Why can there be only one Buddha at at time?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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fig tree
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Re: Why can there be only one Buddha at at time?

Post by 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 ... .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of why there aren't two at a time, than to say that as a matter of definition it's not until the teachings are no longer current that a new one can arise.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.

Fig Tree

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

Post by 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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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

Post by 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.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu

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kc2dpt
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Re: Why can there be only one Buddha at at time?

Post by 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?
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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

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

Post by 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".

Regards: AdvaitaJ
The birds have vanished down the sky. Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains.
Li Bai

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kc2dpt
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Re: Why can there be only one Buddha at at time?

Post by 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.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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