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Mahāpurisa

A Great Man, destined to become either a Cakkavatti or a Buddha. He carries on his person the following thirty-two marks (Mahāpurisa­lakkhaṇāni) (these are given at D.ii.17 f; iii.142 ff; M.ii.136 f ):

The theory of Mahāpurisa is pre-Buddhistic. Several passages in the Piṭakas (e.g., D.i.89, 114, 120; A.i.163; M.ii.136; SN.vs.600, 1000, etc.) mention brahmins as claiming that this theory of the Mahāpurisa and his natal marks belonged to their stock of hereditary knowledge. The Buddhists, evidently, merely adopted the brahmin tradition in this matter as in so many others. However, they went further. In the Lakkhaṇa Sutta (D.iii.142 ff) they sought to explain how these marks arose, and maintained that they were due entirely to good deeds done in a former birth and could only be continued in the present life by means of goodness. Thus the marks are merely incidental; most of them are so absurd, considered as the marks of a human being, that they are probably mythological in origin, and a few of them seem to belong to solar myths, being adaptations to a man, of poetical epithets applied to the sun or even to the personification of human sacrifice. Some are characteristic of human beauty, and one or two may possibly be reminiscences of personal bodily peculiarities possessed by some great man, such as Gotama himself.

Apart from these legendary beliefs, the Buddha had his own theory of the attributes of a Mahāpurisa as explained in the Mahāpurisa Sutta (S.v.158) and the Vassakāra Sutta (A.ii.35 f).

Buddhaghosa says (MA.ii.761) that when the time comes for the birth of a Buddha, the Suddhāvāsa Brahmās visit the earth in the guise of brahmins and teach men about these bodily signs as forming part of the Vedic teaching so that thereby auspicious men may recognise the Buddha. On his death this knowledge generally vanishes. He defines a Mahāpurisa as one who is great owing to his aspiration (paṇidhi), resolution (samādāna), knowledge (ñāṇa), and compassion (karuṇā). A Mahāpurisa can be happy in all conditions of climate. DA.ii.794.

Bāvarī had three marks of a Great Man (mahāpurisalakkhaṇā); he could touch his forehead with his tongue, he had a mole between his eyebrows (unnā), and his private parts were contained within a sheath. SN.vs.1022.

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