Friday, December 30, 2011

Laba Festival

The Laba Festival (臘八節 Laba Jie) is a traditional festival celebrated on the 8th day of the 12th Chinese lunar month. La () in Chinese refers to the last month of the year, also known as the La Month (臘月 La Yue); and ba () refers to the eighth day. According to one popular theory, the festival originally began as a celebration and thanksgiving of the new harvest, but after Buddhism was transmitted from India to China in the first century CE, it was merged with the celebration of Lord Buddha’s Enlightenment Day (佛陀成道日 Fotuo Chengdao Ri) which is believed by Chinese Buddhists to be on that date (the date observed in Chinese Buddhism as the day of Lord Buddha’s enlightenment is lunar date 12/8, while many other Buddhist traditions generally observe the Buddha’s enlightenment as a part of the Vesak Festival in the fourth lunar month).

Laba Porridge

A traditional food eaten on the day of the Laba Festival is Laba porridge (臘八粥 Laba Zhou) which is made from a combination of glutinous rice and many different kinds of grains, cereals, beans, dried fruits, and nuts that may include - but are not limited to - millet, lotus seeds, melon seeds, jujube dates, longan (dragon’s eye fruit), Job’s tear grains, red beans, peas, gingko nuts, chestnuts, walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, and peanuts.

Grains and beans used for Laba porridge

The porridge can be made sweet or savory by adding sugar or salt depending on regional preferences. Other condiments like cinnamon can also be added for additional flavor. Laba porridge is also sometimes called Eight Treasures porridge (八寶粥 Babao Zhou) because it is sometimes made from a traditional list of eight kinds of ingredients.

The eight different kinds of ingredients plus rice for Eight Treasures porridge
(Image: Source unknown)

A family prepares Laba porridge for the festival
(Image: Source unknown)

There are several explanations about the origin of Laba porridge. One explanation is that after the autumn harvest, porridge made from the harvested food ingredients is made and offered in thanksgiving to the heavenly deities and/or ancestors. Another explanation is that it was both a celebration of the harvest and a form of nutritious food for people in winter time because the porridge is a healthy mixture of many wholesome ingredients.

Laba porridge is a health food
(Image: Source unknown)

Another explanation connected with the Chinese Buddhist tradition says that Laba porridge is eaten to commemorate Lord Buddha’s enlightenment because while undergoing ascetic practices, the Buddha eventually realized that extreme forms of asceticism did not promote spiritual awakening, so he abandoned them and accepted a rice porridge offered to him by a young maiden. The porridge helped him regain his physical strength and he later found supreme enlightenment. That is why Laba porridge is also called Buddha’s porridge (佛粥 Fo Zhou) (however, the porridge that the Buddha ate did not have so many ingredients, because according to the original Indian Buddhist story, the Buddha ate only a porridge made of milk and rice). In all probability, the earlier practice of cooking porridge as a post-harvest custom was merged with the commemoration of the Buddha’s enlightenment that came to be observed in China later on.

Because the offering of the rice porridge helped Lord Buddha continue on the path to find spiritual awakening, it became the food symbolic of the quest for enlightenment.

The Buddha became emaciated and weak from practicing austerities.
He later abandoned them because they did not lead to spiritual enlightenment.
(Image: Source unknown)

The maiden Sujata offered a bowl of milk rice porridge to the Buddha
which restored his strength after he became weak from practicing austerities
(Image: Source unknown)

After restoring his health, the Buddha attained supreme enlightenment
(Image: Source unknown)

Buddhist monks in China serve Laba porridge to the public

Aside from eating Laba porridge, religious activities during the Laba Festival usually include ceremonies for honoring Lord Buddha (Shakyamuni), and prayers and rites for good health and blessings.

Laba Festival cartoon drawing

May everyone have a happy Laba Festival!

Text © 2011 Harry Leong

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Amitabha Buddha

Amitabha Buddha
(Image: Source unknown)

According to the Chinese Buddhist tradition, the 17th day of the 11th Chinese lunar month is observed as the Holy Day of Amitabha Buddha (阿彌陀佛聖誕 Amituofo Shengdan).

Amitabha (阿彌陀佛 Amituofo) is one of the great transcendent buddhas of Mahayana Buddhism. His name, Amitabha, is a Sanskrit name that means Buddha of Infinite Light (無量光佛 Wuliangguang Fo). This buddha is also known as Amitayus (無量壽佛 Wuliangshou Fo) which means Buddha of Infinite Life. He is also known as The Tathagata King of Ambrosia (甘露王如來 Ganluwang Rulai) where ambrosia is a metaphor for bringing relief and salvation and the assuaging of pain and suffering, and Tathagata is another title for a buddha which has many layers of meaning.

