Awakening, Buddhism, Concepts, Zen Buddhism

What is a Buddha?

Central to Buddhism is the concept of Buddha, a term often used to refer to the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. 

While the historical Buddha is an important figure in the Buddhist tradition, there have been and continue to be other Buddhas. According to Buddhist belief, anyone can achieve enlightenment and become a Buddha through their efforts and practice. 

In this article, we will explore the meaning and definition of a Buddha, the qualities that define them, their role in society, and how different Buddhist traditions view this concept.

Definition and Meaning of Buddha

To gain a deeper understanding of the concept of Buddha, it is essential to explore its meaning and definition.

  • What is a Buddha? A Buddha is a Sanskrit term used in Buddhism to refer to an enlightened being who has realized the nature of reality and attained freedom from suffering. A Buddha has overcome all the defilements and ignorance that keep ordinary beings trapped in the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Contrary to Arhats, which have not yet attained the highest level of enlightenment, Buddhas are considered fully awakened and have achieved complete and perfect enlightenment, understanding the nature of reality and embodying compassion and wisdom without any limitations.
  • What Does the Term “Buddha” Mean? The term “Buddha comes from the Sanskrit word “Buddh,” which means “awakened” or “enlightened.” It refers to someone who has attained enlightenment and has awakened from the sleep of ignorance. A Buddha is considered an ideal teacher who has reached the ultimate spiritual goal and can guide others to achieve the same.
  • So, the Historical Buddha is Not the Only Buddha? That’s right. According to Buddhism, there have been many Buddhas throughout history, and there will be many more in the future. The historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, is just one of them. Buddhists believe that anyone can become a Buddha if they follow the path of the Buddha and practice diligently to overcome their ignorance and defilements. Each Buddha is unique and has their own specific teachings.
  • Who was the Historical Buddha? The historical Buddha was Siddhartha Gautama, who lived in ancient India around 2500 years ago. He is revered as the founder of Buddhism and a source of inspiration and guidance for Buddhists worldwide. He is known for his teachings on the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, and the concept of impermanence.

Characteristics and Qualities of a Buddha

Understanding a Buddha’s unique traits and essential qualities is crucial in comprehending what a Buddha truly is.

  • Is a Buddha a God? No, a Buddha is not a God. While some may worship or revere Buddhas, they are not divine beings. Instead, a Buddha is an awakened human being who has attained a deep understanding of the nature of reality and has freed themselves from suffering. A Buddha is seen as a guide and teacher rather than an object of worship or devotion.
  • What are the Characteristics and Qualities of a Buddha? The term Buddha refers to an enlightened being who has attained perfect wisdom and compassion through practicing the Buddhist path. The characteristics of a Buddha are as follows:
    • Perfect Wisdom: A Buddha has a profound understanding of the nature of reality, free from all delusions and misconceptions.
    • Compassion: A Buddha has boundless compassion for all beings, wishing to relieve them from suffering and guide them to enlightenment.
    • Perfect Wisdom: A Buddha has a profound understanding of the nature of reality, free from all delusions and misconceptions.
    • Compassion: A Buddha has boundless compassion for all beings, wishing to relieve them from suffering and guide them to enlightenment.
    • Morality: A Buddha embodies perfect morality, following a path of complete purity and virtue in all actions, speech, and thoughts.
    • Fearlessness: A Buddha is fearless and free from all fears, doubts, and insecurities.
    • Selflessness: A Buddha has no sense of self, ego, or identity and is completely liberated from all attachments and desires.
    • Peaceful and serene: A Buddha has a peaceful and calm nature, free from all disturbances and distractions.
    • Exemplary conduct: A Buddha leads by example, embodying the highest ideals of wisdom and compassion and inspiring others to follow the same path.

  • How Is a Buddha Different from a Regular Person? A Buddha has completely eradicated all the defilements and negative tendencies that keep ordinary people trapped in the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. They have achieved a complete awakening and realized the ultimate truth of existence. In contrast, regular people are still subject to the ups and downs of karmic existence. They are influenced by ignorance, attachment, and aversion.
  • What is the Significance of a Buddha’s Enlightenment? A Buddha’s enlightenment is significant because it represents the ultimate goal of Buddhist practice. It is the state of complete liberation from the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth and the attainment of ultimate peace and happiness. A Buddha’s enlightenment also serves as an inspiration and guide for others on the path toward liberation.
  • How Does a Buddha’s Enlightenment Manifest? A Buddha’s enlightenment manifests in many ways, such as perceiving the true nature of all phenomena and guiding others toward liberation. A Buddha’s enlightenment also brings about a profound transformation in their character, as they become completely free from all negative emotions and afflictions. Their actions, speech, and thoughts are reflected in this transformation, guided by wisdom and compassion.
  • What is the Relationship Between a Buddha and the Universe? A Buddha is seen as intimately connected to the universe, as they deeply understand the interdependent nature of all phenomena. They can perceive the fundamental nature of reality and see all things as interconnected and interdependent. 

