Questioning buddhas past lives EBT

As I understand it, the bodhisatta-path is a later addition to the canon and the buddha didn’t teach it.

But I have the question, why did the buddha become the buddha? Where does his superhuman potential come from?And why did nobody ask him this?

My explanation is that the buddhas specialness is a bit exaggerated. Maybe the difference between the buddha and his foremost disciples was not as big as is commonly believed, they almost had the same abilities as the buddha. And also there are paccekabuddhas who find the way to nibbana by themselves and don’t have the ability to teach so finding the way is not extremely unique. That would mean the buddha was just an exceptionally gifted genius in a human way.


My understanding comes from this passage in The Paccekabuddha: A Buddhist Ascetic by Ria Kloppenberg. Here is how they rank the abilities of those on the path, and those that realized the path.

The Commentary on the Khuddakapāṭha gives an exposition of the classes of living beings and classifies them from the lower to the higher stages of existence. Human beings are divided into women and men. The men those who have left their houses, the anagārika. The anāgārika are divided into ordinary people (puthujjana) and noble ones (ariya). The ariya are again classified into those who need further instruction (sekha) and those who do not need further instruction (asekha, i.e., the arahats). These are divided into those who, in their prior practise went the way of pure insight (sukkhavipassaka) and those who had started with the practise of quietude (samathayānika). The samathayānika are divided into those who have not attained the perfections of a disciple (sāvaka) and those who have.
Then follow the Paccekabuddhas, who are called higher than the disciples because of the greatness of their virtue. “Even several hundreds of disciples who are like Sāriputta
and Moggallāna do not attain a hundredth part of the virtues, of one Paccekabuddha.” Higher than the Paccekabuddhas are the Sammāsambuddhas because of the greatness of their virtue:
“For even (a group of) Paccekabuddhas seated on the whole
of the (continent of) Jambudīpa so close together that sitting
cross-legged (their knees) would touch each other, do not
attain a portion, or a sixteenth part or a small fraction (of
that) of the virtues of one perfectly enlightened one” (I 177–
(Kloppenberg,1982: pg 22-23)

My understanding from further reading about Paccekabuddhas is that the differences in enlightenment has to do with the effort, power/breadth of supernormal abilities, virtue, and teaching abilities. The virtue and teaching abilities seem to take center stage in declaring the differences between the levels. So being a Sammasambuddha would make you exceptionally gifted since you can not only realize Nibbana via your own effort, but have the abilities to teach it coherently. I’m not going to speculate on orders of magnitude though.

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Something to think about it is the Buddhist need to explain why things happen. Dependent origination is the Buddhist way of asserting that everything happens for a reason, and the people are the way they are because of past lives. Thus, for the same reason Ambattha’s arrogance is explained as his having a lowly slave ancestry in DN 3, the Buddha’s uniqueness as a spiritual savant is explained with the Jataka stories. These things ultimately are seen with equanimity. It’s just the way things are: Things come from other things. The Mahavastu is an ode to the principle of dependent origination, in my opinion.

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Yes, I think the same thing too. In SN 22.58 the Buddha explained the difference of a Sammasambuddha and his disciples is simply like this:

“The Tathagata, bhikkhus, the Arahant, the Perfectly Enlightened One, is the originator of the path unarisen before, the producer of the path unproduced before, the declarer of the path undeclared before. He is the knower of the path, the discoverer of the path, the one skilled in the path. And his disciples now dwell following that path and become possessed of it afterwards.

I think Pacceka Buddhas are ancient ascetics from pre-Buddhist tradition which is acknowledged by early Buddhists have attained the same enlightenment as the Buddha itself. Early Buddhist texts do not specify the difference of Sammasambuddha and Pacceka Buddha. In the Puggalapannati of Abhidhamma the difference is just on their omniscience and power (not the way they attain enlightenment), but the difference is much specified in later commentarial texts (like Khuddhapatha commentary quoted above).

But, there is a referenc to Pacceka Buddha teaching other to attain the same enlightenment in commentary: