Talk:Physical characteristics of the Buddha

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Old discussions[edit]

AdamHolt (talk) 17:30, 29 August 2008 (UTC)Can anyone tell me if there's a similar list for females?

Can someone please explain why Buddha is represented as thin in near-eastern (Indian) iconography and significantly more obese (and bald) in far-eastern manifestations?

Those far-eastern forms are of the future Budha Maitreya, represented by a person called pu-tai, who was widely believed to be him. Peter jackson (talk) 16:29, 17 March 2008 (UTC)

Can some one explain what does this means "His sexual organs are concealed in a sheath (Pali: kosohitavatguyho). "..?

"He's not circumcised," presumably. -Dan 20:58, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

Or he's just wearing a loin cloth. -- 09:54, 24 February 2007 (UTC)

The Pali could mean either organ or organs. The commentary says singular, & says it's like a buffalo, or the pericarp of a lotus, if that's any help. Peter jackson (talk) 16:29, 17 March 2008 (UTC)

// I think it's not necessary to take it as a metaphor, since it isn't constructed in a metaphorical form. If it says he's wearing a sheath, then it is safe to say it is a bound and wrapped on the organ [but not literally!!]. To call foreskin a sheath would be splitting hairs, as it is the organ itself. It is clearly showing his cleanliness and minimalism. Think about it: the organ wraps the organ... yeah, that doesn't make sense. 17:15, 23 February 2010 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:04, 23 February 2010 (UTC)

This article containt significant amount of information. Unfortunately, this is an example of orphaned article. The title of the article make it impossible to search. Dharmakaya is the right term. I have linked dharmakaya article in Buddha article. So if the content of this article is shifited to Dharmakaya, more people get to read the information presented here. Vapour


I think it would be confusing to merge the two. Dharmakaya is one of three "bodies" of the Buddha in Mahayana Buddhism: a philosophical subject. The physical characteristics of the Buddha are used mainly in the study and production of Buddhist art. The dharmakaya article is in the main (as I read it today) very difficult to understand. But to merge it with the physical attributes-page does not solve that. It is probably useful if both articles do link to each other, but a separate article on the physical characteristics of the buddha is certainly useful.

kh7 18:32, 9 May 2006 (UTC)

Don't merge. Might retitle this "Nirmanakaya" or something. RandomCritic 05:03, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

I heard that the number of curls on a Buddha statue/image is also fixed... I remember around 110 curls or so.. does anyone have a source/confirmation on this? (SuperMidget)

No, but 108 would be the likely auspicious number. Johnbod 16:22, 2 May 2007 (UTC)

The Pali in this article is full of mistakes. Perhaps it should be deleted until I or someone else with a lrdge of Pali gets round to sorting it out. Peter jackson 16:18, 2 May 2007 (UTC)

I think somebody altered the list of 32 characteristics, because it doesn't make sense, and has some bizarre addtions. . . . some of which mention "Jabba the Hut[t]" and the average person having so many thousands of teeth. (CloneArmyCommander (talk) 02:58, 16 February 2008 (UTC))


Can a wikipedia editor revert a vandalism on no. 29 in the list. It says "He votes Ron Paul". I don't want to do anything because I might inadvertently remove other revisions. (talk) 04:29, 1 March 2008 (UTC)

Color of eyes and skin[edit]

see 11. and 29. of the 32 marks of a great man.

When this is deeply believed/thought to be a dogma, a Buddha cannot have black skin color or dark eyes. Is there any literature about those aspects?

My understanding is that the Buddha looked like the ideals of ancient India. That is neither too dark nor too fair, of a golden complexion. Certainly by this criteria if a Buddha cannot be 'black skinned' neither can he be 'pink skinned'.
There is nothing 'wrong' with excessively dark or excesively fair skin, but a Buddha will appear in a way that most benefits others. Similarly to the fact that he says arahants can come from each of the 4 castes and those of all 4 castes are equal as it is down to ones actions not birth. Yet a Buddha will always be born into one of the 2 highest castes. This is becasue if he were to be born into a lower caste those of the higher castes would not respect him as much and listen to his teachings, and that would be to their detriment. So to benefit the most people, he is born into the higher castes although there is nothing intrinsically better about people born into these castes as the Buddha makes clear many times. Similarly due to prejudice in India that has existed for a very long time toward people who are extremely dark or extremely fair, he is born into the 'ideal' complexion where the most amount of people would see him as of nice appearance.
KnowledgeAndVision (talk) 11:20, 15 August 2009 (UTC)

I wonder how the translation of blue has come about since it is said that the same word has been used to describe the skincolor of Krishna, which is thought to be of a very dark but shining black. Greetings, Austerlitz -- (talk) 10:51, 22 November 2008 (UTC)

