Talk:Types of Buddha

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I authored this article, as many Buddhism articles refer to the three types of Buddha, so it seems that a natural centre of interest was being called for. (20040302)

  • It would be good to get some sources for this. It's not that I don't accept the accuracy of your version, but I'm not clear on how widely accepted this formula is within different schools. The term Sravaka-Buddha in particular, I think, sounds a little unusual to my ear. There are certainly schools that de-emphasize the question of Buddhas other than Samyaksam-Buddhas; but are there any schools that fail to recognize them at all?
Most schools do recognise the terms. However, I regret the name of the article. It would be best off called three types of Buddha. The major advantage to the article is that it summarizes a key aspect of early Buddhist thought, which many schools (including Theravada and various Mahayana schools) accept. Most Mahayana schools accept it due to the fact that the division is key to the structure of the triyana section of the Lotus sutra. (the three 'classical' vehicles refer to the three states of Buddha). Also, the primary distinctions between early schools were to do with whether or not Sravaka-Buddhahood was final. Theravadans equate Sravaka-Buddhahood with Bodhisattva-Buddhahood (with good reasoning), whereas Mahayana schools do not (with good reasoning too!).
Fair enough. Ideally we would have a section on any nuances in how this is understood by different schools, but if it is in the Lotus Sutra and accepted by the Theravada, then it is clearly widespread. Also, I propose to move the page to three types of Buddha forthwith.
Yes. Erm. did I do it correctly? 20040302
  • Isn't Sravaka-Buddha the same thing as arhat? If so, that should be noted for clarity.
This is the problem of distance and terminology. An Arhat is a foe-destroyer, so all three types of Buddha are Arhats. However, in many Mahayana schools, the term Arhat is used to depict the Sravaka-Buddha. This depiction is a source of ridicule for the Theravadans, and has led to meaningless debates based upon a lack of clarity regarding terminology. In fact, the Hinayana article was more or less no longer contentious when I changed the term 'arhat' to 'Sravakabuddha'. It may be worth mentioning something about this on the SravakaBuddha article - and definitely a link between the two (arhat/sravakabuddha) is a good idea. It would probably have a better long term payoff to merge Arhat (if the article is primarily mahayana) into the SravakaBuddha article, but probably both are best left as they are.
An excellent point. It appears that Sravaka-Buddha is the same thing as what people normally refer to as an arhat. But I would certainly not dispute that Shakyamuni was also an arhat. Is it the case, then, that arhat is actually a synonym for Buddha?
Very good question! I would say, technically, yes (in that an awakened one is a foe destroyer, as well as being a tathagatha) but due to common usage, one would have to say no, merely because some communities distinguish between Arhat and Buddha. As you point out so well, most people's understanding of Buddha is actually Samyaksam-Buddha. I have edited the Arhat article to reinforce the synonym aspect of the term. (20040302 12:24, 8 Nov 2004 (UTC))
  • It seems to me that when most people, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, say "Buddha" they almost always just mean "Samyaksam-Buddha". If this is the case, then we should also make sure this is stated clearly enough.
Yes, that is a good point, though I would say when most people say 'Buddha', (most including non-Buddhists) they are refering to the Samyaksam-Buddha known as Sakyamuni.
Indeed, this should be clarified as much as possible.
  • The use of "Buddha" in three Buddhas seems to be at odds with its use in most of Buddha, and the section in the latter about the former is not very coherent.
Buddha is a big article with a lot of differing ideas. I don't necessarily disagree with most of it, but the etymology supports a similarity between this article and that: 'Awakened' into nirvana is suitable. Remember that the metaphysical nature of Nirvana/Awakening is disputed between Theravada and Mahayana (the latter have various views as well), so it is best not to get into that here. I agree that this article needs more work - this is really just a stub. I did not want to conflate the Samyaksam-Buddha section in this article, as there is more to be said about it at Buddha etc. However, the purpose was to encapsulate, define, and compare the three types of Buddha in terms of their similarities and differences.
I have no problem with a separate three Buddhas article, I just think we should, as noted above, clarify that most of the references in Buddha are apparently specific to Samyaksam-Buddhas.
  • I think that Samyaksam-Buddha and Sravaka-Buddha do not require their own articles and should be merged into three Buddhas. Possibly, the whole thing should be merged with Buddha. - Nat Krause 04:10, 7 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Certainly it is possible that Samyaksam-Buddha and Buddha could be merged, though the latter is an ambiguous term (hence the size of the article), wheras the former is not ambiguous. I disagree about the merger - as the key distinction would be lost in the already large article. This article is well-contained, and deals with a core feature of Buddhism. It is unlikely to be disputed, as it deals with a technical aspect of Buddhist thought. Buddha however, will always be large, and always deal with many more things than the mere differentiation of awakenings.
I feel that Samyaksam-Buddha does have a place on WP, but possibly not yet. My feelings about Buddha and Buddhism are that they should possibly be split into smaller articles, which are held by a structural thread by the currently larger articles. Buddhism is such a large subject, with so many different thoughts and ideas, that it seems foolhardy to try and jam it all into a few articles. Don't get me wrong - I'm not trying to establish more Buddhist real estate - but I embrace the functionality of the hyperlink ! (20040302 12:21, 7 Nov 2004 (UTC))

