Translation of Bhagavat

Something I find strange in translations is Bhagavat being translated “Blessed One.” The word Bhagavat of course actually means “Lord” whereas Sugata means “Blessed One.” So its like the translators are changing Bhagavat to Sugata. They’re both titles of the same person, so not such a big deal but a little strange.

I suppose it may be an attempt to avoid the wiff of Christianity (“Christians call Jesus Lord so we can’t call Buddha Lord”) but it seems to fall into the opposite, i.e. calling Buddha by a Jewish title for God instead of a Christian one, i.e. Blessed One. Like in Mark 14:61 (NIV) “Again the high priest asked [Jesus], ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’”

So instead of calling Buddha adonai (Lord) the translator ends up calling Buddha hakodeshbaruchhu (the holy one blessed be he). Its kind of odd and I just wonder what the thought process that goes into is.

A quick Google search for the etymology of the word brings up that it also means fortunate, blessed, etc. So it doesn’t just mean lord and blessed one is just fine as a translation.


The dual meaning among Buddhists goes back to antiquity. While the Chinese texts typical translate it along the lines of “Lord” (lit. “Honored By the World”), when they gloss Bhagavat strictly, they say it means “Possessor of Fortune,” which is what it literally means in Sanskrit, too. Sugata is the reverse. While it conventionally was used to mean Fortunate, it literally means “Well Gone,” and that’s how Chinese translators usually rendered it. Xuanzang, who studied at Nalanda in India for years before returning to China, felt that Bhagavat should be transliterated because of its multiple meanings.


It’s the most common way of referring to the Buddha in the EBTs, so I just take it as a conventional title and use the most common word we use in English to refer to the same person, namely “Buddha”.

In cases of ambiguity, I use “Blessed One”, but without any great commitment to it.

I use “Holy One” for Sugata, hoping to hint at the “divine” sounding name (sugati is “Heaven”).

It’s really hard to get all these right, there are so many nuances of background and culture and expectation.

But if we are to get literal with bhagavā, may I suggest “shareholder”?


Shareholders aren’t necessarily fortunate or wealthy. I can buy a 20 USD share of ATT and still be a pauper. Maybe (majority) shareholder. Bezos or Gates I suppose get close to the ancient title in their godlike wealth and power.