The buddha is truly no man. He appears in the world according to the karma of those sentient beings [which is how they see him]. The buddha is dhamma, dhamma is sangha, sangha is buddha, so forth [Mahayana parinirvana sutra]. The nature of nirvana is the shedding of all illusions, it is an inconceivable void.. Buddha is what remains, and thus it may guide beings out of entanglement [wandering]. :) He may very well appear as any form he pleases, to demonstrate the attainment of enlightenment. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:53, 23 February 2010 (UTC)

10^10 elephants[edit]

I restored the thing about him having the strength of an implausible number of elephants, which was removed here without comment and is supported by various external sites I found with a quick Google search. However, after making the change I realised there are some sites which say "he is a very happy man" instead. Anyone got any idea what's going on, or where we can find a source reliable enough to clear it up? Olaf Davis (talk) 19:19, 31 March 2009 (UTC)

I've reverted this edit too, which replaced it with 'he is very tall', since I couldn't find any source which corroborates that. I'm willing to be corrected, though. Olaf Davis (talk) 14:26, 4 April 2009 (UTC)

I have removed the elephant part as it seems ridiculous and I have not seen any reliable sources validating it. It souncds to me more deification and myth making and certainly does not tally with the more human image of the Buddha portrayed in the canon as suffering from sickness and indigestion near the end of his life.

KnowledgeAndVision (talk) 11:04, 15 August 2009 (UTC)

If I'm not mistaken, the buddha's skin color is gold. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:45, 23 February 2010 (UTC)

The buddha IS as strong as that many elephants, him and his community anyways. :P —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:21, 25 February 2010 (UTC)

Brahmayu Sutta[edit]

I'm pretty sure this doesn't give the 80. Peter jackson (talk) 08:18, 7 April 2009 (UTC)

Check out the lankavatara sutra, the 80th is in there. I can't be pestered to find it right now. It took me a while last time. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:47, 23 February 2010 (UTC)

Indo-Aryan nobility[edit]

"Although there is no definite record of what he actually looked like, its most likely his physical features weren't too different from those of other Indo-Aryan nobility in northern India around the 5th century BCE." This statement doesn't tell us much. It infers that we already know what other Indo-Aryan nobility in northern India around the 5th century BCE looked like, as though it were common knowledge. From what I have read Buddha's physical appearance greatly impressed those who saw him (to the extent that his disciple Vakkali became obsessed with his looks). It is arguable that the Buddha looked peculiar in some way to those around him, whether it was his outer appearance, his mannerisms, etc. -- (talk) 11:49, 4 June 2009 (UTC)

I have removed the part about similarity to other nobility as most of the sources we have indicated his appearance was indeed different enough to have made him stand out.

KnowledgeAndVision (talk) 11:04, 15 August 2009 (UTC)

Dharma Wheel[edit]

I have replaced the mistaken 'chakra' reference with the dharma wheel, as this has been the symbolism since ancient times along with the Stupa.

KnowledgeAndVision (talk) 11:04, 15 August 2009 (UTC)

32 major characteristics unsourced[edit]

Because the list of 32 major characteristics (which includes some descriptions or interpretations) is unsourced, I have moved it to the talking page. The Pali terms are good and may be valuable and used again, so I didn't want to scrap the whole thing. In the meantime, I've sourced a different work that has basically the same list, but in slightly different terms, so there is a referenced version in the article. Tengu800 (talk) 13:44, 12 March 2011 (UTC)

