Born Siddhartha Gautama was known as ‘Shakyamuni’ (i.e. ‘Sage of the Shakya Clan’) to his followers. ‘Buddha’ was the title conferred on him when he had attained enlightenment.
Literal meaning of the word “Buddha” is “One who is awakened to the truth”. This can be better understood from the following definition by H.P.Blavatsky:
Buddha (Sk.) Lit., “The Enlightened”. The highest degree of knowledge. To become a Buddha one has to break through the bondage of sense and personality; to acquire a complete perception of the REAL SELF and learn not to separate it from all other selves; to learn by experience the utter unreality of all phenomena of the visible Kosmos foremost of all; to reach a complete detachment from all that is evanescent and finite, and live while yet on Earth in the immortal and the everlasting alone, in the supreme state of holiness.
Shakyamuni was not the only buddha in this world. There were many buddhas before him and also some after him. As he himself declares:
“I am not the first Buddha who came upon the earth nor shall I be the last.”
(The Gospel of Buddha by Paul Carus, p. 217)
Now, what were the exact roles of these Buddhas?
Shakyamuni himself answers this question while addressing his disciples thus:
“You yourself must make an effort, the Tathagatas (Buddhas) are only preachers. The thoughtful who enter the way are freed from the bondage of Mara (Satan).”
(Dhammapada, Sacred Books of the East, Vol.X, p. 67)
Therefore, a Buddha is one who invites and teaches people the way to salvation. Now, anyone having knowledge of Abrahamic religion will clearly understand that these buddhas were none other than the holy prophets sent by Almighty God for the welfare of the people. But the question arises whether Shakyamuni Buddha really talked about God, Heaven, Hell, etc. just like other prophets did.
There is a famous saying of Shakyamuni:
“There is, O Bhikkhus, an unborn, unoriginated, uncreated, unformed. Were there not, O Bhikkhus, this unborn, unoriginated, uncreated, unformed, there would be no escape from the world of the born, originated, created, formed.
Since, O Bhikkhus, there is an unborn, unoriginated, uncreated, unformed, therefore is there an escape from the born, originated, created, formed.”
(The Udana, translated from the Pali by D.M.Strong, p.112)
Now, anyone with a sound mind will at once declare that only and only God is unborn, unoriginated, uncreated, unformed while the rest are His Creations. Thus the above saying of the Buddha can be summed up as:
“If you came to know God, you have found deliverance.”
In the ‘Tevijja Sutta’, Shakyamuni has claimed to know ‘Brahma’ (God) and the way that leads to union with Him and which can be attained by following the noble eight-fold path. Since the Godhead is greater than man the highest bliss will forever remain a union with the Almighty. To glorify Him, God is also referred to as ‘Maha Brahma’ (i.e. ‘Great God’). Shakyamuni has also called God as ‘Amitayus’ and ‘Amitabha’ (i.e. ‘One with eternal life and immeasurable radiance’) Who is in possession of ‘Sukhavati’ (Paradise), the land of ultimate bliss.
According to Shakyamuni, if a person has faith in Amitabha and regularly chants His Name and does righteous deeds and at the time of death doesn’t reverses in faith then such a person would go to Sukhavati in the Hereafter.
And the evil-doers would go to ‘Naraka’ (Hell) in the Hereafter.
As for those who are interested in the concept of rebirth, they would be surprised to know that neither the term “rebirth” nor “reincarnation” has a Sanskrit or Pali equivalent. In order to propagate the theory of rebirth, the Sanskrit term borrowed was “punarbhava” which is “punabbhava” in Pali language. The word “punar” means “next time” or “again” and “bhava” means “becoming”. Therefore, “punarbhava” means “next becoming” or “becoming again” (i.e. “rebecoming”).
Thus we can clearly see that the term “punarbhava” strongly indicates the concept of “resurrection”.
Just before enlightenment, ‘Mara’ came with his followers to distract Siddhartha but failed and had to flee. There are also some other encounters with ‘Mara’ the Evil One. This ‘Mara’ is none other than ‘Satan’ the Devil (‘Shaytan’ or ‘Iblees’ in Islamic theology) whose main aim is to lead people astray from the true path and he does it by means of greed, hatred, delusion, etc.
In traditional Buddhism, four senses of the word “Mara” are given. Firstly, there is ‘klesa-mara’, or Mara as the embodiment of all unskillful emotions. Secondly, ‘mrtyu-mara’, or Mara as death, in the sense of causing death to the spiritual life. Thirdly, ‘skandha-mara’, or Mara as metaphor for the entirety of conditional existence. Lastly, ‘devaputra-mara’, or Mara as the son of Jinni, that is, Mara as an objectively existent being rather than as a metaphor.
The last connotation of Mara is strikingly similar to the Islamic concept of Shaytan the Devil.
There is some misrepresentation when Mara is mentioned at the time of physical death of a human. At the time of death it is actually ‘Yama’ or ‘Yamdoot’ (‘Azrail’ in Islamic theology), the Angel of Death who captures the soul when one’s lifespan comes to an end.
