I quote from the “King of Samādhi” Sutra. First Buddha says “What is the samādhi called the revealed equality of the nature of all phenomena?” Then a bit further down the text he says “It is knowledge of the past. It is knowledge of the future. It is knowledge of the present.”

Is every Buddha omniscient according to this sutra?

  • This is not an answer to the question about omniscience, but I would just add that many sentient beings and lowly beings also have knowledge of the past, present, and future. In fact, I dare say everyone on this forum who is reading this has such knowledge. – Yeshe Tenley Jan 29 '20 at 19:05

Questions about omniscience often arise, but the answers point us to a different knowledge:

MN90:17.4: “Sir, I asked you about omniscience, and you answered.

The Buddha taught us to not get trapped in the net of views worrying about omniscience. The Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths, which apply to the past, present and future for all sentient beings.

DN1:3.72.3: In the same way, all of these ascetics and brahmins who theorize about the past or the future are trapped in the net of these sixty-two grounds, so that wherever they emerge they are caught and trapped in this very net. The Realized One’s body remains, but his attachment to rebirth has been cut off. As long as his body remains he will be seen by gods and humans. But when his body breaks up, after life has ended, gods and humans will see him no more.

The Buddha taught us how to escape that net to end suffering. And when pressed on particular points of omniscience, he would teach about the path:

MN90:10.1: “Sir, I am not asking you about the present life, but about the life to come.”

MN90:10.6: “Great king, there are these five factors that support meditation.

And in that teaching, the teaching of the universal knowledge of the Four Noble Truths, the teaching of the knowledge of the Noble Eightfold Path that leads to the end of suffering, we have:

DN28:19.16: “The perfected ones, fully awakened Buddhas of the past and the future are equal to myself when it comes to awakening.”


They're all omniscient. However, there's a "scope" to their omniscience, which was discussed in MN 71. And Ven. Bodhi's note citing the Commentary's explanation:

MA explains that part of the statement is valid is the assertion that the Buddha is omniscient and all-seeing; the part that is excessive is the assertion that knowledge and vision are continuously present to Him. According to Theravada exegetical tradition, the Buddha is omniscient in the sense that all knowable things are potentially accessible to him. He cannot, however, know evertyhing simultaneously and must advert to whatever he wishes to know. At MN 90.8 the Buddha says that it is possible to know and see all, though not simultaneously, and at AN 4:24/ii.24 He claims to know all that can be seen, heard, sensed, and cognized. This is understood by the Theravada commentators as an assertion of omniscience in the qualified sense. Also see Milindapanha/Miln 102-7.

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