  1. He has feet with a level sole (Pali: supati thapado). Note: "feet with level tread,/ so that he places his foot evenly on the ground,/ lifts it evenly,/ and touches the ground evenly with the entire sole." (Lakkhana Sutta).
  2. He has the mark of a thousand-spoked wheel on the soles of his feet (Pali: he thapadatalesu cakkani jatani).
  3. He has projecting heels (Pali: ayatapa ni).
  4. He has long fingers and toes (Pali: digha nguli).
  5. His hands and feet are soft-skinned (Pali: mudutalahathapado).
  6. He has netlike lines on palms and soles (Pali: jalahathapado).
  7. He has high raised ankles (Pali: ussa nkhapado).
  8. He has taut calf muscles like an antelope (Pali: e nimigasadisaja ngho).
  9. He can touch his knees with the palms of his hands without bending. (Pali: thitako va anonamanto).
  10. His sexual organs are concealed in a sheath. It also produces smegma with a fragrant odour. (Pali: kosohitavatguyho).
  11. His skin is the color of gold (Pali: suva n nava no). "His body is more beautiful than all the gods." (Lakkhana sutta)
  12. His skin is so fine that no dust can attach to it (Pali: sukhumacchavi).
  13. His body hair are separate with one hair per pore (Pali: ekekalomo).
  14. His body hair is blue-black, and curls clockwise in rings. (Pali: uddhagalomo).
  15. He has an upright stance like that of brahma (Pali: brahmujugatto).
  16. He has the seven convexities of the flesh (Pali: satusado). Note: "the seven convex surfaces,/ on both hands, both feet, both shoulders, and his trunk." (Lakkhana Sutta)
  17. He has an immense torso, like that of a lion (Pali: sihapuba dhakayo).
  18. The furrow between his shoulders is filled in (Pali: pitantara mso).
  19. The distance from hand-to-hand and head-to-toe is equal (Pali: nigrodhaparima n dalo). Note: incidentally, these are also the ideal proportions according to Vitruvius, and depicted in Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man.
  20. He has a round and smooth neck (Pali: samva d dakhando).
  21. He has sensitive taste-buds (Pali: rasagasagi).
  22. His jaw is like that of lion's (Pali: sihahanu).
  23. He has a nice smile
  24. His teeth are evenly spaced (Pali: samadanto).
  25. His teeth are without gaps in-between (Pali: avira ladanto).
  26. His teeth are quite white (Pali: sukadanto).
  27. He has a large, long tongue (Pali: pahutajivho).
  28. He has a voice like that of Brahma (Pali: brahmasaro hiravikabha ni).
  29. He has very blue eyes (Pali: abhi nila netto). Note 1: "very (abhi) blue (nila) eyes (netto)" is the literal translation. Nila is the word used to describe a sapphire and the color of the sea, but also the color of a rain cloud. It also defines the color of the Hindu God Krishna. Note 2: "His lashes are like a cow's; his eyes are dark./ Those who know such things declare/ 'A child which such fine eyes/ will be one who's looked upon with joy./ If a layman, thus he'll be/ Pleasing to the sight of all./ If ascetic he becomes,/ Then loved as healer of folk's woes.'" (Lakkhana Sutta)
  30. He has eyelashes like an ox (Pali: gopa mukho).
  31. He has a white soft wisp of hair in the center of the brow (Pali: una loma bhamukantare jata). Note: this became the symbolic urna.
  32. His head is like a royal turban (Pali: u nahisiso). Note that this denotes his cranial protrusion, visible on Buddhist iconography.


* The Theravada and Mahayana traditions disagree on numbers 9-10, 12, 15-17, 20, and 22-23, but,
* The two traditions agree on numbers 4-8, 13-14, and 29-33,
* …wheres they differ (partly agree and partly disagree) on numbers 1-3, 11, 18-19, 21, and 24-28.
Conze’s note on this matter reflects comparative reading of the Pali, Sanskrit and Tibetan recensions, see p. 657, esp. fn. 3, of Conze’s (1975) The Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom. (Scroll way down to comment #28) The "Conze" referred to here is evidently Edward Conze.

"Unreliable Source" or Primary Source? (And why is "Baldness" a separate section?)[edit]

Evidently, the editors have been kicking around the evidence that is so much to the contrary of the article's original hypothesis. As of this moment, I infer that "Baldness" has been made a separate section within the article precisely because nobody wants to integrate this evidence into the over-arching question of the Buddha's physical appearance (and/or nobody wants to deal with Theravada and Mahayana textual sources under separate headings). That may be "okay" temporarily, but it is basically putting the question of the "unreliable source" on the back burner. The source in question is this:

This is currently marked as a possibly unreliable source. The editors certainly have the alternative of citing the primary sources (as quoted within that article, or as quoted by Edward Conze or whoever you prefer) rather than the secondary source... but the rule is that "Wikipedia articles should be based mainly on reliable secondary sources"... and Wikipedia guidelines would normally entail that someone goes through the checklist on the secondary source in question. In terms of that checklist ( I would note that the articles on New Mandala are indeed edited by two PhD-holding career academics (their names are all over the website), and the article in question does cite all of its factual claims to primary sources (i.e., Buddhist scripture... being the source material for any putative description of the Buddha's physical appearance, right?). Most of the Wikipedia guidelines are concerned with opinions and evaluations of historical figures, not with citing religious doctrine "chapter and verse"; however, this is a question of religious doctrine being quoted, cited, and translated, directly from a given chapter and verse. This does not seem to be nearly so contentious as matter as, e.g., the Wikipedia article on the Race of Jesus ... and, I note, that article opens with a section citing primary sources chapter and verse (titled "Jesus in the Bible") followed later by a review of "Artistic portrayals" of Jesus in different cultures and historical periods. Couldn't something similar be done with the physical appearance of the Buddha? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:03, 24 July 2011 (UTC)

I flagged this material as questionable because: (1) It is unclear if this is a notable majority or minority view. From what I have seen, only this one article on the Web, written by a "guest editor", seems to hold this position. (2) The author of the article is not a disinterested scholar by any means, opening the article by stating that the Theravada view of the Buddha (i.e. with the 32 marks) is a fallacy. (3) The author seems to regard the 32 marks as a "Mahayana" invention, which is a view not supported by scholarship, nor by the available evidence from other early sources such as those of the Sarvastivada and other Indian sects. For reasons such as these, I have flagged the source as possibly unreliable. The way that the source was added was also in an inappropriate tone and unencyclopedic manner, basically advocating the position as strongly as the author of the article. This leads me to believe that it may even have been the author of the article who contributed it to Wikipedia, although this cannot be confirmed. Tengu800 22:41, 24 July 2011 (UTC)
As I suspected, this material was added by the author of the article himself, shortly after publishing the article in December 2010 (See geolocation data for: Special:Contributions/ He even promotes his article, writing about himself in the third person (Nidanas or nothing). Tengu800 01:04, 25 July 2011 (UTC)

