Who is the Buddha?
Once a certain brahmin named Dona, noticing the characteristic marks of the footprint of the Buddha, approached Him
and questioned Him.
“Your Reverence will be a Deva?”
“No, indeed, brahmin, a Deva am I not,” replied the Buddha.
“Then Your Reverence will be a Gandhabba?”
“No, indeed, brahmin, a Gandhabba am I not.”
“A Yakkha then?”
“No, indeed, brahmin, not a Yakkha.”
“Then Your Reverence will be a human being?”
“No, indeed, brahmin, a human being am I not.”
“Who, then, pray, will Your Reverence be?” The Buddha replied that He had destroyed Defilements which condition rebirth as a Deva, Gandhabba, Yakkha, or a human being and added:
“As a lotus, fair and lovely,
By the water is not soiled,
By the world am I not soiled;
Therefore, brahmin, am I Buddha.”
The Buddha does not claim to be an incarnation (Avatāra) of Hindu God Vishnu, who, as the Bhagavadgitā charmingly
sings, is born again and again in different periods to protect the righteous, to destroy the wicked, and to establish the Dharma (right).
According to the Buddha countless are the gods (Devas) who are also a class of beings subject to birth and death; but
there is no one Supreme God, who controls the destinies of human beings and who possesses a divine power to appear on earth at different intervals, employing a human form as a vehicle.
Nor does the Buddha call Himself a “Saviour” who freely saves others by his personal salvation. The Buddha exhorts His followers to depend on themselves for their deliverance, since both defilement and purity depend on oneself. One cannot directly purify or defile another. Clarifying His relationship with His followers and emphasizing the importance of self-re-
liance and individual striving, the Buddha plainly states:
“You yourselves should make an exertion. The Tathāgatas are only teachers.”
The Buddha only indicates the path and method whereby He delivered Himself from suffering and death and achieved
His ultimate goal. It is left for His faithful adherents who wish their release from the ills of life to follow the path.
“To depend on others for salvation is negative, but to depend on oneself is positive.” Dependence on others means a
surrender of one’s effort.
“Be ye isles unto yourselves; be ye a refuge unto yourselves; seek no refuge in others.”
These significant words uttered by the Buddha in His last days are very striking and inspiring. They reveal how vital
is self-exertion to accomplish one’s ends, and how superficial and futile it is to seek redemption through benignant saviours,
and crave for illusory happiness in an afterlife through the propitiation of imaginary gods by fruitless prayers and meaningless sacrifices.
The Buddha was a human being. As a man He was born, as a Buddha He lived, and as a Buddha His life came to an end. Though human, He became an extraordinary man owing to His unique characteristics. The Buddha laid stress on this important point, and left no room for any one to fall into the error of thinking that He was an immortal being. It has been said of Him that there was no religious teacher who was “ever so godless as the Buddha, yet none was so god-like.” In His own time the Buddha was no doubt highly venerated by His followers, but He never arrogated to Himself any divinity.