Incarnations of Gautama in Buddhism
Gautama Buddha was an ascetic and spiritual teacher of South Asia who lived during the latter half of the first millennium BCE. He was the founder of Buddhism and is revered by Buddhists as an Enlightened being whose teachings sought a path to freedom from ignorance, craving, rebirth and suffering.
Born in Lumbini in the Newar clan of the Shakya, he spent the majority of his adult life in modern day Nepal and India, attaining enlightenment under the Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya.
He preached his first sermon on the Four Noble Truths in Sarnath, where the Buddhist sangha or community also came to life, and is believed to have passed away from earthly existence by achieving nirvana in Kushinagar.
The Buddha has since been venerated by numerous religions and communities around the world. Here comes a list of historical and mythological beings related to the incarnations of Gautama in Theravāda, Mahāyāna & Vajrayana Buddhism.
Table of Contents
- 1 - Padmasambhava
- 2 - Buddhahood
- 3 - Vajradhara
- 4 - Vajrayogini
- 5 - Akshobhya
- 6 - Amoghasiddhi
- 7 - Ratnasambhava
- 8 - Vairocana
- 9 - Gautama Buddha
- 10 - Panchen Lama
- 11 - Nairatmya
- 12 - Adi-Buddha
- 13 - Bhaisajyaguru
- 14 - Thirty-five Confession Buddhas
- 15 - Tara (Buddhism)
- 16 - Dipankara
- 17 - Nichiren
- 18 - Budai
- 19 - Pratyekabuddhayāna
- 20 - Thirteen Buddhas
- 21 - Kassapa Buddha
- 22 - Sanghyang Adi Buddha
- 23 - Vessabhū
- 24 - Saraṇaṅkara
- 25 - Tissa Buddha
- 26 - Sujāta Buddha
- 27 - Sumedha Buddha
- 28 - Taṇhaṅkara
- 29 - Sikhī Buddha
- 30 - Nyorai
- 31 - Prabhutaratna
- 32 - Phussa
- 33 - Padumuttara Buddha
- 34 - Miracles of Gautama Buddha
- 35 - Medhaṅkara Buddha
- 36 - Maṅgala Buddha
- 37 - Ma Yuan (deity)
- 38 - Lokeśvararāja
- 39 - Kondanna Buddha
- 40 - Koṇāgamana
- 41 - Kakusandha
- 42 - Five Tathāgatas
- 43 - Eternal Buddha
- 44 - Eighty-eight Buddhas Great Repentance Text
- 45 - Anomadassi
- 46 - Vipassī
Padmasambhava (Tib.: Guru Rinpoche) is the Indian founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet. In the 11th century with the rise of the Revealed Treasure tradition (Tib.: terma) the worship of Padmasambhava took on cult status.
Hundreds of new deity forms of Padmasambhava were created representing all aspects of iconography and Tantric activity; peaceful, wrathful, male, female, wealth, power, healing, etc.
In Buddhism, Buddhahood is the condition or rank of a Buddha “awakened one”. The goal of Mahayana’s bodhisattva path is Samyaksambuddhahood, so that one may benefit all sentient beings by teaching them the path of cessation of dukkha.
Vajradhara Tibetan: རྡོ་རྗེ་འཆང། rdo rje ‘chang ; Chinese: 金剛總持; Javanese: Kabajradharan; Japanese: 執金剛; English: Diamond-holder; Vietnamese: Kim Cang Tổng Trì) is the ultimate primordial Buddha, or Adi Buddha, according to the Sakya, Gelug and Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
Vajrayoginī is a Tantric Buddhist female Buddha and a ḍākiṇī. Vajrayoginī’s essence is “great passion” (maharaga), a transcendent passion that is free of selfishness and illusion — she intensely works for the well-being of others and for the destruction of ego clinging. She is seen as being ideally suited for people with strong passions, providing the way to transform those passions into enlightened virtues.
In Vajrayana Buddhism, Akshobhya is one of the Five Wisdom Buddhas, a product of the Adibuddha, who represents consciousness as an aspect of reality.
Amoghasiddhi is one of the Five Wisdom Buddhas of the Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism. He is associated with the accomplishment of the Buddhist path and of the destruction of the poison of envy. His name means He Whose Accomplishment Is Not In Vain. His Shakti/consort is Tara, meaning Noble Deliverer or Noble Star and his mounts are garudas. He belongs to the family of Karma whose family symbol is the Double vajra/thunderbolt.