Hi Tengu. To reply in reverse order, keeping the same numbering: (4) I don't understand the last link you offer (is "Ninly" the author, or does that link to something else indirectly?) (3) Although the point you're making about the distinction between Mahayana and Theravada may deserve its own article... I don't think that's broached in the source you're questioning at all, nor is it broached in this Wikipedia article. If you have a good source (primary or secondary) on this distinction, why not add it to the Wikipedia article? I assume your point here is that the distinction between the Mahayana and the Theravada 32 marks is not what many people suppose it to be... and I think that's the point of the quote from Conze already quoted, and that comes up in the "disputed source" that we're now talking about. That seems like an encyclopedic clarification to offer... so why not quote Conze or some other source and clarify the point?

Did you have a chance to consider my comparison to the Wikipedia articles on the depiction (and supposed physical description) of Jesus amongst Christians? The thing about the Mazard article is that it does name specific Mahayana texts (that have specific dates) and it does name specific Theravada texts... in contrast to the timeline of portraits, statues or whatever you want to call "the visual arts". Wouldn't it be possible for a Wikipedia article dealing with the Buddha to cover all of this in the same "encyclopedic" manner that Jesus gets in the corresponding articles? On that note, (2) I'm pretty sure that each of the strongly-held views amongst historians of Christianity contradict the others in terms much less mild-mannered than the (Buddhist) article you're describing. There is a long article on the Historicity of Jesus ...and, of course, there is no "scholarly consensus" on the subject, but instead a plurality of views (each contradicting the other). In a sense, none of those theories is "disinterested", and in a sense they all are. Is that really a problem that Wikipedia can't handle? The main contrast here is that far fewer voices have published anything (in English) on the historical Buddha (in contrast to centuries of wrangling about the historical Jesus)... but there are obvious names like Edward Conze, [[[André Bareau]] and Richard Gombrich who could be contrasted in a similar fashion. There must be a half-dozen names from Sri Lanka that could be added to the list with time.

Regarding your question (1) I think that's fair to ask... but given that the Wikipedia article neither currently lists contrasting views (like Bareau and Gombrich... examples that I thought up extempore, and better examples are entirely possible...) nor provides any footing in primary sources (as the Jesus-related wikipedia articles do, quoting chapter and verse)... couldn't we take some cues from the primary sources cited in Mazard's article? I'm not suggesting that you agree with him (evidently you don't, and evidently you find his work offensive...) I'm suggesting that you make use of it as an encyclopedia editor should. (Like, knowing the difference between what's stated for the first time in Asvaghosa and what's in the older canon seems like a useful cue, doesn't it? Like, knowing the difference between textual descriptions and artistic depictions is pretty cool, right?)

One last thing: at wikipedia everyone is a "guest editor"! There are no non-guests, and no non-editors. And nobody is detached and objective here, as this very discussion page proves! But I'm encouraging you: if you've got an axe to grind about point (3) go ahead and dig up some sources to cite... grind that axe and write a clearer description of what the Mahayana and Theravada sources are on the subject. We'll all benefit from seeing the results. As it says at the bottom of the screen right now, "Encyclopedic content must be verifiable." — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:07, 1 August 2011 (UTC)

(4) In the last comment on that page, the author of the article promotes his own article in the third person, to Ninly. (3) Actually everyone else basically agrees that the 32 marks were not "Mahayana" additions, but were present in the agamas, etc. For example, in the Laksana Sutra of the Dirgha Agama. This is a matter of basic textual fact, really, which the author of that article singularly ignores. (2) Actually the physical depictions of the Buddha such as the 32 marks are held by all Theravada and Mahayana schools, and there is no real conflict here, because the Mahayana teachings include teachings from the agamas implicitly. (1) I would be fine with an alternative format, and I am fine with notable majority and minority views. However, the source presented does not necessarily fit the pattern of a notable minority view, since there is little evidence that anyone except the author of the article in question holds that view. It is also not published, as it is basically from a website, authored by a guest editor for that website (not even a regular contributing editor for that website). In other words, this was a single individual writing what is akin to a blog, and then attempting to push that view and promote his article on Wikipedia in a very unencyclopedic way. For the Bareaus and Gombriches of the world, this is obviously not the case. Tengu800 22:12, 2 August 2011 (UTC)

