From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia
By Jit Majumdar
- realized; enlightened; wise; one who has achieved understanding, or bodha
- one who has awakened to the Supreme Truth
- the term first used for Siddhārthā Gautama (563 – 483 BC) the prince of the Śakya tribe of the Kingdom of Kapilavastu, when he attained spiritual realization and enlightenment after renouncing his worldly life, duties and ties, and becoming an ascetic and hermit, after which he came to be known as Gautama Buddha, and taught that the title was not a personal name of anybody but a state of realization and being, and neither he had been the only Buddha till then nor will he remain the only Buddha in the future, but this title can and will be used by successive persons who will have achieved the state of realization and knowledge that the title signifies. Three types of Buddhas are recognized in Buddhism, based on the level or degree of enlightenment and spiritual capacity achieved, namely:
- the Samyakasambuddhas, who achieve the state of Buddhahood with their own efforts, without any predecessor to act as guides or teachers, and instead of depending upon any previous Buddha, discovers the secret of the Buddhas’ Dharma anew, and are able to teach and guide others towards achieving Buddhahood in turn, and of which their has been 27 Buddhas so far, Siddhartha Gautama being the last one, Kaśyapa being the second last one, and Maitreya being the one who is to come in the future
- the Pratyekabuddhas, who too can achieve enlightenment on their own, but who do not go on to teach or guide any other person hut are contented to live their lives as Buddhas, and
- the Śrāvakabuddhas, whose name means the “listeners” and hence derivatively “followers” or “learners”, are the disciples of the Samyakasambuddhas, who achieve the state of Buddhahood the same way the aforementioned types and can instruct and guide others towards enlightenment upon being instructed and guided in turn by their preceptors.