Message Boards Message Boards

Miscellaneous

Buddha - Avatar or normal human

Toggle
Buddha - Avatar or normal human
Answer
5/18/14 4:26 PM
12345678910111213141516
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?

RE: Buddha - Avatar or normal human
Answer
5/18/14 8:06 PM as a reply to Tom Smith.
Hi Tom,

From wikipedia 
In Hinduism, an avatar is a deliberate descent of a diety to Earth, or a descent of the supreme being, and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation", but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation".

I think Buddha would have had fun with that. 

Here is something: 

"Just as, brahmin, a blue or red or white lotus born in water, grows in water and stands up above the water untouched by it, so too I, who was born in the world and grew up in the world, have transcended the world, and I live untouched by the world. Remember me as one who is enlightened "

-
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.036.than.html

If you look at that sutta - he does not say that he is human but it is clear that he is defining a human as someone bound up in samsara (consciousness having become bound up with the other aggregates and creating an identity there) When Buddha uses the term 'world' he is usually referring to samsara - see Loka Sutta http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn12/sn12.044.than.html). 

I don't think you'll find Buddha putting himself in any kind of box - be it human or avatar. I think you also have to keep in mind that people at that time and in that culture did not think of human beings in the same way that we do now - it was a very different world view - and his answer to that question in the sutta is in response to someone sharing that world view. 



RE: Buddha - Avatar or normal human
Answer
5/19/14 5:55 AM as a reply to Tom Smith.
Theravada perspective:

There are Pali suttas where the Buddha recounts how he was this or that deity, or a lord of Hell, or even Mara (Death), IIRC.

For example: This section of the Itivuttaka where the Buddha enumerates some divine births of his.

Or MN 50, where Moggalana tells Mara how he himself (i.e. Moggalana) had been born as "Mara Dusi" at one time.

The implication being, that every being has been all of these, since there is no discernible beginning of this round of birth and death.

So, different mythology. The Buddha was a great being, not because he was an incarnate deity, but because he had perfected all these perfections, and yes, he had been born as a deity countless times before his last birth, which was as a human being.

So much for the mythology.

What does the "Buddha as a human" ideal do for you? Does it inspire you to practice well? Or does the idea of an avatar do more for you? Whatever the ideal is, as long as it fuels your practice, it's probably worth your respect.

At least, that's how I handle these ancient myths.

Cheers,
Florian

(edited to add sutta references)