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Is The Buddha an Omniscient?

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#21

My suspicion in the case of the Buddha’s omniscience is that the early canon (Pali and others) contained more than one position. Some suttas seem to be aware of the doctrine and others don’t seem to be, and sometimes the narrative exposes the different assumptions. When we try to force the entire canon to hold the same view, then these either/or debates ensue. The Abhidhamma tradition settled on interpretations to smooth things out. So, we have the Buddhist hybrid omniscience that he was omniscient insofar as he was paying attention.

It was interesting to look up the Chinese parallel to SN 54.9. The story in the Pali account seems toned down quite a bit. In the Samyukta Agama, bhiksus were killing themselves using a variety of means (knives, poison plants, hanging themselves with rope), until there was a “certain Deer Park ascetic” who is convinced by a bhiksu to help him kill himself with a knife. Then Mara tells the ascetic, “Oh, what a good thing you have done, releasing that good sramana to Nirvana!” Then the ascetic is convinced to continue doing this believing they were attaining Nirvana. So, it escalates to mass assisted suicide. He kills more bhiksus who come and present themselves to be released.

But when the Buddha comes out of his seclusion, it’s essentially the same. He asks Ananda why the congregation was smaller, Ananda explains what had been happening, and asks for a teaching. So, the Buddha teaches them about breath meditation.

It’s seems a story about teaching the right practice to treat a person’s particular tendencies.


#22

I see more than just certainity or a probability in the foreseens of pathika sutta.


#23

I just happened to read MN90 yesterday while reading “The King in the Forest” and came across the original statement as quoted-

Then the king said to the Buddha, “I have heard, sir, that the ascetic Gotama says this: ‘There is no ascetic or brahmin who will claim to be all-knowing and all-seeing, to know and see everything without exception: that is not possible.’ Do those who say this repeat what the Buddha has said, and not misrepresent him with an untruth? Is their explanation in line with the teaching? Are there any legitimate grounds for rebuke and criticism?”

“Great king, those who say this do not repeat what I have said. They misrepresent me with what is false and untrue.”

But then later on in the same sutta there is this-

Then the king said to the Buddha, “Sir, might the Buddha have spoken in reference to one thing, but that person believed it was something else? How then do you recall making this statement?”

“Great king, I recall making this statement: ‘There is no ascetic or brahmin who knows all and sees all simultaneously: that is not possible.’”

“What the Buddha says appears reasonable.

So therefore, from the first statement my takeaway is that Yes, there are ascetics and brahmins who will claim to be all knowing and all seeing
And
In the second statement the Buddha has stated categorically that there are no ascetics or brahmins who actually know all and see all simultaneously.

This doesn’t appear to support the Omniscience of any ascetic or brahmin - that set would include the Buddha too wouldn’t it? Am I missing something here?? :thinking:


#24

Thank you so much for pointing this out. Here I am going to take the Pāli part and English translation together to show the difference.

First statement:
“Ye te, mahārāja, evamāhaṃsu: ‘samaṇo gotamo evamāha—natthi so samaṇo vā brāhmaṇo vā yo sabbaññū sabbadassāvī aparisesaṃ ñāṇadassanaṃ paṭijānissati, netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjatī’ti; na me te vuttavādino, abbhācikkhanti ca pana maṃ te asatā abhūtenā”ti.

“Great king, those who say this do not repeat what I have said. They misrepresent me with what is false and untrue.” (summed)

Second statement:
‘natthi so samaṇo vā brāhmaṇo vā yo sakideva sabbaṃ ñassati, sabbaṃ dakkhiti, netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjatī’”ti.

There is no ascetic or brahmin who knows all and sees all simultaneously: that is not possible.

The Buddha makes his statement crystal clear using the word sakideva which means simultaneously.

There is no ascetics and brahmins who knows all and sees all simultaneously, but the buddha is able to see or know when ever he wants using his knowledges (ñanas). The buddha is omniscient, but he does not see everything all the time as explained in theology, but the buddha can see whatever he wants using his knowladge.

There is no controversy here.


#25

Ah, I get it now! Thank you, Bhante!
:pray:


#26

it is.
Also, the Buddha was not a human being, never more:

“Master, are you a deva?”
“No, brahman, I am not a deva.”
“Are you a gandhabba?”
“No…”
“… a yakkha?”
“No…”
“… a human being?”
"No, brahman, I am not a human being."

-AN 4.36


#27

You are missing the point of view that the buddha had in the sutta,

“When asked whether you might be a god, fairy, native spirit, or human, you answer that you will not be any of these. What then might you be?”

“Brahmin, if I had not given up defilements I might have become a god … a fairy … a native spirit … or a human. But I have given up those defilements, cut them off at the root, made them like a palm stump, obliterated them so they are unable to arise in the future.

Suppose there was a blue water lily, or a pink or white lotus. Though it sprouted and grew in the water, it would rise up above the water and stand with no water clinging to it. In the same way, though I was born and grew up in the world, I live having mastered the world, and the world does not cling to me.

Remember me, brahmin, as a Buddha.