Okay, I'm taking this "on board" and trying to roll this into a simple edit (for the time being) that reflects your sensitivities. However, I would again like to note that Wikipedia does have articles like Race of Jesus that reflect a range of academic opinions (as well as religious primary sources) ...and it really isn't a problem that the opinions contradict one-another. Differences between religious sectarian affiliation are not something any encyclopedia can ignore (and the Wikipedia's own guidelines for NPOV, reliable sources, etc., do not make the bible an unreliable source... nor Martin Luther an unreliable source... they just mean that you have to be frank in citing your sources for exactly what they are). One other example to mention here (hoping someone else will get involved) would be Sixty Years' War ... this article is completely open about the fact that it does not reflect an academic consensus (it is about the lack of consensus). That's inevitable with all kinds of topics. Keeping the numerical sequence: (4) anybody can use a search engine. I put the title of the article into duckduckgo and saw that the article did bounce around some blogs in Cambodia, too ( and thus had a minimum of five readers there. Sure, the secret society for self-promotion has many members, and is one of the things that provides "fuel" for Wikipedia. I couldn't help but notice, as I mentioned it the other day, that Richard Gombrich has a very detailed article, whereas Bareau doesn't. I'm guessing that plenty of the geographic traces of Gombrich's edits come from Oxford, U.K., but I wouldn't discount the article for that reason, and I wouldn't assume that Gombrich wrote it himself. The guy has fans, and his fans write his biography (and this is not merely a feature of Wikipedia). With that aside: don't forget that we're talking about religion here. A news story in India will routinely be added to Wikipedia within minutes of going to press (because people feel strongly about these things). Regarding (3), it is now pretty obvious to me that you haven't read the article discussed here (flagged as putatively "dubious"), but if you just open up that page and search for every appearance of the number 32, you'll see that the author does not support the view that you're attributing to him (quite the opposite, in fact). As such, Tengu, while I've encouraged you to do something positive with the offense you've taken on this issue, I think you should pause to consider your own attitude in this: you are really attributing a thesis to the article that is not there. The view to the contrary becomes even more explicit in a lengthy "follow up" thereafter (nobody on Wikipedia provides such thorough explanations of their editorial decisions...). It was from that discussion (following below the article) that I quoted the citation from Conze, above (through the magic of cut and paste). I think you either need to re-read the text with "detachment", because the guy explicitly says in the Q&A below the article that he is well aware of the 32 marks, and that he is aware they are not identical in Mahayana and Theravada interpretations (something you avoid admitting in this discussion, I note, despite the citation to Conze) and that this does not contradict the sources he quotes dealing with "baldness" and "blackness". The 32 marks are not the only description of the Buddha in the canon, and this issue is interesting because there are already contrasts between relatively human and relatively supernatural descriptions of the Buddha inside the canon (and if you don't think that's interesting...). That article does say that there are plenty of other articles already dealing with the 32 marks in isolation... so... Tengu, if you feel so strongly, why don't you read up and then cite some of them in this Wikipedia article? However, if this is a matter of religious offense that you've taken, you may just want to recuse yourself from judgement. (2 & 1) Unlike your own views, that article does cite primary and secondary sources... and they are sources this Wikipedia article is now sorely lacking. If you don't like the article, go ahead and steal citations from it. That quotation from Donald S. Lopez, Jr. is priceless! If you actually agree with it, why not put that view into the article, in the same way that various interpretations of Jesus show up in articles on Christianity? All encyclopedias "rip off" research from primary and secondary sources (indeed, original research is forbidden at Wikipedia) but the point is to increase the factual basis for the encyclopedia entry. Don't decrease the factual basis because you want to make some kind of irrelevant statement about how much Theravada and Mahayana have in common! You have, by the way, answered one of my questions implicitly: apparently just one person (namely, Tengu800) feels that the 32 marks are the only description of the Buddha in canonical texts that matters... so all of the other primary sources should be disregarded. Man, nobody else feels that way, least of all "the Bareaus and Gombriches of the world"! There is a variety of descriptions in the canon, and an even greater variety of depictions in the statuary... can't somebody put together a wikipedia article that reflects that diversity in the same way as the Race of Jesus. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:55, 3 August 2011 (UTC)

Rather than babbling aimlessly and criticizing me for not adding this or that, why don't you make your own contributions to this article? I will simply ignore your attempts to strawman me, and put words in my mouth. I have stated repeatedly on this talking page that I would not be opposed to an alternative format. The problem here was with an article that was added by the author quickly after it was "published" on the website, and framed in an ideologically aggressive manner. However, since you seem to be so preoccupied with defending this article, maybe you are the author himself? After all, your IP only has 3 edits in its history, and they are all on this talking page regarding this one article. Tengu800 23:57, 3 August 2011 (UTC)