The historical buddha (Shakyamuni) taught about Amitabha/Amitayus in three principal texts:
1) The Longer Sukhavati-vyuha Sutra, also known as the Sutra Spoken by the Buddha on Amitayus (佛說無量壽經 Foshuo Wuliangshou Jing), known colloquially as the Amitayus Sutra (無量壽經 Wuliangshou Jing) (Taisho Tripitaka T12 No. 360)
2) The Shorter Sukhavati-vyuha Sutra, also known as the Sutra Spoken by the Buddha on Amitabha (阿彌陀經 Foshuo Amituo Jing), known colloquially as the Amitabha Sutra (阿彌陀經 Amituo Jing) (Taisho Tripitaka T12 No. 366)   
3) The Amitayur-dhyana Sutra, also known as the Sutra Spoken by the Buddha on the Visualization of Amitayus (說觀無量壽佛經 Foshuo Guan Wuliangshoufo Jing), known colloquially as the Visualization of Amitayus Sutra (觀無量壽經 Guan Wuliangshou Jing) (Taisho Tripitaka T12 No. 365)

According to these texts, Amitabha had attained supreme enlightenment ten aeons ago in a remote period of antiquity. He is a trans-historical buddha (the concept of trans-historical buddhas was discussed in the previous post which can be found here). He was a king who renounced his land to become a monk so that he could pursue spiritual cultivation. His religious name was Dharmakara (法藏 Fazang) which means Treasury of the Buddhist Teachings. He was taught by Lokesvaraja Buddha who lived during that time, and he subsequently made forty-eight great vows to rescue and deliver living beings.

The majestic countenance and form of Amitabha Buddha
(Image: Source unknown)

Of the forty-eight great vows, the eighteenth vow states:

When I attain Buddhahood, if there should be any sentient beings in the ten directions who desire to be reborn in my land with confidence and joy, and if they bring forth to mind this resolve even just ten times but fail to achieve rebirth there, then may I not obtain perfect enlightenment. This excludes those that have committed the five serious crimes or those that have slandered the True Dharma.


This vow is the most noteworthy because it forms the foundational basis and principal objective of the Pure Land School (淨土宗 Jingtu Zong) of Mahayana Buddhism which is to achieve rebirth in Sukhavati (極樂世界 Jile Shijie; the Realm of Ultimate Joy), the name of the pure land of Amitabha Buddha.

Sukhavati: the Realm of Ultimate Joy
(Image: Source unknown)

A pure land or pure realm (淨土 jingtu), also called a buddha land or buddha realm (佛土 fotu; buddha-ksetra), is a spiritual world created by an enlightened being for the purpose of saving and delivering sentient beings. The genesis of a pure realm starts with a wish when a bodhisattva (i.e. future buddha) brings forth a great resolve from his mind and makes a vow to establish a pure realm; and then upon achieving enlightenment, the force and power of that resolve causes the vow to become a reality. Pure realms are always beautiful and magnificently adorned, but it must be emphasized that they are not the same as heavens (as sometimes misunderstood or erroneously assumed to be). Although the descriptions of pure realms may at first seem to share similar superficial characteristics with the heaven realms, there are big differences between the two.

According to Buddhist cosmology, the heavens are still within samsara - the endless cycle of transmigration that ordinary unenlightened beings are trapped in. Ordinary beings are bound by the results of the karma that they themselves continuously create, so they are repeatedly reincarnated in one of the six paths of samsaric existence, until they can free themselves by winning enlightenment through spiritual practice. The heavens are considered one of the six paths of samsaric existence, along with the other paths of ashuras (demons or power-seeking deities), humans, animals, hungry spirits (pretas), and hell. And as it is true for all the other samsaric states, existence in heaven is transitory and not eternal. And even though the lifespan of a heavenly being is extremely long, it is still finite because heavenly life ends when one’s accumulation of karmic merit is exhausted. Rebirth in the heaven realms is a karmic reward for past virtuous actions, but it is certainly not a goal of Buddhist practice because of two reasons. First, because heaven is still a part of samsaric existence, it has nothing to do with the goal of Buddhist practice which is to escape from samsara. Second, life in heaven does not necessarily further one’s own spiritual progress, because the bliss and pleasures of heaven are too enchanting and disruptive for spiritual cultivation.