#28

sorry venerable, not missed on my side. This is how I understand this:

“Brahmin, if I had not given up defilements I might have become a god … a fairy … a native spirit … or a human. But I have given up those defilements, cut them off at the root, made them like a palm stump, obliterated them so they are unable to arise in the future.

obviously he is not talking here as if he had died and then been reborn like a Buddha. He taught how Reality arise to us moment after moment, and all beings arise and experience their reality according defilements. The reality we experience now is in our present way because defilements. Experience of reality is conditioned by ignorance and defilements, and it include the present perception of body, mind and rest of reality.

Suppose there was a blue water lily, or a pink or white lotus. Though it sprouted and grew in the water, it would rise up above the water and stand with no water clinging to it. In the same way, though I was born and grew up in the world, I live having mastered the world, and the world does not cling to me.

He says he doesn’t belong to the world or to the realm of human beings never more. And finally, the Buddha again says He shouldn’t be identified as a human being. Buddha said he should be identified only as a Buddha.

According texts, the Buddha was free of ignorance and he could know and perceive what we cannot. He could perceive all the beings and worlds. Also, the Buddha was perceived by other beings (gods, devas, humans…) in the way he wished.

Also according texts, we know the human beings perceived a human body when they grasped the Buddha, while some gods perceive Him in invisibility or not. And some devas perceived Him like a being extremely radiant.

Reviewing these facts, obviously we are not talking about a human being. A Buddha is a different thing.

If we accept the experience of Reality (and of ourselves) being conditioned by ignorance and defilements, the “human being” also is an experience conditioned moment after moment. And it seems to me unavoidable to understand that the human being was Siddharta but the Buddha was not a human being never more. This is supported by his own words:

Remember me, brahmin, as a Buddha .

this is how I understand “No, I’m not a human being”.

well, we are many thousands and I suppose every person has his own understanding of what can be a Buddha. It can be a personal issue.
:pray::slightly_smiling_face:


#29

Dear Venerable,
I just thought of asking you this very specific question. When you say that the Buddha is omniscient, in what sense do you mean it. Do you mean it in the sense that the Buddha could have answered correctly a question such as “how many fish are there in the ocean/s?.”

With Metta


#30

Now, I don’t claim to speak for Ven @Amatabhani, but I think that this is an important detail that got lost in the volume of illuminating and interesting conversation, from the OP at the beginning of the thread:

And this also intersects with the post above this one we read presently:

And also this from Ven @Dhammanando

But perhaps I am reading eccentrically. Just an observation.


#31

Never know since, this is not something which helps to achieve Nibbāna (na nibbānāya samvattati). However, since the buddha explained how planets and galaxies are arranged in Cūḷanikā Sutta AN 3.80 this might also be possible if the blessed one wanted to know.


#32

It might be an important distinction in the case of more modest conceptions of sabbaññutā, but in subsequent posts (and particularly the most recent one) it seems that Amatabhani really is committed to Jehovah-like omniscience. His conception of sabbaññutā differs from Jehovah-like omniscience only in one rather trivial aspect: that a Buddha can’t know all things at once. He can, however, know “how many fish are in the ocean”. Presumably he can also know how many hairs are on each of our heads, how many sparrows have fallen from the sky today and how to code in C++ without needing any tutorial.

As for me, I’m sticking with Dharmakīrti on this one.

jñānavān mṛgyate kaścit taduktapratipattaye
ajñopadeśakaraṇe vipralambhanaśaṅkibhiḥ ||

tasmād anuṣṭheyagataṃ jñānam asya vicāryatām
kīṭasaṃkhyāparijñānaṃ tasya naḥ kvopayujyate ||

heyopadeyatattvasya sābhyupāyasya vedakaḥ
yaḥ pramāṇam asāv iṣṭo na tu sarvasya vedakaḥ ||

People fear failure when acting on the advice of someone who does not know; they seek out some knowledgeable person in order to undertake what he says.

Therefore, one should investigate that [knowledgeable person’s] views about what ought to be undertaken. To what use can we put his knowledge about how many maggots there are in the world?

What is desired is an authority who is knowledgeable about what ought to be avoided and what ought to be acquired, not an authority who is knowledgeable about everything.
(Pramāṇavārttika 1:32-4)


#33

Am I!
Hope I have already discussed the evidences and possibilities.
Especially, the difference between omniscience in theology and Buddhism (from kannakatpala sutta).


#34

I think so, but I welcome correction if I’m mistaken.

You have stated that the Buddha’s omniscience differs from that in other religions, but have stipulated only one such difference, namely, whether omniscience is conceived in a presentist fashion or in some other way. Do you think there any others?


#35

I don’t know what are the limitations the blessed one’s omniscience. However, I already shown evidences that it is not only about the present but also about past and the future from EBTs.
Main difference between omniscience in other religions and Buddhism is that it is not always present about everything.
The Buddha can know what ever he wanted to know whenever he want it (patisambhidhamagga).
Since the future is not something exist at the moment and is always changing, the buddha might not be able to foresee everything about the future, but some of those events that are already fixed. Ex: foreseen future buddha (metteyya) and cases in patika sutta.
He might have the ability to recall everything about the past. (With tevijjā he could see his past lives,
As he stated samsara has no beginning (known) other thing for a certain extent.