By Ven. Narada
After a stupendous struggle of six strenuous years, in his 35th year the Ascetic Gotama, unaided and unguided by any supernatural agency, and solely relying on his own efforts and wisdom, eradicated all defilements, ended the process of grasping, and, realizing things as they truly are by his own intuitive knowledge, became a Buddha—an enlightened or awakened one. Thereafter he was known as Buddha Gotama, 32 one of a long series of Buddhas that appeared in the past and will appear in the future. He was not born a Buddha, but became a Buddha by his own efforts.
Characteristics of the Buddha
The Pali term Buddha is derived from “budh,” to understand, or to be awakened. As he fully comprehended the four noble truths and as he arose from the slumbers of ignorance he is called a Buddha. Since he not only comprehends but also expounds the doctrine and enlightens others, he is called a Sammá Sambuddha—a fully enlightened One—to distinguish him from paccekabuddhas 33 who only comprehend the doctrine but are incapable of enlightening others. Before his enlightenment he was called bodhisatta 34 which means one who is aspiring to attain buddhahood.Every aspirant to Buddhahood passes through the bodhisatta period—a period of intensive exercise and development of the qualities of generosity, discipline, renunciation, wisdom, energy, endurance, truthfulness, determination, benevolence and perfect equanimity. In a particular era there arises only one Sammá Sambuddha. Just ascertain plants and trees can bear only one flower even so one world-system(lokadhátu) can bear only one Sammá Sambuddha. The Buddha was a unique being. Such a being arises but rarely in this world, and is born out of compassion for the world, for the good, benefit, and happiness of gods and men.
The Buddha is called “Acchariya manussa” as he was a wonderful man. He is called amatassa dátá as he is the giver of deathlessness. He is called varado as he is the giver of the purest love, the profoundest wisdom, and the highest truth. He is also called dhammassámi as he is the Lord of the Dhamma (doctrine).
As the Buddha himself says, “he is the accomplished one (tathágata), the worthy one (arahaí), the fully enlightened one (sammá sambuddha), the creator of the un-arisen way, the producer of the un-produced way, the proclaimer of the un-proclaimed way, the knower of the way, the beholder of the way, the cogniser of the way.” 35
The Buddha had no teacher for his enlightenment. “Na me ácariyoatthi” 36 —A teacher have I not—are his own words. He did receive his mundane knowledge from his lay teachers,37 but teachers he had none for his supramundane knowledge which he himself realized by his own intuitive wisdom.
If he had received his knowledge from another teacher or from another religious system such as Hinduism in which he was nurtured, he could not have said of himself as being the incomparable teacher (ahaí satthá anuttaro).38 In his first discourse he declared that light arose in things not heard before. During the early period of his renunciation he sought the advice of the distinguished religious teachers of the day, but he could not find what he sought in their teachings. Circumstances compelled him to think for himself and seek the truth. He sought the truth within himself.
He plunged into the deepest profundities of thought, and he realised the ultimate truth which he had not heard or known before. Illumination came from within and shed light on things which he had never seen before.
As he knew everything that ought to be known and as he obtained the key to all knowledge, he is called sabbaññú (omniscient one). This supernormal knowledge he acquired by his own efforts continued through a countless series of births.