In contrast, pure realms are spiritual worlds that exist outside of samsara because they are created by the power of fully enlightened buddhas. They serve as expedient places to continue spiritual practice under the guidance of the buddha that presides over that pure realm. The environments of pure realms are devoid of worldly distractions and are perfectly supportive and conducive to spiritual cultivation and progress. Pure realms are created out of skillful expedient means by the buddhas to help sentient beings achieve liberation more quickly by escaping samsara sooner so that they can be brought closer to attaining final enlightenment. In the Mahayana Pure Land tradition, it is believed that progressing towards enlightenment through rebirth in a buddha’s pure realm is preferable to striving towards enlightenment by solely depending on one’s own self-efforts because self-effort alone is very difficult and takes many aeons and lifetimes. A metaphor for the pure land method is called Horizontal Escape from the Three Realms [of Samsara] (橫出三界 Hengchu Sanjie). Here, the Three Realms [of Samsara] refer to the Realm of Desire (欲界 Yujie), the Realm of Form (色界 Shijie), and the Realm of Formlessness (無色界 Wushijie). The metaphor paints the picture of a worm that is trapped inside the middle of a stalk. To escape from the stalk, the worm has to crawl the length of the stalk to get out at either end. But a quicker way out would be to bore a hole in the stalk and just exit sideways. In the analogy, the worm represents the spiritual cultivator, the stalk represents samsara, and traversing the length of the stalk represents the long way of escaping samsara through self-effort alone, while boring a hole in the stalk and exiting sideways represents the short way of escaping samsara by taking advantage of the Pure Land method. In Pure Land Buddhist parlance, spiritual practice relying on self-effort alone is called self-power (自力 zi li), while spiritual practice using the Pure Land method is a combination of both self-power and other-power (他力 ta li) because in addition to exerting one’s own efforts, one also takes advantage of Amitabha’s vows to help living beings achieve spiritual liberation.

The enlightened master Venerable Hsu Yun (虛雲 Xuyun) (1840-1959)
practicing recitation of the holy name of Amitabha Buddha
(Image: Source unknown)

The main practice of the Pure Land school is buddha remembrance (念佛 nianfo) which is to constantly focus one’s attention and mindfulness on Amitabha either through oral recitation of his holy name (or his mantra in the esoteric schools), reading and chanting his scriptures, or visualization on the characteristics of his physical form and his pure realm. These practices, when combined with sincerity of faith and a strong aspiration to be reborn in Amitabha’s pure realm, will result in Amitabha Buddha and his two bodhisattvas Avalokiteshvara (觀世音 Guanshiyin) and Mahasthamaprapta (大勢至 Dashizhi) coming to welcome and lead (接引 jieyin) the pure land practitioner to the realm of Sukhavati at the end of his natural life. There, he will be able to listen to the Buddhist teachings as spoken directly by Amitabha, and spiritual progress in the pure realm will be swift, because even all the sights and sounds in the pure realm magically proclaim the Buddhist teachings.

The Three Holy Ones of Sukhavati
Amitabha Buddha (center), Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (right), Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta (left)
(Image: Venerable Master Yilin 依林法師)

A depiction of Amitabha and his holy entourage coming to
welcome and lead the pure land practitioner to Sukhavati
(Image: Source unknown)

Even though there are many buddhas and pure realms in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, the vast majority of its practitioners aspire to be reborn in Amitabha’s pure realm because Amitabha occupies a unique place in the hearts and minds of Mahayana Buddhist followers.

Chinese calligraphy: Namo Amituofo
The meaning is I take refuge in Amitabha Buddha.
(Image: Source unknown)

Homage to Amitabha, the Buddha of Infinite Light.

Text © 2011 Harry Leong

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Infinite Buddhas

Buddha statues
(Image: Source unknown)

According to the teachings of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, there are an infinite number of buddhas (i.e. beings that have attained perfect enlightenment) in the universe. It is believed that there have been many different buddhas in the past preceding Shakyamuni (i.e. Siddhartha Gautama, born 5th or 6th century BCE)  the buddha of our earthly history  and there will be many more buddhas in the coming future. In the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, all sentient beings have buddha nature which is the innate potential to achieve supreme enlightenment. So because there are countless sentient beings in the universe, there are also countless buddhas. In the infinity of time and space, there have been, and there will always be, an endless number of beings that attain perfect enlightenment.

Theravada Buddhism
Even in the texts of the earlier Theravada Buddhist school, Lord Buddha (Shakyamuni) had spoken about many past buddhas that existed before himself. These past buddhas are trans-historical buddhas, which means that their stories occurred long ago in an age that predates our own time period and therefore crosses beyond the limits of our own recorded human history.