Article Grouping[edit]

I have concluded that you are right about keeping this article separate. But right now, we have six related articles:

  • Buddha - which is mostly about Samyaksam-Buddhas
  • Samyaksam-Buddha - which is about what educated laymen often call simply Buddhas
  • Arhat - which is mostly about Sravaka-Buddhas
  • Sravaka-Buddha - which is about what educated laymen often call arhats
  • Pratyeka
  • Three Buddhas - which is about the distinctions between the above

(not to mention the sravaka article)

I propose that we need no more than 4 articles, one about the distinctions and one for each of the types. I suggest the article titles Buddha, Pratyekabuddha, arhat, and three types of Buddha. - Nat Krause 04:29, 8 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Okay, I have attempted to merge Samyaksam-Buddha and Buddha - this involved mainly moving stuff that was solely concerned with Gautama off the Buddha page, and putting it onto the Gautama Buddha page.
There is a little difficulty about merging Arhat with Sravaka-Buddha. I tried it, but the Arhat article deals more with the term Arhat than merely it's popular meaning within mahayana schools, so I have edited it, but left it as a rather stubby article.
I have a bit of text from the arhat article which I don't really know where to put now:

An arhat is said to have rid his psyche of all desires and defilements, and therefore has transcended affliction and is not destined for further rebirth. These defilements are sometimes listed as "ten fetters": self-identification views, uncertainty, grasping at precepts and practices, sensual passion, resistance, desire for form, desire for formless phenomena, conceit, restlessness, and ignorance.

My issue with it is that it describes a quality of enlightenment which is not solely restricted to Sravaka-Buddhas. But I don't see a good place for it as it stands within Nirvana, Enlightenment, or Buddha. Hmm! (20040302 12:31, 8 Nov 2004 (UTC))
Well, my idea is that the arhat article should contain a brief intro about the general use of the term, and then have a section about sravaka-buddhas. This would be similar to the way that the sangha article begins by discussing several senses of the word and then proceeds to spend the rest of the article talking exclusively about the monastic sanghas. - Nat Krause 12:41, 8 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Oh that's interesting. But I fear we may have trouble if we fold Sravaka-Buddha into Arhat, as the latter already distinguishes itself from being merely associated with Sravaka-Buddhahood, and indeed spends time talking about it's use as a synonym of 'Buddha'. The article is pretty small already, but I think that it's purpose as a disambiguation page is valuable. (20040302 12:50, 8 Nov 2004 (UTC))
I should not write when I am tired. Yes. I totally agree with what you say! It appears that there is still a movement who believe in the idea of these terms as disparagements. I remain unconvinced. (20040302 09:42, 9 Nov 2004 (UTC))


Somebody reverted me on Arhat, and asked me to come here. Personally I think talk:arhat is a better place, but why argue needlessly? I am here, speak your peace (oh, and be aware, I'm not a buddha ;). Sam [Spade] 19:45, 8 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Hi Sam, I was hoping you would read the talk here as a part of the overall discussion regarding Arhat. Unfortunately the paragraph that you appear to be attached to reflects a regularly occuring defensive POV of the Theravadans without any basis in fact, in other words, a fundamental attribution error. It is hard to find Mahayana sutra or commentarial sources that back up the stance as held. Hence the reason for removing what are, after all, divisive remarks that from my POV appear to be deliberately attempting to encourage polemics between different Budddhist schools. Once you have read the talk here, would you like to help me reconstruct the deconstructed paragraph over at Talk:Arhat? (20040302 08:44, 9 Nov 2004 (UTC))


I've done some copyediting to this article, fixing a number of grammarical, spelling, and clarity errors. I've tried not to disturb the content, though in a few cases I've had to rearrange sentences and rewrite sections to enhance clarity. If someone better versed in buddhist tradition wouldn't mind scanning my changes to make sure I didn't inadvertantly change the meaning of something, I'd appreciate it. Thanks! Phidauex 20:44, 22 April 2006 (UTC)