Yeah, right, "babbling aimlessly"... I've added substantial comments both above and below ... and instead of criticizing you personally, I actually went and compared the article to the passages of the sources cited (apparently by yourself? Does anyone else contribute to this article?) ... you can see (directly below) that I did check out (in total) three of the four sources cited in this Wikipedia article. Obviously, my interest here is a lot broader than one source/citation ...but there is very little else of substance in the Wikipedia article as it now stands. My impression, both based on your comments above AND based on your responses below (to the two other sources discussed) is either that you either sincerely don't understand what you're reading (and are thus "sincere" in misrepresenting these sources, both in attributing things to them that they don't say, and in missing the point of what they are saying) or else that you're bringing a very active bias to this process. If so, you are precisely the sort of person who should recuse yourself from writing an encyclopedia article on this issue. Nobody has made a "strawman" out of anyone: I went and read the sources that are cited, and I made constructive comments for improvement. Currently, it really needs a lot of improvement. Above all else, really, I have encouraged you many times to put your "passion" into clarifying whatever it is that you feel strongly about (apparently you want to move Mahayana and Theravada closer together, etc.) but it has got to be through the medium of verifiable sources (primary or secondary) cited in a responsible manner. Tengu, you should read the wikipedia guidelines, and think about what you're really doing here (and/or with this article specifically). Wikipedia is not a bureaucracy, and it is not a debating society, either. I haven't been "babbling aimlessly", and, conversely, you have not been contributing positively to revising serious problems in this article. Is this an editorial process at an encyclopedia or what? At this moment, if there are only two of contributing (or participating) there is no point in putting this to a vote. Nothing is going to change unless you do. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:15, 4 August 2011 (UTC)

The format for this article was established long before I made contributions, and like many other articles in this category, it is largely neglected. As for the sources you claim I am misrepresenting, you seem to be a bit confused about how references may be made. Just because someone is referencing a particular book for a fact or viewpoint does not mean that the author's entire viewpoint or thesis must be accepted as that of Wikipedia's. When presenting a basic fact or quick viewpoint, it is not necessary to explain every aspect of the article referenced, or go into great detail. For this article, most of the references were added to establish basic facts about the subject. For example, to cite the Mahavibhasa explanation of the 80 minor characteristics, etc. As for the part about Mahayana in Schopen's work, it is practically lifted from the original text, to the point of quoting some of his exact words.
I do not have strong feelings about whether Theravada or Mahayana sources agree, and of course there is some variation between them, and also within each tradition. If my "agenda" were really to make the two traditions appear to be the same on this matter, then I would not have added information to the contrary. For example, the fact that the 80 minor characteristics are mostly a Sarvastivadin doctrine was added by me in order to give some context, whereas previously no distinction was made at all. Likewise, I also noted that according to Schopen, early Mahayana did not have any noticeable effect on the establishment of the image cult in India. These were two small attempts to provide some historical context for the topic. I also noted the two major schools of Indian art that were responsible for the basic Indian statuary depictions of the Buddha. Like most Wikipedians, I added some points and made some revisions as I randomly saw areas to improve.
Since I can see you are new to Wikipedia, I should let you know that for Wikipedia Buddhism articles, there is basically no editorial process unless it is a major article (which this is not by any means). Instead, the "history" section notes are basically all there is. This is a little shocking on some articles that one would expect to have some importance (which they apparently do not). On one hand, this means that there are few contributors to collaborate with, and you may simply be on your own most of the time. On the other hand, it means that changes are easy to make, and major revisions or radical alterations are possible without much fuss. This is why, as you seem to want to improve this article with a different format, the easiest way to do so is to make changes yourself. Even as this debate grows, there are probably only a handful of people watching it, and even fewer who will respond in any way to it. Articles like this are much more of a sandbox than you might suppose. Tengu800 01:05, 5 August 2011 (UTC)