Seven Buddhas
For example, the group of the most recent seven buddhas (i.e. Shakyamuni and the six buddhas that preceded him) is mentioned in the Atanatiya Sutta (阿達那帝亞守護經 Adanadiya Shouhu Jing) which is contained in the Digha Nikaya (Collection of Long Discourses of the Buddha) (長阿含經 Chang Ahan Jing).

The 7 Buddhas of the Past
(Image: Dharma Master Yilin 依林法師繪)

The names of the Seven Buddhas of the Past (過去七佛 Guoqu Qi Fo) are listed below in their Indian Pali and Sanskrit names, followed by their Chinese transliterations:

1) Vipassi (Pali)/Vipashyin (Sanskrit) Buddha (毘婆尸佛 Piposhi Fo)
2) Sikhi/Shikhin Buddha (尸棄佛 Shiqi Fo)
3) Vessabhu/Vishvabhu Buddha (毘舍浮佛 Pishefu Fo)
4) Kakusandha/Krakucchanda Buddha (拘留孫佛 Juliusun Fo)
5) Konagamana/Kanakamuni Buddha (拘那含牟尼佛 Junahan Mouni Fo)
6) Kassapa/Kashyapa Buddha (迦葉佛 Jiaye Fo)
7) Gotama/Gautama Buddha (喬達摩佛 Qiaodamo Fo), aka Shakyamuni Buddha (釋迦牟尼佛 Shijia Mouni Fo)

Twenty Eight Buddhas
Another group of twenty-eight buddhas (i.e. Shakyamuni and the twenty-seven buddhas that preceded him) is found in the Buddhavamsa (History of the Buddhas) (佛種姓經 Fo Zhongxing Jing) which is contained in the Khuddaka Nikaya (Collection of Minor Discourses of the Buddha) (小阿含經 Xiao Ahan Jing).

The Twenty-eight Buddhas of the Past (過去二十八佛 Guoqu Ershiba Fo) are:

1) Tanhankara Buddha (單罕伽羅佛 Danhan Jialuo Fo)
2) Medhankara Buddha (美單伽羅佛 Meidan Jialuo Fo)
3) Saranankara Buddha (沙羅難伽羅佛 Shaluo Nanjialuo Fo)
4) Dipamkara/Dipankara Buddha (提槃迦羅佛 Tipan Jialuo Fo)
5) Kondanna/Kaundinya Buddha (孔達尼耶佛 Kongda Niye Fo)
6) Mangala Buddha (曼伽羅佛 Manjialuo Fo)
7) Sumana Buddha (須曼那佛 Xumanna Fo)
8) Revata Buddha (麗瓦陀佛 Liwatuo Fo)
9) Sobhita Buddha (須毘陀佛 Xupituo Fo)
10) Anomadassi Buddha (阿諾摩達西佛 Anuo Modaxi Fo)
11) Paduma Buddha (婆睹摩佛 Podumo Fo)
12) Narada Buddha (那羅陀佛 Naluotuo Fo)
13) Padumuttara Buddha (跋陀無陀羅佛 Batuo Motuoluo Fo)
14) Sumedha Buddha (須美陀佛 Xumeituo Fo)
15) Sujata Buddha (須闍陀佛 Xushetuo Fo)
16) Piyadassi Buddha (毘耶達西佛 Piye Daxi Fo)
17) Atthadassi Buddha (阿陀達西佛 Atuo Daxi Fo)
18) Dhammadassi Buddha (達摩達西佛 Damo Daxi Fo)
19) Siddharttha Buddha (悉達陀佛 Xidatuo Fo)
20) Tissa Buddha (帝沙佛 Disha Fo)
21) Phussa Buddha (普沙佛 Pusha Fo)
22) Vipassi/Vipashyin Buddha (毘婆尸佛 Piposhi Fo)
23) Sikhi/Shikhin Buddha (尸棄佛 Shiqi Fo)
24) Vessabhu/Vishvabhu Buddha (毘舍浮佛 Pishefu Fo)
25) Kakusandha/Krakucchanda Buddha (留孫佛 Juliusun Fo)
26) Konagamana/Kanakamuni Buddha (拘那含牟尼佛 Junahan Mouni Fo)
27) Kassapa/Kashyapa Buddha (迦葉佛 Jiaye Fo)
28) Gotama/Gautama Buddha (喬達摩佛 Qiaodamo Fo), aka Shakyamuni Buddha (釋迦牟尼佛 Shijia Mouni Fo)

Mahayana Buddhism
Expanding on this concept, the texts of Mahayana Buddhism also teaches about many different buddhas and groups of buddhas.

