2,048,109 Buddhas, not 28?

In Sambuddhe pāḷi chant and in this paper (The Analysis of the Way to be the Buddha(s) in Theravāda Buddhism) it is mentioned that there are 2,048,109 (former) Buddhas and not 28? Where did the massive figure come from?

Much Metta!

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Since Time has no discernable beginning, space having no end, and varieties of world systems having no limit, the amount of World-Honored Ones would also have no limit, even in the present moment, let alone the beginningless past and the infinite variations that Transcend time and linear time.

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There’s no first Buddha, no beginning to saṁsāra, thus infinite past Buddhas. No first Buddha is not found in the suttas, but it’s just a logical deduction. From classical theravada point of view, each Bodhisatta needs to be predicted by a previous Buddha to become a Buddha. Thus given one Buddha, there’s infinite past Buddhas.

From just sutta point of view, since dhamma is eternal, and Buddhas are just people who rediscovered the dhamma and teach it to others, there’s no apriori reason for why there must be a first Buddha, as going back to infinity, there can always be such conditions for people to rediscover the dhamma and teach it.

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That is so profound, yet liberating :meditation:

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Thank you, Venerable, for the enlightening response :pray: :smile:.

Now I’m curious as to where did such a specific figure originate from and couldn’t find it in the Pāḷi Canon. Is it mentioned in the commentaries? Or is it from a different school?

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Peter Skilling wrote an article on this, called The Sambuddhe Verses and Later Theravadin Buddhology (1996). It was initially published in a journal, and later collected in Buddhism and Buddhist Literature in South-East Asia (2009). Essentially, some of the details are as follows…

The Burmese chronicle Jinakalamali (16th c.) gives 512,028 buddhas, which it calculates from smaller numbers across several chapters (1+125,000+387,000+27). An earlier source from northern India (Dasabalasrimitra, ca. 12th c.) corroborates that the Theravadins had a theory about past buddhas based on these numbers. Also in the late period, there was a theory in Theravada Buddhism that there were three types of bodhisattvas with different levels of ability. One of the ideas that Skilling has in his paper is that these late numbers of buddhas we see sometimes in Theravada may correspond to the number of buddhas that the bodhisattvas (of these three capabilities) were considered to have had to pay homage to. Hence the numbers of buddhas that may appear in late Theravada Buddhism: 512,028, or 1,024,055, or 2,048,109. These are based on multiples of 512,027, plus 1 (Gautama Buddha).

Other Buddhist texts, whether Mahayana or not, also gave large numbers of buddhas of the past, ranging from thousands, to hundreds of millions. As for why there were these ideas, one of the major developments in Buddhism after the early period was the development of myths and lore of buddhas and bodhisattvas, and quite a lot of literature was developed based on interest in those topics. Late Theravada Buddhism had accumulated quite a lot of this, including at least some aspirations to be a bodhisattva, ideas about a bodhisattva path, etc.

The early Buddhist sutras only have a list of six buddhas of the past, which become seven when including Gautama Buddha himself. These were accepted in all traditional forms of Buddhism, along with the belief that Maitreya will be the next buddha to appear in this world.

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This is just what I need. Thank you for the the detailed respponse, @llt :smile: :+1:

Wishing you well & much Metta

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