I read about the 18 characteristics of a Buddha, and the last three say he has knowledge of the past, present and future. Do mahayanists believe this means he has complete knowledge of everything in the past, present and future, or does it rather mean he has some specific knowledge of the past, present and future? As in, he knows some things that happened or that he did yesterday or some time in the past, some things that happen or which he does right now, and some things that will happen in the future.


In Mahayana omniscience refers to prajna-paramita, the perfection of wisdom also known as the knowledge of all modes.

This comes from direct realization of Emptiness, and results in Buddha having no position, not leaning on any dharma or sign. Not assuming anything as the absolute point of reference. (There are many ways to talk about this.)

Having no position, Buddha knows all positions and all modes of cognition. Hence, the knowledge of all modes aka omniscience in short.

  • So he does have full knowledge of past present and future right?
    – Malik A
    Apr 23 '20 at 17:28
  • 1
    @MalikA How can you have past present or future, without an absolute point of reference?
    – user29568
    Apr 23 '20 at 21:31
  • I wonder about this. To me Nagarjuna explains the Buddha's position. It's just that it's so subtle that it can look like the absence of a position. I might ask a question about this. No doubt, as usual, there will two ways of looking at it.
    – user14119
    Apr 24 '20 at 9:21

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