In order to understand the Dhamma- the teachings of the Supreme Buddha- we have to understand who the Buddha was. For this, we have to appreciate His nine great qualities. This is the process of developing an unshakeable faith (shraddha) in the Buddha.
The first quality is that the Supreme Buddha was the first Arahant in this present world. Arahant is the term used to describe a person who has rid themself of all impurities of the mind: ill will, anger, jealousy, sadness, desire, lust, delusion, greed and other defilements of the mind. An Arahant also does not have any attachment to the six faculties that form all that a human being experiences- the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind; and has, therefore, extinguished all roots of unwholesome thoughts and actions. An Arahant is not reborn in any world after death. He has escaped the cycle of rebirth and suffering, known as Samsara.
The Supreme Buddha attained this state without any teacher. He then went on to teach the Dhamma and many of his disciples also became Arahants through His guidance. There is no other teacher with this quality.
The second quality of our Teacher is ‘Samma Sambuddho’ which describes how the Supreme Buddha understood the Four Noble Truths without anyone to teach or guide Him. The Four Noble Truths explain the reality of life- life is suffering (Dukkha), the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path to the cessation of suffering. He understood the Four Noble Truths in great detail when contemplating the four sights he had seen as Prince Siddhartha Gautama- the old man, the sick man, the dead body and funeral house, and the holy man. We may see sights like these on a daily basis- whether on TV or in front of us, but we would not stop to think that old age, sickness and death are guaranteed to happen to all of us in one form or another. These inevitabilities of life create immense suffering to us because we have not realised the Four Noble Truths. The Supreme Buddha gained knowledge of this by Himself.
Vijja Carana Sampanno
The third quality ‘vijja-carana-sampanno’ is translated as true or clear knowledge, exemplary conduct, and compassion. The Prince Siddhartha Gautama developed three kinds of knowledge (Vijja) during his meditative state under the Bodhi Tree and realised these as He became the Buddha:
- Firstly, The Buddha could recall his previous birth and trace back through all His previous existences. He was then able to extend this vision to trace back through the previous births of all other beings. With this knowledge, our Great Teacher became aware that the journey through Samsara was long.
- The second knowledge was the ability to see the passing away and reappearing of beings, and the process in which this happens. Therefore, the ongoing cycle of death and rebirth.
- The third knowledge was that of destroying all defilements and attachments, and therefore, liberation from Samsara.
It is important we understand clearly about these unique virtues of the Buddha, which He developed through intensive concentration and excellent wisdom.
‘Su’ means ‘correct path’; ‘Gatha’ means ‘followed’. Therefore, the fourth quality describes how the Supreme Buddha ‘followed the correct path’ i.e. the Noble Eightfold Path (he teaches this as the Fourth Noble Truth) and achieved the bliss of Nibbana (the ultimate cessation from suffering). Therefore, our Teacher not only found for Himself the cause of suffering that all beings go through, but also found the path that led to the cessation of this suffering. He described the path in great detail so that anyone could follow it. This is another quality unique to Him.
The fifth quality ‘Lokavidu’ means ‘knower of the worlds’. The Supreme Buddha was the first to make the observation that there were countless world systems. He also proclaimed that one should view the world within oneself rather than seeking to find the origin and the end of the perceived world or universe. Our Great Teacher understood the origin, cessation and the way to escape from all worlds. No other teacher has this knowledge.
The sixth quality is as follows: ‘Anuttaro’ means ‘unsurpassed’, or ‘there is no one else’; ‘Purisa-Damma-Sarathi’ means individuals to be tamed by the gift of the Dhamma from our Leader. So, putting these terms together, this quality described the Buddha as an incomparable leader who is able to tame individuals by bringing them the Dhamma. In the time of the Buddha, there are examples of terrifying beings such as Angulimala, whom the Buddha saw had the capacity to realise the Dhamma, and He was able to then persuade to follow the Dhamma and shun their previous evil ways. The way the Buddha can ‘tame’ individuals is with His unique wisdom, virtue, compassion and concentration. Through the Dhamma, we see the Supreme Buddha, even today. Through the Dhamma, we learn to tame our own wayward ways.
The seventh quality ‘Sattha Deva-Manussanam’ means ‘the Teacher of deities and humans.’ It is important that we understand that our Great Teacher not only communicated with and taught human beings, but He also taught beings existing in the realm of deities (the heavenly realm). Therefore, the Dhamma also exists in the heavenly worlds. The Supreme Buddha had a remarkable technique of teaching according to the caliber and mentality of the being who was being taught. He was able to instruct everyone appropriately in this way about following the correct path. He showed humans that we can also reach the heavenly realm by following the Noble Eightfold Path and having an unshakeable faith in the Buddha, Dhamm and the Sangha.
The eighth quality ‘Buddho’ means ‘one who has understood the Four Noble Truths without anyone’s help, and is able to proclaim the Dhamma to others’. Although, this appears to reiterate the second great quality, it has its own important distinction- here describes a Master who has an extraordinary ability to convince others of his discovery and the art of teaching His Dhamma.
The ninth quality ‘Bhagava’ means ‘the Blessed One’. He was the most fortunate and liberated being to have conquered all evils, and taught the Dhamma, and to have been endowed with superhuman intellectual abilities. He is the one and only teacher to have held all these nine qualities. We can see the evidence of these qualities in the Dhamma, and develop our unshakeable faith in the Buddha.
May we all realise the Four Noble Truths and be freed from suffering.