Seeking the virtues of 1 Buddha is the same as seeking the virtues of all Buddhas, since all the Buddhas have a single and common Dharmic Nature.
Buddhas in the Theravada
There are three variations of Awakened Beings (Buddhas) according to the Theravada Buddhism:
- Samyaksambuddha (Samasambuddha). This is the one who wakes up by himself and teaches the entire humanity to attain the Awakening.
- Pratyekabuddha (Paccekabuddha). This is the one who wakes up by himself but he does not have the oath to teach to everyone.
- This is the apprentice who wakes up after the contact with an Awakened Being. Bodhisattvas can be found in this category.
Buddhism has lost this categorization, since it usually recognizes only to Siddhartha Gautama as a Buddha (Awakened Being), a Samyaksambuddha (Self-enlightened one) thus forgetting that there have been many others who have achieved by themselves this same spiritual level. Therefore, the Theravada recalls that there are three types of Samyaksambuddhas: with a greater wisdom (prajñādhika), with a greater effort (vīryādhika) and with a greater faith (śraddhādhika). Gautama was a Prajñādhika Buddha (through greater wisdom).
The Sammasambuddha is also called Sabbanu Buddha (Omniscient Buddha), having the mission of Saving the Spiritual Truth for the Cure (Nirvana) and the Awakening (Bodhi) of all beings. By such reason, a Self-enlightened is a Medic (bhisakko) and Master (Sattharo), although his function of spiritual leadership grants him the title of Lord (Bhagava) and even of Universal Monarch (Raja Chakkavatti) or Descendent from the Sun (Adiccha-Bandhu’).
In order to purge the Buddhist Spirituality from every possible religious nuance, the Maitriyana claims that in the verses of the Jataka stories, the tenth book of the Khuddaka-Nikaya (Sutta Pitaka), it is described that Siddharta Gautama himself is only one appearance within a long chain of Samyaksambuddhas. In fact, in the Jataka Atthakatha and the Lalitavistara, a list of more than two dozen of Samyaksambuddhas is submitted, while the Mahavastu has a list of about a hundred Samyaksambuddhas. Now, regarding the Buddhavamsa text which is part of the Khuddaka Nikaya (Sutta Pitaka of the Pali Canon), it provides a particular description of the sermons and auras of these twenty eight Samyaksambuddhas (Samasambuddhas), who taught Spirituality to people. The last one of this list was Siddhartha Gautama, however he obviously was not the first Buddha nor the latest. In countries -such as Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Burma and Thailand, where Theravada Buddhism predominates, it is effectively a custom to celebrate festivals in order to pay tribute to the twenty eight Samyaksambuddhas. In Theravada Buddhism, the first Samasambuddhas are considered as primordial, especially the first three (Taṇhaṅkara, Medhaṅkara, y Saraṇaṅkara) because they lived before the fourth Samasambuddha called Dipankara, who is very important in both the Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. But obviously the twenty eight Samyaksambuddhas are not the only ones who have existed, since Siddharta Gautama himself taught that have appeared countless amount of Samyaksambuddhas or Sabbanubuddhas in the past. In the current era, called Bhadrakalpa (Bhaddakappa), it is expected that 1000 Samyaksambuddhas appear, although a single Samyaksambuddha usually appears one at a time.
Below, the list in Pali and Sanskrit of the twenty eight Samyaksambuddhas is presented according to Theravada, at the same time future Samyaksambuddhas who are expected to come after Siddharta Gautama Buddha are listed.