He is one of the buddhas of the five families. He is the Buddha of the ratna family, and is usually depicted as yellow in colour and holding a jewel.
Vairocana is a cosmic buddha from Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. Vairocana is often interpreted, in texts like the Avatamsaka Sutra, as the dharmakāya of the historical Gautama Buddha. In East Asian Buddhism, Vairocana is also seen as the embodiment of the Buddhist concept of śūnyatā. In the conception of the 5 Jinas of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, Vairocana is at the centre and is considered a Primordial Buddha.
Gautama Buddha, also known as Siddhārtha Gautama in Sanskrit or Siddhattha Gotama in Pali, Shakyamuni Buddha, or simply the Buddha, after the title of Buddha, was a monk (śramaṇa), mendicant, sage, philosopher, teacher and religious leader on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. He is believed to have lived and taught mostly in the northeastern part of ancient India sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE.
Panchen Lama is closely associated with the Dalai Lamas and the monastery of Tashi Lhunpo, the Panchen Lamas are a line of successively re-incarnating teachers in Tibetan Buddhism. The first Panchen Lama, Lobzang Chokyi Gyaltsen, was the tutor of the 5th Dalai Lama and the most important Gelugpa teacher of his time.
Pandita (Sanskrit): a Tibetan Buddhist term used to describe either an Indian scholar that assisted, along with a Tibetan scholar, in the translating of Sanskrit texts into the Tibetan language, or a Tibetan scholar that translates Sanskrit into Tibetan.
Nairātmyā or Dagmema is a yoginī, the consort of Hevajra in the Hevajra-tantra. The name means “she who has no self (ātman)”. Nair-ātmyā is the feminine form of nairātmya which comes from nirātman ; nairātmya means “of nirātman”, and in the feminine form, nairātmyā, “she who has no self”. Nair-ātmyā, the no-self female, that is, she who has no self. She is an embodiment of the Buddhist philosophical concept of anātman.
In Vajrayana Buddhism, the ādibuddha is the “First Buddha” or the “Primordial Buddha.” The term reemerges in tantric literature, most prominently in the Kalachakra.
Bhaiṣajyaguru, formally Bhaiṣajya-guru-vaiḍūrya-prabhā-rāja, is the Buddha of healing and medicine in Mahāyāna Buddhism. Commonly referred to as the “Medicine Buddha”, he is described as a doctor who cures dukkha (suffering) using the medicine of his teachings.
Thirty-five Confession Buddhas
The Thirty-Five Confession Buddhas are known from the Sutra of the Three Heaps, popular in Tibetan Buddhism. This Mahāyāna sutra actually describes the practice of purification by confession and making prostrations to these Buddhas, and is part of the larger Stack of Jewels Sutra.
Tārā embodies many of the qualities of feminine principle.
She is known as the Mother of Mercy and Compassion.
She is the source, the female aspect of the universe, which gives birth to warmth, compassion and relief from bad karma as experienced by ordinary beings in cyclic existence.
She engenders, nourishes, smiles at the vitality of creation, and has sympathy for all beings as a mother does for her children.
Dipankara or Dipankara Buddha is one of the Buddhas of the past. He is said to have lived on Earth four asankheyyas and one hundred thousand kappas ago. According to some Buddhist traditions, Dipankara was a Buddha who reached enlightenment eons prior to Gautama Buddha, the historical Buddha.
Nichiren was a Japanese Buddhist priest who lived during the Kamakura period (1185–1333) and developed the teachings that are now considered Nichiren Buddhism, a branch school of Mahayana Buddhism.
Budai, Hotei or Pu-Tai is a semi-historical Chinese monk who is venerated as deity in Chinese Buddhism and was also introduced into the Japanese Buddhist pantheon. He allegedly lived around the 10th century in the Wuyue kingdom. His name literally means “Cloth Sack”, and refers to the bag that he is conventionally depicted as carrying as he wanders aimlessly. His jolly nature, humorous personality, and eccentric lifestyle distinguishes him from most Buddhist masters or figures. He is almost always shown smiling or laughing, hence his nickname in Chinese, the “Laughing Buddha”. The main textual evidence pointing to Budai resides in a collection of Zen Buddhist monks’ biographies known as the “Jingde Chuandeng Lu”, also known as The Transmission of the Lamp.
