Tag Archives: myth

Buddha: Man, Myth, or Legend?

It is said that soon after his enlightenment the Buddha passed a man on the road who was struck by the Buddha’s radiance and presence. The man stopped and asked “My friend what are you? Are you a celestial being or a god?”

“No.” said the Buddha.

“Are you a wizard or magician?”

Again the Buddha replied “No”.

“Are you a man?”

Again the Buddha replied “No”.

“Well, my friend, what are you then?”

The Buddha replied “I am awake”.

In my last post I broached the subject of deifying the Buddha, and Algernon wondered why it is that this has happened over the years. I’d like to say that personally, I find that when we make the Buddha into something other than a man, we devalue the practice of Buddhism. One of the strongest arguments I can find for walking the Buddhist path is that nibbana is open to anyone that is willing to put in the work necessary to achieve that final cessation. When we make the Buddha into something other than a man (though he was an extraordinary man and teacher) it seems to make nibbana an unreachable goal to us mere mortals. His amazing accomplishment was that he was able to escape samsara all on his own, without the help of any magical powers or the gods. There are plenty of myths surrounding the Buddha’s birth and life, and I am in no way arguing that we should throw them out. But I have to wonder, what’s the point in making the Buddha into anything other than an awakened person? Is it simply to give the Buddha more authority? Can’t we honor the man without turning him into a magical shaman?

Your thoughts?

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