Buddhas from other ages
- Buddha Taṇhaṃkara (p)
- Buddha Medhaṃkara (p)
- Buddha Saraṇaṃkara (p)
- Buddha Dīpankara (p) Buddha Dīpankara (s)
5. Buddha Koṇdañña (p) Buddha Kauṇḍiya (s)
6. Buddha Mangala (p) Buddha Mangala (s)
7. Buddha Sumana (p) Buddha Sumana (s)
8. Buddha Revata (p) Buddha Raivata (s)
9. Buddha Sobhita (p) Buddha Śobhita (s)
10. Buddha Anomadassa (p) Buddha Anavamadarśin (s)
11. Buddha Paduma (p) Buddha Padma (s)
12. Buddha Nārada (p) Buddha Nārada (s)
13. Buddha Padumuttara (p) Buddha Padumottara (s)
14. Buddha Sumedha (p) Buddha Sumedha (s)
15. Buddha Sujāta (p) Buddha Sujāta (s)
16. Buddha Piyadassi (p) Buddha Priyadarśin (s)
17. Buddha Aţţhadassi (p) Buddha Arthadaśin (s)
18. Buddha Dhammadassi (p) Buddha Dharmadarśin (s)
19. Buddha Siddhattha (p) Buddha Siddhārtha (s)
20. Buddha Tissa (p) Buddha Tiṣya (s)
21. Buddha Phussa (p) Buddha Puṣya (s)
- Buddha Vipassi (p) Buddha Vipaśyin (s)
- Buddha Sikhī (p) Buddha Śikhin (s)
24. Buddha Vessabhu (p) Buddha Viśvabhuj (s)
Buddhas from the current Bhadrakalpa era:
25. Buddha Kakusandha (p) Buddha Krakucchanda (s)
26. Buddha Koṇāgamana (p) Buddha Kanakamuni (s)
27. Buddha Kassapa (p) Buddha Kāśyapa (s)
28. Buddha Siddhattha Gotama (Sakiyamuni) (p) Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama
Future Buddhas from the Bhadrakalpa era according to some Sinhalese sources
- Buddha Dhammaraja (king Pasenadi of Kosala)
- Buddha Dhammassami (Abhibhu king of devas)
- Buddha Narada (Dighasona)
- Buddha Ramsimuni (Canki)
- Buddha Devadeva (Subha)
- Buddha Narasiha (Todeyya)
- Buddha Tissa (elephant Dhanapala)
- Buddha Sumangala (elephant Parileyya)
Many Buddhists pay homage to the Samasambuddha 29, Metteyya, as the spiritual successor of Siddhartha Gautama, appearing on the Earth to teach pure Spirituality. The prophecy of this event is found in the canonical literature of both the Theravada and the Mahayana, considering that this would happen before the eventual loss of the True Buddhism. The Chakkavatti Sihanada and the Anagatavamsa Sutra describe the features of this advent. However, Dasabodhisattuppattikatha (The Birth Stories of the Ten Bodhisattas) may describe even the next nine successors of Metteyya. This clearly demonstrates the spirit of Maitriyana in its attempt to recognise the different Samasambuddhas who have appeared after Siddhartha Gautama.
Buddhas in Mahayana
However, this tradition of the 28 Samasambuddhas has lost itself within Mahayana Buddhism, remaining symbolically preserved in Chan with the 28 indian patriarchs.
Concordantly, with regard to Mahayana Buddhism, it is theoretically considered that the quantity is enormous, so it is affirmed that there are a Thousand Buddhas. Some of them are Vessabhū Buddha, Kakusandha (Krakucchanda) Buddha, Konagamana (Kanakamuni) Buddha and Kassapa (Kashyapa) Buddha. This implies that there has been a timeless succession of numerous Samasambuddhas who appeared in the past and they will also appear in the future. Nevertheless, traditionally it is spoken of a holy trinity composed of Dipankara, Gautama and Metteyya, who are considered as the Buddhas of the Three Times: from past, present and future. Popularly, Budai (Hotei) has been recognised as the incarnation of Metteyya, while some Buddhist groups consider that Nichiren was.
As regards the Vajrayana, it is considered that there are five heavenly figures called Dhyani Buddhas.
At the same time, these five figures correspond respectively to the five human Buddhas: Krakuchandra, Kanakamuni, Kashyapa, Gautama and Maitreya.
Furthermore, there is a veneration to a list of 18 Arhats (Lohans) within the Chinese Buddhism, a group that supposedly has the Purpose (Dharma) of caring the Buddhist Spirituality and wait for the advent of Metteyya.
- Pindola Bharadvaja
- Kanaka Vatsa
- Karaka Bharadvaja
- Maha Panthaka
Buddhas in Maitriyana
Throughout the history of humanity there have been both Buddhists and non-Buddhists who have achieved a kind of similar Enlightment and Liberation to that of Siddhartha Gautama’s, thus developing the unique qualifications to convert someone into an Awakened Being (Buddhakarakadhamma). In this way any human being can become an Awakened Being (Buddha) as long as he follows the Path of generosity (dana), ethics (sila), detachment (nekkhama), wisdom (panna), tenacity (viriya), patience (khanti), truthfulness (Saccha), engagement (adhitthana), spiritual love (metta), and equanimity (upekkha). In this way there are 18 unique qualities which characterise the Awakened Beings (Buddhas): rectitude in action, discourse and mind; non-dualistic thinking; concentration and discernment without fail; will and unlimited vigor; mindfulness, wisdom and infinite liberation; free vision and knowledge; appropriate speaking; balanced thoughts; clear insight about the past, present and future.