There are several factual issues, but I will address both shortly. Thanks for your work (20040302 12:06, 23 April 2006 (UTC))


The hyphenation of samyaksambuddha as "samyaksam-buddha" is wrong, both in terms of spelling and as a guide to etymology. It wrongly implies that there is an element "samyaksam". Actually there are two layers of compounding here:

  1. Sam+buddha = "perfectly enlightened" (from sambudhyate "know perfectly") = sambuddha
  2. Samyañc+sambuddha = "thoroughly perfectly enlightened one" = samyaksambuddha

A prefix like "sam" is normally considered an integral part of the word it is attached to. So you could hyphenate "samyak-sambuddha", but not "samyaksam-buddha". It is better not to have any hyphen at all, though.RandomCritic 17:33, 3 May 2006 (UTC)


If no evidence of the Mahayana use of the term Savakabuddha is forthcoming, I think it will be appropriate to take out the reference to Mahayana scriptures which mention Savakabuddha. Greetings, Sacca 06:03, 8 August 2006 (UTC)

Slightly OT but FWIW here's a reference for the Theravada use case mentioned in the article, which was news to me: "The Upāsakajanālaṅkāra, a Pali treatise dealing with the ethics for the lay Buddhist, written in the twelfth century by a Thera called Ānanda in the Theravada tradition of the Mahāvihāra at Anurādhapura, Śrī Laṅkā, says...that when a disciple attains Bodhi (Enlightenment), he is called Sāvaka-Buddha (Skt. Śrāvaka-Buddha). A disciple, even without the attainment of Bodhi, if exceptionally well versed in the Tipiṭaka, is sometimes referred to as a Suta-Buddha, which means 'a Buddha (an enlightened one) by learning'—obviously a courtesy title in respectful recognition of his deep erudition in the Buddha's teaching (DA III (PTS), p745; MA I, Tripiṭaka Publication Press, Columbo 1933, p209)" Walpola Rahula, "The Bodhisattva Ideal in Theravāda and Mahāyāna", as published in Zen & the Taming of the Bull (subtitle) Toward a Definition of Buddhist Thought, Gordon Fraser, 1978, p75; the semtence ending with the words Śrāvaka-Buddha is footnoted and cites "Upāsakajanālaṅkāra (PTS), p340". --munge 08:26, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

As I've noted here and at Sravakabuddha, the term Savakabuddha is not confined to 1 obscure text but is found in the standard commentaries.

If nobody can find it in Sanskrit, shouldn't the article on it be renamed from a non-existent word to a real one? I'll try to remember to look it up in Edgerton's BHS dictionary. Peter jackson 16:57, 31 October 2007 (UTC)

No trace in Edgerton or any Sanskrit dictioary I can find, but then savakabuddha is not in Pali dictionaries either, but still exists, so that doesn't prove anything. Peter jackson 11:46, 1 November 2007 (UTC)

Inaccurate Portrayal of Lotus Sutra[edit]

In the "Teaching and Studying" section, the following is erroneously stated of the Mahayana: "the three types of Buddha correspond to different programs of skillful means (upāya) or expedient practices. Notably, chapter 3 of the Mahāyāna Lotus Sutra compares the three types of Buddha to three vehicles". It does not! The Buddha nowhere in that sutra speaks of "three types of Buddha", nor does he say in that parable that the people who travel in the three different carriages are "Buddhas" or that the three carriages correspond to Buddhas. Nor does Mahayana generally speak of "three types of Buddha" (i.e. Mahayana does NOT generally, if at all, speak of a "sravakabuddha"). So I propose to delete the sentence above in the coming days, unless good, sound evidential support can be adduced for its retention. Best wishes. Tony. TonyMPNS 12:25, 17 May 2007 (UTC)

I have deleted this egregious error since, as Tony says, this notion is NOT found in the LS -- nor anywhere else in any Mahayana sutra I have ever read.--Stephen Hodge 00:07, 19 May 2007 (UTC)


What does mainstream mean? Some scholars use it as yet another synonym for Hinayana/Sravakayana/conservative/early/Nikaya/sectarian/... Is it an acceptable term in Wikipedia at all? It seems to me to suggest that other, unspecified forms of Buddhism are marginal/fringe, which would seem to violate neutrality. Peter jackson 09:50, 2 November 2007 (UTC)

I've now edited the page to remove the implicit bias. I'm interested to see someone has found a Mahayana source for the term Sravakabuddha. The other question still remains: does any Mahayana source talk of 2 or 3 types of Buddha in this sense? Peter jackson (talk) 10:53, 2 October 2008 (UTC)