Buddha-Related Terms Throughout Buddhism

When studying Buddhism, you will find that much of the religion, whether it is seen through holidays and celebrations, or evident through their art, is based upon the teachings of Buddha. The historic founder of this belief system was named Siddhartha Gautama. Throughout the ancient times of the Indian subcontinent, Gautama was a popular spiritual teacher.


Since the years of his life date back between 563 BCE and 483 BCE, exact details of his life are still unknown. Information, such as his exact birth date and date of death are still unclear. He is the one that is recognized on a universe level as being the Supreme Buddha of our age. His teachings have been passed down throughout time by oral tradition. It took about 400 years after his existence to actually put down the ins and outs of the religion to written form. He is the lifeline of the religion and important figure within the lives of Buddhist followers.


One thing to keep in mind is to remember that Buddha was a human being and should not be confused with the worship of a God. Often, those just learning about this belief system confuse the origins of Buddha. Throughout this article, you will encounter a variety of terms that are associated with Buddha, as well as other Buddhas to follow after his existence.


Buddha: Deriving from the Pali or Sanskrit meaning of the “Awakened One,” it is used to refer to a being who has been fully enlightened.


buddha-dharma: Some followers will refer to Buddhism by this term. It is just another way to speak of the teachings of the Buddha.


buddha-nature: When the true appearance of living things is made visible, this is referred to by this term. This is a word that is associated with Mahayana Buddhism. Enlightenment cannot be achieved if a follower does not have a complete awareness of their place and role within nature. Another way to refer to this term is simply by “buddhata.”


buddha-sasana:  This is also another way to refer to Buddhism; it is also interchanged with the term “Buddha-disciple.”


Buddhas of the three times: This term referrs to the buddhas of the past, which exact number is not known. This is called Dipamkara. Gautama is the present Buddha, and the future Buddha, which is known as Maitreya.


Gautama: This is the name given to the historical Buddha.


Dipamkara: Before Gautama, there were many other Buddhas. Dipamkara is the first of these Buddhas, as well as one of the most popular.


Five Dhyani Buddhas: Sometimes, this title is also referred to as Meditation Buddhas or Buddhas of Wisdom. The history of this term can be traced back to a 19th century coinage, which is accredited to B.H. Hodgson. This term is used to describe the figures that are depicted on the Mandala of the Five Jinas. They are considered the “eminent ones” within the religion. This term is a Western word that does not appear in any Buddhist literature.


Sakyamuni: This is another name meant to refer to the historical Buddha. It means “Sage of the Sakya tribe.”