Pratyekabuddhayāna is a Buddhist term for the mode or vehicle of enlightenment of a pratyekabuddha or paccekabuddha, a term which literally means “solitary buddha” or “a buddha on their own”. The pratyekabuddha is an individual who independently achieves liberation without the aid of teachers or guides and without teaching others to do the same. Pratyekabuddhas may give moral teachings but do not bring others to enlightenment. They leave no sangha as a legacy to carry on the Dhamma.
The Thirteen Buddhas is a Japanese grouping of Buddhist deities, particularly in the Shingon sect of Buddhism. The deities are, in fact, not only Buddhas, but include bodhisattvas and Wisdom Kings. In Shingon services, lay followers recite a devotional mantra to each figure, though in Shingon practice, disciples will typically devote themselves to only one, depending on what the teacher assigns. Thus the chanting of the mantras of the Thirteen Buddhas are merely the basic practice of laypeople.
Kassapa Buddha (Pāli), known as Kāśyapa in Sanskrit, is one of the ancient Buddhas whose biography is chronicled in chapter 24 of the Buddhavamsa, one of the books of the Pāli Canon.
Sanghyang Adi Buddha
Sanghyang Adi Buddha is a concept of God in Indonesian Buddhism. This term was used by Ashin Jinarakkhita at the time of Buddhist revival in Indonesia in the mid 20th century to reconcile the first principle of the official philosophical foundation of Indonesia (Pancasila), i.e. “KeTuhanan Yang Maha Esa” that requires the belief in a supreme God, with Buddhism which strictly speaking does not believe in such monotheistic God. This concept is used by the Indonesian Buddhist Council, an organization that seeks to represent all Buddhist traditions in Indonesia such as Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana.
According to the Buddhavaṃsa, Vessabhū is believed to be the twenty fourth Buddha. He was born in the pleasance of Anoma, his father being the khattiya Suppatita (Supatita) and his mother Yasavatī.* He is venerated by the Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana traditions.
Saraṇaṅkara is the third of the twenty-seven buddhas who preceded the historical Gotama Buddha in some traditions. He was also the third Buddha of the Sāramaṇḍa kalpa and the predecessor of Dīpaṃkara Buddha.
According to the Buddhavamsa of the Pali Canon and to its commentary, Tissa Buddha is the twentieth of the twenty-seven buddhas that preceded the historical Gotama Buddha. He was also the first buddha of the Maṇḍa kalpa which was formed 92 aeons ago.
According to Theravada Buddhism’s Pali canon’s Buddhavamsa and its commentary, Sujāta Buddha is the fifteenth of twenty-seven Buddhas who preceded the historical Gotama Buddha. He was also the second Buddha of the Maṇḍa kalpa.
According to Theravada Buddhism’s Pali canon’s Buddhavamsa and its commentary, Sumedha Buddha is the fourteenth of twenty-seven Buddhas who preceded the historical Gotama Buddha. Sumedha Buddha was born in Sudassana. According to the canon at the age of 9,000 years old he became an ascetic, practiced austerities for fifteen days, and attained Enlightenment. He lived 90,000 years, and died in Medhārāma.
Taṇhaṅkara or Taṇhaṅkara Buddha is the first of the twenty-seven Buddhas who preceded the historical Gotama Buddha and the earliest known Buddha. He was also the first Buddha of the Sāramaṇḍa kalpa.
According to the Buddhavamsa and buddhist mythology, Sikhī (Pāli) is the twenty-third of twenty-eight Buddhas. The penultimate Buddha of the Alamkarakalpa, Sikhī was preceded by Vipassī Buddha and succeeded by Vessabhū Buddha.
The Japanese word Nyorai is the translation of the Sanskrit and Pali word Tathagata, the term the historical Buddha used most often to refer to himself. Among his Japanese honorifics, it is the one expressing the highest degree of respect. Although originally applied only to Buddha himself, with the advent of Mahayana Buddhism Tathāgata came to be used for all those who have achieved enlightenment, entities which occupy the highest of the four ranks of the Japanese Buddhist pantheon. Their rank is accordingly called the Nyorai-bu .
Prabhūtaratna, translated as Abundant Treasures or Many Treasures, is the Buddha who appears and verifies Shakyamuni’s teachings in the Lotus Sutra and the Samantabhadra Meditation Sutra.
