Sutta, the Khandha Paritta, the Dhajagga Paritta, the Āṭānāṭiya Paritta and the Mora Paritta.

    The field of scope is boundless, immeasurable: ‘As far as he wishes’ it is said (AN. i. 228).
    (Path of Purification xiii. 31)

The commentaries to the suttas which say that it is impossible for two Sammāsambuddhas to appear in a single world-sphere (lokadhātu) identify world-sphere with the field of birth, hence a ten-thousandfold world-sphere.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
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    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

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Re: Why can there be only one Buddha at at time?

Postby AdvaitaJ » Sun Mar 01, 2009 1:18 pm

fig tree wrote:So I guess what puzzles me is not why there is only one "Buddha" at a time, but why it was considered useful to say so, and to give more than what seems the most obvious reason for it.

I think this statement really gets to the heart of the issue. Why would it be useful to make this statement especially since the Buddha specifically said there were many things he knew that he did not teach because the other things he knew were not helpful to those on the path.

Thinking about what things were like in the Buddha's time, we know there were a lot of ascetics, brahmins, etc roaming around saying they had "the answer". The Buddha's statement that there can only be one Buddha at a time could be a way to make clear to all that the others weren't espousing the real Dhamma.

The disturbing aspect of taking this discussion at face value is the implication that a separate controlling entity, law, or intelligence of some type is "gating" the emergence of fully awakened Buddha's in the world. Otherwise, there is no reason discernible by us regular folk as to why you couldn't have a Buddha emerge nearly simultaneously in multiple places on the globe. Unlikely in the extreme, to be sure, but not worthy of specifically stating "it is impossible".

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Re: Why can there be only one Buddha at at time?

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Mar 01, 2009 3:27 pm

AdvaitaJ wrote:The disturbing aspect of taking this discussion at face value is the implication that a separate controlling entity, law, or intelligence of some type is "gating" the emergence of fully awakened Buddha's in the world.

Or a natural law, a function of how the universe works, that we don't yet understand.

It doesn't imply a controlling intelligence any more than the rise and fall of the Nile River implies it. The ancient Egyptians assumed the rise and fall was due to a river god. Eventually we learned it was due to seasonal snow melt.
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