The Buddha's Prophecy in the Early Suttas?

Hi there, I’m a newbie here, I’m currently studying early Buddhism from early suttas in 4 Nikayas and some Agamas which is availaible in English translation.

There is an article by Bhikkhu Analayo, The Buddha and Omniscience, which concludes that in the early suttas the Buddha was not omniscience, whether continuous or discontinuous omniscience (eg. MN 71), including omniscience about the future events. But we know that in several suttas, the Buddha did show his prophecy about the future, such as:

  1. AN 7.66 Sattasuriya Sutta (Agama parallel: MA 8), in which the Buddha fortold about the future event when there are maximum sevens suns will appear.

  2. DN 26 Cakkavattisihanada Sutta (Agama parallel: MA 70), in which the Buddha predicted the decline and increase of human age according to their morality and the coming of future Buddha Metteya (Agama parallel: MA 66) [but the coming of future Buddha prophecy can be a late addition].

  3. DN 16 Mahaparinibbana Sutta, in which the Buddha predicted the future rise of Pataliputta royal capital (although it’s a late addition of Asoka era).

Maybe it’s only a small number of sutta (and some are suspected as inauthentic), but are this indicates that at some extent the Buddha is indeed omniscience, especially concerning the future events?

Thank you


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By remembering hundreds of thousands of previous existances expanding over dozens of periods of world formation and destruction, the Buddha would have had a pretty good understanding of the laws of nature, the nature of living beings and the way things work in general (not to mention his Divine Eye and the other supernormal abilities, conversing with devas etc) so in most cases I think he was just “Sherlock Holmes on steroids” :smile:

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Welcome, @seniya. You may be new to the suttas, but you’re already asking some learned questions!

There’s a huge difference between omniscience and knowing a lot. In fact, an infinite distance. A cosmologist could tell you about the evolution of stars, galaxies, and even the universe, in much more detail than the Buddha, but they’re far from omniscient.

Generally speaking, the prophecies in the suttas, which are quite few in number, either stem from an understanding of the patterns of nature, as mentioned by @raivo, or else they’re limited and specific, and come from understanding a particular set of conditions.

This applies in the case of Pataliputta, where the Buddha’s prediction—even if it was authentic, which is perhaps unlikely—merely required a little political foresight. More importantly, it applies in a spiritual context, where the Buddha says he knows the outcomes of different ways of practice.


Thank you for your response, @raivo and bhante @sujato