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Before Siddhartha Gautama attained Enlightenment, did he have a normal human body with normal human attributes? Or was his body anatomically different or superior to yours and mine in its physical attributes? If different, in what ways was it different?

Before Enlightenment, did Siddhartha Gautama have a mind (or mental/spiritual capabilities) that was different from a normal human mind? If his mind differed from yours and mine, in what ways did it differ?

What do scriptural writings and recent gurus say about this? What are your own thoughts about this?

  • You should separate your question into 4 separate questions Krishnaraj. – Ahmed Sep 13 '15 at 0:28
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    This question doesn't need to be separated, IMO. The 2nd and 3rd para are really just clarifying what type of details might be sought in an answer. – Anthony Sep 13 '15 at 2:07
  • Buddha only realised the truth, therefore nothing changed. Therefore whether it is realised or not we are all already Buddhas, just that we have not yet realised it. By that logic the Buddha neither had a human body nor did not and was not better than human nor not better. – Sam Reeve Sep 19 '15 at 19:38
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The 32 attributes are a very curious feature of early Buddhist texts. I have tried, unsuccessfully, to trace them to any other system of thought. They are sometimes hinted to have come from Brahmins, but do not occur in any of the Vedas or Upaniṣads. The characteristics could not be seen by most people anyway, so to argue that they were "physical characteristics" is inaccurate. Only people with psychic powers were able to discern the marks, and some of them could not see all of the marks.

In all other respects the Buddha as portrayed in the early Buddhist texts had an ordinary human body. He had to sleep, eat and defecate; he felt pain; he grew old; and he died.

Later Buddhists however began to make the Buddha more and more super-human. Some Mahāyāna texts argue that his human body was simply a manifestation of a higher order existence. By the mature Mahāyāna the Buddha is fully superhuman and somehow still not a god, like Jehovah. He did not create the world and karma is still largely responsible for morality, though the Buddha has a godlike perspective on the workings of karma right from the beginning.

A similar story seems to play out with the Buddha's mind. Through his practices he gains knowledge (ñāna) that sets him free, but that knowledge includes all kinds of supernatural powers, ESP and so on. He becomes omniscient and omnipresent, but not omnipotent.

It's very important to emphasise that Buddhists do not believe in ātman. Indeed we would argue that we know that there is no ātman. Thus nothing could be said about the Buddha's ātman, since he does not have one.

  • I understand and accept what you are saying. However, for the sake of absolute clarity, I ask again: May I infer that your own position in this matter is stated in this line i.e. "Buddha as portrayed in the early Buddhist texts had an ordinary human body. He had to sleep, eat and defecate; he felt pain; he grew old; and he died."? – Krishnaraj Rao Sep 13 '15 at 10:12
  • I request you to clarify your position by answering my earlier question. – Krishnaraj Rao Sep 14 '15 at 15:23
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Yes, Gautama Buddha had 32 major qualities, as do all Buddhas a.k.a. one who has attained the dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, as well as the nirmanakaya--the latter two of which correspond to the physical attainments.

These physical attainments progress according to the Taoist timeline of physical transformation of jing, chi, shen transformation but in Buddhism, which focuses on Wisdom, it is not necessary to focus on the physical aspect because this occurs automatically when one's mind is in the right place (Four Noble Truths, Right Samadhi, 8 + 2 Eightfold Path).

His mind is a mind free from the skandhas.

As for atman... He experientially discovered that there is no atman, that it is a causation illusion via the aggregates/skandhas, that we are the an ocean of interdependence... of Self and thus paradoxically, he attained the true Atman, the dharmakaya, becoming free from birth-and-death and forever serving ourself as a Buddha because such a perfectly compassionate immortal has nothing better to do with their time... this didn't happen at once and occured in a step-wise progression through the Four Noble Truths (which includes letting go of the things that bind one to Atman).

The above idea would be a Mahayana and Tibetan idea... less a Theravadin idea which insists on "annihilation" of self... (which in a sense is the same meaning because one annihilates oneself into the Buddhahood of serving others manifesting limitless skillful means and having uprooted one's poisons and afflictions already...)