Five Wisdom Buddhas

The 5 Wisdom Buddhas
(Image: Source unknown)

For example, in Mahayana Buddhism, there are the well known Five Wisdom Buddhas/Tathagatas (五智如來 Wuzhi Rulai), also known as the Buddhas of the Five Directions (五方佛 Wufang Fo). They are:

1) Akshobhya Buddha (阿閦埤佛 Achupi Fo) of the East
2) Ratnasambhava Buddha (寶生佛 Baosheng Fo) of the South
3) Amitabha Buddha (阿彌陀佛 Amituo Fo) of the West
4) Amoghasiddhi Buddha (不空成就佛 Bukong Chengjiu Fo) of the North
5) Vairochana Buddha (毘盧遮那佛 Piluzhena Fo) of the Center

Seven Buddhas of Healing

Lord Buddha Shakyamuni (top) and the 7 Buddhas of Healing
(Image: Dharma Master Yilin 依林法師繪)

There is a group of seven healing buddhas (i.e. medicine buddhas) mentioned in the Sutra of the Merits of the Fundamental Vows of the Seven Master of Healing Buddhas of Lapis Lazuli Light (藥師琉璃光七佛本願功德經 Yaoshi Liuli Guang Qifo Benyuan Gongde Jing) (Taisho Tripitaka T14 No. 451).

The Seven Master of Healing Buddhas (藥師七佛 Yaoshi Qifo) are:

1. Buddha the Monarch of Virtuous Renown and Auspiciousness (善名稱吉祥王佛 Shan Mingcheng Jixiang Wang Fo)
2. Buddha the Unrestrained Monarch of the Precious Moon, Wisdom, and Rigorous Light and Sound (寶月智嚴光音自在王佛 Baoyue Zhiyan Guangyin Zizai Wang Fo)
3. Buddha of Golden Precious Light, Wonderful Conduct, and Accomplishments (金色寶光妙行成就佛 Jinse Baoguang Miaoxing Chengjiu Fo)
4. Buddha of Supreme Auspiciousness that is Free from Sorrow (無憂最勝吉祥佛 Wuyou Zuisheng Jixiang Fo)
5. Buddha of the Dharma Ocean that is like the Sound of Thunder (法海雷音佛 Fahai Leiyin Fo)
6. Buddha of the Dharma Ocean of Victorious Wisdom and Supernatural Powers in Which to Take Delight (法海勝慧遊戲神通佛 Fahai Shenghui Youxi Shentong Fo)
7. Buddha the Master of Healing of Lapis Lazuli Light (藥師琉璃光佛 Yaoshi Liuli Guang Fo)

[List of 7 Healing Buddhas translated by Harry Leong. All errors are mine.]

Thirty Five Buddhas

The 35 Buddhas of Repentance
(Image: Source unknown)

There is also a group of thirty-five buddhas listed in the Great Precious Collection Sutra, also known as the Maharatnakuta Sutra (大寶積經 Dabaoji Jing) (Taisho Tripitaka T11 No. 310). The same list of buddhas is found in the Sutra Spoken by the Buddha on the Established Vinaya (佛說決定毗尼經 Foshuo Jueding Pini Jing) (Taisho Tripitaka T12 No. 325) and it is also found in the Ritual Repentance Text of the Names of the Thirty-five Buddhas Spoken by the Buddha (說三十五佛名禮懺文 Foshuo Sanshiwu Foming Lichan Wen) (Taisho Tripitaka T12 No. 326).

Fifty Three Buddhas
There is also a set of fifty-three buddhas mentioned in the Sutra Spoken by the Buddha on the Visualization of the Two Bodhisattvas King of Healing (Bhaisajya-raja) and Supreme Healer (Bhaisajya-samudgata) (說觀藥王藥上二菩薩經 Foshuo Guan Yaowang Yaoshang Er Pusa Jing) (Taisho Tripitaka T20 No. 1161).

Eighty Eight Buddhas
The aforementioned group of fifty-three buddhas, when added to the group of thirty-five buddhas mentioned previously, makes up the group of eighty-eight buddhas that is found in the popular Great Repentance Text of the Eighty-eight Buddhas (八十八佛大懺悔文 Bashiba Fo Da Chanhui Wen) often chanted during the evening service in Chinese Buddhist monasteries.

