The Buddhas found in Buddhist religious texts fall into three categories:
- 1. Pacceka Buddha or Protteka Buddha
- 2. Savaka Buddha or Sravaka Buddha
- 3. Samma Sambuddha or Sammaka Sambuddha
As mentioned in the book ‘Buddhavamsa’, there are 28 Buddhas in total who have already appeared on this earth, including Gautama Buddha. It describes Gautama Buddha as the last Sammaka Sambuddha.
He was born a prince, but he gave all of his riches up to find the truth of the world. The followers of Buddhism have been practicing the religion preached by him for more than 2500 years now.
Buddha is the Lord of the Dhamma. Dhamma is the way people should live.
In the Pāli Canon, Gautama Buddha is known as being a “teacher of the gods and humans”, superior to both the gods and humans in the sense of having nirvana or the greatest bliss, whereas the devas, or gods, are still subject to anger, fear and sorrow.
It was foretold that another Sammaka Buddha would emerge as Arya Mitra. The total number of Buddhas then
increases to 29 after adding Maitreya Buddha/Arya Mitra. There’s an indefinite gap between the dates of Buddha’s appearances.
In this article, we’ll learn about the three types of Buddhas.
01. Pacceka Buddha
In general, Pacceka Buddhas (pratyekabuddha or paccekabuddha) are those who follow Sammaka Sambuddha. There have been many Pacceka Buddhas as such who have gained Arhataphala (fruits of Arahantship) and have been on their way to Nibbana and will continue to be in the future.
Because of this reason, the Buddhists consider the world to not be Arhataless or Buddhaless.
Just like the Sammak Buddhas, the Pacceka Buddhas do not speak publicly. They meditate in silence and solitude like the Sammak Buddhas. Their enlightenment is attained with much patience and perseverance.
Following the methods set forth by Sammaka Sambuddha, the Pacceka Buddhas attain fulfillment in self liberation.
They help people to break free of all types of desires. In this way they become Buddha achieving Arahataphala through self-efforts.
A Pacceka Buddha attains Nibbana after death by eliminating the need for rebirth.
The wisdom of Pacceka Buddha, acquired through meditation, is limited to the Buddha himself. The Buddha does not reveal the way to emancipation to the others.
02. Savaka Buddha
Throughout the history of Buddhism, the Savaka Buddhas (Sāvakabuddha) stood in the highest position in the practice of religion and philosophy. There are Savaka Buddhas in the followers of each Sammaka Sambuddha.
Many of the disciples of Gautama Buddha were Savaka Buddhas. These include Aggasavaka Sariputta and Moggallana, Mahakassapa, Vinayadhara Upali, Dhamma Bhadarika Ananda, Labhisetthi Sivali and many others.
It is also important to mention that many people during the time of Buddha were Savakas. They participated in the welfare of all beings of the world and helped others to attain Nibbana.
A Savaka Buddha is generally a virtuous man with the greatest proficiency in following the Sammaka Sambuddha. Many disciples follow a Sammaka Sambuddha.
There’s also a growing group of disciples that originates from each of these disciples.
There are many disciples and subdisciples who remain absorbed in meditation for emancipation, following the path of Sammaka Sambuddha.
Many of them attain Arhataphala. They cease to take birth once Nibbana is achieved. This kind of a Buddha is referred to as the Savaka Buddha.
03. Sammaka Sambuddha
When compared to other Buddhas, Sammaka Sambuddha is the most divine. Sammaka Sambuddha is the person who attains Buddhahood not by the help of any master but through continual efforts and his own ideals and activities.
He is endowed with the best knowledge. He fulfills the ten paramis by practicing several births.
In his last birth, the Sammaka Sambuddha takes birth in an appropriate family of human beings.
He becomes the Buddha in this birth through the influence of good deeds in past life and achieves omniscience attaining the Arahataphala.
According to The Buddha, the arrival of Sammaka Sambuddhas is very rare in this world. There are never two Sammaka Sambuddhas that appear at the same time in this world.
Thousands of years after the Parinibbana of a Sammaka Sambuddha, another Sammaka Sambuddha appears. There are in total twenty-eight Buddhas to date.
Sammaka Sambuddha Buddhas don’t become the Buddha just for their sake. They choose to become the Buddha with the aim of opening the door of emancipation to all beings of the world.
Therefore, they serve as a means of spreading the message of Nibbana among all creatures.
In Tantric Buddhism, practitioners will find many of the Buddhas that are well-known in Mahayana traditions.
There are five Buddhas who hold a more prominent position: Vairocana, Aksobhya, Ratnasambhava, Amitābha and Amoghasiddhi.
As well as various other female Buddhas such as Tara who is an extremely powerful female Buddha in Tibetan Buddhism.
In Buddhism, Buddha is someone who has become awake and has become a fully realized person. This means that they have found the truth of the world and they know what to do to be happy.
A Buddha has become a Buddha through their own efforts and insights. A Buddha has become a Buddha because they have achieved a very high spiritual state. This is called Buddhahood.
The Buddha is someone who has escaped from the suffering of life and knows how to help others escape too.
The Buddha is someone who is ‘perfect’ in knowledge and behavior. The Buddha is someone who knows the truth about life.
Buddhists do not think that Gautama Buddha was the only Buddha. The Pāli Canon refers to many other Buddhas that came before. There are many Buddhas in the Mahayana tradition as well.