6

In Chinese and especially Japanese Buddhism, the statement 天上天下唯我独尊 (Japanese tenjou tenge yui ga dokuson; not sure about the Chinese transliteration), which is typically translated as "On heaven and earth, I alone am honored", is considered to be a well-known statement of the Buddha, spoken when the Buddha first emerged from his mother's womb. The quote is sometimes truncated to just the latter half 唯我独尊 "I alone am honored".

I have done a fair bit of searching for a Sanskrit/Prakrit source from which this quote could have been translated into Chinese, but have had no success so far. What text serves as the origin of this quotation? Did it only first appear after the spread of Buddhism into China?

4

The Pali version isn't quite as strong. According to Malalasekera:

Immediately after birth the Bodhisatta stands firmly on his feet, and having taken seven strides to the north, while a white canopy, is held over his head, looks round and utters in fearless voice the lion's roar: "Aggo 'ham asmi lokassa, jettho 'ham asmi lokassa, settho 'ham asmi lokassa, ayam antimā jāti, natthi dāni punabbhavo” (D.ii.15).

http://www.palikanon.com/english/pali_names/b/buddha.htm

The meaning of the phrase is "I am the highest in this world; I am foremost in this world; I am the best in this world; this is the last birth; there is no further becoming here."

Nothing I've found specifying heaven and earth; it also doesn't seem proper for the Bodhisatta to have said "I alone am honoured", since it is patently untrue.

  • 2
    One Japanese source says that according to the Dirgha Agama, the Buddha pointed to the heavens and then to the earth before saying this quote. Perhaps that is the origin of this difference - the Agamas only seem to be preserved in Chinese, so I guess this could be a variation on the story of the Buddha's birth that was not preserved in any of the Pali/Sanskrit texts. – senshin Jun 17 '14 at 22:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.