According to Theravada Buddhism’s Pali canon’s Buddhavamsa and its commentary, Phussa is the twenty-first of twenty-seven Buddhas who preceded the historical Gotama Buddha. He was also the second Buddha of the Maṇḍa kalpa.
According to the Buddhavamsa of the Pali canon, Padumuttara Buddha is the thirteenth of the twenty-seven buddhas who preceded the historical Gotama Buddha.
Miracles of Gautama Buddha
The miracles of Gautama Buddha refers to supernatural feats and abilities attributed to Gautama Buddha by the Buddhist scriptures. The feats are mostly attributed to supranormal powers gained through meditation, rather than divine miracles. Supranormal powers the historic Buddha was said to have possessed and exercised include the six higher knowledges (abhiññā): psychic abilities (iddhi-vidhā), clairaudience (dibba-sota), telepathy (ceto-pariya), recollection of one’s own past lives (pubbe-nivāsanussati), seeing the past lives and rebirths of others (dibba-cakkhu), and the extinction of mental intoxicants (āsavakkhaya). Miracles found in Mahayana Sutras generally play a more direct role in illustrating certain doctrines than miracles found in the Pali Canon.
Medhaṅkara Buddha is the second of the 27th buddhas who preceded the historical Gotama Buddha.He was also the second Buddha of the Sāramaṇḍa kalpa.
Maṅgala Buddha is the sixth of twenty-seven Buddhas who preceded the historical Gotama Buddha according to the Buddhavamsa, a text from the Theravada Pali canon, and its commentary. He was also the first Buddha of the Sāramaṇḍa kalpa.
Ma Yuan (deity)
Ma Yuan (马元) is a character from the Chinese novel Fengshen Yanyi. Ma Yuan is described as a human eating demon who became a Buddha.
Lokeśvararāja, was the 54th Buddha in the history of existence, according to the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life, long before Shakyamuni Buddha came and established Buddhism. He is known for teaching the Dharma to King Dharmakara, who was so impressed, that he became a monk, and later achieved Enlightenment himself as Amitabha Buddha.
Kaundinya or Koṇḍañña was born in Rammavati his father was King Sunanda and his mother, Sujata. He belonged to the Kondannagotta, and was twenty eight cubits tall. For ten thousand years he lived as a layman in Ruci, Suruci and Subha. His wife was Rudidevi and his son, Vijitasena.
Koṇāgamana (Pāli), also known as Kanakamuni in Sanskrit or alternatively Koṇāgon or Kanakagamana, is one of the ancient Buddhas whose biography is chronicled in chapter 23 of the Buddhavamsa, one of the books of the Pāli Canon.
Kakusandha (Pāli), or Krakucchaṃda in Sanskrit, is one of the ancient Buddhas whose biography is chronicled in chapter 22 of the Buddhavamsa, one of the books of the Pāli Canon.
In Vajrayana Buddhism, the Five Tathāgatas (pañcatathāgata) or Five Wisdom Tathāgatas, the Five Great Buddhas and the Five Jinas, are emanations and representations of the five qualities of the Adi-Buddha or “first Buddha” Vairocana or Vajradhara, which is associated with Dharmakaya.
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.
Eighty-eight Buddhas Great Repentance Text
The Eighty-eight Buddhas Great Repentance Text is an important Buddhist text widely used in the repentance practice or ritual of Buddhism, especially in the Mahayana tradition. The repentance practice features the recitation of the holy names of the eighty-eight Buddhas in the text, which are sourced from two Buddhist scriptures: Bhaiṣajyarājabhaiṣajyasamudagatabodhisattvasūtra and Upāliparipṛcchā. The main body of these two scriptures are not included in some versions of the Eighty-eight Buddhas Great Repentance Text.
According to Theravada Buddhism’s Pali canon’s Buddhavamsa and its commentary, Anomadassi is the tenth of twenty-seven Buddhas who preceded the historical Gotama Buddha. He was also the first Buddha of the Vara kalpa.
In Buddhist tradition, Vipassī (Pāli) is the twenty-second of twenty-eight Buddhas described in Chapter 27 of the Buddhavamsa. The Buddhavamsa is a Buddhist text which describes the life of Gautama Buddha and the twenty-seven Buddhas who preceded him. It is the fourteenth book of the Khuddaka Nikāya, which in turn is part of the Sutta Piṭaka. The Sutta Piṭaka is one of three pitakas which together constitute the Tripiṭaka, or Pāli Canon of Theravada Buddhism.