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Pacceka Buddha

The name given to one who is enlightened by and for himself — i.e., one who has attained to supreme and perfect insight, but who dies without proclaiming the truth to the world — hence the equivalent “Silent Buddha” sometimes found in translations. Pacceka Buddhas practise their perfections (pāramī) for at least two thousand incalculable aeons (asaṅkheyya). They are born in any of the three families: priest (brāhmaṇa), warrior (khattiya), or householder (gahapati) only in a devolving (vivaṭṭamāna) world-cycle, during which Buddhas are also born, but they never meet a Buddha face to face. They cannot instruct others; their realisation of the Dhamma is “like a dream seen by a deaf mute.” They attain to all the psychic powers (iddhi), attainments (samāpatti), and analytical knowledge (paṭisambhidā) of the Buddhas, but are second to the Buddhas in their spiritual development. They do ordain others; their admonition is only in reference to good and proper conduct (abhisamācārikasikkhā).

Sometimes (e.g., at J.iv.341) it is stated that a Pacceka Buddha’s knowledge and comprehension of ways and means is less than that of a Bodhisatta. They hold their uposatha in the Ratanamālaka, at the foot of the Mañjūsarukkha in Gandhamādana. It is possible to become a Pacceka Buddha while yet a layman, but, in this case, the marks of a layman immediately disappear. Three caves in the Nandamūlaka-pabbhāra — Suvaṇṇaguhā, Maṇiguhā, and Rajataguhā — are the dwelling places of Pacceka Buddhas. Round the Ratanamālaka (q.v.), seats are always ready to receive the Pacceka Buddhas. When a Pacceka Buddha appears in the world, he immediately seeks the Ratanamālaka, and there takes his appointed seat. Then all the other Pacceka Buddhas in the world assemble there to meet him, and, in reply to a question by the chief of them, he relates the circumstances that led to his enlightenment. Similarly, all the Pacceka Buddhas assemble at the same spot when one of them is about to die. The dying one takes leave of the others, and, after his death, they cremate his body and his relics disappear. These details are given in SNA.i.47, 51, 58, 63; KhA.178, 199; ApA.i.125; see also s.v. Gandhamādana.

However, according to another account, they die on the mountain called Mahāpapāta (q.v.) There does not seem to be any limit to the number of Pacceka Buddhas who could appear simultaneously. In one instance, five hundred are mentioned as so doing, all sons of Padumavatī (q.v.), at the head of whom was Mahāpaduma. In the Isigili Sutta (M.iii.68 ff ) appears a long list of Pacceka Buddhas who dwelt on the Isigili Mountain, and after whom the mountain was named.

According to Buddhaghosa (MA.ii.889 ff), the names in this list belonged to the five hundred sons of Padumavatī, but the number of the names is far less than five hundred. This discrepancy is explained by saying that as many as twelve bore the same name. Other names are found scattered over different texts, such as the Jātakaṭṭhakathā. e.g., Darīmukha (J.iii.240), Soṇaka (v.249); see also DhA. iv.120, etc.

The name occurring most frequently in the texts is that of Tagarasikhī (q.v.) Mention is also made of the Pacceka Buddhas going among men for alms and spending the rainy season in dwellings provided by men. e.g., DhA.ii.112 f; iii.91, 368; iv.200. Their aspiration (patthanā) (SNA.51). Their wisdom less than that of a Bodhisatta (J.iv.341).

Among the teachings preserved of the Pacceka Buddhas, the most important is the Khaggavisāṇa Sutta (q.v.) For the definition of a Pacceka Buddha see Puggalapaññatti (p.14; cf. p.70). There he is described as one who understands the Truth by his own efforts, but does not obtain Omniscience nor mastery over the Fruits (phalesu vasībhāvaṃ).

See also Mātaṅga (2).