Well, Tengu, that was a nice change from your usual manner of insulting me and denying that I'm writing anything worth reading. I don't think you can take the low quality of current Wikipedia articles on Buddhism as a standard. Look at articles that are at least "good", and ask yourself, "how do we take it to that level?" I'm not saying that Race of Jesus is a great article, but it is some kind of model to look at by comparison to how bad this one is (and the comparison is worth making because all of the opinions on the appearance of Jesus are contested and involve strongly-held religious beliefs, over a long period of history, and so on). It does seem to me that many of your comments on this discussion board have been just trying to "score points" against me, and have been destructive rather than constructive. Who would want to contribute or collaborate with you if, in effect, you are a troll "guarding" this web-page, and disparaging any kind of constructive criticism? As a significant example: Guan Xing is now cited SIX TIMES in this article. Why did you deny that this is a significant source that the article relies on, below, when I went, looked up the cited pages, and tried to verify the actual thesis of this secondary source? Sure, the thesis of the source you are quoting matters. It matters if the text cited is even attempting to discuss/define the physical appearance of the Buddha or not. A peer-reviewed publication that only mentions this issue in passing is really not the same as a specialized essay or book (although, at this point, anything verifiable would be a welcome improvement). As discussed below, I did not see Guan Xing or Schopen dealing with the type of questions and primary sources that are (now) only mentioned in the "Baldness" section. If you're going to marginalize that source (and you are resolved to do so) should there also be a separate "Blackness" section? Should there be a "Caste Identity" section? The latter doesn't sound entirely stupid, and putting "caste identity Buddha" into Google Scholar immediately reveals a wealth of sources to work from (probably all of them biased). My general point here is that the physical appearance of the Buddha is a much broader issue than the list of 32 marks (and the article currently does a really lousy job of even dealing with the 32 marks! There is STILL nothing addressing the fact that these aren't identical for Mahayana vs. Theravada, nor dealing with what they actually mean!). Obviously, the "natural vs. supernatural" descriptions issue is a big deal; obviously, racial identity and caste identity in Indian Buddhism are a big deal (Bhimrao Ambedkar, Who Were the Shudras? etc.). In terms of resolving the current flag for "dubious | discuss"... Are you saying that it is not NPOV to say that there is (today, in the year 2011) a widespread Mahayana assumption that the Buddha had freakish physical abnormalities? Unlike your favorite quote from Schopen, this isn't a claim about one specific period of ancient Indian Buddhism: it is a claim that Schopen would agree with, because it is about contemporary Mahayana Buddhism (neither ancient nor Indian). Schopen says clearly that all this crazy stuff did develop in Mahayana, but that it happened later than the period he defines and addresses. Although I think the block quotation is a silly way to present this information, as aforementioned, if your claim is just that this one sentence is problematic, why not delete this one sentence and replace it with an ellipsis? You can just cut out "This has clear implications for the (still-widespread) Mahayana[dubious – discuss] assumption that the Buddha had freakish physical abnormalities." and then paste in "[...]". The rest of the quotation is just directly reporting primary sources, and you've got no problem with that, right? Currently, that one block quote (incongruously filed under "Baldness") is very well backed-up with citations and sources... and nothing else in the Wikipedia article is! I don't think that material should be in a separate section, and I don't think it should be in a block quote... but... — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:05, 5 August 2011 (UTC)

Serious Problems in Current Citations & Constructive Suggestions for Improvement[edit]

(1) A remarkable number of the footnotes (as this article now stands, in Aug. of 2011) rely on a SINGLE PAGE of a single work by Gregory Schopen. That one page DOES NOT support the argument pinned upon it by this wikipedia article (and I know, because I read it: one whole page, what a tremendous burden of fact-checking!). Please allow me to quote what Schopen's thesis and/or conclusion actually is here:

"We are left, it seems, with the apparent fact that, at least in regard to major Buddhist cult forms, -the stupa cult and the image cult- the appearance of early Mahayana sutra literature had no effect, changed nothing, and was of no consequence."

That is hardly the view that is now espoused by this Wikiepdia article! In this case, I can only surmise that the contributor is intentionally mis-representing the source cited. It is also problematic that only one half of what Schopen is saying is reflected in these quotations: he is making a specific argument about one stage in the development of the EARLIEST (known) Mahayana literature, while contrasting it to later developments that did indeed go on to do the things discussed in the ensuing history (he is stating that it did not do so "in its earliest phase or phases", to quote him directly, just as certainly as it DID do so thereafter; and this is all very clearly said on the very same page!). Likewise, the actual phrase "profoundly conservative" is (horrendously!) quoted out of context as this wikipedia article now stands, and used against its original purpose. No library required for this one, by the way: this one page that has been so mis-used can be read instantly through google books' preview service.

The Schopen piece is primarily regarding the early development of the image cult in India, and his major conclusion is that Mahayana played little role in early depictions of the Buddha. This is basically what the Wikipedia article already states. His comments about how he views Mahayana at this time as being "profoundly conservative" is found directly in the article, as is the fact that aspects of the image cult are criticized in some early Mahayana sutras. Tengu800 00:35, 4 August 2011 (UTC)

(2) I also found that Guan Xing does not support some of the views now stated in this wikipedia article. The source here is The concept of the Buddha: its evolution from early Buddhism to the trikāya ... by Guang Xing (and yes, you can preview that through Google Books, too). Page 33 states that the Theravada canon does not include the 80 marks, but these are instead a later addition in "sub-commentaries". In general, this whole book contains some very detailed reflections on the fact that Theravada and Mahayana descriptions of the Buddha are NOT identical (e.g., p. 28, e.g., p. 34-5... ) ... genuinely interesting, and. I think, the opposite of what Tengu800 would prefer this article to say. This article now relies VERY HEAVILY on Guan Xing... but I don't think it even fairly reflects the thesis that the guy's work pursues. I mention this because the incongruous contrast between citation and source here is a pretty clear sign to me that whoever added all of these citations either did not really read Guan Xing's book, or that they used it insincerely. Admittedly, I myself just did very rapid fact-checking, and also have not read the book (...I'd like to...); this is a case of a source that is not dubious, but some editor has made very dubious use of it.

