Eternal Buddha

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Template:Clone In East Asian Buddhism the Buddha of the Lotus Sutra is regarded as the eternal Buddha. It is a popular notion, which may have contributed to the tathagatagarbha doctrine, although the notion of an eternal Buddha is not explicitly stated in the Lotus Sutra.

The belief in the Eternal Buddha transcends through time and is commonly associated with Shakyamuni Buddha, but can also refer to both his past and future incarnations. However, no exact definition of the Eternal Buddha is defined in the Lotus Sutra; thereby making open interpretations to various religious groups.

Lotus Sutra and tathagatagarbha doctrine

In east-Asian Buddhism, the Buddha of the Lotus Sutra is regarded as the eternal Buddha.Template:Sfn "The Tathagata´s Lifespan" chapter (ch 16) of the Lotus Sutra portrays the Buddha as indicating that he became awakened countless aeons ("kalpas") ago.Template:Sfn The sutra itself, however, does not directly employ the phrase "eternal Buddha".Template:Citation needed

In China the Lotus Sutra was associated with the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, which propagates the tathagatagarbha-doctrine, and with the Awakening of Faith.Template:Sfn The Mahaparinirvana Sutra presents the Buddha as eternal, and equates him with the Dharmakaya.Template:SfnTemplate:Refn

The Lotus Sutra itself does hardly seem to accept the tathagatagarbha-teachings.Template:Sfn According to Paul Williams, this association may be explained by the systematization of the Lotus Sutra teachings by the Tiantai school, using teachings from other schools "to equate the Buddha of the Lotus Sutra with the ultimate truth and to teach a cosmic Buddha."Template:Sfn

Understanding in east-Asian Buddhism


The Chinese Tiantai scholar Zhiyi [天台] (538–597) divided the sutra into the "trace teaching" about the historical Shakyamuni Buddha (ch 1-14) and the "origin teaching" (ch 15-28) revealing the original Buddha of inconceivable life span.Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn Zhiyi viewed Shakyamuni Buddha of Ch 16 of the Lotus Sutra as a unification of the three Buddha bodies, possessing all three bodies, whereas other sutras are taught from the standpoint of a single Buddha body.Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn


The Nichiren Shu, Rissho Kosei Kai and Kempon Hokke schools of Nichiren Buddhism revere Shakyamuni of Chapter 16 of the Lotus Sutra as the eternal Buddha. They also regard Shakyamuni of Ch 16 as a "Unification of the Three Bodies", as taught by Tiantai.Template:Sfn Other Buddhas, such as Amida of the Pure Land (J. Nembutsu) School, and Mahavairochana of the True Word (J. Shingon) School are seen as provisional manifestations of the Original Buddha Shakyamuni.[1]

In Shin or Pure Land Buddhism, Amida Buddha is viewed as the eternal Buddha who manifested as Shakyamuni in India and who is the personification of Nirvana itself.[2][3]

Shingon Buddhism sees Buddha Vairocana as the personification of the dharmakaya, and hence as the eternal Buddha, and some within Shingon, following Kakuban, equate Vairochana and Amida.[4][5]

See also



  1. Nichiren Daishonin, Rissho Ankoku Ron (Eng. On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land), 1260 CE
  2. What is Pure Land Buddhism? da Sho-on Hattori, A Raft from The Other Shore Honen and the Way of Pure Land Buddhism, published by Jodo Shu Press
  3. Amida, who attained Buddhahood in the infinite past, / Full of compassion for foolish beings of the five defilements, / Took the form of Sakyamuni Buddha/ And appeared in Gaya. (Shinran, Hymnes of Pure Land, 88)
  5. Richard Karl Payne, Kenneth Kazuo Tanaka (Editors); 'Approaching the Land of Bliss: Religious Praxis in the Cult of Amitåabha'; Studies in East Asian Buddhism, 17 (Book 17); Univ of Hawaii Pr; 1st Edition edition (October 1, 2003); p.7




Further reading

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Page is sourced from Eternal Buddha