Author Topic: Can Buddhas Reincarnate in Mahayana Buddhism?  (Read 1471 times)

Offline Avrax

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Can Buddhas Reincarnate in Mahayana Buddhism?
« on: February 16, 2020, 04:19:56 pm »
Hi All,

Can Buddhas Reincarnate in Mahayana Buddhism? And if so, can you give me some references?

Here is a quote, which inspired this question:

Jamgon Mipham and Douglas Duckworth state:

"The Lesser Vehicle does not result in the practitioner becoming a complete buddha; rather, the aim is to achieve a personal nirvana that is the total extinction of existence. The Great Vehicle, however, does result in becoming a complete buddha. A buddha remains actively engaged in enlightened activity to liberate beings for as long as samsara remains. Thus, those who accomplish the Great Vehicle do not abide in samsara due to their wisdom that sees its empty, illusory nature. Further, unlike those who attain the nirvana of the Lesser Vehicle to escape samsara, they do not abide in an isolated nirvana due to their compassion. For these reasons, in the Great Vehicle, nirvana is said to be “unlocated” or “nonabiding” (apratiṣṭhita), staying in neither samsara nor nirvana."

This quote by Stephen E. Harris, I am not sure who he is, states:

"The reference to the cultivation of the mind in meditation in the first verse indicates that this is not the self-flagellation of a neophyte, but a virtuoso performance of the highest degree. Not only does the bodhisattva’s descent result in great joy, but it is his fulfillment/completion (paryāptaṁ), his highest state of flourishing. The final line’s reference to ‘insipid liberation’ (mokṣa-arasika) contrasts the bodhisattva’s achievement to the nirvana of early Buddhism in which one simply escapes samsara. In contrast, the culmination of the bodhisattva path is the non-abiding (apratiṣṭhita) nirvana in which one cycles forever through the realms of rebirth for the benefit of all, somehow liberated in the midst of the realm of pain."

I am trying to find out if Buddhas can remain engaged to liberate people as a reincarnated person, or can they only remain engaged to liberate people as a disembodied--deity--being.

I'd appreciate any references to this point you can provide. And yes, I know that in Theravada this is different, so I am asking exclusively according to the Mahayana tradition.

Thanks!
« Last Edit: February 16, 2020, 04:30:40 pm by Avrax »

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Re: Can Buddhas Reincarnate in Mahayana Buddhism?
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2020, 04:32:51 pm »
Hey, Avrax, welcome to FreeSangha!

You pose an interesting question, but it's one that defies an easy, simple answer.

What I was taught is that a Buddha, like Shakyamuni, does not take any future births.  This means that once a Buddha dies, he/she will not take a physical form again.  However this is not the end of it, but it should answer your immediate question.



Hi All,

Can Buddhas Reincarnate in Mahayana Buddhism? And if so, can you give me some references?

Here is a quote, which inspired this question:

Jamgon Mipham and Douglas Duckworth state:

"The Lesser Vehicle does not result in the practitioner becoming a complete buddha; rather, the aim is to achieve a personal nirvana that is the total extinction of existence. The Great Vehicle, however, does result in becoming a complete buddha. A buddha remains actively engaged in enlightened activity to liberate beings for as long as samsara remains. Thus, those who accomplish the Great Vehicle do not abide in samsara due to their wisdom that sees its empty, illusory nature. Further, unlike those who attain the nirvana of the Lesser Vehicle to escape samsara, they do not abide in an isolated nirvana due to their compassion. For these reasons, in the Great Vehicle, nirvana is said to be “unlocated” or “nonabiding” (apratiṣṭhita), staying in neither samsara nor nirvana."

This quote by Stephen E. Harris, I am not sure who he is, states:

"The reference to the cultivation of the mind in meditation in the first verse indicates that this is not the self-flagellation of a neophyte, but a virtuoso performance of the highest degree. Not only does the bodhisattva’s descent result in great joy, but it is his fulfillment/completion (paryāptaṁ), his highest state of flourishing. The final line’s reference to ‘insipid liberation’ (mokṣa-arasika) contrasts the bodhisattva’s achievement to the nirvana of early Buddhism in which one simply escapes samsara. In contrast, the culmination of the bodhisattva path is the non-abiding (apratiṣṭhita) nirvana in which one cycles forever through the realms of rebirth for the benefit of all, somehow liberated in the midst of the realm of pain."

I am trying to find out if Buddhas can remain engaged to liberate people as a reincarnated person, or can they only remain engaged to liberate people as a disembodied--deity--being.