  • The fourth part of my question is: "Kindly also say clearly whether or not you completely believe or partially accept what the scriptures say. If you have any thought-processes regarding accepting certain beliefs, clearly state what those thought processes are." And accordingly, I am asking you specifically, are you ok with this: "A Buddha’s tongue is extremely long and can reach the top of his head, his ears, and his chest. This comes from his having always spoken kindly to others with words of encouragement and having treated them as gently as an animal licking its young." – Krishnaraj Rao Sep 13 '15 at 5:29
  • Yes, this is a real super power but is more of a side effect. This is in no way the aim of Buddhism. Also, this is one of the many things that need not be believed in order to become a Buddha (the work of many lifetimes) or a bodhisattva or at least a very powerful yogi. – Ahmed Sep 13 '15 at 5:32
  • Thank you for taking a clear position on this. You have given three disclaimers after one positive answer ("Yes, this is a real super power), but... (1) side effect (2) not the aim of Buddhism (3) Need not be believed in order to become a Buddha, bodhisattva or powerful yogi.") – Krishnaraj Rao Sep 13 '15 at 5:39
  • Right. Thanks for noticing. :) Buddhism is about Wisdom and absolution from dukkha (which concomittantly includes rebirth and the skandhas) not about being about having a long tongue, or shooting rays from ones head or many, many other things that occur when one's chi mai open up due to one's prajna and samadhi power. Buddha understood many other religions and cultures do get caught up in some of the other things and so he chose not to emphasize them. – Ahmed Sep 13 '15 at 7:05
  • "... or many, many other things that occur when one's chi mai open up due to one's prajna and samadhi power." Ok, so you believe that all these things actually occur. You didn't say, "supposed to occur as per the texts". Would I be right to infer that you are saying that, unless one exhibits these superpowers (turns ten feet long, develops turtleshell-smooth soles of feet, really long webbed fingers, baby-smooth flawless skin etc.), one cannot claim to have attained buddhahood? – Krishnaraj Rao Sep 13 '15 at 9:46
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Adding to Ahmed's answer.

The Buddha had the 32 physical characteristics. They are too detailed to be listed here. Please see the link.

As for mind, heart and character, he had all the Paramis. The Theravada paramis are listed here:

  1. Dāna pāramī : generosity, giving of oneself
  2. Sīla pāramī : virtue, morality, proper conduct
  3. Nekkhamma pāramī : renunciation
  4. Paññā pāramī : transcendental wisdom, insight
  5. Viriya pāramī : energy, diligence, vigour, effort
  6. Khanti pāramī : patience, tolerance, forbearance, acceptance, endurance
  7. Sacca pāramī : truthfulness, honesty
  8. Adhiṭṭhāna pāramī : determination, resolution
  9. Mettā pāramī : loving-kindness
  10. Upekkhā pāramī : equanimity, serenity

And as for Atman, he had just the same as everybody else, which is no Atman i.e. no permanent absolute soul or self. You can read on anatta, which is from the Third Mark of Existence. It is said that anatta was uniquely discovered and taught by the Buddha and is not part of Hinduism and Jainism. The other two marks of existence may overlap with Hindu and Jain teachings. This article may also be useful.

As for your question on whether I believe in these or not, well, to be honest, I'm a little skeptical that any human had 40 teeth.

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    Um, ok, but you are perfectly fine with a 10-foot tall Buddha with webbed fingers, tortoise-bone-ish soles of feet, baby-soft skin. and various body parts that has been shaped by specific acts of compassion? – Krishnaraj Rao Sep 13 '15 at 5:07
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    And you are ok with this? " A Buddha’s tongue is extremely long and can reach the top of his head, his ears, and his chest. This comes from his having always spoken kindly to others with words of encouragement and having treated them as gently as an animal licking its young." – Krishnaraj Rao Sep 13 '15 at 5:11
  • The length of the tongue may be an exaggeration, but if you look at Khechari Mudra of Hindu Yoga, it is apparently possible to have such a long tongue in order to bend it to touch the roof of the mouth and then go backward and enter the nasal cavity. – ruben2020 Sep 13 '15 at 10:02
  • How about 10 feet tall, webbed extra-long fingers, upward-growing hair and all the rest of it? Would you say that these also may be an exaggeration? – Krishnaraj Rao Sep 13 '15 at 10:15
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    But, yes, I do agree that the physical attributes may be exaggerations. – ruben2020 Sep 13 '15 at 12:51

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