The 88 Buddhas  made up of the group of 35 Buddhas and the 53 Buddhas
(Image: Source unknown)

The Eighty-eight Buddhas (八十八佛 Bashiba Fo) are listed below according to their names translated from Chinese:

1) Buddha of Universal Radiance (普光佛 Puguang Fo)
2) Buddha of Universal Enlightenment (普明佛 Puming Fo)
3) Buddha of Universal Purity (普淨佛 Puching Fo)
4) Buddha of Cassia Sandalwood Fragrance (多摩羅跋栴檀香佛 Duomo Luoba Zhantanxiang Fo)
5) Buddha of Sandalwood Radiance (栴檀光佛 Zhantan Guang Fo)
6) Buddha of the Jewel Banner (摩尼幢佛 Moni Chuang Fo)
7) Buddha of the Joyful Repository and Precious Collection of Jewels (歡喜藏摩尼寶積佛  Huanxi Zang Moni Baoji Fo)
8) Buddha of Great Supreme Endeavor the Entire World is Joyful to See (一切世間樂見上大精進佛 Yiqie Shijian Lejian Shangda Jingjin Fo)
9) Buddha of Jewel Banner Light and Radiance (摩尼幢燈光佛 Moni Chuang Dengguang Fo)
10) Buddha of Wisdom Torch Illumination (慧炬照佛 Huiju Zhao Fo)
11) Buddha of Radiance of the Ocean of Virtue (海德光明佛 Haide Guangming Fo)
12) Buddha of Adamantine Firm and Powerful Pervasive Radiating Golden Light (金剛牢強普散金光佛 Jingang Laoqiang Pusan Jinguang Fo)
13) Buddha of Great Vigorous Endeavor and Bold Power 大強精進勇猛佛 Daqiang Jingjin Yongmeng Fo)
14) Buddha of Radiance of Great Compassion (大悲光佛 Dabei Guang Fo)
15) Buddha the Monarch of Compassionate Strength (慈力王佛 Cili Wang Fo)
16) Buddha of the Treasury of Compassion (慈藏佛 Cizang Fo)
17) Buddha of the Sandalwood Grotto of Glorious Victory (栴檀窟莊嚴勝佛 Zhantan Ku Zhuangyan Sheng Fo)
18) Buddha the Foremost in Worthiness and Virtue (賢善首佛 Xianshan Shou Fo)
19) Buddha of Virtuous Intent (善意佛 Shanyi Fo)
20) Buddha the Monarch of Broad Adornment (廣莊嚴王佛 Guang Zhuangyan Wang Fo)
21) Buddha of Radiance of the Golden Flower (金華光佛 Jinhua Guang Fo)
22) Buddha the Monarch of the Precious Canopy that Illuminates the Void and Sovereign Power that is Free from Restraint (寶蓋照空自在力王佛 Baogai Zhaokong Zizai Liwang Fo)
23) Buddha of Radiance of Empty Space and the Precious Flower (虛空寶華光佛 Xukong Baohua Guang Fo)
24) Buddha the Monarch of Adornment of Lapis Lazuli (琉璃莊嚴王佛 Liuli Zhuangyan Wang Fo)
25) Buddha of Radiance of Pervasive Physical Manifestation (普現色身光佛 Puxian Seshen Guang Fo)
26) Buddha of Radiance of Immovable Wisdom (不動智光佛 Budong Zhiguang Fo)
27) Buddha the Monarch that Vanquishes the Multitudes of Demons (降伏眾魔王佛 Xiangfu Zhongmo Wang Fo)
28) Buddha of Skillful Ability and Illumination (才光明佛 Cai Guangming Fo)
29) Buddha of Victory of Wisdom and Intelligence (智慧勝佛 Zhihui Sheng Fo)
30) Buddha of Transcendent Radiance of Benevolence (Maitreya) (彌勒仙光佛 Mile Xianguang Fo)
31) Buddha the Monarch of Wonderful and Venerable Wisdom of Virtuous Silence and Lunar Sounds (善寂月音妙尊智王佛 Shanji Yueyin Miaozun Zhiwang Fo)
32) Buddha of Radiance of Worldly Purity (世淨光佛 Shijing Guang Fo)
33) Buddha the Monarch Descended from Dragons and Supremely Honored (龍種上尊王佛 Longzhong Shangzun Wang Fo)
34) Buddha of Solar and Lunar Radiance (日月光佛 Riyue Guang Fo)          
35) Buddha of Radiance of the Solar and Lunar Pearls (日月珠光佛 Riyuezhu Guang Fo)
36) Buddha the Victorious Monarch of the Wisdom Banner (慧幢勝王佛 Huichuang Shengwang Fo)
37) Buddha the Monarch with a Voice like a Lion’s Roar and Sovereign Power that is Free from Restraint (師子吼自在力王佛 Shizi Hou Zizai Liwang Fo)
38) Buddha of Victory of Wonderful Sounds (妙音勝佛 Miaoyin Sheng Fo)
39) Buddha of the Banner of Eternal Radiance (常光幢佛 Changguang Chuang Fo)
40) Buddha the Observer of the Lights of the World (觀世燈佛 Guan Shideng Fo)