Enlightenment and Becoming a Buddha

Enlightenment is what makes a Buddha who they are. Let’s explore the journey toward enlightenment and the qualities required to achieve it.

  • How Does a Buddha Achieve Enlightenment? A Buddha achieves enlightenment through their own efforts and spiritual practice. They develop wisdom and compassion through meditation and cultivating positive qualities such as kindness, generosity, and ethical conduct. They also engage in insight meditation, which involves investigating the nature of reality and gaining a deep understanding of the true nature of all phenomena.
  • Can Anyone Become a Buddha? In Buddhist philosophy, anyone can become a Buddha. However, it requires much effort and dedication to spiritual practice. One must cultivate positive qualities, purify negative tendencies, and develop wisdom and compassion to attain enlightenment.
  • Can a Woman Become a Buddha? Of course, the path to enlightenment is available to all, regardless of gender or other personal characteristics. Therefore, both men and women can become Buddhas in their own right. In fact, many notable female Buddhist figures throughout history have achieved enlightenment. They are recognized as Buddhas or highly realized beings.
  • How Does One Become a Buddha? To become a Buddha, one must be fully awakened and follow the Buddhist path, which involves practicing meditation, cultivating positive qualities, and developing wisdom and compassion. This consists in following the Eightfold path, which includes practices such as ethical conduct, mindfulness, and concentration. One must also develop the six perfections of generosity, ethics, patience, joyful effort, concentration, and wisdom.
  • What Does It Mean to Become a Buddha in Buddhist Philosophy? In Buddhist philosophy, becoming a Buddha means being fully awakened, achieving complete liberation from the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, and attaining ultimate peace and happiness. It involves developing perfect wisdom and compassion, overcoming all negative tendencies, and embodying the highest qualities of a spiritual being. Becoming a Buddha also means guiding others on the path toward enlightenment and helping them overcome suffering.

Buddhas in the World

Let’s learn about the role of a Buddha in society and their impact, and how they benefit other beings.

  • How Does a Buddha Benefit Others? A Buddha benefits others by sharing their wisdom and compassion and guiding them towards liberation from suffering. They provide teachings, examples, and methods for others to follow, enabling them to cultivate positive qualities and overcome negative tendencies. They also offer help, inspiration, and guidance to those seeking spiritual progress.
  • What Is the Role of a Buddha in the World? The role of a Buddha is to help others achieve liberation from suffering and attain ultimate peace and happiness. They do this by sharing their wisdom and compassion and providing guidance, teachings, and methods for spiritual development. 
  • How Does a Buddha Impact Society? A Buddha’s impact on society is profound, as they offer teachings and methods for people to cultivate positive qualities, overcome negative tendencies, and achieve ultimate liberation from suffering. They inspire individuals and communities to work towards compassion, harmony, and wisdom, leading to a more peaceful and enlightened society.
  • Are There Many Buddhas? Buddhist believe that anyone who achieves enlightenment can become a Buddha and guide others toward liberation from suffering. Therefore, it is accepted that there have been thousands of Buddhas throughout history. 
  • Are Any Buddhas Alive Today? Yes, there are undoubtedly a few Buddhas alive today, and there will also likely be some in the future.
  • Are There Other Enlightened Beings? Tathagata, Arhat, and Bodhisattva are other enlightened beings in Buddhist philosophy. 
    • Tathagata (Nyorai in Japanese) is a term used to refer to a Buddha. It is the word Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, used when referring to himself or other Buddhas.
    • Arhat (Arakan in Japanese): An arhat is someone who has achieved enlightenment and has overcome all defilements and afflictions that cause suffering but has not yet attained the highest level of enlightenment. They have achieved liberation from samsara (the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth). However, they may still have some residual ignorance or attachment.
    • Bodhisattva (Bosatsu in Japanese): A Bodhisattva is a being who has committed to attaining enlightenment and helping others achieve liberation from suffering.
  • How Do Different Buddhist Traditions View the Concept of a Buddha? Different Buddhist traditions have different views on the concept of a Buddha. However, they generally believe that a Buddha is an enlightened being who has achieved ultimate liberation from suffering and can help guide others toward the same goal. Different traditions may have different methods and practices for achieving this goal. Still, they share the common goal of attaining liberation from suffering.


As we discussed in this article, a Buddha is an individual who has achieved perfect enlightenment and possesses certain unique qualities. 

Buddhas play an important role in society by inspiring others to follow the path toward enlightenment and helping them achieve inner peace.

The concept of a Buddha is central to Buddhism, and different traditions have various viewpoints. By understanding what a Buddha is and their significance, we can better appreciate the Buddhist religion and its teachings.

So, find a quiet spot, sit down, and start breathing. Who knows, you might be the next Buddha in the making!