I'd appreciate any references to this point you can provide. And yes, I know that in Theravada this is different, so I am asking exclusively according to the Mahayana tradition.

Thanks!

Offline Avrax

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Re: Can Buddhas Reincarnate in Mahayana Buddhism?
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2020, 11:05:27 am »
Thank you!

So how does a Buddha "remains actively engaged in enlightened activity to liberate beings for as long as samsara remains" as the above quote states?

Igor

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Re: Can Buddhas Reincarnate in Mahayana Buddhism?
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2020, 05:59:06 am »
Thank you!

So how does a Buddha "remains actively engaged in enlightened activity to liberate beings for as long as samsara remains" as the above quote states?

Igor

That I don't know. It's not a question that's ever been important to me.

One thing I do know, a Buddha doesn't have to incranate to remain active.

Offline Gibbon

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Re: Can Buddhas Reincarnate in Mahayana Buddhism?
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2020, 10:16:31 am »
A Buddha is a mind that has achieved perfect realization of emptiness (shunyata) and that is the same is perfect boddhicitta (intention to liberate all sentient beings from suffering).  So once supreme awakening has been realized, there is no other option than to continue benefiting beings in endless, inconceivable ways through countless emanations.   Since perfect awakening has been achieved, there is no limitation to what can be done anymore.

Buddhas emanate as whatever will help beings see their own true nature.  They can manifest as rocks and stones, animals, spirits, and humans of any status whatsoever.  They can even appear as your enemy.  All of this is just endless play of manifestations for the benefit of our minds. 

Buddhas will appear to advanced practitioners in Sambhogakaya (enjoyment body) form.  Je Tsongkhapa, for example, received teachings directly from Manjushri, and there have been many practitioners who received visions of Tara. 

For us who do not have the merit to see Sambhogakaya, a Buddha will appear as emanation body, Nirmanakaya.  These are our teachers walking among us in physical form. 

Offline Avrax

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Re: Can Buddhas Reincarnate in Mahayana Buddhism?
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2020, 10:04:27 am »


Thanks for that answer Gibbon.

You said: "For us who do not have the merit to see Sambhogakaya, a Buddha will appear as emanation body, Nirmanakaya.  These are our teachers walking among us in physical form."

Can you expand on the nirmanakaya? I don't think our teachers who usually do not claim to be buddhas are buddhas. But I think basically what you mean is that a student could see a human being and think s/he is human but in reality is a temporary physical manifestation of a Buddha. Yes?

Nirmanakaya is a temporary physical apparition, yes?

Offline Gibbon

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Re: Can Buddhas Reincarnate in Mahayana Buddhism?
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2020, 10:20:08 am »


Thanks for that answer Gibbon.

You said: "For us who do not have the merit to see Sambhogakaya, a Buddha will appear as emanation body, Nirmanakaya.  These are our teachers walking among us in physical form."

Can you expand on the nirmanakaya? I don't think our teachers who usually do not claim to be buddhas are buddhas. But I think basically what you mean is that a student could see a human being and think s/he is human but in reality is a temporary physical manifestation of a Buddha. Yes?

Nirmanakaya is a temporary physical apparition, yes?

Sorry for the delay in response to your meaningful questions, Avrax.  The emanation body, nirmanakaya (sprul sku in Tibetan, pronounced tulku) is not a temporary apparition (although it probably could be).  There are two types of being: one is regular samsaric beings, like me, who are born depending on the winds of their karma.  The other is an awake mind that has overcome samsara.  While they are not subject to rebirth anymore, such beings choose to come back in order to benefit migrators.  This is what is known as nirmanakaya (tulku).

The teacher himself will not proclaim that he is a Buddha, but it is up to the student to see him as such.  Since, due to our mental obscurations, most of us are unable to see the Buddhas directly, the physical teacher is the only conduit of the Dharma to our minds.  For this reason, he is more precious than a million Buddhas that we cannot see.  Depending on how the student perceives the teacher (how much faith development occurs in the mind), there will be different levels of benefit that the student will receive. 

Here is a helpful teaching from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive on seeing the guru as a buddha:

https://www.lamayeshe.com/article/chapter/seeing-guru-buddha
« Last Edit: February 27, 2020, 12:50:35 pm by Gibbon »

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Re: Can Buddhas Reincarnate in Mahayana Buddhism?
« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2020, 04:00:14 pm »
Thanks, Gibb, that's a great post!