Just as the 28 Buddhas of Theravada and the 28 Indian Patriarchs of Zen, the Maitriyana makes a list recognising 28 Samyaksambuddhas that have appeared throughout the entire history. Many of them are Buddhists, while others are not. While the vast majority of them attained Awakening (Bodhi) for their own spiritual merit, others were able to go beyond the conventional system of lineages and they developed a Reconciliatory Spirituality. The Maitriyana pays tribute to these supreme human beings.
- Siddharta Gautama
- Jesus of Nazareth
- Garab Dorje
- Hui Neng
- Guifeng Zongmi
- Francis of Asisi
- Meister Eckart
- Hakuin Ekaku
By considering these 28 Samyaksambuddhas as Precursors of Maitriyana, it is clear that this movement has the Supreme Purpose (Dharma) to lead humanity toward a global spiritual evolution, allowing many more Buddhas to emerge in the future.
On the other hand, while the Theravada proposes the existence of three different types of Samyaksambuddhas, such as a Prajñādhika Buddha (with greater wisdom), a vīryādhika Buddha (with greater effort) and a śraddhādhika Buddha (with greater faith), instead, the Maitriyana raises the existence of six different types of Samyaksambuddhas: 1) Analytical Buddha, 2) Existential Buddha, 3) Libertarian Buddha, 4) Mystical Buddha, 5) Integral Buddha (Purna) or Avatar of Synthesis, and 6) Super-Integral Buddha (Maha-Purna). These archetypes were fully expressed in Gautama (Analytical Buddha who teaches the Cure of the mind), Laozi (Existential Buddha who teaches the Awakening of reality), Confucius (Libertarian Buddha who taught the Harmony of society), Jesus (Mystical Buddha who taught Liberation from the divine), and Maitreya (Integral Buddha who teaches the Unity of compassionate knowledge of all Buddhas, and also Super-Integral Buddha who teaches Reconciliation and the peak knowledge of all spiritual traditions and civilizations).
Now, although any ignorant might consider this model of the Maitriyana as a new age syncretism, nevertheless, it is confirmed that this type of spiritual synthesis with lineages of prophets or universal mediators has not been the exception but has been the norm throughout the entire history of Spirituality. Indeed, almost all spiritual traditions have a prophetic lineage or chain of progressive revelation of the divine composed of mediators, prophets, messengers, avatars or holy manifestations. Certainly, there are integral prophetic lineages composed of mediators belonging to the same tradition, such as Zoroastrianism that has a list of 4 mediators or divine incarnations, Jainism that has a list of 24 prophets that have occurred periodically in history, and Judaism that theorizes about the existence of a chain of divine messengers composed of 55 prophets (major or minor). But there are also integral prophetic lineages composed of mediators from different traditions, such as in the case of Ebionites and pseudo-Clementines who recognize a list of 8 incarnations of the true prophet in which Jesus is the final messenger; the case of Islam and Shaykhism that recognize Jewish and Christian prophets simultaneously affirming Muhammad as the final messenger.
Accordingly, there are super-integral prophetic lineages that just like the Maitriyana also include Siddhartha Gautama along with prophets from other spiritual traditions. The first example is Hinduism has a chain of 10 avatars or manifestations (pradurbhava):
- Siddhartha Gautama
The second example is the case of Manichaeism, which was a new integral world religion with respect to the previous ones. Its founder, Mani, recognized the existence of a super-integral prophetic lineage composed of 4 prophets or revelators: Gautama, Zarathustra, Jesus and Mani. At the same time, Al-Shahrastani considers that in Manichaeism there are 8 prophets:
- Siddhartha Gautama
Finally, Bahaism distinguishes the existence of two types of prophets: the dependent and the independent. In the case of dependent prophets, they are those who were followers, promoters, and transmitters of the Law, while the case of independent or universal prophets are those religious founders who have revealed the Law. Thus, Baha’ism teaches a super-integral prophetic lineage composed of the following mediators:
- Siddhartha Gautama
In this way, just like the Maitriyana, the Bahaism of Abdul Baha and Bahaullah not only affirms that the complete list of these divine manifestations is unknown, with envoys in each era and in each nation since immemorial time, but also affirms that this prophetic chain of divine manifestations will continue in the future forever, since Bahaullah considered himself as the most recent manifestation but not the last or final one, since the number is undefined.