Jun 25, 2021
Martin Goodson

Buddhist Theophany

Images of Truth

When the godhead or deity appears this is known as a theophany. Although the Buddha was a man, was it the Buddha or the man that incarnated all those years ago?


Image copyright to John Eskenazi

Gandhara 4/5th century

Identity of the central Buddha as yet unknown

“Subhuti, what do you think? May the Tathagata be perceived by the thirty-two marks [of a great man]?

Subhuti answered: Yes, certainly the Tathagata may be perceived thereby.

Then Buddha said: Subhuti, if the Tathagata may be perceived by such marks any great imperial ruler is the same as the Tathagata.

Subhuti then said to Buddha: World-honoured One, as I understand the meaning of Buddha’s words the Tathagata may not be perceived by the thirty-two marks.

Whereupon the World-honoured One uttered this verse:

Who sees Me by form,

Who seeks Me in sound,

His footsteps go astray;

He cannot find the Tathagata.

(Diamond Sutra Ch. XXII, based on translation by AF Price and Wong Mou-Lam)


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