41) Buddha the Monarch of the Mighty Lamp of Wisdom (慧威燈王佛 Huiwei Dengwang Fo)
42) Buddha the Monarch of Dharma Victory (法勝王佛 Fasheng Wang Fo)
43) Buddha of Radiance of Mount Sumeru (須彌光佛 Xumi Guang Fo)
44) Buddha of Radiance of the Sumana Flower (須曼那華光佛 Xumanna Hua Guang Fo)
45) Buddha the Monarch that is like the Rare and Extraordinary Udumbara Flower (優曇鉢羅華殊勝王佛 Youtan Boluo Hua Shusheng Wang Fo)
46) Buddha the Monarch of Great Wisdom Strength (大慧力王佛 Dahui Liwang Fo)
47) Buddha the Immovable of Joyful Radiance (Akshobhya) (阿閦毗歡喜光佛 Achupi Huanxi Guang Fo)
48) Buddha the Monarch of Limitless Sounds (無量音聲王佛 Wuliang Yinsheng Wang Fo)
49) Buddha of Radiance of Skillful Ability (才光佛 Caiguang Fo)
50) Buddha of Radiance of the Golden Sea (金海光佛 Jinhai Guang Fo)
51) Buddha the Monarch of Wisdom that is Great as the Mountains and Seas and Sovereign Penetrations that are Free from Restraint (山海慧自在通王佛 Shanhai Hui Zizai Tongwang Fo)
52) Buddha of Radiance of Great Penetrations (大通光佛 Datong Guang Fo)
53) Buddha the Monarch that Always Completes All in the Dharma (一切法常滿王佛 Yiqie Fa Changman Wang Fo)
54) Buddha the Sage of the Shakya Clan (Shakyamuni) (釋迦牟尼佛 Shijia Mouni Fo)
55) Buddha of Adamantine Indestructibility (金剛不壞佛 Jingang Buhuai Fo)
56) Buddha of Precious Radiance (寶光佛 Baoguang Fo)
57) Buddha the Dragon Honored Monarch (龍尊王佛 Longzun Wang Fo)
58) Buddha of Vigorous Endeavor that is like a Marching Army (精進軍佛 Jingjin Jun Fo)
59) Buddha of Vigorous Endeavor and Joy (精進喜佛 Jingjin Xi Fo)
60) Buddha of Precious Fire (寶火佛 Baohuo Fo)
61) Buddha of Radiance of the Precious Moon (寶月光佛 Baoyue Guang Fo)
62) Buddha of Manifestation of Non-Ignorance (現無愚佛 Xian Wuyu Fo)
63) Buddha of the Precious Moon (寶月佛 Baoyue Fo)
64) Buddha that is Without Defilements (無垢佛 Wugou Fo)
65) Buddha that is Parted from Defilements (離垢佛 Ligou Fo)
66) Buddha of Bestowing Courage (勇施佛 Yongshi Fo)
67) Buddha of Purity and Clarity (清淨佛 Qingjing Fo)
68) Buddha of Bestowing Purity and Clarity (清淨施佛 Qingjing Shi Fo)
69) Buddha Suoliuna1 (娑留那佛 Suoliuna Fo)
70) Buddha Varuna2 (水天佛 Shuitian Fo)
71) Buddha of Resolute Virtue (堅德佛 Jiande Fo)
72) Buddha of Sandalwood Merit and Virtue (栴檀功德佛 Zhantan Gongde Fo)
73) Buddha of Radiance of Making Limitless Offerings in One’s Hands (無量掬光佛 Wuliang Juguang Fo)
74) Buddha of Radiance and Virtue (光德佛 Guangde Fo)
75) Buddha of Virtue who is Free from Sorrow (無憂德佛 Wuyou De Fo)
76) Buddha Narayana3 (那羅延佛 Naluoyan Fo)
77) Buddha of the Flower of Merit and Virtue (功德華佛 Gongde Hua Fo)
78) Buddha of Lotus Flower Radiance and Supernatural Powers in Which to Take Delight (蓮華光遊戲神通佛 Lianhua Guang Youxi Shentong Fo)
79) Buddha of Wealth of Merit and Virtue (財功德佛 Cai Gongde Fo)
80) Buddha of Virtue and Remembrance (德念佛 Denian Fo)
81) Buddha of Virtuous Renown and Merit (善名稱功德佛 Shan Mingcheng Gongde Fo)
82) Buddha the Monarch of Red Flames and Imperial Banners (紅燄帝幢王佛 Hongyan Dichuang Wang Fo)
83) Buddha of Virtuous Steps and Merit (善遊步功德佛 Shan Youbu Gongde Fo)
84) Buddha of Victory in Battle (鬪戰勝佛 Douzhan Sheng Fo)
85) Buddha of Virtuous Steps (善遊步佛 Shan Youbu Fo)
86) Buddha Encompassed in Adornment and Merit (周匝莊嚴功德佛 Zhouza Zhuangyan Gongde Fo)
87) Buddha Whose Steps are Supported by Precious Flowers (寶華遊步佛 Baohua Youbu Fo)
88) Buddha the Monarch of Precious Lotus Flowers that Virtuously Dwells Beneath the Sala Trees (寶蓮華善住娑羅樹王佛 Baolianhua Shanzhu Suoluoshu Wang Fo)