Offline Gibbon

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Re: Can Buddhas Reincarnate in Mahayana Buddhism?
« Reply #8 on: February 29, 2020, 06:32:48 am »
 :anjali: :anjali: :anjali:

Offline Avrax

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Re: Can Buddhas Reincarnate in Mahayana Buddhism?
« Reply #9 on: February 29, 2020, 08:44:04 pm »


Sorry for the delay in response to your meaningful questions, Avrax.  The emanation body, nirmanakaya (sprul sku in Tibetan, pronounced tulku) is not a temporary apparition (although it probably could be).  There are two types of being: one is regular samsaric beings, like me, who are born depending on the winds of their karma.  The other is an awake mind that has overcome samsara.  While they are not subject to rebirth anymore, such beings choose to come back in order to benefit migrators.  This is what is known as nirmanakaya (tulku).

The teacher himself will not proclaim that he is a Buddha, but it is up to the student to see him as such.  Since, due to our mental obscurations, most of us are unable to see the Buddhas directly, the physical teacher is the only conduit of the Dharma to our minds.  For this reason, he is more precious than a million Buddhas that we cannot see.  Depending on how the student perceives the teacher (how much faith development occurs in the mind), there will be different levels of benefit that the student will receive. 

Here is a helpful teaching from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive on seeing the guru as a buddha:

https://www.lamayeshe.com/article/chapter/seeing-guru-buddha

Gibbon, thanks for your answer and for continuing engaging in this discussion because I would really like to find out a clear answer about this subject.

Here is my understanding:

A tulku is not a Buddha, s/he is a person who has realized at least the 1st bhumi: the realization of emptiness of self and of phenomenon while still having various obscurations up to the 10th bhumi. A Buddha is beyond the 10th bhumi. Yes, in rare cases the word tulku is used for the buddha as well, but not usually, and in this context of tulku reincarnating I imagine you agree with me that these teachers are not Buddhas but masters that fall between the 1st and 10th bhumi. And yes, I agree with you, in Vajrayana a tulku is viewed as having the nirmanakaya body.

So my question remains unanswered. If a Buddha cannot reincarnate anymore, how does s/he "remains actively engaged in enlightened activity to liberate beings for as long as samsara remains" as Jamgon Mipham and Douglas Duckworth state in the quote cited in the first post?

Thanks!











« Last Edit: March 01, 2020, 09:58:00 am by Avrax »

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Re: Can Buddhas Reincarnate in Mahayana Buddhism?
« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2020, 08:01:01 am »
Excellent questions/answers.

I suspect that a Buddha need not be incarnate, as in Nirmanakaya, in order to remain active in the benefit of beings.

Offline Avrax

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Re: Can Buddhas Reincarnate in Mahayana Buddhism?
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2020, 10:02:04 am »
Excellent questions/answers.

I suspect that a Buddha need not be incarnate, as in Nirmanakaya, in order to remain active in the benefit of beings.

I suspect that too, however, I can't find much information on that. Moreover, the apparition, or temporary materialization, of Buddhas seems rare but I may be wrong. A possibility is that when Buddhas appear they do not say they are Buddhas, and so we cannot know if they materialize and how often they do. But this is pure speculation. I'd like to see an authority figure discuss this subject.

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: Can Buddhas Reincarnate in Mahayana Buddhism?
« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2020, 08:26:51 am »
When the Buddha in the Lotus Sutra says that he's been born and reborn from the countless ages and will continue to be reborn into the world, I believe this is referring to the Dharmakaya of the Buddha, which has no beginning or end.

Offline Gibbon

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Re: Can Buddhas Reincarnate in Mahayana Buddhism?
« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2020, 01:28:04 pm »
I think that Buddhas operate in this world as emanations.  For example, Je Tsongkhapa was known as an emanation of Manjushri (and also Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani).  Many consider the Dalai Lama to be an emanation of Avalokiteshvara.  The number of emanations would be limitless because a Buddha is not constrained by physical reality. 

As to emanations popping in and out of sight, it would depend on the merits of the person.  A good story to illustrate this is the story of Asanga and Maitreya:

http://aumamen.com/story/maitreya-appears-to-asanga

Buddha Maitreya emanated as a dog and, when Asanga had enough merits, he could see his actual manifestation.  Among the crowd of people watching, only two could see aspects of Maitreya (one could see the dead dog and the other saw Maitreya's feet). 

So if our mind does not have the merit to see the Buddha, we will see nothing.

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: Can Buddhas Reincarnate in Mahayana Buddhism?
« Reply #14 on: March 19, 2020, 01:31:37 pm »
I don't believe that buddhas reincarnate, but I don't believe that buddhas can't reincarnate either. One way or another seems to be metaphysical speculation that the Buddha advised against.

 


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