When one talks about soul one gets the conception that Gautama Buddha has denied the existence of soul. But it is not so. Actually, his teachings are presented in such a complicated manner that it is hard to get to the depths. However, the fact is that Gautama Buddha never denied the existence of soul but only preached about the annihilation of the ego-centric self, i.e., “I am”, in order to attain salvation.
On attaining ‘Buddhahood’ (Prophethood) when Siddhartha Gautama was in doubt whether to preach or not to preach, he was visited by ‘Brahma-Sahampati’ who encouraged him to preach so that at least some people would be able to comprehend the truth. This ‘Brahma-Sahampati’ is none other than ‘Archangel Gabriel’ (‘Jibrail’ in Islamic theology) who has visited all the prophets to convey the message of God.
Also some angels visited Gautama Buddha at the Jetavana Monastery to make him aware of the emancipated condition of his half-brother named Nanda. These angels are described as certain celestial beings of dazzling beauty, illuminating the whole of Jetavana with their radiance though it was late night.
Besides creating angels, human beings, animals, etc. the Almighty God has also created a species called ‘Genii’ or ‘Jinn’. The jinn have physical forms but are generally invisible to humans. And though they are known to inhabit the subterranean planes but can also be found in the remote and desolate places of earth. They occupy a parallel world to that of mankind and have powers to influence humans and can appear in various forms including the form of humans and animals. Silas (fairies), ifrits, marids and ghouls are different classes of jinn.
In Buddhist texts, the term ‘devas’ are used for different types of non-human beings who are more powerful and longer lived than humans. The devas are generally invisible to the human eye but their presence can be detected by the ‘buddhas’ (prophets) and ‘arahants’ (saints) who have developed such spiritual powers by which one can see and hear beings from other planes. Most devas are capable of constructing illusory forms by which they can manifest themselves into human beings or animals. Devas are also capable of moving great distances speedily and flying through the air.
Devas can be broadly classified into two main groups: the ‘higher devas’ who reside in the heavens and the ‘lower devas’ who reside on Mount Sumeru as well as on earth. As devas are invisible to the human eye so is their main dwelling place, ‘Mount Sumeru’ (‘Mount Qaf’ in Islamic theology).
The higher devas, also called devatas, have physical forms but are sexless and passionless. They don’t require any food or drink but shine with their own intrinsic luminosity. Thus it will be correct to call these higher devas as angels.
The lower devas have physical forms similar to, but larger than, those of humans. They eat, drink and lead the same sort of lives that humans do, though they are longer lived. The lower devas can also cause disturbance and physical harm to humans and thus it will be correct to call them as jinn.
The lower devas or jinn are of various types: ‘gandharvas’ who are fairies; ‘nagas’ who can take the form of snakes; ‘kumbhandas’ who are portly, stout and dwarf-like; ‘yakshas’ who are ifrits; ‘asuras’ who are marids; and ‘rakshasas’ who devour humans and can be called demons, ghouls or ogres.
Just as human beings need a king or ruler to manage the law and order system, so do the jinn. The king of the jinn is known as ‘Sakra’. His full title is ‘Sakrodevanam indrah’, i.e., ‘Sakra, Lord of the Jinn’. When one Sakra dies his place is taken by another jinni who becomes the new Sakra. The palace of Sakra is on the top of Mount Sumeru. There exists a constant state of war among the different classes of jinn which Sakra manages to resolve with minimal violence.
In Buddhist texts, Sakra is depicted as a follower of the Buddha-Dharma and is often shown consulting Shakyamuni on questions of morality.
Although the jinn are superior in power to humans but the prophets and saints can easily tame them with the help of their spiritual powers. There are many instances of Shakyamuni’s encounters with the jinn and many of them did accept his ‘Dharma’ (religion). Thus the Pali phrase ‘sattha deva-manusanam’ ascribed to Gautama Buddha can be correctly interpreted as ‘Teacher of jinn and humans’.
Certainly, Mara (Satan) and his followers are of the jinn but can be distinguished from the rest as their main objective is to lead people astray from the true path. Mara is also known as ‘devaputra-mara’, i.e., ‘Mara, son of Jinni’.
Just like other prophets, Siddhartha Gautama has also predicted the end of the world in his ‘Sermon of Seven Suns’.
And it is a well-known fact that the holy prophets were given miracles to prove their genuineness to the laity. Every prophet had at least one unique miracle to his name. And the unique miracle of Gautama Buddha was the “twin miracle” of levitating into the air and shooting forth jets of fire and water from his body. And he performed this twice, once in Kapilavastu and then in Sravasti, just to prove his genuineness to the laity.
Thus we can clearly see that in the life and sayings of Gautama Buddha there was the concept of Uncreated God, Archangel Gabriel and other angels, Satan and other jinn, Doomsday, Life Hereafter, Heaven and Hell. Now, after examining all these facts, it can be safely concluded that Gautama Buddha was indeed a holy prophet sent by Almighty God for the welfare of humans and jinn.
(excerpt from ‘Buddha As Prophet: A True Biography’)
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