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“Buddhas in the Ten Directions”: Its Origins in the Early Buddhist Texts and Metamorphosis

  • 불교학리뷰
  • Abbr : Critical Review for Buddhist Studies
  • 2020, (27), pp.9-37
  • DOI : 10.29213/crbs..27.202004.9
  • Publisher : Geumgang Center for Buddhist Studies
  • Research Area : Humanities > Buddhist Studies
  • Received : March 11, 2020
  • Accepted : April 10, 2020
  • Published : April 30, 2020

Juyan Zhang 1

1The University of Texas at San Antonio

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Using major early Mahāyāna texts and the Āgamas/Nikāyas, this research demonstrates that in its earliest form, the so-called “buddhas in the ten directions” are actually transformation buddhas of the Śākyamuni Buddha, or duplicates of the Buddha in the infinite worlds. The research shows that the concept had its origins in the similes comparing the Buddha to the sun and the moon as well as the Twin Miracle Legend, both of whichare found in the Northern Āgamas and the Pāli texts. The research further shows that Buddha Akṣobhya is a transformation buddha; while Amitābha represents a metamorphosis of the concept of “transformation buddha” from being a duplicate of the Śākyamuni Buddha to a supposedly real celestial buddha in another world system. As such, the devotionalism toward Amitābha was a result of syncretism of early Mahāyāna and the Indo-Iranian religions at the northwestern frontier of Indian Buddhism’s sphere of influence. It is the culturally constructed Buddhism instead of the early classical Mahāyāna that is based on the Six-Pāramitās. Lastly, the research argues that early Mahāyāna Buddhists promoted the concept of “buddhas in the ten directions” to preach to the laity, as is consistently evidenced by the early Buddhist texts and the early Mahāyāna texts. Based on the analysis, the research argues that the early Mahāyāna Buddhists were devoted only to the Śākyamuni Buddha, and it is a myth that they truly believed that there were real buddhas in the ten directions.

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