Wikipedia uses "the Buddha" to refer to the founder while a book uses "Buddha" without the definite article.

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from "Meetings with Remarkable People By Osho"

Is it correct to refer to "Buddha" without "the"? If yes, when should I use which?

4 Answers 4


I think "the" Buddha is more normal and more formal.

Without "the" sounds to me more casual -- or possibly slightly English-as-a-second-language, as several languages don't use articles.

If you think of the word "Buddha" as being a title like "Teacher", well in formal English you'd usually include the article and say something like, "The Teacher said, ...".

It's not incorrect, perhaps a bit familiar, to say something like, "Teacher said, ...".

Also "Buddha" without an article would be right if "Buddha" were a proper noun, i.e. a name -- but I think it's more like a title or a common noun (the specific Buddha who we usually talk about is Gautama Buddha).

  • I think "Teacher said" and "the teacher said" have the same meaning and even degree of formality; the difference between them is in how we get to that meaning. The latter, "the teacher", is a just a common noun "teacher" with "the" to make it refer to a specific one of the class. The former, "Teacher", treats "Teacher" as almost a name. [continued]
    – msh210
    Jun 28, 2020 at 10:31
  • [continued] Analogously, a child may refer to "the mother" in a book he's reading or to "Mother"; they both refer to a specific mother but "Mother" because that's what the child calls her and "the mother" because she's a specific mother in context. I don't know anything about Buddhism so can't relate this thereto. But I'll note that "the Teacher said" (capitalized) or "teacher said" (lowercase without "the") seems wrong to me.
    – msh210
    Jun 28, 2020 at 10:31
  • 1
    If I refer to my mother as "Mother", I think that's "familiar", and so it is IMO not the same degree of formality.
    – ChrisW
    Jun 28, 2020 at 10:39
  • 1
    Also it's conventional in English to capitalise some titles -- perhaps as a mark of respect -- they'd write the Queen for example when using the title as a substitute for a name.
    – ChrisW
    Jun 28, 2020 at 10:42
  • Right, I agree with your last comment, and for all I know maybe the same is true of "the Buddha".
    – msh210
    Jun 28, 2020 at 10:50

This answer is more or less the same as ChrisW's.

The term Buddha means "awakened one" or "enlightened one".

It's a title or description, and not a name, just like King.

So, you would say "the King" or "a King" but not "King". Similarly, we say "the Buddha" to refer to a specific person, or "a Buddha" to refer to any generic person who fits the description.

But if you say "King George" then it becomes a name with a title. Similarly with "Gautama Buddha", "Kassapa Buddha", "Kakusandha Buddha" etc.

This is related to the use of definite articles in the English language. If you consider another language like German, then the definite article becomes more complex with gender, and declension such as nominative, genitive, dative and accusative.

From my understanding, there is no definite article in Pali or Sanskrit. In the Pali suttas, the Buddha is usually referred to, in the third person, as "bhagavā", meaning "blessed one" which is usually rendered in English as "the Blessed One".

For e.g. from SN 44.10:

But when he said this, the Buddha kept silent. (Sujato translation)
When this was said, the Blessed One was silent. (Bodhi translation)
Evaṃ vutte, bhagavā tuṇhī ahosi.

bhagavā = Blessed One, tuṇhī = silent, ahosi = was

There is also no uppercase or lowercase in Pali and Sanskrit.

  • Is it correct that bhagava = Blessed One cause I read that bhagava meaning restrained from all of desire. That's why we called Bhagavan Gautama Budhha.
    – Swapnil
    Jul 1, 2020 at 13:45
  • 1
    @Swapnil See here also here so maybe "Fortunate one". The first glossary says, "the term is derived from the word bhaga (luck, good fortune)", while the PTS dictionary seems to warn that there are "fanciful exegetic explanations of the term" in the Visuddhimagga and elsewhere. In any case it's a word used as some kind of title (a noun, not exactly a proper name): which is conventionally written with an article "the" when it is or isn't translated into English.
    – ChrisW
    Jul 1, 2020 at 14:44
  • @ChrisW Bhaga I know the proper word is bhagya meaning luck but bhagava I read that it means restrained from all the desires. So what is the meaning of Bhagavato? Thank you
    – Swapnil
    Jul 1, 2020 at 14:53
  • 1
    Please also see The proper meaning of Bhagava.
    – ruben2020
    Jul 1, 2020 at 14:54
  • @ruben2020 Yes see Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena answer.
    – Swapnil
    Jul 1, 2020 at 14:55

In the entirety of the Pali Canon, the oldest known collection of the Buddha's teachings, "the Buddha" is used as opposed to "Buddha".

Buddha The name given to one who rediscovers for him/herself the liberating path of Dhamma, after a long period of time of its having been forgotten bu the world.

Buddha (the title) comes from the pali term 'buddha' meaning awake, hence using 'The' is semantically analogous to saying 'The Awakened One'.

  • 2
    Pali language doesn't have any equivalent for the English article "the". "The" is added in English translations to make it English. Jun 29, 2020 at 8:06

Interesting question; in standard English usage, all (three) namings can be seen in reasonable text: rather technically perhaps: when noncapitalized article the, it would be used more in a context re a specific but nonparticularly named Buddha; for the name Buddha without a particle, it could be more of a friendly conversational type name, sort of like Bob or Jim, & perhaps somewhat less formal; with capitalised The, The Buddha would often respectfully refer to (The) Buddha Gautama

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