Actually the article already notes that the 80 minor characteristics are found primarily in Chinese agamas and Sarvastivada works, including some Mahayana works, and just in some minor commentaries on the Theravada side of things (actually the current article does not characterize these commentaries as "minor", but instead gives their names). The article does state very clearly that some scholars believe that the 80 minor characteristics were held as important mostly by the Sarvastivadins. Interesting that you claim that the article relies "very heavily" on Guang Xing, when only a few sentences are referenced to him, and some of these are just for very basic factual information, such as the description of the 80 minor characteristics given by the Mahavibhasa. Tengu800 00:35, 4 August 2011 (UTC)

(3) The Wikipedia article Race of Jesus opens with this sentence, "The race of Jesus of Nazareth has been a subject of debate in the western world academia since at least the nineteenth century in Europe." So, this article on the Buddha should open with the sentence, "The physical appearance of the Buddha has been a subject of debate in western academia since at least the nineteenth century in Europe, and artistic representations indigenous to Asia have shown tremendous diversity, over a long and storied history." That's NPOV: "diversity" and "debate" are neutral, and factually correct.

(4) Race of Jesus has a section titled "Jesus in the Bible"... followed by a very brief survey of primary sources. How about a very brief sequence of bullet-points listing the influential sources of descriptions of the Buddha's physical appearance? Please note, the 32 marks are NOT the only source: However, at a minimum,

  • Theravada Canon (cite a few different suttas by name)
  • Mahayana Sanskrit Canon (I know we've got one vote for the version of the 32 marks preserved in Sanskrit)
  • Tibetan Canon (if anything is strikingly different from the above...)
  • Chinese Canon
  • Anything uniquely Japanese (if differing in some interesting way from the above)

(5) I would prefer to see it follow after #2, rather than before it, but it is really obvious that someone needs to briefly quote some of the major figures like Thomas William Rhys Davids who did argue that the Buddha was a completely "natural" physical person (as opposed to supernatural) and was vaguely desultory toward the tendency to turn him into a god (please do not attack me as if I were supporting this view, I am just stating that it needs to be mentioned in a survey of the academic debates in this section! I don't think anyone writing the Race of Jesus article believes in any of the theories listed there!). I don't know who else to list, but I know that Gombrich is opinionated on the matter (somebody please send in suggestions; is there really nobody else interested in contributing to this article?).

(6) We need a list of some of the views within India concerning the importance of the Buddha's caste status, and racial theories surrounding his identity (that only make sense within India). We also need some kind of source on how this disappeared or was re-invented in China, Japan, etc. etc.

(7) We then need a run-down of the major styles of art depicting the Buddha, by historical era, but only very briefly noting the assumptions about the Buddha's physical appearance in each one (this can't become an art-history textbook to rival H.W. Jansen). However, it would be great to see a run down of the first appearance of (and geographical span of) webbed fingers, natural hair, supernatural hair, moustache flame shooting out of his head, fingers unnaturally in length, the "folded neck", the magical "wound" protruding up from the middle of his head, the so-called "snail" form of magical hair, etc.

I have looked (again) at the Wikipedia guidelines today, and they are much more variable and common-sense based than most people want to pretend in discussions of these kinds. Please, let's have common sense and earnest contributions prevail, and I'll say one more time "Encyclopedic content must be verifiable". I just tried to verify those two sources (#1 and #2 in this list, above) and they DID NOT check out! — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:58, 3 August 2011 (UTC)

Hi, I change 32 signs based on Lakkhana sutta, which has not super nature sign like aura: — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:46, 27 September 2011 (UTC)

80 secondary traits[edit]

says 80, only 79 — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:17, 18 February 2012 (UTC)

Modern Chinese 80 secondary characteristics, any point in keeping that modern chinese write up lol?[edit]

The chinese theory of 80 characteristics is nothing more then a way for the chinese to inject a new image of buddha to suit their own population, Obviously Mongolian in race do not have curly hair or blue eyes or even body hair and so on, These Physical characteristics are his own characteristics, thus the chinese trying to re-write it is just a strange attempt hide historical roots. (talk) 00:39, 7 February 2014 (UTC)ved

Of course the image of the Buddha has been changed an adapted throughout the ages; what's new? That you don't like this is not a sufficient reason to change or remove this. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 05:00, 7 February 2014 (UTC)

It seems that every page which involves Buddhism today favors the Chinese modern created featured buddha, we see editors such as yourself joshua who are living in this fantasy land of history.

The reason the buddha is written to of had blue eyes and a rib cage like a lion in a over exaggerated manner, is part of the very reason of the whole story line its just people like you Joshua still cant rap your head around it.

Thus a chinese Modern theory of the characteristics is rubbish to history of the buddha & also on the buddhas page we see that some strange person has popped that the chinese stated that the buddha came from persia?

Your neo-western editing is damaging buddhism, the buddha scriptures are close to PERFECT it does not need a changed theory of how the buddha looked, how he looks is NOTHING... it is the metaphor behind it that is the value. (talk) 21:31, 13 February 2014 (UTC)veda

Original research. Do you have any references for your claims? The 32 marks are found numerous times in the Pali Canon. Tengu800 14:21, 15 February 2014 (UTC)