1 Unable to find with certainty the meaning or Sanskrit equivalent of Suoliuna from which the Chinese term was derived from. It is possible that it is a transliteration of the Sanskrit term Sharana which means refuge. The name may also be connected to a deity related with water in Indian religion.

2 Varuna is also the name of the Indian deity of the water heaven realm and element.

3 Narayana is also an epithet of the Indian god Vishnu. Another meaning of the name is resting place for all living entities. And yet another meaning is direction and goal of human beings [towards liberation].

[List of 88 Buddhas translated by Harry Leong. All errors are mine.]

One Thousand Buddhas

Thousand Buddhas in Cave 322 at the Dunhuang Grottoes
(Image: Source unknown)

There are also three separate groups of one thousand buddhas listed in the following Mahayana texts categorized by kalpas (aeons, or world cycles):

1) Sutra of the Names of the Thousand Buddhas of the Past Kalpa of Glory (Vyuha Kalpa) (過去莊嚴劫千佛名經 Guoqu Zhuangyan Jie Qianfo Mingjing)
2) Sutra of the Names of the Thousand Buddhas of the Present Kalpa of Virtue (Bhadra Kalpa) (現在賢劫千佛名經 Xianzai Xian Jie Qianfo Mingjing)
3) Sutra of the Names of the Thousand Buddhas of the Future Kalpa of Constellations (Naksatra Kalpa) (未來星宿劫千佛名經 Weilai Xingxiu Jie Qianfo Mingjing).

One Thousand Five Hundred Buddhas
There is a list of one-thousand five-hundred buddhas found in a Mahayana text called the Sutra of the Names of the Thousand Five Hundred Buddhas of the Ten Directions (十方千五百佛名經 Shifang Qianwubai Foming Jing) (Taisho Tripitaka T14, No. 442). Here, the term ten directions refers to the four cardinal directions (north, east, south, west) plus the four intercardinal directions (northeast, southeast, southwest, northwest) and the zenith (above; vertically up) and nadir (below; vertically down). The term actually means pervasive or everywhere.

Three Thousand Buddhas
There is also a Mahayana text consolidating the names of all three-thousand buddhas of the past, present, and future kalpas called the Sutra of the Names of the Three Thousand Buddhas of the Three Kalpas (三劫三千佛名經 Sanjie Sanqian Foming Jing). This text, and the other texts containing the names of the thousand buddhas, serves as the classical reference source for ritual veneration of the multitude of buddhas in Chinese Buddhist ceremonies.

Five Thousand Five Hundred Buddhas
There is even a list of five-thousand five-hundred buddhas found in a Mahayana text called the Sutra of the Names of the Five Thousand Five Hundred Buddhas and Spiritual Mantras for Removing Obstacles and Extinguishing Sins (五千五百佛名神咒除障滅罪經 Wuqian Wubai Foming Shenzhou Chuzhang Miezui Jing) (Taisho Tripitaka T14, No. 443).

Infinite Buddhas
All these different lists and groups of buddhas are not mutually exclusive, and of course, they are not meant to be an exhaustive list of all the buddhas that exist. These lists and groups are only different ways of grouping the buddhas based on certain categorizations. In actuality, the multiplicity of buddhas is immeasurable and incalculable. The number of buddhas that exist out there is countless, endless, and infinite.

Homage to All the Buddhas of the Ten Directions of the Three Periods of Time!

Text © 2011 Harry Leong