According to this page from BuddhaNet, it is mentioned that there are three things Buddha cannot do. They are not mentioned in there and I don't know how reliable the source is.

  1. The Buddha is omniscient but he is not omnipotent. He is capable of innumerable feats but there are three things he cannot do. Also, a Buddha does not claim to be a creator of lives or the Universe.

I just found this question discussed on Dhamma Wheel. However, most of the replies are opinion-based.

2 Answers 2


The three things a buddha can't do (如來 三不能 Buddha's three incapacities)

1.不能免 定業衆生 He cannot destroy bad karma for anyone.

2.不能度 無緣衆生 He cannot save the people unrelated to him.

3.不能盡 衆生界 He cannot save the whole world of all living things

  • 3
    Thank you and welcome to the site (and thank you for the English translation too).
    – ChrisW
    Jul 20, 2019 at 23:14
  • "He cannot save the people unrelated to him.", whats the context of this, householder (?), how should it be understood? And maybe a source of that sayings could be added as well.
    – user11235
    Jul 20, 2019 at 23:38
  • Can he save people related to him? What does "save" here mean?
    – ruben2020
    Jul 21, 2019 at 3:09
  • Help, householder @ruben2020 One who has/is not in relation can not be helped. Something worthy to think much about. A "creator" issue.
    – user11235
    Jul 21, 2019 at 3:23
  • The translation is not perfect. To "save" here means to redeem, like, to help all beings to be free from their karmas. Oct 24, 2020 at 20:33

The closest I can find so far, from DN 29, are 9 things that enlightened persons (arahants) cannot do, which apply to the Buddha too:

A mendicant who is perfected—with defilements ended, who has completed the spiritual journey, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, achieved their own goal, utterly ended the fetters of rebirth, and is rightly freed through enlightenment—can’t transgress in nine respects. A mendicant with defilements ended can’t deliberately take the life of a living creature, take something with the intention to steal, have sex, tell a deliberate lie, or store up goods for their own enjoyment like they did as a lay person. And they can’t make decisions prejudiced by favoritism, hostility, stupidity, or cowardice. A mendicant who is perfected can’t transgress in these nine respects.’

The above is the Sujato translation. You can find the Thanissaro translation here.

  • This talks about what they are not supposed to do. Are there any mentions about what Buddha was not capable of doing relates to being omniscient or omnipotent? May 19, 2018 at 16:31
  • 2
    No,they can't do these things even if they want to.
    – user13064
    May 19, 2018 at 19:43
  • 2
    @SawThinkarNayHtoo Inverting the logic, an individual who can transgress in any one of these nine ways is, by definition, not perfected.
    – Cort Ammon
    May 19, 2018 at 22:28

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