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tathāgata {pi}

Pāḷi; √ tathāgata
alt. sp.: IPA: t̪ət̪ʰɑːgət̪ə, Velthuis: tathaagata, readable: tathaagata, simple: tathagata
translation ~:
khmer: តថាគត
thai: ตถาคต
sinhal.: තථාගත
burm.: တထာဂတ


[dic] tathāgata (tathagata)

tathāgata: Description welcome. Info can be removed after imput.

ATI Glossary

Tathāgata: Literally, “one who has truly gone (tatha-gata)” or “one who has become authentic ”(tatha-agata),“ an epithet used in ancient India for a person who has attained the highest spiritual goal. In Buddhism, it usually denotes the Buddha, although occasionally it also denotes any of his arahant disciples. [ more ]


Buddhist Dictionary

by late Ven. Nyanalokita Thera:

Tathāgata: the 'Perfect One', lit. the one who has 'thus gone', or 'thus come', is an epithet of the Buddha used by him when speaking of himself.

To the often asked questions, whether the Tathāgata still exists after death, or not, it is said (e.g. SN 22.85, SN 22.86) that, in the highest sense (see paramattha) the Tathāgata cannot, even at lifetime, be discovered, how much less after death, and that neither the 5 groups of existence (see khandha) are to be regarded as the Tathāgata, nor can the Tathāgata be found outside these corporeal and mental phenomena. The meaning intended here is that there exist only these ever-changing corporeal and mental phenomena, arising and vanishing from moment to moment, but no separate entity, no personality.

When the commentaries in this connection explain Tathāgata by 'living being' (satta), they mean to say that here the questioners are using the merely conventional expression, Tathāgata, in the sense of a really existing entity.

Cf. anattā, paramattha, puggala, jīva, satta.

A commentarial treatise on “The Meaning of the Word 'Tathāgata' ” is included in The All-Embracing Net of Views (Brahmajāla Sutta), translation Bhikkhu Bodhi (BPS).


PTS Dictionary

by the Pali Text Society:


Glossary Thanissaro

Tathāgata: Literally, “one who has become authentic (tatha-āgata) or is truly gone / (tathā-gata)”: an epithet used in ancient India for a person who has attained the highest religious goal. In Buddhism, it usually denotes the Buddha, although occasionally it also denotes any of his arahant disciples.


Illustrated Glossary of Pāli Terms

by Ven. Varado Maha Thera:


Venerable Ñāṇamoli: ‘Perfect One’

Ñāṇamoli translated tathāgata as ‘Perfect One’ in all his translations: the Majjhima Nikāya, the Visuddhimagga, the Nettippakaranaṁ, and the Life of the Buddha. This term was restored to Tathāgata when his translation of the Majjhima Nikāya was published as A Treasury of the Buddha’s Words, and later The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha.

Horner: ‘Accomplished One or Perfect One’

Horner (Middle Length Sayings, Volume 1, xvii) says that tathāgata probably means Accomplished One or Perfect One, but argues that these renderings are inadequate because they have no etymological justification and moreover are equally applicable to any arahant.

The Buddha ignored etymology

As for her former objection, the Buddha also ignored etymology. It is true that he occasionally referred to tathā (yathāvādi tathākārī yathākārī tathāvādī tasmā tathāgato ti vuccati, DN iii 135) which would justify the word ‘thus’ in ‘Thus Gone One.’ But this hardly contradicts our assertion, because firstly he always ignored the gata / āgata suffix, and secondly some of his explanations make no reference even to tathā. Therefore references to tathā should be seen as mere wordplay. For example when Queen Mallikā said:

• Perfect One’s do not speak untruth

na hi tathāgatā vitathaṁ bhaṇantī ti. (MN ii 108)

All arahants are tathāgatas

As for Horner’s latter objection that ‘Perfect One’ cannot be used of the Buddha because the term could equally applicable to any arahant, this argument also fails because tathāgata is indeed occasionally applied to all arahants, for example at MN i 140:

• Bhikkhus, when the devas with Inda, Brahmā, and Pajāpati seek a bhikkhu who is liberated in mind, they do not find [anything of which they could say]: ‘The stream of consciousness of the Perfect One is attached to this. For what reason? The Perfect One is untraceable even in this lifetime, I declare.

Evaṁ vimuttacittaṁ kho bhikkhave bhikkhuṁ saindā devā sabrahmakā sapajāpatikā anvesaṁ nādhigacchanti idaṁ nissitaṁ tathāgatassa viññāṇan ti. Taṁ kissa hetu? Diṭṭhevāhaṁ bhikkhave dhamme tathāgataṁ ananuvejjoti vadāmi. (MN i 140)

Different levels of perfection of the Perfect One

Even after his enlightenment the Buddha accepted the possibility of further developing the aggregates of virtue, inward collectedness, penetrative discernment, liberation [from perceptually obscuring states], and the knowledge and vision that follows liberation [from perceptually obscuring states], and said he would live under a teacher to do this:

• It would be for the sake of fulfilling the unfulfilled aggregate of virtuous practices… the knowledge and vision that follows liberation [from perceptually obscuring states] that I would honour, respect, and dwell under another ascetic or brahman in spiritual discipleship.

aparipuṇṇassa kho sīlakkhandhassa… samādhikkhandhassa… paññākkhandhassa… vimuttikkhandhassa… vimuttiñāṇadassanakkhandhassa pāripuriyā aññaṁ samaṇaṁ vā brāhmaṇaṁ vā sakkatvā garukatvā upanissāya vihareyyaṁ. (SN i 139)

This suggests the possibility of different levels of perfection, even at the exalted level of Perfect Ones.

