Why does the Buddha ask the same question twice, and why does Subhuti answer it two different ways? In Diamond Sutra Chapter 13

“Subhuti, what do you think? Can the Buddha be perceived by means of his thirty-two physical characteristics?”

“No, Most Honored One. The Buddha cannot be perceived by his thirty-two physical characteristics. Why? Because the Buddha teaches that they are not real but are merely called the thirty-two physical characteristics.”

but in Diamond Sutra Chapter 26

“What do you think Subhuti? Is it possible to recognize the Buddha by the 32 physical marks?”

Subhuti replied, “Yes, Most Honored One, the Buddha may thus be recognized.”

Is there a difference between the 32 physical characteristics and the the 32 physical marks?

  • I think @Caoimhghin answered the question already, but for the sake of clarity, in the next two paragraphs of chapter 26 Subuthi realises his error and says: “Most Honored One, now I realize that the Buddha cannot be recognized merely by his 32 physical marks of excellence.”
    – Andrea
    Jan 2 at 13:48
  • Then why does Subhuti answer correctly the 1st time and incorrectly the 2nd? Or should this be a separate question?
    – jacknad
    Jan 4 at 18:21
  • So I think the reason for the inconsistency is that there is an error in the AJ translation. In the FPMT translation the answer by Subhuti is consistent.
    – jacknad
    Jan 22 at 1:54

4 Answers 4


They are two different translations of the same words.

From Chapter 13, your first quote:

「須菩提!於意云何?可以三十二相見如來不?」 “Subhuti, what do you think? Can the Buddha be perceived by means of his thirty-two physical characteristics?”

"32 physical characteristics" is "三十二相" in the Chinese above the English.

From Chapter 15:

「須菩提!於意云何?可以三十二相觀如來不?」“What do you think Subhuti? Is it possible to recognize the Buddha by the 32 physical marks?”

"32 physical marks" is "三十二相" again.

They are two different ways to translate the same term. The translator likely either didn't notice they were rendering it in two ways, or they wanted variety to help with readability.

The two segments of Chinese text are from T235.750a20 & T235.752a11 respectively in the Taishō Tripiṭaka.


May be Hon. Subhuti was in some way pedantic about the use of word 'recognised' and 'perceived'.

So you can't perceive a Buddha through 32 characteristic...as in may be all of them cant be preceived by everyone of us straight away.

And if perceived then you can recognize a Buddha.

But this looks like a reasoning based on semantics and not on wisdom.


Wesak:~ The death of the self (God/Bodisatva), of Siddhartha and the birth of the selfless, Gauthama (Lord Buddha). If you understand that Wesak, is not the birth of the prince Siddhartha.from mother's womb, Lord Buddha is neither physical entity nor idol.


is there any difference between 32 phy.characteristics and 32 physical marks. there are many hindrance to be encountered ,out of which one is doubt .a slightest of it can ruin our walking on the path. a little effort to clear the same is as follows----the answer has arisen after giving a slight thought upon and is not backed by any reference pl. The physical characteristics when asked upon by subhuti, buddha replies that they are impermanent and cannot be treated as lighthouse to know buddha. here he may mean about the nature ,traits,habits of person . in the other instance when subhuti asks about physical marks buddha says yes. here may mean that a person who is going to become a enlightened buddha has some physical marks on the body sya a lotus mark on toes, high forehead,hands reaching below the knees etc.i don't know them exactly how many and what they are really. but a slight surfing will fetch inf of the same. the point to be searched as physical marks on a reincarnated soul(avatar), enlightened yogi "s physical body.answer may put forth a slight light to clear your doubt.

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