Different levels of perfection amongst Perfect Ones

Related to this is the possibility that different tathāgatas are at different levels of perfection. This was the basis of the Buddha’s objection when Venerable Sāriputta claimed that there never was, nor is, nor will be, another ascetic or Brahmanist who has greater transcendent insight regarding enlightenment than the Blessed One (na cāhu na ca bhavissati na cetarahi vijjati añño samaṇovā brāhmaṇo vā bhagavatā bhiyyobhiññataro yadidaṁ sambodhiyanti (DN iii 99).

The Buddha said such a statement would only be valid if one knew the minds of all Buddhas, past, present and future (atītānāgatapaccuppannesu arahantesu sammāsambuddhesu cetopariyañāṇaṁ (DN iii 100).

Absolute perfection: nibbāna

Although ‘Perfect One’ validly renders tathāgata, the Buddha did not claim that he was therefore perfection itself. The Buddha was perfect in the terms in which he described himself. Absolute perfection, accantaniṭṭho is none other than nibbāna (MN i 252).


Illustration: tathāgata, Perfect One

This is a term for the Perfect One: the embodiment of the teaching, the embodiment of Brahmā, one who has become righteousness itself, one who has become Brahmā.

Tathāgatassa hetaṁ vāseṭṭhā adhivacanaṁ dhammakāyo iti pi brahmakāyo iti pi dhammabhuto iti pi brahmabhuto iti pi. (DN iii 84)

Whatever in this world [of beings] with its devas, māras, and brahmās, in the world of mankind with its ascetics and Brahmanists, its royalty and commoners is seen, heard, sensed, cognised, attained, sought after, pondered over, that has been fully understood by the Perfect One. Thus he is called the Perfect One.

Yaṁ bhikkhave sadevakassa lokassa samārakassa sabrahmakassa sassamaṇabrāhmaṇiyā pajāya sadevamanussāya diṭṭhaṁ sutaṁ mutaṁ viññātaṁ pattaṁ pariyesitaṁ anuvicaritaṁ manasā yasmātaṁ tathāgatena abhisambuddhaṁ tasmā tathāgato ti vuccati

From the day of his unsurpassed enlightenment till the day of his passing away to the Untroubled-without-residue, whatever the Perfect One has said, spoken, and explained in that interval is completely right, not mistaken. Thus he is called the Perfect One.

Yañca bhikkhave rattiṁ tathāgato anuttaraṁ sammāsambodhiṁ abhisambujjhati yañca rattiṁ anupādisesāya nibbānadhātuyā parinibbāyati yaṁ etasmiṁ antare bhāsati lapati niddisati sabbaṁ taṁ tatheva hoti. No aññathā. Tasmā tathāgato ti vuccati.

The Perfect One is one who behaves in line with the way he speaks, and speaks in line with the way he behaves. Thus he is called the Perfect One.

Yathāvādi bhikkhave tathāgato tathākārī. Yathākārī tathāgato tathāvādī. Iti yathāvādītatākārī yathākārī tathāvādī. Tasmā tathāgato ti vuccati.

In this world [of beings] with its devas, māras, and brahmās, in the world of mankind with its ascetics and Brahmanists, its royalty and commoners, the Perfect One is the unconquered Conqueror [of all unvirtuous, spiritually unwholesome factors], all-seeing, the wielder of power. Thus he is called the Perfect One.

Sadevake bhikkhave loke samārake sabrahmake sassamaṇabrāhmaṇiyā pajāya sadevamanussāya tathāgato abhibhū anabhibhūto. Aññadatthudaso vasavattī. Tasmā tathāgato ti vuccatītu. (Iti 121-2; AN ii 24)

Concerning things past, future, and present the Perfect One is one who speaks at the right time, about what is true, what is beneficial, what is the teaching, what is the discipline. Therefore he is called the Perfect One.

atītānāgatapaccuppannesu dhammesu tathāgato kālāvādī bhūtavādi atthavādī dhammāvadi vinayavādī tasmā tathāgato ti vuccati. (DN iii 134-5)

The Perfect One, the unexcelled person, the supreme person, one who has attained the supreme attainment.

tathāgato uttamapuriso paramapuriso paramapattipatto. (SN iii 118)


Glossary various Teacher

Tathāgata: 'The one who has gone thus'. The Buddha frequently used this word to refer to himself. (Source: Glossary late Ven. Ajahn Chah)


See also

Suttas and Dhammadesanā

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en/dictionary/tathāgata.txt · Last modified: 2019/09/25 05:30 by